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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oakley Night Cap Race

The IC crew rolled up in syle on the Cutter's bus :)
Oakley Night Cap Cross is a race I that I definitely look forward to each year! The race is held at Mullet’s bar in Des Moines, under the lights and complete with a live band playing in the middle of the course during the races. There are a ton of spectators and there is always a great turnout of racers. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of ladies that showed up this year, it was awesome!

I lined up early to ensure a good starting position and got a spot on the front row. As with all the previous cross races this year, my goal was to stick with the leaders as long as possible (trying to stay with them a little longer each race!). On the whistle, we took off down a long grass straightaway. Lisa D. and I got our bars tangled few times, but we both stayed calm (and are good bike handlers!) and luckily didn’t go down. I made it to the off camber downhill/uphill section and I was ecstatic to be in 3rd place amid such a talented field of ladies.

Darcy & I at the startline. Photo by Jeff Corocan
I flew down the steep downhill and through the winding sections of the course to a very steep climb (I was using my granny gear!). At the top of this climb there was a blacktop straightaway where I really kicked into high gear. I made a couple more turns and then made it over the first set of barriers and to a nice downward sloping straightaway. After some more twisting course, I went through a dark tree lined section (where we were mooned the first lap!) and to the big log over. I made sure to treat it just like a barrier and run over it (goal from last race - after Aaron pointed out that I was stopping for the non-standard barriers). I couldn’t believe that a couple riders were bunny hopping the log – it was big enough that the thought didn’t even cross my mind.

I promise my eyes weren't closed, I was just looking down.... Thanks Jeff for capturing me actually running!

After another straightaway there was a short uphill, which if you hit right you could catch some air. All the cool kids were doing it (yeah, I’m not a cool kid). There was another set of barriers directly in front of the band and a huge section of spectators. I really need to work some more on getting rid of my stutter step but didn’t want to face plant in front of the large crowd! I noticed other ladies catching up to me right after the barriers, so even though I feel like I have improved, I still need to work on them!

After a lot more ups, downs, and turns, I made it back to the start/finish straightaway. I believe I was still in the top 5, which I managed to hold for a few laps (I think we did a total of 7?). I faded a bit and got passed by a group of three at once. I’m not surprised a. because there were a bunch of super-fast ladies and b. because I had really poor planning and ate a pro bar instead of dinner when we didn’t start until 8:45, and didn’t even have my normal pre-race shot blok… oops.

For the last two laps it was hard to tell what place you were in with all the categories together and lapped riders. The Women’s Open, Women's Cat 4. and Women's Masters all raced at the same time (over 50 of us!). At the end of the final lap I didn’t have anyone close in front or behind so I grabbed a dollar from a booze bottle at one of the corners, much to the delight of the spectators. I tried shoving it my back pocket and then remembered I was wearing a skin suit – so it went up my shorts instead. I was informed later it is proper procedure to stuff them down the top of your skin suit, you know, stripper style, lol.

I managed to finish 9th out of 17 in the Open. I was just so happy about having a good start and staying in the top 5 for so long. I love being able to see improvement, even if it is only a tiny bit!

Who wants to work on barriers with me?!

Full Results

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bobber's Cross

What a great day for a ‘cross race! This race has typically fallen on a cold, rainy, and windy day – but not this year! We had an absolutely gorgeous and sunny fall day. No arm warmers or base layers needed!
I hung out with these cuties during the singlespeed race

The guys at Geoff’s Bike & Ski put together a really fun course, complete with a sand pit, an uphill log-over, some gnarly roots and plenty of fast and flowy sections. The course even went right through the outdoor patio at Bobber’s Grill. This made for great spectating! They also offered plenty of women’s categories and actually ran the Women’s Masters race at a different time than the Women’s Open so women could double up if interested (which doesn’t happen very often).

At the start line we were quite confused when the officials had the Women’s 3/4 field line up ahead of the Women’s Open field and Men’s 3/4 field. Racers from all fields and even the guys from Geoff’s (aka event organizers) strongly questioned this… only to have the official say that was the way it was going to be. It just did not make sense and wasn’t safe to send out the Beginner Women 30 seconds before a charging Open field and 60 seconds before the men’s field. The head official tried to reason they were doing it this way because they didn’t want lapped riders; however I’m not sure how a 30 second gap would accomplish this.

All of us trying to figure out what what going on at the start!
 As a beginner, I would have been absolutely terrified! It’s one thing to start behind the faster classes and then have them spread out and trickle through if/when they lap you. It’s downright scary and not safe to have the entire field out there passing you at once! To drive the point of how ridiculous this was, can you image sending the cat 5 men out 30 seconds in front of the Men’s Open race? I didn’t think so. (I think the official must have just been having an off day – there aren’t usually issues like this).

Women's Open field getting ready to start

Anyways, back to the racing! My goal was to stick a wheel and stay with Robin or Brittany for as long as possible, expecting them to be in the lead from the start. The Women’s 3/4 field took off and before we knew it, we too were off! I had a great start and was in the lead going into the first obstacle, the gnarly roots. Wait, what? I was supposed to be following a wheel, not in the lead! It was like I didn’t know what to do – things were not going as planned (yes, I know this sounds crazy, but it was completely unexpected and I panicked a little). It was as if everything was happening in slow motion, I looked to my right and saw Robin riding the roots (badass) and then saw Darcy and Brittany running by. I finally snapped back into reality and ran over the root, jumped back on my bike and tried to chase back up to the group.

I saw Robin, Britt, and Darcy just ahead and watched them get around a couple Cat. 3/4 women right before a tight, twisting section of the course. I caught up to the Cat. 3/4 women right as they were entering this section and lost my chance to catch up to the leaders. In the following open section I continued chasing and was able to pass a few more ladies from the beginner’s race, while trying to keep the leaders of the open race in my sight.

I got to the uphill log over and dismounted to run over it and up the hill. I actually ran up the hill (I’m patting my back here). I rode on to the steep uphill, and then over to the barriers and then on to the sand pit. I was about 1/3rd of the way through and had to dismount because the girl directly ahead didn’t make it. I again ran(!) and hopped back on my bike to ride to the start/finish area, the leaders no longer in my sight.

Photo by Tara Coady. Thank you for capturing me riding the sand!

 Things were still a little congested in the second lap and I had to get off my bike on the steep uphill and the sand pit due to riders from the beginners race dismounting right in front of me. By the third lap, things were thankfully much more spread out. I was passed by two racers in the open, but fought to stay with them. Usually I get pretty deflated by getting passed, but I was able to get over it and keep going hard. Mentally, this is/was something big for me to overcome.

I yo-yoed for a while and then with two laps to go made a pass. I was able to make the pass stick and finished 5th. With such a strong field of ladies, I’ll take it!

And I will admit that I wouldn’t have been able to hang on to the lead group the entire race, maybe not even an entire lap, but I was a little frustrated to get stuck behind lap traffic right away and not get the chance. It was of course in absolutely no way the fault of any of the other riders, just poor planning by the officials.

Aaron and I were chatting about the races later that evening and he pointed out that I basically came to a stop when dismounting for obstacles, such as the roots and the log. I hadn’t even realized I was consistently treating these differently than the barriers, which I do fairly smoothly. I’ll have to be more conscious of that for next time. I’m glad the men’s & women’s open race at different times so Aaron can spot things like this that I would never realize!

And speaking of Aaron, he had a fabulous day of racing. He took the win in the single speed race and then went on to finish 3rd in the men’s open. So proud!

Jerome, Kevin, Britt, Kevin, and Aaron at the start of the singlespeed race.

Full Results

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Top 10 Tips for Beginners

1. Don’t give up! 

Remember, everyone started out as a beginner at some point. It takes time and dedication to get stronger. My first season was the hardest, but I stuck with it and worked hard. By the next season I had surprised myself by how much I had improved.

2. Take something away from every race or ride – especially the bad ones.

It’s all a learning experience. Think back and reflect on why it didn’t go well. What could you have done differently that would have made it go better? Were you too timid on the start? Did you get dropped because you weren’t able to anticipate an attack? Did you lose focus and make a careless mistake? This will give you an idea of what to work on. I still do this after every race and focus on that area for the next time.

Photo By Angy Snoop (And thanks Robin :) )

3. Set goals for yourself.
Setting goals gives you something to work towards. What do you want to accomplish? Participate in a new kind of race? Learn how to ride a technical section of trail? Improve your climbing or descending? Get rid of a stutter step on a cyclocross remount? Achieving your goals, not matter how small, is huge confidence builder. Having a set of goals is highly motivating and gives a purpose to your training.

4. Join a club/team or join a group ride.
Having a set time each week to ride with a group of people gets you out riding consistently. There is a little extra pressure to ride on those days that you might otherwise be lazy ;) If the riders of the group are stronger than you, it will teach you constantly push yourself and you will find yourself getting stronger. There is so much that can be learned from more experienced riders/racers.

5. Buy a nice bike.
I cannot begin to tell you how much a decent bike makes a difference. Go to your local bike shop and have them help you find one to meet your needs. And make sure to get a bike fit while you are at it. I hated my first mountain bike and wanted to throw it off a cliff. It was a heavy, a little too small, and had a quick release adjustable seat post that was always slipping. At least having that bike made me appreciate the next one that much more!

6. Use your gears.
This may seem silly, but it took me a long time to really use my gears. Don’t be afraid to shift a lot, especially on mountain bike trails. Don’t hesitate to shift down several gears to get up a hill. You want to maintain a good cadence, not "show off" how hard of a gear you can use to barely get up a climb. And, and if you in too hard of a gear on a climb, you won’t be able to respond as well to potential attacks.

Photo by Justin Torner

7. Step outside your comfort zone.
You know the saying: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” (Thomas Jefferson). This is so true. The things that seem the most terrifying can turn out to be the most rewarding. Yes, it may be scary to join up with faster riders, and yes, you may get dropped. It can be scary the first time you race, race a new cycling discipline or upgrade categories. But the important thing is that you will get stronger and become a better rider because of it.

8. Don’t be a sandbagger!
Yes, it feels good to do really well and win a bunch of races, but know when it is time to upgrade. Staying in a category that is easy for you won’t help you improve. You have to be challenged in order to improve. My biggest motivator to work hard has been upgrading categories. Knowing the next season would be even more challenging made me put in just a little more effort and keep focused over the winter.

9. Ride consistently.
It gets cold and downright miserable in the Midwest, but that does not keep me from being active December through February. I aim to get outside at least once per week, ride the trainer even though it can suck, and do other activities such as cross country skiing and yoga. (Swimming is good too, but I am not a swimmer).

10. Keep it fun.
Unless you are a pro and doing this for your job, don’t take things too seriously. Not every ride has to be a training ride. Stop and enjoy the scenery every once in a while, townie around, take a friend along for a ride. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point?

Muddy Cyclocross Race
Photo by Mauro Heck

Have any tips to add? Post them below in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Iowa XC Mtb State Championships – Lake Ahquabi

Time for the last mountain bike race of the year, the Iowa State Championship! This was my first time riding at Lake Ahquabi, and I had heard plenty about it, but was anxious to pre-ride and see for myself. It was just as expected; 90% doubletrack and gravel road, with a lot of climbing and a sprinkle of singletrack thrown in here and there. I know I say this a lot, but I wasn’t sure how this would go, it wasn’t really my type of course. I prefer mainly singletrack with smaller elevation changes….
Lake Ahquabi
The pre-ride sucked (I don’t know why, but my legs almost always feel terrible on the pre-ride!). We rode all but the very end of the lap and headed to the start where everyone was already lining up. I reluctantly peeled off my extra layers in the cold breeze and lined up next to my teammate Brittany and the other Cat. 1 ladies. Going into the race I knew I was leading the IMBCS Series, but if I had a really bad race or DNF’d I could lose it.

The official called out the 30 second warning and before I knew it we were off! Britt was in front of the group with me following in second. We made it to the first steep climb and it felt like I was going so slow, I was sure I was going to get passed already. I could see someone moving up on my right and a stab of disappointment hit me. They moved past me and I could see it was a guy from the marathon race, I felt slight relief. I tried to keep Brittany in my sight, but that didn’t last long! I made it up the first singletrack section, which was a long climb and onto the gravel road with its constant ups and downs. I was actually having fun on the doubletrack :)

Photo By Eric Roccasecca

There was a point when I was out there with no one around and I thought I may have taken a wrong turn (they only had arrows pointing the correct direction, the wrong ways were not taped off) and I was frantically waiting to see the next arrow or another racer. I finally saw it and was relieved I was on the right path!

I made it up the steep gravel road and the rest of the final climbs to the area of fresh cut singletrack. I saw Britt coming from the opposite direction and she yelled at me to go the correct way. She had taken a wrong turn and I’m sure I would have too had she not been there! I followed her down the fresh cut path and through the taped off cyclocross style course at the end of the lap to the start/finish line. By the top of the first climb she was out of sight again. It’s no wonder I feel like such a slow climber next to her ;)

I continued on and was feeling pretty good, and was able to overtake some guys on the climbs, impressing myself, lol (they were probably all in the marathon race, but it still made me feel better and made me push that much harder). I made it to the 3rd and final lap and knew I had a decent gap to 3rd place.
Photo by Eric Roccasecca
I hammered out the flat sections and tried to keep a decent pace on the climbs. I made sure to take it a little easier on the downhill sections, not wanting to risk sliding out. I happily made it to the steep gravel hill and following final climbs. I went down the fresh cut singletrack and through the course tape to finish in 2nd place. I was so happy! Brittany had won, so it was a 1-2 finish for the Iowa City Cycling Club women! And shortly after I finished, Aaron came through in first place. It was a great day and we had both sealed our wins in the IMBCS Series!
Expert Women's Podium
(Karmen 3rd, Brittany 1st, Emily 2nd)
It was a long 3 hours (at least) before results were sorted out and the awards ceremony started. There was a potluck with a bunch of food, and plenty of good friends to hang out with though. We made it back into Iowa City around 9:30...after a short 35 minute detour at the Tanger outlets…I’m in the doghouse for that!

Aaron with his State Champ medal
Kevin Showing off his Rick Hopson Racing T-shirt next to Hopson
Full Results

 And now to finish up the year with cyclocross season!