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!

 

Advertisements

Race Report: Charlotte Short Track

This weekend I took a little break from cyclocross and hit the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series for their opener. The series has been going on for about 15 years. It’s a great way to start the mountain bike season, and from what I saw yesterday is really well run. I’ve been meaning to race these races for the last couple of years, but it just hadn’t worked out. Races take place at Renaissance Park in Charlotte. Rain on Thursday and Friday left the course wet and muddy, but ride-able due to the awesome construction and maintenance of the trails. 

I figured the race wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my training, since the Sport category runs for 45 minutes. There were 15 starters in the Sport category, that’s similar to the combined field in cyclocross, only just with one category racing! The Expert women started right in front, so there were around 20 women on the course at once. I had a terrible start, and unfortunately tangled up with Annie on my left. It’s one thing for me to have a bad start, but I feel really bad if I negatively effect someone else! She recovered a lot quicker and set off. I put the hammer down and caught up with the field, putting myself into second-to-last going into the woods. I was so annoyed! I was stuck behind riders that I knew I was faster than, but couldn’t do much about it until the course spit back out onto a gravel section.

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

The gravel section has two parts: a slightly steeper grade that took a lot of effort after coming out of the woods, then smoothing out into packed dirt that brought you out on the paved section. I used these sections, as well as the pavement to pass as many riders as I could before going back into the woods. I went back and forth with a couple racers a few times, but kept catching more and more riders in front of me.

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

It was a great feeling being able to come back from that terrible start! It hurt, a lot, but knowing that I was in a field that I could compete with, with each second mattering brought a focus and determination that I don’t often have to tap into. In cross I usually find myself off the back of the field, alone, keeping my position as steady as I can. Here, even a second’s hesitation could make the different between places! I loved the competition that such a field brings, and I can’t wait to experience more races like this!

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

I got caught by the Expert women’s leaders just before hitting the pavement at the end of my next-to-last lap, meaning I finished a lap early. I’m still in that interim of sometimes making it without getting caught, and others getting caught right before the finish. I know that had I started right, I wouldn’t have gotten caught. My final placing was 6th out of 15, meaning I made up seven places throughout the 45 minutes of race time. I’ll take it!

Charlotte also uses chip-timing, so it is neat looking at that data when thinking about my performance:

Short Track 1 Times

The Scott Scale 29r from Beer City Bicycles was perfect in the mud with the Schwalbe tires, race stance, and larger contact area. It handled all the switchbacks smoothly, but also transitions well into paved sprints. I noticed that it gave me an advantage over rocks, since it smoothed everything out.

While there is a lot of room for improvement, I’m also excited to see what I can do with the rest of the series. This coming weekend is the North Carolina CX series final at the Biltmore Estate. It’s also a test run of the course for nationals in 2016! Then there will be 4 straight weeks of short track races. I guess after that’s over I can take a break?

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!

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.

Go Soap Review

 

One of the perks of being on a cycling team is the opportunity to try new products! Go Soap started supporting the Mars Hill Cycling team this past fall and have provided us with samples of their sports detergent. I’ve been using it since and haven’t been disappointed!

My first uses of Go Soap were on my kits after hot, sweaty mountain bike rides. As just about every cyclist knows, no one feels or smells anywhere near fresh after a summer mountain bike adventure. I try to throw my kits and socks in the wash as soon as I get home since they’re so icky from sweat, dirt, mud and who knows what else. After using Go Soap in the wash, my kits come out clean and fresh smelling. I’m not a huge fan of artificial scents, like what you find in most sports targeted detergents. They smell too strong and fake. With Go Soap, there’s just a fresh smell and not a hint of what I’ve just put my clothes through.

The next great test of Go Soap has come with cyclocross. This season has featured a lot of mud, especially at Nationals. But with pre-soaking of Go Soap and more in the actual wash, mine and everyone on the teams kits, arm warmers, socks, gloves, jackets, hats, leg warmers, base layers and more came out looking brand new! We weren’t gentle on our stuff this weekend either, and yet Go Soap handled it all!

Unfortunately, I don’t have before and after pictures. But my kits all look clean, the white sections are brilliant, there’s no  mud spots, and they smell clean!

You can order Go Soap online, or ask about it at your local bike shop!

Mountain Biking in Dupont State Forest

Most of my mountain biking happens in Dupont State Forest. I’m lucky that I live in an area where within 40 mins of driving there’s Dupont, Bent Creek, and Pisgah Forest. With only about a year of serious under my wheels, I still have a lot to explore and learn, especially in Pisgah (Hey Marco!), but there’s something special about that one place that you know well, have struggled on the climbs and descents, and are able to measure progress on the ability to concur the gravel Conservation Rd climb or getting through the gnarly rock garden on Joanna.

This past weekend, after a sufficient time of lazy after road and finals and planned biking trips being thwarted by the weather, Kyle and I headed out for a quickie in Dupont. It was glorious! We got there late enough to miss the weekend crowds, and headed out to the backside of the forest. Our plan was to ride Airstrip Trail which has recently been re-done, as well as Reasonover which is also being worked on.

Airstrip has been reworked into a fast and swoopy trail that requires a lot of attention and cornering on the decent. It was strange getting accustomed to my bike and overcoming the sloppy feeling that comes from not riding.

We also looped around to Lake Dense, Pitch Pine Trail is excellent for mountain biking in both directions, curvy and mostly smooth allowing for as much as speed as you want to give it. I love to hit race pace on this trail, since it’s excellent practice for tight, fast turns and is mostly packed dirt.

Reasonover has long been one of my favorites, descending towards Lake Julia always provides drops, turns, roots and more to fly over. I always find my flow on the decent and love the rush of bumping over anything in my way. This time, Kyle and I rode up from Lake Julia, returning towards Fawn Lake, where we had parked. The trail work has smoothed out the trail significantly, leaving rollers and banked turns. It’s going to be an awesome descent, but I’m going to miss the more technical terrain. The work has also dramatically improved the descent towards the far end of Conservation Rd. Lots of rollers, air, banked curves and super fast speed where all constant until the river crossing. I can’t wait to get back on the trail and start to relearn its elements, improve my landings and cornering.

It’s really exciting seeing work being done in Dupont that is focused on the biking population! I find it interesting that so many of the volunteers come from the local mountain biking groups, while you don’t ever hear of any horse owner groups doing trail maintainence work in the forest. Yet, more wear and tear is caused by horses, especially on singletrack, dirt trails. Regardless, spending time in Dupont on the bike is one of my favorite things to do.