Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

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.