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!