The Big Ring Challenge

Holy Moses! This weekend’s race was SO MUCH FUN!!! I think it’s the coolest thing to come out of a race and Monday morning still be on cloud nine from all the excitement. The Big Ring Challenge is one of those courses that really gives you a high from the speed. It’s not every day you get to average over 14 mph on singletrack. Pure awesomeness!

Carlos and I had a great pre ride Saturday and the trail was just like I remembered it…fun and fassst! So Sunday morning we were ready! The temperature was in the low 50’s and I was surprised it didn’t really feel that cold. We warmed up in the first few miles of the race course since we were the first category racing for the day. The trail was feeling good!

Four of us were lined up in the women’s pro field, Jessica, Penny, Cindy and myself. The start was on the park road and then made a sharp left into singletrack. On the whistle we took off and Cindy was out in front. Jessica was able to get around and led into singletrack. Cindy and I went in side by side and I started to get pushed into the trees so I squeezed in behind her. As we were riding I could see Jessica starting to form a tiny gap and I knew I needed to get up there. As soon as I could, I passed Cindy and bridged up to Jess. Everything felt so good, the trail, my bike, my legs…I couldn’t have asked for a better day! We got to the second jeep road and all of a sudden Jess slid out making the turn. I knew I had to charge so I punched it and attacked up the jeep road and into the trees. She was able to bridge back up to me and I led till the next jeep road. Once we made the turn onto the road the race was ON! We were both on the gas full throttle. I jumped on her wheel but through the trees she started to put a few seconds on me. She was riding strong!

Heading into our second lap (we only had to do two laps this time) the small gap was staying pretty steady and I had her in sight. Railing the corners felt awesome and you can’t help but to love going that fast! Then, out of nowhere (at least in my memory), I clipped a root with my pedal. Oh man! It was one of those things that happens so fast that I don’t even know exactly WHAT happened! If I had to guess, I would say that when my pedal hit, I came unclipped, and my knee must have first slammed into my bars, or shifter, or SOMETHING in that vicinity, and THEN it slammed into the ground. All I knew was that it hurt…REALLY BAD. I had to stand there for a second to figure out if I was even okay. My bars had twisted so I quickly adjusted them and put my chain back on. Jamie, one of the guys in the Cat 1 40-49 group slowed down and asked if I was alright. I wasn’t quite sure, but the only way I would find out was to get back on and ride. We still had ten more miles left in the race. Ah!

Jamie let me in front of him and was really encouraging as I tried to pedal. The pain was so bad that I literally started crying. I know! I know! What a GIRL! I don’t think I’ve ever cried and ridden at the same time before from this type of pain, but I just couldn’t help it. I really wasn’t sure if I had seriously injured something in my knee and if I was just making it worse by trying to pedal through it. I was contemplating pulling out. I’m not sure how much longer it was after the crash but I think it finally started to just go numb to the touch.

Those last miles were a bear but the trail was so fast and flowy that it helped me to block the pain. I still finished strong in second. For some reason today I’m not that bummed about my knee, even though it’s still sore and swollen, because the race itself was so much fun!

In the Cat 1 40-49 group there were thirty-two guys. This week Carlos had a top ten call-up. He was so excited to have an opportunity to be up front that I think out of happiness and anxiety he missed his pedal. On top of that, you can only imagine that many guys hauling butt down a road to turn left and line up in singletrack can be quite a chaotic mess. He went in mid pack and moved up little by little through the first lap of the race. Right up every jeep road he could see a train of five guys in front of him. They were so close he could taste it, but not having a draft made him work even harder. He finished in twelfth and only a minute behind the pack of five!

We had a great weekend and are looking forward to the Easter weekend break! Till next time…

Happy Trails!

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Bent Wheel Bash…A Cactus Full of Fun!

Another week, another race, another experience to add to the things I’m thankful for! Last Sunday was the Bent Wheel Bash in Abilene, TX. This race is put on by some extremely passionate people in the Abilene community who really know how to do everything right. Gary and his crew do an outstanding job putting this race together year after year. Upon arriving at the race he stopped by our car to let me know they had even added an extra $100 to the Pro Women’s purse because of all our hard work and always coming out year after year. It felt really good to be appreciated! Thank you so much Gary for supporting the ladies!

Saturday morning we got up around 5:30am, loaded up the car, dropped Plopper off at his favorite doggy day care, Benny’s Dog Resort, and was on the road by about 7:00am headed to Abilene. The high of the day was supposed to be 92 degrees and we didn’t want to be out baking in the sun for our pre-ride. Our timing worked out well and it wasn’t too hot as we rode the open course. There’s pretty much no shade on the trail like we’re used to here in DFW. We rode a good lap and a half. There were some changes made to the race course from previous years we had raced there. A handful of technical rock gardens were taken out and replaced by twisty, loose singletrack. I personally liked the course and the way it was laid out. Even though it wasn’t as rocky, the level of difficulty of taking loose corners at high speed made it exceptionally challenging, especially when the penalty for failure is a body full of cactus needles!

We had a really good pre-ride and missed the heat just like we had planned. The rest of the afternoon we cleaned up our bikes, got ’em race ready, then kicked up our feet.

After a good nights sleep we arrived early to the trail and boy it was chilly! What a difference from the day before…Texas weather is crazy like that! Carlos forgot his arm and knee warmers so he had to rough it for his warmup. 😳 After our warmup we rode the start loop a few times, got our legs marked and lined up.

It was a small turnout for the ladies pro field with only three of us. It was Jessica, Penny, and myself. We went off in front of the Cat 1 40-49 Men and not so sure that was such a good idea. Those guys are fasssst and if the stagger isn’t long enough they are sure to catch us. I jumped onto Jessica’s wheel through the start loop. The leader of the 40+ group (Mason O’Neil) passed us about 3 or 4 miles into the race. Close to mile 5 1/2 is where we hit the rock gardens and I could hear a choo choo train of guys coming up on me. I didn’t want to hold them back from their leader so I slowed down and scooted over in a turn right before a technical section. As I moved into the side of the trail, the second I grazed my brakes my bike went right out from underneath me! Next thing I knew I had a few cactus needles in my side and a dropped chain. A whole mess of guys passed me as I struggled to get my chain back on. Oh how I missed my 1×10!!

I finally got going again and tried to close the gap Jessica now had on me. It was a constant ON and OFF the gas. You could pick up a lot of speed on the straights and then had to really modulate it for the slick corners. I didn’t know what the time split was between us, but on my second lap I managed to make the gap bigger by sliding out at the top of a turn and this time got covered on my left side from ankle to shoulder in cacti. I knew I wasn’t badly injured so I hopped back on my bike without checking out the damage. I could feel pricking as I moved my body side to side, but these are the times when you’ve gotta love adrenaline!

In the last few miles I was so excited to see Carlos around a random corner yelling and cheering me on! A little bit later he popped up again…how does that not make you smile in the last stretch of a race?!? I finished in second and got to take home some cacti as a souvenir.

Nearly all of Carlos’ race he went back and forth with Jason for tenth place. Close to the last 400 meters or so there was a good size log pile that you could go over, or go around and Jason decided to go around. Carlos charged the logs and made the pass. As Carlos made the pass he thought Jason would yield the trail, but instead the two collided. Carlos went down pretty hard. Now we know where the phrase “rubbing is racing” came from. 😉

These are the times when we can be extra thankful for our background in fitness and not using cycling as our only resource to be healthy. Incorporating a solid resistance training program can not only help you on the bike, but it can protect your bones and joints when the unexpected happens. Thank God all Carlos walked away with was a few chunks of skin missing and slightly new perspective on the competition.

We just got to Coldspring, TX for the Big Ring Challenge. There is a chance of rain this afternoon and we should be just in time to ride before anything hits.

Hope everybody has a great weekend, racing, riding, having fun!! I’ll post up some Abilene pics after our pre-ride.

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Mellow Johnny’s Classic…You live. You learn. You race!

I am absolutely overwhelmed by this past weekend racing at the Mellow Johnny’s Classic. I can not even fully describe how special it is to have so many friends, family, fellow racers and riders, and of course my amazing husband to support me, cheer for me, encourage me, and put a smile on my face around every corner of the trail. I didn’t quite get the result I was looking for, but it’s always a great experience to race the best of the best.

I know I haven’t written in a while, it’s been a mentally and physically challenging past three weeks. I must have superhuman competitors because racing every weekend without a break can really knock the sails out from someone, and I didn’t even do the 6 hr endurance race and short track that some of them did at Waco a few weeks ago.

The weekend after Waco we raced out in Comfort. Last year and this year I have concluded that this particular weekend always feels like one of the longest weekends of the year for me. Friday we pre-rode the entire 27 mile loop out at Flat Rock Ranch. Saturday we took advantage of the Mellow Johnny’s course out at Flat Creek Ranch being open for pre-ride and rode three laps out there. I had been on the fence all week about racing Sunday and I went ahead and signed up anyway. I knew that riding the rocky terrain would help me brush up on my technical skills rather than spectating.

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We were so fortunate to have friends with family who live only about fifteen minutes east of Flat Creek and were nice enough to provide us with beautiful and cozy hospitality. The view was amazing and the area was so quiet and peaceful. That, along with the weather and good company made for a perfect race weekend!

Carlos and I were both racing at the same time but each of our races headed out in different directions on the course. Silly me had ridden the whole course Friday EXCEPT my start loop. Oops! So when the whistle blew we sprinted up a hill and next thing I knew I heard a loud crash just behind me to my right. Jennifer Taylor had been on my right so I knew she had probably gone down, but I didn’t want to look back and cause a wreck myself. So I focused on Jessica who was in front of me so I could see where the start loop was taking us. The first nine miles of the race are pretty rocky and last year was the first time I had to race the complete upper loop. I remember not being able to clear several of the obstacles last year and this year I was happy to be riding a larger portion of the tricky rocks. All in all I had a decent race. My goal had been to work on my technical skills and that I did! I finished in third place, Carlos finished twelfth, and we both went home with tired legs.

We are so blessed to have such a flexible job with some pretty awesome clients and were able to start our weekend off early Thursday and head back to Dripping Springs to hit up another pre-ride at Mellow Johnny’s. The course was flowing better and better. Friday afternoon I got in one more lap. The course felt much different from the day before. You could tell that there was more traffic on the trail, rocks were being thrown around, and lines were getting sloppy. I went over my bars on a loose decent and of course I had to land on the same knee that I injured on my Rockyhill pre-ride. It wasn’t that bad, just a little insult to injury…literally. You know they always say, “A bad pre-ride is a great race.” I just kept repeating that to myself for the rest of the ride. That evening we kicked up our feet and I iced my knee.

Saturday morning was a little chilly. We parked near the top of the newly famous STRAVA climb and Carlos set up my trainer and road bike next to the truck. The Cat 3’s were racing right before us so we got to heckle our friend Lisa and all the others suffering up the climb before I had to get ready for my own race. While warming up it was great to see teammates and friends pass by and wish me luck. I headed down to the start line for 11:30 call ups. I was really excited to see other girls from Texas step up to a race of this caliber. Like I said in a previous post, the talent in Texas is pretty unbelievable! There were three Texas girls on the line and almost a fourth! Unfortunately Melanie Etherton, who would have been number four, had an injury the day before in her pre-ride and she was unable to race. We missed her on the starting line!

The anticipation and hard training from the previous weeks and months was all for this first big race of the year. When the gun went off I took the line on the right and fought through the clouds of dust. Apparently I was a little too far right because I got smacked in the face with a branch…that’s always fun! I was about mid pack before the last right hand turn on the start loop before hitting the road again, when my cleat popped right out of my pedal. AH! I was in such a heavy gear that I almost couldn’t even keep pedaling without being clipped in. As I struggled to catch my pedal again I felt several bikes fly by. NOOOO!! I entered single track near the end of the pack skidding, and flying through the corner out of control. Finally I settled in and calmed myself down. This is not really the type of trail you want to ride over your head, even if it’s to move up a few spots. Crashing wouldn’t have gotten me very far. Up the climbs and in the open spots I was feeling strong. I was able to reel a few girls in and make some passes.

The rest of the race I yo-yoed back and forth with Rebecca Gross who was right in front of me. The crowd was incredible and poor thing was probably so sick of hearing, “GO Lisa!” There was no sneaking up on her! After the race we talked and when I told her I was the one right behind her she said, “You must be Lisa.”

It was a great race, a total learning experience in so many ways, and only 47 seconds away from my Top 10 goal! So after the race I decided to cash in my chips, walk away a winner (in my book at least), and be thankful I was still in one piece. Carlos was racing the next day and I wanted to be all about him! He’s so awesome at taking care of me and being my support system that I couldn’t wait to do that for him. So I set up his trainer and got his bottles and race nutrition ready. His field was pretty large with close to forty guys. The start was super dusty, but thanks to his Oakley Windjackets he was able to see, as opposed to previous years when all the dust got in his contacts! He had a strong, clean race and had a ton of fun! The way that he described his race was, “he had a bad start with a good end result.” He’s always said, “if you race from the back, you will not finish in the front.” I think we both proved that this weekend!

You live. You learn. You race. 🙂

A little over six weeks away and we’ll be in beautiful Monterey, CA for the Sea Otter Classic! Can’t wait!

We would like to thank our AMAZING sponsors, Comedy Defensive Driving, for the generous hospitality, financial support, and promoting safe driving as we train on the road!

Elete Electrolytes for knowing exactly what our bodies need to stay hydrated for ultimate performance!

ESI Grips for your superior comfort and ultra light weight technology…did we mention how bling our bikes look?!?

Honey Stinger for on and off the bike top of the line organic fuel!

Roman Strength for our super sturdy plyometric boxes and equipment for our functional training!

Plano Cycling and Fitness for the best bike maintenance and always keeping us rolling!

We couldn’t do all this without these guys so make sure and support those who support us!