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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bobbers Cross

I've been having a good start to my cross season and was hopping to keep up the momentum at Bobbers. Unfortunately my lack of riding in the few weeks leading up to the race showed and I blew up with 2 laps to go - two days a week just does not cut it. But considering my lack of riding, I was happy to still get third, behind Britt and Alijah!

The race started very well and I took the lead going into the first turn. I had a good remount after the root section (which I need to learn how to ride!) and led for a short while longer. I was just waiting for Britt to pass and sure enough she came around once we got to an open section. I tried to stick with her and was feeling pretty good.

First lap chasing behind Britt - Photo by Kevin McConnell
Britt gained some distance on me, but I tried to keep her in sight. I was also well aware of those chasing close behind me, which kept my motivation up. I could tell my little bit of running was paying off on the short run up section of the course, which made me really happy. I was actually running, ha!

One of the earlier laps of me riding the sand. Photo by Kevin McConnell
A few twists and turns later and I made it to the sand. I picked a bad line and fell further back from Britt going into the 2nd lap. After another lap or two (I can't remember how many we ended up doing) I really sucked it up in the sand and had a really slow remount because I thought my chain fell off - it hadn't. I finally saw the two laps to go lap card.

At this point I was struggling big time! I don't even know what I did going over the root section, but managed to punch myself in the stomach with my saddle. I about doubled over and really had a hard time going again. I cannot believe how much that hurt. I have to imagine its similar to a guy getting hit in the nuts.

My face says it all. Photo by Angy Snoop
Between my not so stellar performance in the sand and the little root section incident, Alijah was within seconds of catching me. I barely had anything left and she came around on the backside of the course. I tried to keep up with her, to prevent falling further back in the placings. That lap and a half were so tough for me, but I made it!

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't hold onto 2nd place, but I wasn't really surprised. I been feeling a little out of shape, and if you couldn't already tell by how long it took me to write this post, I've also been feeling a little on the lazy side. The colder weather does a number on me, if only I lived somewhere warmer to entice me outside!

At least this race was a nice kick in the pants to get me working harder on the bike again! There is still Devil's Cross, three days of Jingle Cross and State Cross to go. Feel free to encourage me out on rides with you :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Riding my NEW BIKE at Capital City Cross

New bikes make me feel like a kid on Christmas morning! I've been lusting after a carbon Crux for a while now and couldn't be more excited to finally have one! It got here just in time for Aaron to build it up and have it ready to go before my second cross race of the season. I did a couple hot laps around the neighborhood in the dark that night, which was the night before race day and that was it!

Britt and I headed to Des Moines the early the next afternoon for Capital City Cross, leaving both our boys back home. We both felt bad they had to work, but I did enjoy the girl time :) While getting our bikes ready, we noticed some really muddy bikes. Apparently there is a natural spring under the hill at the park. That would explain it!

We were going to pre-ride the non-muddy parts of the course, but the race that was right before the Women's Open didn't finish until 5 minutes before our start. I guess we would go into it blind! The officials lined us up according to USAC rankings, but since I didn't preregister they were going to stick me in the back row. Another women pointed out to the official that it would put me behind women who weren't racing the Open, but were racing one of the Masters categories instead. The official said that starting positioned "didn't really matter." What?! Thankfully Tara asked me if I wanted to squeeze in next to her on the 2nd row and actually just let me take her place (she was racing masters). That was so, so incredibly nice - thank you Tara!

The whistle blew and we were off, I had a fast start and managed to get ahead of several people and rounded the first corned in 3rd, with Brittany and Linda ahead. At the first opportunity I gunned it around Linda and was able to get away. Britt had opened up a gap on me, and I on Linda, Sara, and Lisa who were chasing behind.

Photo Credit: Jeff Corcoran. Click here for full gallery.

I made it over all four(!) barriers and had a good remount. Once I got to the short uphill with two 2x4's I dismounted again and ran the the climb to the first muddy section. I'm not so sure about uphill remounts so I climbed back on my bike pretty much at a standstill (lame, I know). I wanted to make sure I was solidly clipped back in, because I only had about 2-3 feet before a very long section of ankle deep mud. I took the high line, next to the course tape and didn't make it far before putting a foot down and trying (thankfully successfully) to get started again. The girls had all but caught back up to me, but I was able to ride the rest of the mud, including the uphill 180 turn without problem and regained the gap.

Photo Credit: Jeff Corcoran. Click here for full gallery.
Next up was a bombing fast downhill section which was awesome, followed by a very long spiral. I actually got a little dizzy from going around in circles so much! I finished up the lap and tried to keep Britt in sight ahead. I knew I wouldn't catch her, but it's always easier to have some ahead to try and keep pace with. I also wanted to keep up my pace so I wouldn't get caught.

Photo Credit: Tara Coady (although I'm sure John took the pics since she was racing!)
Not much changed at the front during the next four laps, but Britt did get a little farther ahead and Lisa got ahead of Linda and took over 3rd place. I was happy (as always) to see the one lap to go card and kept pushing hard in all the open sections, and thankfully had enough energy to not get caught and to finish second. I great race I would say! I absolutely LOVED my new bike and how it handled the tough course. The course was also super fun, with lots of different features to keep things interested. I really enjoy coming to this race every year!

Photo Credit: Tara Coady

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oakley Night Cap

Holy smokes that was a fun course, I've never enjoyed a cyclocross race so much! There were ups, downs, twists, off camber turns, and a little bit of mud. And the straightaways were limited which was right up my alley!

Getting lined up and ready to race. Photo by Eric Roccasecca.
It's been fun to see the Women's field grow at this race. I got to line up with 16 other ladies, that's awesome for a local race! Since I haven't done super well at 'cross I lined up in the second row (lined up according to USAC rankings).

I had a great start and was 4th going into the first turn. Brittany, Vanessa, and Lisa were ahead. Britt and Vanessa started to get a gap but I could not get around Lisa with all the turns. On the second lap I finally got ahead but Vanessa and Brittany were already far ahead.

I drilled down to try and get a gap from Lisa and all the other girls chasing close behind. I kept things smooth through all turns and off camber areas. My mountain bike handling skills were put to good use!

Trying to build a gap! Photo by Eric Roccasecca
Darcy was on the sidelines cheering me along and giving me great tidbits of advice during the race. She reminded me to keep drilling down every chance I got, there were several girls close behind chasing. It was exactly the advice I needed - thank you Darcy!

When I finally got a look at the lap counter, there was just one lap to go. I was a little giddy by how well I was doing but nervous about how many girls were so close behind! I kept things smooth, pushed through the corners, and pushed even harder during the straightaways. And I finished in 3rd place. By far my best 'cross race ever! And my stellar teammates Britt and Vanessa finished 1st and 2nd - awesome!

Lisa, Myself, Brittany, Vanessa, and Linda on the podium! Photo courtesy of Brittany McConnell.
Now I'll keep my fingers crossed that the rest of the season goes so well!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Farmdale Festival - Final Race for the Illinois Series!

Well I didn't have it in me for a win at Farmdale, but my 2nd place finish sealed my overall win in the Illinois Homegrown Race Series! Iowa City showed it's dominance with teammate Britt taking 3rd place in the series and Kevin and Aaron taking 1st and 2nd place in the men's division!

Beverly, Myself & Britt for the series podium
Aaron, Britt (standing in for Kevin) and Jason for the men's series podium
If you've never done an Illinois Homegrown Race Series race, I would mark one (or the whole series) on your calendar for next year! There is friendly - but tough - competition and every course is fun with unique challenges and different types of trails. I would go back to any of these courses to ride just for fun.

And one of my favorite parts is the timing chip race plates. It's fun and helpful to be able look over your laps time for every race. You can learn whether your pace is consistent or drops off lap to lap and compare to how other riders are doing. I personally like comparing my time to the men's expert field to see where I would fit in :) And  with number plates there are no pesky numbers to pin on, it's the small things right?
 
And last, but certainly not least the Illinois Race series comes with super nice people. The volunteers, course marshals, fellow competitors, and spectators are all fantastic. It's always great to hangout with everyone post race and the 312 guys usually have beer (and if you are lucky they will give you a beer hand-up at the finish) :). And the Thallers are truly wonderful - thank you for everything you do to make the series so great!

Post race selfie with Britt - I love this girl!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sugar Bottom Scramble

Oh boy was I nervous for this race! The Scramble is always super tough - the course is long and trails can really beat you up. And then there is the whole gravel road climb to start the race....and I think everyone knows how much I like gravel ;) But I rode my ass off and managed a 2nd place finish. I'll take 2nd to Robin in a mountain bike race any day!

The field was quite a bit smaller this year. With the rescheduled date, the race was the same weekend as the Chequamegon 40 and a two day cyclocross weekend. We still had 6 ladies line up for the expert race though.

I struggled a bit on climb up the gravel road but managed to get around Liz right before the top, to enter the single track in 3rd. I really wanted to get in right behind Robin, but Britt is a super strong climber and got in 2nd.

Breathing a little hard at the top of the gravel climb! Photo by Angy Snoop
Britt and I sped through the south side of trails trying to stay with Robin as best as possible. I came around Britt right before popping out of the singletrack and onto the fire road. I really wanted to be in front on the next bombing fast downhill section. I’ve been working on cornering at speed and thought this might be my best chance to get back up to Robin. I got pretty close to Robin but she still kept a gap. She came through the start/finish area with Britt and I chasing hard behind.

I led us on the first North side lap, but Britt came around me before we headed back into the singletrack for our second North side lap. I fought hard to stay with her on the following climbs- I wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep up. She got a little ahead of me but I was able to catch back up at the beginning of Rockslide. Once we got to the rocky climb she made a little mistake and veered off to the left of the trail. I cleared the climb and used all my strength to push myself on the rest of the trail.

Climbing out of Rock Slide I could see Robin ahead which gave me motivation to keep going hard. I needed the motivation for all of that climbing! Unfortunately I didn't ride the next section of trail (fast downhill twisting trail) as smoothly as I would have liked. I definitely used my breaks too much and didn't get any closer to Robin.

Grinding up Cyclocross Hill. Photo by Angy Snoop
Coming through the start/finish all I could think was how happy I was that I only had one more lap! I missed a bottle hand up and I really wanted some water...and I was starting to get exhausted. I love these trails, but they really beat you up!

Thankfully my last lap went smoothly and I finished in 2nd place behind Robin, and Britt took third place. It was great to have teammates and good friends take all the top spots! I think that is about the hardest I've raced my mountain bike this year. It was so much fun to ride with Britt and really have her push my pace.

Friends and tough competition!
Now if mountain bike race season could just last a little longer! I'm not ready for 'cross season and all the cold weather that comes with!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mud Sweat & Gears - Another Win in the Illinois Series!

This race last year was actually my first ever win in the Cat. 1/Expert Category so I was pretty excited to take the win again this year!


Bev, Britt, Melinda, and I all had a fast start. I pushed the pace as best as I could and thought I had gotten a small gap until the very end of the first lap. The last trail was very tight and twisty with about 10 or so man made features (like long twisting skinnies and log piles). I only rode a few and the girls caught back up. I crossed through the start/finish with just a 5 second lead.

Wanting to get away I absolutely drilled it going into the second lap. I caught back up to a group of the Comp guys that had passed earlier and tried my best to stay with them as long as possible. It’s always so much easier when there is someone in front of you leading the way and setting the pace instead of being out there on your own! I managed to ride a very fast and smooth second lap and managed to get about a minute lead by the time I came back through the start/finish.

I continued to go all out on the third lap and I could just see the girls coming into the final section of trail as I was exiting it. I knew I had a decent gap but still didn’t want to take any chances of getting caught. As always I reminded myself to be careful as I sped through the last lap though. No need to jeopardize the lead with a crash!

This time when I was finishing up the final section of trail I didn’t see anyone behind. I rode down the long gravel road and came through the finish line with a solid three minute gap. Since the course hadn't changed since last year (except reverse direction) I had the extra motivation of wanting to compare my time this year to my time from last year to. My biggest fear is always that I stop making improvements- I’ve just finished my fourth year of riding and racing so the improvements have come pretty easy up to this point. But I have to motivate myself to work harder each season to keep getting stronger!

The Illinois state series is wrapping up and I'm currently in 2nd place with five wins and one DNF. Six races count toward the overall score, plus bonus points for each extra race completed, so the series overall will come down to the final race next weekend! As long as I finish the race I have a good chance to take the series win, so the pressure is on to not DNF!

Full Results with lap times - the best part of this series is the timing chip number plates!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

State Road Race

Well I think it’s safe to say that I surprised more than myself at the State Road Race. I’m still not quite sure how I ended up on the podium… My goals going into the race were to a. survive the 64 miles, b. work for the team, and c. maybe stick with the lead group. I guarantee that ending up in third place never crossed my mind! 

Robin and I leading out the Women's P/1/2/3 Race - Photo By Mark Considine
As we rounded the turn at about mile 20 to head back towards the start/finish, the group was still all together, except for Sandy. She had made a break several miles earlier but half the group didn't know (me included)! We are going to have to add Stealthy Sandy to her list of names - although Euro Sandy is still my favorite ;)

Vanessa and Kim were taking turns attacking the group but were chased every time, they were obviously marked riders. Up until this point I had only taken a couple of pulls on front, and I really wanted to do some more work for the team. I decided to help out and throw a few attacks myself.  I made my way to the front and went for it...after a minute I looked back and no one was chasing!
It would have been quite hilarious to read my mind at this point. Everything from “um guys, aren’t you going to come chase me down…please?” to “oh dear god what have I done?!?”  was flying through my head once I realized that I soloed off the front with about 40-45 miles to go. I guess if you are going to attack you've got to be prepared for it to work! 
After the initial panic I reminded myself that this was no different than the mountain bike races that I’ve done this year. If I could be out on my own during those races then I could do it here- at least until the group caught back up.
I hunkered down in my drops and the miles ticked by. I made it back through the start/finish which marked the halfway point in the race and headed back toward Old 218. The group was nowhere in sight. No one wanted to chase me down. I don’t really blame them, I didn’t think I would make it out there on my own either! 
I was getting within a few miles of the next turn when I finally spotted a rider behind me – it was my teammate Kim!!! She bridged up and I was hoping I could muster enough strength to stick with her for the last 20-25 miles. She watched out for me and had me sit on her wheel as she kicked it into high gear on the tailwind section. I finally learned from her that Sandy was ahead, so if we could hold off the chase group we would lock down 1st-3rd place!
Those last miles were really tough but I hung on to Kim's wheel. It felt great to cross the line right behind her and to see Sandy on the sidelines as she already came in first! To top off the day Vanessa won the group sprint and took 4th. It's not a bad day when your team takes 1st through 4th place!

I am incredibly proud of the hard work that all my teammates did- that was a long and tough race. It was awesome to have such a large representation of the Iowa City Women's Cycling club!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Going the distance – Black Partridge Classic

Normally I balk when XC mountain bike races have the women doing the same distance as the men.  But my opinion is starting to change a little bit. Yes it might take a little longer to finish, but that certainly doesn’t mean women can’t go the same distance. And in fact this past race we did – and you know what, Beverly, Melinda, and myself crushed it – way to go ladies!


The women’s distance is normally less, because cross country races are based on a suggested finishing times between 1:30-1:45 , not on distance. If we go the same distance as the men, our times start to mirror more of an endurance mountain bike race instead of a cross country race. And while I’d prefer a xc distance when I sign up for an xc race, it was a nice chance to prove just how strong we are, that we can compete at the same distance as men.

My opinion started to change after reading about Evelyn Steven’s successful attempt at putting together a 17 stage road race to prove that women are capable of competing in a grand tour like the men (a la Tour de France). None exist for the women (the rules actually prevent it) so she strung together a couple of smaller tours to simulate a grand tour – and she killed it!  

Because of what she accomplished, I went into the race thinking "I can do this" instead of "wtf - this is too long". I was a little worried about some the technical areas of the course with tall logs across the course and plenty of exposed roots, but at least I wasn’t panicked about the distance! And I actually felt the best I've felt all season during a race, even when I crossed the finish line after 2 hours and 9 minutes of racing. Usually there is some point where I have to remind myself to push through the exhaustion and keep racing - I didn't have to remind myself to keep going hard this time, I just did.

Cycling has come a long way for women, but it still has a long way to go as was evident as this race. It was pretty disappointing to see so few women lining up to compete. Illinois has an excellent mountain bike series and I just don't understand why there aren't more women that show up. The race promoters and volunteers really know how to put on a well-organized race and they are friendly beyond belief. The courses are always super fun with different challenges sprinkled in to keep things interesting. And while challenging they are some of the most fun races I’ve done. I wish there was an easy way to get more women out there! 

If only I could find a solution to that and my fear of going over tall logs. I see a skills clinic in my future! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Racing to Win or Racing to Not Lose? - State Championship Crit

Can I just say I love my teammates!? It was so much fun to get to race with teammates Brittany, Vanessa, Alijah, and Ingrid at the State Crit. We even got three of us in the top ten (I was 10th)! I was a little apprehensive about missing out on a mountain bike race (part of the Illinois series that I'm competing in) to race the crit, but it was a fun day. There is definitely more of a team feel to road racing, and with the State Road Race coming up I need all the practice I can get!

Photo by Natalie Rekemeyer
The race started off fast with everyone wanting a spot on the front for the first downhill. I managed a quick start and was toward the front the first few corners. Once we got to the second half of the climb (back toward the start/finish) I was swallowed back into the group – I have to work on keeping the pace up on inclines!

A small gap opened up and I did not make it into the lead group. A couple more laps into the race a spectator ran out into the street and yelled at us to keep right (at a left-hand turn). I thought they were just being crazy until we rounded the corner and saw Lisa and Vanessa getting up off the ground after a bad crash. Thankfully they were ok and both able to jump back in the race.

There were a couple of solo attacks from my group, most of which were chased down, but a few were able to get away. There was one point in the race where I was so close to catching onto a group ahead but I just couldn’t get myself to go hard enough. I will work my ass off on a group ride to not get dropped from the main group, but for some reason I seem to lack the same ability or determination in a race. Completely backwards, I know! Especially considering the opposite is true when mountain biking.

For most of the race Dee, Sarah, and I rode together. Dee and I both had teammates ahead so we didn't push to the pace too hard, just enough to keep anyone from behind catching up. With just two laps to go I was certain it would come down to the three of us at the finish. And on the final climb towards the finish line I again just couldn’t get myself to go hard. Dee and Sarah both got out front of me, but when I was worried someone from behind my try to sprint me, I was able to conjure up all my remaining strength to spring to the line. What the hell, why couldn’t I have done what like 30 seconds earlier?!

...And it's taking me all week to try to figure this out; I've been racing to not lose, not racing to win.










Tuesday, July 15, 2014

DNF'ing Sucks

FORC Side Thrill Ride 

 

Proof I rode the berm -  Photo Credit: Hanson Photo Design

It sucks to have a mechanical during a race, but it really sucks when it's on your last lap and your having a pretty good race. I was riding a pretty tame section of course and thought my foot had come unclipped, odd, but no big deal. I didn't think too much of it until I tried to clip back in and realized I was missing my pedal! I looked down and saw my pedal attached to my shoe instead of my bike- well shit.

At this point in the race (3rd & final lap) Robin was well in the lead, and I knew I didn't have a chance of catching her. But I was sitting in second place with Britt and Liz maybe a minute or so behind, and I was hoping to hold the gap. I tried and tried to get the pedal screwed back in and it was just.not.working. One of the Iowa City Guys, Ryan came by and gave me a multi-tool, still no luck (thank you though!) Then one by one the women's field came by and passed me and I saw the race slipping through the cracks. I think I spent about 15 minutes trying to get the darn thing back on before mostly giving up.

I slowly made my way through the course, coasting when I could and hike a biking anytime there was an incline or roots - it's really hard to pedal and balance with just one leg! I was hoping that Aaron would soon come along and be able to fix my bike so I could at least finish. He did stop to help but the threading on the crank where the pedal screws in was messed up so there was no hope. And to make things worst Aaron lost a couple places while helping me- he wouldn't keep going until I absolutely insisted.

Only four miles to go but no chance to even run it in. I was falling over in the slippy mud just walking the bike- carbon soled shoes are just not made for climbing hills on foot! And let's be honest, I'm really not a runner anyway! That was one tough journey out of the trails.

For a while I was incredibly frustrated, thinking "why do I even put so much effort into racing?" But this is mountain bike racing and sometimes shit just happens. After the initial disappointment wore off I remembered how much I love this sport, and racing! I can't wait to head back out to Sunderbruch and ride the wooden berms again - holy cow those were fun when I finally rode them! And now I'm even more determined to have a good race next time around.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jubliee Challenge - A Climber's Delight

I.might.be.becoming.a.climber.... I didn't think I would ever utter those words, but I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it- at least on the mountain bike! And that's a good thing because this race course had an overabundance of steep and/or prolonged climbs. My Garmin recorded a whopping 2020 ft of climbing during the 18 mile race.

I had a great start, taking the hole shot into the single track section. I kept a steady pace but wasn't going super hard - the course was still slick from the previous day's rain. Even being cautious I managed to slide a couple times, only staying upright by putting my leg out to catch myself.

Expert Women
Cat 1 Women on the Startline. Photo Credit: Erica Mueller
Melinda was right on my tail and the others were not far behind going into the first climb. I maintained a strong pace and managed to build a gap. It's funny how much difference a year can make. Last year I struggled big time at this race and was the one getting gaped on this very same climb. (If only I could just make the same progress on the road...)

Once again I found myself needing to balance speed with caution. It's tougher than it sounds. I didn't want to go too slow and get caught, but I obviously didn't want to hit a slick spot and go down.

Luckily, the course felt slightly dryer on the second lap and I was able to go a little faster on the downhill sections. And while on the first lap I wasn't a fan of all the creek crossings, on this lap I looked forward to them just for the cold splash of water to cool me down. 

My favorite part of the race was when one of the men cheered me on, all the way up a steep and twisting climb that was also slick with mud. The extra encouragement was just what I needed :) I felt bad that he was off the bike walking, but his good attitude reminded me of just how awesome other racers can be!

One the third and final lap I felt re-energized with the end in sight. And then I spun out over a root at the top of one the climbs and fell straight over. There was mild panic while I made sure I didn't twist my bars or drop my chain. Thankfully everything was just fine and I continued on!

With a couple miles to go I started to become really worried that someone was going to catch up to me at the end and I really picked up the pace. I was relieved to come across the line and take the win! And just like last year, I promptly dumped water all over myself to cool down, wow was it hot!


 Results/Lap Times


Melinda, Myself, Britt, and Beverly lookin' good post-race. Photo Credit: Britt McConnell

  
Women's Cat 1/Expert Podium.
*Lovebirds* Thanks Mari for the bottle hand-ups and Steve for the cookies!

Tony & Amy Thaller- awesome husband/wife duo that make the IL race series so great!

Aaron and Kevin were twinsies! ;)


Friday, June 20, 2014

One Year Blogiversary!

One year ago today I published my very first blog post! Writing has given me a chance to reflect on many experiences over the last year and has hopefully encouraged a few women (or guys) with their cycling endeavors.

I'm always surprised by which posts readers are more interested in. But what is not surprising is how well liked the Inspirational Cyclist posts have been. There are many strong and dedicated women in the area that we can all learn so much from. I look forward to continuing these posts and maybe even expanding them to women throughout the Midwest. 

I'm always trying to think of ways to improve this blog, so by all means let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback!

Thanks for reading!

Emily


Best part of the last year was hanging out with this guy ;)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Illiniwek Abermination Mtb Race

Well I can honestly say that the Illiniwek A-berm-ination was the fastest, flowy-ist (can I make that a word?), and most fun race course I've ever ridden. The trails were freaking fantastic!! They reminded me of some super fun trails that Aaron and I rode at Rays Town Lake while on vacation a few years back in Pennsylvania; Allegrippis. I never knew such fun trails were so close to home. I'll be back to ride for sure.

Unfortunately there haven't been huge turnouts in the women's expert field this year (come on ladies, get out there are race your bike!). So I was happy to have five other women to race with, especially with the Tour of Galena the same weekend. 

We had a long grassy start before the singletrack which I was actually happy with. I've been feeling more and more confident with this type of start, learning to put in a hard effort off the line. Before, I was lacking the motivation to work hard until I hit the singletrack, imagine that ;)

Britt took the lead and made it into the singletrack first, with me on her wheel, and Liz right behind. I'm always talking about how fast Britt is, so my goal going into the race was to try and stick with her as long as possible, especially through the first section which has a lot of climbing. I was off to a good start but was wondering how long I would be able to hang!

Photo Credit: Hanson Photo - Design

The trails were smoking fast and Britt slid out around a corner putting me in the lead, with Liz still right behind. Liz and I hit the open section overlooking the lake and Liz came around me taking the lead back into the singletrack. She then went down on a corner and I was back in the lead. I reminded myself to balance speed with caution. My rear wheel had already drifted around enough corners to remind me to be careful!

I made it through the second half of the lap without any problems and came through the start/finish with a 10 second gap. I made it back into the singletrack and started on the climbing section with Britt and Liz hot on my heels. Once through the climbing section and through the first open prairie section we came to a little wooden up and over and I heard Britt right behind. She had managed to drop Liz though so it was just the two of riding together.

Photo Credit: Hanson Photo - Design
It was so much fun to have a someone (and a teammate to boot) to ride with and push me to keep going hard! Usually things get pretty spread out and it can feel like you are out there racing by yourself.

We passed through the start/finish together and continued to hammer through the 3rd lap. We were still together towards the end of the lap and were just flying down the final descent (it felt like a roller coaster!) when I heard Britt say "oh golly", but I was going too fast to look back right away and couldn't tell what happened. I got slowed down and kept looking back, waiting for her to catch back up, but didn't see her coming. I was tormented with what to do. Everyone always tells you to keep going if there is a crash behind you, but it felt wrong. I eventually starting going again but still felt like I should be waiting up for her.


I passed through the start/finish once more and got to the climbing section. At that point I told myself that I need to start racing again and picked up the pace. It was the 4th and final lap and I was wondering when the expert men would catch - there weren't a lot of good passing areas so I was a little worried.

I kept getting closer and closer to the super fast and long descent when Kevin came around - thank goodness! I really kicked it into high gear after that to try and make it through the rest of the singletrack before the rest of the expert men caught up. It was close, but I happily made it to the open field before the finish when Aaron and another guy chasing him came by - relief!

I crossed the line and then went to check on Britt. Ingrid let me know that she had come through riding and seemed ok - double relief! I know crashes are a part of racing, but that doesn't make them any less scary, I was really glad to see she was ok. She even finished the race after what was a hard crash, she is  one tough girl!
Expert Women's Podium: Karmen, Britt, Bev, Myself, & Liz.

Aaron and I rewarded ourselves for our hard with this massive thing of cheese fries :)








Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Snake Alley, Family from Brazil, & Costco Conversations

Well that race didn't go as well as expected. It's frustrating to not perform as well as hoped, but instead of sulking I need to take some of my own advice and learn something from the race :)

Alijah, Sandy, Lauren, Myself, Darian, and Karen before the race. Photo by Mark BeattyAdd caption

First and foremost, I really need to work on my shifting - Aaron tells me I'm a hamfist. And it's true, I'm really bad about trying to shift while the chain is under pressure. Sure enough, on the first lap, before even getting to the Snake, I tried shifting to the little ring and my chain jammed for a second. I instantly stopped pedaling and thankfully I didn't pull the chain off! But with a fast crit start, it's never good to lose your momentum like that.

Where I really lost time was on the downhill section though. A few more practice laps would have done me a lot a good! For the first 2-3 laps I hesitated going all out, and that is really where I should have done well as a mountain biker (so I am told). It was a really fast and fun descent once I got the hang of it.

Grinding up that climb! Photo by Natalie Rekemeyer
And of course, I need to work on my climbing. I see some hill repeats in my future! I had to stand to climb most of the snake, but I would have liked to have been able to climb seated for at least the first half of the climb.

Just some napping and hanging out with babies on the hill. 6:00am is too early to wake up on the weekend!
I have a lot to work on, but I don't want to make it sound like it was a bad time. I would rather have a not so good race, than not race at all! And I really enjoyed hanging out with teammates on the hill- napping, getting baby snuggles, and comparing Costco shopping lists, while cheering on teammates in other races. Way to go ICCC guys and gals!

All in all it was a superb weekend. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with my baby niece, nephews, mom, and my sister's extended family from Brazil. It was so good to spend time with them, they are so nice and friendly and even though they are my sister's in-laws, they feel like family! I'm kicking myself for not taking photos, but I was too "busy" holding my niece :) I think it's time to start planning another trip to Brazil!

My little snuggle bug!

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Bike & First Mountain Bike Race of the Year

What's more exciting than the first mtb race of the season?? Getting to race on a brand new bike! While I was sad to see my S-works Stumpjumper go, I am super happy to be making the switch from 26in to 650b wheels.

So what did I get? A Yeti Arc Carbon! I've been drooling over the frame while it's been sitting down in my basement waiting to get built. Of course some of the parts took their sweet time getting here and it was a last minute scramble to get the bike built - thank you Aaron (aka best husband ever)!

I officially deemed myself a bike nerd when I got the most excited by the fact my new Industry Nine wheels/hubs have even more points of engagement than the Chris King hubs I had before (which I loved by the way). Not long ago I wouldn't have had a clue what that even meant ;) For the rest of you bike nerds I (ahem, Aaron) will post some build details soon!

So back to the race - I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I really enjoy racing in Illinois. Tony Thaller does an excellent job with the series, his wife Amy is a superb official, and I love the ladies that race in the expert field. Not only are they friendly, but provide great competition. The guys are pretty darn nice too. 

This race was at Matthiessen state park. The trails here are great, you get your fast and flowy sections, fun downhills, some technical areas and a crazy three part climb up out of the river valley. I don't know what it is about this climb, but I actually like it. Yeah, I know, I hate climbing. I can't explain it.

Photo by Steve Sansenbach
So, I went into this race wanting vengeance. Last year I was having a spectacular race at this course and then had to DNF due to a crazy derailleur shearing off incident... I was bound and determined to not let that happen again!

Beverly, Melinda and I lined up together. A very small field, but three of were actually the top three from last year's overall series, so I knew I would have to work hard to do well. I took the hole shot into the singletrack with a tiny gap and tried to keep pace with the back of the men's expert field (we all started together). While trying to be cautious and not have repeat of last year, I kept pushing my pace trying to open the gap, or at least not get caught.

I was working pretty hard and was slightly worried I wouldn't be able to keep up the same pace. I decided now was as good of time as any to learn my limits. If I blew up and couldn't finish by lap four I would know I pushed too hard. If not, well then I would know I could handle the pace.

Photo by Steve Sansenbach
I made it to the crazy long climb at the end of the lap (the one I kinda enjoy) and worked my way toward the top. I took a quick glance below and tried to gauge how big of a gap I might have. I thought I saw one of the chasing girls getting ready to start the climb but couldn't tell for sure. I keep going as fast as I could down the straightaway and dove into my second lap. I kept reminding myself to focus so I wouldn't make any stupid mistakes.

From time to time I would hear someone approaching and would worry I had been caught. But each time it was one of the men from the sport race. Halfway through the fourth and final lap the leader of the Expert men came through, which happened to be Kevin, and shortly after the chase group, which included Aaron. Aaron gave me a "nice job Babe" or something like that and I could hear one of the other guys asking if I was Brittany. For a moment they totally thought Aaron was hitting on Kevin's wife. Too funny!

I made it up that final climb one last time and crossed the finish line in first place! I definitely got my vengeance on the derailleur eating course!

Yay, I finished with a smile instead of tears this year!
Melinda, Myself, & Beverly

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chris Lillig Memorial Cup

Well, I survived my first big road race as a Cat. 3.

I was worried I would be completely off the back, out there racing by myself and that everyone would question why I'm on the team, and that it would be just awful, and I would help the team out at all....ugh I always imagine the worst possible scenario!

Photo By Brittany McConnell
All 25 of us in the Women's Pro/Cat1/2/3 field started off at a decent pace for the 39 mile (3 lap) race. I was really surprised that the pace was friendlier than a normal group ride...at least most of the time!

Riding in such a large group, it was almost hard to keep a position towards the front. Riders were constantly jockeying for position towards the front and I kept finding myself moving towards the back.

As we got to the halfway point on the first lap, toward a climb where the course turned to give us a tailwind I knew I should have been further towards the front of the group but just didn't get there. As anticipated there was an attached and I was poorly positioned to respond.

While slightly disappointed to not have gotten into the lead group, I was happy to still be in the chase group and not off the back by myself (like my worst case scenario worries). And we got four teammates in the lead group-yes!

Things were pretty calm for the next to laps. There were of course attacks, but nothing major and nothing that stuck. With just over a half lap to go, one of my teammates launched an attack and solo'd off the front of the group. Surprisingly no one tried to chase her down. Shortly afterward another teammate solo'd off the front and again no one followed. We now had six teammates ahead (and two others in the chase group with me).

Iowa City Road Race
My teammates off the front of the chase group. Strong ladies! Photo by Brittany McConnell


After my teammates were a safe distance ahead, I decided to try an attack of my own at the top of a climb. One girl caught me and shortly after one of my teammates and two others also caught on. Not ideal, but at least it made the chase group slightly smaller.

We kept a high pace all the way to finish were we sprinted just for the fun of it. I took 3rd in the field sprint...not great, but not bad either.

 Not sure if this is my "Oh my god I'm done" face or "not impressed (that I didn't do better) better" face. Photo by Brittany McConnell

Needless to say, the race went fine- not great, but fine and far from the worst case scenario plaguing my thoughts!! Overall, I was really happy to have a chance to work with my teammates and learn more about team tactics. While I didn't get into the lead group, I was at least able to do some work for the team before the big break - goal accomplished.

And, after I was done with the race, I go to hang out with this cute little guy :)

Race baby! Photo by Brittany McConnell

More on the Old Cap Crit to follow!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hard Ride = Happiness? (Hills/Iowa City Spring Classic)

Yesterday was the Hills/Iowa City Spring Classic, which is a pretty hilly gravel race. So today, I was thinking I might be pretty tired and sluggish on my townie ride to work, but instead I found myself with a little extra spring in my step pedal stroke and just smiling away. I was trying to think why I was so unexpectedly happy, I mean, it was Monday morning and I hadn't even had my coffee yet, and then I remembered that I put in a hard effort on the bike yesterday. That was it! It almost never fails that I'm in a really bubbly mood the day after a hard ride or race. Does anyone else wake up the next day and just feel little extra happy? I hope you do, because it's great!

I'm glad I was in such a good mood today, because I've been severely lacking motivation to race these past two weekends. My fitness at this point is still questionable, and while I enjoy grave rides, I don't love gravel races... I knew I would do the race, but was looking for any excuse not too. I told myself it would just be a nice hard ride, which I would do by myself if I didn't race. And riding with others usually wins!

Getting ready to race with these lovely ladies :) Photo by Mark Beatty.

The whole group of racers rolled out from Hills, IA to the start of the race a couple miles to the west. The officials were great, and got us all started really quickly once we arrived.

One of the women, who had gone the Gent's Race the day before, fell behind quickly along with another girl who was new to racing. Robin, Andrea, Alijah, and myself all hung together until the rollers where Robin kept a fast pace and rode off ahead. The group was down to just three us of. I pulled us the rest of the first lap and then said someone else should take a turn. After one small hill to the start/finish I was back on front pulling.

Photo By Brittany McConnell
 I don't know how, but I managed to drop my chain and had to stop and fix it on the second lap. I felt like it took forever to get it back on, I was thinking about how much work it would be to catch back up to Alijah and Andrea when I saw them riding towards me?? I hoped back on the bike and told them they should have kept going!! I felt really bad that they had stopped, so I jumped right back on front to pull. I would have been working hard solo for a while anyways!

One we hit the pavement section, I tried to let someone else pull again and the pace went down to about 11 mph. I couldn't stand to go that slow so I got everyone to echelon until we hit the gravel, and then I was back on front. I gave up on trying to get anyone to share the work and ended up spending most of the race pulling on the front.

On the last lap, I attacked on the pavement and Alijah jumped up to me and then Andrea caught as well. Andrea and I rode side my side going into the final climb. She went ahead and I wasn't sure if I had the legs to out sprint her. Alijah came around both of us and I put all my remaining strength into getting to the finish line, barely ahead of Andrea. She is one strong lady!

Yes, that's my "grr" face, haha! Photo by Mark Beatty.

It was a fun race, and I was happy to have the strength to be on the front so much, especially with all the climbing. I got my hard workout it!

Robin & I cooling down after the race. I love this lady! Photo by Tara Coady.

-Emily

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