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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

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.



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Iowa City Road Race/Old Cap Crit

Well this was a weekend of highs and lows.

I was tempted not to race on Saturday because of the crummy weather, but I'm glad I did! The road race went far better than expected. With the strong wind I was simply hoping to not get dropped off the back of the group and be out there on my own, so I was elated to finish top 5, along with two teammates!

We had a pretty tame start, with everyone just trying to stay upright with the strong cross wind. Teammates Sandy and Ingrid started taking turns on the front of the group to get things going. I joined in as well, wanting to help do some work while I had a chance (still worried that I would get dropped quickly!).

After changing directions and going into more of a head wind Sandy got (most) everyone working together and eschlon-ing . Things remained pretty calm in the group until about the half way point of the first of the three laps. The course turns back toward the start, giving a strong tailwind, and there is a nice climb. Attacks almost always happen here, so I was ready when the first attack came. And then it was just attack after attack after attack. I was able to stay in the group and even cover a few attacks myself - careful to ensure that girls from other teams had to put in work to cover attacks as well.

This was a strong bunch of ladies, and only a few dropped from the group. On the second lap the group continued to work together and attacks were quickly neutralized. Not much changed until the second half of the third and final lap. With just a half lap to go, the pace started to pick up and as we got closer and closer to the finish, it was clear that it would come down to a bunch sprint.

I stayed toward the front of the group, but still managed to get boxed in when the final sprint really got going. I eased off slightly so I could get around the racer to my left (I still had someone right in front of me and to my right). As soon as I got around them I kicked as hard as I could and managed a 5th place finish! And two teammates finished right ahead, in 3rd and 4th.

Next time we will have to be more organized for the final sprint, and have a lead out planned. But I'm incredibly happy with the results!


Old Capitol Crit
Women's Pro 1/2/3 start line. Photo by Karen Stierler
Ugh, this race went awfully for me! I went into the race with high hops after the previous day's race going so well. But on the first lap, I was cornering badly enough to get dropped on the downhill and then had to use a great deal of effort in the flat headwind section and following step climb in order to catch back up to the lead group. And then I would drop off the back on the downhill corner on the next lap and have to fight to try and get back to the group... So frustrating! I fell completely off the lead group after what I think was two laps and went solo for a lap before noticing two teammates not far behind. I slowed down so we could all work together to try and get back on the lead. This plan of mine failed miserably and I was again off the back from cornering badly - I don't know what happened to my confidence in this race??

Mentally preparing for that darn downhill corner. Photo by Natalie Rekemeyer.
Although highly frustrated and annoyed with myself, I kept pushing hard in the flat sections and on the climb - riding most of the 20 laps one my own. I was so happy to be done with the race, but so not happy with how it went. At least I have plenty to learn from this experience!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Illiniwek Abermination

It feels good to have the first mountain bike race of the season out of the way! It's always nerve wrecking to see how things go at the beginning of the season. The race didn't go as well as I hoped, and I finished 2nd, several minutes down from 1st place. But at least now I know where my fitness stands and know what I need to work on going forward!
Nervous on the start line! Photo by Brittany McConnell
I had a rough start, not being able to get clipped in through the gassy start. I had to make big effort once getting fully clipped in, to get around another girl and hit the single track in second. 

Liz was ahead and dominated the first climb. I couldn't get a good flow and she held her gap on the flowing and twisting sections that followed. By the time I popped out of the single track to the first open section Liz already had a 15-20 second lead. I thought I could close the gap a little on the next single track section, but I was not cornering confidently and was breaking far too much. I just couldn't get into a good rhythm/flow- which was super frustrating because the fast/twisty sections are usually my strong point. 
Photo by Jamie Parkin
Liz was killing it on the course and had strengthened her lead to over a minute on the first lap. It was really hard mentally for me to be in this position, since last year I was used to being the one stretching the lead or riding very close to first. I kept powering on though, I knew that Ann wasn't far behind in third place. (Awesome job in your first Expert race by the way!). 

It was a hard 4 laps - so much climbing! But after all the climbs we were rewarded with very fun downhills and flowy sections. The trails were in excellent condition and the new wooden berm was a definite highlight of the trails. I can't wait until they finish the other two! The final descent was spectacular as well. It's roller coaster fast and you just fly through the woods- so much fun! 

Post race with the IC crew. Photo by Brittany McConnell
The other highlights of the day were the amazing weather, and a good sized women's field (8). It's always more fun with more competitors.

Thank you to the race directors, officials, volunteers, and everyone who helped make this such a great race!
Ladies Podium! Photo by Brittany McConnell

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kent Park

Well I learned a lot this race, for instance don't be stupid and drop your chain, and second, don't give up, even if you find yourself DFL and on your own a half lap into a five lap race.

As always, my legs felt like crap on the warm up. While this is normal for almost any race warm up, I was particularly worried since my legs haven't really not felt like crap yet, as I try to get back into race shape after winter. But once the race started I was actually feeling pretty good, thank goodness.

Getting ready to race. Photo by Darian Nagle-Gamm
I made it up the steep climb to the finish line with the group and kept up with the attacks going on pretty much from the start of the race. And then on the first big hill I managed to drop my chain. I should really not be having this problem, but I made a bad choice about when to shift. So there I was, half way up the hill, on the side of the road trying to get my bike functioning! 

It was jammed pretty well and by the time I got my bike working again I was in absolute last place and on my own with 4 1/2 laps to go. Oh boy, I knew this wasn't going to be easy but I was not going to pull out of the race. I got back on my bike and took off. If nothing else I would get in a good ride!
Riding with my teammates. Photo by Darian Nagle-Gamm
It took an entire lap, but I finally caught up with two teammates right about where I had dropped my chain. After another lap, again in about the same spot, I saw another racer ahead and took off to chase her down. By the climb to the finish area I had caught up with her. I was informed by the spectators that another teammate wasn't far ahead so I sat in or rode slowly, not wanting to bring a non-teammate up to a teammate ahead. 

The next time through the finish area, I saw one lap to go, so I attacked off the front. It worked and I was able to get away, maintaining my place through the finish of the race. 

Hanging out post race with Niels and Robin. Photo by Mauro Heck.
I was so happy that I was able to catch up to a few riders and ride well on my own, that I wasn't even upset about the chain issue. I didn't give up and proved that I am in better shape than I thought. And that was worth so much to me! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

First Race of the Year - Hills Spring Classic

...And I apparently forgot to tell my legs it was race day. Ha! It actually didn't go as badly as I thought for an early season race. The weather was fantastic and we actually had sunshine! It felt so good to be out on the bike with some other ladies. And it was apparently Women's Day for biking, I'm really glad I got out to ride.

The first couple laps were pretty hard. I was sick earlier this week and didn't do much at all beside sit on the couch, luckily my legs finally warmed up and the second two laps weren't so bad. A group of four (out of six women) broke away from the start. We rode together nicely the first lap and then there were a couple of attacks on the second lap where the course transitioned from gravel to road.

Women on the start line. Photo by Brittany McConnell

Alijah managed to initiate a break (nice job girl!) and I fell off from the two girls chasing. Crap! I really did not want to ride 2 1/2 laps by myself so I keep a steady, strong pace and finally caught back after the fist turn once back on gravel. That I caught back up on a gravel section is nothing short of a miracle, I suck big time on gravel!

The three of us stayed together with Mari and I taking turns pulling (her on gravel and me on road). We were almost to the end of the third lap when the leading men's group came around us, and the girl riding with us latched onto their wheels and it was too late when we tried to chase on. Once they were away, there wasn't a chance of us chasing them down.

Mari and I rode together for another half a lap, and once I saw another rider come up on us, I decided to pick up the pace. I rode the rest of the way in solo and was so, so happy to cross the finish line. Glad to have the first race done!

Alijah & I post race. The photo does not do justice to how muddy we were! Photo by Brittany McConnell

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top Moments from 2014

It has been a fantastic year. There were the inevitable ups and downs, but the "ups" outweighed the "downs" by so much that I'm not sure 2015 will be able to live up to this past year (but I hope it does!). Here's a look at my favorite moments from 2014:

1) Mountain biking in Arizona. This trip was the perfect way to kick off the riding season last March. Aaron and I got to ride some amazing trails, hang out with some awesome people, and enjoy the nice warm AZ weather....which I'm thoroughly missing at the moment. While I didn't exactly want to leave at the end of our trip, the journey back to the colder weather was made sweeter by....

Riding South Mountain in Phoenix, AZ
2) Getting to meet my sweet baby niece, who decided to wait until the night I left for vacation to be born. Lil' stinker. Of course I forgave her as soon as she was in my arms that first time. And just like she was impatient to enter this world, I'm impatient for her to be able to ride a bike :) I can't wait to take her on many biking adventures. She's going to be a cyclists for sure. 

My little love!
3) Starting a new job in Iowa city! It's hard to believe what a huge positive impact this has had on my life. I get to ride my bike to work everyday (awesome!) and no longer have a stressful commute. I love my job (didn't think that was possible) and even got to join a bicycle advisory committee as part of my job. How cool is that?!

4) Getting a new mountain bike. Riding a 29er on vacation sealed the deal for me. While it wasn't quite right for me, I knew after riding it that a 650b would be perfect. And it was. That race machine led me to....
Post race with my Yeti Arc Carbon
5) Winning the Illinois Mountain Bike Series. I won the Iowa series the year before, so hey, why not tackle a new state? I still can't believe how well mtb racing went for me this year- five cat 1 wins and two second place finishes (plus one DNF, I still can't believe my darn pedal came off!!)

Some of my favorite ladies to race with!
6) The Sugar Bottom Scramble. As my home race the Scramble is always special to me, but this year took the cake racing with Robin and Brittany. These two were role models for me since the start of me getting into biking (and still are) and it felt great to finish 1-2-3 with them at this race :)

Hanging out post race with Britt, Robin, and baby Niels.
7) Getting 3rd place at the Iowa State Championship Road Race. Up until this point I didn't really feel like I belonged on the elite team. Working together with teammates and being able to put out more effort that I thought possible got me to the end. It was an incredible feeling crossing that finish line and knowing that my team took the top 3 spots.

8) I was utterly spoiled this year by also getting a new carbon 'cross bike. Oh boy can I tell the difference riding on that compared to my old aluminum frame! I'm going to go ahead and credit my new bike with how much better I did this year in 'cross.

Racing on my new Specialized Carbon Crux
9) Jingle Cross. It's always a struggle to not come in last racing against some of the top women across the county. With the crowd this race draws I'm usually happy to finish ahead of a few people. I was in for a surprise this year when I finished 6th place - two days in a row!

10) All of the above helped me end the season ranked 7th in the country for cat 1 cross country racing and 34th overall- holy smokes I didn't think that was possible! See what I mean by how hard it will be to top this past year?

I hope you too had a wonderful 2014 and will have an even greater 2015!