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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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!