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.
Megan tackled a 44-mile mountain bike race for her first one of the year. Yep-those Naked ladies are tough! Read her recap here.
For a mountain bike race, 44 miles seemed pretty long, particularity for my first race. After missing out on the first 2 Rocky Mountain Endurance races I decided to give PV Derby a go, despite the daunting length. Being all the way out in Elbert county it had to be a nice flat small rolling hills type course right? Wrong! Boy was I in for a surprise, with technical drops, and a couple of narrow rocky descents on the edge of a small gully that dropped down into a creek. There were 2 laps, on lap 1 I found myself alone for most of the journey, I didn’t mind (besides the small paranoia that I was going to be eaten by a mountain lion) knowing that I just needed to keep a steady speed to make it through the distance. The first third of the lap was fairly mellow except for one very technical rocky descent, which was of course where the photographer was, I chose to walk it, realizing when 35+ miles ahead of me, the last thing I needed was to get over confident. When it opened up into prairie grasslands there was an AMAZING view of Pikes Peak, I remember saying “wow!” even though I was the only one who’d hear it. Around 3/4 of the way through the loop was the “aid station” which I decided to pass up (big mistake).
The final leg of the lap was down near the gully with lots of narrow drop offs that made me extremely nervous. I remember coming up on a big rock that I was unsure off, next thing I knew I was still clipped into my bike getting dragged down a (fortunately muddy) side of the hill. My chain-ring caught part of my thigh and I could see blood on it but I knew I was fine. I was overcautious the rest of the lap but kept pace behind another XC racer through the end of the 1st lap. I could feel my body fatiguing and stopped at the aid station only to find they were out of food. The 2nd lap was much slower than the first, my legs did not want to keep turning the pedals over. There was a section of trail with two very tight rocks you could barely get your tire through that I decided not to attempt (good thing!), after I had climbed up and over the rocks another racer came up behind me and pinch flatted, with a loud pop! There were many people throughout that lap whom I saw headed backwards on the course which confused me until I got closer and realized they had flatted. I saw my main competitor about half way through the lap, I tried to keep pace but knew I didn’t have the energy. I stopped at the unmanned aid station and found a builder bar which I quickly ate, but for the next 20 minutes kept wondering if I had chocolate smeared all over my face.
About 10 miles from the end of the lap I came across a herd of cattle, all standing in the trail, making extremely angry cow noises, 2 coming towards me. I quickly turned around thinking I could find another racer behind me and we could get through them together, but 10 minutes later, I was still alone. I approached the location where the cows were and they had moved far enough away I felt comfortable passing once I had my speed up. The rest of the lap was fairly uneventful, except for the looming wall clouds that kept getting closer. I crossed the finish line as they were packing everything up to get it out of storms way and not 5 minutes later it started pouring rain. They cut off all racers they came through who had another lap to finish, but I had just finished my first XC mountain bike race! I placed 2nd in my category, it took me 5 hours 14 min to finish the race, but only 10 min behind 1st place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I came into this race hoping to beat my time from last year by 30 minutes. With the change of course everyone was running a bit slower, but I was still very happy with my result, surprisingly hearing my name for the podium as my intent was a personal best, rather than placing as 100 mile endurance races are more a test of will and metal fortitude. I rode very well in the the first 40 miles, had some knee issues (had to walk for a few steep sections as I couldn’t turn the pedals – ouch) and then regained my composure on mile 60, took a Tylenol, drank some Naked Mighty Mango and carried on. Found Kristen Lazlo (3rd place pro) and rode with her nearly to the finish. I really enjoyed chatting with and commiserating with another woman on the final stretch. We were both in it together and gave up the competition for camaraderie. A good race and a great result, I am happy to have taken myself to the point where it feels like quitting would be the best thing to do, grit my teeth and continue on.
Melanie took to the hills ad represented Naked for the Guanella Pass Hill Climb in the uber competitive Women’s Pro 1/2 Category. Read her report here:
The climb up Guanella Pass outside of Georgetown is beautiful, rife with ponds, reservoirs, gushing waterfalls and scenic views every time you turn a corner — I didn’t notice any of it.
That happens in bike racing, in this case the State Hill Climb Championships at Guanella Pass. You’re so focused on turning the pedals over, breathing or catching the wheel in front of you that you don’t see anything else.
The race started out as a near disaster for me. Organizers staged the racers earlier than expected, and I did not have time to warm up. There were 8 women in the 1/2 category, and we all shivered under cloudy skies waiting for our wave to be sent off on the 11-mile climb.
As we started, a few girls sprinted off, and I fully felt the consequences of my lack of warm-up. There was no power in my legs, and the initial switchbacks, which hit 12 % grade, made my lungs burn. The entire field left me in a matter of minutes, and in my head I imagined EVERYONE from all the juniors to the tandems passing me.
I was going to be dead last.
To my relief, my legs woke up after about 10 minutes and I set to work catching up. I did slowly for the next 45 minutes, picking off all the riders who had passed me earlier.
The last couple miles were a struggle as the pitch got steeper, and being above treeline, the air was frigid and the wind was gusting. I finished 5th in my category and just in time to see other Naked Racing women in the 3 and 4 categories come trickling through the finish line.
Talk about a mountain top experience! I strongly recommend checking out this climb when not racing — the road is in great condition and the scenes are phenomenal!