Tag Archives: race report
Kim snags the top step in the CSU Oval Criterium! Read more on how riding a little less may have helped her ride to victory!
This Sunday I drove up to Fort Collins to race the CSU Oval Criterium. Although I had the opportunity to race twice in Arizona for the early season VOS and TBC races, this would be my first Colorado Race. As I was driving up, I made the decision that I wanted to start it off well, with exciting and aggressive racing, risk taking, trusting my training, and mental fortitude. I told Marcus, “I think I can win this race!” This goal was immediately threatened by a bit of unexpected traffic due to multiple accidents, adding a solid 30 minutes to what is typically an hour drive. I had even planned what I thought would plenty of margin for the drive. I began to feel a bit frazzled, compulsively glancing at the clock, as one by one, the minutes remaining before my race start elapsed. I took a breath… this entire year has been a lesson in controlling the controllables, and breathing deep and finding calm in the many variables that are outside my grasp. For anyone who thinks bike racing has no relevance to “real life”, you are mistaken. Bike racing has taught me invaluable lessons about planning well but taking the inevitable surprises in stride, in a way that has served me well far beyond the race course.
We arrived at the CSU campus 45 minutes before my start time, and Marcus dropped me off as close as he could get to race registration before finding a parking spot. Thankfully I’ve now developed quite a streamlined routine, so although 45 minutes from car to start line is far from ideal, it’s not impossible. Registration completed, bibs/jersey/shoes/helmet/sunglasses on and beet juice drinken (why Marcus, equally fluent in the pre-race checklist, pumped my tires and put chain lube on), and I still had 15 minutes to spin around before the start. I returned to my previously set goal, before the traffic and rushed preparation and premature adrenaline rush. Despite all those, I wanted to win this race, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t. One of my biggest challenges in racing has been learning to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. Trusting that the training I’ve done is enough, and my legs can handle the load. So I decided that today, there would be no giving up. I would allow my body to get to a new level. Far too many people are held back by the fear of what they may not do that they never find out what they can do. I resolved that I would rather fail because I’d exceeded my limit then finish having not even attempted to reach it.
From the first lap I raced aggressively, driving pace, attacking, chasing, counter-attacking. I was in a glorious place of mental clarity, purpose and determination. I timed my moves well, and trusted my training. As the race went on, the field was slowly whittled down, with several riders losing contact with the group, and several more just hanging on the tail end. With five laps to go I was still feeling strong, and began to put myself in position for the finish. I marked two of the other riders, who I judged as among the strongest, and patiently waited, as the familiar cat and mouse interactions unfolded. With one lap to go, one rider went, attacking hard off the front, but my marked riders didn’t jump, and neither did I. We kept the pace steady, and I made sure to stay near the front. In too many races, I’ve been forced to let off the throttle in my finish as I tried to move around riders who’d run out of gas before the line, and I wanted to finish this race knowing that I had given it all. We were closing the gap between the lone rider ahead, and caught her with less than 500 meters before the finish. I began my sprint earlier than I typically do, before the final bend of the oval that the course is named for, and didn’t look back.
In this moment of temporary pain, as I kept my eyes just beyond the finish line, I took my first win of not only this season, but of the last two. My entire being felt a rush of something I can only describe as gratitude, pride, resolution, and acceptance all rolled into one soul-warming experience. It was almost as if in this win, some of the broken pieces were coming back together. This year has been the most challenging one I’ve had in quite a while. A broken neck, sub-par race results, personal and professional challenges and changes, and set-back after set-back left me wondering if everything I was doing was in vain. Despite my best attempts, some of these circumstances and additional time commitments impacted my training, and my volume was slightly lower than it has been in previous years. I questioned whether I would have built enough base or be in form by race season, but I knew I could only do my best, which I had. After the race I jokingly said to my husband, “I guess not riding as much this year served me well!” He gently smiled, and replied, “I think adversity serves you well.” Although the circumstances of this year are far from what I have chosen, I have done my best to take them in stride and become a stronger person. I have been learning that measuring effort solely by outcome will sooner or later leave you feeling uncertain and discouraged. Hard work, integrity, and endurance in the face of trial is never in vain. It may take longer to see why or how, but it will come. This past Sunday I got a small taste of that delicious fruit that comes from never giving up.
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.
Emily and Brittany escaped to the warmer temperatures of Austin, Texas to compete on the fat tires. They not only came away with new PRs, they also qualified for Leadville! Despite Emily’s illness, she still got 8th female overall! Here’s her recap.
On the morning of March 29th Brittany Jones and I embarked on a 100km mountain bike race in Austin, Texas: The Austin Rattler. Neither Brittany nor I had ever ridden a mountain bike this far before so we were both nervous and wondering if our legs would hold out or if eventually they would just turn into jello. I was especially nervous because in the two weeks before I had had the stomach flu and bronchitis and ridden my bike just once. I had originally planned two weeks of careful tapering but I had opted to just give myself complete rest to see if that would get me better faster. The night before I was still hacking up a lung, but the humid air of Texas seemed to be doing me good and after dosing up on Dayquil, cough drops, and caffeine I felt ready to ride!
The start was slow and crowded as hundreds of eager riders vied for space. I managed to pass a ton of riders and settled into a fast group for the first lap. The riding was very fast; mostly fire road and smooth single track. There was one especially beautiful section where the trail wound through a giant field of blue wild flowers. Most of the riding was non-technical but there was a fun section near the end that was essentially a natural half-pipe. It was really satisfying as a woman to pass lots of men struggling to ride through this technical section!
Each lap was 15.5 miles and after the first lap I realized I had gone out far too fast. I also had been so excited to be flying along I hadn’t spent enough time eating and drinking. I slowed things down a bit for the second lap and tried to drink and eat, although this proved hard because the pace was so fast and the trails were often bumpy and turned frequently, making it hard to eat and drink enough.
During the third lap, around mile 40, I hit the wall. My legs were constantly on the verge of cramping and I felt totally drained. I latched onto a group of faster riders and drafted behind them for the rest of the lap mentally talking myself through every pedal stroke. I stopped at the neutral feed station after the third lap and downed as much food and liquid as I could and took a few salt pills. Feeling a bit reinvigorated I began my final lap. I was totally fried at this point and knew it was a mental game. It was also becoming quite hot and humid as we approached noon, which I wasn’t used to. Plus, after mile 50 every pedal stroke I took was new territory since I’d never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike. This lap was a test of my will power and I had to take all of the technical sections slowly because my legs were feeling so shaky, but I eventually could see the crowded finish line and knew I would complete the race!
My goal before I had been so sick was to finish in under 5 hours, I came in at a time of 5:02. Since I’d been so ill, I had just been hoping to finish and I was really excited that I had come so close to my goal while having bronchitis! I ended up coming in 9th overall for women and 2nd in the 20-29 age group. I actually qualified for the Leadville Race but had to turn it down because I’m starting medical school in Boston just a few days after and the timing didn’t make sense. Plus the idea of riding 40 more miles than I’d just ridden was mildly terrifying. Overall though it was an amazing race. I felt pretty awful after and on the way home I coughed up a bit of blood, which just goes to show I pushed myself to my limits. I’m really glad I did the race and I have all the more respect for endurance mountain bike racers!
Emily Unger’s Report
The morning of CX State Championships dawned cool and sunny; cold enough for the ground to freeze overnight but not nearly as frigid as the morning of the Boulder CX where the temps barely creeped above zero. The course had been very slick on Saturday, and I hoped it would remain cold enough for our race to be dry. This would be my first CX State Championship race as this was my first season racing CX, and I was excited to not only race but watch super stars like Georgia Gould compete later in the day. I pre-rode the course and it was indeed hard and fast. The past couple of races had been slow, technical courses, but this course had some nice flowing sections and stretches to pedal hard followed by fun descents that would give my legs a few seconds of rest. I went into the race knowing winning was a long shot because my super speedy teammate Jenny Lucke was also racing Cat 4. My goal was to ideally stick with Marian Mead who was consistently slightly faster. By the time our race rolled around it had warmed up enough to make the course incredibly slick. I had a good start and ended up in 5th which I was pleased with because I started in the second row. I quickly passed the racers in 3rd and 4th places and sat on the wheel of Marian for the first 3 laps. Marian was riding very smart and I couldn’t quite pass her. By the fourth lap Jenny had a sizable gap and Marian was opening a lead on me. I made a critical mistake in the beginning of the last lap and missed a turn and ended up riding through the tape. Luckily I had a large gap on the fourth women and didn’t lose any places, but unfortunately second place was certainly now out of reach. I strove to make up as much time as possible in the last lap but Jenny and Marian were untouchable. I ended up finishing in third not far behind Marian, just as I’d hoped. Overall it was an awesome end to the Colorado Cross Cup and a great way to finish my first CX season. I would especially like to thank all the women who supported me this season and showed me the CX ropes. It is an intimidating sport to try but I’m so glad I did.
Jenny Lucke’s Report
I woke up that Sunday, December 15th excited yet nervous to race in SW 4 for the Cyclocross State Championship Race. I already raced juniors the day before and I loved the fast course with all the cyclocross elements included. There was sand, dirt, grass, snow, mud and ice. There were also plenty of barriers, hair-pin turns and a giant run-up followed by a steep icy downhill. Once I arrived at the race, the sun was shining and it was probably in the high 40º’s. Today was a perfect day to race and I was looking forward to my last race of the season before Nationals. At the start of the race there were only two Naked Women to race in the SW4 category. It was just myself and my fast teammate Emily Unger. I got the fourth call-up and got to line up in the first row, and Emily lined up right behind me. We were ready to race hard and hopefully both get podium! Once I heard the whistle I pushed off as hard as I could and just pedaled like crazy without looking back. The race started with going straight down that big hill that I despised, so I knew I had to get a good start to make up for any mistakes I might make going down it. The race was going great so far and I was in the lead with my main competitor, Marian Mead, right on my tail and Emily right behind her! I had a big enough gap on Marian and Emily that they couldn’t pass me, but if I made any mistakes, they could quickly close the gap. The entire race I just kept pushing it, but I could see the Marian was determined to catch me. After the first and second lap a guy said I only had 17 seconds on them, but by the last lap I had 20 seconds. At every barrier or hill I tried to go as hard as I could to put more time between us and I was determined to win! Coming around the last few corners on the fourth lap I looked back and I couldn’t see Marian or Emily anywhere. I knew that as long as I didn’t crash, I was going to win! I got really excited and I couldn’t wait to finish this exhausting race. Once I came around the last corner to the pavement I smiled big and put my hands in the air to claim Cyclocross State Champion title for SW 4.
I had so much fun this entire cyclocross season and I met some really nice people who made the experience that much better! Also congrats to Marian Mead and Emily Unger who also had great seasons, and both got 2nd and 3rd in the State Champs race!
Gearing up for my first omnium I was nervous but did not anticipate how the three days of intense racing would turn out. The checklist for the race weekend went something like this: Make sure to eat a lot of calories to help with recovery, have something to eat/drink right after each race, skinsuit, shoe covers, borrowed helmet and wheels for TT. The TT was on a Friday evening and thus required a mad rush to get to the race in time for a short warm up, get my number pinned on, then 3, 2, 1 and I was off…
The TT started rather odd as it took me a moment to click into my pedals. First mile mostly downhill. This is good for me as my strengths are downhills and turns. Then the perfect storm hit. A car had stopped in the roundabout and I locked up my brakes and veered to the right to pass the vehicle. Then I heard a mother yell something that I could not make out but the panic in her voice was undeniable. As I looked forward I saw a young child who was in the crosswalk and was directly in my path. The car had stopped to let the family cross the street. At 36 mph I was still going entirely too fast to stop. Do I hit the car, the child or the curb? I hit the curb and my body was hurled into the air and across the street and grass. Amanda Cyr who started 20 seconds after I did, saw me laying on the ground with a startled look and asked if she should stop. “No, keep going” I yelled towards her, she did but seeing this affected the remainder of her race and weekend.
A course official and the family both stated that they were sorry and should have been paying closer attention. The two thoughtful medics who saw the whole accident stated that I did the best that I could and anyone would have had to hit the curb to miss the car and child. I spent the next 30 minutes getting cleaned up by the medics and peeling my shredded and bloody new skinsuit off. Good news- no broken bones. I had roadrash on my left leg, hip, arm, back and hand. It also happened to be one week before I was the maid of honor in a wedding and before this race my biggest worry was about tan lines. I asked the medics if I could finish the race, even though I was in no shape to do so. Later the race official let me know that I was still eligible for the rest of the omnium. Hence my team could get points for the weekend if I showed up to each event regardless of my placement.
As I was getting cleaned up my incredibly thoughtful team was looking for me and were genuinely worried and sympathetic. They provided words of encouragement and were kind to stick around until they knew I was safe and had a ride back to Denver. I was rattled and in too much pain to drive back on my own. Then all the kind words, calls and emails started pouring in.
I have to admit I was sad about the situation, exhausted from all the adrenalin and tears and utterly scared to get back on my bike. The most distressing thought was that I could have hit that child and who knows if at that speed the impact would have killed him? I was so scared. I received advice from fellow cyclists who had been through similar situations to get back on my bike when I felt ready but that it is best to do so more sooner than later. When I got home, I realized what was not on my checklist for that weekend…Tegaderm. Now the closest Walgreens to my house is sold out thanks to my spouse. I showered, scrubbed the abrasions, tegadermed the left side of my body and took ibuprofen.
I did not sleep well that night as I was unable to get comfortable due to the pain. I got about four hours of sleep. It was cold and raining the next morning. I could not wear leg warmers as no matter where I placed them, they would rub my road rash. No leg warmers it was. Bundled up and with significant support from my team, including (but not limited to) Barb who came out in the freezing cold to cheer us on and Amanda who was my chauffeur I decided to follow my fellow cat 4s, (wo)man up and do the crit. The hilly, wet, technical crit. I was dropped after the first lap but that did not matter as my biggest concern was getting back in the saddle. It ended up that it was good that I got dropped and was not close to the lead group as there was a crash towards the end of the race but I never saw the accident as I am unsure if I would have continued if I had seen it.
Sunday the weather took a turn for the better. It was sunny and warm. I could not put sunblock over the Tegaderm and was aware that the abrasions were sensitive to the sun. I placed gauze pads over each area that would be exposed to sun and then a nylon band around my lower leg, this would protect the areas and look rather bad ass. We all lined up for the 30 mile road race and then the bad news, we had a neutral lap until we got to the roundabout. Yes, the roundabout. Then we would have to go through the roundabout two more times during the race. I did not care about the hills or the distance but was terrified of that roundabout. What happened to my confidence in going fast and around turns?
I began the race near the front of the pack and all the ladies were encouraging. Then we got to the wall and I was dropped. Amanda stayed back with me (although she clearly had enough energy to keep going). She said that her only goal that day was to ensure that I finished the race. She pulled me for several miles as my confidence began to increase once again. We caught up to three other ladies and all worked together to complete the race. I once again was able to go fast on the downhills and through corners. I even got compliments from people who did not know that I had crashed a few days prior. We came into THE ROUNDABOUT and I dropped to the very back and was able to ride through it rather well. The last lap, I went into it first, did not brake and cornered like a pro.
This weekend was exhausting both physically and mentally. I learned how to conquer fear, be strong, bandage wounds and persevere. However, all of that is nothing compared to the biggest lesson of the weekend, which is that I have the best cycling teammates that anyone could ask for. Thank you to all the Bellas for the love and support. Also to Amanda who made me laugh with the picture of me as Johnny Hoogerland.
Triathlon, Cycling, Running, Swimming, Volunteering, Knitting……and Biathlon? If there’s a competitive component to it, teammate Roberta Smith, does it all and always gives it 100%. Read on about Berta’s first race Biathlon race of the season.
So in the off season, I race biathlon. Many people who know that I am cyclist and a triathlete think that biathlon is biking and running. Nope, biathlon is skiing and shooting. Yes, shooting a .22 rifle after your heart rate is racing from skiing hills at altitude. I have been racing biathlon for 4 years now. It started like many crazy ideas- drinking with a friend. I won’t bore you with the details but when I met my husband Paul, he was on board with picking up the sport. About the time in our relationship when a call to the parents with excitement usually means engagement jewelry, the call to my parents in late November 2008 was to let them know Paul had purchased an Izmash biathlon rifle for me….and thus began my real entry into the sport.
So Saturday’s race was my first of the season. As we all know the snow conditions have not been ideal. It was not until last weekend that I actually got out on skis. I have been spending time on my bike on the computrainer so I am not totally out of fitness but you do use different muscles. One thing about racing biathlon is you sometimes have to predict the weather when you are choosing your wax for the day. In cycling, I do choose my wheels based on conditions but in some way choosing the wrong wax is much more frustrating than choosing the wrong wheelset. It was -11º F when I got to Snow Mountain ranch but I was racing in wave 2 and at noon when our race started I knew the snow might have a chance to warm up. So I went with blue Swix wax and hoped for the best. I volunteered as timing chief for the day. Unlike cycling races, the officials here are also racing. When you volunteer as an official you do have to have the proper certification but we always make sure there are enough of us so that we can race and run the race.
Another thing about biathlon racing in Colorado is that the majority of participants a members of the Colorado biathlon club. So unlike cycling, everyone who is racing is wearing the same kit! It is actually pretty funny if you think about it. The biathlon community is small, kind of like cycling, so when you race your first race of the season there is a lot of catching up to do with the other racers. I really like this aspect of the sport. However, I would hate to ever hold a grudge against anyone that I race against because, lets be frank here, everyone is holding a rifle at some point! This brings me to the categories of racing. We have age groups as a grouping but then you are also classified by if you are carrying a rife or not and if you are using a cuff. A cuff helps you to stabilize your rifle when you are shooting in the prone position without one it is harder to keep your gun steady. So given all these criteria I usually have a handful of women that I am actually racing against.
Before you start any race you “zero” your gun. You do this to make sure that your sight is set up for the conditions that day. You shoot on paper targets and the goal is to shoot consistently and precisely. You know in statistics when they show you bulls eyes to help you understand these terms, well that is what you are hoping for. Specifically you want your shots to be in the middle ring since this represents the target size in the prone position. Prone is when you shoot lying down. This target is a 2 inches in diameter. Standing targets are 4 inches in diameter since standing is a harder position When participants don’t carry their own rifle or when they are not using a cuff, they get to shoot on standing targets regardless of their shooting position.
I feel like I have to explain the sport a bit so you will understand my race. So on Saturday I did my “zero” and I wasn’t shooting very consistently or precisely for that matter so I decided to leave things were they were and hope for the best. The race was a sprint race and we had a time-trial start and we would be shooting one bout in the prone position and one bout of standing. A good short race to start the season! As with all sports in Colorado there is always an Olympian in the field. Well the gal who started 30 seconds after me is from the Czech Republic (and has raced skiing most of her life) and the gal 30 seconds behind her could probably also qualify for the Olympics at some point. So I knew the first few minutes of the race would be humbling so I told them if when they passed me if they could just look like they were working hard. My first lap was hard and sure enough 3 minutes in I was passed by the two gals starting immediately behind me. I know I am an endurance girl and that each lap would get a little bit better after the first lap. I came into the range for my first shooting bout and well I missed all of the targets. When you miss a target you have to do a penalty lap for each target that you miss. So, being a strong skier, I can get my penalty laps done quickly and still stay in the race with the better shooters. So I did my dizzying 5 laps and set out on lap two. Same lap as the first one, the snow was softening up and I was getting a good glide but just when I turned the first corner to head uphill, the wind kicked up. I appreciated the push up the hill but really needed to fight the wind on the downhill. The other gals that had a good zero probably were worried about how the wind would effect their shooting. Me, I was going to use the wind to my advantage.
Sure enough, in my standing bout, I got my third shot and I am certain it was not from skill but the help of the wind. I finished my shooting part shooting 10%. It was better than 0% I was telling myself. One gal that I race against is a better shooter than me but we are comparable in our skiing. Until this point I was ahead of her but she was shooting more around 60% so even though I only had one less penalty lap than my first bout, I needed to give it 100% to catch up. So it was on the third lap that I decided between my 10% shooting and giving it 100% to catch the racer in front of me, that I was actually racing at 110%. Overall, I finished 4th in my racing category and if you break that down to age groups, I was first. So even though my shooting wasn’t the greatest, I had a great race. Like all great playtimes, after the race, everyone volunteers to pull up the shooting mats, pull in the lane dividers and pick up the brass from the shells. It is a community event and I look forward to the next race that will be a relay. I will do the relay with my awesome shooter husband Paul Majors and will hope, just hope, we can raise my shooting average. But good shooting, good skiing or not, I will always give it 110%!
If the energy of December, both mentally and physically could have been a predictor for the way my first race of 2012 would go , then with an appropriate amount of modesty I would say, I won the race before it even started.
I have spent the last months of 2011 making needed corrections and directions to my training and perspective from the mediocre and somewhat disappointing 2011 season. Feeling revived, passionate one again, and yes-even fit, I choose to enter my first Xterra event in early January as the culmination to my month long training stint in Arizona.
I entered the 20K running race, as a test of fitness and a motivating factor for my early season, and frankly…just as something fun and different to do. But as with all things, I set my mind to I always give a 100% effort.
Being my first Xterra event , the 20K course, climbing over 1500 feet in the first six miles, proved to be aggressive, challenging, and a barometer of strength. The plan was simple, go out hard, and see what happens.
A bit different from the elite, pro-roadie, triathlon scene –all categories and divisions started together, informally and within the first mile, found myself at the top of the race, in about the top ten male slots. There was a bit of shape-shifting in the next several miles, as I settled in to a more reasonable pace, climbing the grueling elevation gain, letting a few men pass me, keeping all women in check.
The descent of the course was every bit as excruciating at the climb, as I backed off even more in order to not wipeout and preserve the skin on my knees.
The last several miles, were difficult, as I tried to regain some of the time I had forfeited on the way down, but felt confident to maintain my lead of the race.
I crossed the finish line knowing that I had put in a hard effort and knowing that this was simply the beginning of what is to be an amazing 2012 season. The overall win did come unexpected, but as a teammate once told me “a win is always a win”.
I gladly look forward to a smashing 2012 season. As far as more Xterra racing…we’ll see what the card deal out.
Race Report from new 2012 teammate Roberta Smith. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll lube your spoke nipples.(LOTOJA is the longest one-day USCF sanctioned race in the country btw)
206 miles in 10:52
Many times when people sign up for endurance events there seems to be alcohol involved. Well my entering the lottery for LOTOJA was all on the suggestion from a friend at work and I was completely sober. My friend Phil and I would talk cycling in between looking at construction projects at work. We made a deal that we would both enter and I would help motivate him to train. Well LOTOJA is a lottery and I guess for women it’s not that hard to be a winner. I got in and unfortunately Phil did not. Most times when you win a lottery it means that a life of luxury and relaxation awaits. Well that was quite the opposite.
In May I was delivered my good news. It was then that I had to start getting serious about my last road bike race of the 2011 season. A lot of people have never heard of LOTOJA (short for Logan –to-Jackson this describes the bike course. Or if you like, you can go with the thought that my Mom had, that LOTOJA is an old Indian tribe that originally settled in Logan., UT).
I will spare you the hours of training rides and the thoughts that came in and out of my head. If anything, my last long training ride was the most discouraging. I was planning on going 150 miles and had a nice route in Steamboat all planned out. At mile 80 I had a break down. I was climbing a hill out of Oak Creek and was feeling woozy and seriously doubting if I could do 206 miles the next weekend. Fortunately, I have wonderful, inspirational friends and family in my life. On race day I donned a pink bracelet that my friend Trish gave to me for my first Ironman, “Yes I Can” it proclaims. My friend Lauren just became the 5th ever Leadwoman. My friend Bob completed the Vail TT and had much dedication in his summer training. Most of all, my husband Paul was there to cook me dinner after long training rides and knew I had to get miles in on the weekends. So with race day approaching, I had to push all doubt out of my head and go on the fact that I know I am a strong, dedicated athlete and I could push myself through this challenge.
So LOTOJA is 206 miles, 3 states, all in 1 day. You have to finish before dark which is about 8:15 in Jackson Hole. In my training rides, I kept reminding myself that Jackson Hole is North of Denver and stays lighter longer. I seemed to always finish my long weekday rides at about 9:00 pm and was nervous when I had to put my bike lights on at 7:30. My parents trekked all the way from Indiana to Logan to meet Paul and I at the start. They were my support team and the night before the race I was sorting GU, Mix1s, and wondering what exactly I would be craving at aid station 6. My gear hording totally paid out since I was able to pack identical bags for my two support vehicles (thermal jacket, arm warmers, leg warmers, etc). The weather forecast was not threatening but at the pre-race talk they showed the 2005 SNOTOJA when a freak storm broke out. With my support crews fully stocked I relaxed and just tried to focus on the spa day that awaited me in Jackson the day after the race.
The Cat 1,2, 3 start was at 7:01 am on Saturday. It seemed like sleeping in since I was always up at 5:00 am for my weekend training rides. The hotel opened up the breakfast bar early so this was great. I ate a record 4 packets of Oatmeal that morning. At packet pick up the day before, it was a very male dominated crowd. Unlike Iron distance triathlons and marathons, women were really in the minority at this race. I knew two of the girls that lined up at the race. They too were from Colorado. One of the gals that was from Utah asked me, “so how did you train for this race in Colorado?”. Humm. I seriously did not know how to answer that question. I guess like you would train in Utah but with more mountain passes???
The group rolled out and like every race you have to get to know who has the steady wheel and who you might want to stay away from or follow. Unfortunately, my pre-race jitters had me running to the porta potties several times before the race and I should have gone just one last time. The first aid station was at mile 37 and I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I threw out the idea to the girls for a pee stop but no one responded. So I was going to have to stop at the first aid station. I needed to keep drinking early in the race and had to make room. The aid station came and I saw some girls head to the toilet. I followed and luckily Paul had seen me stop and when I got out he was there with my bike and had refueled my water bottles and replenished my pockets! Just like in NASCAR! Although I knew I would have to time trial up to the pack if I was going to say in the race. It was tough. From the start there was a horrible head wind and according to the USA Cycling rules, you can’t work with cyclists that are not in your start category so wanting to stay in the race, I refused offers for pulls and dug in to catch up. On a downhill I saw the group and put my head down and bombed it down. The girls turned a corner and I was on their heels and then they decided to have a coordinated pee stop. Since I had already gone I didn’t need to stop but did anyway to settle down from my effort and refuel from the aid station feed I missed. It was great to be back in the pack and in the “race” again.
I was struggling with the mindset of “racing” for 206 miles. I knew it would probably blow up at sometime and at what point was I not going to “Race” any more. The first climb was not far after the first aid station. This is where the pack first broke up. I worked with two others on the hill. There were many firsts for me during this race. My first “first” was that I actually aspirated a Power Bar chew and it was expelled through my nose. This fascination kept me occupied for most of the first climb. If there is one thing that made me a better cyclist this year was my trip to Italy and descending on the tandem. I have always hated descents but having no choice on the back of a tandem gets one used to descending fast. So going into this race I was confident that I could make up time on the downhills and use them to my advantage. The first big downhill led to a very fast rolling hill section. I had met up with another girl and we worked together but then got on to a larger train of men that we hopped on to and went with. So I am admitting here that I went against the rules. Since the field had blown up I knew that I was out of the contention for any podium spot and grappled again with the “race” concept. My parents were waiting for me at aid station 3 so I was excited to see them. They were there with my 80 mile feed bag. I couldn’t believe that I had hit 80 miles. I was feeling great and couldn’t believe that just a week before had felt so miserable at this point. When I was in the feed zone I saw the majority of the girls that I had started with. I knew that they were probably the chase group so I caught up to them and we had a train of our own. We shared the job of pulling and had a great pace leaving Idaho going into Wyoming. We all stayed together until the next big climb to aid station 4. By the time we reached the top of the steepest climb, we all had run out of water and needed to take a pee break. It felt good to stop. Prior to this stop I had another first. I actually was able to reapply chamois butter while riding. I won’t go into the details but once you get it down there you can just work it into place.
The girls wanted to regroup at the bottom of the downhill and I thought that would be great if this actually happened because it was fun to work with them and made me feel better about the rules. Well that didn’t happen. This is when I had to end my struggle with the “race” concept. I saw some of the girls go by tucked in a pack of men. I decided then I was not in a race but rather I was on a Quest. I would do whatever I could to finish my quest and not grapple with working or not working with people. At mile 130 I hit my first mental wall. The wind was getting old and the rolling hills just seemed to get longer and longer. I had to just stop looking at my Garmin. Although I did set myself to eat on the 2’s, 4’s and 0’s (every 20 minutes) so I had to watch the minutes go by but the miles weren’t ticking away so fast. My thoughts went to my friends and stories they had told me to get me through. Paul was at aid station 5 with his cotton candy blue wig so that was a nice break from the monotony. I knew though things were not going to get any easier. I was now out on my own. Jumping on trains of riders when I could and hanging on as long as I could, helping out when could but then dropping off when I had had enough. In Afton I saw the signs for Rulon Gardner’s Burger Barn. He was the 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler from Wyoming and then I think he was on the Biggest Loser most recently. These thoughts kept me occupied for 10 miles or so thinking about how I didn’t want to ever be on that show and how it is just wrong for ex-Olympic Athletes to have a burger barn.
From miles 140-160 my thoughts were focused on all of the butts that passed me. Dr. Todd, my boss, had joined me on the Courage Classic this year. He is an Infectious Disease physician but after the Courage Classic he stated that he should change his profession to a proctologist since so many butts went passed him (and they were not all that pretty). I was thinking about how these butts were nicer. I think the folks that enter this race are a bit fitter than your typical weekend century rider. So Dr. Todd , I took in some better looking butts for you . All that were passing me. The last aid station that was not neutral support was aid station 6. 47 miles away from the finish. I knew that this aid station was coming up and I turned to the guy that I was passing and asked him where the next aid station was. He told me he thought it was “ just over the bridge in 47 miles”. Luckily I didn’t panic because I knew that could not be true.
I had been doing great with my nutrition up to this point and at aid station 6 I downed a coke had some snickers and grabbed yet more GU to get me through. After aid station 6 the road follows the Snake River. It is a beautiful canyon and you can see all of the rafters and kayakers in the river below. It looked refreshing and I was wondering if swimming might be faster. This is when I actually started to get sore and get some foot cramps. I popped some Alive and just had to get off my bike to let my feet get some rest. One guy saw me pulled over and when I passed him up when I was back on my bike he asked me if I was cramping. I told him “yes” and he offered me electrolyte tabs. I told him I had some of my own but thanked him for the reminder to take them. The stretch though the Snake River to aid station 7 was just to get through the discomfort. My spa day on Sunday was looking nicer! It was getting cooler and I had seen a friend of mine from Cheyenne and she cheered me on. That gave me a boost to make it through the next few miles.
It was about this time that I was thinking about what my overall finish time might be. Realistically I wasn’t sure what my time goal should be. Finishing was my goal but I did want to have some target to shoot for. At this point, I knew I could probably finish in 11 hours or less. I was hoping for 10:30 but wasn’t sure if that was possible. It was funny how mentally I got myself through the miles after 150. At 150 I thought, only 50 miles left, that is riding out to Cherry Creek, two times around and home. At 25 to go, I thought, oh that is a Morning Machine ride, at 5 miles to go, it was my commute home from work.
The final miles are a gradual uphill. The headwind had not gone away and once I hit Jackson Hole its like any false summit. When you make it to Jackson Hole, you still have 10 miles until the finish in Teton Village. This is just cruel. What is even more cruel is the road that leads to Teton Village. It is beautiful, you can see the ski area but the road feels so long it is like a bad dream. At this point, I had been with 2 other guys. We had a nice little pack going but when it was my turn to pull the group I had no power. I apologized for my short effort and dropped off. Then I had 5 k to go. I found a guy going my speed and I think we had the same thoughts, “in 5K I can get off my bike”. We took turns, I pulled one kilometer, he pulled the next. This seemed to work. When I saw the colored finish line I knew my quest was over. I got emotional and started to cry. I had done it. I had pushed myself 206 miles and the race was not with the others but with myself. This was the farthest I had ever ridden my bike. I saw Paul and my parents just past the finish. It was great! All I wanted to do was take my cycling shoes off. I did and then proceeded to sit in the river to contemplate the day that I had just gone through. I am trying to decide if this was harder than an Ironman and I think mentally, the answer is yes. At least in an Ironman, you can switch your equipment and how your muscles are moving. The other big question is, “will I do it again?” My answer is yes. I think that this course is an awesome course for a tandem. Next year, I hope to sign up in the tandem category. Although my pilot will have to agree with me but the scenery was great and the race was so well supported. My 2011 Quest is over but it has opened up yet another part of myself and how I can push myself mentally. Plus I learned how to put on chamois butter en route! Who wouldn’t ride 206 miles again!
Race Report from Vera Divenyi
North Boulder Park Criterium
SW Pro 1/2: Pack finish
I couldn’t wait to come back and race this race as this was the first crit for me since June 5. On the way to the race, I was really worried about the weather as it was dumping so hard on 36 that the road flooded and there was a 6-car accident in front of me.
Over the past 2 weeks, I have not had the best luck. My track bike was stolen, I lost my iphone and then last weekend, I got a blow out on 25. Since I have an all wheel drive car, I had to put back all my winter tires so that I did not have to go out and buy all new summer tires at that exact moment. Well, today, I felt pretty lucky to have my winter car tires for the drive as I was driving through 6-12 inches of rain! Arriving in Boulder, the roads were dry and the sun was peeking through the clouds. I guess the bubble over Boulder helps contain the weather, too!
The course: Go straight and slightly up, turn left, power down a hill, get in a good place for a left into a driveway/alley, turn left over a curb, avoid the hay, right, left, left and power as hard as you can on the straight/power climb back to the start finish. Don’t hit the tree in the middle of the street, either!
I met Rachel to warm up and we went and just road a little around North Boulder Park. We were both running late and I managed to misplace my number. We got all sorted and lined up for racing.
To my left, Cari Higgins, Kori Seehafer, Megan Hottman. To my right, many more Map My Ride team mates, a bunch of Vitamin Cottages and THE Alison Powers of Team TibCo.
I was told by my coach that if I didn’t want to work out at the track, I needed to race North Boulder like my hair was on fire. OK, hair on fire. Last year, the break went in the second lap. So for the first 17 minutes, I chased everything thinking one of the breaks may stick – – and I was still trying to race like my hair was on fire. I saw a map my ride go and then I had nothing left. Cory went, too.
Now, have I ever mentioned how much I love my team mate Rachel? We had talked beforehand about whether I was feeling good and what we would do. All that chasing down breaks that didn’t stick had made me quite tired and the course was such that there was really no break anywhere. Since only two people were in the break, the race continued at a lightning-bolt pace and never relented.
Rachel was in a better position than I was and she had unsuccessfully gone with one of the breaks that got caught (this was the one time I didn’t chase!) Rachel made sure that I was still on the pack and a few times, I really thought I might just let go. She was encouraging and made sure that I was in the group. How awesome! I was also a bit starry eyed and at one point, ended up in the gravel heading towards a nice bale of hay! I had to stop and restart and get back on a very fast moving group through the S turns. I knew I was sort of spent as I had goose bumps that started about 20 minutes into the race. It was not cold; in fact, the sun came out and beat upon us.
With 15 minutes to go, I pulled out a Vanilla Powerbar gel and squished it all into my mouth a little too quickly as I couldn’t figure out how to breathe for a second! I got it down and was able to grab my water bottle and wash the rest down. This was a welcome moment as my tongue had been stuck to the side of my mouth for the last 20 minutes.
In the second to last lap, I found myself in 3rd position on Cari Higgins’s wheel. This would have been ideal had it been the last lap. In the power climb/straight away to the start finish, the group bunched up and I found myself in a horrible position into the little downhill before the turn into the driveway/alley. Yes, this course is an odd one.
In the end, I was almost last in the final turn and just decided that sprinting for one more spot really didn’t matter anymore.
The mixed berry Mix1 after my race tasted better than a croissant in Paris. Maybe this was because a croissant right after the race would have most likely made me throw up. But, nonetheless, I love my Mix1’s no matter what! And congrats to our other sponsor, Prerace.com for Jorge Espinoza’s win in the Pro 1/2 race!
Rachel and I continued on the recovery beverage streak with a beer at the beer tent and watched the Cat 3 men’s race until the rain began to fall. Next week? Colorado state Criterium championship and some master’s state championships at the track. I’m already tired thinking about it!