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?

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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!

Will Ride for Beer

So, you may have noticed that eye catching logo on the right hand side… the one that combines beer and bikes into something awesome! Back story…Being on a team for my entire cycling career has spoiled me. Mars Hill Cycling is amazing; the support, coaching and resources available are invaluable and frankly, better than you will find at the majority of collegiate cycling teams. So, what was I to do after graduation?  Simple, find someone else to race for and represent !

Beer City Bicycles was the obvious choice. The have given so much support to me (and Mars Hill!) in the last two years through BCB and through their training component, Spin-Tech Cycling. Without Jay, Frank and O’Neill I wouldn’t have advanced in my fitness and skills nearly as quickly. When I say these guys are amazing, I mean just that. I am always blown away at the support and encouragement they give me! It doesn’t matter if you haven’t ridden a bike in years or are a cat 1 racer, they give you their time and energy to help find the perfect bike and set up a training plan using the CompuTrainer’s that will elevate your fitness to the next level.

I’m excited and honored that I can represent the shop and people that have done so much for me, while getting to race and ride my bike around the region! Not only do they carry some amazing products, like Scott bikes, Skratch Labs, Pepper Palace Hot Sauce, Smith Optics and DeFeet, they also host some great events, like the Oscar Blues tasting held this Thursday!

Check them out online, on Facebook or in person at 144 Biltmore Ave, Asheville NC!

8 Reasons Mars Hill Cycling is Amazing!

1. Support

One of the most awesome parts of being on the Mars Hill Cycling team is the support from Mars Hill faculty, local businesses and sponsors, area riders of all levels, as well as the support from the team and coach. The environment at the school and in the area is so awesome and excited about promoting and supporting cycling!

2. Team Spirit

I love our team! We’re out there cheering for each other regardless of weather, race, or result! I’ve noticed other teams (who I shall not name) only supporting their rider if they win, but we support them all! Of course, we love wins and get really really excited about those, but everyone’s result matters and we support that.

3. Training Options

Part of this is due to where we are in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Long, sweeping roads with epic climbs and miles and miles of world-class single track are all close by. So whatever the discipline, we’ve got the terrain! You can also utilize Spin-Tech Training for power testing and compu-trainer workouts.

4. Fun People

The riders on the team are awesome! Spending time together as a team always results in so much laughter, joke sessions and craziness. Everyone loves fun, right?

Game Face

5. Coach Hugh Moran

One of the best things about being on the Mars Hill Cycling team is Coach Hugh Moran. He works hard to ensure that the team has awesome sponsors, drives us to races, makes the travel plans, pushes us to better performance (National Champions, what what!), and fills the role of Papa Bear.

6. Academic Excellence

The standards of education at Mars Hill College are high. The teachers are qualified and intelligent, interested in you as a person, supportive of cycling and pretty great people! I’ve really enjoyed my classes and know that my education is much better than I would have gotten elsewhere. It prepares you not only with information for your major, but provides lifeskills and experiences that will benefit you beyond college.

7. Opportunities to Grow as a Cyclist

You’re a mountain biker and want to try road (ah hem)? Road biker who wants to do cyclocross? Sure! One of the best parts of Mars Hill Cycling is that you are given the opportunity to develop other cycling skills and explore disciplines.

8. The Team to Watch

That’s right, we may be small and we may be new, but Mars Hill Cycling is the team to watch! With national championships and top ranking, we’re a team to be taken seriously! It’s exciting, and we’re in it to win it!

DII Cyclocross Champions

Mini-Update

So, what have I been up to lately? Just some midterms, an enjoyable spring break spent at my favorite place, oh and a little thing called road cycling. After a hectic first half of the semester that involved 19 credit hours and 10-20 hours of field work, I’ve finally been able to start riding on the road! Once again, due to the benevolence of Beer City Bicycles/Spin-Tech Training.  I’ve even had my first races!

I knew that road would be drastically different from mountain or cross, but I didn’t have any indications of how it would differ. I’ve really enjoyed getting to ride around Madison and Buncombe counties as I get used to being on the road, riding closely with other cyclists, sharing the road with cars, and generally getting more comfortable. But all that did little to prepare me for my first actual road race! On top of my lack of training, I had a nasty cold (that relapsed after I eagerly rode too soon) the week of spring break, the same week of collegiate races at Dalton State in Georgia.

My circuit race result (a sprint for 3rd) was awesome, but I definitely have a lot of work to do for the team time trial and road races. Let’s just say the pace is a little different from mountain bike racing! And man, chasing the break is exhausting! Still, I rode with the pack longer than I expected, and when I did get dropped, Yolanda and I rode the rest of the race together and got a nice training ride in.

Thanks to Hugh, I approached all the races as a learning and training experience. I wasn’t too keen on the idea to start with, but am glad I did. First hand experience is priceless!

I’m excited to keep exploring road and do what I can to support my team. I’m really excited about the training options that road will provide for me this summer and the impact that it will have on my endurance and strength for mountain bike season.

Now on to more training!