Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

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!

Friday, September 23, 2011

St. Louis Gateway Cup

The famous St. Louis Gateway arch from the backseat of the van!
The next stop on my wild cyclocross tour was another Cross After Dark race in St. Louis Missouri. JP and I left the Kirske's house in Seattle BEFORE the ass-crack of dawn at 3:30 am to return the rental car and get to my 6 am flight. I didn't think these early flights would be that big of a deal when I booked them, but was I wrong or what?! I managed to get a little sleep on the flight and the second I arrived at our host housing, I basically stumbled to the bed and slept until JP arrived and it was time to go pre-ride the course.

The course was another dry, grassy park. Basically another grass crit of sorts, as many US cross races are in the early season. This course had one set of barriers, two run-ups very similar to Cross Vegas, and a stair run-up to fly-over. It seemed pretty straight forward when we pre-rode and I was pretty excited to get yet another UCI race under my belt.

These Cross After Dark races are really fun to race under the lights, but my eyesight is not real keen in the dark, so it posed quite the challenge too! By the time the Women's Elite race started, it was pitch dark! There were lights strategically placed about the course, but there were a few dark corners that I knew could be trouble. St. Louis drew a pretty good crowd with lots of cowbells and even fans handing up cash with the help of fishing poles!

Given the midweek race that was sandwiched between Starcrossed or Charm City and the first USGP, the women's field in St. Louis was very small. Only 12 of us made up the 2 rows at the start line. It's pretty easy to get a good call-up when there are only 12! I actually got a front row position for the start (the first, and probably last time to happen at a UCI race!) I've been struggling with my starts and I was very focused to make this start my best yet. Finally I got a good start and was in very good position through the first turn. The group settled in with the Giant Berry Farms girls leading the way. I was really pleased with my position and knew I had to race smart to give myself a chance in the end for a good finish. Somewhere during the 3rd or 4th lap, I was in the chase group not far behind the leader when the dark course finally took its toll. A mis-judged corner lead to crossed-up wheels and a crash. I went soaring over the handlebars and the group came to a halt. I quickly went from 3rd position to completely off the back! I picked myself off the ground and ran to my bike to find the saddle pointing sideways, front wheel out of true and wobbling, and rear brake rubbing! CRAP! I punched at my saddle a few times and remounted to sprint back to the group. Unlucky for me, I have no pit bike at the moment so I had to chose...1) stop in the pit and have Franky help sort out the problems or 2) forget about it and ride!  I decided on option 2! It took me a whole lap, but I finally caught back up to the group. Thank goodness this course had lots of chicane turns that kept the group at moderate speeds and played in my favor. I continued to move up and with 2 laps to go I found myself in the chase group with 3 other girls and the 2 Giant Berry Farms riders with a commanding lead. So here was my chance to race for 3rd at a UCI event. A huge turnaround from the previous races! Kathy Sherwin was driving the group and I knew her experience would give her an advantage. Franky was screaming at me each time we bypassed the pit to "move up, move up, be first over the fly-over". You'd think I would take his advice! But no...instead I waited too long and was 4th wheel into the fly-over. Kathy attacked and I was stuck in the back when the long road sprint began. I gave it my all and outsprinted one to finish in 5th place.

The fly-over.

As much as I was excited about scoring some UCI points, I was disappointed with the small errors that may have set me up for a 3rd place sprint. Lesson learned. Now the important part is not making the same mistake twice! Riding fast is important, but riding smart is sometimes just as important. Let's just say I wasn't the smartest. Overall, I was pleased with my finish given the suboptimal bike condition (oops!) and mental preparation. I finally feel like I'm developing a pre-race routine for cross, which is so different than mountain bike racing.

So today I'm celebrating the arrival of fall in Madison, WI for the Planet Bike cup set for the weekend. The last stop on this amazing trip. I've spent the last 9 days learning lessons from JP and Franky, so I hope to put together a good weekend for the first USGP. The women's field will be stacked again with all the top riders in the US (and the world for that matter!). There is a live feed for the elite races on Cycling for those who are interested. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crossin' through Seattle

First off, I apologize for my lack of photos! I've been very bad this trip and I have no one to take photos of me and the media isn't really interested in mid-pack riders!

After my 4 am airport shuttle pick-up in Vegas I took an uneventful flight to Seattle. The approach into the SeaTac airport was a giant circle about the city. I got a great shot of Mt. Rainer poking up through the clouds followed by great views of the sports arenas, the space needle, and rest of the surrounding areas. After lugging my bike bag around the airport looking for the rental car shuttle stop and being asked about 50 times "What's in THAT bag?" I finally got a rental car and headed back to the airport to pick-up Jonathan Page who came in on a later flight.

I was pretty excited to arrive at our host family's house because Todd and Jonathan were talking up the amazing cooking I was about to experience. Plus, that meant I could try and get back to a semi-normal race day schedule and out of the Vegas chaos. I was amazed by the Kirske's house when we pulled up just as JP began to tell me that it has been in various commercials and movies. Oddly enough, David Sr. notified us upon arrival that a filming crew would be here bright and early the next morning to film part of a short film. Crazy! Since we were slightly behind schedule, thanks to a delayed flight, we rushed to put our bikes together and get to the race venue where JP was scheduled to teach a clinic. The course was located at Sammamish State Park on dried out grass and included a beach run on Lake Washington, one set of barriers, and a fly-over. Many of the women who raced in Vegas had made the short trip to Seattle for round 2, so the pack was yet again stacked with power riders and I figured the pace would be lighting fast again. Since it was JP's birthday, we came home from pre-ridding to celebrate with an incredible dinner and homemade chocolate birthday cake. Let's just say Lila's cooking was all it was cracked up to be!

StarCrossed on Saturday evening was warm and dry. My call-up was about 20th out of 30 so I knew I had some work to do. But, I did not help myself when the gun went off, I had one of the worst starts...ever! I panicked a bit trying to recover, then it took me what seemed like forever to get settled in. But once I did, I felt pretty good despite my mid-pack position. I ended up in 13th place, a little disappointed, but happy to get another race under my belt. The men's race was exciting to watch with JP taking 3rd place. And then we returned home for another amazing homemade dinner from Lila.

Sunday's Rapha Focus race was located at the same venue but because it rained all Saturday night the course was a bit more technical. The chicanes turns were a little slick and tree roots greasy...AKA more fun! My new tubulars were glued with care by JP's mechanic Franky and the tread was perfect for the wet course. Call-ups were not nice, once again. This time I was 3rd to last out of 28 girls so I played catch-up for the first couple of laps. I was feeling pretty good and was making up some time on the group of girls in front of me but with 3 laps to go I just plain ran out of gas! I obviously need to work on pushing through the "pain cave"! In the end I found myself in 13th place...again! I'm not loving the curse of 13! Not sure who will be at Gateway Cross in St. Louis on Wednesday, but I really wanting something better than 13th!

So one more day in Seattle before we head to St. Louis. Planning on seeing the city, hanging out at Pike's Market, and visiting Todd's swanky workout facility and shop!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

I officially started cyclocross season! I made my way to Las Vegas on Tuesday to attend the annual InterBike convention and first big UCI cyclocross race of the year CrossVegas. With work on hold until credentialing is complete, it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the time off and travel to a few races. Not to mention the incredible opportunity given to me by cyclocross legend Jonathan Page and his peeps to travel and learn from one of the best in cyclocross. So armed with a new coach, a new Blue bike and the ole Rooster's/Biker's Edge kit, I arrived in Vegas to embark on another crazy cycling journey.

For those of you who have never experienced CrossVegas, its quite the scene. I mean, come on...its Vegas! Nothing is small or ordinary in Vegas! From racing on a Wednesday, to the late night start times, to the Euro-sized crowd...its unlike any other bike race in the US. The women's field was stacked, as always, with the best riders the US has to offer (well, minus the great Katie Compton) in addition to the usual Canadian riders and even a few from Europe made the trip. Given my lack of UCI points, my start position was very near the back in the 40th position out of some 50 listed riders on the start list. Although I know its going to be fast and furious from the gun, I still am amazed by the actual speed those girls are able to generate. From the get go the usuals were out front and I found my self dangling off the back of a big group. After the first long lap, I was in the second group and beginning to settle in a bit. The uncharacteristically rainy weather made the course wet and slick, two things this race in NOT known for. I was glad that I had some MTB experience to rely on. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. The group of 7-8 girls I was in fluctuated back and forth the whole time and on the last lap I was second wheel going into the last 1/4 mile. My goal at that point was to win the group sprint. With my best crit skills (learned from Nicky no less!) I rounded the last hairpin turn and hammered the last 100 yards or so for the pack sprint win! In the end I was 25th. Along with every other pro race I've done, there were things I wish I had done better or different, but that's what this year is all about...learning! I feel like this trip is invaluable for learning with some of the best mentors in the business.

So one more day in Vegas attending the I-Bike show and mingling with a few friends. Then off to Seattle for Starcrossed on Saturday. Hopefully I can round up some pictures from the race last night and post them later.

Special thanks to Weston Woodward for the ride down to Vegas and being Brandon's fill-in at the start line, pit, and post-race!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's been how long?!

Wow, I'm a little embarrassed by my 2 month hiatus from blogging. It was kind cool to hear that a few (an I reiterate a "few") people were actually missing my updates. So how do I explain the happenings of the last 2 months? Life has been incredible, busy, mind-numbing, and humbling all at once since June. First off, I graduated from PA school! A huge accomplishment that literally has been life-changing in many ways. Not only did I graduate with a master's degree, but I passed the national certification exam affectionately known in the PA world as the PANCE. In fact, I still get that guilty feeling every so often when I'm doing something enjoyable and not studying. For the last 27 months I've known nothing besides classrooms, hospitals, clinics, studying, and trying to ride my bike amidst it all. Looking back at life pre-PA school and comparing it to life today, I can honestly say the view now has completely different scenery. I feel like I have had some amazing life-experiences that have made me...well me, but none have built character and changed perspectives like PA school. Maybe it took place at a time in my life when I was in need of a proverbial smack across the head or maybe I was finally at a maturity level in which I was able to fully grasp the lessons hidden in such an experience. Regardless of the reasoning, I came out of PA school with a new career path, a whole new respect for the person Brandon is, and a refreshing outlook on how I hope to spend the rest of my life.

Graduation Day with a few of my very good PA friends.

As I mentioned before, I have been riding my bike some too! I did a few more local Utah races in July including the Dutch Hollow and Snowbasin Intermountain Cup races taking second place in each of those.  I also participated in the mountain bike National Championships in Sun Valley, ID. It's still such a nerve-racking experience showing up to the "big races". Every time I line up with high-caliber racers like Georgia Gould and Katie Compton I wonder "What in the hell was I thinking when I decided to race Pro?". Those women are insane athletes being paid to ride their bikes and here I am stuck in a whirlwind life of medicine and cycling and trying to be good at both! Yet, I continue to sign-up race after race! Sun Valley was hot and very steep! We climbed a loose fire road that literally went straight up the ski hill then snaked down the other side followed by 2 man-made rock gardens. Five laps of that in the afternoon heat is enough to make a person insane! For the past two years Brandon and I have spent our anniversary at Nationals. The first time he asked for a stars and stripes jersey for a gift and I was actually able to succeed at producing that gift (I guess I have to admit that last year I was racing Category 1... not pro!) This year, he knew better than to ask for a repeat! Instead he got a Camelbak :)

Around the Sun Valley Plaza for another lap at Nationals.

A trip through the maze of Sun Valley's man-made rock garden.
A true test of timing your pedal strokes and bike handling.

Before I knew it July had passed me by and I was in the last week of clinical rotations...yes, I'm proud to report I survived pediatrics. I know some of you had your doubts! August meant graduation and studying for my certification exam. Instead of racing on the weekends, we opted for a couple of camping trips to take a deep breath.

But, once I had taken the exam and didn't have to study for 6 hours a day it was back to racing. I decided to once again race the tortuous off-road duathalon in Ogden called Hurt in the Dirt. Tricia and I raced it as a team last year with her doing the running legs and me the biking legs. We were soooo amazingly fast that we won the team event. This year I figured we would participate again and defend our title. Tricia bailed on me because of some little triathlon called Ironman...apparently its sort of a big deal? I was left with the choice of finding a NEW partner in crime or going solo. I was pretty sure finding a partner as crass and stubborn as TD was nearly impossible so I decided solo was the way to go! How hard could 8 miles of running and 20 miles of mountain biking be anyway? Oh boy! I quickly learned that a race in 100 degree heat that includes running is REALLY hard! I only prepared enough calories/water for about a 2 hour race in 80 degree heat and instead got a 3 hour death march in 100 degrees. I've never in my entire life had such bad muscle and stomach cramps! However, I did not succumb to the pain, not only did I finish...but I won the women's race! And in the meantime I cured myself of ever wanting to race another running event...ever!!

One of the bike legs at Hurt in the Dirt. Notice my exposed tan line in those tiny Tri-shorts.
I caught so much grief for that!

Yesterday I decided to do an "easier" race. One that didn't involve running! This one was also in Ogden called the Mt. Ogden 100K. For those of you who don't get the metric system, that's about 62 miles. This was held at Snowbasin and had about 10,000 feet of vertical climbing. All of this adds up to being about 6 hours and 45 minutes on a bike. Well, that is if you flat on mile 35 and have a near mental breakdown about mile 55. But still, it was the mental and physical feat that fuels, in some very odd way, the reason I love mountain biking. There is something about the science of focusing on every rock, when to brake, how hard to pedal, fueling your body correctly, and where your competition is at all times. To me its basically like a form of meditation from the time you arrive at the venue until the second you cross the finish line. At the end of my very long meditation session I ended up in second place behind Amanda Carey, an amazing ultra endurance rider from Victor, ID. An amazing day that included friends, lots of singletrack, and a huge cardboard check from Snowbasin for $500 with my name on it! Its ALWAYS a good day when you get paid to ride your bike!

First trip up East Fork at the Mt. Ogden 100K. 

So that's it! Mountain Bike Season 2011 complete! Today cyclocross season begins. Time to dust off the skin suit and skinny tires and practice jumping on and off my bike. My cross schedule is still TBD but hoping to use a successful summer to catapult me into the fall season. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In the Thick of it!

It totally blows my mind that it is the middle of June already. If you were judging by weather alone you'd guess it was closer to March with all the rain and cool temps. And if you were judging by my "burn-out" gauge, you'd guess it was the end of the summer and mountain bike season. I thought that I had a handle on juggling school, racing, and not completely neglecting my family after 2 years, but the last two months of school are turning out to be the hardest! The stress of the upcoming certification exam and job hunting is enough to make me crazy!! I've managed to get in 2 local races the last two weeks despite long surgery days in the OR and getting up in the middle of the night to deliver babies!

The Utah state championships were held last week at Deer Valley. Surprisingly, the course was in great shape in the face of our extra wet climate. All the usual suspects joined in on the fun--Sarah, KC, Erica--and as I had expected Kathy Sherwin was in town to race on her home turf. Once we lined up at the start I glanced over and saw a new face! Erica was quick to inform me that this new face was an Australian national racer name Katherine O'Shea. Oh boy...the competition was going to stiff! The race began with a very steep but short climb, the Kathys wasted no time and put the hurt on from the first pedal stroke. I was instantly in fourth place behind the Kathys and Sarah, and managed to hold it for most of the first lap. KC and Erica were not far behind and I watched the gap between Sarah and I grow larger and the gap between KC and I grow smaller...Not exactly the ideal situation! Somewhere during the second lap when I was suffering in the pain cave and KC was passing me with ease, I realized trying to stay with the lead group early-on was a big mistake! My legs just weren't up for this brisk pace today! I ended up in 5th place behind some great riders. Somewhat disappointed on one hand and on the other hand another reality check--40+ hours a week in the hospital, studying, training, being a wife, looking for a job, and sleep...its a tough task to accomplish it all in 24 hours on a daily basis. Looking at the big picture, I spent a nice sunny day with my husband and friends riding my bike at a fun venue. We'll just chalk it up as a little victory!

Deer Valley podium 

Yesterday was another local I-Cup race held near Logan at Sherwood Hills. Its a really great venue with lots of shaded singletrack that snakes through the trees and big-ring climbs that look benign but end up being big-time power suckers! After a very stressful and emotional week that required pep-talks from my amazing husband and incredibly supports friends (Thanks guys!!) it was decided that this race was merely a fun day on the bike with my friends. My competitiveness, though never completely off, needed to be turned waaay down.  This race was my reset button! Take a deep breath and forget about the stresses of school for a couple of hours! Because of a busy schedule, I only got a about 4 hours of riding in during the week preceding the race so I was a little worried that my legs would be in shock once the brisk pace of the race started. I had not ridden this course since my first year racing so I thought I would take a quick warm-up lap around the short 5-mile loop by myself and clear my head. I was enjoying the sunshine and my slow pace when a veered into the grass to pass another rider. BAD move! I nearly rode over a rattlesnake who apparently was also enjoying the warm sun. The eerie sound of his rattle sent shivers down my spine and I looked down to see him directly under my left pedal and coiling up, rattle pointed to the sky and shaking furiously! Now if you know me at all, you know that I turn into a screaming school girl at the sight of a snake. I did let out a mild yelp and quickly warned the other riders behind me who had also slowed down once they heard that nasty rattle. My heart rate was definitely up now! That was the second rattler I'd seen in a week...I think I only saw 2 all summer last year!
Once again the usual crew had shown up for the race, Erica, Sarah, and KC. Its funny, racing against these girls never gets old because from race to race you never know who's going to win! It all depends on the course, how well ones bike functions, or how good your legs feel on that given day. Plus, they are all such great people...its really hard to not have fun with them!
The race started with Sarah taking the lead and Erica right behind her. Emma, a Xterra pro who frequents the I-Cup races for training, was in third followed by KC and I. About halfway around the first lap Emma dropped her chain which allowed KC and I to move up. By then Erica and Sarah had gapped us just a bit. By the start of the second lap I was sitting in a solid fourth behind Emma who had chased her way back to third. I held a steady pace slowly closing the gap on Emma nearly the whole second lap and was finally able to make a pass just before the start of the third lap. I could see her chasing hard as we rode through the twisty single track and knew KC was not far behind. By the start of the fourth lap I could see Sarah not far ahead but knew it would be nearly impossible to catch up. At about the halfway point of the final lap I looked back to see KC...not a surprise. I was right in the middle of Sarah and KC, the gap between KC and I too close for comfort and the gap between Sarah and I just out of reach! I could live with third place today, I thought to myself. But the last mile of the loop was grueling and I was running on fumes! I did end up holding my position and was happy with my ride. I didn't make any big mistakes, my bike functioned well, and I felt like I rode steady unlike the continuous decline in speed and power I suffered at Deer Valley. Consistency during races has not been easy this year, mostly because I think my life outside of racing is never consistent with my ever-changing school schedule.

Sherwood Hills podium
So with less than 50 days of school left and my certification exam in about 60 days my stress level will continue to be high. The National Championship race in Sun Valley is in about 30 days and in the meantime I'll be trying my best to hold it all together and train as smart as I can...oh, and searching for a job! Next weekend I'll head to Round Valley in Park City and test my legs yet again. Ahhh, gotta love being right in the thick of things, huh?! Twenty-two months ago when I started PA school I couldn't wait  to see the light at the end of that figurative tunnel. Now that I'm here, I'm realizing that the tunnel was a nice, cozy, dark, safe place and that damn light is scary!  Never the less, I'm here! Unfortunately race season can't take a break while I get through the next two months. So for now I smile about my accomplishments thus far and look forward to the opportunities that lay ahead...both in school and in cycling. Thanks for reading!

The Usual Suspects! Sarah, KC, me, and Erica (from L to R)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Third Wheel at the Iron Horse

The wettest Spring in Utah history has not been kind to my mountain biking regimen! And after looking at the forecast for Memorial Day weekend, I had originally planned on staying home to watch more rain and take advantage of the long holiday weekend to recover from the final return visit at school. I needed a big-time recovery period after a week worth of sitting in lectures and taking multiple tests to see if I was truly ready to graduate and practice medicine on "real patients". Brandon was planning on going on our usual Memorial Day weekend vacation with some friends to Jackson for the annual brewfest and visit my parents. So, I figured the house would be nice and quiet and provide ample time to study for my board exam. But, a last minute idea from Chad and Tricia (AKA TD) to go to Durango and race the Iron Horse Classic was tossed in my direction. I had a decision to make: Stay home for some R & R and sulk about the cold rain or go to Durango with two of my best friends, ride my bike in the sunshine in new territory, and check another cool race off on my list of "Must Do Races"...hmmmmm! Not really a tough decision! So Chad and Tricia picked me up as a third-wheel in SLC on Friday afternoon after my last lecture at school and we were off to Durango!

The drive went by quickly especially because I caught some much needed shut eye while TD drove. It also doesn't hurt that TD drives a super nice Audi that likes to go fast! Speaking of driving fast...Chad took his turn at the wheel somewhere before Green River and was apparently anxious to get to Durango because we were travelling at a "brisk" pace when we took the ramp to I-70. We hadn't even completely passed the police car before the officer turned on the flashing blue and red lights! Oops! He clocked Chad going 67 mph in a 45 mph zone--TD was not pleased to say the least. I had to put my ear muffs on while she unloaded her disgust upon poor Chad! Luckily I guess there was an official "Wear you seat belt day" in Utah last Friday. The officer must have been a mountain biker or maybe he heard the verbal lashing Chad got from Tricia and felt bad for him because he came back to the window and handed Chad a "warning" and told him because we were all wearing our seat belts we were off the hook! What?! A warning--you're joking! I thought Chad was going to get out of the car and dance a jig on the side of the road, that or give the officer a sloppy kiss! He couldn't help but chuckle as he handed the paper to his fuming wife! I quietly chuckled in the backseat as well, careful to not let TD hear!!

Once we arrived in Durango we stopped at the registration area and then headed quickly to Steamworks Brewpub for dinner. Chad and I decided we should celebrate getting out of the rain, getting out of a speeding ticket, and racing in a new place by getting the beer sampler! Whoa Nelly! This "sampler" was six 6-oz beers with an average alcohol content of 8%...not your typical Utah sampler. After I was half way through mine I realized I was in trouble. I looked across the table at Chad, who was into his 4 deep with a red face and a big smile! Oh no! I eventually finished 4 of the 6 very large samplers and begun chugging the water. I'm such a light-weight these days! If you ever go to Durango, I highly recommend Steamworks. The food is just as good as the beer and the environment is super chill as well.

We camped that night north of town at a campground that sits right along the road race route. In case you are unfamiliar with the famous Iron Horse Classic, it is a race that was started 40 years ago on the basis of beating the Iron Horse, an old train that goes from Durango to Silverton. The race/train starts downtown Durango and travels over three passes climbing to over 10,000 feet and ends in Silverton. Thousands of people participate from the weekend warrior who just tries to finish the ride to the big time pros (many of them local Durangoans) racing the 50-mile course. We woke up early to watch some of the riders bypass our campsite then we walked down to the Animas river to contemplate how we were going to move to Durango!

The Animas River
We headed back into town to pre-ride the course and walk about Main Street in search of some lunch. The 6-mile course started downtown and headed uphill towards the trails that connect downtown to Ft. Lewis College which sits up on a plateau overlooking the town. The first climb, though short, was steep and I figured the first lap it would turn into a hike-a-bike pretty quickly. The climb was followed by short descent that quickly transitioned into the second climb which was less steep but much longer and just as painful! Once we reached the top of the climb we rode around the college to a ridiculous chicane section that had about a dozen super tight turns. This was followed by more descending then connecting back into the road where we started. At this point we rode through the Start/Finish over a wood bridge the went over the crit course and around to the Steamworks Brewpub! This section was not yet rideable however we were told that there was going to be a ramp up to a hole cut in the side of the building and into the brewpub, then we would proceed around the bar out onto the deck and down a wood ramp from the second story down to the road! Seriously?! I was going to race through a brewpub? I was a little nervous about this because I was unsure about all these ramps for one, and two, would they really be able to control the spectators in the brewpub? Oh well, I was pretty excited about this course, and Durango has an incredible group of pro women riders that were all on the start list so it was going to be a good test.

Chad and Tricia at our cabin in Echo Basin near Mancos.

We stayed a cute little resort/ranch in Mancos about 25 miles outside of Durango that night and slept in a bit since our race wasn't until later in the afternoon. We headed into town to check out this crazy brewpub ramp system and then parked ourselves in the shade downtown to take a nap in the grass before the race.

Chad and I scoping out the brewpub section.
Our parking/nap spot and dressing room on some random person's front yard.
Good thing the Durangoans love cyclists!  

After a long wait, the race finally started! It was HOT and WINDY! The pace was quick early as we competed for a good spot for the first steep climb. As expected, it turned into a hike-a-bike pretty much as soon as we hit the dirt! We pushed our bikes until the next "flat" section and we were able to remount and continue the grueling climb. The lead group split quickly from the rest and I found myself dangling on the back of the lead pack but had blown up by the end of the climb and the lead four rode away from me. Somewhere on the second climb the 6th and 7th place girls caught up and we rode as a group for the rest of the lap and into the beginning of the second lap. As we reached the ramp section I was so nervous for the brewpub but once I cleaned the A-ramp into the building I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear! It was packed with screaming MTB fans and fellow riders. I couldn't wait to do this section two more times! The climbing on second lap was just as painful as the first. Good thing I have short-term memory loss during races or I would have quit before I had to climb it the third time! My legs were screaming to stop and I knew was not drinking nearly enough for the hot temperatures. Once I reached the plateau for the third lap the wind was so strong! I was wishing for a riding partner so I could draft like I had done the previous lap. I just had to make it to the chicane section and I was home free! On the short road climb just before the ramps I could see the girl just in front of me and surged to catch her but ended up finishing 5 seconds after her for 7th place. I was hoping for top 5 but started off too fast and I think that set the stage for the rest of the race. The heat and the elevation was a bit of a factor for me too. Also, I think all of the girls that finished above me were locals and probably know those trails like I know the Ogden Shoreline which may have given them a slight advantage too. Another race, another lesson! I love that during the race when I'm suffering most I wonder why I do this, but then after I say how much fun I had and can't wait to do it again. I guess that's what keeps me going!

Start of the race downtown.
Pre-riding the race course on the "town trails" of Durango.

Exiting the brewpub after riding through tons of screaming spectators!
We finished off the long weekend by stopping in Moab on the way home to ride the Sovereign Trail. Its hard to believe, but I had never ridden my bike in Moab before this. Chad and Tricia were good tour guides as we did a leisurely ride and enjoyed the sunshine before heading back to O-town!

Only three weeks before my next big test at the Pro XCT at Mt. Morris in Wisconsin. I hear this race is one of the best every year. I'm really excited but still need to improve my fitness. Hopefully this rain decides to let up and allow Summer to finally come. In the meantime, I have an I-Cup race at Deer Valley on June 11th, lots of studying to do for my board exam, and my OB/GYN rotation to finish. My plate is always overflowing, but I'm trying to keep my glass half full! Thanks for reading :)