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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chamois Time - Sugar Bottom TT

Yay! We finally got to have our Chamois Time mountain bike time trial. It only took a couple reschedules due to soggy trails, but it turned out perfect. The trails were ripping fast and Todd, Robin, and Jean (hope I'm not leaving anyone out!) put together an excellent course on the north side trails. They even threw in a few black trails for the Women's A and Men's A and kept the course for the Women's B & Men's B novice friendly.

The most exciting part of the evening was Ingrid doing her very first mountain bike race!! Go Ing!

Ingrid hitting the trails! Photo by Ben Cottington
The other excellent part of the evening was the fact that I actually felt decent on the bike *huge sigh of relief.* I was of course super nervous about my fitness after the East Village Crit disaster and was needing a little boost of confidence. Granted, it was a short TT, but I'll take any good feeling I can get at this point!

I love this photo :) Photo credit to Ben Cottington
And looking through photos of the event, I think everyone had a good time. Mountain biking seems to put a smile on everyone's face. If you didn't make it out for this race, make sure to try out the Sugar Bottom Scramble coming up in about a week! AND don't forget that we still have a Chamois Time 'cross race in the works and a gravel race yet to come!

Mari starting the TT with a huge smile. Photo by Ben Cottington

Jean showing off her guns! Photo by Ben Cottington

Also love this photo of Sandy! Photo by Ben Cottington

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East Village Crit (State Championship)

After a 7 weeks of missing races due to bad weather and/or dealing with a strained neck, I FINALLY got to race my bike again AND semi-figured out what the heck is/was wrong with my neck. Oh happy day!

I missed the mountain bike TT in Des Moines on Saturday but was able to get a last minute dr. appointment to figure out why neck was still throbbing after straining it weeks ago. Turns out my neck/shoulder muscle(s) thought it would be fun to get stuck in a spasm state and not release. An order for PT and prescription later and I was one happy lady- now I knew why I was hurting so badly and had a plan to make it better. And then I was so excited to get rid of the glaring pain in my neck/shoulder area that I didn't think twice about taking my new prescription before bed....the night before the State Crit...big mistake.

The Women's P/1/2/3/4 Field Lining Up - Photo by Steve Hanson

I was feeling pretty sluggish warming up, but that is pretty much always the case so I didn't think anything of it. I snagged a starting spot on the front and was looking forward to a good race. I got a good position going into the first corner leading into the downhill. The group stayed together (including the 4's) and the pace was surprisingly laid back, especially considering the stacked field. I still wasn't feeling great on the uphills but kept with the group.

A few laps in, as the group was rounding the (uphill) corner toward the start finish someone (I believe on of the 4's) tried to make a line where there wasn't one and a bunch of riders went down in a domino effect- including teammate Alijah who had a great chance at getting on the podium for our team.

I somehow managed to get through the falling bikes and legs flailing in the air and didn't get caught up in it. I hammed down a bit to catch back up with the about six girls that made it through the corner before the crash. With the group split, the lead pack took off, wanting to make sure a gap stuck. I struggled to stay with the group on the uphill and knew something was off. I just felt drained of energy. I wasn't able to respond to any increase in tempo.

About three laps later I fell off the back with two other ladies. At about this time, girls from the crash were still being allowed to rejoin the lead group (free "lap", turned in to "laps" plural). I don't think anyone knew if they were still considered to be on the lead lap or were a lap or two down.

With about 13 laps to go I really cracked and fell off the chase group and rode around by myself until getting picked up by riders coming from behind. I had no idea if they were on the same lap or behind, but I stayed with them for a bit and them fell off from them. It felt like I was going backward. I've never felt so awful and completely out of energy during a race. It was temping to pull out of the race but I made myself continue, knowing that if I wasn't already mad at myself for a crappy performance, I'd be even more pissed at myself for giving up.

So I finished DFL. That race really hurt. Usually I've been able to push through it for the most part, maybe slightly lowering my pace, but never like this. To make my bruised ego feel a little better I chalked it up to taking a muscle relaxer the night before, but who knows.

I'll make sure to review rule #5 before the next race.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Grinnell Twilight Crit

I think Mother Nature is turning me into a roadie....and it's been fun so far, but I'm itching to get back to racing my mountain bike! Last weekend it was the IMBCS race at Seven Oaks getting postponed and now they have already announced that this coming weekend's IMBCS race at Ewing Park has been postponed! So what's a bike racer to do?

Well, last weekend Ingrid convinced me to head to Grinnell for the Grinell Twilight Criterium. And surprise, I had a ton of fun :) Out of the six women in the P/1/2/3 field, five were teammates. Anne even came from WI to race with us! Anne, Ingrid, Alijah, Mari, and I talked race tactics while warming up and came up with a strategy to try and get us all to cross the line first- and to keep things interesting.

As planned, Mari attacked off the bat and managed to get a gap. After Mari was a good distance ahead I threw an attack, but realized that Sarah was close behind, so I sat back up. Not long after, Alijah and Anne made a coordinated move and were able to get away and bridge up to Mari. Ingrid and I hung on Sarah's wheel and eventually were pulled back up to the group. 

Mari, Anne, Myself & Sarah - there must have been more changes on the front than I even remember! Photo courtesy of Mari- I'm guessing photo credit goes to Steve :)
As soon as we were all back together Ingrid made her move and got away. She was putting good distance between us, getting about a half lap away. It was time to continue with our plan to get as many teammates ahead as possible, so I made an attack and got away this time.

Sometime later Anne and Alijah attacked as well, because as soon as I was getting up to Ingrid, they were right behind too (with Sarah and Mari a ways back). The four of us took turns on the front - there were only about six or so short laps left.

With just two laps to go we saw Sarah gaining distance on us, and we again ratcheted up the pace. With one lap to go Ingrid gave me a break on the front and took lead pulling the four of us around. On the back half of the course Alijah decided to keep things competitive between the four of us and attacked for the finish. Anne jumped as well and they came charging in front of Ingrid and I to take 1st and 2nd. Ingrid rolled accross in 3rd, and I in 4th. We turned around to watch the sprint between Mari and Sarah and Mari took the sprint to come in 5th place. Our plan and strategy had worked to get all five of us across first!

All six of us (myself, Ingrid, Alijah, Anne, Mari, & Sarah). Come on ladies - join on in the fun next time!

It's probably hard to tell from this post how much fun the race was! I definitely wasn't dull as you would expect with only one opponent. We all worked together and had chances to make moves - the leader or leaders seemed like they were constantly changing during the super short race.

I'm actually kind of looking forward to doing a little more road racing this weekend at Rose Fest...Still hoping for Mother Nature to dry things up soon though, I'll always be a mountain biker at heart :)

Teammates! Myself, Mari, Ingrid, Anne, & Alijah. Thanks Britt McConnell for the photo!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy

I really didn't think this race was going to happen. But the thunder, lightning, and pouring rain finally gave way to sunny skies, and after a two hour delay the race was on! The trails even dried up enough to get in a pre lap.

I was really looking forward to a relatively short course - 3, 4 1/2 mile laps. However, right before the 10 second countdown to the start, the women's field learned that we would be doing 4 laps and that we would be starting at the same time as the men. Ready, set, go! What?!

How gorgeous is this? Photo by Eric Roccasecca.
It was a super fast start and I managed to get into the single track ahead of a few of the men's field, but Liz was further ahead and there were a few people between us. I normally like a fast start, but this was even faster than I was expecting!

The first section of the course was really nice and flowy, but you still had to watch out for some slick spots on corners. The berms (there were a lot of them -fun!) were great and allowed you to carry a lot of speed into the corners without worrying about slick spots. All you had to do was ride the berm high and you could completely avoid any mud.

Another favorite part of the trail system was where you shot of out the woods into a meadow - the flowers were gorgeous!
Photo by Angy Snoop
After the uphill switchbacks, there was another open section leading to the second half of the course. I no longer had sight of Liz ahead, so I knew she had quite a gap. The second half of the course was a lot more technical. There was a log over on an off camber section of trail, which was slick from the rain, tight uphill turns with plenty of roots, and an uphill turn with roots where you had to go through two very close together trees - man was that tough!

Since I no longer had Liz in my sight, I tried to use any of the guys that passed as motivation to keep up with them. I just didn't have it in me to stick with any of them for long though! I was really wishing that the 3rd lap was my last - that fourth lap was rough!

It turned into a hot and extremely humid day and while a lot of the muddy spots dried up, there were still plenty of sluggish semi wet sandy areas that sapped my energy. On the last lap though, I gave some of what I was calling my "trail nemesis'" a try - probably not the best idea, but what the heck? I knew Liz wasn't close enough to catch and there wasn't anyone close behind. I had fun and proved to myself that I shouldn't have been hesitant about giving them a try!

Photo by Angy Snoop.
My only big fail of the day was not packing a pair of shorts for after the race- it was way too hot for my jeans!

While there were a few glitches, some controllable like the start, and some not, like the weather, it turned out to be a great race. I'd love to come back to these trail when they are nice and dry and really fly around on those berms!

Katherine, Cara, Liz, Myself, and Karmen. Couldn't ask for a friendlier group of ladies to race with! Photo by Eric Roccasecca.
My only complaint *rant warning* was the serious discrepancy between the men's and women's payouts for the top finishers. My 2nd place finish paid out less than my husband's 4th place finish, we race the same category! Racing is obviously not about the money, but this sucks, and feels like a slap in the face, when the payouts aren't equal for the top finishers. I thought that in Iowa, in years past, that there was equal payout. This is always a good sign of a great series. I know there is an issue of the women's field not being nearly as large as the men's field, but a simple solution would be to not pay out as deep. After all, we pay the same entry fee, we train just as hard, and race just as hard.

/end rant


I'm really happy for the feedback received on my little payout equality rant. I'm glad for the willingness to have an open discussion on the issue. In my opinion the solution is incredibly easy; equal payout for the top finishers, but adjust the depth of payouts for the field size. WORS already does a variation of this and plenty of races in Iowa like the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup and Jingle Cross already have equal payouts in place. This has a huge positive effect on the women who do race. (How to get more women out there racing is another topic- also very important).

In my opinion the argument about the women's field being smaller and not deserving of equal payouts is bogus. The money for payouts comes from the entire race, not just the category 1 men's or category 1 women's fields.

I understand there are plenty of expenses that go into hosting a race, which can be overwhelming. We all want the races to be financially stable and really appreciate all the time and effort going into putting these events on. But really, if the race is capable of paying out higher amounts to the men's field, they should be certain they can afford to do the same for the women. The women aren't taking away money from the men. The men's field overall usually gets more money because of deeper payouts, and I see the rational of that when they have significantly larger fields.

As a final thought, I want to emphasize that most of us, men and women, are not out there racing for money (pros aside). This isn't a monetary issues, it's an EQUALITY issues.