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.