Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zion 50K: Changing it up

Funny, the changes we experience in life. One of the hardest things in my 31.5 years of life has been accepting change. I've always taken pride in being a prepared person with a plan, but often became derailed and almost panicky when my plan was changed. Fortunately, going through physician assistant school while juggling a career as a professional cyclist (albeit with lots of tears and stress) forced me to reevaluate how I responded to change. The "cycling plan" and the "PA school plan" never seemed to jive quite right forcing me guessed it, change! My new outlook was best compared to the overused "Life is a journey, not a destination" theme. Never the less it seemed to be working for me and I slowly transitioned out of the crazy life of a middle of the pack pro cyclist (a long story for another time) into life of a PA working 9 to 5.

Enter Joel Hatch and THE CHANGE! Joel and I have been friends for a while, I have been training at his gym for a few years. Apparently Joel has this innate ability to send subliminal messages because when he heard I signed up for the Ogden 1/2 marathon last December, he planted his first seed (read challenge). Thus, messing up my plan to retire from bike racing and enjoy a summer of camping. I went to Bomber Athlete on day for a routine workout to find a race schedule on the white board with my name on it. There are two things I will never be able to change: my competitive nature and accepting a new challenge. Original plan diverted, new journey: Try trail running and maybe even an ultra!

Enter the HUMRs! My new change had a sort of snowball effect. One tiny idea quickly turned into an obsession. Before I knew it, I was running more miles than ever and loving the trail again. Then Joel dangled another carrot in front of my nose by introducing me to this group called the HUMRs. Sure, I had heard of them because Roosters sponsors them, but who were they? After a few runs with these guys I wanted in (who wouldn't)! Now I know where Joel gets his subliminal message super powers, the HUMRs. Let's just say, one sip of that Kool-Aid and I was poisoned. I had ultras on the brain and needed a fix! The Buffalo Run 25K was like adding fuel to the fire. I needed more and the Zion 50K seemed like a reasonable next step.

I was trying to hold in my excitement on the drive down to Springdale, but probably looked more like a kindergartener doing the potty dance in my seat. Packet pick-up was a breeze compared to bike races. No long formal pre-race meeting, ID checks, number plate rules, etc! Good change, point for runners. Pre-race dinner consisted of a restaurant with burgers, fries, and beer with friends! What? Sorry cyclist, another point for runners!

                                                           Photo Credit: Breein Clark

Race Day! I am no stranger to race day routines with pre-race jitters so the coffee and eggs went down with ease. I was very glad to see some familiar faces at the start and after a few quick pictures we were off...on time! That never happens at a bike race! It only took a couple hundred yard before Britta found me and I hoped that I could tag along using her experience at the front of the pack for the first few miles while things sorted themselves out. That's when things went South, or was it West, wait right turn? Yep, the first couple of miles in the bueno! The boys in front (which will remain nameless, unless you read Harrison's report) had trouble finding those pesky course markers! I felt like slipping back to my old ways of panic, this was definitely not in my plan. I somehow remained calm and we finally got on track. Then came the game changer! A stream crossing around mile 2. Ummm, I've never really ran with wet feet. I've never ran more than 20 miles. And now I going to attempt to run 30 miles with wet feet! Where is the freakin' panic button?! I saw Britta cross and bolted in after her. What else was I going to do, quit? About a mile later my wet sock had bunched after running a steep downhill and I knew it could be disastrous if I ignored it. I stopped to fix it while what seemed like 50 people passed me. So, 3.5 miles in and the plan had changed multiple times. Luckily, I settled into a nice pace on the long uphill road to Guacamole Mesa as it began to get light and I managed to pass a few people along the way. I was surprised that my feet weren't yelling at me for being wet and cruised through the first aid station without stopping.

                                                         On top of Guacamole Mesa

Guacamole Mesa was the loop I had been looking forward to. I have ridden this terrain multiple times on a bike and love it. My problem was those damn yellow flags, they proved to be quite difficult to follow and at one point I made a complete circle promoting a small tantrum with lots of bad words. The desert sunrise was incredible and made me forgive the 4:30 alarm clock. Food was going down well and I was feeling pretty good about where I was. Shortly thereafter I passed Jim who was running the 100-miler and that gave me a little boost as well.  I did begin to worry around mile 14 or so when I passed runners going both directions. Had I taken a wrong turn and was now backtracking? Feeling relieved when I arrived at the aid station again, I filled up on water and started back down the dirt road. I turned the music up and switched my pace into cruise control mode. I was pleasantly surprised to see Brandon, Breein, and Madi around mile 20 since I wasn't expecting anyone until mile 23. This is were I first learned that I was in third place and that second was not far ahead. I grabbed a couple more snacks and added some more Squeaky Cheeks in the shoes for good measure. I was still blown away that my feet were surviving.

At this point I was entering a new world! I was about to run farther than ever and I was actually in a race situation. Not knowing how my body would react to another 12 miles was unsettling, but my competitiveness could not be denied. I wanted to catch second place! Just before the aid satiation at mile 23 I saw her! I hadn't raced in over a year, but my race brain kicked in and I started strategizing. We reached the aid station together and I was feeling nervous. I had been pushing the food in preparation for the big climb ahead so I felt good. Brandon and Breein added to the excitement when they announced that Jared and BJ were not far ahead. Perfect! Someone to chase. (Sorry guys, but we girls love to beat you so I was pushing it to catch you). I didn't see the third place runner after that, but I kept looking back just in case. High fives and cheers from the guys gave me another boost and I could hardly keep the smile off my face and increased my pace. Well, until I laid eyes on the Flying Monkey climb! We have a term in cyclocross called suffer-face.  This usually comes on mid race when you are redlined, can't hear, can barely see, have snot running down your face, and completely forget that anyone can see what you look like! I'm pretty sure I had major suffer face going up that climb! My legs were so happy to get to the double track where I could run again. This is where I met Ryan and his running pal Zach from Altra. Seeing their smiling faces made me forget that nasty climb and eager to push ahead for the final 5 miles.

Bring on the Pain Cave! Been there many times during bike races and the road descent was my pain cave. Lasting only 2 miles, it seemed like an hour and I actually had to walk for a short distance when my back was screaming at me. When I finally got back to the dirt and could literally see the finish, I could feel the smile coming back to my face. Crossing the finish line in second place felt so good. What an amazing course! I was proud of my ability to work through some of the challenges and learned a ton during a short 5 hours and 20 minutes. I can't wait to see what the next race brings. Funny the changes we experience during a race!

Thanks to all the HUMRs for such a fun time What an incredible group to be part of. Thanks to Brandon for all his support, he has spent way to many hours waiting for me to cross finish lines. Also, a special thanks to Altra, its a pleasure to be an ambassador for you guys. Most of all thanks to you for reading.

                                                            Photo Credit: Breein Clark

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Derby Cup at the 2013 World Cup Venue

Start of Saturday's USGP
  Last weekend was the third USGP in Louisville, Kentucky! Known as the city of parks, and set on the banks of the Ohio River, Louisville is the site of the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships. The first time we drove to the venue, it seemed as though the edges of the river made one giant park with bridge after bridge connecting Kentucky with Indiana. Its home to one of the few cyclocross parks in America with a permanent flyover feature and terrain handcrafted to fit the needs of a cyclocross race. I had heard rumors that the women's elite field was big and pretty much everyone who was anyone in cyclocross was going to be there. A mini nationals, if you will. Plus a few of our Euro and Canuck friends too! Because I had actually earned a few UCI points, I luckily was not relying on a good random draw for my call-up. When Amanda Carey (my roommate for the weekend) and I looked at the start list Friday night, I couldn't believe it when we saw 58 names! This was going to be the largest field I had ever raced...pretty cool! In fact, we only had about 10 fewer women than men, that's nearly unheard of.

Saturday morning was spent talking sports with my dad, who had come for his first big-time cyclocross race, and rechecking my bike building skills. One of the many downsides to flying with a bike...the constant building and unbuilding, packing and unpacking! I'm always nervous when I don't have a mechanic to take one final look before race time. After a windy warm-up and making sure my dad understood the rules and culture of the cyclocross pit, I headed to the staging area. I was wearing number 26 which put me near the middle of the giant pack and a 4th row call-up. The start was at the end of a very long paved road which then made a sweeping left-hand turn to grass and within the first 90 seconds of the race, we would have gone through a set of barriers and over the fly-over. I knew the start would be critical because the areas which required dismounting would quickly become congested. And then we were off, despite my pre-race self-talk, I had a sub-par start and found myself at a stand still at the bottom of the fly-over steps. I managed to stay calm, but in hindsight, I wonder if that was the incorrect decision. As the race progressed, I felt like I was watching the race pass me by without my usual sense of urgency. One by one girls were passing me and I tried jumping on a wheel or two but my legs and brain were not on the same page. The minutes ticked by. I didn't make any mistakes per se, but I sure as hell wasn't riding strong! Finally I crossed the finish line in a miserable 24th place. I knew the stakes were higher this weekend racing against some very talented riders, but that was the worst performance of the season...ouch!
I sulked back to the car to find my dad waiting for the race recap. He doesn't know cycling, but he has that coaching intuition and a raging competitive fire. He didn't give me the chance to complain about a poor performance, but instead asked me how I was going to change so it didn't happen again tomorrow! Some things never change! I was having flashbacks from high school and college hoops. My dad doesn't allow excuses for poor performance or feeling sorry for yourself. I quickly learned that neither does my sports psychologist, fellow racer, and friend Amanda Carey!! Between she and my father, when we arrived back at the hotel I had a game plan and a new mind frame for the next race.

One of the three sand pits that claimed many victims and wreaked havoc during both days of racing!
 Sunday was a new day and I was ready for some redemption. With my focus on a much better start and improving my result by at least 8 places, we arrived at the course to see if any changes had been made to the course. I lined up 26th again and heard my coach TH's voice in my head...which in a censored version basically says "Do whatever it takes"! The start whistle blew and I had a much better start moving up and finding myself right in the mix as we rounded the corner to the first whoops and barriers. I planned on moving up at the barriers and fly-over, but just as I was ready to dismount my bike I felt my shoe click back into my pedal...oh!!! Before I knew it, I rammed the barrier with my front tire and supermanned over the bars! Quickly I jumped up trying to catch the wind that was knocked out of my lungs making sure all my limbs were still straight, picked up my bike and thankfully everything on my body and bike was still functioning as it should. Well, my great start was good for about 60 seconds! Then as we reached the first sand pit I saw the girls in front crash causing quite the pile-up! I dismounted and ran along the outside making up a few spots. I did my best to stay with a group of about 5 girls for the rest of the race remembering  my second goal for the day. I came across the finish line in 17th place. Still not at my goal, but an improvement from the day before.

It was a long trip to Louisville to come up empty UCI points, no money, and no top 10 finish to accomplish my season-long goal. Some racers might consider it a failure! But looking on the bright side, my rookie season was meant for learning lessons which I do every race, I may have succeeded on selling my dad on a sport that doesn't involve a ball of some sorts, and I learned that Amanda Carey is good traveling buddy-she never leaves home without a foam roller, she low stress, and she knows everyone!!

Next up is Jingle Cross, a 3-day event in Iowa City over Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I need some major recovery from schelpping bags around airports, waiting in airports for hours thanks to delayed flights, and sore body parts from crashing. Ahhh, the glamorous lifestyle of professional women's cyclocross! Oh, and I almost forgot...only 2 weeks before I put that physician assistant degree to good use. December 1st marks the beginning of a new journey yet again. Thanks to my dad and Amanda for a great trip. Thanks to Enve, Blue, Roosters and Biker's Edge for the continued support! Thanks to Chad Davis for always making sure my cross bikes are ready to go. And an extra HUGE thank you to Joe Johnson at SBR in Orem for hooking me up with a pit bike for the weekend! Last but not least, thanks to you for reading!

Kathy Sherwin driving our group on day 2 of the Derby Cup. Me sitting 4th wheel.

Monday, November 7, 2011

UTCX Heber

I was able to ward off more traveling, and instead stayed home to race the local Utah series this past weekend in Heber. The entire night before it was lightly snowing which accumulated to a couple of inches on the front lawn by morning. Sarah Kaufmann and I packed up the truck and headed for Heber City expecting the race venue at the fairgrounds to be covered with even more snow. To our surprise, as we headed up highway 40 near Park City, there was only a slight dust of snow on the ground. Instead of racing in the snow, we were going to be racing in the MUD!! Yay...I love dirty races!!
Sarah and I had somehow not raced any cyclocross races together this season, and the last time we met on cyclocross bikes was a year ago at Mt. Ogden Golf Course for the Utah State Championships. That was not something either of us wanted to remember! During that race Sarah and I got tangled up on a techie section of the wet grass causing a crash in which Sarah broke her collar bone for the 3rd time. She ended up at the hospital and I ended up in 2nd place behind Kris Walker who was able to evade the wreck and pedal to victory.

"The Crash" of 2010 Utah State Championship race
 Some of the girls were very excited to have a messy race. Since I have had quite a few rainy, muddy races this season, it seemed like just another dirty race. However, this would be the coldest race of the season for me. I was glad to have a cold race because with the National Championships being in Madison Wisconsin the first week of January, my body needs to know what it's like racing in the frigid cold. When the race started, I was able to take the hole shot and was first through the slick off-cambered chicane turns. I did my best to stay in front since the first mile or so of the course was a single-track of grass surrounded on both sides by snow. Over the first 2 laps, I attacked multiple times and Sarah was stuck like glue to my tire. We had created a respectable gap from the other competitors and I figured that unless one of us had a bad crash or mechanical, we would finish 1st and 2nd. On the third lap, Sarah was ready for my attack just before the dirt run-up because I attacked there on the previous laps. She jumped up ready to contest, but I didn't go and we rubbed tires! I felt the buzz and looked back to see Sarah crashing. Not again, I thought. This is what happened last time! Thankfully Sarah was just fine and as I saw her getting back on her feet I did what any true friend would do...I attacked! Ok, so maybe that's not what a good friend would do! But that's what racing friends do.

The single-track in the snow
 There were 2 laps to go after the crash, so I continued to ride at a hard pace and try to keep Sarah from catching me. By then my feet were numb and I was clumsy through the barriers and run-up, and my derailleurs were covered with grass and mud so I dropped my chain twice, despite these problems I was able to hold on for the win. It was a good lesson for how to dress for the colder races--I need to work on keeping my feet warmer! It was nice to race close to home and with my friends. Thanks to Eric Greenwood for the race photos.

Up next I leave for the next USGP. The Derby Cup in Louisville, KY next weekend. I've put in some good training over the last 2 weeks and I'm ready for some racing! Thanks for reading!

The greasy mud run-up was not nice on the numb feet!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to the Front Range

Chasing Heather and Amanda early in the race
 We loaded up the truck yet again for another road trip to the Front Range region of Colorado. This time for the Colorado Cross Classic and the Boulder Cup for a 2-day cross weekend. I was full of excitement and eager to race after 2 weeks of training. I got my race fix over those 2 long weeks by getting up at 5 am the previous 2 Sundays to watch the online, live feed of the women's World Cup races in Czech. I was aiming for a top 10 finish both days to cap off the 2 week training block, I figured that would be a nice reward for all the hard work!!Since there are quite a few racers who live in Colorado, I figured most of them would be on the start list, and I was right. The usual top 10 or so (minus Katerina Nash) were on the list when I went to pick-up my numbers the evening before the race. I was quite pleased when the official checking us in sounded a bit surprised when she looked up my information, "Oh, a ranked rider?! It seems you have 18 UCI points." I quickly agreed with her before anyone else could hear. A mere 18 points is slightly embarrassing for those of you who don't know how the UCI points work. To put things in perspective, Katie Compton who is currently leading the points rankings has over 1,600 points! Granted, she is the best in the world however, most of the riders I race against have totals ranging from 100-200. I anxiously waited for the official to pull out my numbers and was stoked when she pulled out #12 for Saturday and #13 for Sunday. This was the first cyclocross race that I actually got a "real" call-up instead of drawing a number out of a bag all the while crossing  my fingers that it would be somewhere in the twenties. But this time, I would get a second row start both days!

Saturday's race, called the Colorado Cross Classic was held at the Boulder Reservoir. The course had some long flat sections, quite a few natural log barriers and a natural run-up from the beach. The dirt was nice and tacky thanks to an early Autumn snow storm that Boulder received earlier that week. The chicane turns were a bit rutted out and the sandy beach section was packed down too and completely rideable. The temperature was mild, but during warm-ups the wind was incredible. The course tape was blowing far into the course causing a definite threat to grabbing handlebars. I kept telling myself that I needed to stay in a group during the race if I wanted to survive the wind gusts. But, the cyclocross gods where nice to the girls. The winds calmed down and the sun came out for a short time just as the race was beginning. The course had a section of winding turns and barriers shortly after the start line and I found myself in a good position, but on the first long flat section, the lead group formed quickly and they immediately gapped the chase group. I found myself in a group with Amanda Carey, Sue Butler, Chole Foresman, Alice Pennington, and Heather Irmiger. Sue and Amanda didn't wait long before they too separated themselves from us. With 3 laps to go I decided to make a move and separated myself from Heather putting me in 7th place. The long straight aways created gaps and everyone seemed to be riding alone with 30 seconds or so between each of us. With one lap to go, there was not much left to do except for ride the lap clean and not give up my position. Amanda was too far ahead of me to chase. I crossed the finish line in 7th, very pleased with the ride. I had not made many mistakes and felt great throughout the race. Goal accomplished!

Check out the link below for a short video of the race!
Women's Race Colorado Cyclocross Classic 2011

Sunday's race was a the newly built Valmont Bike park. I had no idea what to expect from the course so we showed up a little early to scope it out. I was really excited after seeing the mountain bikesque course. There were 2 sandpits, a long stair run-up, and a long mud bog! I made a quick loop on the course and quickly realized that it was going to hurt waaay more than the day before. This course required power and lots of it!

Start of the Boulder Cup
 I had another second row call-up and was in really good position until half way through the first lap when I bobbled on an off-cambered mud section and had to dismount and run. I lost quite a few positions and hurried to get back on the back of the chase group. After the first lap I was still in the top 10 but knew the girls behind me were close. The second lap through the sand and mud burned a lot of matches! I knew I was in trouble. I held on as best as I could, but my tired legs were not having any more suffering! I watched as a few more riders pass me and the gaps in front grow bigger and bigger. I was holding on for dear life on the last lap then to make matters worse, the mud had finally taken over my front derailleur and I could no longer shift to the big ring. I finished in 13th place, disappointed that I wasn't able to hold on to the top 10. Lesson learned: I can't be "great" at every race, but I'm capable of being "good" at every race.

Check out the link below for the race highlights!

Unfortunately I wasn't able to follow up my 7th place finish with another top 10, but I feel like I have proven to myself that I have the ability to finish there consistently. After 2 months of racing, I finally think I am understanding the ebbs and flows of a cross race. Continually progressing each and every race until the season finale known as National Championships on January 8th is key. Big shout out to Chad Davis and Trevor Greenwood! They were both a huge help with race prep and in the pit. Its always nice to have your friends cheering you on while you are suffering!! Also, thanks for coming along to entertain Brandon on his birthday! I know he would have much rather gone brewery hopping with you guys instead of watching cross races for 2 days!

Next up is the third USGP, the Derby Cup in Louisville, KY in 2 weeks. I've heard rumours about the stacked start list! Its another chance to accomplish my season goal of a top 10 finish at a USGP. And, I'm taking my dad along with me to Louisville! This will be his first experience at a true cross race. According to Brandon and Jacqueline he's a bit nervous to be in the pit  :)  My dad is a funny guy, he's sorta like a double agent! He's a redneck Wyoming guy part of the day and a country club golf pro the rest of the time. So here's my advice for you dad... we need to mix your personas together! Throw on your Carharts and irrigation boots along with your golf umbrella and fancy golf rain gear and you'll fit in just fine!! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

USGP #2 New Belgium Cup

Just as I felt like I was getting back into a normal routine at home it was back on the road again. This time it was to Ft. Collins, CO for the New Belgium Cup. Which, in comparison to the previous trip from Vegas to Seattle to St. Louis to Madison, driving to Colorado and back was going to be easy! No airports, no packing bikes, and not worrying about everything making it in one piece. Plus, I was really excited for Brandon to be able to come with me. This would be his first opportunity to see me race my cross bike on the big stage! There is something about having him at the races with know, sorta like a comfort blanket! I went into the weekend with lessons learned from the previous races and a win under my belt from the UTCX series. I had high expectations and felt great.

On Friday Brandon, our friend and fellow racer Weston, and I went to the venue to check out the course. It was a warm sunny day, but the forecast for Saturday was rain so I figured the course was going to be very different come race time. Never the less, we took a few laps around the hilly course set literally in a random hay field! Crazy how you can put up some boundary tape, a few railroad ties here and there, and build a wooden staircase and ramp in a hay field and suddenly it transforms into a cycling event! There were lots of off-camber chicanes, ruts probably from tractor tires that were perfect for causing endos, and long climbs capable of breaking up groups quickly. It was either going to be fast and dusty or muddy and greasy!

Next came registration. Since UCI points have yet to be updated this season, I once again had to "draw a random call-up number" because I have ZERO points from last year. I have been fairly lucky drawing numbers for previous races and knew it wouldn't last forever, but once again I drew in the 20's, 26 to be exact. The top 20 racers get called-up based on their UCI point standings, so 26 is not bad. Day one in Ft. Collins was pretty good...super fun pre-ride on the course and pretty good call-up. I was excited and ready for race day!

Beautiful day for pre-riding on Friday

I woke up to overcast skies but no rain! But by about 11am, the rain started. When we arrived at the venue it was pouring rain...sideways!! The course was getting muddier and muddier! As always, I was focused on a good start, on days like this being on the front of a group is the safest place! The temperature was somewhere near 40 degrees, but with the rain and wind, it felt more like 30. I was shivering at the start line and to my surprise, I had a great start. However, after a few bobbles here and there on the greasy course I heard Weston yell "Thirteenth" with a lap and a half or so left. Really, 13th? I looked ahead and knew I could make up a place or two, but the gaps created by that type of weather and course are huge. In the end I finished in 12th place. Enough for a couple more UCI points, but not good enough for my top 10 goal. I was stoked to have another race in gnarly weather and have my Jonathan Page Series Blue Norcross bike and my ENVE tubular wheels holding up without flaw in the elements! Its always nice to know that your gear is solid no matter the course!

It may look benign in the photo, but if you note the amount of clothes I have on and the stiff expression on Weston's face, it might give you an idea of how cold and nasty it was on Saturday!
We were lucky to have other Rooster's/Biker's Edge racers with us in Ft. Collins, and decided to go to dinner together Saturday night. Thanks to Guy Letendre and his family we had a great warm evening to cap off our cold, rainy day. 

Staging for the race on Sunday

Sunday was a totally different story! By the time we made it to the venue, the sun as shining, the course had dried out quite a bit and was now tacky, much like Autumn Utah single-track. I went to registration hoping to yet again draw a good call-up. This time however, my luck had ran out. I drew 32, which meant a 4th row starting position. When the race started I weaved through as many girls as I could and at the first chicane section it seemed like everyone was hugging the inside line. I got out of my saddle and sprinted in the long grass to move up a few more spots. After 2 laps, I found that I settled into a good group but the next 5 or 6 girls were very close behind. Spectators were yelling "9, 10, 11" to us and I knew this was my chance for that top 10 finish. Our group traded back and forth on position and had widened the gap from the group chasing us. With 2 laps to go I found myself in 11th place riding with Kathy Sherwin, an experienced fellow Utah racer. Ninth and tenth were just ahead and within striking distance. I opened a very small gap with abut a half lap to go and was chasing 10th with every bit of remaining energy. We turned the corner for the long, slightly uphill finish and my heart was racing as much in excitement as from the hard effort I was giving. We hit the pavement and I sprinted for my life! One so Kathy wouldn't catch me and two, in hopes of getting 10th. I was gaining ground quickly and at the last second 10th turned and saw me coming, she gave a few hard pedal strokes, and I gave my best bike throw (Nicky would be proud!) but she crossed the line before me by about a wheel length. ELEVENTH! I was so close! Part of me was stoked about the ride and effort I had just put together, but part of me wanted to burst into tears! My goal of a top 10 finish at a USGP had been right at my fingertips! 

Funny, I wasn't even close to winning the race or even making the podium for that matter, but for me 10th place was like my first place. Its my goal for the season so to take 11th by such a small margin was heartbreaking! When I came back to the truck Weston and Brandon were acting like we had just won the lottery! Congratulating me, hugging me like I HAD won. It was so awesome to get such a reaction from those two, and much needed to say the least. During my cool-down I had to remind myself of when we lost the high school state basketball championships my junior year and all I wanted to do was cry the second the buzzer sounded. But my dad, who was also my coach, came to me and sternly told me "NO tears, you hold your head high and be proud of what you just accomplished!" So looking at the big picture, I've now done 8 Elite cyclocross races. To be finishing consistently in the top 15 is not bad. I'm racing against some of the best in the world, keep my head up and be proud of it. 

This is called "Suffer-Face" as I attempt to make a big effort somewhere early in the race on Sunday!
 As always, there are always many people to thank after a race weekend! Cyclocross is one of those sports that requires a team even though it's an individual sport. Joe Johnson from SBR sports in Orem was kind enough to let me use his Blue bike for my pit bike! Always a calming feeling when you know you have a spare! Thanks to the Letendre family for a great Saturday night. And of course Brandon and Weston...the best pit crew EVER! If you add up their bike mechanic abilities, it equals about...well, lets just say they know how to change wheels and pump up the tires!! But, they are the best cheering squad and have the most fun in the pit out of all those guys! Plus, they were always around to do the little things that make race preparation so much easier. So thank you Brandon and Weston!

Joe from SBR let me use this bike in the pit... Thanks Joe!
Next on the schedule is the Colorado Cross Classic the last weekend of October. In the meantime, race the UTCX series in O-Town this coming weekend and lots of training! Until next time, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait!

So as I've proudly mentioned probably a hundred times in this blog, I'm done with PA school and waiting to start my new career. Well, the medical field is pretty good at making seemingly simple tasks very complicated and drawn out. Whether it be nursing school, PA school, med school, or any other medical related field, there are countless hoops to jump through from the time you apply to a program to the time "they" actually set you free to work with patients. I get it, they don't want just any Joe Schmoe off talking care of peoples' health...but seriously! I'm an honest, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen who attended one of the premiere PA schools in the country and I'm ready to start seeing patients...LET ME WORK! Insurance credentialing, hospital credentialing, state licencing, board certification, blah,blah, blah. It's a true test of patience, this hurry up and wait game. Funny thing is, a lot of my friends and family think I'm crazy for not being ecstatic about all this time off. Don't get me wrong, I've loved the last two months off of school. Problem is, cycling doesn't pay the bills kids!! I NEED to work so I can support my nasty little addiction to bicycle racing! Whew...I'll step off my soapbox now.

So what do you do when you graduate from PA school, have a wonderful job lined up, but are waiting for the higher-ups to give you the thumbs-up? You travel around the country racing your bicycle of course. Good thing I have some great sponsors named Brandon, Visa, and American Express! Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have Brandon as my husband. There are very few guys who would support a wife with dreams as crazy as mine. I've been home a week from the season-opener whirlwind tour. Just enough time to catch up on laundry, give my house a proper scrub down, put in a few training rides, and win the first race of our local cross series.

Last weekend, Utah Cyclocross (UTCX) a great weekend series in northern Utah, had its first race of the season at the Utah State Fair Park in SLC. I was excited to race close to home and have Brandon and my mom at the race. For those of you who know Brandon, you can imagine how hard it was for him to not be at the races the previous 2 weeks. He had only missed 3-4 races ever before then, so to miss 6 in a row was hard for both of us! Anyway, I really wanted to have a good race on home turf and get my first win of the season. The course was a mix of dry slick grass, pavement, and dirt. Lots of chicanes, and even a bubble making-machine! My friend Dr. Kris Walker and I gapped the group after the first lap or so and continued to take turns at the front until 2 laps to go. I knew I had been quicker through the barrier section so I attacked then and throttled it until I formed a small gap. I focused on riding smart through the technical areas and hammered the straights. Mission accomplished! I felt good and got the win. After a couple weeks of 12th's and 13th's, it felt really good to sit back on the saddle and raise my arms in victory as I crossed the line.

Kris Walker, Me, and Erica Powers on the podium!
Next on the calendar is the New Belgium Cup USGP #2 in Ft. Collins, CO this weekend. Well-rested and ready for more, I'm really hoping for two good days of racing. Each race is another opportunity for a top-ten USGP finish, which is my goal this year. I have a great team of people supporting me so I know it's possible! If anyone is interested, cycling dirt and velo news will be providing live coverage online of the USGP races. Thanks for reading!

Thanks to my friends at DNA for taking this great series of photos through the barrier section on the first lap of the race.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rainy Sun Prairie-USGP #1 Planet Bike Cup

After a 6 hour drive from St. Louis to Madison, Wisconsin, we settled into our hotel and tried to rest our legs after a solid 10 days of traveling and racing. Ten days on the road, jumping from race to race and livin' out of a bag...something I hadn't experienced during my cycling life. I think it sounds glamourous, but in reality, it's hard! Sleeping in unfamiliar places, eating food you don't normally eat at home, schlepping your giant bike bag and suitcase through the airport, breaking down your bike to pack it just to rebuild it again at the next stop. Traveling with a bike is hard work. Thank goodness for JP and Franky helping me stuff every last inch of my bag with wheels, extra bike parts and that damn foam roller that I can't live without!

On Friday afternoon we rode over to the venue to check out the course. It was more technical that the last couple races. Lots of off-camber turns, chicanes, and a nasty grass hill that is concievably rideable but the 3 railroad ties at the bottom turn it into a run-up! I was looking forward to this race. I liked the fact that more bike handling skills were needed and less pure power. Plus, this would be a repeat start list to Cross Vegas, which meant very good riders and a lot of them. Another chance to measure myself against the best.

One of many off-camber turns during JP's race

View of the barrier section of race #1

Saturday morning we woke up to mild temps and no rain. The constant focus of this trip has been my start. Clip-in, shift, and accelarate-moving up as many spots as possible and in theory, get to the lead group. Franky always reminding me during staging to "stay focused on the start". I drew # 21 during registration, the best number possible since I wasn't in the top 20 in UCI points. Some how there was one open slot on the second row behind Merideth Miller during call-ups so I quietly slipped into it hoping the officials wouldn't put me back to the third row...where I belonged! The gun fired and we were off. I found myself right in the mix, but it didn't take long for the leaders put the hammer down and split up the group. Once again, Franky was yelling at me to stay off the front. Apparently my thick skull impedes my understanding of working in a group. There are so many tricks of the trade when it comes to cyclocross racing and I need to learn the few important ones quickly if I want to progress. My mind functions in mountain bike mode too much of the time during a cross race. Never the less, I was solid through the run-up and barrier section and stayed with a good group for much of the race. I tried my hardest to stay with Kathy Sherwin, follow her lead, and learn from her well-seasoned experience. But in the end my tired legs couldn't hold her pace. I out-sprinted my group and finished in 14th place. A considerable improvement from the 25th place I took in Vegas with virtually the same field of women.

Sunday morning I looked out the window and saw it was pouring rain. We checked out the forecast and saw that there was no chance of it letting up so we knew that the race was going to be completely different than the day before. I was glad that Franky and JP had hooked me up with Dugast Rhino tubulars. Perfect tread for the muddy conditions that were ahead. Of course JP was giddy with possibilty of nasty conditions. He's one of the best technical riders in the world and I couldn't wait to pre-ride the muck with him and learn the best lines and techinques. We arrived at the venue and it was immediately apparent that the rain had completely changed the course. Riders just finishing were brown from head to toe with mud. Mud-caked deraileurs were hanging off bikes, once multi-colored skinsuits now brown, bloody wounds on the victims of poor tire choice, mud-covered smiles on the faces of...well, most of the riders! It was the scene of a true cyclocross race! I was almost afraid to look at the course for fear of seeing the battlefield scattered with bodies and broken bikes!

JP and I changed into our clean bike attire and rain gear to pre-ride the mud (we made a lot of dirty laundry that day!). It was raining and thundering so hard I wondered if we would actually race. I did my best to keep the rubber side down, rain and mud out of my eyes and make my way around one lap. According to the anouncers, the laps were taking about twice as long as yesterday's fast dry course. The entire time I followed JP with him hooting and hollering like I do a deep fresh powder day. His shitty-ass grin said it all...he was going to have a great race. He told me to forget everything I had learned on this trip about cornering and "just aim for grass"! We scurried back to that van to put on some dry clothes and begin warming-up.

The slick mud made for true test of bike handling skills.

It's trickier than it looks. This off-camber turn ate riders for lunch!

I was wearing number 25 which meant a 3rd row call-up. I knew that the start was going to be as important as ever today because the conditions of the course would require me to be in front of a group during the techincal sections or on the wheel of a great rider who would lead me to the good lines. At the USGP there is a "Hole-Shot" payout of $250 so from the gun the race is break-neck speed. Since UCI races always start on pavement, its not hard to gain speed quickly, but the first turn was a wide right into mud and standing water. As soon as the pack hit the turn you could hear tires skidding, carbon crashing and bodies flying. Luckily, I only felt my rear tire get hung-up for a split second and I knew the girls behind me were in the middle of the crash. I pushed to stay towards the front and found myself in a favorable position. I had David, the Planet Bike mechanic, in the pit with a borrowed bike and Franky walking about the course with me helping me to pick the best lines. After the initial shock of the first few turns, I was in 19th place. NOT the spot I was hoping for. Today my goal was top 10, relying on my mountain bike skills to help me. Because the laps were taking us almost 10 minutes, I knew we would only do about 4 or 5 laps so making as few mistakes as possible would be crucial. Having a flawless race in conditions like this would be virtually impossible. On the second lap, I was hugging the high-side of an off camber traverse. I got off track for a split second and found my handlebars caught on a stake and tape marking the course. "Oh shit" I yelled out loud! In half-panic mode I yanked at the bars a few times before I gained some composure to untwist the mess. During what seemed like mintues but in reality was probably a couple of seconds, I lost the 2 girls in front of me and the 2 girls behind me caught up. "Ahhhh! Why? Ride smart" I thought to myself! I regained focus on the slippery run-up and got back to chase mode. When I passed the start/finish with 2 to go, I heard the annoucers say "Rider number 25 (long pause as they looked at the start list to see who I was)...Kelsy Bingham?" With a bit of surprise. "Rounding out the top 12." I went from 19th to 12th. Ok, race smart for the last 2 laps and aim for the grass. With one lap to go I had so much mud and grass stuck in my deraileur, it was jumping all over the place and on the egde of failure. Crap, I was going to have to pit and take the borrowed bike. That meant a poor tread choice for the conditions, Sram Red shifting that is totally foreign to my Shimano brain, and a raked out medium frame. I yelled to Franky and he immediately told me to "Pit, pit!" Just ahead I saw Sue Butler running towards the pit. There was my chance to move up. I entered the pit for the first time in my cycling career and pretended like it was routine. With about half the course left and the most techincal areas still left I was face to face with Sue Butler. For those of you who don't know her, think David and Goliath! My heart rate must have been about 200! Okay, ride smart and attack on the run-up. I rode her wheel until the last off-camber turn before the pavement sprint. She bobbled just a bit on the slick surface. I dismounted my bike and ran, passing her in the corner. When it came time to remount, the tires gave way and the bike slid out from under me. Sue kept her head and passed me just before we hit pavement. I settled for 12th. Considering the difficulty of the course, I was satisfied with my finish, but lingering in the back of my mind was the goal of a top ten finish. It's sometimes bittersweet racing with some the best crossers in the world!

The maze of chicane turns before the run-up.

The slick railroad ties at the start of the run up. 

The hecklers loved the tortuous muddy run-up.  There were plenty of beer hand-ups,
waving dollar bills to grab, and uninviting comments towards any racer who struggled!
It was nice and grassy on day one.

After Franky sprayed my bikes and me with power-washer, I proceeded to the Planet Bike area to finish bathing using a bucket and a hotel towel. I've been so spoiled to have a mechanic cleaning my bike after every ride. I sat alone in the van as the men's race started, drinking a recovery drink trying to take in the events of the past hour...of the past two weeks! Acutely exhausted from the race, but also tired from the travel and racing, I sat contently in the van to call Brandon and watch the rain.

Bob Downs, the owner of Planet Bike and long-time sponsor and friend of JP gave us amazing treatment from the great hotel room to dinners to loaning us the Planet Bike Sprinter van. I met a lot of amazing people over the past couple of weeks who were willing to offer their house and time to cyclists. So thank you to you all as well.

So as much as I want to go home and spend some time with Brandon, I can't believe how fast two weeks can pass by. I learned valuable lessons and met great people. Headed home from Madison for some R & R, then its back to training. The second USGP in Ft. Collins is just two short weeks away. That top 10 finish is the fuel to keeping me training hard. Thank you again to everyone who helped me along the way especially Jonathan and Cori Page and Franky Vanhaesebrouke for giving me an incredible opportunity. Until next time...thanks for reading!