Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

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 :)