Cyclocross Nationals

I know with this post I’m bypassing mountain bike nationals, and two cyclocross races but figured I would at least catch up with Cyclocross Nationals. I jokingly called it the Cyclocross Nationals Stage Race because I signed up to do three races: Master’s 30-34; Collegiate; and Singlespeed. I’d also like to start off by saying I’m not 30 that’s just my racing age.

The week of nationals, I started Tuesday morning with a two hour final followed by three hours on the phone with my bank after discovering my bank account had been hacked. While the bank was accommodating having no local branch and all my accounts shut down I had about $40 left over from some prize winnings to get me to Louisville. Luckily my family was flying into Louisville the next day.

Emotions were running a little high and I’m pretty sure this is the point that I cried for a good 20 minutes. And then quickly added electrolytes to my water to replace what I just cried out. I departed for Louisville much later than anticipated, given my first race was at 9am the next morning. I made it there around 9:30 and stopped by Sully’s house to drop off a french press and make a race plan for the next day. He was also key in packing me breakfast since I hadn’t made or packed anything for breakfast.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

I picked Sully up the next morning around 7 and headed to the venue. I warmed up but didn’t preview the course–I had a general idea from racing there last year. I felt mediocre going to the starting line but was also sure that my body was on the verge of falling apart so felt like I had to gingerly balancing asking it to do more and being okay with what happened. At the start I knew that it was the most broken and battered my body has ever been going into a race. [To give you a brief preview of the week before I had two 10,000 word papers, one 8 hour final, one 5,000 word paper, and a two hour exam over the course of 7 days–I don’t think I slept more than 5-6 hours in the 10 days leading up to Nationals. That’s not to try and humble brag and be like look at everything I’m accomplishing (loosely applied), more of an observation that given some of the races I’ve completed and the limits I’ve pushed my body, this was the deepest I’ve had to reach into my well of resources.]

Rolling into the start gate–I know it looks like my legs are there but they are in fact not.

The race started and I had what was a pretty good start for me, finding myself just behind the leaders. The course is relentless, that’s one of the reasons I targeted nationals because I felt like it played to my strengths well–but only if I was having a good day, if my legs weren’t there, it would be a long race. After about 300 yards we reached the sandpit and the field started to spread out. At this point I felt like I had exhausted everything in my legs–it was going to be a long race. I spent the first two laps quietly asking my legs if they had anything in them. After that I pulled back and shifted into an easier gear to at least try to flush my legs out for the race the next day.

I know, I know, I’ve already been thoroughly made fun of for my socks

I also used the race as a true course preview, taking notes of various lines. The race finished and while the result might not have shown it (12th) I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do, preview the course and get my legs ready for the next day. I also felt like getting to the start line was a win.

This isn’t to say I was confident about Thursday’s race. I wasn’t at all, especially the way my legs responded during that race. But I was optimistic, for most races throughout the season I seem to have performed better the second day of racing, and that’s what I bet on by doing back to back races at Nationals. I was currently doubting this reasoning given what I had just put my body through with finals. After the race Sully and I went and ate tacos, analyzed the course and race tactics, and then I went home and put my legs up the rest of the afternoon, worked on one last 10,000 word paper until my family arrived. (They were delayed from the day before so that’s why there is only one photo from the first race). We went grocery shopping, to dinner, and to bed.

If I was going to have expectations for any of the races, Thursday’s race was it. I went through my usual race morning routine and went to the course early enough to ride one preview lap. The course had dried out a bit from the day before and sections that I was running the day before were now ridable. I did one lap and then went back to the tent and warmed up on the trainer. I only really had one goal for the race: not to panic. If I could stay calm even when things didn’t go my way I knew that would be the difference.

Because my start was so smooth the day before I was hoping for that, but instead when the gun went off I’m not sure what happened but I was nowhere to be found.

I had a lot of work to do at this point– if you can’t find me I’m at very right edge of the photo.

I told myself not to panic, even though in the back of my mind I knew that the race would be mostly decided on the first lap. I didn’t panic and made up some spaces in the grassy section that lead into the “key hole”. It was a rooted out section around a tree and I took the highline that I had done the day before knowing I could ride it, unfortunately the girl in front of my couldn’t and crashed. I had to get off my bike and run around her…don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic. From the day before I knew that I was faster to dismount at the start of the sandpit and run through it than ride half-way through and have to dismount and then run.

Exiting the sandpit

I did this on the first lap and was able to make up a bit of ground. I kept working to catch those in front of me. I knew I had to be strategic while not burning too many matches. And I was, before pit 2 I was able to make up significant ground and found myself in 5th.

Thank goodness for MTB skills

I then switched my mantra from don’t panic to smooth is fast. Like I said the course was brutal, after the keyhole and the sandpit was a flyover and then pit one, followed by a steep downhill, a steep corner up, brief time on pavement, around a tree, up stone stairs, down a chute, across a field, up a steep hill, back down, back up, to pit 2, under the fly over, over the barriers, and through the finish.

It was a slog into pit 2

With two laps to go I had caught the girl in fourth place and was bidding my time to pass her. I followed her through the first section of the course and after the first downhill when there was enough room made my move to pass her and I got around no problem. She stayed on my wheel through the next section, and after the downhill chute she took me over again. I tried to stay on her wheel but I might have made the move too soon because this was the point in the race that my legs finally realized what they were doing.

They weren’t completely dead but another surge of power was not in my cards. I had 3rd and 4th in my eyesight for the remainder of the race and finished with no mechanicals and I didn’t even have to switch out a bikes because the course wasn’t that muddy. I was able to stay in 5th place which I was really happy about–especially because they do the long podium at nationals.

Clearly did not bring clothes in the event of a podium position…

After that race I had even less expectations for the singlespeed race on Saturday. I had only signed up for it because I was going to be there had a bike and figured another nationals experience wouldn’t hurt. Because that was my attitude, after Thursday’s race I joined mainly the mechanics for the (and I’m totally going to botch this) Second Annual Bi-Annual Mechanic Lap.

Off season here I come!

Where you drink a beer at the start, the first pit, the second pit, and the finish. Handup Gloves even gave me a glove to better grip the can for chugging #sopro. It was fun and for guys who mostly work on bikes they are fast at running. Doug defended his championship and won, and I think Sully got 2nd or 3rd. I finished closer to last than the start but my chugging skills aren’t what they used to be and since I was the only girl won that category.

Friday I did what my coach told me to do and ate a lot of food and finished up my last paper. I think I only left the house to go get lunch and that was about it.

Saturday because it had been raining all Friday and misting Saturday morning the course was completely different conditions from the previous two races. I had been joking with Sully that my off season had started and I was prepared to take all the drink handups that were offered during the race. At the start I met my long lost cousin, Sarah (okay she hasn’t been lost but for a while now I’ve heard from other people that they’ve met my cousin at races, and I’m like who? Apparently we have the same great-great grandfather and same last name).

We didn’t even plan our braids

The race started and with it being my third race I felt pretty familiar with the course. The start was on pavement with a slight downhill which gave just enough speed that we hit the grass and it became a slip n slide. Luckily I didn’t slide out but a few did. I felt surprisingly strong and was able to ride the sand pit (it had been packed down quite a bit from the races). The downhill which was slightly sketchy when dry and even more challenging with mud caking the lines and covering up any potential hazards. I found that if I took the high line I could slide down while still staying in the course boundaries. I somehow managed to stay up. Right at the bottom of the hill Sarah went around me and got in front. Unlike Thursday, I stayed on her wheel.

Trying not to bring shame to our family

I slipped and slid the whole next section making my way to the stone stairs. What was once favorable sections had been replaced with decrepit lines. I made it to the stone stairs, which offered some stable footing as I bounded up them. After the stairs I went to get back on my bike to go down the chute when I realize why it’s so necessary to wear bibs during cross races (because it was going to be muddy opted for a pair of shorts because they had more black than my other pair of bibs). In my attempt to remount I somehow hooked my waist band behind my saddle and when I moved up to swing over the bike, my shorts moved down. Welcome to cyclocross, folks. I then had to stop, pull my shorts back up and at that point wasn’t worth remounting and just ran, mostly slid down the chute.

I was able to gingerly ride the section that traversed the hillside, but being at the ready to put a foot down. I mostly slid down to the bottom and then had to hop off and run the hill up to Pit 2, where I remounted just to switch bikes with Sully (my first bike exchange of the season, happening at the last race of the season).

I exited and re attached to Sarah’s wheel. We went under the flyover and over the barriers and through the finish to start our second lap. Similar to the other races, the gaps that were created were large we didn’t have anyone in front or behind us for about 15 seconds. The section between the start and pit 1, while wet, wasn’t too muddy so didn’t need to switch bikes out. I followed Sarah down the hill, still managing to stay upright. As we traversed back up to the stone stairs I made my move back around her, all the while running.

Still trying not to bring shame to our family

Right as I was approaching the stone stairs I saw Emily (an aerospace PhD student that raced against me in collegiate), standing there with a dixie cup of bourbon–well it is the offseason, so chugged what I could and continued on my way. I made it down the chute and traversed back across the hill. I ran up to Pit 2, and switched bikes out again. I came through the finish and was noted by the officials that I was done. No bell lap, or anything. Because of the course conditions, lap times were much slower- both Wednesday and Thursday I did five laps; Saturday I did two with the leaders doing three in the same amount of race time.

With one of the hardest working mechanics in the biz

After the race my mom asked me why they announced my name wrong the first few times, and I told her they didn’t there was two Ginsbach’s in the race. It was a proper ‘cross race to end my season on and the only time it was muddy enough during the season that I had to switch bikes. I got off my bike that day an only got back on it two days ago. It was a nice and much needed break.

And also took a few showers

I was lucky that my mom and Aunt Joyce and Margaret were able to be at the races. They were able to stake out around various points of the race and I feel like it really helped during Thursday’s race. And feel like most races that I have a crew at, they have to do something because it’s usually 100 miles whereas this one they could just cheer–I think I saw my mom more times in 40 minutes than I did during the Maah Daah Hey which took 12 hours.

At the start with Drew–I’m sure he was offering great words of wisdom

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Sully at Donnelly Cycling who was in the pits for me during Wednesday and Saturday’s races–and gave me warm-up space. And Drew who was in the pits for me on Thursday.

I loosely did exercise over break. I got Molly to hike Black Elk Peak with me when we were both home for Christmas.

Not even that cold!

I also did my first hut trip in Colorado (thanks to Sully and Jessie for all the gear). Which really just solidified my desire to move back there after graduation. It was my first time on skis in about 19 years and found that I really liked going up by was incredibly slow going down (you’re welcome, mom). The crew I was with was super nice about didn’t show annoyance with having to wait for me while I pizza’d down the mountain.

I spent my last weekend before school started in Miami with two college friends. It was the perfect ending to winter break and my time off the bike. It was nice to see my friends and the sun once more before entering the permacould in Indiana.


Fat Bike Nationals

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.

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Hopefully this is enough to get me through! #untapped 

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.

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Does it look like I know what I’m doing? Because I don’t. Photo: Dejan Smaic

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.

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Molly telling me how’s it’s done since 1989

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.

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I’m really not sure what is happening here but luckily Dejan Smaic captured my confusion

I crossed the finish line in probably the least climatic mode of anyone to every win a national championship…welp, this is my life.

 

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All by myself…. photo by Dejan Smeic 

 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. IMG_9028
The two race photos and the podium shot were taken by Dejan Smaic- his work can be found at: http://www.sportifimages.com

 

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.

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At the start, last minute strategizing with Sully 

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Thanks to Meg McMahon for making me look like I’m fast

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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

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Always ready for the camera! Ha 

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sliding-falling

Then there was some more running.

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And bike wrangling

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I have no idea what I’m doing 

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And finally some riding. Photo: Meg McMahon

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A little more riding….Photo: Meg McMahon

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And some more running! Photo: Meg McMahon

 

 

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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!

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