Monday, December 23, 2013

100 Before 25


It’s the word all cyclists fear, and it gets bounced around a lot. I’ve seen friends hang up their bike completely after having too many bad races, or just plain too many races.

2013 for me included 36 road races during the collegiate and summer road season. 15 days of track racing during the summer and collegiate seasons. 9 mountain bike races. 5 cyclocross races (finishing 3rd in our collegiate conference!) with nationals in Boulder on the way. Appearances at four different national events in 2013. Burnout? Maybe. 

I do not want to come off like I am whining, but sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football over and over again while getting the same result: Lucy pulls it away. I really have enjoyed every minute of it, but as the year winds down I find it harder and harder to look at my bike, let alone ride. A series of odd injuries, wrecks and lots of travel combined with moving to St. Louis has added to this feeling.

So, let's talk about something else. Let's talk about what I am doing instead of getting burnt out. I am focusing on what I love and making goals for the coming year to give me something to work for. With track, cyclocross and mountain I have had a hard time setting goals, if only because I am so new to them (this was my first year in all three disciplines, and only my third season on the road). With this in mind my goal has mostly been to survive. This has resulted in some personal victories in all three disciplines, but has also created some very tiring conditions over the last few months while traveling with Lindenwood.

As we come up to New Years I have been thinking long and hard about my goals and resolutions for the coming year. I want to continue racing, to reach the next level, whatever it may be for me personally, but I also need to focus on what I really enjoy and start fixing things in my life that are NOT cycling related (shocking, right?).

And so I came up with 100 before 25. It is the 100 things that I want to do before I turn 25. I turn 25 on May 15, 2016 so this gives me roughly 870 days, or 28 months to finish these. Some of them are cycling related and some of them are New Year’s resolutions, most are not. Some are far fetched and some will be more easily accomplished. All are part of a plan to get back to more stable ground for me personally, athletically, and professionally. See the full list here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quick MTB Update

Nationals has come and gone for the collegiate mountain bike season, and 31 bruises later I live to tell the tale. I finished out the normal season as an A, finishing low mid pack in the endurance races, enough to qualify to head to Beech Mountain, NC. My lack of comfort on the bike really held me back, a combination of being new to mountain biking (three years as a roadie do not a mountain biker make) as well as on a bike that I constantly was fighting (though many thanks to Sarah Lukas for letting me borrow Sebby, we got on fairly well).

STXC race at MWCCC Regionals (Photo Credit J. Hansen)

After a weekend off and at home for Hilly Hundred, I headed out with the rest of the Lindenwood squad to North Carolina. Snow was in the forecast, with it falling consistently Thursday and Friday leading up to short track. The morning of short track honestly looked much more like a cyclocross race than it did a mountain bike race. With the D1 women the third race of the day by the time we started the course was fairly slick, a lesson I would learn the hard way when I wiped out on the second lap. Unable to get clipped back in I rolled through the next lap and got pulled shortly thereafter to finish 31st.

Cross country was much the same story, and although I felt comfortable the first time up the climb, the mud and ice combined with roots in the single track proved to be terribly frustrating for my novice skills. The second time up the mud was just stupid with my tired body appreciating the roots even less. I finished an unhappy 37th. 

Team relay the following day was probably the most exciting endurance event of the weekend, in my opinion. One lap, all out, of an extended short track course, with laps being split between two men and two women (well, women had to ride at least two laps). Dan, our first guy, came out of his lap second which gave us an awesome start. We finished 8th, but it was still the most fun out of all the events I participated in.

Up next? I took the first few days back off and then headed back to North Carolina to visit Kym and Mark. I am hoping to take some time for "Operation Mental Recharge" and get ready to really dig into base for the road season, as well as find some sort of passion for the upcoming collegiate cyclocross races. Realistically my goals at this point are in road, and so hitting the ground running for collegiate season is priority number one. 

I have put in a couple 18/19 hour weeks recently and hopefully will start seeing more of those as November hits. Some people seem to recharge by taking time off the bike, I seem to be happiest when I am spending long hours on the road. To each their own. Anyways, I suppose this really does wrap up the big racing for 2013. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My First Mountain Bike Races

One of the awesome things about being at Lindenwood is that so many of my teammates specialize in different disciplines of racing. Between Road, Cyclocross, Mountain, BMX and Track there are tons of different styles of riding to try and each one allows a rider to learn a new set of skills. Although I always said there was no way in hell I would try mountain biking, upon moving here my roommate Lindsey and a friend Sarah slowly convinced me it was a good idea. The final straw was Sarah offering to loan me her backup bike and so after track nationals was over I decided to start doing a little bit of mountain biking.

This past weekend I was able to travel with the mountain bike team to Columbia, MO for the collegiate races. The short track and cross country races would be a change of pace, something I desperately needed after the long hours of training and racing track. Prior to leaving Friday to pre-ride the course I had only ridden the bike once, at a local park known as Bangert which is a very simple set of single-track. The course at Mizzou was different, longer, and containing more rocks and roots. I struggled through the pre-ride but at the end of it I still had a big grin on my race.

The next morning would see rain, drastically changing the conditions of the course to make it a giant mudslide. My teammates Brophy, Drew and I were in the earlier races, and would come out covered in mud and with more than a few mechanicals between chain problems and broken derailleur hangers. Riders were fighting the weight of their bikes (due to the added mud) and sliding out the entire race (also due to the mud). I started off with two other women from Lindsey Wilson but soon dropped them, advancing faster in the awful conditions, mostly by pure dumb luck. We were supposed to do two laps of the course but as I neared the end of the first lap the mud proved too much and the rear derailleur hanger snapped. I ran it to the finish line (cyclocross practice!) where I was informed the races had been cut to one lap due to how many riders were having technical difficulties with the mud. I had won! The later races were cancelled once the officials saw how much damage was occurring in the lower categories.

Brophy, myself and his (very muddy) bike after the cross country races. We survived!

We were unable to find a replacement hanger for Sarah's bike and so the next day a teammate of mine, CJ, was gracious enough to loan me his after his race for the short track. There was a large log pile on the singletrack portion of the course that, while ridable, proved to be technically challenging. This point was further proved as the higher categories saw a few wrecks. My teammates told me to just take it slow though, which proved to be life-saving advice as I cleared it each lap. My inability to clip in quickly on the new pedals, and a wreck in front of me on the first lap put me a ways back from the leader, but over the next four laps I caught and passed the Lindsey Wilson rider, taking my second win of the weekend.

Although it was fun to race, really it was even more fun to watch my teammates. The A short track cross country races proved to be tactical games of cat and mouse that were probably way more fun to watch than to race (so many great pain cave expressions). On top of that the gravity events provided a bit of adrenaline, even for those watching. It really is cool to see all the different collegiate races, something that I have not been able to do the past few years just focusing on road.

My encounter with the tree at Matson. Both the bike and myself are fine.

I have upgraded to A's now, which will prove to be much more challenging with longer distances and faster fields but if this past weekend is any indication it should be a blast! I'm really looking forward to the  Lindsey Wilson races, especially since I have gotten my fear of hitting trees out of the way after yesterday (Sebastian and I became very friendly with a sapling).

A few articles from the past few weeks:

USA Cycling: Track Nationals Writeup

Lindenwood Cycling: Track Nationals Writeup

Lindenwood Cycling: Mizzou Writeup

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Collegiate Track Nationals

My first nationals (and hopefully not the last) with Lindenwood has come and gone. It was my first big trip with the team and also was a chance to see some old friends both from the Midwest Conference as well as from schools outside our conference. There were highs and lows for the entire team but I could not be more amazed by my teammates.

We had a lot of riders who were new to track racing participating in many of the timed and team events. Some of the performances that particularly stand out include Cameron making the podium in the 4km individual pursuit even though this was his second weekend on a track bike and he has never done a 4km. On top of that another teammate would join him on the podium with absolutely no Marian representation, a rarity for the week that would see them repeat as DI Track Champions (a well deserved victory).

We had two BMX cyclists with us to do the sprint events and hearing them talk about being spun out on gears that I can't even imagine trying to spin was pretty crazy. Brittany and Maddie brought a different skill level to the group and it was fun to watch them race super fast.

Other performances that stick out of the many incredible efforts by my teammates included Yesica making top ten in the match sprints, as well as an omnium appearance by Freter after wrecking in both the mass start events. Monk, Devin and Freter worked really well together in the mass start races and watching them was almost more exciting than racing.

Overall though what stood out to me is how much the team worked together. For as little track experience and time together as we have had no one really knew what to expect going into the week. It was not easy, especially with some unfortunate incidents like the wrecks and officiating calls, but the amount of support that our team had for each other was incredible to see, and something I had never really experienced before.

For myself I went in not entirely sure how it would go. Elevation, even that of Colorado Springs, has never treated me well and I am still relatively new to track, as well as racing when compared to many of my teammates. The first night of qualifiers for the points race did not go well for a multitude of reasons and so I went into the next day's 3km pursuit with something to prove to myself. I am not sure how, considering this was only the third time I have done an individual pursuit but I managed to drop 17 seconds off of my personal best and finished 18th with a time of 4:19.207. It was probably the personal highlight of my trip out there and mentally set me up for the remainder of nationals.

In the end Lindenwood would take 3rd place on the team omnium results. I have never had the opportunity to stand on a podium at nationals, and I would not have been there if it wasn't for my teammates and for that I am grateful.

Looking forward I will not be taking much of an offseason this year. I plan to do the remaining three mountain bike weekends of the collegiate season, and then jump right into the collegiate and regular cyclocross seasons. My main priority however is still training and getting ready for the road season as that is where my long term goals are focused right now. I will get a bit of a mental break the next couple weeks with the MTB races which I am doing just for fun but then it will be back to the grind. However, I can safely say that moving to Lindenwood, while at times stressful and a bit lonely due to living off campus, was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself this past summer.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where The River Runs South to North

Recap of the last month:

Got back from Prairie State, extremely burnt out.
Headed down to Tennessee for a week, set a bunch of new personal power records.
Got my wisdom teeth pulled.
Moves to St. Louis.
Started classes in the graduate degree program at Lindenwood (Sports Management).

The reality of my life now.

So after that fast sequence of events it has been time to start focusing on riding again. With Collegiate Track "season" fast approaching I have been spending as much time as possible on the velodrome. I just recently started switching gears around on my bike and so it has been a steep learning curve trying to place specific gears with specific races and events, and the minute you go to a new velodrome it all changes. Last weekend found me at the MTV for IN State Championships. The entire Marian track team was back and they inflicted so much hurt. I took the state champ medal in the points race but other than that my lack of experience and the Marian numbers made for a rough weekend.

The past few days were a much needed confidence boost, and with a bit more experience under my wheels I went into the MO State Championships hoping to turn it around. I ended up throwing a 13.58 for first seed in the flying 200s (Not sure where that came from) and then finished on the podium in every event but the 500 TT, taking 2nd or 3rd in the omnium. The track is not as nice but the people were so friendly and it was really cool to race against so many women from different teams.

My last podium photo for the summer, from the points race.

Moving out here has been hard, after spending the last 22 years of my life in the same town (minus some stints at boarding school) I wasn't really prepared for the shock of the move since I made the decision only a month ago. Everything is different here, riding is done with almost constant traffic surrounding you, the classes are not the environmental sciences ones that I have focused on since freshman year, and even the rivers are weird. No river should run South to North, it defies logic.

The Missouri river really does run South to North through St. Charles, it's so bizarre.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wrap It Up

Well, my road season came to a close rather quietly over the last week. Originally I had been intending to do the Bloomington Criterium and New Albany but I came out of Prairie State exhausted. The last four days of NCC races were mentally and physically challenging, I'm glad I did it and I finished in the top half of the field for the series but it was clear that I needed a break.

At the beginning of this summer I had been intending to race through August and I still may do a few races, but early in July I began the process of switching schools. I finished this last year at IU on the dean's list for my graduate program and facing just one last year to complete my Masters of Science in Environmental Science. In the background of all of this was the growing realization that I did not want to work in that field. As an undergraduate your degree field does not really matter in the grand scheme of things, but your graduate degree needs to be in the field you intend to work in. With this in mind I began to look at schools with programs in Sports Marketing, and was lucky enough to stumble across an opportunity at Lindenwood due to some help from fellow collegiate cyclists. I will be starting either the MBA program or the MA in Sports Management program this fall as well as riding for their collegiate cycling team.

After leaving Chicago I headed down to St. Louis, spending the early part of this last week looking at apartments, meeting up with teammates and nailing down my plans. Because of the move my summer is significantly shortened, especially with me heading to Tennessee this next week, then coming back and getting my wisdom teeth pulled right before moving out to St. Charles. Not a lot of time is left in between moves, resulting in a shortened race schedule.

So, I have been looking back at this season and it has been quite the ride. The collegiate season, especially with getting sick at nationals, was rough. New experiences and my first time having to race against large teams would lead to a steep learning curve at the beginning, though I did manage top ten finishes both days of regionals. Coming out of nationals in May I was glad to have such a successful first race with the win at Snake Alley in the 2/3's field, my first win at the Category 3 level and the first of three wins this summer where I would ride away from the field (I need to learn how to sprint). More exciting results would follow at Tulsa Tough, Madeira (the win and every prime, teamwork at its finest), and South Bend, though the wreck at Grandview still has lingering consequences (stiff muscles and having to finish the season on my old aluminum frame).

My upgrade to category 2 would follow in time for amateur road nationals (one of the most embarrassing races of my life) as well as the Prairie State Series, where a flyer for a 6th place finish would be the highlight of the week though every day on the bike was a huge learning experience with my first set of big Pro/1/2 races. The racing season for the year is far from over, with both collegiate track and the cyclocross season ahead of me, as well as the possibility of doing Gateway Cup out in St. Louis. However, I am happy with where I am and with how my third season of racing has ended.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Beginning of a Long Week

This past weekend and the remainder of this week has found me in Kenosha, WI and Chicago, IL for the Prairie State Cycling Series. Since I could not do TOAD due to house and dog sitting obligations this series was an opportunity to do some larger races including four National Criterium Calendar races at the end of the week. Being newly upgraded to Category Two I expect it to be a day by day kind of week, with some races being relatively successful and some being complete learning experiences. First off, I want to give a shout out to Beth Engwis and her family for hosting me for the first two races as well as the rest days and velodrome stuff.  Beth and I met my sophomore year when I first started with collegiate cycling and we were in the Bs field together. Our friendship has survived the upgrade to the A field (even if she does go to Marian….) and she is the one who convinced me to try track. It has been fun to visit her and get some racing in.

Thursday night I was up on the Major Taylor Velodrome and took the overall omnium in my category for the evening by finishing 3rd in the Points race, 2nd in the Elimination and 1st in the scratch race. In the process I received my Cat 3 upgrade which will allow me to race as an A on the track for the collegiate season. Yipee!

Friday’s race was located in downtown Kenosha, close to the waterfront. Beth and I were able to tool around and warm up before rolling to the start line. It was a relatively small field but team names represented included Vanderkitten, Exergy, Tibco and ISCorp so I had a feeling it was still going to be a tough day. Attack after attack went the first bit, with a group of three including ISCorp, Exergy and Tibco rolling off the front. They would go on to catch the field. At this point I had started to shake the remaining nerves from nationals and was feeling more confident in myself and my bike. A flurry of attacks followed the catch of the pack and I went up against two women from Vanderkitten and Tibco to take a prime. Shortly after the prime Vanderkitten and one other lady went up the road and I found myself in the wrong place to respond, instead watching 5th place roll away. As five to go came up a 100$ prime was announced and facing a guaranteed 10th place finish (the pack had lapped/dropped several riders) I decided to take a chance. As I took the prime I looked under my arm to see the pack was nowhere to be found.  I would go on to stay off the front the rest of the race to take 6th.

My solo dig off the front for the prime and 6th place.

The Saturday race was cancelled due to unexpected construction in Chicago. This left Beth and I to have some fun in Kenosha. A coffee shop spin and some relaxed velodrome laps were in order and I used the opportunity to practice some slower-paced flying 200s and track standing. Its interesting how different the velodromes can be from one another and I look forward to racing on the Kenosha velodrome Tuesday night.  

Sunday at Crystal Lake was a mixed bag. More of the riders in the field had teammates and so the break took longer to sort itself out, creating a faster paced race. I struggled for the third race in a row with my start, unable to move up in the pack. When the break of Vanderkitten and Tibco finally did get away the peloton still gave chase due to a lack of representation from other teams. An attempt for a prime saw me shelled with ten to go and in a chase group with three other women. I finished in the money, and not last. The heat took a toll but also I had a hard time moving up to the front at the start and found myself dealing with a lot of rubber band action. However, it was a great race in that I learned a lot about what I need to start working on more. This whole experience is about education and I was up to my ears in it after the race. It was nice to see some friends, including Sarah from Lindenwood who I got to hang out with after the race and commiserate about our shared learning experiences after upgrading.

A diminished pack coming through the start/finish at Crystal Lake, at this point a move was up the road.

Overall it was a nice way to ease into the more elite level racing against the Pro categories. The back half of the series, which contains the NCC races, will be a different story but I am looking forward to the experience. The next two days I am hanging out in Kenosha including racing on the velodrome a bit, but for the most part will be focusing on recovery and getting ready for the next five races in the series.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Whoops, Nationals

Well, this past weekend was a bit of a crapshoot. I had headed up to Madison for the U23 Nationals Crit, an event that was added into my racing schedule just two weeks ago.  I got up to Madison the night before and was able to relax a bit, find a Whole Foods and a local gluten free bakery.

I spent the morning of the race at the hotel before heading to downtown Madison. It was nice to see some friends that I hadn’t talked to in awhile, as well as the usual stalwarts from the MWCCC that were competing, including my friend Hannah from Lindsey Wilson who would be racing with me. I felt good leading into the race, with only minor nerves about racing on my old bike and some discomfort from the wreck the week before.

However, once the race started it was clear it was not going to be my day. I struggled to get clipped in from the line, and then the constant sprinting/ slowing down motion of the first few laps made it hard to find a rhythm. This continued for the next fifteen minutes or so and I was dropped along with Hannah. However, as USA cycling said, the race was very “Controlled” and because of the slow pace in between Hannah and I did fight out way back on. Unfortunately, another few accelerations and I was back off. However, this time Hannah was further behind and mentally I just cracked with my body following suit. It was clear that someone was wrong, which was only made more obvious as I became friends with a trash can after I pulled out.

I could blame it on the bike, the wreck, and the long car ride but simply put, my legs weren’t there nor was my mentality midrace. I was not riding like I have been the past few weeks. I have always struggled in races where there are massive changes in pace like that, but it is frustrating to be dropped and DNF in a race with only 17 other women, many of whom I have raced against successfully in the past. It is even more frustrating when the average speed was less than that of the 10-12 year old juniors and the words "parade" and "group ride" were being used to describe the event. 

Everyone has bad days, mine just happened at an extremely inopportune time. I am still glad I went because it provided a much needed wakeup call and will be a little push to keep going. I know I still have a long ways to go but looking back I can still see how far I’ve come in just 2.5 seasons of racing. I’ll be doing the entirety of Prairie State this coming week, which will be my first big set of Pro/1/2 races. I fully expect to get murdered, but I also know that I can’t spend the rest of my time riding in the 3/4s fields. Time to put on some big girl bib shorts.

My replacement race bike should come in after Prairie State and hopefully by then I will have shaken whatever is going on with me mentally and physically.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Roller Coaster Weekend

Friday I headed to Ohio to race at the Tour de Grandview. What looked to be a pretty basic rectangle course on paper would have been a generally safe course but the first two turns were tight and with it being a women’s open race I was a bit concerned about how everyone would handle them. My concerns proved valid as wreck after wreck occurred in the first two turns, with one neutralizing the race for about 15 minutes. However, the craziness for me did not involve a turn, but rather a pedestrian.

I was sitting second wheel in the pack behind Katie Arnold (Riley) when about ten feet in front of us a lady carrying a beer and a sandwich decided to walk around the gate and in front of the entire pack. With a line of riders moving up our left Katie tried to go around the lady but instead ended up hitting her dead on and I went down on top of her.  As we scrambled to untangle our bikes and ourselves she picked up her sandwich, and threw her beer cup aside and walked away without saying a word. Lovely. I got back in the race for the neutralized portion and managed to finish 4th in the 3/4 field and 8th overall. Not exactly how I had hoped to finish the day but glad that I was able to finish the race.

The next day as we were looking over my bike it became clear that I had sustained worrisome damage to the carbon on the front fork and one of the seat stays. Although some repair is possible, racing on the Madone is no longer an option. The timing was not ideal, with U23 nationals in less than a week and pretty much all the Trek frames in my size sold out. As of right now I will be racing the next two weeks on my aluminum 1.2 “The Beast”.

Saturday I was home dealing with the bike, Old Navy Flip Flop Day, a power outage (complete with sparking downed wire in the backyard), an injured cat and a dog who apparently likes to eat things it shouldn’t. With not very much sleep and still sore from injuries I loaded up the The Beast and headed to Madeira on Sunday. Warm-ups were uneventful as Emma and I chatted and I tried to get the 1.2 as dialed in as I could though the setup is different from my normal racing bike. More than anything I was glad to have a teammate with me today.

The first ten minutes of racing allowed me to loosen up, though the two 180 degree turns on the course were causing a lot of speed-up/slow-down motion that was taking its toll on the pack. Emma took the first prime and then I took a flyer for the second. Coming through with such a lead I decided to keep moving, staying off the front for another few laps. As I looked up though I realized we were only 25 minutes into a 60 minute race. Not really willing to do the rest of the race solo, or put the effort into a solo effort only to get caught and spat out the back, I sat up and returned to the field. As the race continued I would take the next prime as well. Emma and I were able to stay close to each other, working really well together as Emma put a lot of effort into the front of the race. As five laps to go came I sank back in the pack a bit, mentioning to Emma that I was planning to attack with three to go. As we came around into the first 18 degree turn on the fourth lap I flew up the outside and pulled away, never looking back and taking the last two primes as well as the win. At the end of the day Emma and I took every prime, the win and 8th place for Scholars Inn Bakehouse.

And yes, I did lock myself out of my car.