Tag Archives: Kat Garner

THE CYCLISTS’ BADGE OF HONOR

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Kat‘s on a role lately with her Cycling Education Series. Tanlines are to be worn with pride. She should know too-she sported them beautifully in her wedding last month. So PRO!

I want to introduce all our Naked fans to the cyclists’ badge of honor.  Carbon bikes and matching professional-looking kits are all important to your cool factor as a cyclist, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  No, I want to introduce you the most important mark of a true cyclist, the tan lines.  It’s a known fact that how distinct your tan lines are is a direct indicator of your fitness level.  We start off the season in March with layers of clothes covering our skin and as the season progresses and the layers come off, our training hours increase and our skin becomes noticeably darker.  And your tan lines begin to form and take shape.  It doesn’t matter how much sun screen you apply and what SPF you use, come August, if you’ve trained properly and are fit, you will have very distinct tan lines on your arms, thighs and ankles that contrast with the other normal-toned portions of your body.

I first start racing my bike in 2005 while in law school and officially became a cyclist one summer day in 2005 while in line at an Einstein Bros. bagel shop.   I realize that is a strange place to declare that I became a cyclist.  I was wearing a tank-top, shorts and sandals.  The man in line behind me said “you must be a cyclist.”  Confused by how he knew that, I gave him a funny look and replied “yes”.  He replied with “I could tell from your tan lines” and thus I was initiated into the Real Cyclists’ Club.

You can tell what kind of a cyclist someone is by their tan lines.  Road cyclists who wear form-fitting lycra have very dramatic tan lines on their arms, thighs, and ankles.  If you are a road cyclist who races for a team and wears your team kit on every ride (as we Naked ladies do), your tan lines will be very distinct.  Professional cyclists have remarkable tan lines from riding 20-30 hours per week in the sun.  It’s not uncommon to see these cyclists meticulously lining up their shorts prior to every ride so as to maximize tan line potential.  Recreational road cyclists tend to have a myriad of different brands of cycling clothing in their closet and their jerseys and shorts of varying lengths lead to a less dramatic effect of the tan lines.  Triathletes are a special breed of cyclists and so are their tan lines.  Their cycling shorts tend to be shorter, their tops are often sleeveless, and sometimes they even do crazy things line wear arm-warmers with a tank top.  Go figure!  That mix will leave some crazy tan lines.  Mountain bikes are a whole different story with their baggy shorts.

And then there are people like one young man who shall remain nameless who ended up with the weirdest tan lines I have ever seen.  It was a crisp spring day and the sun was shining brightly as it does in Colorado.  This young man decided to ride the trainer outdoors so as to take full advantage of the sunshine.  He got a little warm while riding so took off his jersey and spun on the trainer in his bib shorts, while wearing his heart rate monitor for over an hour.  Keep in mind that this young man is pasty white on every place that is typically covered by lycra.  Over an hour later, the young man had finished his workout and was left with a burn on his back and shoulders that outlined both his heartrate monitor strap and his bib shorts.  You can only imagine how funny it looked.  (This is a good lesson to all you young readers to wear sunscreen.  It took a full two years for the tan lines from that sunburn to fade.)

Cyclists on vacation at the beach are a pretty funny sight to see.  Imagine an incredibly skinny man or woman, walking along in a bathing suit, their upper body quite scrawny and out of proportion with their chiseled calves and huge thighs, with an incredible contrast in skin color between their chest, upper thighs, top-most part of their biceps, and their lower arms and lower legs.

I typically wear my tan lines with pride.  I don’t hesitate to wear sleeveless tops at the office, despite the comments from my co-workers regarding my arm tan lines.  And I have no problem wearing sandals during the summer even though my tan stops roughly at my ankle bone where my sock height ends.  The only time my tan lines have become an issue was at my wedding this summer.  Arms that are tan ¾ of the way up and pale white for the upper ¼ do not a pretty bride make.  Two weeks of applying self-tanner prior to the wedding did a pretty good job of helping mask my tan lines.  Thank goodness.

So the next time you are out and about on your Sunday ride or at Starbucks getting your morning caffeine before heading to work, check out the tan lines of the people around you and see if you can tell what kind of cyclist they are and how much they have been training.

Warning:  The author of this blog post does not endorse engaging in outdoor activities sans sunscreen in order to increase your tan lines.  All tan lines should be duly earned through hours upon hours of hard training rides and proper alignment of your shorts before every ride.  All outdoor activities are undertaken at your own risk and should be done only with sufficient sunscreen protection.  The author highly recommends Kinesys for all your sun-blocking skin care needs.

Five Feet – Recap of the Colorado State Cat 3 Women’s Criterium Championships

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Kat Garner brought home one of two medals for the Naked Women’s Racing pb TriBella team this weekend at the Longmont Colorado State Criterium Championships. Kat’s a wicked smart crit racer and you’ll understand why after this race report!

When I started racing bikes in 2005, I had no idea how much there was to learn about this sport. Racing isn’t as simple as pedaling your bike around and around. It’s learning how to use clipless pedals. Riding 3 inches from the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. Cornering fast and efficiently. Corning with 20 (or 30 or more) riders cornering around you at the same time all wanting to take the same line on tires that are 1/2 an inch wide. There’s sprinting without making your back wheel jump off the ground….what to eat…when to eat….how much to eat. The list goes on. And that doesn’t even get into race tactic. Let’s just say it’s not as easy as the guys in the Tour de France make it look.

I’m a lightweight at 5’3”. (No self-respecting female will revel her weight on the World Wide Web, so you’ll just have to know that I wear a size XXS women’s jersey and XS women’s shorts). Big, I am not. The first four years of my racing “career,” I fancied myself a climber. The logic went something like this: I’m small; small people weigh less than big people; and lighter people go uphill faster than bigger people. And it made sense when the very first bike race I won was a collegiate road race at the Air Force Academy, which is nothing but uphill and downhill and more uphill. And I hated crits – what was with all that cornering anyway?

And then about 3 years ago, I learned how to corner, and I realized that on every group ride, I would get dropped on the hills. It didn’t matter how big the hill was, I would shoot straight out of the back of the group, like I was a brick that someone had thrown off a roof. So I started to like crits, dislike road races that had a lot of climbing, and really really really dislike hill climbs (I may have as well sent in my registration fee as a donation to the race organizer).

And then this year I learned how to sprint. In March, I had a Retul fit, and was put in 165 cm cranks. I hated them for the first week until I started hitting some serious personal bests sprinting for stop-ahead signs and city limit signs. So with the cornering skills and the sprinting coming together, I set my sights on July 15, 2012 and the Colorado State Crit Championships in Longmont.

Eighteen Category 3 women showed up at the start line for the Women’s Cat 3 State Crit Championships, which is a decent-sized field. The court was a 1-mile pancake-flat L-shape with 6 tight corners. Ten minutes into the race, things got dynamic with two riders going off the front. I bridged up, bringing another rider with me. The next lap, 3 more joined us and we had a solid group that stayed away for 5 or 6 laps. And boy did that hurt. We were absorbed on a prime lap, but the high speed had split the group with only 10 riders remaining in the front group. I tucked in sitting or wheel for the rest of the race, where a few more attacks went off but nothing stuck. I spent the remaining laps focusing on the corners, trying to find the fastest line. I was particularly interested in the last corner, about 300 yards before the finish line, which also happened to have a nasty manhole cover in the apex of the corner.

Colorado is unique because it is home to a plethora of professional cyclists, both men and women, and they are an incredible resource. Before the race, I spent a couple of moments picking the brain of Kori Seehafer, who has made a career (literally) of cornering and sprinting faster than everyone else. She finished second in the women’s Pro/1/2 race before ours, and I wanted to get her thoughts on the last lap. Kori’s advice was to jump before the last corner with enough time to get a gap going in to that last corner. That sounded easier said than done.

With one to go, a rider from Jet Cycling (another very cool team women’s that you should look up) attacked through the start finish. My good friend Susan Hersey managed to jump on her wheel and I jumped on Susan’s. Susan is a big powerhouse and the three of us had a few seconds gap on the rest of the shattered field. Coming into the backstretch, I could sense we were going to get caught just after the last corner. I knew that the group behind would have the advantage of momentum on their side. It was now or never. With Kori’s advise ringing in my ears, I shot out of the slipstream of Susan and the Jet Cycling rider, punched it through the corner, and sprinted as fast as my little legs and 165 cranks could go. It would have been enough if the finish line had been 5 feet closer to the last corner. But it wasn’t, and I got caught and passed by one rider just as we got to the finish line. I managed a bike throw to save second place….barely. They had to go to the camera replay to check that one.

It would be easy to dissect every second of the last lap – what if I had jumped earlier, took a different line in the last corner, or hadn’t attacked with the two girls on the last lap – but I also know that I gave it 100%, left nothing out on the course, rode aggressively, and took chances. Bike racing is an incredibly demanding, unpredictable, and sometimes heartbreaking sport. Perhaps next race I’ll roll the lucky dice and the line will be 5 feet closer.

Thanks to all my teammates for their support, Naked Juice for fueling my pre and post-ride, Vredstein for their wicked-fast tires, and to my parents for letting me drag you on a 3-hour round trip drive to Longmont to sit in 95 degree heat while I rode my bike in circles.

Weddings and Bike Jams

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Veteran crit racer Kat Garner travels to Baltimore to sport the Naked name and brought back a podium finish! Read how the Kelly Cup Bike Jam Criterium played out.

Summer is bike-racing season.  Summer is also wedding season.  And sometimes the two meet back-to-back, as was the case the weekend of May 19/20th when I flew to D.C. with high heels, party dress, and helmet and bike.  After a fun evening of celebrating a childhood friend’s wedding, I woke up the next day to take on the Kelly Cup Bike Jam.  Assuming that a “bike jam” was some sort of bike race (maybe I could win myself some fancy southern homemade jam?!), I packed the cooler and my #1 fan and supporter, Mom, into the car and made the hour drive north to Baltimore, Maryland.  A chance to race on a new course and against unknown competition is always exciting and nerve-wracking, but at this race I would be racing not only against my fellow Category 3 women, as well also the Cat 1/2 women.  Sprinkle on some extra nerves.  Not to mention the humidity would add an additional challenge, which, although fairly mild for the East Coast, was enough to remind me why I had moved to arid Colorado nine years earlier, and to make my face sufficiently beet red on the start line (see photo evidence).

With a big prize purse on the line and a winding crit course with a slight uphill finish that was just long enough to hurt, the race was game on from the gun with a professional rider from Kelly-Benefits Optimum attacking literally from the start line.  For what seemed like an eternity the field was strung out chasing her back.  The course was in a large park in Baltimore, just a mile or two east of the Inner Harbor.  It was winding with only one real corner, a left-hander that was greater than 90 degrees and which led into a slight climb to the finish line.  I was certainly thankful to have altitude training on my side.  Despite the fast pace, my lungs felt like I was hooked up to my owner personal oxygen tank.  Having altitude on your side may help you breathe easier (literally), but it doesn’t do anything to save you from lactic acid buildup, and with the attacks going off left and right, my legs were starting to scream just 10 minutes in. They went a little something like this:

My Legs:    “Ouch, ouch, this hurts please stop….please stop NOW!”

Me:               “I’m not listening to you!”

Legs:            “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUCH”

In every race, the goal is to have a good result, but I also look to learn something from each race and to work on various skills that I will need when I hopefully move up to a Cat 2.  A race in a new State against racers I did not know and on a course I had never ridden was the ideal opportunity to work on my bike handling and pack-riding skills.  So through my screaming legs (“OUCH!”) I concentrated on moving up through the pack.  Not around the outside of the group, but through the middle where the draft is greatest and space is a rare commodity.  About 20 minutes into the race, a break of five finally formed off the front of the race.  Thank goodness!  I was pretty confident that based on how fast we had been riding, no Cat 3’s had made the the break.  And if there were, then good on whoever she was…and may she be automatically upgraded after the race for the sake of all Cat 3 women in the Baltimore/Washington D.C./Virginia area.

I had read on the flyer that the race was also the championships for the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association, or MABRA.  As it turns out, I had missed the words “age-grade” on the flyer, and the race was only the championships for the masters racers, not the Cat 1, 2, or 3 women.  But I didn’t learn that until after the 50-minute crit had ended, so through much of the race I ignored my screaming legs by thinking about how cool it would be to return to Colorado as the MABRA Cat 3 Champion.  Technically you had to be a member of MABRA to be eligible to for the championship title….minor details.

With 6 laps to go I had finally figured out the course and how the group was moving and taking the corners, and had moved up toward the pointed end of the group.  I was comfortably sitting 5th or 6th wheel and holding my position around the course, through the sharp left-hander and up the hill through the start/finish line.  I could hear my mom screaming on the sidelines……”Goooooooo Kathryn!!!”  But then with 4 laps to go, I found myself quickly drop back 15 places.  My mind was telling my legs to work, and my legs were trying to work, but 1+1 was not equaling 2 for some unknown reason.  I tried to move up over the last few laps, but never managed anything more than 5 riders from the back of the race.  When the finish line approached for the last time, I did what I could to jump from the back of the pack and hope I could pick off a few girls on the uphill finish.  But my typically very poppy sprint was uncharacteristically flat.  Was it the thicker air in the sea level?  Was I having some sort of bad reaction to all of the extra oxygen available in the air?  I rolled around for a cool down lap with the other girls wondering what in the world had gone wrong.  It was only after my legs finally quit their aching that I realized my back tire was going flat, very flat.  So flat that when I hopped off and pressed my thumb into the tire, without any effort I pushed straight through to the rim.  Problem solved.  In 8 seasons of racing, that was my first flat tire during a race. At the end of the day I called myself lucky. Thank goodness I hadn’t crashed.

I had still managed to come in 3rd in the Cat 3 women’s race, which was scored separately from the Cat 1/2 women, as only 2 other Cat 3’s had been able to hang in with the main group of Cat 1/2 women.  It took Mom and me a while to make it back to the car with me walking barefoot pushing my bike (remember the flat tire), and the three other racers that stopped me to ask if I rode for “That Naked Team From Colorado” (why yes I did!) and to check in on how their track buddy Vera was doing.  It was a successful and fun weekend of flying the Naked team flag for on the East Coast.  The only disappointment was that I didn’t win any homemade jam in the Bike Jam!