Category Archives: Road
Sharon, Melissa, and Lanier finish up Ride the Rockies strong and leave it all out in the mountains. Read the recap on days 6 and 7 here. Go to www.ridetherockies.com to view videos and pictures of all 7 days.
Day 6: Salida to Canon City. 93.5 miles, 4,455 elevation gain, Hardscrabble Pass
Today we started at Big Dog Coffee shop, in Salida. Today was our reroute day. We ended up doing 105 miles because we ride to the hotel. It was the most beautiful of all the days. We went through Westcliffe and up Hardscrabble Pass. In my 9 years of doing RTR I have never done this pass.
Lanier didn’t ride with us today. She had to rest her engine for state TT and was heading back to Denver. We started with our group of 6 including Kris (303 cycling). He took the day off from the Naked girls the day before but really missed us so jumped back on the Naked train today.
Today we all split up after the first aid station because Dr. Sean was having mechanical issues. We made Melissa stay with him so Sam and I didn’t have to kill ourselves going up the pass with that Mtn. goat. Smartest thing we did all week. We all regrouped at the next aid station and finished together. We were so excited to get out of our chamois. We had a lot of chamois time today.
Day 7 : Canon City to the finish in Colorado Springs. 47 miles and 2243 elevation gain.
Today we rode to Florence so everyone could have their coffee. Since today was a short day to the finish we decided we had to leave it all out there. Sam was talking smack to me last night telling me I wasn’t pushing myself this week as hard as I could. Don’t tell Mama that. I was out to kick butt today. I knew we had some climbing so that was where I was going to have to put the pressure on.
I was talking with Ron Kiefel this morning, so he knew Melissa and I had a plan of attack on the climbs. First big climb kept pace up, but couldn’t shake anyone. I picked up more steam and everyone attacked. I thought I had it, then Sam flies by me going over the crest of the hill. Urgh!!! All of a sudden Ron appears and said, ” get on my wheel you have another hill and another chance.” I grab his wheel and we pass my group. He pulled me for a long time then when the next climb came he went over and said,” go get it.” Away I went and the only one who could stay with me was Dr. Sean and we hoofed it to the next aid station. He let me suck his wheel and gave me the win. I had to win one of the stages of RTR.
We finished the day with a few more attacks but pretty much stayed together. It was another great year with Melissa and Sean. Sam was a great addition to our group and we loved hanging with Kris ( 303 Cycling) for the week. Sean’s teammate Todd from Alchemist rode with us all week, and Erik from Aspen joined our group letting the Naked girls drag him around all week. I highly recommend this event to everyone. You meet great people, eat, drink and ride your bike everyday. Can’t get more pro then that.
Thanks for following us all week and reading our blogs.
Ride the Rockies Day 5. Alamosa to Salida, 84 miles, 1631Elevation gain, on a never ending road.
The day started with our usual start at Milagros coffee shop to plan the attack for the day. It was basically a very flat ride through ET country. At one point we thought we heard a UFO.
The Naked girls have become very popular this week. Today’s writing on the road was “Naked Team show us what you’ve got. Wink! Wink!”
The train stepped into high gear at the second rest stop. It was day 5, we were all missing our companions so we found the next best thing on the road, a giant rooster…..(see photo below)
Sam was so excited at this rest stop that she had to show these country folks how we dance in the city. (see photo below)
The ride was pretty uneventful. As we were chugging down the road we spotted a fire on the mountain side. Not sure if they got it under control or not but we hope so.
Tomorrows route has been changed. Our 67 mile day is not happening. We are now riding 94 miles with a 4,455 foot elevation gain into Canon City. We will be riding up Hardscrabble Pass. They had to reroute us because of the fire in Canon City. We are not sure how this riding into smoke is going to go.
Day 4 of Ride the Rockies. Pagosa Springs to Alamosa, 92 long windy miles with 4,678 elevation
Coffee shop start again. Late start again. No one listens to Mama when it comes to our start time. Lanier ditched us. She beat us up for 3 days then decides to save herself for the state TT. What’s up with that?
We’ve not only caught the attention of all the riders this week but the RTR crew as well. Agent Orange writes all over the road with jokes, caution signs etc… he does this the day before we ride the route. It is to keep you entertained as you ride. A couple nights ago his 11 year old daughter and a friend had dinner with us. We told Sam she had to filter because of the young ones. Needless to say, she dropped a few words which she shouldn’t have. Today, within a mile out of the shoot, on the road in big orange letters is “filter Sam filter”.
After we did a P&P (pee and peel) we headed up Wolf Creek Pass. Going up I saw an old arch rival and a full on testosterone fest took place. Melissa and Sam hung on for dear life. Then I settled back into a tempo pace but Melissa took off to win Queen of the Mountain.
After a couple photo ops at the top we started our descent. Someone took a picture of the Naked Train descending but we have no clue who. It was posted on Facebook.
At about mile 32-92 we had a pretty flat ride into Alamosa. On this section the Naked Train attracted way to many people. We kept having to slow down or speed up to break up the train.
Ron Kiefel (owner of Wheatridge Cyclery and 1985 stage winner of Giro d’ Italia) came up to me and said, ” Sharon can I have a one day pass and join your train”. I said, “hop on”. He’s a great person to ride with on the flats. The wind was nasty so Ron took control of the group of 10 and told us where to rotate into the wind and had us echelon in a quick rotation.
The last 10 miles were a sufferfest because of the wind. Everybody dropped off and imploded. I had a massage at 2 which I wasn’t going to miss, so Sam and I pushed it in grabbing a couple of guys to help us. With 5 miles left I started falling apart so Sam put Mama on her wheel and brought me in with 5 minutes to spare for our massages.
It was a long windy day in the saddle but it was a fun day by all. Tomorrow we head to Salida. Another long day. 84 miles with 1,631 elevation gain. We will be heading up Poncha Pass.
Day 3 of our Naked ladies at RTR. Durango-Pagosa Springs 86 miles 3,635 elevation gain.
At 7:00 we met up at Durango Coffee. We were going to leave at 7:15 but it takes awhile to round up the troops. We had 9 people riding in the Naked train today.
Right out of Durango we had a 15 mile climb. Rumor has it from Roger (Melissa’s uncle) who runs Stadium Ambulance that people were saying we were passing riders on the climb like they were standing still. After the downhill we ran into some problems on the flat. Everyone wanted to jump on the Naked train. We wouldn’t let them rotate with us because the pace line was getting way to long and unsafe.
At mile 70 and 3 hours and 30 minutes later we all wanted to be done. At that point Kris from 303 Cycling was even done with us and the pace we were doing through the morning. He was trying so hard to ditch us but Sam and I wouldn’t let him. Mama says “no man left behind”. We were happy to slow down the pace and just hang with Kris.
We didn’t have time to take any “Fashion Don’t” pictures today. We’ll try to do better tomorrow.
Tomorrow is another long day. We ride up Wolf Creek Pass then head into Alamosa. It’s 92 miles and 4,678 elevation gain.
Day 2 of RTR: 64 miles and 3,442 elevation gain. Catch Day 1 here.
Melissa and I survived the night without getting bed bugs. We were a little concern about that. Not the best conditions in that place.
The Naked train consisted of a few more people today. Sharon, Lanier, Melissa, Sam, Kris (303Cycing), Dr. Sean, Sean’s friend Todd and Melissa’s friend Ryan.
We met at Spruce Coffee House in Cortez. At 7:30 it was time to head down the road. We had a steady 50 mile climb ahead of us. After a 15 minute warm-up the testosterone kicked in. We set off at a blistering pace. We had several people try to jump on the train but none of them could hold the pace. Finally, Sam went up to Ryan, who was pulling, and told him to dial it down. We thought about alternating boy and girl to keep the boys reined in. We were not very successful.
When we got to the top of Hesperus Hill, our 50 mile point, Lanier decided to take off. The only thing I could do is buckle down and grab her wheel. Melissa stayed on mine. Next thing I know, 3 guys hop on her wheel and they kept going faster and faster. I let them rotate and just hung on. When we got back, I asked Lanier to check her Strava to see how fast she went and it was 55 miles’s per hour! I prefer not to go over 53. Apparently, she got 6 QOM today as well as the fastest descent. Do not get in Lanier’s way on any descent.
Dr. Sean is our man slave this week. Several people have already commented that he needs to be in a Naked kit. Problem is yesterday he leaned his bike on someone’s car, left to go to the bathroom and we got yelled at. Today, Dr. Sean was leading the Naked train passed a couple of dudes without saying “passing on the left” and Lanier and I get chewed out and had to apologize. We pretended we didn’t know him. I think we are better off if Dr. Sean stays in his Alchemist monkey kit.
It was a great day that ended in massages, food and drinks. Sam told all the boys that tomorrow they need to leave their testosterone at the door.
The highlight of my day was when a woman came up to me at the massage tent and said, “I idolized you last year and your beautiful riding skills and I’ve been training this past year thinking of you and how you ride.”. She said she was so excited when I passed her today and she saw that I was here again. On RTR there is a lot of passing and at times you feel like a rock star. Then it’s back to racing and back to reality. What’s up with that?
Tomorrow we ride from Durango to Pagosa Springs, 86 miles and 3,635 elevation gain.
Sharon and her Naked buddies
Day 1 75 miles and 2,218 elevation gain.
Sharon is back for her 9th year of doing RTR. Melissa is back doing her 4th year and Lanier is on her 5th year.
The Naked girls started the day in Telluride with Sam Anderson and Sean Bender. Out of the shoot we started our climb up Lizard Head Pass. Mama Madison needs a good warm-up and that didn’t happen. Then came Chris Thompson from 303 Cycling to my rescue. He asked if Rachel was here. I told him no. He asked if I knew Ingird, I said yes. He asked if I did the Sunshine challenge, I said yes. Now we were instant best friends. He took care of me the rest of the day. If I started falling off the group because of a guy who jumped on our train and sped up he came to my rescue and pulled me back on.
I was great in the front on the uphills but when we hit the down hills, Lanier shoved me aside and took over with Sean. This is where Kris said lets just stay tucked in and pretend we are in the yellow jersey. He started feeling guilty, so he went out to pull but it was so windy, it got us nowhere. I told him to get that yellow jersey back on and tuck in with me. Heck, if Lanier and Sean wanted to dominate the downhill, let them. That was my philosophy.
We were keeping a great pace. We passed Nelson Vails and we heard George Hincapie was trying to chase us down all day, with no avail.
There were definitely a lot of people who jumped on our train for the free ride. There were also the occasional one trip ponies who sprinted for the finish line 20-40 miles before the finish line. Not to worry, Lanier was on it and reeled them back in.
As you can see we were tempted by the free wine tasting in Delores but we decided we better stick with our water. Save the wine for later.
We decide to do this Spine One photo because we were told by a stranger that since Spine One was our sponsor, we better stand up straight and have great posture. Dr. Haney from Spine One usually does RTR with us but had another commitment this year. He is missed.
We finished the day at the beer garden where everyone enjoyed their beers except Melissa (Princess in Training) and Mama Madison who don’t drink beer.
Tomorrow we go from Cortez to Durango where massages will be waiting for us. We have 64 miles and 3,442 elevation gain.
Cathy‘s expertise is in endurance but she can shake it up in a crit or two! Here’s her recap in the stacked Women’s 3 field.
My race season thus far has taken a while to warm up. Read: I was becoming the queen of reverse breakaways! My brain knows exactly what to do, but my body hasn’t been listening. Have you ever had that frustrating disconnect? I was beginning to think that I forgot how to race. I can only imagine what my teammates thought. Well, after racing City Park I was so happy to call my husband to report that I remembered how to race!
My goals for the race were to stay with the pack, and do something, anything that resembled racing. A few laps in I thought, “Wow, this pace is nice! I can do this all day. And it’s so much more pleasant than time trialing a crit course by yourself.” It turns out that sticking with the pack works really well for drafting!
There were surges, and primes, and geese that almost got run over.
At one point a Natural Grocers racer motioned to move in front of me. I let her, and as I did I heard the telltale sign of an impending attack. So I grabbed my chamois and went with her. It was a short-lived attempt at a break, but I was so excited to be in the right place and to take a stab at that break with her. The pack caught up shortly after, and I spent a lap calming my heart rate, fighting off the urge to throw up, and praying that there wasn’t a counter attack until the next lap.
I was dropped the last lap. I came in dead last, and it was one of the best races I have had!
I had the honor of racing with my some of my teammates: Susan, Lanier, and Megan – all who took turns controlling the pack, and sprinting for primes and finishes! I am proud to race for Naked Women’s Racing, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to fight the urge to throw up so one of you can win!
Maria swept the 3/4 omnium for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in her own backyard! We couldn’t be more proud and she’s only a few precious points from that Cat 2 upgrade!
The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is an Omnium points race that consists of a Road Race, Criterium, and a Time trial over Memorial Day weekend in Durango, Colorado. Initially I was not going to participate this year because it was not USAC sanctioned, but after urging from friends and my LAAF bikes and CThree Wheels sponsor, I decided to try to defend my Women’s B Champion Jersey. After all, it is here in my hometown!
Day 1 The Road race
The Road Race starts in town at the highschool and then travels down the Valley for about ten miles. From here it climbs for the next 30 miles, summiting two mountain passes and reaching around 10,800 feet before descending 7 miles into the small, old, mountain mining town of Silverton.
I raced with the Women B category, since I am a Cat 3. This field had a total of 97 racers in the field. We left the parking lot at the high school and began up the valley on HWY 550. The tour riders are allowed to leave before the racers begin. This caused some safety issues. Many times I had to tell the racers to call out if a rider was coming up so we could all anticipate a flow to the left in the group. It wasn’t working very well and I was just sure that I was going to hear the sounds of clanking metal and girls shrieking as they hit the concrete. Amazingly, we made it through the valley with no crashes. Once we came to the base of Shalona, which is the first real start to the climbing part of the race, a racer attacked. I responded and grabbed her wheel. Then another racer attacked and I grabbed her wheel. Before we came to the semi flat section on top of Shalona we were a group of five. This part of the mountain highway is a four lane road. There were cones on our white dotted line so that cars can use the left lane and racers the right. With the tour riders on the right and the cones on the left, it did not leave much room for racers to ebb and flow. My initial fear finally came to fruition when one of the racers from our lead group ran into a cone as she moved away from a tour rider. Bam, I heard the slide across the pavement. My initial response is to stop and help, but I had to shake that and keep pedaling. You can’t help but feel a little cruel when you just continue on but a race is a race. We kept a good pace for the rest of the climb leading up to where they close the road to traffic and Coal Bank Pass begins. Some more girls had latched on to our group after the crash, and our group was bigger again. I began up Coal Bank with three girls along side of me. I had to tell yet another squirrely tour rider that racers were on their left. After hearing me bark out safety orders for the last 28 miles, I heard one of the girls say “she’s kind of spicy.”
My only tactic was to keep a good steady pace for the first three miles of the six mile climb and if there was anyone left with me, then begin surging. Before mile two approached, I was on my own. I climbed and climbed keeping a good rhythm with my counting and breathing and finally summited the pass. Grabbed a Gatorade, with most of it landing outside my mouth, and started my descent. I had to remind myself of the story of the tortoise and the hare. I wanted to take the descent slower, but was afraid that I would be caught by a faster descender. It went smoothly (AKA no big wind gusts blowing me sideways) and I then began my climb up Molas Pass. I climbed steady for another 4 miles, remembering to stay seated because of the lack of oxygen, and saw the glorious top of Molas Pass, signifying the end of the climbing. Who ho! Because I had the distinct feeling of being chased with meat cleavers, I tried to bomb it down to Silverton as fast as I could. Before I knew it, I was seeing the town from above with all the cute roofs of different colors, the train depot and tracks. It looked like someone had made a model train town and placed it in between a bunch of fake mountains. I rode up the main street and through the finish.
Day 2 The Criterium
The Criterium was laid out in downtown Durango. They changed the course this year and made the corners much more technical. They replaced the recovery straight away with a second power climb and made a longer run to the finish line. The start began and I went out hard. I wanted to break down the group to a smaller field, if I could. I preferred this because the corners were pretty hairy and riders were wiping out from all the different categories. One guy even broke his bike in two along with his collarbone. After the first turn and power climb, no one was with me for the first four laps. The time gap between myself and the follow group was about 15 seconds. It held steady at 15 seconds and I couldn’t see them behind me before I started my turns after the long straight away. Then, the time began to get shorter and at 8 seconds I made the decision to fall into the group and recover. It was successful and we had a much smaller group. The primes started and I decided that I would go after them. I was able to take all of them home. Each time I would grab a prime, I would then fall back into the group and recover. I stayed in the group until the last lap and then used the last power hill to build a gap again. Took the last corner alone, and hammered to the finish line.
Day 3 Time Trial
The time trial had me starting at 0800. I did a warm up ride on my neighbor’s stationary bike, and then they drove me down to the finish. I put on my helmet and the strap came out of the buckle. I tried to stay calm and fix it, because I knew that if I panicked I would never get the frayed pieces through the small buckle slits. I was internally freaking out as my start time was only three minutes away and I had about that much of a ride to the start line. Finally I got the straps together and jumped on my bike doing the mental checklist…glasses, helmet…bike….clipped in…..ok, I got it all. I arrived at the start line right when they were saying last call for Maria Santiago. I yelled, “I’M HERE, I’M HERE” and poof I was off. The course is 13.7 miles of mostly rolling hills with a brutal climb to the finish line that lasts about 2 miles. I felt good, staying within my zone where I am working hard, but not getting that feeling like someone punched me in the stomach. I knew that I needed to save a bit for that last push to the finish. The juniors started before me and as I passed them I wanted to say ‘good job’ , ‘looking strong’, but instead it just came out as a grunt of air and drool with a sideways glance. I began the climb up to the finish and really had to do some positive affirmations to not shift into my easiest gears. Not yet, not yet….almost there, you got this (you all know the words). The finish was finally in sight and across I went. I had no idea if I won or lost, but I was just so happy to have it done!!!
Superior Morgul, one of the best three day race weekends on the Front Range, is a tough staple in the CO racing scene. But luckily, our ladies are tough cookies. Brittany shares her experience over the weekend including a 1st place finish up the infamous “Wall!”
Throughout the duration of the Superior Morgul Omnium, I learned that while my teammates are as obsessed as I am with creating and instituting plans, they are also remarkably adaptable, resourceful, and quick-thinking. They are very strong women, capable of winning races in their own rights, but they are more than willing to figuratively turn themselves inside out for someone else’s win. To say that sort of dedication to the group is “admirable” doesn’t really do them justice, and when I became the focus of that dedication this weekend, I was taken aback.
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Friday’s Time Trial; I knew I was at a disadvantage with my road bike, clip-on aero bars, and borrowed TT helmet, particularly since I’d only previously used aero bars once, about a year ago. It went as well as could be expected, not terrible, but not nearly as good as I needed it to be. Katie Harrer, on the other hand, demonstrated (for merely the first time over the course of the weekend) what a phenomenal powerhouse she is by finishing third.
Saturday morning, five of us checked in for the crit, warmed-up, and discussed the pros and cons of several possible plans. Katie, Emily Zinn, Jamie Arispe, I, and our fearless leader and schemer, Amanda Bye settled on one we all liked and lined up.
This race changed the game, or rather, put me back in the game after my less-than-stellar showing the day before, and my teammates did everything in their power to get me there. They all worked so hard the entire race and they were always where I needed them to be. Jamie dragged me up to the front for the second points prime. And, on the final lap, Katie absolutely buried herself leading me out. And we were successful. We ended the day with Katie and I both in the top 5 for the GC.
Sunday’s road race was a feat of remarkable quick-thinking, adaptability, and unbelievably hard work for everyone—all the racers, the promoters, the sponsors, the town of Superior, and Boulder County. The fencing company that was contracted to supply barriers, cones and signage for this iconic road race—which flies down highway 93 in the midst of vehicular traffic—abruptly closed its doors without any forewarning. Without Limits Productions worked closely with Superior and Boulder County to change the course, so that it would be safe without the expected supplies. What was a circuit became a repeated out-and-back course. I have a feeling that very few people involved in this set-up slept much, if at all, Saturday night, and as far as I’m concerned they pulled off an impressive feat and gave us a course that might have been more challenging than the original.
Amanda, Emily, Katie, and I lined up ready to suffer up the wall three times. Katie made the first move, attacking on the rollers towards 93. She took everyone by surprise, and they had to work pretty hard to reel her back in. Once they caught Katie, I took off up the last hill before 93, and was pulled back by the turn-around point. The rest of the race was a series of pulls (definitely too many and for too long), hiding from the wind, and pulling people back.
As we started up the Wall for the third and final time everyone got a little tense. I had moved to the front. Finally, one of the women jumped. I picked up my pace, and two other women went with me. The first woman faded; we passed her and at the final pitch, the top of the Wall, I managed to eke half a wheel across the line first!
And after a long weekend of hard work, my team moved me from 9th overall to 5th, to finally end in 2nd place. I’m incredibly excited about my first place finish, for myself, but also as my contribution to the team’s efforts.
Kimberley, though one of our youngest, shares her vast knowledge of cycling experiences. She’s wise beyond her years! Read if you want to learn how to become a better racer!
After a somewhat strange spring, I am finally allowing myself to hope that the days of spending hours on the trainer might just be a thing of the past! (at least until next year…). During the month of April, nearly every week we had snowstorms that made it impossible to ride outside, first because of the actual storm in progress, and then, for the remainder of the week, the accumulation that refused to melt. Right when it did melt and showed promise of an outdoor training ride, the pattern would repeat itself. And this happened for 4 weeks straight!
Let me say that, living in Colorado, trainer time is both expected and accepted… during the months of November through March, I will likely put in more hours on my trainer than the road, but April?! It was a month where I had to dig up a little extra mental strength and focus to stay motivated, partly because at this point, I was going on five months of trainer time, and also because with my bigger, target races coming up, this was no time for shortened training sessions (my coach usually has my cut my time down by about 1/3 when I have to do them on the trainer… thus a 4 hour ride becomes 3… which still seems likely an impossibly long time to ride in one place).
Now that I’ve done a little retrospective ranting, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been riding outdoors since returning from my race at Gila. After a few days completely off the bike to give my body a boost in the healing process, I got right back on track with my new training plan. This month is all about maintaining my form through Nationals, doing some longer rides to keep the endurance and some shorter, harder workouts to keep the speed and the strength — but not so much that it puts me into a state of over-training.
A well-respected racer once told me that she did much better “off the couch” (under-trained) than she did over-trained. This is not to say that it’s best not to train, but rather illustrates the importance of finding balance as an athlete. The majority of athletes (myself included), especially endurance athletes, have a greater proclivity to doing more not less. For me, the value in having a coach is just as much to tell me when to rest as when and how to train. The planning my coach and I did to put me in my peak condition for Gila ended up being timed near perfectly, and so now the difficulty is in maintaining that. Typically, a true peak can last only about two weeks, which is why it’s important for racers to identify key target races. Very few people can win elite-level races all year long, but it is possible to do reasonably well all season, and very well at select, carefully placed races (unless, of course, you are a superhuman species, of which there are a few in the peleton).
Now that I’ve gotten slightly off topic discussing my current training, I will return to what I originally intended to write about: lessons learned from winter training. I know you may be thinking, “umm… this is a little late. It’s beautiful out, and I’ve relegated my trainer to only pre-race warm-up purposes.” I wholeheartedly share your excitement for trainer-less training, but if any of these five nuggets ring true for you, tuck them away for next winter
1. Mental state is huge. If you approach the trainer like an enemy to be reckoned with, every minute will be excruciating, and a three hour base ride nearly impossible. Instead, find a way to make peace with it and accept the hours you will spend on the trainer or rollers, and the experience will be much more pleasant (note: I say “much more pleasant”… not completely euphoric and joy-filled… I have to be realistic here!)
2. Trainer time is a perfect excuse to watch the kind of shows you can’t justify watching otherwise. I, with only minimal shame, will admit to you that this winter, I went through all 8 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I somehow missed the craze as a teenage girl, but don’t worry, Meredith and McDreamy still managed to find their way into my adult life), 4 seasons of Gossip Girl (similar story here), and several other random shows I started but didn’t find catchy enough. This is a time to indulge in shows with minimal to no redeeming value… because, hey, the redeeming value is coming from the work you’re doing on the bike, yes? The more brain power I have to use absorbing a show, the less energy is available for my workout. I realize this logic may be fundamentally flawed, so, feel free to watch Ted Talks if you prefer.
3. This one parallels #1. The toughest months, in my opinion, are December through mid-March. For me, this is because I usually take the month of September or October (whenever my racing finishes) off the bike, and do other fun, active things as a kind of physical and mental “reset.” So, when I do start riding again, it’s because I’m really missing my bike and am excited to ride again. This unadulterated excitement typically lasts through December before some rides start to become tedious, and some mornings I feel tired and would rather read a book on the couch than slop through the snow to my “training shed” (Marcus insists it’s a training studio, to try to make me feel more hard-core… it’s a shed). It’s far enough from both the post-season rest month and the first race that it can be hard to stay motivated. But this is the time that it’s most important to refocus, recenter, and push through the fatigue or boredom. I once read a cheesy ad in a bicycling magazine that said “races are won in the off season,” and although I can’t remember what they were trying to get me to buy, the phrase stuck in my head.
By the middle of March, the excitement of upcoming races starts to build, and I see each training session as a chance to prepare for the season. I picture myself attacking, chasing, bridging… there is purpose that will be seen in a relatively short amount of time. My point here is this: if it is past March (which is now is) the hardest part is done. And, in the future, when you find yourself in that few-month period where focus and motivation can wane, you at least have the knowledge that it is not forever. Knowing that hard times are inevitable can actually help them to be more bearable (and this is true not just in cycling, but life…but that’s its own post). If December rolls around and I wake up not wanting to ride, and I had expected and accepted that kind of inevitable dip, I can move past it and do what I need to do despite not loving that one ride. In contrast, if this lack of passion for the sport I love hits me as a complete surprise, I am at risk of internalizing it as some fundamental character flaw: “I must not be a very good athlete”… “What if I NEVER want to ride? How can I do this 6 days a week for months and months?!”… “I’m going to have a horrible race season… I don’t want to train today, and it’s only December!” My point is, that this negativity is avoided when I accept occasional lack of motivation as a normal part of any athlete’s life, and can use it as an opportunity for developing mental strength.
4. For those rare winter rides that can be done outside (minimal to no snow on the ground, but most likely still bitter cold), don’t underestimate the power of winter gloves (or the misery that the lack of them can bring). I can say that during winter riding, I have never said, “man, I really wish I would have had thinner gloves!” but I have, on multiple occasions, ended up struggling to ride with painfully numb fingers that refuse to shift. In the same way, clothing choice can make or break a winter ride. I know it’s a hassle to have to carry more clothes than you might need for the entire ride, and especially in Colorado, the weather can be hard to predict. But, unless you have someone at your disposal to pick you up in a warm car at any point during your training ride, I’d suggest bringing more than less.
Being cold has a strange way of turning an independent, logical and intelligent person into an irrational, miserable, whimpering primal creature who’s actually wondering if she will die here on this mountain (I say “she” because that primal creature has been yours truly several times in my riding “career”). Even if you’re an experienced rider, it can be hard to predict what level of clothing will keep you comfortable during your ride. One thing that I started doing was keeping a “clothing log” as part of my training journal, where I’d write what I wore, what the temperature was throughout the ride (including any inclement weather I faced) and how comfortable I was. This way, on those days where I still go back and forth on whether to bring the heavy or light booties, I can look back and remind myself what has worked well (or not so well) in the past under similar conditions.
5. Although winter, for me, is not an “off season,” I still see it as a time where I strive to add balance to my life, both on and off the bike. This is another aspect that helps stave of the physical and mental “burnout” (both acute and chronic) that can inevitably come up during your life as a bike racer. Since graduating from college, I’ve realized how much I miss using my brain on a regular basis. I don’t have anything specific to study for, I’m not doing research and writing papers, and as silly as this may sound (especially if you are one who currently finds yourself in the trenches of college or grad school), I miss that. I am constantly exercising my physical body, pushing it to its limit, but my mind is so often fighting off boredom. So, during the winter, I consciously add “balance,” both physical and mental. This past winter, this came in the form of: yoga, knitting, nordic skiing, cooking and baking (I got really excited about homemade raw bars, juicing, etc), practicing my violin which I previously hadn’t picked up in months, reading books in Spanish, studying for my GRE, and tutoring a few hours a week for both extra money and to keep myself sharp. My point here is that if ALL your life consists of is bike racing, sooner or later you’ll hit a breaking point. I’ve learned that for me, whether I’m at a place in my life where I can train 20 hours a week or 8 hours a week, balance is crucial, and without it, everything falls apart.
So, with that semi-coherent rambling, I give you five tips for winter training success. But for now, it’s beautiful outside, so enjoy the sun!