Susan A. raced under the lights for Cross of the North. Just take a peek at those shoes and you can decide the conditions on the course that night! Today’s (or rather More »
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.
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.
Winter Park Point to Point can be tough when coming from sea level. Read more about why you don’t quit racing from Michelle, even if hypoxic.
I learned a valuable lesson today. Don’t leave Colorado for 3 weeks, cease riding your bike, and be parked at 700 feet above sea level in Washington. If you want to mountain bike race and not be miserable, you cannot lose the time on the bike (lesson learned the hard way). Coming back from Washington on Wednesday led me to the ridiculous idea of taking my family camping in Winter Park so I could race the Point to Point race, one I have never done. Not sure the husband was keen on my idea of packing up the family 2 days after a 3 week stent gone, but I got everyone on board. Hurray!
My team mates and husband rave about this course so I was excited to ride the new single track they put in on WTB. The trails around Winter Park are some of my favorite and I will take any excuse to come up and ride. Looking forward to my second Expert level ride (well maybe not totally J), and feeling a little less than prepared in my training… off I went. Oh well, should be fun right??? That’s why we all race!
Well it didn’t turn out like I expected. Lining up with Joan and Susan at the start made me feel a little better but I knew I was in for a butt whooping today with my lack of ride time. Off we go! I wasn’t dead last up to four points or even over tunnel hill (a total goal of mine today not to be dead last). Feeling not so great, but better than expected, I rode on. Start the violins here! By the time reached the midway point every expert rider had passed me and I succumbed to the idea I was dead last, which became quite a humbling experience. The cramps set in up Tunnel hill, I ran out of food and water by the top of zoom (my own fault) and grumpy despair set in. I hate to admit it but I have never wanted to quit more on a race in my life but every time I wanted to, almost everyone who passed me (all those lovely expert gals and sport men) kept throwing out all these super nice pick me ups which kept me peddling through (that’s why I love mountain bike racing). Numbers not letters right?
I was humbled today but super happy at the finish line when my team mates, husband and kids were all cheering me at the finish (thanks everyone). Joan and Susan had great races finishing first and third…go GIRLS!!
Bucket list item…check!
As I neared 40 last year I started having these crazy ideas on riding my first 50 miler mtn bike race (crazy things happen when you turn 40). Training started in January amidst snow, rain and wind all over the mountains of Golden. I was determined to finish this race, letters not numbers right?
I woke up that morning with a tumbling stomach and nerves like I have never felt before. We loaded up and headed for the start line in Breck. I checked and rechecked everything and we headed off after peeing (sorry but true) 80 times from nerves; nothing like a race to cleanse the system. Apparently you lose brain cells at elevation. As I prepared my bike I had the realization I forgot my Garmin…REALLY! The thought of not knowing myr time and mileage for a 50 mile ride would be horrible… but what was I to do? I called back to camp and my dear friends said they would try and save my day and try to get my forgotten Garmin to me. I knew it was a long shot but crossed my fingers. I lined up super nervous at the start (which mind you is in the middle of the Breckenridge Fourth of July Parade) and looked to the crowed with 2 minutes to go and here comes my Garmin (THANK YOU!!!! Volker and Karen). Riding the parade through town was great fun and helped calm the nerves… and then the suffer fest began up the long steep road to the first single track. These girls were not messing around after we exited the parade. I pushed a lot harder than I thought was wise but I was able to keep up. We hit the first single track and I knew I was in 3rd place, hopping I could hold that for the next 40 miles. The single track was fun and fast until we hit the famous French Gulch climb slash hike-a-bike. I thought everyone was kidding when they said almost everyone walks this part…REALLY?? Well it’s true, I only saw one person try and ride French Gulch the rest of us pushed our bikes and complained about how steep and miserable this part of the trail is. Reaching the top it is a fabulous feeling and provided a fast, technical decent for miles that makes you smile. We had a great group of Naked Women riders and there is nothing more inspiring on a ride like this to have your team mates cheer you on way out in the wilderness of Breckenridge (this was much needed on lap 2).
I reached the park feeling tired but pretty good and I was holding my third place position. I have to say, lap two holds its challenges as the teams switch riders and you get passed by all these clean, fresh, happy riders who only started on their suffer fest while you are in the depths of the ride. I just needed to survive lap two…keep moving… finish. The wall hit at mile 40 and I slowed my pace but kept moving. Mile 42 was a heartbreaker as I was passed by that gal I passed 30 miles ago…REALLY! I tried with all my might to keep her in my sights but lost her in the next mile. I just lost my 3rd place position (insert violin music here). There is nothing sweeter than coming down the last switchbacks, hearing the crowd cheer and arriving at the finish line. Friends and family cheering you on, tired and exhausted, but happy to have made it. Two minutes behind 3rd place was a little harder to swallow. I am addicted to the endurance rides and the Firecracker is on my list for next year and maybe the Honey Stinger.
The Breck Epic in my mind used to be this race that Id never ever consider until this year. This race is a 6 day stage race all over Summit County on trails up over the ski resort and all over covering pretty much all the single track trails in Breckenridge. There’s a good reason we call it Bikenridge we believe we are blessed with some of the best trails. there is nothing better than going out for a ride and creating new loops it all seems endless sometimes.
I decided to race but only for the first 3 days so I guess you could say I was Epi-curious. I went in so nervous not knowing how my body would feel racing 3 days in a row, luckily I was around a house full of winners the whole time. Literally everyone in the house was winning or on the podium for there own category. It was so cool as I learnt so much from these professionals from calorie intake to stretching and recovering your legs daily. Not to mention being around others who are racing the whole time is just good because everyone is on the same page.
Day one I was a nervous wreck felt sick to my stomach not knowing what to expect also not knowing exactly who I was racing against so I just rode my race trying to catch who I could and pass them, I honestly didn’t think I did that great but i turns out I did. So that night I received the leaders jersey, Jennifer Barbour who is also on our team podiumed too which was so awesome representing Naked Juice. Its so great to see familiar faces on the podium. That night I had an idea who I was racing against which was great to know mentally, I’m still a nervous wreck about the next day and how its all going to pan out. Man!! this race is hard.
Day two I got stuck in the middle of the pack on the start line so I was freaking out about getting ahead before the single track started hmmmm next time when I have a leaders jersey get in the front was on my mind. Raced my race looking for the ladies I was up against but didn’t see them so I just carried on racing and trying to pick off ladies on the not always an easy task. day two was a long day especially on a hard tail but ya just soften your grip and relax at this point I was thanking my stars that I only had one more day to go after. My legs felt pretty good so I just pushed through any pain and carried on till till the end also having tons of fun on the single track ploughing down the mountains trying to not let anyone pass me. That night I won again yeaaaaa I was super happy to receive the leaders jersey again, Jennifer crushed it again in 3rd on the podium. AWESOME we are all holding our spots so we have to hold on to it now.
Day three I’m feeling pretty tired today but ready to face the challenge I get situated near the front of the pack this time and we are off. Felt good about where I was until I dropped my chain, oh man that sucked I had to get out of everyone way with everyone flying past so I didn’t get trampled on and once I fixed the problem had to get back in with the bikers. Ok so i’m hyperventilating a little at this point as i’m stressed to where I got put back in the pack. I carried on and tried to pass as many as I could without exploding, it was ok but I got stuck with the group that all got off there bikes on a little techy section . Not much I can do at this point, so I just do my best to pass em and get in a better position. I carry on and fly down little french the other direction which was great and I see my competition Nicole, ok great I’m back on track so I push really hard to get up french pass as fast as I can so she doesn’t pass me. Luckily after all of that I did win the last day again woohoooo!!!! I won all three days i’m super happy about that not to mention I’m going to France in 4 days. Jennifer also held onto her spot in 3rd place, she crushed it great job Jennifer that was not an easy race.
I had succeeded in my big goal for the year and now I’m going on holiday to ride road-bikes in France, life cant get any better.
We love our sponsors, especially if they are there to help us win! Read more on how Sidi rescued Megan at the Winter Park series, carrying her all the way to victory!
All the credit for my win at Winter Park last week goes to Sidi Sports and the Alpinestars rep. You see, I made the mistake of waiting until the morning of the race to pack my bag for Winter Park. After the 1.5 hour drive to Winter Park, I arrived at the resort just over an hour before the race. Only then did I realize I had forgotten my shoes. Other than a bike, it’s probably the single most important item to remember. The last time I forgot my shoes was in 1999 when I drove 45 min from Urbana, Il to the nearest mountain bike park. After that disappointing experience, I diligently double-checked my bag for 15 years….until that day.
Fortunately, fate was on my side. After running from trailer to trailer and store to store to see if anybody had a womens size 7 shoe to rent or borrow, I ended up at the Alpinestars tent. It turned out the Alipinestars and Sidi reps were traveling together. They sent me to the Sidi truck, fitted me with demo shoes and, since they didn’t have cleats compatible with my pedals, a big pair of their new enduro pedals. The pedals were huge compared to my tiny Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, but I actually enjoyed having the large platform under my foot and even found I had more confidence on the technical sections. I also had no trouble adjusting to the comfortable shoes. Now if I could just get Sidi to make a carbon mountain bike shoe for women….
Brittany had the longest race of her life, both road and mountain, and surprised herself with a 3rd place overall in the infamous Laramie Enduro!
The name is a bit confusing, but the Laramie Enduro is not an enduro as in #hashtagenduro, shuttle-to-the-top-and-shred-all-the-gnar-on-six-inch-travel-bikes. The Laramie Enduro is a 70 mile (ish) endurance mountain bike race that started long before #enduro was a thing. Just so we’re all on the same page. I raced the sport category and because of the field sizes, the race director combined the Women’s 0-29 and 30-39 age groups into a single 0-39 Women’s Sport category.
Not only was this the longest distance I’d ever ridden a mountain bike, it was going to be the longest race—road or mountain—I’d ever done. I was really concerned with pacing myself, and trying to trick myself into treating it like a ride instead of a race. Everyone I’d talked to who had previously done the Enduro had warned me that the last 20 miles were the most difficult part of the trail, super steep, loose, and rocky. Slow and steady and hopefully I’d make it.
Meme based on web comic Hyperbole and a Half: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html
The first 50 miles flew by! Some fun singletrack broke up the long stretches of forest service roads. I drank, ate, and hummed songs to myself.
I ran out of water around mile 50. My reservoir holds 3 liters, and I average—forcing myself to drink—1 liter/hr. Like a good girl, I refilled my reservoir at 3hrs. Mile 50 happened at 4:45. I still don’t understand how I drank 3 liters of water in an hour and a half, but I had roughly 45min-hour before the next aid station. Not good.
That station was 9 miles from the finish. I was cracked. A volunteer took my reservoir out of my hands and filled it. All of it. All 6.5 lbs and 3 liters of it. For 9 miles. Then this wonderful, horribly helpful person tried to put my reservoir back into my bag. Except she didn’t know where it went. As I repeat over and over, “thank you, but I can get it,” she unzips all my pockets. I finally got my bag back and struggled to zip the overstuffed compartment. As I rode around the corner and took a big gulp from my hose I got…nothing. The overly helpful woman hadn’t attached the hose to the reservoir! I almost started crying in frustration. I plopped onto the road, pulled my bag off, and re-did the time-consuming, unsuccessful packing.
Hose reconnected, I start up the awful final climb. It was just as described—steep, rocky, and loose, and I was already so tired I could barely pedal. Rocks that would normally not bother me were stopping me in my tracks. Every time I got off my bike, I felt more defeated and closer to exhaustion-tears. About half way up the climb were two women cheering their hearts out for everyone that rode by. Normally, I would smile, say thank you, and not pay much more attention than that. But, at 65 miles of utter exhaustion, I assure you, these women were beautiful, loving saints and I couldn’t disappoint them!
There’s a short, quick trail decent, then you hop onto a dirt road and finish the race on a steep downhill for half of a mile. My car was parked right where trail turns to road. I was so busy thinking about how much I didn’t want to ride back up this hill to get to my car that I didn’t bother to chase the woman that sprinted past me to the line. Had I known we were standing 2nd and 3rd, I probably would have tried to chase, but I did know there were several women in front of me who I assumed were my age group. Apparently I was wrong.
I crossed the line, turned around, rode back to my car, drank my recovery drink, and debated whether or not I should go back down to see the results. Maybe eat the free meal. After dumbly staring at the hill for about 10 minutes, I decided a free beer and food weren’t worth going up the hill again. So I loaded up and drove home.
It wasn’t until the next day when results were posted online that I realized I’d placed 3rd. I’m slightly embarrassed to say I have no podium photos for y’all because I was too lazy to go down and up a hill. Moral: You should always stick around for results. And you should always make the effort (however great it seems) to actually go check them.
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!
A picture is worth a thousand words so we’ll let these photos do the talking from Salida Omnium!
Sharon Madison 2nd place 45+
Katie Harrer 4th place 3’s
Sharon Madison-3rd pl 45+
Susan Hersey- 1st pl. 45+
Kimberly Turner-4th pl. pro 1/2/3
Melissa Westergard-4th pl cat 4
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
Megan R. took 1st place in the Rocky Mountain Endurance series with her win at the Breckenridge 32 race! Read more about the grueling single track in this epically hard (but fun) race.
The days leading up to the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series Breckenridge 100/68/32 the weather was predicting a 40-60% chance of rain for almost the entire day. When I arrived the morning of the race, the sky was clear and welcoming. Checking-in at Carter Park I got to watch some of the amazing people doing the full 100 mile race coming through after finishing their first loop. I was only doing loop 2, for the CX 32 race. Having looked at the maps, I knew 32 really meant ~34 and that I couldn’t start my sprint too early. About 10 minutes before the start I was looking around wondering why I didn’t see other racers lining up to go. Turns out, Carter Park was not the start of the XC race, the Ice Rink a few blocks a way was.
I quickly made my way over to join the other competitors for our mass start. With no time to spare we were off, following our lead car up a windy, nicely paved road. A great warm up, and way to string out the racers. I ended up somewhere mid group as we made our way to the trail, the first climb up to Sallie Barber we rose almost 1000 feet, when things got steep and rocky many racers around me were getting off and walking but I knew if I could stick with it and ride it out I’d save a lot of time, and there wasn’t much room to pass besides. Finding myself in line behind two racers, the three of us ever so slowly rode past others walking up, I knew I could ride faster but didn’t want to risk trying to get around on the big slippery rocks. Towards the summit of our first climb the rider in front pulled off, I looked down at her calf and saw XC 24, my competitor! She was a formidable opponent, I could tell she was very tough and that I would have to work really hard to keep a lead.
The first descent was a rocky wide road with a few switchbacks, most racers took this opportunity to make up time from the climb (including my formidable opponent) but I just kept thinking, I want to finish this race, I don’t want to go over a cliff! Overhearing some people discussing how the 2nd climb is the worst I was eager to see what was in store. It was about 800 vertical feet but less than a mile to get there. So the hike a bike began, not 1 competitor riding up the super steep, very rocky climb to the top of Little French Flume. I could feel the lactic acid in my calves building up as we made our way up the rocks, pushing and pulling our bikes best we could. Upon reaching the top, you could hear a sigh of relief, and a reprieve from the heavy breathing, knowing the downhill and Colorado Trail were within reach. 1 tricky creek crossing later and we were on our way down sweeping single track to the first aid station. I stopped and stuffed as much of a trail mix bar as I could fit into my mouth and hopped back on my bike. The next climb was almost 1200 ft up to West Ridge, but it was over 4 miles and there were many switchbacks to make it more manageable. Every time I would pass a competitor or get passed there were words of encouragement, “keep strong you’re doing great! The Colorado Trail was gorgeous but I kept thinking to myself it was made for hikers not bikers as we made sharp turns and climbed over large tree roots. I was feeling good and half way up the climb I caught sight of the other XC 24 again. I realized we would be playing leap frog, with her tearing down the downhill, and me pushing through the climbs.
The next section was a long descent that was tricky with ziggy zaggying switch backs full of large rocks, and lots of sand. All of the vibration from riding down the rocks was making me feel a little sick, when the trail open up into a huge field with amazing views of the surrounding peaks a large grin crossed my face, it didn’t even crush my spirits that my competitor passed me because I knew we were on the last 12 miles! 1 creek crossing later and I was at aid station 3 where I proceeded to shove down 2 bars knowing I’d need all the energy I could get. The course followed a paved road for about a mile, I kept panicking I had missed an arrow somewhere and was off course but then came the next arrows and two volunteers guiding me to my last climb 800 feet up to Gold Run Road. That was the toughest climb of the ride. I was pedaling as hard as I could, my legs burning, my heart rate at 178 bpm and going 4 mph, ugh! I kept passing racers walking their bikes up, I wanted to get off and do the same so badly but I knew I had to push through if I wanted any chance of winning. I kept my head down and tried only looking at the next 20 10 feet in front of me, when I’d see a bend ahead I’d look up and get hopeful it was almost over, but it wasn’t. The mountain was taunting me over and over and over again, this is it! Nope, still climbing.
Up ahead I saw the other XC 24, we rode together until the downhill where we stayed together until it got technical and she pulled ahead. When we dumped out on to Gold Run Road she had a half mile lead on me. I pushed and turned my pedals over as fast as I could and started regaining ground, able to pass just as we hit the last little climb before berm switchbacks to the finish. I didn’t miss a beat climbing the hill and quickly entering the single track to the final quarter mile. The large berm switchbacks were intimidating but fun and I knew I couldn’t let up. When I crossed the finish line I was ecstatic! That day I earned 1st place in the Breckenridge XC 32 race for the 19-29 but even more awesome I was awarded 1st Place in the Series Overall for the XC 19-29 Woo Hoo!! I was excited to be able to bring this accomplishment to Naked and looked forward to hearing about our other victorious in a weekend with such a large offering of races.