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