Mars Hill Mountain at Kolo Bike Park

This weekend I got the best of both worlds: chance to race an awesome mountain bike race hosted by Mars Hill Cycling at Kolo Bike Park combined with having to only travel 30 minutes from home. Add in that I had a 12:30 start and a chance to wake-up without an alarm and you have a recipe for success. Right? One would think so!

Hammer time!
Hammer time!

Let me preface with the fact that I worked 12 hours on the soccer fields on Saturday. I went home, ate dinner and prepped all my stuff for my race. Went to bed at a good time, slept well and got up when I was ready. Had a great breakfast of the always awesome Bob’s Red Mill Seven-Grain, prepared the rest of my drink and food for racing, checked my bike, loaded the car, and away I went. Got to Kolo Bike Park, checked in, found out I was the solo Cat 1 women (whoo-hoo?), and went to get ready. I had plenty of time, the course looked fast and fun, I was excited! I get kitted up, pull out my shoes, put one on and discover I have two left shoes! I don’t know what happened, all I can guess is that my post-work delirium blinded me from realizing I had two different mountain bike shoes in my bag. Needless to say, I was really annoyed with myself. A couple of frantic phone calls to Kyle later, my other right mountain bike shoe was in transit to Kolo, while I pedaled around in my hiking shoes. I know I got a couple weird looks for that one! Kyle saved the day with 10 minutes to go! I quickly finished my very small and short warm up, and lined up with 6 other Cat 1 guys. They would do six 2.7 mile laps, and I was to do 5. I knew that the field would be small, but I was hoping for at least one other women to race against. Not that I mind having a guaranteed sport on the podium, but there’s an intensity that comes from racing against someone.

The start was great, I hung on to the Cat 1 guys for a little bit before settling in to my pace. The first lap was a little rougher than it should have been due to my shoe panic and less than efficient warm up. But the course lent itself well to riding and learning it as you went. The trails at Kolo have all been built in the last year or so. The Mars Hill Cycling team has spent several days there helping build some of the trails and it was exciting to recognize the section that I helped with in the spring! The course had a little bit of everything: wooded singletrack, open singletrack, super D downhill, some rocky stuff and some wooden bridges. Everything is built really well, and for new trails, they all had great flow and lines. You can tell that the Kolo guys know their stuff!

I’m still getting used to the Scott 29’r from Beer City Bicycles. While it’s comfortable and has been an easy transition, now I’m really learning to ride it with finesse and gaining the familiarity and trust that only comes with time on the bike. This bike loves to climb! And loves to roll over anything you steer it towards! It was great on the short climbs and descents all over the course, and handled pretty well through the super D section. I had to reign it in over a few of the table tops to avoid flying into the top of some rollers, but even then the Scott was easy to ride. One of the best things about this bike is how dependable it is! I’m never worried about having a mechanical while racing (though I’m always prepared!).

Since I didn’t have any female competition on the course I knew I would have to focus and not get lazy. My goal was to get a great workout and not get lapped by the men until my final lap. I was able to keep all my lap times within around a minute of each other, and didn’t get passed by the men’s leader until after starting the final lap. Amazingly, I was only passed by the one! I later learned that there were only 3 finishers total in the Cat 1 race, including myself! That made me feel that much better about racing a “solo race” since I must have done something right to finish! The USAC official also offered an early finish, but I was there to do work and did all five laps.

I ended the race with my entry paid back, an amazing bag of Mountain Roasters coffee (cannot wait to try it!!) and some other cool goodies I’ll share about later. Another bonus: my former teammates (and new team members) cheering me on throughout the entire race! You all are awesome, thank you! It reminded me of how big a role collegiate cycling has played in my life. Without it and the connections and friendships I’ve made, I wouldn’t be here.

Super big thanks to Mars Hill Cycling, Hugh Moran (my former and current coach!), Beer City Bicycles (Frank, Jay and O’Neill), and Kolo Bike Park for a GREAT day of racing, and especially to Kyle for bringing me my shoe!

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