Mile After Mile

Morning Pre-Ride
Morning Pre-Ride

I kept meaning to write race reports and then overdue updates and then…well. You know. So here it finally is. A not so short update of my racing and life.

Going all the way back to January…the end of the cross season left me worn out and fighting sickness. The season wrapped up at the NCCX Biltmore Estate races. The course was to continue testing out features for the 2015 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals races. The new features (mostly the impressive run-up) went over well and will really make the course a WNC special!

My “off-season” was going to include returning to the Charlotte Winter Short Track series but school obligations, exhaustion and sickness kept me home. While I was disappointed to miss out the cutback on travel was needed. As we moved through the winter I focused mainly on gym workouts, running and strength training, to keep myself fit and prepare for when time and motivation got me back on the bike. After a slow February March hit and it was on again!

The weather was nice, daylight savings was over (or on, whatever), and I was ready. I made it my goal in March to get 31 workouts in 31 days. Between a combination of riding, circuit training, and yoga I met my goal with a total of 32 workouts by the end of the month! I also started participating in the Etowah Tuesday Night Worlds ride, heading out from Hendersonville each week and working to hang on to the A group as much as possible. I’m still learning how to position my bike in the pack but each week make it a little farther before getting blown out the back.

Another exciting development happened in March. After years of borrowing road bikes, and eventually just smashing along on my cross bike I finally got a road bike! The Giant Defy 1 was my choice and getting that bad boy gave me even more motivation to ride at the end of the month. Austin at Sycamore Cycles in Hendersonville used the Specialized Fit method to get me and the bike dialed. I’m in love with the 11 speed cassette and compact crankset! I’m still getting used to having descent climbing gears and not grinding out super hard gears.

First ride
First ride

I also knew that 6 Hours of Warrior Creek was coming up the first weekend of April and it was time to at least make an effort! My Pure Velo Racing teammate Jaimee and I had signed up in the duo female category as soon as registration opened. Neither of us had raced it before, but we knew it is one of the don’t miss bike races in the region and we wanted in!

April sneaked up and before I knew it I was getting up at 4:30am to jump in the car and drive to Wilkesboro. It’s already been decided that next year will involve an overnight stay. The drive up was easy since no one else except other crazy bike racers would be up that early. I got to Warrior Creek and met Jaimee. We set up our spot with with Sycamore Cycles crew, guzzled tasty coffee from Bald Guy Brew, and kitted up to spin around before the rider meeting. I was going to lead us off, and had intended to do a proper warm-up in preparation of the fast, crowded first lap. But good intentions fell through and I found myself in the start with 20 minutes of riding easy on my legs. Still, I was excited and knew that the crowded paved start would give me time to open up slowly before dropping into the woods.

Right at 10am we rolled out. I ended up closer to the front of the mass start than I intended but when with it anyway as I passed slower riders and made sure to give room for the faster racers who had gotten caught up in the bag of the field.

The starts of races always get me, it’s the waiting on the start line for call-ups or pre-race instructions that get my nerves jumping. As soon as we actually prepare to start I find that focus and calm needed to start smart right off the line. It’s a release to start pedaling and positioning and finding race focus.

Since the trails were completely new to me I was glad to follow wheels as we zipped into the singletrack. Now that is some fun mountain biking! Around here you ride up, up, up….up….and then down, down, down. Warrior Creek is like one giant pump track with bermed switchbacks spilling out in front of you for miles. The weather had ended up perfect, sunny in the 60’s, a bit of wind. It had rained a little the night before, which helped keep the dust down for the first lap.

WC 6 hoursI made it to the start/finish area where Jaimee and I traded off and I headed back to eat, stretch and recover for the next lap. 6 hour races are weird. You get warmed up, pumped up, race your lap and then chill, only to do it all over again. It’s nice to have a break so you can treat each lap like a short race (closer to what I race in cross or short track), but it’s an interesting study in mental and physical performance, preparation, and recovery. In the end we each completed two laps and while the results were incorrect weren’t the last duo female team! I’m looking forward to heading back next year better prepared and take some time off!

April was a very busy month. Soccer started so much of the month was spent preparing for that. I also co-promoted the inaugural Blue Ridge Mountain Bike Festival on the grounds of Falling Creek Camp. The race was a part of the Southern Classic Mountain Bike Series. We saw over a 150 racers with great juniors and female fields. It was very rewarding and a bit exhausting but we’re already looking forward to next year’s race being even better!

Before the 3/4 Race
Before the 3/4 Race

Another event I was involved in this spring was on a bit of a larger scale. Asheville welcomed the USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals races the second weekend in May. I assisted with planning the banquet but also volunteered and raced in the open categories at the Downtown Asheville Crit hosted by VeloSport. Saturday morning I participated in a women’s crit racing clinic with my teammate Eliz. It was helpful learning more strategy and technique to take into the race since my last crit was two years ago. The course was either up or down with a long climb up to the start/finish area and then around the first corner. It hurt, a lot. But it was good to get in the mix a bit and use some of my newly gained skills from the clinic and riding TNW weekly.  After racing I enjoyed a post-ride beverage and then volunteered as a course marshal for the collegiate races. The determination and skill of the collegiate riders was impressive to see. It’s easy to forget the drive that you have when you’re racing for a national title for your team and school. Seeing the races and the victories made me miss collegiate racing! I guess the drive to race worked since I signed up for the later elite women’s race. As a cat 3 I can enjoy both the 3/4 or the elite races. Rolling tot he start I knew I would have a long 50 minutes on the course, sharing the difficult race with some very fast ladies. Like many another foray into elite races for the first time I was prepared to have a long training race. I think I ended up with the group for the first lap before sitting solo most of the time. But what made the race amazing was the support from the sidelines. People I didn’t even know cheered me on each lap as I put an effort into every climb and focused on cornering and descending as well as I could. It’s moments like those that make me so happy to be in the cycling community. Racing is hard, and not always in the best circumstances. I put myself into a crit (for the second time that day!) which is not my preferred racing discipline but was encouraged by people I don’t even know to put it all out there. Plus being the DFL finisher in 10th place with a 10 deep payout didn’t hurt either. Next year I’ll plan to race the Asheville Downtown Crit again, but also look to improve as a crit racer.

GradAt the same time that I was missing collegiate racing, I was also completing an educational milestone of my own. This spring was my final semester at NCSU in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management program. I wasn’t able to attend graduation with all the bike and work related things that happened in early May but the accomplishment and excitement was just as real. A month later and I’ve received my diploma, which is waiting to be framed and hung in my office. The last month certainly has been busy, exhausting and exciting at the same time. Since my final project was completed I’ve been able to enjoy more time on the bike and spending time with my friends who have put up with my crazy schedule over the past few years. I love the academic world, learning and exploring but I’m glad for a break so I can put my full energy into work and riding. Since graduating from Mars Hill I haven’t been able to train and race at the level I would like, so I’m excited to be able to hit the upcoming cyclocross season with everything I have.

May also brought another milestone. Kyle and I celebrated 7 years of marriage! We were able to get away to Topsail Island for a couple blissful days of beach life. He’s been with me every step of my cycling and education journey, making meals, giving back rubs, pouring wine, encouraging me, challenging me to go faster and ride longer and genuinely supporting my goals and ambitions. I would have been much more stressed and much less fit if it wasn’t for him. I’m excited for the next 7 years of marriage and adventures we’re headed towards!

Rest Stop #6: Party Stop
Rest Stop #6: Party Stop

My most recent bike adventure was participating in the Fletcher Flyer. The Fletcher Flyer raises money and awareness for local cycling causes each year. There were 1000 riders this year riding anywhere from the 50mi route to the full century that started and ended at the Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard. I decided to do the metric with Eliz and met up with another new bike friend Erin at the start line. When you almost exclusively race you loose sight of the fact that not everyone races bikes. It was refreshing to see so many types of people out on bikes for so many different reasons. We made really good time with Andy working our bike train through the different groups on the route and finished the 63 miles route in under 4 hours of moving time. We also enjoyed some stops at a couple of the rest stops, with the Sycamore Cycles stop being the highlight with a patriotic theme complete with apple pie and ice cream! The ride was my longest to date. I’ve set my sights on the Tour D’Apple in September for my first century. It will be more of challenge with a lot more climbing all over Henderson County!

Now for the rest of the summer it’s on to more bike riding, summer bike clubs and the 3rd year of the Summer Short Track Series! Plus maybe relaxing a bit? Maybe.

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Phoenix, Day One

After a long and arduous journey, which I won’t bore you with the details, we arrived in Phoenix, AZ last night for our first ever collegiate BMX Nationals! This trip is really exciting for two reasons: it’s the first BMX collegiate nationals Mars Hill Cycling has traveled to, and it’s somewhere new! I’ve loved getting to race at mountain bike and cyclocross nationals in the last two years, but they were in the same location each time.

Most race trips involve traveling, getting to the race location, sleeping, eating, racing and going home. This time though we had a little extra time and spent Friday morning exploring Phoenix. Coach Hugh lived here for a while while he was a pro racer, so he was able to tell us all about the area!

We discovered an amazing coffee shop in Tempe called Cartel Coffee Lab. The espresso was phenomenal and was served with sparkling water to cleanse the palate before drinking the coffee! The espresso was so good that I followed it up with an iced latte to go that also exceeded my expectations.

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Cartel

Cartel even had a bike wheel art installation hanging from their ceiling, making us feel at home as soon as we walked in!

Next we headed to Papago Park, where we walked up to the “Hole-in-the-Rock.” Everything is so different here–it’s dry and randy/rocky, it’s super warm, and it’s sunny! It’s such a nice break from the cold winter weather in NC!

Popago Park
Papago Park

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Hole-in-the-Rock
Hole-in-the-Rock

After our jaunt in the desert, it was time for lunch! We went to a vegan cafe called Green Restaurant: New American Vegetarian.” I love it when I can get fresh healthy food, meat included or not, but eating “mock-chicken” was a new experience for some of the tour group.

Veggies!!
Veggies!!

On our way to Black Mountain BMX, the venue for nationals, we stooped in Scottsdale at the Bicycle Haus, a classy bike shop owned by some of Hugh’s racing friends. While we didn’t stay very long, downtown Scottsdale seems pretty chill!

Finally we arrived at the BMX track! We quickly built up our bikes and hit the course for our practice runs. The course it great! It’s longer than the other courses I’ve raced on, but it super smooth and fast. I almost wrecked hardcore on my first run out of the gate since the first roller sent me flying into the air! However, I stayed upright and kept riding. I must have impressed everyone with how bad I looked, since several people gave me pointers afterwards! I’m grateful for the advice and the rest of my practice runs were smooth. Not fast, but smooth.

Now we’re back at the hotel, fed and resting. Tomorrow will see us do our thing! Nothing to prove, just racing to learn, have fun and represent Mars Hill College!

Mountain Bike Season Wrap Up/Thank Yous

I’m not quite sure where to start…. less than a year ago when I started to consider attending Mars Hill College, the idea of being on the cycling team was just a dream, a hope that I could try something new and see what happened. Something that I would fit in between work and school. I never would have thought that six months later I’d be a Cat A, racing in the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, or well, even be legit on a bike! It’s amazing to me, and I’ve never been happier!

Even though my placements at Nats don’t really reflect it (21 XC, 20 STXC), I felt at the top of my performance and fitness at Nats. It was really affirming to me racing against so many talented and experienced riders. I’m already looking at my goals for next year, definitely looking for top 10 placement and top of the podium for the team. I also can’t wait to add the gravity events to what I race.

This entire season has been amazing. I’ve learned so much, improved more than I thought was possible, done the hardest and most fun things in my life, and found something that I know I can be truly great at.

There are several people that I want to acknowledge for the role they’ve played in helping me get this far.

First of all, is my amazing husband, Kyle. Not only does his support and encouragement help me attend school and follow my educational/career dreams, but it also encouraged me to ride my bike, get fit, and go hard. There were many rides (ie hills) when I did not like riding and was so frustrated with my lack of fitness and abilities. Kyle would tease, encourage, and push me to go faster and harder, and now I can finally give him a run for the money on the trail!

Second, Coach Hugh Moran! His openness to an absolute noob who wanted to ride bikes is amazing! While there were a few elements that combined to make my decision to go to Mars Hill, the openness and encouragement that I found not only from Hugh but the rest of the team definitely made a huge impact. His support and direction as I started training were huge and have continued to help me get to the fitness and skills that I have now.

Next, my sister Becky! Without her suggesting that I check out her school and genuine excitement about Mars Hill, I would have definitely been attending Brevard, getting a degree that I wouldn’t be as excited about and probably not riding my bike. Thanks for sharing your insider’s knowledge and friends with me!!

Of course, huge and eternal thanks to Spin-Tech Training – O’Neill, Frank, and Jay! Thank you for taking pity on me after the first power testing and for the training sessions (which are awesomely killer btw) which have gotten me to a fitness level that I wouldn’t have otherwise have reached in such a short time. I cannot rave about Spin-Tech enough… I cannot stress how much improvement you will see if you go train with them!

Thank you to Bio-Wheels Asheville for the great deal on my awesome Jamis, and all the tune-ups that helped keep my bike race ready! She hasn’t failed me yet! They are super friendly and helpful, so go and check them out too!

Last but not least, my Mars Hill Cycling team! You are all amazing and funny. We’re definitely a special group of kids, but that makes me love us even more! And did I mention that they are all super talented? Being the youngest on the bike, I have a long way to go, but have perfect peer examples of the fitness and skills needed.

And to everyone else who has encouraged me, inspired me and believed in me, thank you! It fuels my motivation and dedication to the sport that I now call my own and has grown into a passion.

Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals: Short Track

Day two of nats started with the short track race. Short track is my last race, so as I write I am enjoying the blissful feeling of completion!

I was really excited about the short track today. The course was still pretty frozen, which was actually great. It race over an uphill pump track and then a short climb before heading down and around to the start/finish.The course started to thaw out as we rode, which was interesting since it was almost a different course each time around. All of the short track races today were really fast, which the leaders going crazy fast.

I got a good start and passed people on the climbs. Mikey and Mait cheered us on at the climb, which was super helpful since it was brutal!!!

I got pulled after three laps, placing me in 20th place. I was actually sad that I got pulled at that point, I wanted one more climb which I knew I could just kill and pass some people.

Klara did awesome and came in at 9th.

The guys did awesome in their short track. Tim came in at 5th after holding strong for the entire race. Mikey came back super strong for the short track at 7th, which is amazing since he’s racing on a hurt shoulder. Corey ended up 25th and Mait came in 39 (not DFL!).

Tim dominating the climb

After the short track, the team is at 6th place in omnium. Hopefully Klara, Tim and Corey will pick up a lot of points in the gravity events and get us up a couple places.

Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals: Cross Country

Well wow.

First of all, I have to give Angel Fire Bike Park props for their cross country course. It is crazy awesome! Take a sweet course and throw in 6 inches of snow two days ago and you end up with mud, mud and more mud! The course had a 3ish mile ascent with about 2000 ft of elevation gain and an awesome 2ish miles of perfect single-track. Hopefully I can get some pictures of the course itself tomorrow.

The Division II women’s start was at 9:10am with a temp of 29 degrees! Brrr! But the cold really hasn’t been a problem for me yet. I’m prepared and mentally ready for it. The mud on the other hand… There were 25 starters.

So, ’bout the race! It was really muddy and we had to walk a lot of the ascent. I feel like I do okay riding in mud, but got behind some girls who just kept walking. I was able to ride a lot more of my second lap since I was by myself and able to chug along in granny gear. I felt the altitude once I got about a third of the way up, I’m guessing about 8,700 feet. Overall, it wasn’t bad. There were a few times on each lap that I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. But I got through it! I didn’t know how hard it was going to be eating at altitude though! It’s hard to eat anyway…this was crazy! It took me so long to get a gel down! But man, I needed those kicks of caffeine and sugar!

The descent was amazing! It was my kind of trail…smooth, fast single track with awesome banked turns and fast straight sections. The first run down was a little sketchy since it was still pretty icy, but by the time I got to it for the second time it was nice and muddy.

I ended up 21 out of 24 finishers Not too bad for my first year of racing/first nationals. Already thinking about my goals for next year though…. I’m thinking top ten baby!

Angel Fire is amazing! It’s absolutely beautiful here! I love my mountains, but they’ve got nothing on these babies in the snow! The incredible nature was a nice refresher when I was dying up some of those icy switchbacks.

I’ll definitely be back here sometime when it’s a little warmer to ride these trails a little more leisurely.