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Monday, September 30, 2013

Ladies Night @ Geoff's Bike & Ski

Seriously, what could be more fun than hanging out with a bunch of like minded ladies, going for a short bike ride around a beautiful lake, shopping (for bike gear of course!) and sipping on some margaritas?!

Last Thursday, the Iowa City Women's Cycling Club partnered up with the guys at Geoff's Bike and Ski to host this fantastic event. The weather was nicer than we could have imagined for this time of the year and we had a great turnout of new ladies.
We kicked off the night with a short bike ride around the lake at Terry Trueblood where we chated and got to know one another, and then headed back to Geoff's Bike & Ski. Christie was on hand to show us the latest gear from SheBeest and Po Campo. They have some great stuff. I couldn't resist this cute little bag. It even attaches to your handle bars, how cool is that?

One lucky lady even won a Po Campo bag in our prize drawing! Also given away were three pairs of SheBeest socks (I need to try these out, I'm always on the lookout for cycling socks!), a Chamois Time T-shirt and a Racer Girl Tank. If you weren't one of the lucky winners, the Po Campo Bags are available at the bike shop for purchase and the SheBeest items can be ordered from the bike shop (soon to be carried in store!!). The T-shirts and Tanks can be purchased through the Iowa City Women's Cycling Club - just send us a message on our FaceBook page.

I really had a great night and want to thank everyone who came out and joined us! If you would like to be kept in the loop on future events, please sign up for the Iowa City Women's Cycling Club email list. This will also let you know about out weekly group rides. Our beginner friendly road group rides (Ladies Only) will resume again in the Spring around daylight savings.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Farmdale Festival

It’s hard to believe this was my second to last mountain bike race of the season, and last (mtb) race in Illinois– this year has gone by far too quickly!

I was pretty sore and beat up from Saturday’s crash and was worried how this race would go. First place in the series was locked up by Beverly long ago, but Melinda and I were still battling it out for 2nd place.

The drive took slightly longer than anticipated and we were only able to pre-ride the first mile and a half of the start and a little bit of the finishing section. I was definitely at a disadvantage for not knowing these trails; they were very technical and have some features that I needed to practice!

At the start line we debated between how many laps we were to do. The flyer had us doing 3 laps, which would be the same as the men, but another place had us listed as doing 2 laps. I was all in favor of 2 laps since I raced the day before! We voted and since it was not unanimous, we had to stick with the 3 laps per the race flier – meaning we would race about 24 miles, yikes!

I took the lead on the start, hoping to get a gap, but we all stuck together. I really should have grabbed a wheel instead, but I’ve been working so hard to not be timid and get a good start, that holding back went against everything I’ve tried to accomplish this year with my starts. I still have so much to learn about race strategy!

Back to the race though – We made it to a steep downhill followed by a steep rocky climb which I wasn’t quite prepared for, but luckily Beverly warned me about it ahead of time – thank you! I didn’t quite make it up and Bev took the lead. I was thankful to have a wheel to follow since I had no idea what to expect with the very tight and twisty trails. There was a crazy dip section with about 8 dips – the kind with very narrow bottoms that you had to be extremely careful on (I’m sure these have a name!). We made it through those without incident and in and out of a couple more singletrack sections. We went into one single track section and I had no idea what was coming up and found myself headed for a long and winding skinny (I also had no idea there was an option to go around – this is where pre-riding would have been helpful!). I didn’t make it and got passed by pretty much everyone – crap!

We had started behind the Comp Class and Sport Men. The Sport Women started with us. There was a junior boy in the sport race and a sport girl that everyone else had managed to get around before bombing down a fast decent that led into another off camber decent. There was a crash and I got stuck behind it. I managed to eventually catch up to Melinda, but Rachel and Bev were long gone.

After a while I was able to make a pass. I had a little gap that was squashed once we made it to a skinny up and over that was about 3 ft high and 4 inches wide. Did I mention I was still shaken up from Saturday’s crash? Of course I completely messed it up. Melinda got ahead again for a while, and then I took the lead again in an open section. If I’m remembering correctly, I finished the first lap with an ever so slight gap to 4th place.

I made it through the first section of singletrack, up the climb up to the dam and down the gravel road to the main area of singletrack. I finally came upon another one of those darn skinny up and overs and just dismounted to climb over. I was caught and at the next one I got to I was passed since I couldn’t/wouldn’t ride it. There were three of these and I kept losing time at each one. I feel really stupid looking back for not riding them. I have to work on that for next season.

Needless to say, I never was able to catch up on the third lap and finished in 4th. I was pretty disappointed, but had to keep reminding myself that this was my second mtb race of the weekend and with having a bad crash I should just be proud to have gone back out and raced the next day.

My disappointed was short lived once I put it into perspective, and I just have to say that I’ve had an incredible time racing in Illinois this year! I’ve gotten to know some of the race organizers, officials, and regular racers and have to give a shout out to Tony, Amy, Bev, Melinda, and Rachel for being so awesome. Everyone has been so nice, friendly, and welcoming, and I already can’t wait to see them all again next year!

Illinois Homegrown Race Series Women's Expert Podium
Melinda 2nd, Beverly 1st, Me 3rd.

Men's Expert Servies Podium

These are the the best trophies ever!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Summerset Shootout - Banner Lakes

For some crazy reason I decided to participate in both the Iowa and Illinois mountain bike series this year. With the Iowa race  (Summerset Shootout) on Saturday, I would be able to also make it to the final race of the Illinois Homegrown Races Series on Sunday (Farmdale Festival). I’ve doubled up on races before, but never two mountain bikes races, I knew this would be a super tough weekend!

My teammate Lauren and I headed to the race together – thanks for driving!! She has been doing super in the cat 2 races this year, so I encouraged her think about doing the cat 1 race. This was the first time for both of us riding these trails and holy cow are they were technical (but also really fun)! I think Lauren immediately regretted signing up for the cat. 1 race during our pre-ride. Sorry – I promise I had no idea!

Cat.1 Ladies at the Start: L-R: Lisa Vetterlein, Cheryl Dralle,
Karmen Woelber, Myself, Lauren Trolley & Leah Kleager.
Photo By Steve Fuller 
We had a strong bunch of girls at the start line and I was worried about getting a decent position going into the singletrack - have you ever been at a road race with Lisa or Leah?! I started off in the lead down the road and Lisa quickly got ahead of me. I grabbed her wheel and followed her into the singletrack in 2nd place. She is lightning fast and I tried my best to stay with her or at least keep her in my sight.
Photo By Eric Roccasecca 
I made it to one of the steep downhill’s (the kind where you do not want to use you brakes for fear of tumbling over your bars) and into a short prairie section with an enormous rock that you had to go over. I probably went into it with a little too much (ok, a lot too much) speed and got my front wheel lifted up but my rear wheel bounced hard off the rock and shot me up into the air. I superman’d over my bars and landed hard on my stomach/hips/right ribs (think belly flop style, with a little sliding action at the end). I could feel my back bending backwards during the impact and I was just waiting for some serious pain. This is definably the hardest I’ve ever hit the ground.
To my utter amazement, I was able to get up and run to my bike which landed further down the trail than me. I gave it a quick look over and nothing obvious looked broken, and nothing was broken on me so I hoped back on my bike while reassuring the photographer who witnessed my very ungraceful crash that I was ok.
Lisa was completely out of sight by this point and I was worried that I had let the chasing girls close the gap to me. I sucked it up and continued riding hard, but with a little more caution. My bike was definitely making some creaking noises and with every pedal stroke it felt like I had something sharp poking the inside of my right leg. I could't see anything sticking out from the bike, so i tried my best to ignore it.

Gorgeous Trails! Thank you Steve Fuller for the Pic!

I made it to lap 2 and was still in second place. I got to the climb right before the area I crashed the previous lap and didn’t have my gearing right so I had to get off the bike. My bibs caught on my saddle and I had a very ungraceful dismount in which I somehow knocked off my chain. Not.My.Day. I managed to get my chain back on right as Karmen, who was in 3rd place caught up. I jumped on my bike and continued on, just completely hammering down the open section hoping to get back a gap. I succeeded but knew the gap wasn’t large.
I managed to hold the gap for the 3rd lap and finished in 2nd place! 
Karmen 3rd, Lisa 1st, Emily 2nd

And with one race to go, I’m leading the Iowa Series for cat. 1 women – sweet! Oh and I found out I had ripped a hole in my shorts and the sharp poking feeling was my raw skin rubbing against the saddle – nothing a bandaid can’t fix.
It's always wonderful to race with this group of ladies!

I got my bike home and had Aaron look it over. Turns out I had broken my carbon seat post and my saddle. I’m glad they held so I could finish the race and not have to DNF. But seriously, how lucky am I to have a wonderful bike mechanic for my husband?! He got my bike back in race form for Sunday’s race! I on the other hand, would just have to wait and see what kind of form I would be in…

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Inspirational Cyclist: Sandy Kessler

Meet Cassandra (Sandy) Kessler!

In addition to being an Account Clerk in the Finance division of Parking & Transportation at the U of I, Sandy is the Mercy/Specialized women’s team captain and the director of the women’s division of the Iowa City Cycling Club. As if that wasn’t enough, she also coordinates and directs the Chamois Time race series alongside Cara Hamann. Needless to say, Sandy has played an integral part in growing the women’s cycling community, and like the other Inspirational Women I have posted about, she played a key part in my very own start in cycling.

I can still remember clearly (ok, maybe a little fuzzily from the wine…) when she asked me if I wanted to join the Iowa City Cycling Club a few years back. It was the most incredible feeling ever and I was so happy I jumped on her! Anyone can join the club, but it felt so special to be asked. Really, you want me, who can barely keep up on a beginners ride, to join? That was all the motivation I needed to really get into racing!

Read below to learn more about Sandy and how she got her own start in cycling!

How long have you been riding and/or racing?
Starting mtb'ing in 2000. Raced one race (the Scramble) every year until my first date with Dan: Snake Alley in 2005.
Startline of the 2008 Scramble

How did you get your start in cycling?

Mountain biking every day at Sugar Bottom after I graduated from college and wasn't working much more than 30 hours per week
 What bikes do you have?
Specialized! Tarmac, Stumpjumper, Crux, and Dolce plus two super sweet Townies (Raleigh and Klein) and a Schwinn cruiser
Do you have a favorite race?
tie: Chequamegon 40 and Old Cap Crit
2010 Chequamegon

What has racing done for you (how has it shaped your life)?
It has created a dirty, neglected house but a sense of focus spring through fall topped off with extreme relaxation in the winter. Hurry up and get to work so that I can get off by 5 so that I can run to the group rides, when do I squeeze Sugar in? oops need to get to the grocery store, I'm starving so let's eat out anyway, rinse and repeat.

What is your favorite aspect of cycling?
The friendships I've been lucky enough to find.

Any goals for the season?
To suck it up and find enjoyment in racing cross again. A pretty new red Crux has got to help, right?

Who is your favorite cyclist or racing team?
As far as the pros go I like them as a whole, watching the Tour and not caring who is who. My true favorite cyclists are my favorite people and a lot of them live right here in IC.

What other hobbies and interests do you have outside of cycling?
Reading on the porch, playing sloppy gardener, traveling, yoga, wine.
Sandy & Dan in Colorado 2008
Germany 2013

Anything else to add? Any tips for women interested in starting riding or racing?
Women that are at all interested in riding/racing simply need to meet our group. It's daunting at first I'm sure, but it's worth it. Whether you're interested in towny-ing to the local wine & cheese shop or racing in the most grueling of races... there's a girl in Iowa City that does it.

Sandy, you have just perfectly described my life! Life is chaotic, yet focused, and everything except cycling tends to get neglected – but I wouldn’t have it any other way! And the people I have met and the friendships built are truly the most rewarding. Thank you so much for inspiring to me not only with your racing, but also with you involvement and commitment to get more women riding!

I can’t wait to see you at all of the ‘cross races this year!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mud Sweat & Gears

I didn’t have high expectations for this race after being hit hard with either really bad allergies or a cold on top of allergies the past 10 or so days. I went for a gravel ride on Saturday since I had not been out riding much and was thinking I would feel quite a bit better than the prior weekend’s gravel ride – last week I was coughing so hard I thought I was going to puke up mucus – yep disgusting. I had high hopes, popped a Claritin and Sudafed only to feel like crap and really weak on the bike.  But hey, as least I felt slightly better than last week! And on the upside, I would be well rested for Sunday’s race!
Aaron and I got up bright and early Sunday morning to make the trek to Comlara Park at Lake Evergreen in Hudson, IL. We had our GPS set to Comlara Park instead of the specific area for mountain biking and almost ended up at Bible Church which apparently is also at the park. Luckily we were plenty early and found the trails with enough time to still pre-ride and not be in a rush.
We got the bikes ready, kitted up, and headed to the start to see if the beginner race was finished and if it was ok to hop on the trails. Due to the timing chips in our number plates we were instructed to life our bikes overhead and walk to the side of the timing mat. Being the SAP that I am, I of course lifted my bike up but had my number plate over the mat. Sorry Tony!!!  (And thanks Amy for telling me that Tony needed practice with the timing chip software to make me feel better!).
The course started out with a long and winding dirt/gravel road leading to the single track. The beginning section of singletrack had about 10 man-made features, very skinny winding bridges (um, no thanks!) and other features that I wasn’t willing to test out on race day! There were just two that I was comfortable riding without having had time to practice them. There were ways to go around, but they were longer. I was wondering if many of the ladies would be riding these or not…
We made it out of the features sections and onto some really fun and twisty single track, I loved it! There were a couple technical climbs with rooty uphills but I made it up them without problem.  The climbs were the perfect distance, you had to work, but they didn’t completely kill you. And there was plenty of fast of flow-y singletrack to keep you smiling! I was starting to feel a little better about the race and was doing ok with just a Claritin.
I lined up behind the expert/cat 1 men, and then all the ladies decided that it might be better to go behind the sport men, rather than deal with them catching up to us through the beginning skills section. So we moved back and lined up just in front of the sport women. I was starting to get nervous and was hoping to keep up on what would surely be a super-fast start and then not get too far behind in the technical section. I was talking with the other ladies and most of them could ride the features.
The whistle blew and we were off! I took off and to my surprise was leading the group! I made it first into the singletrack with Ann (leader of the sport class) on my wheel. I thought for sure I would get passed or the ladies would catch up in this first section, but I was able to get a little gap. I keep riding hard and made it up to a few of the guys and got around them. I knew the more guys I could catch and get around the better. I wanted to get some distance. I made sure to really dig deep and push it in the open sections, never letting up. I learned my lesson a few weeks ago when I got caught at the end of the race and lost the fight for 2nd place by 4 seconds. I knew every single second I could get would help me.
I managed to stay in the lead for the first lap and started on my second. The spectators were really friendly and I had plenty of people cheering for me, some by name and other yelled “Go Iowa!” There were a few points where I had thoughts pop in my head about being in the lead and maybe winning, but I squashed those immediately and stayed focused. There were still two more laps to go and the last time I was in the lead I managed to shear off my derailleur and DNF. I knew I had to stay focused and not let up. I passed by a guy in an open section and he told me I was riding really well and I’m pretty sure he called me a “tigress”- I laughed to myself.
I made it into the singletrack for the third time and caught Beverly out of the corner of my eye; I was guessing I had about a 30-40 second gap, not enough to make me comfortable. I pushed really hard and tried to make sure she wouldn’t close that gap. I wanted to stay out of her sight and not give that extra motivation of being able to see the person ahead of you.
On the fourth lap, I once again caught sight of her entering the single track and guessed that I still had about a 40 second gap. I reminded myself to keep focused. And kept telling myself “pain is just temporary” – some cheesy saying I pinned on Pinterest. It worked though and I never gave in or let up. I just kept pushing and pushing.
Aaron finally caught up to me with about 1 mile to go. I asked what kind of a gap I had and he said it was big, but I didn’t believe him and kept riding as hard as I could. He told me latter he didn’t want me to get too worked up and crash trying to push myself too hard. At last I could see the finish line and I crossed in first place. I finally won my first expert/cat one mountain bike race and Aaron won the expert/cat 1 men’s race!
What a fun race and race course!

Full Results

Beverly  Enslow (2nd), Myself (1st), Rachel Furman (3rd). Awesome race ladies!
The Expert Men's Podium - Aaron Fader (2nd), Aaron Robnett (1st), Aaron Higley (3rd) -  All Aaron's!! A guy in the crowd yelled out that he was going to change his name!
Ann (1st place Sport) & Myself
Aaron and I with our first place medals :)