Gear Grinder 2014

Saturday I embarked on a new endeavor: endurance mountain bike racing! The Henderson County Young Leaders Program was hosting a 6 hour race on the campus of Falling Creek Camp. I was hoping to do the race since I found out about it in January, but wasn’t sure if my schedule would allow it. But with some delegation I was able to take off work and get to race my bike and support something awesome in my county!

The Gear Grinder had several categories between solo and duo. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for solo with the amount of riding I’d been doing lately, so Annie and I decided to team up for what was a first time race for both of us!

 

 

Transitioning from one lap to another
Transitioning from one lap to another

The race started at 10am, and Annie took the first lap. Our goal was to complete 6 laps before the 4pm cut-off, alternating laps with my final lap finishing. I knew it would be tight! Annie pulled in 3 awesome laps, each in under 60 minutes that allowed me with my slightly longer lap times to finish by 3:54pm! The course itself was amazing! It started with a mile long gravel climb with an average 10% grade before entering the singletrack circling the top of the camp. Then the last 3+ miles was an amazing descent, making all the climbing worth it! My first lap ended up 57 minutes, followed by two 1:03 minute laps. It was close to the finish, but I finished with 6 minutes before the cut-off. An endurance race has several competitive components–you’re racing against other people (regardless of category, it’s always a race!), racing against the teams or racers in your category, and racing against the clock. The clock adds such an intense element, it doesn’t make mistakes and keeps going!

Amazing scenery at Falling Creek Camp!
Amazing scenery at Falling Creek Camp!

Being my first experience with a duo endurance race I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! It was weird not starting with everyone at 10am, and the wait/recovery between laps was interesting. It reminded me a little of BMX where you have your moto, then wait for the next. You get hyped up from the lap, but then need to immediately eat, stretch and rest before warming back up and waiting to start your next lap. I did fairly well with my recovery time, but there are improvements I can make the next time, specifically more stretching, hydration and food!

GG Podium
Duo Female Podium

We were excited to see what there were two other female duo teams signed up. We would rather have a race than by default end up in first place! Overall, it was a great event! One of the best things about it was that I knew so many of the people racing, including one of the other Pure Velo’s, Jaime who tacked solo!

 

 

 

Thank you to HCYLP for a great race, and to the race sponsors like Sycamore Cycles, Foxworth Advisers, and Falling Creek Camp! I also have to thank my boss for loaning me a wheel after I broke one of mine a couple weeks ago while pre-riding the course! Whoops! Can’t slow my roll!  I’m looking forward to next year and can’t wait to do more endurance races!

 

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Off the Face of the Earth

Well, I completely fell off the face of the blogging earth there! But I have my reasons and have been making things happen in real life that are pretty exciting!

When we left off I was in the midst of racing the Winter Short Track in Charlotte as my post-season cx cool down. The short track was a great experience coming off of cross season. While the races were similar in length, the differences in disciplines and field sizes were a great challenge. I always had to race, I was never by myself even if I felt like it. Ever effort mattered and I was actually competitive in the sport field!

I felt like I should be able to podium and I managed to get my first post-collegiate career podium with a second place that some very fast women made me work for!

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It felt awesome! At this point I had grand plans for making the overall podium and finishing strong! But cross and mountain biking and school and work all caught up with me in the form of a nasty respiratory ick that I got from the public schools. Once it hit, it wouldn’t leave, and even when I felt better I knew it was time to rest.

So that’s what I’ve been doing! Riding bikes for fun (and fitness, of course), focusing on my graduate studies, and working on a project that I’ll share soon enough. Late winter/early spring is always busy at work for me too since it’s the start of soccer season, so I was glad to not have the pressure of racing or training to race over my head.

We’ll see how my fun approach to riding has worked out on Saturday, when I race my first ever 6 hr race as one part of a female duo! The Gear Grinder is being held at Camp Falling Creek, and features an awesome 1 mile gravel climb right off the start of the 8 mile course. However, the climb is made up for with an awesome 15-20 minute singletrack downhill at the end of the course. It’s great seeing new races start in WNC and be a part of the movement that is focusing on growing cycling here.  I’m excited to try a new type of racing and feel that competitive drive again!

 

 

Rolling Deep: Scott Scale 29’r!

A couple weeks ago I had the joy of rolling a brand new Scott Scale 29″ mountain bike out of Beer City Bicycles! My previous mountain bike is my trusty Jamis Durango 3 that has been my steed since I started this whole riding bikes thing.  But since the whole 29r thing went down I have been dying to jump on that and roll big! And now, thanks to Frank and Jay at Beer City, I get to ride the big bikes!

Scott Scale
Scott Scale

The Scale comes with a Shimano Deore drivetrain and my favorite Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires! I have been amazed at how fun it is to ride! The most noticeable difference between this 29r and my Jamis is how smooth it rolls. While hardtails can be a bit bouncy, and the Scott is no different, it is much smoother and more stable over rocky terrain. I also feel so much more confidant descending sweet fast single track because the surface contact between tire and trail is increased. In just a few rides I’ve set new personal records on Strava without even trying! Climbing is also easier (maybe not easier as the old adage goes, but definitely faster!), and I’m always surprised at how comfortable it is to stand and pedal on both ascents and descents. Overall, it’s fast, it’s comfortable, I love it! Somebody was on to something with this 29r thing!

Fontana Dam Jam Race Report

Better late than never, eh?

Last Sunday I raced the Fontana Dam Jam at Lake Fontana, NC. The race was #12 of the Southern Classic Series. After a summer of very little racing, I decided that I had to do at least one cross country race before transitioning to cyclocross. I knew it was going to be a test of my fitness and technical skills, as well as a new experience being my Cat 1 race AND first non-collegiate cross country. Add to that never riding any trails at Fontana ever!

At the start
At the start

The women’s Pro-Cat 1 field was slated to start at 9:30am and race three 8 miles laps. At the start, they combined the field with the Cat 2 women and reduced the race to 2 laps. I was relieved, the closer I got to racing, the more trepidation I felt. I knew my fitness wasn’t really where it needed to race such a demanding race, especially as a Cat 1. Still, I decided that it was better to race than not race! Long story short, my start was semi-decent, but I lost several places going into the woods and didn’t recover. Mentally I was struggling with my decision to race and the difficulty of the course. It was either constant climbing or fast and technical descents. I have to remind myself at times that I am not the rider I wish I was, I’ve still only have two years of riding down, and that it’s not collegiate anymore. Towards the end of the first lap, there was a .5 mile climb at 21%. When I hit it, it was like I hit something strong in myself. I knew I could make it, it would be slow but there would be no walking. After that point I started to enjoy the trails, focused on maintaining a good speed and flow and going for it. It helped that soon after was a super speedy and fun piece of singletrack that made me happy with life again (Icycle DH segment on Strava).  The rest of the race was like the course for me, mentally and physically up and down. It was hot and humid, typical NC stuff, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was under prepared for this race. But, I finished. I got up, I went and rode, I battled myself, and I didn’t quit. Sometimes that all I can ask of myself.

Almost finished!
Almost finished!

Mikey also raced and won his Cat 2 race with a 5 minute margin, but got DQ’ed based on a technicality. We all know who the real winner was though.

Mikey coming into the finish
Mikey coming into the finish

 

After all is said and done, I did what I could! The trails at Fontana are amazing, and I can’t wait to spend some time out there for more leisurely riding. NC is a great place to be a mountain biker for sure!

What’s next? Cyclocross training baby! I’ll have more exciting news about cyclocross soon!

Bonus:

Skratch love
Skratch love

I would have died without the Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix! Get some at Beer City Bicycles!

June Thoughts

It’s June and I’m already thinking cross season! While the weather is good for outside riding now, long term will see me back inside on the CompuTrainers at Spin-Tech Training to get the most effective training in for racing. I should be focusing on mountain biking and getting as much racing experience in cross country as I can. But when I think about riding, my mind just flows along to cyclocross. I can’t help it. I love it so much! And then of course, there’s the wanting the things that you can’t have right now. I guarantee you, in the cold winter days of cross I’m dreaming of sunny warm mountain bike rides!

It’s been just over a month since I graduated. It was astonishing how much excitement and support other people had for me! I’m truly grateful to everyone who has encouraged me, dealt with my weird schedule, believed in me and inspired me! So after all that excitement was over, I was left feeling a little lost. Graduation day was THE day I’ve been working towards for over 5 years. Suddenly, it came and then was gone! When something has been such a driving force for so long, it’s weird not to have it there anymore. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have plans and goals. It was more of a re-adjustment, a reveling in my achievement and then moving on! It’s still so weird that I don’t have assignments looming, or have to balance my work tasks with school tasks. All of that will return soon enough however. In mid-August I start my graduate studies in the North Carolina State University online master’s program for recreation. I’m really excited, nervous of course, but mostly just eager to start the next step in my professional education.

We kicked off the first short track race of the series two weeks ago with 60 racers, kids-cat 1. It was awesome seeing something that I’ve wanted and worked for come to life! The next race will be this Wednesday, and I’m excited for the all the ways that I can grow and improve the series. It really wouldn’t have been as easy without the help of Sycamore Cycles, Donnie in particular. If you’re in Hendersonville, make sure to stop by their shop.

Sunday I’m heading down to the Tiger Rag cross country race in Clemson. I’m excited to see what it’s like to get back into cross country racing. It’s been about 9 months since nationals at this point…that’s a long time! My expectations aren’t that high, my goal is to go race, have a good time and see where I end up! I wish there were more cross country races in the WNC. Here we’re inundated with mega races, endurance races, stage races. Most cross country races take place far far away from Asheville. Maybe that’ll have to be the next race series I start!

The rest of my summer looks pretty much the same…racing here and there. I think I’m going to try more road racing with the French Broad Classic…not sure if that’s a good idea or not! Way to jump into it! But hey, that’s what summer without school is for: riding as much as possible!

 

Celebration Racing

So a large part of my life during the past five years has been centered on my education pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in recreation. Well, that time has finally come to end, and I’ve completed my undergrad! Graduation is tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited! So, what better way to celebrate not only the end of a semester (a huge relief in of itself) and the end of my undergrad than with a race?!

One type of racing that seems to get overlooked in this area is short track cross country races (hence the Summer Series at Jackson Park this summer!). Last year I did notice a once a month race series in Greenville, but only after the series had ended. The initial Greenville Short Track Series 2013 race was last night, so I registered and headed down. I was a little worried as I drove through heavy rain and thunder storms, but thankfully the bad weather was no where in sight when I got to the Riverbend Equestrian Park.

After checking in and getting my number, I pre-rode the course. It was mostly wooded singletrack, with some gravel and grass sections. From what I heard, the course was just under a mile long. There were a couple climbs that would make each lap fun, but I was feeling focused and ready to race! Since I’m a collegiate A, my normal racing license puts me as a Cat 1 in cross country, short track and downhill. Needless to say, I’m usually in the bottom of the field when competing with Cat 1’s and 2’s. But I look at it as even more motivation to train hard!

Short Track  May 9

There ended up being 3 women, including myself, and about 10-15 guys in the expert/pro field. From the start it was super close! I had a rough start, but soon got on the wheel of Nina as we started into the woods. We three women ended riding together for at least half of race, with me in the front (climbs are were I get my pass on!), until Nina attacked and was out of there! Cat, a rider from Clemson who I recognized from collegiate races stayed right with me until the end, driving me to not let up and keep my 2nd place position. I felt strong on my climbs, and really can tell that my recent workouts at Spin-Tech Training are making me stronger and faster.

There was a little confusion at the end, where they yelled “finish” but neither of really understood. Just to be sure, we did another lap with Cat taking the hole shot into the woods and holding her position for the remainder of the lap.

Since there were 3 of us, we all got prize money! Getting a payout is still really exciting for me!

I really liked this race since it was so close. Even when Nina was ahead of me I could see her which kept me going as hard a possible to try and catch up. I’m really not used to 1) being in the front of the women’s field for so long or 2) having such a close race! Usually I’m there in the middle/lower middle of the field all by myself, just pedaling along. It was really exciting to have to give it everything I could to make sure I kept my spot.

I did learn a couple things last night: the better your technical skills and line choice, the faster you’ll go. And don’t stop pedaling! I’ll also be working on my starts.

 

All in all, it was more fun and better than I expected! Plus, I got to wear my snazzy Beer City Bicycles kit! Can’t wait for my next race!

Summer Short Track

I’m super excited to announce the Summer Short Track Mountain Bike Race Series at Jackson Park for this summer!

As soon as I realized that WNC was lacking short track races, as well as races that were accessible and less intimidating for new riders and races, I’ve wanted to start something like this!

The series will start on June 5, with two races per month through the end of August. There is a great course at Jackson Park that while challenging, is great for new riders and experienced racers alike. Since getting kids riding is so important as well, there will be a free kids race each night at 5:30.

Summer Short Track Series

In addition to having fun while racing, there will be doorprizes and giveaways! And at $10 a race, you don’t end up paying an arm and a leg to do some racing!

Visit USA Cycling to register online.