Not to Worry, I’ve Got MTB National Championship Smarts

Me, wiggling down the XC course
Me, wiggling down the XC course.

It’s so nice to not be a rookie at Mountain Bike National Championships this year.  Knowing WD-40 will wash my bike, Fox and SRAM will help me with mechanical issues, the bike paths are great to warm-up on, and that I’ve raced this course before gives my confidence a huge boost.  Mammoth is a beautiful town to visit, making it hard to stay on my racer regime: strict food means no dining out at the cute restaurants, saving my legs means not exploring all the bike trails, and resting up means going to bed early instead of whooping it up at the bars.   Not that the racers life in Mammoth is a drag by any means: boosting my energy at Stellar Brewing with a banana chai, icing my legs in a high mountain lake, and catching up with friends while watching dual slalom is pretty cool. 

A cheer, a demand.
A cheer, a demand.

I took the XC start line feeling great!  I’m finally recovered from giardia and have had a week of good training and eating well before arriving the night before the race.  I really like the course: a climb with lots of good passing options and friendly less steep sections to catch your breath after particularly vertical zones, and the descent features tight burms around trees at the top then a series of drops and rock gardens as the bottom.  Though loose and powdery mid-summer, I feel confident in my traction (with WTB Trail Boss tires that are a bit over-kill but confidence is magic) so the drift is not a concern of mine.  Call ups (with the US Olympic Team Members called first – so cool to race with them) then the gun!

U23 Men suffering mid-race
U23 Men suffering mid-race

I had a terrible start.  I missed my clip in so I had to do another pedal stroke at half speed to get into my pedals; an error that put me toward the back of the pack.  Not to worry, there was a clear line along the fencing to get me back in position.  As I moved into the hole, a nervous rider next to me hit me.  Not to worry, I’m comfortable with some race rubbing and had just enough room to correct myself next to the fencing.  But then a spectator leaned over the fencing with his camera and I hit him.  Crash!  I’m not sure if the spectator was okay, he just apologized to me as I got up and made sure my bike and body were no worse for the impact.  Not to worry, Dirt Ninja (my bike) and I were fine; back to work.  So fifty feet from the start line I was already a minute back from the pro women field.  Not to worry (my mantra), the race is long and I can get back in the game if I am smart.  Smart means not panicking, not sprinting up the mountain at top speed, not blowing myself up in the first twenty minutes of a two hour race.  Trusting my fitness and skills I caught up to the back of the women.  Patience.  I waited for good passing opportunities; it is easy to exert a lot of energy getting around a racer at an inopportune location (as I did last year on this course only to be repassed and dropped like a hot potato a few minutes later).  At the top of the climb I had worked my way to the front of the chase pack.  I wanted to be with the lead pack but they were nowhere in sight. 

Flying over is always faster than bouncing over.
Flying over is always faster than bouncing over.

Over the five laps of the race I kept my riding steady and smooth.  My climbs were consistent, though two girls did get around me later in the race, and my descents were fast and had me gaining on the other riders (or stuck behind them without an opportunity to pass) each round.  I am disappointed that I finished twelfth when I had expectations of a better showing, but am very happy at how I handled my disastrous start.  Maybe one of my favorite things about mountain bike racing is that on any day, it is any girls race.  A mechanical, bad hand-up or even a bad hair day can tip the scales in favor of a rider not expected to take the day.  It is how a racer responds to mishaps that makes them great; so today my greatness may not come with accolades, but pride that I raced a smart race.  Now to recover for tomorrows televised short track race (Pro Women STXC starts at the hour mark)!

Junior Men on STXC
Junior Men on STXC
Unexpected Victory Celebration
Unexpected Victory Celebration
Spectator view
Spectator view
I "rested up" watching Dual Slalom.
I “rested up” watching Dual Slalom.
Top of the Elevator Shaft on the downhill course
Top of the Elevator Shaft on the downhill course
Coach Chris B keeping me up to date on the gravity results. (His kids are both National Champs now!)
Coach Chris B keeping me up to date on the gravity results. (His kids are both National Champs now!)
My friend Hailey bringing it home.
My friend Hailey bringing it home.
Course preparations keeping the courses perfect.
Keeping the courses perfect.
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Hopi Gods at the Chile Challenge Pro XC

Start line nerves
Start line nerves

In the depths of winter when my trails were buried under feet of snow I began putting my 2016 race season together.  It was with utter delight that I saw a new UCI race venue; Angel Fire New Mexico!  I grew up in northern NM and my parents still live in Santa Fe.  I could not pass up the opportunity to race in the southern Rockies, have my parents cheer me on, and eat some red chile.  I think I was the first woman to register for the race.

Camping at the yurt

Recovering from the Missoula XC and giardia, I took the scenic road to New Mexico staying in a yurt outside of Pocatello, ID, catching up with my sister in UT, and finally returning to the high desert of my youth.  Of course I stopped for blue corn enchiladas shortly after I crossed the state line.  (Giardia is not a fan of spicy food…)

My folks met me in Angel Fire with their sweet camper van, which was a welcome refuse from the thunderstorms.  My mom made sure I was regaining my strength

The fray to start the single track from the start
The fray to start the single track from the start

by preparing feasts and my Dad (a former cyclist) actually enjoyed talking to me about all things bike race that can put the

So HOT in Utah!

most obsessed bike enthusiast asleep. Friday morning I pedaled to the ski hill to pre-ride the XC course and check out the Pro GRT (downhill) seating runs.  Angel Fire has hosted DH events for a few years and has a reputation for being a burley course so I was excited to gawk at the feats of gravity defying bike handling by over 70 pro downhillers.  Wow.

Rallying. Grinning.
Rallying. Grinning.

The new UCI XC course at Angel Fire was a dream for me.  A burley climb gaining 600 ft. in the first mile, a burmed descent through the ponderosas with two jumps near the bottom, and two very short sections of double track.  The course would require patience and strategy to pass, the climb would spread the racers out, and the descent will make you grin.  A perfect

Get your chili fix in Taos

course for me!  My health was finally coming around and I had a solid training plan to account for the torturous altitude of the venue: 8500 ft. at the base of the ski hill. 

Umpoinaqa, the Hopi Thunder God, must have been happy to have me back on New Mexico soil because the rain stopped

Done!
Done!

for the Pro Women XC race.  Chloe set a blazing pace off the start line, showing us what it takes to be an Olympic Team Member, and I chased.  I was in great position on the first climb in eyesight of Chloe, but somehow the pace picked up for the second lap and I was at my max.  I fell back a few positions but felt strong in my third lap.  But as I headed out for my

Umpoinaqa, the Hopi Thunder God

fourth lap, Koshari, the Hopi Clown God, tacked a parachute to my shoulders making the climb brutal.  My breath was rapid and deep, but my low elevation heart could not get enough oxygen to my burning legs.  My pace slowed, but the other women were suffering too and I gained on Hannah W. ahead of me.  As we approached the top of the climb I could

Short track zoom
Short track zoom

accelerate and pass her, but decided the effort might tap my reserve and she could pick me off in the final climb, so I stuck to her wheel on the descent to pass on the next climb.  But pass I could not!  The fifth and final lap was an effort in consistency and looking forward to my family waiting for me at the finish line. 

Koshare, the Hopi Clown God

The Chile Challenge course made for easy spectating, my parents were able to see a grueling part of the climb and an open section of the descent where riders caught a little air over a jump into a burm.  I prepped them with info on the other women; like who they ride for, who I admired and who I had my eye on to be shoulder to shoulder with.  My Mom cheered

My pit crew: Mom and Dad
My pit crew: Mom and Dad

for my friends with such enthusiasm her cowbell blistered her palm.  My Dad offered a critique of my start and had some tactical suggestions for future races.  And on Sunday they got whiplash watching the Short Track race zooming around the ski base.  Having a team to support you is pretty fantastic!

Tsil, Hopi Runner God

It was not until I reflected on my race did I realize this was the first Pro UCI race where I was not worried about making the lap cut-offs, instead I was focused on strategy and managing my effort.  This is a huge milestone.  Now to get completely healthy and crush at National Championships in three weeks (after I devour huevos rancheros (Christmas) like I was caught by Tsil, the Hopi Runner God who will chase you and pour chili powder in your mouth if he catches you.

Missoula XC With Unwanted Teammates: How Amoebas On Board Don’t Make You Faster

Start of the U23 Men
Start of the U23 Men

I am drenched, huddled under a pine tree hoping not to get struck by lightning and watching my bike get pelted by hail.  My warm-up now abandoned, I can only plead for the thunderstorm to pass by and am thinking of a new selling point for super-light carbon bikes: less metal to attract lightning! Frightened? Yes, but it is hard not to laugh that THIS STORM, not the saga of the past week, may cause me to miss the start of my race: the Missoula Pro XC.

 

I want to win one of these so badly! (Don't worry, Ben said they are from roadkill.)
I want to win one of these so badly! (Don’t worry, Ben said they are from roadkill.)

I LOVE the Missoula XC.  This course is the real deal – a monster climb with switchbacks so tight and steep that I have put a foot down in fatigue, a descent dappled with off camber water bars in the middle of steep corners and opportunities to get some air with an audience.  While racing, there is an announcer broadcasting the play by play to a large crowd that is cheering you on.  And this year the race is the last chance for racers to vie for a spot on the USA Olympic team.  The racers are hungry, it is going to be game on and I can’t wait to play!

The "Bull" Ramp
The “Bull” Ramp

The last two weeks in preparation for this race has been a disaster.  I’ve been pretty miserable with abdominal pain that I could not sort out causing me to forgo my training and most food.  My “stomach bug” symptoms waxed and waned, but three days before the race my health was pretty bleak and I found myself at Instacare. Unsure of what was going on, but confident I was not terminal, my Doc sent me on the road to Montana with pending lab results and a recommendation to purge my digestive tract.  On my arrival to the race venue I had a message saying I was not dying, but have giardia.

Brandon of Summit Bike Club made sure I would have my smallest gear to climb. THANKS!!!

What is giardia?  It’s a water born amoeba contracted by drinking contaminated water.  I have absolutely no idea how I got it.  I have only been drinking city water in the past few months, have not been doing open water swims due to the very cold spring in Oregon, but maybe I got a splash in my mouth while grinning as I biked across a creek? The critters invade your intestines and ferment your food making you burp, fart, cramp and have frothy poo.  Did I mention I’m camping at the race venue?  Port-o-pottys? A gnarly antibiotic course will make me healthy but I have a big race in less than forty eight hours.

No, not to disinfect me! This is a brilliant way to wash your bike at a race.
No, not to disinfect me! This is a brilliant way to wash your bike at a race.

My dilemma: do I postpone treatment so I can try to race with symptoms I am familiar with or do I start antibiotics and hope they get me feeling well enough that the medication-induced nausea can be overlooked?  I feel so lousy I can’t imagine a big physical effort unless my symptoms lessen and in the last week I’ve eaten less than a roadie; my energy reserves won’t last more than twenty minutes at race pace unless I can keep some food down.

Racers zooming by my campsite

I chose to start treatment believing my symptoms were so terrible (and worsening by the hour) that I was not going to be able to race without intervention.  Being out of state it took some crafty work and kind medical professionals to get meds in my hands by mid-day Friday (28 hours to start time).  I then raided the local grocery for calorie dense but bland foods: chicken broth, rice crackers, ginger ale and plant based protein drinks foods.  Yum!  Just what every elite athlete wants to eat in preparation for a big race.

Bye-Bye Giardia
Bye-Bye Giardia

Antibiotic are MAGIC! In eighteen hours my symptoms are manageable, I’m getting some nutrition in, and a good night of sleep camping at Marshal Mountain has made me hopeful enough to warm-up for my race.  If it goes well I’ll take the start line and see if I can tick off a few laps of the race before I blow through all my glycogen reserves and my muscles simply stop.  And this is why it is so ironic that I may miss my race due to a storm.  I’m a twenty minute pedal away from the start line on single track overlooking the Clark River and if the storm does not pass in a few more minutes I won’t make it.

I'm suffering but totally stoked to be RACING
I’m suffering but totally stoked to be RACING

The Gods smile on me; the storm clears as abruptly as it swept in.  I warm up by sprinting to the start line.  I made it with enough time to towel the mud off my face and look composed for call ups.  The race starts in true Montana style with a rifle discharging into the hillside.  My start is slow, but by the time we hit the single track I’m in a good position on the wheels of the girls I expect to be on the podium.  But that glory was not to be mine today and half way up the first climb I fell off the pace.  I was passed by Hannah but felt good at the bottom of the first lap.  How could this be? I’m heading out for my second lap.  Better slurp down a gel.  Two laps become three and in disbelief I pass Hannah (despite my unwanted amoeba teammates hitching a ride) and am on track to beat the time cut-offs.  Lap four is not so peppy but I am ahead of the cut and with a huge smile, not stomach cramps, I race the final lap!  Just getting to race was a huge win for me, finishing the race was beyond my dreams.  I was so spent afterwards I almost fell off my bike when I tried to spin out my legs.  I try a real meal; chicken noodle soup!  And then a whole bag of rice cakes.  And then a box of graham crackers.  And then another can of soup. And then… I passed out before 8:30pm with the loud speakers announcing the single-speed race and keg toss like a lullaby.  Never fear, more food was in store.  I was wide awake at midnight and starving.  I actually got up and made another dinner: pasta with salt and butter.  I was starving for breakfast too.

Local love, I made the papers! Whoo hoo.
Local love, I made the papers! Whoo hoo.

This race was not the “shot at the podium” that I had hoped it would be, but I left satisfied and stoked at how well I did.  Managing my health, being optimistic but realistic about my situation, and focusing on the possibilities ensured I had a fantastic experience.  Now onto Angel Fire XC next week to see how much strength I can recoup with my amoebic hitchhikers discarded!  Ladies, look out.

 

Stottelmeyer 60 Miler – Test Run for BreckEpic

Start of the Stottelmeyer 60
Start of the Stottelmeyer 60

Recently I traveled to Poulsbo, WA to participate in an endurance mountain bike race.  I have a lot to learn and dial in so I can “get it done” at BreckEpic, so in preparation I signed up for the Stottelmeyer 60 to practice the endurance race format.  Years ago I raced a 50 mile mtb event and it was a spectacular disaster: I crashed, bonked, had mechanicals (3!), and mercifully DNF’ed with six miles and a huge climb to go.  I will say I went to that race on a whim and thought it would be like the after-work races I did at the time (about 12 mile courses) but would take longer.  ROOKIE! 

 

The Fun Line
The Fun Line

There are many things different about endurance racing than the cross country (XC) racing I focus on.  My biggest concern is fueling; if I don’t get enough calories in I will bonk or find myself walking off leg cramps, if I take in too many, to quickly or the “wrong type” I will get a sour and crampy stomach.  All of these have plagued me as an athlete.  In endurance races you have drop bags deposited along the course at aid stations full of snacks and supplies you hopefully will not need; like a rain jacket or extra CO2 carriages.  There are no aid stations in XC races, you would never give up the seconds to stop to grab a snack, and a flat tire means you are cut at the end of the lap by falling off the leader pace.  How I was going to embrace food, aid stations and intentionally stopping during the race left me feeling like I was headed for an exotic destination where no westerner had ever been before.

 

Tricks of the Trade
Tricks of the Trade

I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula with my friends Anne and Cary who are seasoned veterans of distance racing.  They were gracious to share their tricks of the trade for fueling, how to move through aid stations efficiently, and what should be in my drop bag. They shared awesome details like putting a rubber band around the necks of water bottles to secure gels so at aid stations I can quickly resupply and that a Payday candy bar might be the race treat that gets me to the finish line.  What I took away from our conversations is that fueling (as I feared) the factor that can make or break your success in an endurance race.  On my long training rides I have been experimenting with foods and calories that work for me.  I have learned that on longer rides I need to replace about 250 Kcal/hr consisting mostly of carbohydrates and I need to drink half a liter of water an hour in cool temps where every other bottle has electrolytes in it.  My travel companions cautioned me that my caloric intake may be significantly higher during the race; and I would know if I started to cramp (not enough glycogen for my muscles), my bike handling was sluggish (not enough glucose to power my brain), or I had any stomach disgruntling.  They were also worried about my food choices which were homemade rice cakes from the Skratch Labs cookbook and Perpetuim (a high calorie electrolyte beverage formulated for endurance athletes); so I threw out the adage of never experimenting on race day and followed their advice for a fuss-free but completely pre-packaged fueling strategy.  Calories by gels, blocks and a high calorie (but protein free) electrolyte drink was the menu. 

I did take time to enjoy the flowers.
Enjoying the Flowers

The Stottelmeyer 60 is a fifteen mile loop course twisting and turning through a very dense forest keeping the pace slow but requiring constant bike handling skills to get over roots and between tight trees.  Opportunities to pass came in short fire road strait-aways, giggles were had on a new DH flow trail, and we passed through a lupine field where the flower stalks brushed my helmet.  The weather had been unseasonably warm and dry but race day presented with a black sky and cool temps.  The rain held off through the first half of the race, but by my last lap it was a downpour.  As the rain came down, bike handling became more important as the trail became muddy, roots slick and visibility poor.  My brain fogged in fatigue on the last lap too.  My palms tenderized by miles; a switchback that was a fun swoop on previous laps became a terrain feature not to be taken lightly by the last pass. 

 

Flowing Through the New DH Trail
Flowing Through the New DH Trail

Endurance race pace is slower than XC race pace.  If I went too hard early, finishing would be a struggle; so I used my competitors as my mentors.  Early in the race I posted-up with four other women in the pro division; two with solid endurance mtb racing resumes and two who were local girls that knew the trails like the back of their hands.  Midway through our second lap I stopped at the aid station to resupply (I had just endured a minor muscle cramp episode and knew I would need to get a whole lot more calories in than I had planned – I calculated I averaged 375 Kcal/hr!) and those girls rode away.  I did not doubt my need to stop and ensure I stayed fueled, especially so early in the race, but it was hard to lose the pack.  But not to fear, back to riding I caught up with a group of men who were happy to sit on my wheel and chat me up for the next hour.  The miles ticked off, I felt great, I was enjoying the terrain, and I was keeping a pace I was confident I could hold for the rest of the race.  My train and I overtook the women I was earlier riding with (a moment of doubt for me) and I soon lost the chatty gentlemen.  In my third lap I would catch up to riders, chat for a bit (crazy to be in the middle of a race and making friends, not gasping for air), then find myself catching the next rider.  I developed a strategy for moving through aid stations: hand my bike to a volunteer, swap out water bottles, drop my gel wrappers, put two gels in my leg cuffs, grab a handful of blocks (like 7) and ride away chipmunk style.  A stop took me less than a minute.  My last aid station stop was bliss.  I knew I was 9 miles from the finish, 9 miles from dry clothes, and 9 miles from a burger.  I didn’t care if my stomach turned at this point so I ate a banana and an Oreo.  That Oreo may be one of the best tasting things I’ve ever laid to my taste buds.  I wished I had put Oreos in my leg cuffs not gels; soggy or not they would have been divine. 

Paid out in PBR
Paid out in PBR

The finish line loomed.  Anne and Cary were cheering me home despite the pouring rain.  I did it!  I successfully completed an endurance mountain bike race: I managed my pace, my fuel, aid stations, enjoyed (almost) all of the race, and I even won.  My burger was fantastic.  I can’t wait to do another of these!

I really enjoyed ALL of this race
I really enjoyed ALL of this race

So my test run for BreckEpic was a big confidence boost.  Stottelmeyer 60 gave me insights on what I have to work on: recovery after a race so I can do it again the next day, increasing my mental stamina so I can safely descend technical terrain at the end of a day, tightening up the equipment I carry, and refining what I have in my drop bags.  I learned the pace for an endurance race is still pretty fast (faster than a fast ride with friends), I will be constantly eating and drinking, aid stations are a place for support not a zone to fear, the race is long so trust yourself and don’t get seduced by doing what others are doing, endurance racing is a whole lot of fun not just suffering, and most important – I can do this!

The BreckEpic Project

breck epic licence plateI am a cross country mountain bike racer.  My races are two hour sprints on trails.  Strategy choices play out in minutes.  A mechanical is a DNF.  I don’t even slow to slurp down a gel mid-race.  Fast, intense, then over just like that.  I love them.  However, I’ve listened to friends gush and groan about their longer race escapades.  Tales of finishing a stage with a duct taped derailleur, eating Twinkies at mile 42, taking pictures at a vista and still landing on the podium.  This is a world so foreign to me, so curious and seductive I have to give it a try.  So I signed up to race the BreckEpic in August in blissful ignorance of what is involved to do an event like this one.

The BreckEpic is a six day, mountain bike stage race in the mountains around Breckenridge Colorado.  Each day features a BIG ride of 30-50 miles of single track and climbs topping out over 13,000 ft.  This is a very different mountain bike race than the Pro XC format I focus on where my race is 105 minutes of sprinting on a 5 KM loop.  I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  I have a lot to learn to be successful.  So come along for the ride.  I’m going to share my learning curve, you can be my teammate, and maybe my antics will inspire you to do a stage race too!

Project Proposal: BreckEpic 2016

Goal:  To race and complete the Breck Epic 2016 as a solo rider.

Demands:

  • 6 back to back days of hard mountain bike riding
  • 30 – 60 mile days taking an average of 5 hours of pedaling
  • Climbing an average of 6200 ft each day
I'll bike up and down all of these peaks. WOW!
I’ll bike up and down all of these peaks. WOW!

Steps to Success:

  • Equipment
    • Bike
    • Self-support Supplies
    • Drop Bags
  • Fueling
    • Pre-race
    • During
    • Post-race
  • Recovery
  • Fitness
    • Back to back days
    • Long days
    • Big elevation gains
    • Riding at serious elevation
  • The Unknown (???)

Project Completion Date: August 14-19, 2016

Fat Bike National Championships 2016 (Wind Tunnel Training)

bling
Showing off my bling!

I have always thought it would be cool to feel how (or how not) aerodynamic I am in a wind tunnel like Lindsey Vonn does.  Be careful what you wish for!  Held for the second year at Utah’s Powder Mountain, Fat Bike National Championships provided riders the opportunity to hone their streamline position with gale force gusts.  However, the event was so much fun the wind was unable to blow smiles off participant’s faces.

Fat bike racing is a blend of cross country bike handling and road bike strategy where dialing in the bike for the terrain conditions can make or break your day. For this reason I budget a few hours for pre-riding the course the day before with a bike stand and full tool kit at the parking lot. I also check the weather report morning and night for the week leading up to the race to get a feel for what the conditions will be like. The most important detail to get right for fat bike performance is tire pressure. Fat bikes run really low pressure, usually 4-12 PSI tire pressure on snow depending on the snow conditions. Due to the large volume of fat bike tires, a 1 or 2 PSI change will make a noticeable difference in how the tires grip and float on snow. If the snow is deep or recrystallized “sugar snow” I typically run closer to 4 PSI (the zone where the side-walls wrinkle) so the tire oozes over the snow instead of sinking into it. If the snow is hard pack I will run closer to 12 PSI to reduce rolling resistance but aiming for the pressure zone where I’m on the verge of bouncing on frozen ruts. A firmer tire provides more speed and efficiency, too firm and the bike will buck. Pre-riding the Fat Bike Nats course I experimented with my tire pressure to find the sweet spot. I started with my tires at 8 PSI and adjusted from there. A digital pressure gauge and a hand pump are a must for a pre-ride. On race day I do carry a CO2 cartridge for that emergency flat fix, but a 20g cartridge will only inflate a fat tire to about 5 PSI. Though the course on the ski hill was groomed, the temps were turning the snow to slush in many spots so it took me a while to find the zone where I was floating on the slushy snow but still efficient on the climbs. On race day the winds and clouds set in keeping the snow more firm than the day before so I upped the PSI a bit.

Fat-Bike-National-Championships-at-Powder-Mountain-2-27-2016-IMG_2629
Climbing in the wind

Next is gearing.  The Fat Bike Nats course was a six mile loop where the first three miles featured a steady descent with burmed turns and a wiggly single track through the aspens.  The second half of the course featured a long climb back to the start with one headwall of slush that I ended up walking each lap no matter how I approached it during the race.  Though the descent was fast, the climb called for a reasonable chain-ring.  I chose a 30 T and I used EVERY gear.  A 2X drivetrain was probably the best choice on this day; I was spun out on the descent when the wind gusts were merciful but climbed into the headwind at a steady 4 mph pace in my smallest gears.

cheerleader 2
Exuberance at the finish

I have a demon who loves to assault me with last minute derailleur problems at races and Fat Bike Nats was no exception.  At the end of my pre-ride as the sun was approaching the horizon I shifted into my smallest gear and my chain jumped into my spokes and bent the derailleur hanger in the process.  With the barrel adjuster I was able to get my shifting functioning in the middle of my cassette, but the hanger needed to be straightened to let me use my smallest gears again.  Fortunately angels chase demons and as I headed to the parking lot to try and find an open bike shop to help me I ran into Bill Warburton who was working as crew for the event.  Bill runs the Bend Endurance Academy and gets lots of opportunities to help out kiddo’s on the trail fixing all sorts of mechanicals.  He did not pause to take the time in the snow and dropping temps to get my shifting back on track.  The next morning I lucked out again and bike mechanic John from Bingham’s Bike Shop gave my derailleur a last minute touch up for that added boost of confidence.  My drivetrain was as good as brand new!

 

local glory
First interview for TV!

And then there is personal equipment.  The temps were in the 40’s, but so were the wind-speeds.  My Bar-Mitts would catch the wind and spin my handlebars during warm-up so they had to be removed. It was hard not to put on a wind layer over my kit but I resisted being weary of getting too cold from excessive sweating in the wind.  I did put a set of Hot Hands in my gloves to make sure my fingers would stay warm enough to engage with my brakes and shifter. No fashion mistakes today! (Okay, I did warm-up in “Granny” wind pants and a puffy jacket but there is no documentation of that.)

With my equipment sorted out, it was time to take the start line.  The pro women field was not large, but the ladies were all quite accomplished racers.  Off the start we jockeyed for the front of the pack as we tried to figure out our strategies.  I was feeling frisky at the strait-away before the climb began on the first lap and stretched my legs. At the end of the first lap I had a modest gap on the field which I built on for the rest of the race.  I effectively time trialed this race, keeping an eye on my heart rate.  Being the break-away can be a head game but knowing what my body is capable of doing for a race of this length helped me stay steady in winds that blew me off the cat track and literally stopped me in my tracks a few times.  It also gave me confidence that my early move off the front was not a mistake.

And yeah, being the Women Pro Fat Bike National Champion is pretty cool!

champ
Pretty stoked on my new jersey

Check out Park City TV ‘s report of the event (and laugh at my rookie interview skills).