Tag Archives: Roberta Smith
Roberta talks how to develop as a bike racer and a professional in the workforce. Read more about just how intense studying can be and also how very similar it is to bike racing.
For many of us who race our bikes, we need to hold day jobs as well. In my quest to develop myself professionally, I set goals that are very similar to those in bike racing. As with bike racing, you need to deal with defeat and how to you recover when you do not meet your goal. Several years ago, a colleague suggested that I pursue receiving my Certification in Industrial Hygiene (CIH). My background was Environmental Health and in my nursing career I was dealing with Industrial Hygiene/ Occupational Health issues. I know many of you at this point are asking what Industrial Hygiene is. The simplest explanation is that Industrial Hygiene is what keeps workers safe from noise exposures, biological hazards, ergonomics , indoor air quality, just to name a few of the areas. So within the past three years I have taken review courses and studied several Engineering and Industrial Hygiene texts to pass the test. The test has a touted pass rate of around 42%. So I knew that my goal to pass was going to take dedication and practice. Just like cycling.
When training for cycling we lay down a foundation that we can build on over the season. This is what I did with my studying, I laid the foundation with reading, watching lectures, and having a dedicated study times. The test is only offered 2 times a year, Spring and Fall. I was scheduled to take my test in November 2013 the Wednesday just before Thanksgiving. Since August, I had dedicated every weekend to studying, doing equations and memorizing ventilation data and tables. When I went into the test, I treated it like “race day”. I even ate my typical “pre-race meal” to prepare myself. I visualized myself even taking the test, just like I do for bike racing. The test is a 5.5 hour exam with 1 hour break for lunch. When you are done with the test, you hit submit and you immediately know your preliminary results. Well unfortunately I did not pass. I was in tears and sunk into a depression. All of that studying and time invested I felt just so defeated.
A few weeks later I received my detailed results of the exam and realized that I was going to have to plan a comeback. Just like in cycling, when you have a bad race that you know you have trained for, your comeback will be stronger and more motivated. So I took a month off then it was back to studying again. Although instead of having to develop a base all over again, I needed to focus on my “sprinting”. Looking at the areas I was not as strong in and honing that skill. I found an online course that helped me to design my own focused area of study and I was actually excited to take the test again. When I failed the first time, it was hard to tell people. A lot of people knew of my goal of passing and it was a hit to the ego when I had to let people know that I had not met my goal. The second time around, I didn’t publicize it a lot for that reason. This is the same feeling that I have had before training for long endurance races and they don’t go as well as expected. I knew I would pass but just wanted a few people knowing what I was up to. So the test came around last Monday. I did my whole pre-race routine. Did some “openers” the day before the exam, hydrated well the night before, dressed comfortably and went into the test the next morning feeling confident that I was going to nail it. I took my time during the exam, even stopped to tell myself “good job” and to “ hang in there”. When I hit the submit button this time around it replied back with a “Congratulations”! This is a preliminary result until I get the final paperwork but it looks like my dedicated training paid off. I know have the credential of CIH and have hit an awesome milestone in my career. Much of which I can thank my participation on a cycling team for!
Endurance racing is a test of the mind as much as the body. Roberta shares what many of us go through this time of year. Why do you keep coming back to endurance racing?
Ever since I helped to pace my friend Janey Bell in the Leadville 100 trail marathon I had been thinking I should blog about endurance. What drives us to endure? Then just the other day Diana Nyad had her successful 110 mile swim and the thought of endurance came to my mind again (along with the urge to get back in the pool). Then this past weekend I was thinking about how I have mentally gotten myself through 2 Ironman races and 2 LOTOJA rides and how did I possibly do that?
When Janey and I were running over Hope Pass, just past the 50 mile mark in her run, I was amazed. Here I was huffing and puffing, I started to get a blister on my toe, the circulation in my arms was being cut off from carrying two camelbacks (hers and mine) but I didn’t have it in me to complain. I knew I had to endure. She was going strong and I kept pushing her to run just a few more steps. We were close to the time cutoff and I did not want to be the reason she would have to stop running. I was at a loss as to what to say. She looked great, the other runners kind of looked homeless. She wasn’t seeing leprechauns or in a state of deep mental thought. Only she could motivate herself to keep going. I have had many times when I have played the role of the encourager and helped many of my athlete friends achieve their athletic goals. But it was truly their spirit and their mental strength that got them through.
Wikipedia defines endurance as the “ ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds or fatigue.” The fact that as athletes we have thoughts that can occupy us for a 54 hour swim, a 30 hour run, a 13 hour bike ride is amazing. But, as I experienced a few times this year, once your mind gets an inkling of a negative thought, it can spread like the Ebola virus and kill your spirit. You are suddenly not immune to defeat and it stings.
On my last race, I was thinking about the poem by A.E. Houseman ( ok how I remember this is all because of Miss Miles my 8th grade English teacher) “ To an Athlete Dying Young”. It is kind of morbid and it talks about an athlete who dies at the top of their game.
“ Eyes the shady night has shut./ Cannot see the record cut”. “ Now you will not swell the rout/ Of lads that work their honours out,/ Runners whom renown outran/ And the name died before the man.”
Is it better to go out at the top of your game? When you see your records being cut how can you endure anymore? These are thoughts of the burned out cyclist and one that cannot endure. How do you turn yourself around from this downward spiral? I think we have all been there before, saying we are going to quit.
Strangely, I find myself coming back for more. Why is this? Well I have given that some thought too. Distance helps (not doing more miles) but taking a break. Time off the bike to reconnect with things you haven’t gotten to. This is what I intend to do for the next few months and turn my sites from cycling to biathlon. What I found though is having your cheering crowd does make a difference. My husband, Paul, is great at that but so are my Naked peeps. They know me. They know it is not the end, rather a beginning. They send you an application to reapply for the team. It makes you think of the goals you achieved in the past year and the goals you want to set for the next. They are the ones that encourage me to endure. They are who make enduring fun and it is because of them that I will be back in the cycling saddle again!
Berta tells how her first TOAD P-1-2 race went. Thanks to lovely locals she is on the road to a speedy Lienenkugel recovery.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.
We’re gonna do it!
Today was day 2 for the Amanda’s, Kat, Jamie and Tami of racing at America’s Dairyland. For me it was day 1. I arrived Friday night and unpacked my bags to find a broken spoke. We headed over to the local bike shop and dropped off my wheel only to have it fixed in less than 24 hours- awesome. Next stop, the Lieney Lodge. If there is one thing you must do while in Wisconsin is enjoy a Lienenkugels. 2.0 keeps thinking that I am doing certain Kegel exercises but she has it all wrong. The summer shandy is the variety I like best and it can be a refreshing way to calm your nerves before racing with the big girls. After a night of Kat smashing my legs on Captain Mike’s orders, I went to bed wondering to expect the next day.
With the first couple of races being NCC races I was nervous. I haven’t been on my bike much with my marathon training but I was more excited to see where my fitness level was and to see what the racing was like. I set today as my day to test the waters.
Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.
The day started early as I wanted to watch the ¾ race. Overnight there was apparently a lot of thunder and lightening and it seemed like we experienced everything during the day in terms of weather patterns. Light drizzle while driving to the start, fog rolled in around 12:30, the wind picked up and eventually the sun was shining bright. For a day that had anywhere from a 90%-30% chance of rain we all got lucky. The girls had a great race, it looked fun and they were all smiling at the end. All of the sitting and watching though left me drenched in the smell of Wisconsin Brats grilling on the grill. The girls were all happily eating lunch and enjoying Spotted Cow beers when I had to finally psych myself up and warm up.
Nothin’s gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin’ it our way.
The sun decided to stay present during my warm up and I was amazed at how soaked my kit was after I was done. I hadn’t ridden the course yet and was hoping that after the men’s race I could take a lap or two. Well the women decided to line up immediately after the men finished, 10 minutes before the start, so I would not be checking out the course. Humm, I was just going to have to trust myself and pay attention for the first few laps. I was feeling great, hanging in there. Occasionally I would get on a familiar Colorado wheel but with 10 minutes left to go the high octane race turned into one of those drag street races. I got popped off of the group and was working with two other girls to make the dropping off the back less sad. And then it happened. The gal I was following went too hot into the >90 degree corner and took herself out and me with her. I am not quite sure what happened but apparently my crash looked a lot worse to the spectators than what really happened. Concrete is hard. I went right into a puddle and my seat dug straight into my calf giving me the most painful Charlie horse ever!
There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.
My calf muscle was seizing and the medical guy checking me out assured me nothing was broken. I had a bloody knee and a scraped hand but that was it! I crashed with grace. Once the excruciating pain in my calf subsided everyone was asking” What do you need?” Being that this was my first crash in a crit EVER what did I want to commemorate this? The first words out of my mouth were “I will take a Lienenkugel’s please”. Sure enough within a matter of seconds I had a nice cold Lieney’s Summer Shandy in my hand. As they handed it over and the crowd laughed. They all stated, “this is Wisconsin, of course we have Leininkugel’s.” And thus the adventure begins……
On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.
Alert! Berta is suffering from an identity crisis, but no wonder! She’s a marathoner, bike commuter, ironman (woman), biathlete, bike racer, trail runner, modern pentathaloner, black diamond skier, and hardcore….knitter?
2013 so far has been a year of personal crisis for me. I turn 40 in less than 30 days and that crisis started early. Ever since my USAC license showed up with 40 listed as my race age I have been thinking about where my life has been and what I have accomplished thus far and what do I want to do for my future. I think I may have had a few glasses of wine on January 1st when I decided that to celebrate my 40th birthday it would be fun to run the Steamboat Marathon AGAIN.
Let me back up and explain WHY the Steamboat Marathon. Back in 2003 when I had my 30th birthday crisis I decided it would be fun to run the Steamboat Marathon. The thing about this race is it generally falls directly on or just before my birthday, June 2. This year the race is on June 2. Back in 2003 I was a “marathon runner”. I had run several marathons already and jumping into the Steamboat Marathon didn’t seem like a big deal. I will never forget that race. I think the weather can be summed up by the quote from my friend Ian Wagner, a Steamboat local, when he proclaimed, “It never rains in Steamboat in the morning.” I slogged through puddles of water and my cute running outfit never made its debut until the rain slowed at approximately mile 20 when I took off the Hefty trash bag I was wearing until that point. I entered my 30’s sore and tired and swearing that I would never do that race again.
Yes, it must have been the wine talking when I clicked the “confirm entry” button on my 2013 race registration. I thought “For old times’ sake, who needs to spend their birthday at a spa”. Alas, here I am training for a marathon again but it is different. 10 years ago I defined myself really as a runner. Yah I rode my bike, skied, swam and did other sports but running was my passion and I was a runner without doubt. Since that time, I have entered the world of triathlons, cycling, and biathlon and have devoted many weekends to racing in these different disciplines.
On my last 15 mile run on the Highline Canal, I wore one of my “vintage” triathlon t-shirts. At the end of my run, there was a guy that asked me how far I ran and I let him know. Then he proceeded to ask me if I was a triathlete. As a cyclist I was offended, but then I had just identified myself as a cyclist. I had done a bike race just the day before so should I say “No, I am a cyclist.” But then I had just run 15 miles so that made me a runner. I haven’t run a marathon since 2009 so am I a runner? I stood there perplexed. This self-identifying crisis felt more fatiguing than the 2 hour run I had subjected myself to. I had to answer this guy something. What was I? I wanted to tell him that although I was a cyclist, I have run over twenty marathons, done 2 Ironman triathlons, and was the 2012-13 Colorado biathlete state champion and I like to swim.
Why did I need to label myself? Does it really matter “what” I am? It would not have taken away the fact I had just done a long run had I acknowledged one label over another. On my way home I could not shake it, what was my label. Then it came to me that whenever I do a sport, regardless what it is, I am sore afterwards. Whatever sport I am doing, I feel good that I am doing it and grateful that I can. Whatever sport I am doing I am usually going to have to take an ice bath afterwards to recover. Does it really matter what I am? Then it came to me, I am an “Athlete” an all-rounder, a jack of all trades a master of none. With my label settled in my brain by the time I got home, I proceeded to pull on my compression tights and thought, “does this make me a triathlete?”
Wise words from Berta. The woman can do biathlon, Ironmans, trail running races, skate ski racing, or modern pentathlon but she always comes back to bike racing. Read why:
Biathlon season is over and last weekend when I was in Steamboat I decided it is officially mud season. I declared it such when both sets of shoes that I brought up ended up covered in mud . My official last ski day was Easter day but I am excited as April rolls around and I can set my sights on bike racing. Yes I did sign up for a marathon in June and that has required a lot of running through the Steamboat mud but as I log my miles in my running shoes I long for the weekends with my cycling friends. There is something about the cycling season that is like a reunion. Like going back to school and seeing the friends that you didn’t see all summer because you were not in the same summer sports. Its fun to catch up. “How was your winter?” , “ What ski pass did you have?”. “What are your big racing goals for this year?”
Some women may have changed teams. Some may have gotten new bikes. Some may in a different age or race category now. Some may have had major life events. Whatever the case, there is always something to talk about in that very first race. So it’s time to put away the waxing kit, give the rifle a good end of season cleaning, put away the ski wear and pull out the new cycling kit. Here is to the changing of the sports garb and reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones that have found the sport of cycling. Even though I turn 40 this year, I think it is going to be a good one and we will have plenty to talk about.
Have you ever stopped to think about what is actually in a name? Bike races especially use the words “memorial” a lot, but do you know who they were? Most bike races are fundraisers to support a great cause, and Mike Neilds Bannock Street Criterium was no exception. Our team was lucky enough to partner with the Front Rangers Junior Cycling program to help at-risk youth with the memory of Mike Neilds. Roberta has a personal connection. Here’s her story.
The Naked Women’s Racing Team recently hosted the Mike Nields Memorial Bannnock Street Criterium. This prompted our team to find out just who Mike Nields was. We found out that Mike had his life turned around by cycling but died tragically in a hang gliding accident. None of us on the team knew Mike but I did know Grayson. The Pro’s part of this race is dedicated to Grayson Pointer. Grayson had married my friend Lauren on top of Mount Evans. Racin’ Grayson was a terrific cyclist, an ambassador for the environment and always a super fun guy to be around.
Tragically, after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Grayson died due to complications he had as a result of a scooter accident in downtown Denver. His funeral was at the same time that Lauren and he were going to be wed again in a larger ceremony. I am sure there are many in the cycling community that can tell a story about Grayson and remember his good witted spirit. I will never forget in 2007, it was shortly after Grayson died and his ashes released on Mt. Evans that I raced the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb for the first time. The story of Bob Cook can be found here but Bob was another great cyclist in the history of Colorado who tragically lost his battle with cancer. I was racing hard that day but was struggling to finish and reach the top. My mental drive to finish had left me, I was hot and I wanted to give up. It was just then with those tight switchbacks at the top that I felt something start to push me up the hill. There was no mistaking this was Grayson. He was pushing me to the finish. A sense of calm came over me and I knew that he was OK. I debated calling Lauren that day as not to upset her, but I had to let her know. When I was getting my things into the car after the race I called her to say that Grayson is doing fine and he helped me finish my race.
Now I don’t have a personal connection with all of the people whom our races are dedicated to but I do think that in our small racing community we should learn something about whom many of these races are dedicated to. These were cyclists just like us. A part of a community that finds cycling as an outlet. Whether we are out there to turn ourselves around, to achieve our personal goals, or even excel to the professional level, we are all cyclists. These races are dedicated to all who loved the sport in some way. We should recognize their families, many of whom offer the prize money and ongoing support of the races, and the lives that the memorialized cyclists lived. It is tragic that we have lost so many good friends but the best we can do is take the time to honor them and remember them for all their contributions to life.
Sometimes racing does go according to plan! Roberta shares her experience during the Dead Dog Classic Criterium.
I was going to blog about my own race experience at Dead Dog since Dead Dog is a race that has a lot of personal meaning to me and my cycling goals. Unfortunately, the road race was not one of most stellar cycling performances and it ended getting to know the volunteer EMTs in the emergency tent. I do think those EMTs worked just a little bit of magic for me since the story I am about to tell involves the race that happened in the heat of the next day. As criteriums go, the Laramie course is super fun. Fast turns, chicanes, trains roaring through town, and great volunteers. After watching the 4s race, Joan and I decided to spin our legs in the heat of the later morning sun. After the heat exhaustion that plagued me the day before I was really tired of sunshine and heat. I did partake in an icebath and the team standing in the pond on Saturday after the road race. Joan also had us eat two dinners after the road race and that didn’t necessarily hurt my recovery either. Anyway, there we 7 of us in the 1-2 category and I was 7th in the GC. I was thinking before the crit that when you are in last place, 20 minutes back, there is really nothing to lose if you lay it all on the line to secure a win for your teammates.
Joan and I discussed strategy for the race and we both decided we would do most of the work until we could go no longer and hopefully one of us would hang on for the entire race. It is rare when a strategy that is verbalized before a race actually happens and what happens is even better! The Cliffs Notes version of the 40 minute race was this, Joan was in front, then I would get in front, someone else not on our team would get in front, PRIME LAP- Sprint hard and lead out a teammate for the prime- Joan was in front, I was in front, TIME BONUS SPRINT- lead out teammate for the sprint win. I had the biggest smile the entire race because magically everything fell into place. Naked Women’s racing was dominating and in control! We were blocking others from going for the sprint and Rachel and Kimberly were getting enough rest in between sprints. We had lead outs that looked like they could have been choreographed in a ballet. The energy was so exciting. When it came down to the final sprint, Joan and I both lead out Rachel and Kimberly for the 1-2 win and an overall GC win. Did I mention this was a fun race?
There are times in bike racing when things don’t go as planned. Teammates can feel let down because a plan didn’t execute or someone was having a bad day. Not this day in Laramie. We were a well oiled machine and we worked as a team and we pulled in the win. We were all ear to ear with grins. This is the reason I race my bike- not to win- but to be part of a team of strong, dedicated women. Thank you!
I wish I could have my dog write this race report like he writes our holiday letters. I do not enjoy writing but here goes.
Who talked me into this?
Am I glad I was talked into this?
Yes, now that it is all over. On the last 11 miles of the RR I was cussing both girls out.
RR-54 miles of non-stop wind. Stayed with the lead pack until the start of the climb and then after a few minutes they blew me up. It was hard having those pro 1-2 racers who did age group in our category. The climbing was actually easier then I thought. Was by myself for awhile then caught up with Kendra and worked with her then Megan caught up to me. We all worked together for a few minutes then Kendra fell off. Megan and I stayed together. It was so nice having a teammate to work with.
We’re at the top of the climb. I love descending and I know Megan does not love it as much. I told her she had to stay on my wheel. I did go close to 50 so she did fall behind but I kept hearing her words and Kathy’s (my coach) do not do the last 11 miles alone. I knew the best thing to do was to wait for Megan to catch up so we could continue to work together.
Last 11 miles. Highway to hell. 45+ mile an hour head winds. No fun. Megan and I passed the 2nd place position girl then she caught up with us again but did not want to work with us. We kept trying to rotate and push on but you never felt like you got a break from the wind. Megan ran out of water and I was giving her some of mine. She was getting fixated on no water, which I was down to almost zero. I told her we couldn’t fixate on the fact that we had no water and that we were going to die on that Highway to Hell from dehydration. We caught up with the 2nd place girl again with about a ½ mile left and I just hit the wall. The wind became a head case for me. I told Megan to take off and go get second place which she did. I trudged in and got caught on the line thinking no one was behind me so I got 5th. Lesson learned. Always look behind you. DUH!!!!
Who’s idea was this?
Yes, it will help with muscle recovery.
Ok an ice bath. This was a new one to me. Joan runs my water, throws in 1½ bags of ice. No, not 1 she had to add another ½ bag. No they weren’t 5# bags they were 7# bags.
Sharon, get in the water now. I slowly lower myself in screaming I can’t do this. She appears before my tubs. Points her finger at me. Gives me that mother look and tells me to sit down now. Yikes! I obeyed. She throws her coat on me makes me some hot tea and sets the timer for 12 min. I decided the only thing that would keep my mind off this is to text. My Pen Pal (Amanda C) was 2 doors down and she was in her ice bath so we sat there the whole time texting back and forth killing time. Mama Joan finally comes in and told me I was in there for 14 minutes and my time was up. Thank G-D.
Day 2: Crit
The plan was to have THE AMANDAS worked for Megan and I. We told Megan her goal was to sit on my wheel and I was going to sit on the Amandas wheels and whoever was fresh enough and in the right position was to go for it.
The whole race Amanda C is leading the pack, I’m staying behind her and Amanda B was usually on my left protecting me. These girls amaze me with their skills and giving it their all at these crits. They were work horses the whole race. Leading the pack. In that crit every girl wanted to be on their wheels. Now, now, I get one of them so don’t get in my way. They are loved by all the Cat 4 girls but they belong to me so stay away:)
I didn’t hear the announcer say last lap but the pace did pick up. We turned the corner and I was close to the front but I should have jumped up to the age group girls for the sprint in. I took off past the couple of girls in front of me but 2 other girls came past me so I got a 4th. Lesson learned: Make sure you are right where you need to be before the last corner not after the corner.
FYI: My legs did thank Joan from that painful ice bath and told me it was worth it.
Thank you Joan and Roberta for all the cheering you did at our crit. It was awesome and kept us going just having you there.
TT: Last race of the weekend.
Today was the maiden voyage for my new Focus bike to get out there and do its first race. It’s time to break her in. Amanda C felt we needed to say the Jewish blessing over her. She started saying it perfectly in Hebrew with everyone watching and laughing then this Jewish guy comes over and helps her out with the prayer and adds his version. It was very funny. The Jewish guy and I rode off to warm up and Amanda C looked at me like that is my boyfriend fix me up. Sorry Amanda, next time. I was more focused on my TT and wasn’t thinking about a boy for you.
I knew going into the TT I was 6th overall and I didn’t have that many seconds between the girls in front of me. I told myself not to become a head case with the wind and give it my all. It would be less than 30 min. in the pain cave. I gave it my all and felt great. I did it with no TT gear because I don’t own any. Next purchase. Helmet and skin suit. Came in 8th but ended the weekend in 5th place overall. I’ll take that for my first Stage Race.
Joan, I am still wondering where that downhill is on the TT course that you kept telling us about. The Amandas and I never had it on our TT course.
I’d like to thank all my teammates (Amanda C , Amanda B, Megan, Joan, Roberta, Kimberley and Rachel for a fun weekend. I would like to give an extra thank you to the Amandas for all the entertainment, laughs and encouragement. I couldn’t ask for a better fan club. FYI: Amanda C is president of my fan club if any of you would like to join. There is an initiation fee so she can get a new bike.
Thanks for reading,
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%!
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!