Back for Redemption

I raced Derby City Cup this past weekend. It might have been the most challenging cross course I’ve ever been on– or I’m really out of shape–maybe a little of both. I can tell you this whole Law School thing really cramps on my training (and blog writing- if you haven’t noticed).

I only planned to race on Saturday, because law school and was hoping for a decent result. I raced in Boulder over Fall Break and did okay and was hoping to get a good enough result here to at least get a decent starting position at nationals. Saturday started as a bit of a mess, I forgot to pre-register so did day of. This is the only race that this has happened in but there were 4 categories starting at once and instead of dividing us into those categories or some division it seemed that they called us based off of when we registered, where did homegirl end up? Second to last called! Which isn’t a big deal when only 10 women show up but fortunately more women are racing so that means I was about 6 rows back from the front. Yikes!

I took off with the group and quickly found myself passing people, I mean when you start in the back that’s the only viable optionAlright! After about 50 yards it’s a little incline and left turn to get onto the grassy, slicky course. I wasn’t too worried about it but soon found myself getting bumped at less than optimal timing and my bike getting hooked around a pole. I went down and my bike created a barrier so nobody ran over me, just my bike. After getting untangled I got up and found myself quickly in the position I had started. Dead last.

Derby City Hill Climb
Photo by: Meg McMahon 

I jumped back on my bike which made a few cantankerous noises and gingerly pedal through the remaining mud. Back on course I slowly caught people going into the stair flyover. There was one girl that I felt really bad for, I think she had crashed or just wasn’t feeling it- either way she was crying (we’ve all been there) fortunately for me, her name was Kate too so it seemed like a lot of people were cheering for me.

941A5961
Photo by Meg McMahon 

The middle part of the course was the toughest with the course dipping in and out of a bowl.  After going by the pits the first time, it’s a long off-camber descent followed by a short punchy climb into an off-camber slope that loops around a tree and then followed by stone stairs. Some relief is granted with a descent that was filled with muddy ruts and really poor line choices. The kicker was then a slope steep enough that everyone was running followed by a slow-grind up a patch of pavement then back down into the bowl and another hill to climb out and back by the pits. After the pits there were two barriers on the back section and then back through the start. Enough of a space to recover and see the lap counter that said 3 to go. Oh this is going to be fun.

I started lap two being mindful of the pavement to grass spot where I went down. Having ridden one lap I knew where my strengths would be (descending) and where my weaknesses were (climbing) but I also knew that I could ride smoother through some areas. Lap two remained uneventful, minus the dry heaving after the stone stairs. I’ve also come to realize that I am most terrible at getting back on my bike on a slight incline–like embarrassingly terrible. 

941A5989
Photo by: Meg McMahon

Through the finish line of lap two I saw two to go. Uhhh I can’t believe I have to do this course two more times. I don’t have a powermeter on my cross bike (I know, slumming it up) only heart rate and I was maxed out; between the hoping off, running the stairs, descending, and sustained climbs I was doing all I could to hold on. The third lap was better, smoother, more consistent. Still I dry heaved after the stone steps–man, is it possible I had too much bacon this morning (the answer is always no-even if you are dry heaving).

941A5956
Photo by: Meg McMahon

By mid-way the third lap I had caught up to a few women and figured I would be able to work on passing them the rest of the race. I settled into a pace with them and held on. Over the barriers and around to the finish. One lap to go…oh nope- they are pulling us–which occasionally happens when you’re not fast enough or they miscalculated and need to stay on schedule. I rode past the finish with a girl that I know from racing and we talked about how challenging the course was. Disclaimer: Only three women in my category didn’t get pulled (which made me feel slightly better…)

941A6044
Photo by: Meg McMahon

Well shoot, I wasn’t planning on racing on Sunday because of law school but after a lackluster start I wanted to do better. At dinner on Friday night I had been talking about how law school has really changed my priorities for racing, it went from focusing on trying to win, or at least top five, to okay maybe just finish and have fun–one girl chimed in, and maybe don’t get pulled, and I was like welp, even then it’s not a problem. It’s also tough because after Saturday’s race it felt like I wasn’t able to give my best, I would have been fine with my result otherwise but with the poor start it just left me wanting more. If you haven’t picked up by now law school, at least for me personally, makes me feel like I’m terrible at a lot of things; law school, bike racing, personal relationship (like if I don’t wish you Happy Birthday, it might be because my mom hasn’t reminded me- that’s where I’m at right now- and I’m sure most of you reading this have been on the receiving end of a text reply at least a few days old). I labored over lining up on Sunday morning: Well it’s only 30 minutes instead of 40; it starts at 8 and we have the time change; but I’m on call in class on Monday; how much am I giving up vs. how much am I gaining. It wasn’t until Sunday morning at 6:20 am that I decided to race.

Round 2:

The nice thing about Cyclocross is that it usually is a Saturday/Sunday event which allows for redemption if you have a bad race on Saturday.

IMG_2671
The gaps were pretty big 

They didn’t do call ups on Sunday either but they at least put us in our respective categories. I took the outside line (as opposed to the inside from the day before). It still looked a wee bit slicky and thought it would at least give me more room to maneuver if I needed to. We were off! I was assuming that they hadn’t changed the course from the day before so still opted for some of my old lines but the mud was a little bit thicker so alternated with hitting the grass patches when I needed too.

IMG_2667
I always forget to not wear white for CX races…

My legs were a little tired from the day before but not as bad as I thought they would feel. I also knew going into the race we would only be doing 3 laps today and knew I could survive that. The top of the flyover is a little short and each time would only get one pedal clicked in before descending and praying that I wouldn’t manage to crash. I’m not sure if it’s the course design but gaps opened up rather quickly and they were big- I felt for the most part that I was riding alone.

FullSizeRender
Running up stairs: something I’m not the worst at! 

I had talked to one of my friends (who has lots of experience bike racing) the day before about my dry heaving, she asked if I was panic breathing. I didn’t think so but maybe unconsciously after crashing and trying to chase back I was. On Sunday, I tried to be conscious of my breathing and focus more on yoga breath. That didn’t work and I ended up dry heaving more times than the day before– I actually thought I was going to vomit on course and then everyone would know I’m terribly out of shape! Fortunately that didn’t happen. The race went smooth, and I felt content with my day on the bike. I moved up 3 positions from my finish the day before from 9th to 6th. Last year at Derby City, I won both days in my category but that’s okay–I knew this season would be a little rough.

I also think the dry heaving has to do with the humidity more so than my fitness. It didn’t happen to me during my race in Boulder, just places where it’s humid. Unless someone else has a different theory or we can just go with me being out of shape…

The next race before nationals that I’ve thought about doing is in Indianapolis next Sunday for our conference championships. That will really be a game time decision if I go based on how much work I can get done this week.

IMG_2676
And always, thanks for the support- I don’t know how Sully manages it all 

*Also please forgive all typos- I’m out of time to proof read and must get back to studying.

Jingle Cross

I bet you thought this post would be about the Leadville 100–me too but it turns out that writing about a 40 minute race while in law school is a lot easier than an 11:30 race – stayed tune though.

I moved up categories at the end of last season in order to get to nationals which was great at the time but some what regrettable going into Jingle Cross. Primarily because it put me in a faster category with less training. It was hot in Iowa City, which meant deciding if I should ride with a bottle or not. After doing a lap preview I decided against it so I could more easily carry the bike. I knew either way I would probably regretting having it or not having it.

All women started together (cat 1-4) which was good and bad. Good because I wouldn’t necessarily know who was in my category, bad if I got last out of everyone not just my category.

The race started on a flat paved straight away before funneling in the dirt/grass section. The gun went, everyone lurched forward and started sprinting, my heart rate spiked and I immediately questioned why I was doing this. Hitting the dirt I settled into my pace and the group quickly got strung out. At this point I might have lost sight of the leaders but early on it became a game of survival. The course went through some curves up over a flyover and then into Mt. Krumpit. Sidenote: Mt. Krumpit is the premier feature at the race with two small logs at the bottom of a steep hill. Perfect location for spectators.

bottom of krumpit
Okay, so maybe the logs are rideable?

Going into it I knew that I wanted to be off the bike before the logs to run up. Run up? I meant walk up. Thank goodness my category all took the quick, brisk walk up instead of running up the incline (is that the mentality I should have for racing?).

walking up mt. krumpit
This is why cyclocross is so hard to explain.

Getting back on the bike at the top was never a smooth transition, there is something about still being on an incline that really just throws me off. At the top it shoots down into the sandpit which after entering I would take about three pedal turns, hop off and run the rest of the 20 yards or so. I was able to make up a few spots here each time but it would seem almost just as quickly relinquish them.

IMG_0066
It’s like choose your own adventure

The next feature on the course were two barriers, of all the cyclocross features this is the one that I’m the least worst at. I think it stems from my brief, uninspiring career as a track hurdler. In this moment I also realized why people where bibs/skinsuits to race as my jersey had pulled up exposing my blinding white stomach. Which then I spent most of the race wrangling to pull it back down. out of the barnThe course is on the county fair grounds so we actually weaved our way through two different barns with another little sandpit that fed into a staircase. The last little technical section was an off camber climb up which meant I had another disjointed hop back on the bike to descend and loop around to the finish. One lap done. Three to go.

climbing up
I have no idea what I’m doing

As the race wore on I regretted not having a bottle more and more. Each time up Mt. Krumpit was like getting sucker-punched, getting off the bike and climbing straight up the heat was all encompassing and leeched out any last resources that I had in my system. The breeze on the descents did little to offer reprieve because of how hot and dry it was. IMG_0161I finished the race in a sprint finish with a girl who I later found out was not in my category but it still counts…? I was 14 out of 22 for my category. I was hoping to get top-10 but given how little riding I did leading up to the race and the heat factor I was just happy I didn’t pass out.

I was able to get off the bike and lay in the grass and roll over just in time to dry-heave. While the heat was a factor, probably not a direct correlation to wanting to throw up. I was also in much better shape than a girl in front of me who was suffering from heat stroke and had to get a ride in the ambulance.

IMG_0180
Best mechanic in the business (I’m slightly biased)

The race served as a good motivator to actually start getting back into training and work to get faster and smoother on the technical aspects. Next up I’ll be racing in Boulder over fall break.

Cyclocross Singlespeed Nationals

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.

at-the-start
At the start, last minute strategizing with Sully 
hole-shot
Thanks to Meg McMahon for making me look like I’m fast
riding-3241414
Riding offered a precarious situation 

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. sliding898sliding-more4

sliding-looking-at-camera
Always ready for the camera! Ha 

going-down

sliding-falling

Then there was some more running.

running-1

And bike wrangling

bike-wrangling
I have no idea what I’m doing 
riding-and-smiling
And finally some riding. Photo: Meg McMahon
off-camber-2
A little more riding….Photo: Meg McMahon
running
And some more running! Photo: Meg McMahon

 

 

finish
And then I was done! Photo by: Ben Safryn 

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!

finsih-hair

Cyclocross Collegiate Nationals

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.

number pinning.JPG
Number pinning

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.

preride bike .JPG
My A bike after the preride 

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.

weldon weaver photo .jpg
Bonk Breaker Hill- Photo by Weldon Weaver 

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-46-24-pm
The top of Bonk Breaker Hill-Photo USA Cycling 

 

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.

throw-up
Nothing says you’ve arrived like throwing up across the finish line 

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.

after-finish
Is it over? 

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.

blood vs. beets .JPG
Some of this is mud, some is blood, and some is beet juice. 

 

*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.

Miles to Go

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?

img_8696
At WBR fundraiser…always ready to ride 

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. Screen Shot 2016-12-31 at 10.14.47 PM.png

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.

facebook-msg
5 years ago- at least one of us is a lawyer now

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.

4-mile-run
Only have to run 10 time the distance for R2R2R

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.

top of harney .jpg
Does this count as training? 

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.

bike
My bike is ready, even if I’m not