Category Archives: Road

2015 Race Team Apps Open Thru Oct 1st!

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It’s hard to believe our road season is done and cross has really just begun! You know what also is beginning? Planning for your team in 2015! Naked Women’s Racing, in it’s 5th year, is open to race team applicants through October 1st!

Think you want to join? Read more about why you should on our Race Team page. Now are you ready?

SUBMIT YOUR RACE TEAM APPLICATION HERE

Think you *might* want to race but not sure you want to dive in head first? Then you should totes join our Club Team!

Got questions? Email us at info [at] nakedwomenracing.com and we’ll be glad to help you out.

 

Racing: Self Discovery  

Pro Challenge Experience

Natalia not only raced her first full season, she did it on the road and the mountain bikes! Read about how she dove in head first, what she learned, and what she is taking on to next year!

It’s hard to believe that road racing season is over. To get ready for the season I spent countless hours in the saddle and endured every possible weather condition on the planet. I have ridden my bike in temperatures ranging from freezing to triple digits, rain, snow, hail, gusty winds, sand and thunder storms, but I loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not at the time, but the thought of getting stronger always kept me going. I really believe cyclists must be the toughest athletes out there. We love riding our bikes so much that the elements never stop us and many times when we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere discovering new roads with no cell phone coverage, so quitting is not an option and we have no choice but keep on pedaling.

For me this was my first full year of racing so I didn’t know what to expect. Racing and leisurely riding are two completely different things. I tried all disciplines from road racing, time trialing, crits, hill climbs, and even mountain bike racing. I have been cycling most of my life and I love climbing mountain passes so I thought this would be my strength. I did some mountain biking in the past and bought a new bike not thinking much of it. I didn’t even consider racing it when I bought it. The last mountain bike I owned was about two decades ago and the technology has advanced quite a bit since then. My new toy has huge 29-inch wheels and when I ride it I feel like a little kid again. It has full suspension, disk brakes, and it’s just so much fun to ride so I thought I would try racing it because why not. As the season begun, I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy hill climbs, not only because I would get dropped but it was so painful that I wasn’t able to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me like I did in the past. My goal this season was to overcome my fear of crit racing but unfortunately my first crit ended early due to a crash. Luckily my injuries weren’t serious, my bike was ok, and I was able to race the next weekend. I didn’t want to end my racing season early so I didn’t take another chance. I’m hoping to forget about this unpleasant experience so I will try it again next season. Time trailing wasn’t my favorite but I will definitely do more of it again next year. Road races can be intimidating as they typically are longer, but I discovered that this was my type of a race. I am not a sprinter or climber; however I have good endurance and can push myself after riding long distances. I also learned the importance of working with teammates and even your opponents and how to strategize in order to win. I just wish we had more road races here in Colorado.  After taking my new mountain bike for a few short rides I signed up for 18 Hours of Fruita. I never raced a mountain bike, I never rode at night, and my bike was barely broken in. I recruited three other teammates to join me and we ended up winning the race. I was hooked! The race was a lot of fun and not as intimidating as I expected so immediately I started thinking about my next mountain bike race. I ended up doing three more races and I not only loved it but placed well which gave me a huge confidence boost. Now I can’t wait to do more races on dirt.

After reflecting on the entire season and analyzing each race and its outcome I really surprised myself. The races I thought I would enjoy the most and do well at, turned out to be my least favorite ones, but I always try to find a positive in each situation and I treated them as training rides for the races that mattered to me. The races that intimidated me the most turned out to be my best ones and most enjoyable. I also participated in several organized rides throughout Colorado. Even though they weren’t timed, whenever I wear my Naked kit my brain tells me it’s racing time. Therefore I have to remind myself that it is ok to slowdown, breath slowly, take in the scenery, chat, and make new friends.

If you are new to racing or intimidated by it, don’t dismiss it as you won’t really know until you try. It’s better to fail at something than to miss out on something that can potentially be your strength only because you were afraid you would finish last or embarrass yourself. I remember how nervous I was just pinning my first number to my jersey. I stubbed my fingers several times and now I get less and less nervous each time I do it. Soon I will be able to do it with my eyes closed. But don’t get me wrong, I still get anxious at the start line but I just focus on the finish.

Miserable Mt. Evans

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Moral of the miserable story of Mt. Evans from Melissa: Listen to your body! Read why you should. Seriously.

Mt. Evans!  A beast of a mountain, no matter how you look at it.  Just the idea of casually riding my bike to the summit, takes a lot of mental preparation.  Racing to the summit however, against very strong women, is an entirely different  story.  Last year, I missed the first place podium spot by less than a second.  Our times: 2:39:36:50 (Cory) vs 2:39:36:90 (Me).  That result haunted me for a year!!  What if I would have thrown my bike forward…. I didn’t know she was so close….what if I would have pushed a little harder….what if, what if, what if.  I was determined to win the next year, but unfortunately, the beast had different plans for me.  I now know what it feels like to go from the incredible feeling of victory one year, to the embarrassing misery of defeat the next.

When I signed up to race Mt. Evans, I knew I had one other teammate to work with.  The incredible Katie Harrer, who hates to climb, signed up to race with me, with the sole purpose to mentally push me up that mountain.  Talk about an amazing friend.  She hates climbing and the Mt. Evans Hill Climb isn’t exactly a cheap race either.  I was blown away by her kindness and selflessness.  I told myself that I had to do well in this race, not only for myself, but for Katie too.  She believed in me and I didn’t want to let her down.  I also dedicated my race to a very special person in my life fighting cancer.  My brother-in-law Wes was recently diagnosed with Multiple Myloma, and I wanted to prove to him that if I can push myself hard enough to do well in this race, that he can fight this cancer and win.  I even wrote on my race number “This is for you Wes”.  I had a lot riding on this race, and in my mind failure was not an option.

My first dose of bad luck started the morning of the race, when Katie broke the news that she would not be racing with me.  Much to my dismay, Katie had to work the night before and didn’t get to bed until 3am.  She would have had to leave her house by 7am just to get to Idaho Springs in time, and she wasn’t about to tackle a race up a 14er  with that little of sleep.  I can’t say that I blame her.  It was a bummer but I was able to talk myself through it.  My amazing husband Brian was there to support me along with my beautiful children.  My mom and my step dad would be at Echo Lake to encourage me at the halfway point as well.  I felt very supported and motivated to race hard.

I began my warm up alone.  I was familiar with the area, from my recent visit with Ride The Rockies, so that alleviated a lot of the initial anxiety.  I found a great section of road  to warm up on, so I focused my attention on my body and my bike to work out any little kinks that might get in my way during the race.  I was feeling good at this point in the day.  As time passed by, I quickly found myself at the start line with new faces (competition) that signed up the morning of the race.  It was interesting, I think there were three no shows and three new additions.  There would be six of us in this race. Each and every one of those girls meant business too.  Suddenly, I could feel the anxiety building in my chest.  I told myself, “You can do this.  This is what you trained for. This is what you do.  This is what you know.”  I took a deep breath, and as the whistle blew, I began the race that I will never forget.

It was strange, I can remember feeling very uncomfortable from the beginning of the race.  I thought maybe my anxiety was getting the best of me, but I noticed my heart rate was much higher than I wanted it to be and I didn’t know why.  We were climbing at a steady rate and our group immediately formed a pace line and we each took our turn up front pulling.  I remember thinking how beautifully we were all working together and it was fun. After about three full rotations, the dynamic changed however.  The fun was over.  One of my opponents had a very well thought out plan and she executed it perfectly.  After her turn up front, instead of falling to the back of the pace line, she came right up next to me instead.  I was in the center of the pace line with two girls in front of me and two girls behind me.  She came so close to me, that I thought our handle bars would lock.  I was nervous and I let her push me out of my spot.  I was instantly angry.  “How rude!” I thought to myself.  But then I quickly reminded myself, that this was a race and it wasn’t time to be making friends.  So after our next rotation, when the same girl pulled off the front, instead of going to the back, she got right next to me again. I was thinking, “What is your problem lady?  Why are you attacking me?”  I was really irritated at this point and tried so hard to hold my position.  She was uncomfortably close to me.  One wrong move and we would all go down.  I should have yelled at her and I almost did, but suddenly I realized the pavement in front of me was coming to an end.  I panicked, and once again, she stole my spot.  I was more than angry at this point.  I was shocked.  Cat 3 racing was a whole new world and I had just received my first dose of reality.  I tried to focus my rage and I was determined to not let her do it again.  Unfortunately for me, however, her next move would be my end.  It was my turn to pull.  I focused on my heart rate, which was even higher at this point because I was so angry.  I knew I had to get it under control and not waste my energy needlessly.  When it was time for me to pull off, that’s when she did it.  She waited for me to be nice and tired and she attacked just as I pulled off the front.  I immediately reacted and followed her and another racer as they pulled away from the group.  I was worried.  I knew my heart rate was in the red and I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace long.  For some reason, my body was not in race mode that day.  It was the worst feeling.  What was wrong with me?  Even after I conceded to letting them go, my heart rate would still not recover.  This was a new experience for me. Before I knew it, the other three ladies caught up to me and quickly passed me as well.  I blew up.  I felt like I was dying inside.  Not because my heart felt like it was going to explode, but because I was dead last and there was not a thing I could to to stop it.  I wanted to cry but I didn’t have the energy.  I felt like throwing my bike over the mountain side next to me because I was so upset.  My worst nightmare was coming true. My dream of winning this race was over and I knew it.

Echo Lake was the halfway point.  I wasn’t too far away from the other racers that just passed me.  I knew however, that my husband would quickly realize that I had been dropped.  I didn’t want to see his face.  I knew he would be so disappointed for me.  My kids would see me dead last and my mom and step dad made the trip to the mountains for nothing.  I felt as low as low can be.  As soon as I reached the lake my family ran over to me.  I wanted so badly to quit at that point but I couldn’t.  I’m always telling my children to follow their dreams and never give up.  There was no way I could have let them see their mother quit a race just because I was last.  My son was running next to me cheering me on and I remember saying to him, “Hey buddy, guess what?  I’m very last in this race.  I’m not going to win. But you won’t see me quit either!”  He said “You can do it mom.”  And I forced myself to keep pedaling.

It was at the feed zone that I realized a big part of my problem in this race.  As the volunteers offered me water, I quicky realized that I didn’t need any.  After an hour of racing, I had not had any food or one drop of water.  I felt like such an idiot.  I was so focused on trying to catch the girls that got away, that I didn’t eat or drink anything. I started to drink my first bottle at the rangers station but it was too late at this point.  I forced myself to keep going.  Soon I started seeing other racers coming down the mountain.  Different categories finishing their races and feeling the sweet satisfaction of completion.  I was envious.  The Cat 3 women were one of the last groups to start racing.  A group of men went after us but they quickly caught up to us and passed by.  I can remember one guy from Primal pulling up next to me and saying “Keep fighting. You aren’t last.”  I thought to myself, “What?  How is that possible?”  But I guess in the confusion at Echo Lake, I misjudged how many ladies passed me and I was 5th out of 6.  It motivated me, strangely enough.  I thought, “Maybe I can catch them.”  I pushed as hard as I could and I forced myself to drink that first water bottle by the time I reached timberline.  Then suddenly out of nowhere, I experienced some of the worst pain I have ever felt.  My hip joints were on fire.  My knees were throbbing and my arms felt like they weighed 100 lbs each.  The pain was unbelievable.  I hadn’t eaten at this point, so I tried to reach in my back pocket to get some food.  I couldn’t do it.  Each time I tried to put my arm behind me, I almost fell off of my bike.  I was pedaling so slowly that I could hardly keep myself upright. When I was finally able to get a small bite of my Breeze Bar, I couldn’t even chew it.  I had no energy.  When I swallowed, I almost choked and switching to my second water bottle was embarrassingly difficult.  I gave up on the idea of eating because it was actually very scary to feel like you are choking while you are breathing so hard.  I was delirious.  The pain I was feeling brought me to tears but I didn’t want to show my discomfort because every minute someone was coming down the mountain.  People I knew.  People that knew me.  It was humiliating.  My body was breaking down with every pedal stroke and my soul was being crushed with each person that passed by.  Some friends yelled, “You can do it Melissa!”  While others looked at me with shock.  I was thinking to myself, “I am such a loser right now.”  I can honestly say, that was one of the lowest moments of my life.

When I reached Summit Lake I was numb to the glances of the people descending past me.  I couldn’t feel anything.  The pain in my hips was there, but I almost didn’t feel it anymore.  My mind felt like it was drifting off and it was almost like I could see myself racing but not feel it.  It was creepy.  A storm was definitely forming at the summit and I was terrified of lightning.  The thunder was getting louder and it was starting to rain.  But I kept pushing.  There was no way I was quitting at that point.  When I reached the switchbacks at the top, I was about halfway through them when I saw the girls I was racing against, heading down.  I wanted to die.  I was so embarrassed.  I wasn’t only the last girl in my group but I honestly think I was the last person racing.  It was demoralizing.  I could tell by the looks on their faces that they could see my suffering.  I was too numb to care.  I didn’t have energy to cry and my soul was already conquered.  I kept moving forward, when a car came up next to me and said, “You need to turn around.  There is lightning at the top and the race is over.  They are packing everything up.”  I think I felt my heart break at that moment.  If it wasn’t bad enough that I was in excruciating pain, terribly embarrassed and totally defeated, the thought of not being able to finish when I was so close, was almost more than I could take.  I knew my time would be prorated and I wouldn’t get a DNF, but finishing was the only reason I never gave up after everything I had gone through.  I remember standing in the middle of the road.  I could see the finish line.  Cars were coming down the mountain but there was hardly anyone left up there.  It was eerily quiet.  I just stood there for a moment in disbelief and then it began to hail.  At that moment, I realized I had no rain gear.  Being forced to turn around, meant I wasn’t able to grab my bag from the top and I had nothing but my shorts, jersey and half gloves to descend in.  I was soaked and the pea sized hail stung like a thousand bees as it peppered my tired body.

My sorrowful descent down Mt. Evans that day was nothing short of miserable.  I was shivering so badly I could hardly grasp my handle bars and with every bump in the road, I felt like my legs were being torn from my body.  I cried the entire way down. The sky was dark, the rain was cold and I felt very alone.  Not one person offered to give me a ride down and that surprised me.  I felt like an outcast.  Someone that the world had discarded and didn’t care about anymore.  I saw a hawk flying in the distance and I was jealous of how free it was.  It was gliding through the air with ease.  It was free of pain and misery.  There were so many times on that descent that I just wanted to pull over and find a place to lay down.  I truly did not care anymore.  I just wasted the pain to stop.  I cursed the day, the mountain, myself and my body.  It was a very bad day.

When I finally reached Echo Lake again,  my family rushed over to me.  I almost collapsed.  My mom panicked.  She said my lips were dark purple and my body was so cold.  I couldn’t speak and simply keeping my eyes open took every ounce of energy that I had left.  They rushed me over to the car and helped me dry off and warm up.  I felt like I was dreaming.  After suffering for so long, it was over and I could began to recover.  Or so I thought….

Later in the evening, Katie called me to see how the race went.  I told her about my heart breaking experience and then I mentioned to her some of the physical symptoms I was having.  I noticed I had blood in my urine when I was finally able to use the bathroom.  Or at least I thought it was blood.  It was a dark tea color and it was very alarming.  My first thought was that I was dehydrated.  So I immediately started drinking fluids.  Katie was extremely concerned.  In her very own loving, yet straight to the point way, she said, “Look up the word Rhabdomyolysis right now.”  I did, and I too became concerned.  Rhabdomyolysis is the break down of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood.  These substances are harmful to the kidneys and often cause kidney damage.  I had never heard of this injury, and it was hard to believe it could be happening to me.  I was stubborn.  I listened to Katie’s warnings but I never went to the ER.  I thought because my urine was getting better (clear), that I was ok and not as bad as we thought.  About 36 hours later, I had a dizzy spell.  My hips were hurting and my arms felt heavy.  I thought, “I know!  I’ll call Uncle Rodger and get an IV.”  My uncle happens to be the paramedic for the Broncos and he was ironically at training camp when I called him.  I explained to him what happened and my symptoms and his response was, “Nope.  You get your butt to the ER right now.”  Ugh.  That was not what I wanted to hear.  I didn’t feel bad enough to go to the ER.  I was so worried about going in and nothing being wrong with me.  My husband was really worried at this point and he begged me to call my friend Sean who is an ER doctor.  I explained everything to him and he agreed with Katie, Brian and Rodger, it was time for a trip to the ER.  “Great, more embarrassment!” I thought.  “Now I will be a hypochondriac on top of a total failure.”  As soon as I arrived at the hospital, Sean had an IV ready for me.  It felt incredible.  I needed that more than I realized and Sean confirmed that I did have Rhabdo.  I was such a fool to have waited so long to go in.  Thankfully, I did not have a bad case.  Rhabdomyolysis can get really bad, very quickly.  Maybe it was a blessing that I wasn’t able to finish my race.  I did not suffer any kidney damage and I will make a full recovery.

I learned a lot about myself on July 26, 2014.  I learned that I am very stubborn.  I need to listen to my body a lot better.  I am making necessary changes to become stronger and smarter for future races.  I have also learned that I have deep determination and inner strength.  Aside from losing my dad 4 years ago, that race was one of the lowest moments in my life.  6 weeks later, I am still recovering but I now understand everything I was doing wrong.  Even though the Mt. Evans Hill Climb was a humbling experience for me, I believe it will help me become a better athlete and a stronger person. Through my pain and defeat, I still feel grateful for the experience and the lessons I have learned.

Tough Love Works!

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Arguably one of the hardest days on a bike in Colorado – the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. Lanier and Rachel competed with 4 other women from Austin to New York on the Panache Cycle Wear team on the gnarly dirt roads at altitude. Read more about the epic day on the bike.

When Rachel Scott sent a message about the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race, I was intrigued.  100+ miles, most on dirt roads with 35% grades in certain spots – fun!  Well, maybe not everyone’s definition of fun but I love a good challenge.  We were a 6-person team racing for Panache.  Becca put the team together. Laura and Caroline of Austin TX and Abby of NYC arrived in Boulder on Thursday.  We got our kits together and arrived at the start line.

When the route came out the week prior, it showed 107 miles with 13,000+ feet of climbing.  The time would be taken on the last person of the team to cross the finish line, so we needed to work together to ensure that all finished.  The decision was on which bike to ride, and after some emails from Becca, I opted for my Seven ti frame with 28 tire.  We made our way up Superflag, Rachel and Becca leading the way.  We then wound our way along lots of hard-packed dirt roads after Gross Reservoir.  Although the grades on the ascents remained very steep, often 13-15%, the scenery was spectacular.  I have grown accustomed to the scenery after living in Colorado so long.  Seeing it through Abby, Caroline and Laura’s eyes took my mind off the hard climbing and reminded me how lucky we all were to be riding our bikes with great people in a gorgeous place!

I ran into technical trouble descending a few miles of loose rocky road, and was the last one down.  Then we needed to push the pace to get to the cutoff.  We were back on hard packed dirt, and several of us were tiring fast.  I focused on eating more, but my legs began cramping.  Fortunately, Rachel had salt tablets which kept me riding.  When we turned on Switzerland trail, I found myself on terrain that I would have struggled with on my CX bike with fresh legs – very loose dirt with bigger rocks than before.  My legs began cramping again, and I slid out several times.

So I began walking, feeling 2” high because I knew I was keeping the team from making the cutoff.  Rachel came back to check on me, and quickly realized I had mentally given up but that I could still ride.  She said it was time for tough love, that the last part of the trail was easier and that I had to get on the bike and to follow her line.  For the 2nd time in my life, I cried on a ride. I usually love riding no matter how much I’m hurting, but I did not believe I could ride another mile.  But Rachel broke it down into simple commands and after a couple of attempts, I was able to stay upright, clip in and follow her.  She talked me through the last 1.5 miles, and by the end I even found a small bit of confidence handling the bike, even if my legs were shaky and weak.  It rained a bit, which cooled everything off and made the terrain easier.  When we were almost done, I was happy again to be riding.  To my eternal gratitude, Rachel helped me finish Switzerland Trail upright!

We shortened the ride afterwards, giving me a chance to chat on one of the descents with our super climber teammate Jamie, who had a great day riding with the Davis Phinney team.

My personal takeaways include making sure that I am fully prepared physically, mentally and skill-wise before signing up for a team effort in the future.  But overall, it was a fantastic day riding some incredibly difficult but incredibly beautiful terrain with a great group of women.  Many thanks to Rapha for putting the race on, and to our sponsor Panache and Becca for sponsoring a women’s team!

 

Salida States in Photos

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A picture is worth a thousand words so we’ll let these photos do the talking from Salida Omnium!

TT
Sharon Madison  2nd place 45+
Katie Harrer 4th place 3’s

Crit
Sharon Madison-3rd pl 45+
Katie Harrer-
Susan Hersey- 1st pl. 45+
Kimberly Turner-4th pl. pro 1/2/3
Melanie Wong
Melissa Westergard-4th pl cat 4

RR
Sharon Madison- State Champ masters road 45+
Katie Harrer-4th pl cat 3
Kimberly Turner 2nd pl. Pro 1/2
Melanie Wong 5th pl pro 1/2
Melissa Westergard
Natalia Ptas

 

 

Ride the Rockies 2014

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Melissa the Mountain Goat had another successful Ride the Rockies! Read all about your favorite Naked hill climber’s week-long experience here. 

Where do I begin?  Ride The Rockies 2014, will be a year that Sharon Madison and myself will not soon forget.  It was a week of freezing temperatures, new friendships, sudden injuries, beautiful scenery, close calls and personal accomplishments. Ride The Rockies, aka RTR, has become an annual event for Sharon and I since we met in Steamboat during the 2011 tour.  We both had this year’s “Epic Week” marked on our calendars since the beginning of March.  To start off, we both planned on racing the Sunshine Hill Climb Race on June 7th, followed by RTR June 8th-13th, and finishing up with the Guanella Pass Hill Climb race on June 15th.  We knew what we had signed up for, but never dreamed it would have turned out like it did.

Sunshine was hard!  I was not ready for that monster climb at all.  Without going into too much detail, I wasn’t feeling too great that day but I signed up and raced anyway.  It was my first race as a Cat 3.  Talk about being nervous.  My body already turns inside out before every race, but when I lined up next to those crazy strong Cat 3s that morning, I knew I was in store for a sufferfest.  I love to climb, and I think in normal circumstances, I would thoroughly enjoy climbing Sunshine Canyon.  However, I think my mind got the best of me in that race.  Maybe it was the anxiety of knowing RTR started the very next day (with a scheduled 10,000 plus feet of climbing in 89 miles) or maybe it was the fact that I was racing at a new level with very strong competition.  All I could think about was how sick I felt and that climbing that beast of a mountain was going to hurt.  And it did. My teammate, Jamie Gilmore set a very strong pace right out of the shoot. My initial thought was “uh oh”, because I knew she is an incredible climber.  I did my best to hang with her for a bit, but with the way I was feeling, I knew I had to back off.  As a few other racers passed me, I conceded to the fact that this was a personal race for me, and it was about survival.  It’s hard to race when you don’t feel good, so just finishing was an accomplishment.  Jamie and Brittany dominated the Cat 3 race and Sharon took 3rd in Masters.  It was very exciting to see them all on the podium at the top.

After racing Sunshine, I came home and began packing for my week long trip with one of my very best friends.  Most people who sign up for Ride The Rockies camp at the local high schools in each of the finishing towns.  Not Sharon and I. =)  Camp?  Could you imagine?  Those riders are tough.  Every day they ride over mountain passes, through extreme weather conditions, sometimes close to 100 miles of riding, set up their tents with tired bodies, shower in semi truck trailers and sleep outside in the cold, just to get up and do it all over again the next day.  Ha!  I’m too prissy for that.  I need my coffee every morning and a mirror to put my eyeliner on.  Each year Sharon organizes hotel accommodations in the hosting towns and we tuck into warm hotel beds each night after eating fancy dinners with great friends.  Talk about extreme differences.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t work our booties off when we are on the road.  Our friend Dr. Sean Bender, who also rides with us each year, makes sure we all hit Zone 5 at least once each day…..or all day, depending on what he ate for breakfast that morning.  He was nicknamed the steam engine for our Naked Train this year because he is so strong and fast.  I remember some guy hooked onto the back of our train one day and he came up to Sean at the Aid Station and said, “Do I owe you money or something for that ride? You are a machine!” Sean just laughed and acted like it was no big deal.  I think he was the strongest rider on RTR this year.   And if that’s not impressive enough, he was that strong even after suffering a broken collarbone in February, from a crash in a race in Vegas.

Day one of RTR was wild.  We left the high school in Boulder at about 6:45am and headed up beautiful Boulder Canyon.  It was a real treat to ride up that canyon with one lane closed to traffic.  I remember thinking how nice it was to not have to worry about cars and to be able to take in the scenery around me.  The morning air was crisp, the rivers were full and flowing fast, the sun was bright and everyone seemed energized and happy.  It felt like it was going to be a perfect day.  The beautiful weather stuck with us all the way through Nederland, Rollinsville and even up until Gilpin County (mile 36 or so).  But the storm clouds were rolling in and when we got to Black Hawk and Central City, it was evident that we were in for some weather.  Riding through Central City was fun.  There are some good hills back there and the descent into Idaho Springs was a blast.  Once we got to Idaho Springs however, my attitude changed quickly with the first crash of thunder.  I always knew I was a lightning wimp, but when you are standing out in the open with a group of people on bikes, and a GIANT flash of lightning flies overhead, I think it’s perfectly normal to FREAK OUT!!    Sharon, Sean and John were taking their sweet time putting on their rain jackets and leg warmers as lightning streaked across the sky and thunder shook the ground.  “No big deal guys!!  It’s just lightning!!!”  I was convinced we were going to die.  They just laughed at me as I had a mini panic attic on the side of the highway. Then it happened……In the midst of my meltdown, my attention was suddenly diverted.  A group of cyclists flew past us in a very organized and beautiful fashion.  They were not your typical RTR riders and it was evident in their appearance and riding style. My eyes were immediately drawn to them and I quickly realized it was George Hincapie. ((sigh))  That guy is a hunk!  Suddenly, my terror turned to excitement and all I could focus on was trying to catch up with his group and ride with them.  Thank you Mr. Hincapie for the distraction!!  That was exactly what I needed to get me through the storm and on to Empire.

When we reached the Aid Station in Empire it was windy and cold. Yuck!  We shivered and huddled together while we ate our bars and goos and rested for the climb to come.  We were 62 miles in and the summit on Berthoud Pass was mile 75.  When you are already freezing cold and you know you have to ride in the wind to a much higher, and inevitably colder elevation, its hard to get back on your bike. Sean decided he was going to summit Berthoud alone.  Word on the street was that he had a massage waiting for him in Winter Park, so he took off like a rocket and told us he would meet us there.  Lucky guy…or so we thought anyway.  As John, Sharon and I began to climb the pass, the weather went from wind, to light rain, to light snow to giant snowflakes that stick to your eyelashes.  I decided I wanted to push myself up the mountain, so I set out on my own for a bit.  I was feeling awesome considering the dreary weather.  I even noticed I had some guy sucking my wheel the entire way up.  I didn’t say anything but I knew he was there.  The closer I got to the top, the wetter the roads got and the more I became aware of my body temperature dropping. It was strange, I went from feeling amazing and powering up the mountain, to sudden dizziness and confusion.  I even had to get off of my bike to try and regain my focus.  I never do that.  Was I bonking?  It was a feeling I had never experienced before.  I could see the summit in the distance, it wasn’t far at all.  My body didn’t feel fatigued but I was dazed and had tunnel vision and I felt like everything around me was spinning.  I remember thinking maybe it was low blood sugar or dehydration and I would eat when I got to the top. I forced myself to get back on my bike but it was the first time that I was truly afraid that I might black out while riding. It was so surreal.  When I reached the top, I immediately got off of my bike and just laid it against a wall in the parking lot.  There was a little warming house (not heated), so I went inside and just sat down on the floor.  I remember Sharon came in moments later and said “Let’s go and get out of this weather.”  She wanted to descend right away but I knew I couldn’t do it.  All I could do was sit there.  I was done riding for the day.  I told her that I was afraid I couldn’t descend safely.  She and John told me to wait there and they would go get a  car in Winter Park and come back and get me.  I felt like such a baby.  I was not pleased with myself for wimping out, but I knew I would crash if I tried to descend those switchbacks on wet pavement, feeling the way I did.  My head was in a daze.  As Sharon and John began to leave, over a loud speaker, a police officer announced that the pass was closed to cyclists.  “There will be no cyclists allowed to descend.  The conditions are too dangerous.”  They  said we were to wait at the top and they would make arrangements for us to get down the mountain safely.  At that time, the warming house was not very full.  However, as the cyclists began to make their way up the mountain, suddenly the warming house looked more like a sardine can.  Everyone was piling inside to get out of the wet snow and wind.  Sean made it down the pass before they closed it, but Sharon, John and myself were stuck at the top with hundreds of other cyclists.

As our sweat began to cool and the temperature continued to drop, the shivering reached an entirely new level.  My entire body physically hurt from shivering so much. I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes and I remember feeling short of breath from my body tensing up so much.  Sharon couldn’t sit still through all of this.  She is considered the Mayor of RTR (because she knows EVERYONE), and she was able to work her magic and found a ride down the mountain with a friend.  John hopped on a crowded bus.  They said they would come back with a car to pick me up.  I decided to sit down in a corner and rest my head on my knees.  I was so tired.  A very kind man was next to me while I waited.  He put his jacket over my shoulders and offered me food.  I was so exhausted.  I said no thank you to his kind food offer and I rested my head on my knees again.  I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I just wanted to sleep.  I couldn’t stop shivering and I just wanted to close my eyes while I waited for John and Sharon.  As I began to doze off I remember feeling the man’s hand on my arm, pulling me to my feet.  I was embarrassed that I was so sleepy and it took me a minute to realize what was happening.  He pulled me by my arm through the crowd of people and outside into the snow and wind.  I remember it seemed so bright outside and I asked him where we were going.  He just told me he knew some people and before I knew it, he opened the doors to a big fire truck and he helped me inside.  He said “Stay here and I will come get you when John and Sharon return.”  How did he know John and Sharon?  I was so confused.  The fire truck was incredible.  It was more like a warming truck of some sort.  There were benches to sit on and heaters that blasted warm air throughout the entire cabin.  There were people in blankets shivering next to me and as time passed, more and more people piled inside.  I felt like I was dreaming.  As my body warmed up, I wasn’t as sleepy as I was moments before and I felt like I could see more clearly.  I looked out the windows of the truck and realized the severity of the situation.  There were bikes everywhere, people wrapped in blankets standing in lines to load onto buses and trucks and the snow didn’t show any signs of stopping.  I have no idea how long I sat in that truck, but eventually that wonderful man that helped me, appeared in the doorway again.  He said “Sharon and John are here.  Let’s go.”  We piled four people and several bikes into the car and made our way down the mountain.  We all ended up safely in Winter Park at a beautiful condo that Sharon had reserved for us.  We sat around and told our stories while we rested our tired bodies.  That was only Day One of Ride The Rockies!  Little did we know, we had several other wild adventures to come.

Day 2 of RTR began with a chilly morning in Winter Park.  So chilly, we decided to leave a little later to allow the temperature outside to rise a bit.  Sean and I both know the importance of a cup of coffee each morning before a long day in the saddle.  Sharon is not a coffee drinker, but she is sweet and tolerates our desperation to find a coffee shop each day.  That morning we happened to find a Starbucks.  I was so excited. Once we indulged in our addiction, we headed out into the cold, crisp morning air.  At least the sun was shining.  As we made our way out to the main highway we bumped into a friend of Mayor Madison’s.  His name was Robert and he happened to be standing next to a vehicle that said Hincapie on it.  Suddenly I became very aware of the BMC bike that was resting next to a pile of suitcases.  “That’s George’s bike!”  I thought to my self.  I didn’t want to move.  I wanted to stay and see if I was right, but alas, Sharon said it was time to go, and she is the boss, so we went.   We met up with a friend of Sean’s on our way out of town.  His name was Alexi and he was going to ride with us for the day.  So the 4 of us began our journey to the next location.  Day 2’s route would take us from Winter Park to Steamboat Springs, traveling 95 miles over Muddy Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass.  It was another big day.  Other than a cool breeze, the first 30 miles were pretty uneventful. We were all settling into our rhythm and getting to know each other’s wheels.  After stopping at Aid Station 1 just before Granby, when we reached Aid Station 2 near Parshall, we decided not to stay very long.  We wanted to get through the day at a quick pace to avoid any weather.  That’s when the next unexpected event happened.  As we pulled out of Aid Station 2, Sean took the lead, followed by Alexi, then Sharon and I hopped on the back. We barely started pedaling, when all of a sudden a vehicle that was passing us pulled over to the right, forcing Sean off of the road. Alexi hit his brakes, which caused Sharon’s front wheel to rub his back wheel and Sharon ended up crashing. It was horrible to witness.  It was like it was happening in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  Sharon’s wheel rubbed the side of Alexi’s wheel for what seemed like forever.  She held her bike upright as long as she could but she finally went down.  Her head and her shoulder hit the pavement first and my heart sunk in my chest.  Sean is an ER doctor and he rushed over to Sharon to see if she was ok.  She got up immediately and quickly realized she had a lot of pain in her shoulder.  Her helmet was cracked and she had some road rash on her hip.  She was incredibly calm.  Even at a moment like that, she was kind and graceful.  After Sean looked her over, he decided it would be a good idea to have her shoulder x-rayed in Steamboat.  Her bike was not damaged but she definitely needed a new helmet.  The woman that pulled over, pushing us off the road, was ironically a friend of Sean’s.  It was a complete accident and Sharon was as sweet as can be to her, despite the pain she was in from falling.  Sharon decided to catch a ride with Sean’s friend to the next Aid Station.  I wanted to ride in the car with her but Sharon wouldn’t let me and she told me to keep riding.  That was not easy for me at all.

After riding alone with the boys to Aid Station 3, just outside of Kremmling, we ran into Sharon and noticed she was up to something.  She was standing in line at the Bike Source tent buying a new helmet. Clearly, she had every intention to ride, despite her injuries.  Although we set out after lunch without her, I don’t think we made it 15 miles before she was hollering out the car window for us to pull over.  When we came to a stop, we realized she couldn’t sit still in the car and watch everyone ride.  She got her bike off of the rack and gave us all the look that said “I’m riding. Don’t say a word”.  The plan was to see how it goes.  Sean’s friend was just a phone call away and if Sharon couldn’t handle the pain, she would be right there to pick her up.  This was nuts.  I could not believe she was getting back on her bike.  I was a nervous wreck.  All I could think about was how she was feeling and if this was a smart plan or not.  I figured Sean wouldn’t let her ride if he was really concerned, but my instinct was on high alert.  We took it very easy along the stretch from Kremmling to Muddy Pass.  Although I can’t say it was uneventful.  In fact, along that very stretch of road the most terrifying thing to have ever happened to me on my bike, happened in the blink of an eye.

Ride The Rockies is an annual bike tour that has gone on for nearly 30 years now.  It is a very well organized event with State Patrol escorts, road blocks in certain areas, route safety volunteers and well marked hazards and road signs for all of the cyclists.  Ironically, just outside outside of Kremmling, I remember seeing a huge road sign warning vehicles that a bike tour was in progress and to please proceed with caution.  For the most part, traffic flows smoothly and it is clearly evident that there are cyclists everywhere.   In our group of four, Sean was up front, followed by Alexi, myself and then our wounded soldier Sharon at the back.  We were traveling at a steady pace going into a slight corner when a massive semi truck came barreling down the road.  He obviously had no patience for the cyclists and he was going to show his rage by hugging the shoulder.  Not only was he going entirely too fast, but  he came so close to us, that Sean was pushed off of the road into the gravel.  Alexi’s immediate reaction was to hit his brakes, my front wheel instantly locked with his back wheel on the lefthand side and all I could think about was Sharon’s crash just hours before.  Typically when your front wheel rubs with another wheel, you go down.  If I would have fallen, I would have fallen into the semi because I would not have fallen to the right because of Alexi’s wheel.  As the front of the semi truck rounded the corner, the trailer came even closer to us.  I could see the tires, and the trailer right next to me from the corner of my eye.  I felt the wind from his speed as he passed by and at that moment I really thought things were going to end badly for me.  I have no idea how I kept my bike upright as that giant truck flew past us.  I was absolutely terrified.  We all had to pull over and catch our breath.  I think I will thank God every day for the rest of my life for protecting us that day.  I can’t believe the driver of that truck was so careless and had no regard for life.

When we got to the Aid Station at the base of Muddy Pass, Sharon decided to catch a ride with Sean’s friend.  Her shoulder was hurting and she noticed that climbing intensified the pain.  So Sean, Alexi and myself made our way up the pass.  As we kept pedaling, Sean decided he wanted to summit Rabbit Ears at his rocket ship cadence.  So Alexi and I climbed the remaining stretch of Rabbit Ears, just the two of us.  When we reached the top, Sharon was waiting.  She was with Sean and she wanted to descend with us into Steamboat.  Yes, I’m convinced she is crazy.  Or else she has embraced an entirely new level of “badass”.  One of the two.  She descended the pass with grace and beauty like every other descent she has made, and we arrived safely in Steamboat.

Having an ER doctor with you on a bike tour has its perks.  What normally would have taken hours in the ER for X-rays, literally took 10 minutes.  Sean was able to diagnose her injury as soon as the X-ray was taken.  Sharon had suffered an AC separation.  In her mind, no big deal.  She was thrilled that her collarbone was not broken.  A little tape and ibuprofen and she would be good to go.  (I would be crying like a baby).  Since Day 3 was a loop around Steamboat and we would be staying two nights at the same hotel, Sharon agreed that taking a day off of the bike was a good idea.  It didn’t hurt my feelings either because I knew I had to race Guanella on Sunday and I was already feeling tired.  So, while the other cyclists rode a not so easy 54 mile loop through Steamboat, Sharon and I indulged in a little retail therapy.  We had a very nice day together followed by one of the best dinners I have ever had.  Dessert was the real treat. I’m not one to ever choose bread pudding from a dessert menu, but OH MY GOD, this bread pudding with carmel sauce and vanilla  ice-cream knocked my socks off. I still dream about that bread pudding.  Anyway…

Day 4 was another long day in the saddle.  82 miles from Steamboat Springs to Avon.  Although, we rode to East Vail because Sharon has a condo there and that’s where we stayed that night.  Sharon was still hurting (obviously) from her injury, so she was quick to ditch us at the first aid station.  We happened to hook up with a few guys from the GS Boulder team along the first few miles, and Sharon preferred their pace over Sean’s.  It’s not his fault he is a machine and he makes people taste blood in their mouths when they try to keep up with him.  So long story short, I was Sean’s designated riding buddy for the day and I knew I was going to suffer.  I was right too.  As soon as we fueled our bodies, we flew through the next 20 miles at lightning speed.  I tucked in behind his wheel and did my best to hang on tight.  I’m actually shocked I was able to stay on his wheel.  It wasn’t easy. We were flying.  That’s about how the rest of that day went as well.  We would stop at the aid stations, refuel, refill water bottles and continue to hammer out the miles at a very quick pace. When we reached the high school in Avon, I was fried.  My legs were jello and I knew we still had about 20 miles to go to East Vail.  Thankfully at this point, we had Sharon with us and she took charge of the pace.  I was thrilled when we decided to stop and have lunch at a wonderful pizza place in Vail.  I had a diet Coke, a big side salad and 2 large pieces of pizza.  Why do I mention this? Well, Sharon’s condo was about 7 miles from the pizza place, uphill I might add, and that was the hardest 7 miles I have ever pedaled.  My legs were cursing Sean and my belly was full of pizza.  We were nearing 100 miles that day and the last thing I wanted to do was get back on my bike.  I was so happy when we reached Sharon’s place. A warm shower, a delicious dinner, homemade cinnamon rolls and ice-cream and a very soft bed, was a perfect ending to a long day of intense riding.

Day 5 was a fun day.  74 miles from Avon to Breckenridge was the scheduled route.  I don’t remember our exact mileage that day because we set out from East Vail and ended in Frisco.  Sean has a place in Frisco so he was like a horse heading back to the barn.  He couldn’t get there fast enough, but Sharon reined him in and he was exiled to the back of the  line while Sharon set our pace for the beginning of the ride.  Poor Sean. Ha! In a nutshell, Day 5 started in the beautiful town of Vail, a little Starbucks in the system to get us going, and a beautiful day riding in the mountains.  I couldn’t get over how full the rivers were and how green everything was.  It was still chilly, but Summer was in the air and the sun was shining bright.  We traveled over Battle Mountain, Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass.  Some of the bike paths we rode along were absolutely gorgeous.  I feel so blessed to live in this beautiful State.  When we arrived at Sean’s place in Frisco, we had an incredible dinner and we all slept like babies.

The plan for Day 6 was to take it easy.  Sharon had decided she wasn’t going to race Guanella on Sunday, so it was all me.  Sean joked around that I was the “protected” rider.  He was really good about keeping me reined in when I wanted to power up a hill.  It wasn’t easy to go slow, as strange as that may seem after the big days of riding we had just endured.  Sean told me I would thank him on Sunday when I had some legs left for the race.  I knew he was right so I did my best to behave.  I had never been to Keystone before or over Loveland Pass.  It was beautiful!  There were actually people skiing as we climbed to the summit.  I thought that was wild.  I felt great climbing that day.  I loved every second of it.  When we gathered at the top, however, we didn’t stay up there long because the wind cut right through us.  It was very cold up there.  We quickly put our layers on and enjoyed a lot of down hill riding into Idaho Springs.  That was fun.  Floyd Hill was a lovely little bump in the road (Ha!) but it wasn’t horrible because I knew Golden was so close, and that meant my beautiful children and my husband were waiting for me at the finish line.

Ride The Rockies this year was definitely one to remember.  I’m so glad we all made it home safely.  It is such a huge sense of accomplishment crossing that finish line each year.  It’s not only about physical toughness.  Finishing a bike tour like this takes heart and mental toughness as well.  So many different types of people participate in this event and it amazes me every year how far people push themselves.  I see people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities out there every day pushing their bodies to the limit.  It’s awesome!  I look forward to RTR every year and I hope I’m out there pushing myself when I’m a little old lady too.

2014 State TT Champ!

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Katie has quite the collection of State Championship vests! Now she’s got the title for TT too!

I was in the middle of prerace preparation for the Colorado State TT Championship and I was walking back to my car to warm up when I heard a male racer say to his buddy, “Everyone gets lucky at some point.”  He was referring to his win at Deer Trail the week prior.  I was reminded that it was just the week before that I pulled myself out of the Deer Trail Road Race due to illness.  I’m not a quitter so it was a tough decision.  I thought I felt fine the morning of the State Road Race Championship, but after one strong attack I started coughing, I was having trouble breathing and my legs were heavy.  Brittany Jones and Melissa Langdon were out there and I did not want to leave them, but I realized that I was no use to them anyway.  I had to decide, drop out or get sicker.  My head was like, “Suck it up!” but my body was like, “You’re done.”  There is a time and a place to push oneself on the bike but this was not the time, nor the place.   So, I quit.  I was frustrated, but what I didn’t know at the time was that maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  I took a few days off after that race before I started training again with the State TT Championship in mind.

For the most part, in a time trial you have no idea how the rest of your competition is performing and you don’t know until the end how you match up.  It is the race of truth, a race against the clock and a battle within yourself to see how much pain you can withstand for the duration.  I like to tell people, it hurts from the very first pedal stroke.  It’s as much a mental exercise as a physical one.  I placed second for the SW4 in the 2013 State TT Championship but I had upgraded since then.  The SW3 lineup for 2014 was stacked; every single one of them was strong.  In fact, the majority of the start list had been faster than me all season long, so I had no expectations going into this race.

The winner of the SW3 TT I thought for sure was going to be either Barb Lotze or Nina Donohue – these women are machines and they were performing with times that would rival the Pro 1/2s.  They are amazing time trialists and I have a lot of respect for both of them.  I have never defeated Nina in a TT and the last time I defeated Barb in a TT was one year ago, at last year’s State TT Championship, where I bested her by only 4 seconds.  I hadn’t won against her since.  I was fortunate enough to get the final start time for the SW3, 30 seconds behind Barb.

I was surprisingly relaxed at the start line.  Barb and I wished each other luck and off we went.  As we rounded the second turn and I could tell that Barb was already getting away from me.   Then it happened.  We were about 4-5 miles in to this 24-mile race and my gears locked up.  I couldn’t pedal.  “No, no, no, no!”  I yelled out loud.  I frantically started shifting trying to free the chain and it fell off.  I could pedal again but I had dropped the chain.  Trying to stay calm, after spinning for a few seconds I somehow was able to pedal it back on.   The bike was fine but my ride was not.  Barb was catching the rider ahead of her and I was essentially dropped.

I passed the rider who went off 1 minute ahead of me after the first lollipop.  After the second turn around we were hit with a massive headwind going all the way back home for 10 miles.  The return to the finish was supposed to be slightly down sloped but it didn’t feel like it.  I was probably a minute behind Barb at the final turn around – I could barely see her.  I felt defeated but I tried to stay focused through all the pain.   I certainly wasn’t going to give up.

I don’t have any data on my tt bike, no garmin, no power meter, no cadence, no gradient information, and no speed.  All I had to gauge my performance was my heart rate monitor and perceived exertion.   As an indoor cycling instructor, I’m used to monitoring my efforts in this way.  Lucky for me, most cycling classes are an hour long – nearly the exact time it would take me to complete this race.   So I was quite comfortable hammering for an hour.  I knew all that spin instructing would pay off at some point!  I fought with myself during the majority of the race to stay focused on my heart rate and cadence.  I was trying to push the biggest gear I could as fast as I could and I also wanted to keep my heart rate around threshold until the end where I’d push it into overdrive.

Coming into the final two miles I was feeling stronger and I was surprisingly gaining significant ground.  There were a few curves ahead before the final drag into the finish.  I don’t know who I was talking to but I said out loud, “Give me the legs.”  I stayed aero around those curves and dropped into a bigger gear.  We passed the 1k marker and I thought to myself, we are running out of real estate, I have to start my push early can’t wait until 200m.  Barb was now within striking distance and I gave it everything I had.  I watched her cross the finish line and started counting down from 30, which was our start gap; if I could get to that line before I reached zero I might have a shot at the podium, but the win wasn’t even on my radar.

After the race I met up with Melissa Westergard and we headed over to the results area together.  I saw my coach, Sue Lloyd.  I gave her a hug and asked if she’d won.  Of course she did.  She broke the news to me that I had also won my category.  I did not believe her.  I was in shock.  There was no way.  I had to go see for myself.  Indeed, I’d won by 6 seconds.  The spread between first second and third was 13 seconds, so it was very close.  We were very clearly equally matched, but I guess my sprint was just enough to give me the edge that day.  It was an unexpected win, but some days you just get lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

Deer Trail Race Report

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Melissa took the road race state championship (and it’s the first race she ever won!). Might as well make it a good one!

This weekend started as all the other race weekends have. Wake up at 5am, leave the house at 6 to get to the race at 7 so that I have 2 good hours to get my number and warm up. As with any race, there is a lot of anxiety that is experienced before the start. What I’ve learned to do is give myself plenty of time for prep. Before this race I warmed up on the road with teammates for a while. I was most concerned about the distance in this race. It’s been a while since I’ve been on my bike for that long, not even considering racing for over 2 hours.

The race started with a neutral rollout through town and the pace started off pretty mellow. For the first 10 miles of the course we had significant rolling hills. I positioned myself in the middle of the pack for the first 4 miles trying to reserve energy. I eventually found myself in the front of the pack for the next 10 miles working for everyone else. Up to this point, no one had made an attack. Everyone was trying to stay together to save themselves from the wind. There were a few girls from Primal who were pulling at the front quite a bit too so I asked one of them if they would lead an attack with me after one of the turnaround points halfway through the course. The plan worked out smoothly. Right after the turn we sprinted for a while trying to create a gap. There were 3 others who joined us. We were facing headwind for the next 10 or so miles but all 5 of us worked together to keep a paceline going at a high tempo and we were able to increase the gap by a few minutes. During the paceline, we had a couple girls drop off the back and then there were 3 of us, our teammate Natalia Ptas and a girl from Boulder Running Company. We knew if we kept the pace consistent that each of us would get on the podium that day so we stayed together battling crosswinds at that point. The last 8 miles were the most challenging with trying to maintain a quickly rotating echelon between 3 people. After the last turnaround in the course I knew we had about 2.5 miles left until the finish. I was feeling really good at that point and felt like I had a lot left to give. I picked up the pace and was able to cross the finish line 1st, something I have never experienced before. The excitement was almost overwhelming realizing that I had actually finally won a race. I’m so thankful for the girls I raced with that day that gave everything they had to keep our small group together and finish strong.

Race Report: Deer Trail Road Race – Colorado Senior RR Championships

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Natalia and Melissa worked the State Road Race Championships to bring home a jersey! Here’s the story of how they got the top step on the podium at Deer Trail.

Deer Trail is a small farm town on eastern planes one hour from Denver. The area is famous for its rolling terrain and crosswinds. I like to think that long, endurance races are my strength but you never know what can happen while racing, and as I was driving to the race all I could think about was getting dropped and time-trailing the entire 42-mile race. I arrived at the race with no expectations.

We lined up at the start line and were led through the town by the official on his motorcycle. Once we turned onto the county road the race was on. The SW4 field was relatively small, only 18 of us, and just one other girl from Naked. The pace was moderate and the field stayed in a close pack so the wind didn’t seen as strong. Melissa and I talked about strategy and even got few girls from other teams on board. About 25 miles into the race one girl from Primal team attacked. Melissa and two others followed but I got stuck behind a girl who had to get off her bike when turning around the cone. I knew this was my only chance so I pushed really hard and after fighting the wind I caught up with them.  The five of us sprinted until we were far enough from the pack and felt safe. We formed a pace line and worked really well together. After few miles one of the girls dropped off and I started to feel fatigued and wanted to drop off as well. What kept me going was my teammate’s encouraging words and the scary thought of being left behind in the wind all alone. Melissa and I kept pushing each other and if it wasn’t for her I would be left behind.

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It was only nine miles to the finish line when it was only the three of us. I looked behind and I saw nobody and I couldn’t believe how the race turned out. We knew we were safe so we slowed down a bit and gave our legs a little rest. At that point we knew we got this, but we still didn’t know who would win the final sprint. When we approached the 1km sign Melissa took off and I knew I couldn’t catch her. Margot from Boulder Running Company team and I raced to the finish but she was just a little bit stronger and I finished 6 seconds behind her. When I crossed the finish line I still couldn’t believe what just happened. For me this was my first podium road racing this season and I couldn’t have asked for better company on the podium. I was so proud of my teammate winning the State Championships. This by far was my favorite race so far this season, not only because I got my first medal, but because we strategized, executed, and won. This truly was a team effort.

Fear and Recovery in Bike Racing

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Lanier talks crashing, how to overcome to get back in the race, and why you should never live a life fully out of fear.

I was in a crash during a race 2.5 weeks ago, resulting in a fractured rib.  When I first got up, adrenaline was doing its job and I thought my front wheel sustained all the damage.  But the pain increased by the day and x-rays later that week confirmed that I was looking at yet another recovery period this season.  I already worked through 4 weeks of muscular damage recovery this spring from a minor fall during a break in racing.  So the mental path was familiar: initial optimism that recovery would be short, followed by frustration when my body does not share that optimism, then slow painful efforts on the bike to avoid losing every last shred of fitness that I worked so hard to obtain.  Training rides are again exercises in pain tolerance.  Racing plans are postponed.  My weekly yoga and strength routine is disrupted.  I am in a funk.

I remind myself that I am lucky, that several competitors’ injuries were far worse.  At least I can ride!  One long-time riding friend who has ridden centuries with broken ribs, explains exactly what to expect and gives me a pep talk in his gruff way: “It’s just pain management, Lanier.  You’re tough.  Just ride your bike.”  I arrange a ride with him.  My coach tells me to refocus my short-term goals: “Remember what you love about riding before you started racing, and do that.  Lead those beginner rides, commute and enjoy the scenery.  Just ride your bike.”  I sign up to lead more beginner rides, begin commuting to work and plan the MS Ride this weekend with Jenifer.  Endorphins are working their magic and the pain is reduced.  My spirits improve.

Several have asked if I am scared to race again.  The answer is no.  I have fallen more outside of races than in them.  Using feedback from others, I think through what I can do differently to reduce the chances of going down in the future.  There is risk in riding and racing our bikes.  There is also risk driving a car or walking across the street.  I will do everything I can to mitigate those risks.  But I never want to give up living my life fully out of fear.

So if I am afraid when I line up for my next race, I will remember another racing friend’s words.  It was my first race back after the first injury, and despite my excitement to race again I was worried my muscles would lock up.  He asked, “Can you race?”  When I responded yes, he said “Then just go race your bike.”  So I did, and I will.