I didn’t plan on doing the Leadville 100 this year, at least not after I didn’t get in through the lottery. I didn’t think about it when I was trekking through the Grand Canyon, finishing finals or traveling in Viet Nam. In fact, most of the time in Viet Nam I thought about how out of shape I was getting and thank goodness I wouldn’t be racing 100 miles. Then I got to Switzerland and started running and had a few long days on trail in France and the thought began creeping back in that maybe I can ride 100 miles with Sharon. When I got back to the states I contacted WBR and it was almost serendipitous as one guy had to drop out due to a medical condition and was willing to give me his spot to ride with Sharon.
That’s been the thought the whole time, at least since Michelle planted the idea in my brain last December that the only way I would do Leadville is with Sharon. Sharon is another member of WBR and due to circumstances outside of her control wasn’t able to finish the Leadville 100 last year. Since we’re both passionate about WBR and riding long distances (she has quite the impressive stage race resume) thought we would be stronger together.
I really thought after Leadville last year I would be done, knowing I would be traveling for a good chunk of the summer and thinking I wouldn’t be able to do enough early season riding to build up the engine I would need to PR (4 years of training for Leadville has taught me a lot). I’m convinced that riding with Sharon is the only way I can top last year’s experience is to help someone else reach that finish line.
This year, Sharon and I will both be riding for World Bicycle Relief. WBR is a program that helps distribute bicycles in Africa. After a year studying global health I truly believe that the one thing we can do that will create the largest impact and ripple in a community is to educate young people, girls especially. With a Buffalo Bike (the one that is designed for WBR) a student increases classroom attendance by 28%. In all my years of schooling, I’ve been granted the privilege of never having to worry about how I would arrive for my education.
When focusing on writing and defending my thesis, my blog posting fell to the way side–Here’s just a brief recap of what I’ve been up to since arriving back in the states in mid-June.
I arrived back into the states, did two trainer rides and signed up for my first mountain bike race in almost 10 months– and my first go back on my mountain bike in 7 months.
It was a bit ugly and 2 hours later I wondered why I didn’t sign up for the 10 mile option instead of the 20-miler. I somehow survived and was surprised that my legs went out much sooner than my lungs, so maybe running actually did something. I decided to do the race to help ‘race my way back into shape’.
Within the first week of arriving back into the states I secured a spot for Leadville (yikes!) but with no aspirations of defending my age group title. Instead, I’m hoping to be in good enough shape to ride with another WBR team rider and get across the finish together (more on it all later, promise). It should be a great day and I’m looking forward to it.
Given the limited time frame to get into shape and the fact that I was writing my thesis, I got in touch with my coach from last year to come up with a plan, which meant a lot of road and trainer rides.
I did not tell my parents about Leadville until I absolutely had to because was worried my mom would worry more about my stress level between training and writing. Riding gave me a good excuse to take a break and ruminate on what I had been working on. Only once did I go to the doctor to get some blood drawn and have a resting heart rate of 92, minor detail.
I defended my thesis and passed, if you’re interested in reading 97 pages about influenza vaccines, lettme know! I found that prepping for a thesis defense was similar to an endurance race.
You spend a lot of time, resources and energy working towards the goal. Don’t change your equipment the day of– I walked halfway across campus with the podium I had practiced with, and the night before you realize you have done everything you can at this point and just need to get some good sleep. Afterwards, I was able to spend about a week and half in South Dakota before heading back to ND for graduation. I was able to get some trail riding in with Barb why home. I’m now on my way back to South Dakota and will head down to CO in about a week for Leadville. After Leadville, it’s back to law school!
It happened to be baton twirling national championships at ND this weekend and I found a discarded baton in the grass that allowed me to relive my glory days, much to the amusement of my family- ha!
I had initially planned to have a few days at the end of my trip but with some scheduling conflicts it worked out better to make a long weekend of it (my research budget did not get approved for that much time in Geneva). I had initially thought of going to Lauterbrunnen or Zermatt but one of my good friends has spent time in Chamonix, doing the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc (163 km race and she crushed it) and just wrapped up a month of skiing so with someone being familiar with the area that I could pick for trail recommendations (and the fact that it’s wayyyy cheaper than Switzerland) that was all it took.
I planned to only do one posting about my time in Chamonix but rather than encumber you with an insane number of photos thought I would break it down into two days for each post. I arrived Friday night after taking a shuttle from Geneva and just in time for yoga hosted by Patagonia. Normally I avoid studios (shout out to YogaGlo on my computer) but figured it would be a good way to get some stretching in for the next day. Thus, I attended my first bilingual yoga class.
Saturday I decided to ease into being here so only sought out a trail that was about 2 hours give or take. I went up to the Cascade du Dard and then continued on the trail to the La Para. I thought about continuing on but didn’t want to overdue it with the next few days allowing for more time on the trail.
Today at the recommendation of my friend I took the trail up to the Lac Blanc. I started in Chamonix and at the recommendation of the Tourism office took the tram up the first leg (they said it would save me 3 hours of hiking and they told me to plan for a 7 hour day without the initial hike). I opted for the tram, which meant I was sweating profusely before I even got to the trail (still an abnormally high amount of anxiety in them). The signage is fairly good but because of my poor sense of direction I took off in the one wrong direction I could have gone and spent an hour getting up to Col Du Brevent. I back tracked (it was only about 15 minutes down if that gives you an idea of steepness) and got on the right trail.
It was sometimes hard to focus on running though as each step offered a new view of the surrounding landscape and it was hard to contain my excitement.
After passing through the last hut before Lac Blanc I had assumed I was nearing 14,000 feet elevation (later I saw I was only at 8,000-what?). My breathing felt labored, my legs were starting to retain lactic acid (is this what people deal with going to Leadville?!? Yikes!). It’s the only time I’ve noticeably felt the effects of the altitude but continued to scamper up the trail, hoping it would be worth it.
It was, I was in complete awe that my travels allowed me to come here, my mouth was completely open as a surveyed the landscape, is this real life—EEEEEK! Major fan girl moment. How has it taken me this long to get here?!
I was a little low on water at this point and wasn’t sure if I would make it back without running out so instead opted to go left towards Argentiere instead of right back to Chamonix (it was still about 90 minutes down as opposed to the 3 hours it would have taken because I was not going down in the tram). Then opted for the bus, fortunately I had enough left over skittles to contain me until the bus arrived
Hoping to go up the other side tomorrow and reach De L’Aiguille.
Here are a few more photos from today- if you want access to the full 150 (probably why it took me so long to get anywhere today), I’ll send you the google photo link!
And if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! To reward you here is a PSA on the use of SPF 100, it only works when applied correctly! Looks like I’ll be rocking the pantsuit the rest of the week- ha!
When I was initially packing I opted against bringing any cycling gear, thinking it wouldn’t be worth having for maybe one or two rides. I should have thought about at least packing cycling shorts.
I had some free time last Friday afternoon so wandered into a bike shop to see about renting a bike to cruise around Geneva for the next day. I opted for a fitness bike (flat bar) and asked about some routes to get out of town, it was suggested that I do the group ride on Saturday. “They’ll all have road bikes though, right?” “Yep…” “Okay, can I get a road bike.” When in Rome…errr Switzerland.
I showed up the next morning thinking it would be a 90 minute ride with an hour or so coffee break. I opted against buying cycling shorts (it was hard to justify given how many I have at home) so showed up in spandex, tennis shoes, a camelbak and casual sunglasses – I was ready. Dressing like a newbie I graciously took any helpful hints that came my way, like recommendations for shifting. What instead happened was 4 hour ride with about 3,700 feet of climbing– definitely my longest ride since Leadville. Thankfully I’ve never had saddle issues and while padded shorts would have been nice it wasn’t as terrible as I was envisioning. It was a little unnerving descending without being clipped in. I found it similar to getting into an uncomfortable yoga pose when you realize how tense you are and have to remember to breath.
I survived and even made some friends, a nice lady from Arizona who was leaving on Sunday to do some bike packing around Switzerland. We started chatting and she told me her route and I talked about riding with her for part of the way on Sunday and then turning back. We started talking with another guy who was going to do a winery tour by bike the next day and the town just happened to be on the route. We opted to ride to Nyon on Sunday and then go to the wineries with him and then figure it out.
Switzerland has amazing bike routes all over the country with really nice signage so leaving Geneva we took route 1 over to Nyon, about 18 miles or so. A few roads I was surprised to see cars on as they weren’t very much wider than a bike path. The wine tasting was fun, I keep thinking in a few more years my palate will expand to include enjoying red wines, but most I tried weren’t terrible, and there were some great white wines. It was nice to spend the day outside of Geneva and on some desolate country roads to get to the various wineries. We ended up spending most of the afternoon cruising around and when the time came I opted for the train back so I wouldn’t have to ride alone into the dark (your welcome, Mom).
The next day was a national holiday, which I didn’t find out until Friday otherwise might have tried to plan a bit more. After spending two days on the bike without a chamois wasn’t sure I was up for a third. Fortunately I have a friend who is a pro-traveler and I was texting her Monday morning about how everything was shut down. She suggested going to the train station if I wanted to get coffee and upon my arrival there was so tempted to buy a ticket on the next train out. The first place that pulled up was Lausanne and recognizing it as a recommended place to see and feeling a little serendipitous bought the ticket and took off for the day. I didn’t even bring a sweater because I had no thoughts when I was leaving the hotel that I wouldn’t be back in 20 minutes.
I’m glad I went even with most of the shops closed for the holiday it was still a gorgeous town to walk around in. Fortunately the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne was open. It was consecrated in 1275!
It even has a lookout which is open. I read that the lookout has been open since 1405, walking up the concrete steps they were certainly worn from where people had walked.
I was also able to see the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, which was shut down for the holiday but still impressive from the outside no less. I’m sure the habits of visiting churches and court houses stems from trips I took as a child but I like to think they complement each other well, as my dad says, “you get law in this life and justice in the next.”
This weekend I was able to take a few extra days and I’m headed to Chamonix, France. Hoping Get some trail running in and pick up some dirt for my soul.
This is severely overdue and really no excuse not for getting to it sooner. Here is the story about how I hilariously acquired a national championship.
I heard this story about this girl who moved to a really remote country and sought out various sports to try and secure a spot at the Olympics. I thought about her story a lot on my way to FB Nationals. I had secured a fat bike from the shop that sponsor’s ND cycling team. And I kept checking registration because at the time of signing up I was the only one registered, is this really how I win a national championship? Just by showing up?
I drove up the night before and left with enough time to get there about 15 minutes before registration closed. That way I would know if anyone else registered and then could plan for the next day. I arrived, picked up my packet, confirmed that no one else had registered and realized there was no snow.
My race didn’t start until 2:45pm so that morning I woke up, ate breakfast, did some yoga and then headed to a coffee shop to get some school work done. I arrived at the venue and went to scout the scene. I even asked again if anyone was in my category, still no one but was told we’d be doing 4 laps instead of the advertised 3. Hmm, I guess with no one else in my category I’ll just use the first lap as a warm up. I changed and then putzed around, riding the bike around to make sure the fit was good and double checked the tire pressure. With about 10 minutes to go I rolled up to the staging area.
“Are you Kate?” A USACycling official inquired. “Yep, that’s me!” I replied. “Okay, great, there is one more in your category, so we’ll start you with the guys but then you’ll be in your own race.” Uhhhwhhhhhat, I thought for sure there was some mistake and now was really regretting not warming up. I figured she MUST be on a single speed because that category went off at the same time and since I had been informed MULTIPLE times there was no one else that surely must be it. I took a breath, the girl rolled up, nope she definitely has gears. “Hi, I’m Kate, uh, you’re racing in the women’s category?” Maybe she zipped tied her gears and is still doing single speed. She told me she was in another category but decided to switch to this one this morning. Okay, welp this is my life now–Probably should have warmed up.
The gun went off and we took off with the guys, I settled into a comfortable pace and let the lady set the pace just in front of me. A few times I thought about making a move but with it being 4 laps to go realized it was a long time for the race to still unfold. Just sit in behind her, conserve energy and make your move later. Something that I’m not the best at.
One spot had iced over and my wheel slid out, somehow I managed to save the bike from going down (good thing too because it was a rental). I lost a few seconds off her wheel but wasn’t worried. We approached a slight uphill turn and I decided to take the outside line when the lady went down in front of me–hard. I slowed down and asked, “Are you okay?!?” She replied she was fine and I kept riding. Well, guess the time trial starts now. I increased my pace to try and gain a few seconds on her. I kept riding and counted to see how many seconds she was back on me, 9 or 10. I didn’t want to be leading this soon into the race and tried to focus on the guys in front of me. One lap down, 3 to go, I settled into my pace and tried to maintain. I always think of Molly on races like this, there is one section that I tend to lag, usually after the first lap when I settle in. In high school when I used to run the 800m, Molly would be on the backside yelling at me not to slack off. I kept that in mind while also trying not to redline the entire race.
The 2nd lap was similar to the first, I battled back and forth with one guy but more just because he outpaced me on the descents and I beat him on the flats and the climbs. I messed with the fork a little bit, having never ridden a fat bike to see if it rode better with the suspension on or off, I couldn’t really tell. Which is probably why I’m not selected to do product reviews. I kept vigilant over the place I almost went down and where the lady went down to make sure I wasn’t rallying too hard. I was still looking to see how close the lady was to me but couldn’t see her and tried to stay focused on my race. Half way done and onto the 3rd lap. I started to feel a little too confident when I slid out on the ice that I had slid on before, except this time I didn’t catch myself and went down. Ahhh, the bike! Fortunately my body switched to primitive mode and sacrificed itself to save the bike. Perfect. I hopped back up and tried to clammer back on but my tights caught on the seat which suddenly turned my ballet move more into a horror-show maneuverer. With a lot of hopping, dancing and twirly around, I untangle and gingerly got back on. That lady is definitely going to catch me now! I made it up the slick hill followed by a loop around and into the woods and one steep pitch. I circled back around to see the finish line–one more lap to go, except there wasn’t– as I cross they told me I’m done– they decided on 3 laps instead of 4.
I crossed the finish line in probably the least climatic mode of anyone to every win a national championship…welp, this is my life.
I keep questioning the validity of the win–but then I see my jersey, I think, well that counts–maybe more people will see how easy it is to claim a national title and show up next year. While I’m not sure my friends understood exactly what the race entailed, they were no doubt willing to help me celebrate.
The two race photos and the podium shot were taken by Dejan Smaic- his work can be found at: http://www.sportifimages.com
The one thing that was nice about Cyclocross Nationals being held in Hartford, CT was given the weather conditions of the week, it was a different course every day, and even changing while racing. The course for collegiate was muddy and messy with the back section of the course taken out. By the time Saturday rolled around the course was covered in iced-out ruts, and a light dusting of snow. The back section was opened up and with the single speed I wasn’t sure what to anticipate for lap times, or really anything for that matter. I could bore you with the race write up, but as they say a picture is worth a thousand words–and these pictures offer up enough words.
There was riding but there was a lot of sliding too–this is why I don’t get paid the big bucks. I slid down the big hill (in the pictures below) every lap. I never intended to but that seemed to be how it always worked out. There were a few thoughts that crossed my mind during the race, but the main one was, I do not want to hit my head again, so rode a bit more cautious than I otherwise would have–you’re welcome, Mom.
Fortunately for me, Aaron Andrew was there to capture the moments.
Then there was some more running.
And bike wrangling
I was done with the race before I was ready to be done. For being a fair-weather rider I actually had a lot of fun and stayed warm the whole time (thanks for the pro tips, Sully!). I had so much fun that I signed up for Fat Bike Nationals this weekend in Michigan–I have never ridden, let alone raced a fat bike. The race is only 2 hours away so figured why not. Then I’ll probably take a little break from racing.
I heard back from Leadville, I didn’t get in through the lottery. For how much I had initially planned on not doing it, when the email finally arrived I was devastated. I was a little surprised but maybe it is really blind since winning my age group didn’t seem to help me get in. Still trying to figure out if I want to do a qualifier or just sit this one out. Either way lots of other things to focus on this summer!
I don’t have an iron stomach. That person in our family with that is actually our dog Nessie, she’s eaten 6 whole chickens (bones included) in her life time and has remained un-phased. I know my limits, like how many M&Ms I can eat before throwing them all up on the side of the trail. And usually what to avoid and when.
The morning of collegiate nationals was the same as every race morning, same breakfast, same coffee. I went to make a bottle of skratch to drink in the time between packing up and getting the race venue but couldn’t find it. No worries, I had beet juice which was lower calories so would just throw a bag of gushers in to get me to where I needed to be. Done.
I got to the venue and warmed up on the trainer, I had pre-ridden the course the day before, the unrelenting rain had made it slick but with many sections still ridable.
I reviewed the course in my mind, this line on that section, remember that feature. I went to the start without too many layers on and took my place after they had called me up. I didn’t know where to start so slotted in behind one of the girls I recognized. The start was fast beginning on pavement and immediately threw us straight into the mud. It was chunky, peanut butter mud and the bike squirmed beneath me. I got it back and had some grass to recoup on only to be fed into the next section that was again, completely thick mud that reduced my cadence and increased my power output. Pushing through this section and expending all the gushers I had eaten earlier I was met with the “Bonk Breaker Hill” where it just opens up on the hillside and becomes ‘choose your own adventure’ to get up it.
I jaunted up at an angle to reduce the total ground coverage that I would need. At the top it was still not ridable and I continued to just slog away across the top of this hillside. Getting over the hillside only proved to have an off camber section that had been rutted in so much that everyone was still running. Around that section and I was greeted with a nice grassy downhill, only to land again in a huge mud section. It was flat and not terribly rutted so could muster through, from there we were swung around to the pit (where you can get a different bike). I opted to wait thinking I would want my “A” bike for this next section. I was wrong, everything had gotten incredibly torn up and the water had seeped into any exposure in the ground making for a very precarious situation. I fumbled and bumbled through the dicey section as spectators yelled. I regretted not switching my bike out as mine had become so covered in mud that it added at least 5 pounds. Finally a cement slab offered a reprieve to get back on my bike and pedal. That was short lived as I was soon off, only to get back on, to get off, run over some barriers, hop on, to hop off, run down a hill, and then up, hop on, and around a curve into the flyover. I managed to pedal up to the flyover but with too little of speed I had to hop off and run up, hop on and ride down, turn a corner and hop off, hop on mash through the mud and hop off and finally hop back on and head to the finish. Oofta. Lap one done.
My stomach was a little upset but I just figured it was due to all the running and it would work out on the second lap. The lines that were initially rideable had gotten bogged down and it was more of just mashing through. I went into the pit and did my first bike exchange only having talked through what to do the day before. I nailed it, right Drew? Or at least managed to do it without falling on my face. I opted to switch to my single speed on this section because with all running my single speed is lighter to carry. I was back in the pits and switching out bikes again before I knew it. My A bike came back clean which meant it would also be lighter to carry and I took off running the back section in the woods. The second lap was very similar to the first lap except for crashing right before the barriers as I slid around the corner and went down. I got back up and lugged my now very muddy bike over the barriers with me.
As this point in the race I had no idea where I was in relation to anyone else and my stomach was still acting up. I did more running and made it to the finish line to be told 2 more laps. I floundered my way to the pits and grabbed my singlespeed back to be informed I was in 15th, dang I don’t even see anyone that I could catch. I ran up the hill to find that my stomach was feeling better, it must have worked itself out. I stuck to the same routine as the 2nd lap opting to run most of the places. I got done with my third lap and went out for the final lap, somewhat surprised: if you are too slow (compared to the leaders) they don’t let you go but I made it. I ran into the pits yelling “they let me do the final lap- suckers!” and grabbed me other bike. Last time up the hill and over on the crest I saw a girl in front of me. Maybe, just maybe I could catch her. Down the hill and back into the pits where I was offered a beer, “Sorry I only drink tequila” and rode away. Slightly less dramatic exit as I was having to hop back off and run again. It wasn’t until the barriers that I thought this girl was really in reach, we had just taken over another girl who was running and I was planning my attack, not too early because I’m not sure I have it in me to go hard from this point. I would edge up to her wheel and then she would take a better line, I would edge her and she would stay on. Finally I was able to run around her and get back on my bike faster, or at least it seemed like it. I had miscalculated and turned the corner to realize there was another roundabout.
Oh crap, so I started to dig and started to dry heave. Oh no, this is not good. I was so close to the finish, my stomach was churning and the involuntary reaction was getting less intermittent, don’t let her catch you, heave oh no, oh no, oh no. I saw the finish line I was so close, and as I crossed that was it, I dangled by handlebars I threw up beet juice all over my leg and the side. Oops.
I ended up 13 out of 25 without knowing what to expect my only real goal was to finish on the lead lap and not get pulled. It was incredibly fun, even with all the running and mud and fortunately for me I get to do it all again in the single speed category.
*The hop on and offs that I write about are not as smooth as they seem here but instead become more laborious for me with each one I do and eventually losing all form and efficiency. Really quiet a show.
There was one thing I was absolutely certain of after I finished Leadville this year–I would not be back, at least not in 2017. I figured it would be time for a break and well training with law school didn’t leave me as the nicest person to be around. I knew I would be in the same position with graduate school as I was with law school except adding being out of the country for 6-8 weeks doing research. The thought of having to train towards a PR would be an added stressor that I didn’t need, right?
The cookies on my computer seem to know me well enough to have placed ads for the Leadville Lottery, hmmmmm….no, no, no. In the midst of finals I had a break that allowed me to go into Chicago for a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief. There I ran into Michelle who ran crew last year for her wife, Sharon at Leadville. Sharon had been pulled off the course at mile 73, compounded by a multitude of factors, getting cold, staying cold, which led to not taking in any food and limited hydration. I was amazed to hear that she had made it 73 miles on one gel and about 20 oz. of water before finally meeting the Cutoff Queen at Pipeline Aid Station. I had my reasons for not signing up, school, relationships, training time. Each one, Michelle provided a counter point for, and she’s not even a lawyer (just married to one). It wasn’t until after we watched a short video of girls riding bicycles to get to school that Michelle posed the option, what if I paced Sharon to the finish? Hmmm, okay that was definitely intriguing, I wouldn’t have to worry about hitting any PR and it would be a great way to actually enjoy the race without worrying about my performance. I texted Sully, “On a scale of 1 to you’ll break up with me- what are you thoughts on Leadville next year?” He was less than enthused. I tabled it for a while to get through finals but all while still playing the option out in my mind.
After finals I got to Boulder and talked to Sully more about it, “I feel that it’s a good option for me to ride and not race, because there is no way I can train for a PR or even top my performance from last year with having to deal with school, research, and defend a thesis. It gives me a way to still be involved with Leadville and WBR. I can train to finish though and I know the course so well that I could help her reach her goal of finishing. And I would only be signing up for the lottery, the chance to race.” It took a few conversations but Sully and my mother (still hesitant) got on board. Yes, this is all just to have a chance of registering because it’s all done through a lottery system. I haven’t had to deal with that in a few years because I was always able to qualify through the 50 miler but I opted against it this summer because I was sure that I would not be racing in 2017.
I am officially registered and put Sully’s name in too just for good measure.
One thing that I decided to accomplish this year since Leadville wouldn’t be an issue is Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim. Starting on one rim of the Grand Canyon, running to the other, turning around and running back. It’s about 42 miles of running/hiking. I’ve had it on my radar for a while.
I tried to talk my brother into it in 2011 but he was busy with law school and then I got into cycling so didn’t give it much thought until this past summer. I had a conversation with one of the WBR girls in Leadville about it and she was definitely interested. Once I got back to school I started a list of potential girls who would maybe be interested. I really kept meaning to send an email to start the conversation but I always came up with a reason not too, because if I sent the email it would become very real.
In Boulder I did a 4 mile trail run with Sully and then got enough courage from drinking a whole bottle of wine to write the email and sent it to 5 girls. All more experienced runners than me, one having done The Leadville run a handful of times, she and another one have done R2R2R before. One completed an Ironman that qualified her for the World Championship, one having done multiple distance trail races, and one being a friend from high school who has a handful of marathons under her belt and I knew if she said yes, my mom would be more inclined to let me go (similar to many events in high school). Regardless of skill level they all have easy-going personalities and seem down for a good time. I was expecting to get maybe 2 of them to respond with yes, instead I got all of them. I am beyond excited, and hoping that the logistics for everyone to get there will work out. Right now we’re looking at going the beginning of April. I’ve been looking at training plans, but realize I almost need to train for a training plan for conquering a 50 mile ultra race.
I’m planning on beginning to run in about a week or so. Right now Sully and I are on our way to Hartford, CT for Cyclocross Nationals. I’ll be able to race collegiate nationals and then also signed up for single speed because if I’m going might as well make it worth it. I’m excited, although my training has been slightly sub-par, going in with the mindset to have fun and see friends rather than focus on the results.
I told Sully before the my first cross race a few weeks ago that I wished all my fitness for 10 hours at Leadville would compound down into 30 minutes. He reminded me that it didn’t really work like that.
I haven’t had to deal with USACycling in any real capacity until this last race. I bought my collegiate cycling license and because I had never had one before was placed in the bottom category, okay no big deal. I immediately applied for an upgrade after copying and pasting my racing resume, while non of my past races have been ‘sanctioned’ under USACycling I figured they would at least be able to see that I knew what I was doing. Denied. I tried again, going a little more in depth with what I had accomplished. Denied again. They don’t take non-USACycling races into account at all–uhh…okay. I wasn’t that upset except for the fact that I would be racing at 8am and not 11. Sully joked that it was almost like doing Leadville to have to wake up that early. Even though I had applied for an upgrade to Cat A, I still had no idea what to expect in Cat B. Cat B’s were grouped in with all women Cat 4 and junior girls, with all the women starting a minute after the cat 5 guys. My experience with cyclocross is limited, last year I only did two races and raced against the same fast lady both times.
The morning of the race I got to the venue with Sully and had just enough time to sit on the trainer for 7 minutes–I quickly worked to get my heart rate up. It was still chilly and the fog had yet to lift and as I sat on the trainer and my angst with USACycling grew more, it was early, cold, and not enough time to drink all the coffee, and they couldn’t give me an upgrade-gahhh.
At the start line, I was in the back because I haven’t done any races so my call up was last–the gun went off and we all jockeyed for position on the straight pavement before it funnelled into the grass. I was about mid-pack and followed a girl an S-turn when she went down. I bobble and had to put a foot down and re-negoiate around the line I had been on. The next feature was four spaced out steps which required hoping off the bike, running up, and hopping back on. I’m not the smoothest at these transitions but as we approached I realized that my technique (albeit ugly) might give me a slight advantage to make up time.
We kept riding in a pack, and was unsure at what point we would spread out. The course winds around into the forest and feeds into a 50 foot or so sand pit with a 180 at the end. I had practiced riding in the day before but realized during the race that those in front of me were getting off and thought I should follow their lead. I hoped off, threw my bike on my shoulder, like Sully had shown me the day before, and started running and after a few paces I realized I could run faster and work to get in front of people that way.
This was a nice realization, even if I can’t ride that fast at least I can out run them on one short section, perfect. I jumped back on my bike and rode the next, much shorter sand section, which I almost got through without face-planting but cut the corner a little too close and dug my front wheel in a little too hard and went over a little too fast. Slightly embarrassing, but the plus to racing at 8am is that there aren’t that many spectators. I got up and hopped back on to catch back up to the girl in front of me.
The course was really fun. The mid-section in the woods had some technical features that I knew my mountain bike skills would help on and hopefully help me to catch up to the other girl, or give me the over confidence to embarrass myself again. I did catch her in the back section but was nervous with the next feature being a stair run. After sprinting up the stairs there isn’t much of a platform to get back on my bike before plunging back down to the course. It caused for some slightly sketchy descents with not a firm grasp with either hand.
There is one last sandpit that is just long that it was worth running, followed by a straight away, one sketchy, steep descent that always made my stomach drop, another up, down, hop off and run up the hill and then the first lap was done. 2 to go. On the pavement to gather speed and go into the S curves. Up the stairs and and into the woods, run the sandpit, back into the woods…this is where I noticed that something had made my bike slightly angry how far would I have to run at this point, the chain was making a lot of noise and it was skipping around on the rear cassette when I wasn’t shifting.
I kept trying to find a good gearing that it would want to stay on but to no avail so I did the next logical thing, start praying — I got through the entire rosary while trying to calculate how much further I would have to run if my bike broke. I tried not to mash the pedals going on the climbs and gingerly shift. One more lap, I kept checking my chain to see if maybe something had just gotten stuck in it. Sully had told me I had about 20 seconds up on second place towards the start of the third lap. Again, run the sand, into the woods, “our father…please don’t let my bike break.” I kept riding, gingerly shifting and getting off at any uphill that I thought would make it more cantankerous. I was finally on the last push uphill when I decided it would be okay if my bike broke because I could make it to the finish and still maybe win. It didn’t break and I was able to finish 1st overall for the wave and finished 5 minutes ahead of the 2nd place Collegiate B ride. I told Sully later that my bike had been making a weird noise. He went through it and found that my chain had broken and was shocked that it hadn’t come off while I was racing.
Not to put the horse before the carriage but I started talking about what to do for an upgrade. Mainly because there was a race the next day and was debating doing it. There wasn’t a collegiate category and my collegiate license wouldn’t cover it so I would have to get a non-collegiate license in order to race and upgrade in that category which would upgrade me in collegiate (is that not clear to anyone else?). The reason I wanted to figure out the upgrade was because it was one of the last races I could get to before Nationals and you have to be an “A” to race Nationals. I figured it would be fun to road-trip out with Sully and fun to race even if I get clobbered on. I talked to an official who wasn’t terribly helpful and slightly discouraging. I went through all the scenarios with Sully and finally figured if I wanted an upgrade I probably needed at least another good race result so I didn’t come off as a one-hit-wonder. I found an official who was helpful and told me to track him down the next day for an email about an upgrade.
That night I did what I could to recover, which wasn’t much, except wash my kit in the hotel sink because I had only planned on racing one race that weekend- Ha!
The next morning was more angst, but at least with daylight savings time it wasn’t as dark or as cold. The field looked similar to the day before but with some new faces. I had no idea how my legs were going to respond to a second day in a row of racing. Sully had told me, don’t go out too hard, just sit and see what happens. I tried that but by the time we were off the pavement I was behind only 2 girls. I hand’t intended to go out that hard but also didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone on the technical sections. By the time we were up the 4 stairs I was in the front and with my shifting much better and I utilized it. Into the woods, and into the sandpit–I’m not sure what that says about me as a bike race if I think the running sections are my strong suit. The race course was mostly the same as the day before with one of the back sections cut shorter which nearly caused me to go through the course tape as I hadn’t anticipated it. I was able to maintain my lead throughout the race and hold on through the finish.
After talking to the conference director he suggested waiting till December so I only have to buy a 2017 license (the year runs January to January) and then apply for my upgrade and then get my collegiate license and will be upgrade automatically after the non-collegiate upgrade. Knock-on-wood but if everything works out I’m be able to race collegiate nationals–and spend more time with this guy.
I thought I would keep rolling after Leadville and try to maintain my fitness into cross season and maybe even do some collegiate mountain biking. I did one race, and then had two weddings the next two weekends (both so much fun!). I was then going to try and race Madison the following weekend. However, after returning from wedding number 2, I found myself on antibiotics for the first time in over 10 years. Which made me so grateful for the access I had to get them quickly but it still took a lot out of me, leaving me off the bike for over 3 weeks.
For the second wedding in Colorado I was able to sneak in some rides between wedding activities. I was able to meet up and ride with my friend Nicola before she left for Namibia. The last time we were able to ride together was when we raced Iceman…on a tandem and she was stuck behind me for 30 miles.
More bike riding….never a dull moment with Dave…
While I thought I would be spending the next weekend racing in Madison there was no way my body would have made it though the race but I still went up to hangout with Sully and his team. It was the first time I had seen him since Leadville (yay… long distance, school and race schedules). It’s also the first race I’ve been to in a long time that I wasn’t racing at–which was nice but also made me realize I’m not exactly ready to be a spectator.
The only biking that happened in the next week was when Mary Clair came to visit for a football game and I talked her into riding bikes around campus–last time we rode bikes together was before 2010…
This past week was fall break and I spent it with Molly and Abe down in Florida. I did some running to start building my fitness back up and to start working off all the candy I’ve been eating.
When I got back I decided to finally go for a bike ride. I took the cross bike because I’m going to try and race in 2 weeks (we’ll see how it goes with this much time off). The trail system had a few more exposed roots and down leaves than I was expecting so it led to some questionable handling skills but made me excited to take my mountain bike out there. And so 2 months after finishing Leadville, I finally feel like I’m ready to get back to riding.
Jered and Ashley Gruber also took some really great photos from Leadville that are amazing and worth sharing (even though it’s a little late on my part).
The next race I’m planning on is in Lousiville, KY. Sully will be there and it’s also collegiate conference champs so thought it might be a good way to keep my options open for nationals. To get a spot for nationals you just need to race in the conference championship so don’t think I’m planning on getting close to winning with taking 3+ weeks off the bike 🙂
School has been very busy, about the same stress level as law school, but with much less anxiety. Our grades aren’t the sole result of one four hour exam at the end but instead with lots of weekly and daily assignments. Working on narrowing down my thesis but looking at viral sovereignty and how it plays out in the international legal arena so we’ll see where it takes me!