Warda Muddy Mountain Biking Adventure

This sure has been one heck of a rainy season! It seems like every time I open my Weather Channel App to check the ten day forecast it’s filled with clouds, lightning bolts, and rain drops. This makes for a very sad mountain biker. I know we were in a severe drought just last year, and our lakes desperately needed the rain, but I do miss the dirt. Don’t get me wrong, I love road riding. In fact, it generally makes up more than 50% of our training. But now that the trails are closed and literally underwater, we’ve been forced to adapt to our environment. A few weeks ago was the final race of the Texas Cross Country Mountain Bike State Championship Series in Warda, TX. We knew the area had recieved heavy rainfall throughout the week and more likely than not, the trail was going to be a muddy mess. I’ve never really been a huge fan of racing in muddy or wet conditions because for one, it can take a toll on your bike and more times than not you’ll find yourself replacing brake pads, bottom brackets, head sets, etc.. For two, it can significantly increase the danger factor. Anyone who rides and races bicycles knows and accepts that every time we throw our leg over the saddle there is a risk of injury, but I don’t know if it’s the personal trainer in me who has learned from the bodies of my 50, 60, & 70 year old clients, or the memories from fifteen years of bull riding in Carlos, but we both would strongly prefer to keep the rubber side down and the danger factor to a minimum. This is also why we have put a great deal of time and energy this past year into improving our technical skills. When race weekend approached, our choice was simple…it was no dirt or wet dirt. So we chose wet dirt. Friday morning we loaded up the camper and drove four hours south to Warda. The last two hours was steady rain and when we got to the ranch the word was that it had been raining there all day. This put a bit of a limp in our step when it came down to finding dry land to set up camp. We scoped out our options, aiming for a spot under a tree, because if the sun finally decided to come out and play it was going to be a steam bath for sure! So we pulled the camper down to a spot near the expo area and next thing we knew our truck AND camper were completely sunk into the nasty mud and we were stuck! It was so bad! I’m sure we looked like such rookies, scratching our heads, tires spinning out and smoking up, only to sink deeper. I was having a panic attack, and coming close to tears. There was definitely tension in the air. Then, Mother Nature decided we needed a little more excitement in our day as lightening struck so close to our truck that I could see the flicker, and every hair on our body stood up! It was followed by the loudest and longest rumble I’ve ever heard in my life! After about an hour of helplessly trying to get our truck out of the mud, we finally went back to the ranch house and asked for help. Alan, who is a super nice guy, was so kind to get us out of the pickle we were in. It wasn’t an easy task and even his own 4×4 pickup got stuck more than once. It took more work I think, than even he had imagined. But finally we were free and Alan was able to get our camper and truck up to higher ground. 

   
 
The rain stopped long enough to give us a break and we popped up the Aliner next to the bike wash, right where Alan had left it. Even though the ground there was wet, the whole expo area was so muddy that we were scared to try to move it and get stuck again. Although this was far from how we imagined our camping spot to be, we decided to call this swamp our home for the weekend. While setting everything up our water pump died, and our generator didn’t feel like working either. It was really playing out to be a GREAT weekend (sarcasm). After a couple more hours went by, it looked as though more and more water was accumulating outside the camper, and at this rate we’d be sunk into the ground by the end of the weekend. So here we go again, tear everything down, hook up, gun it across the field so we don’t get stuck, and alas we are on firm ground! Still no water pump, but a fellow camper did help us figure out the generator situation and we were up and running! Right when things started to finally settle down and run smooth, I went to cut a slit in the top of an Ozarka 2.5 gallon water container and my knife slipped. I cut straight through the entire side of the container and water immediately exploded everywhere! All over the floor, the rug, on top of Carlos’ cycling bag…everywhere. I had no words. Not even the bad ones. I think at that point I was in total shock and disbelief of the line of challenges that this day had brought forth. We had arrived at the ranch at 2:30pm and didn’t kick our feet up until 9:00pm. I’m not a big drinker, but the beer sure did taste good that night!

Saturday morning, before that Cat 3 and Cat 1 races started, I decided to go out for a pre-ride of the UCI style course to see what I’d be getting myself into the next day. It was exactly what I thought it would be like, an early season cyclocross race. Riding through the saturated fields of grass and mud was giving me flashbacks of the Houston Cross races we did last Fall. I just knew that once a few more wheels rolled through there it was going to get super tore up and messy, which translates into having to really lay down the power on the pedals…ouch. Other than those fields, the trail was actually pretty decent. The ground was slick, just as to be expected, but nothing really stuck to your tires. The only creek crossing in the race was deep and flowing pretty good. In my pre-ride there was an entire section closed off because it was too wet and slippery to ride. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had just snuck by the tape and rode it out because that section ended up being in my race and is what gave me the most trouble on the course. 

I finished riding just in time to get cleaned up, wash my bike off, and help Carlos with anything he needed before his race start. This year has really thrown some curve balls at him. Of course the crazy snow, sleet, and freezing cold weather at Mellow Johnny’s affected us all, but like I said before, those conditions are not our favorite. Then in Abilene Carlos kissed a rock with his forehead and needed 11 stitches above his eyebrow and 3 in the corner of his eye. Needless to say Pace Bend was another wet, rocky, and slippery race which served its purpose to get the monkey off his back and be back to racing again. After the monsoon that hit Big Cedar the day before that race, we both decided to ride our road bikes instead and stay on dry ground. So ultimately, this year was a wash for him, and after everything we had gone through to get to Warda the day before, how could we not race?!? He lined up and there was a crash right from the start. Thankfully no one was badly injured and Carlos had avoided it. His position was good going into singletrack and every time he popped back out of the woods he was all smiles and having a good ole time. He was all smiles as he finished nice and muddy in a solid 10th place! It didn’t rain the whole day, but it sure was getting muggy!

 

Coming through on the start loop!

  

Carlos riding through the creek crossing

 

  
 

The forecast for Sunday was not looking promising. There was a chance of rain in the morning, but we were all crossing our fingers that it would miss us! I was really focused on staying mentally prepared for the worst, which was probably a good thing because we woke up the next morning to pouring rain. My race was at noon and honestly, I hadn’t even register or paid my entry fees yet. The Cat 2 racers went off at 9:30am and they raced through the thunder and lightning. I don’t know if it was because the weather got so bad or the lap times were taking much longer than expected, but all the Cat 2 racers were pulled after only one lap. About this time is when Carlos looked at me and said, “You know you don’t have to do this right?” You see, after my last win in Coldsprings, my points lead was locked into first place for the State Championship. Therefore, the outcome of this race would have no change to my position in the standings. But in my mind it came down to two reasons why I wanted to race. The first was because I I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to gain experience riding in challenging conditions like these, without such a high danger factor (i.e. no slick, wet rocks on this course). Maybe one day I will be faced with these same conditions and hopefully then I can pull this experience out of my racing arsenal. Second, our team, Team PACC, was in a very tight points battle for the TMBRA Team Challenge. So in reality, I did have a lot of pressure put on my to do well since I was the last member of our team to race for the season and therefore the last to scoop up as many points as possible. There they were…my WHY’s. My third secret why, was that riding in the rain and sliding around all over the place just makes you feel like a kid all over again! 

I suited up, while Carlos put a double rain flap on my down tube, which was a savior for my eyes once I had to ditch my glasses. Amidst the thunder and rain I walked to registration thirty minutes prior to the race start. It was so crazy to see close to our largest women’s field lining up in the muddy field. Now those are some tough girls! I’m so glad I didn’t miss it! I had a great start with the hole shot up the jeep road, but within the first half mile we hit the first swampy field. It was so tore up that you had to commit to whichever rut you could find and hope it’s a fast one. Our positions changed and the race was on! I went down the super fast section called Gas Pass in third and a bit later was caught behind a small crash. As I was untangling my bike from the collision, in the corner of my eye I could see wheels flying by me. I had no idea how many, I just knew I needed to stay composed and ride smart. I rode myself back into fourth place and had a heck of a good time! The creek crossing that was now almost knee deep was flowing crazy fast and on my third trip through there I didn’t quite make it across. When I put my foot down in the water my bike almost drifted away! 

 

photo credit The Light Co.

 
 

photo credit The Light Co.

     

Later in the race I slipped into a rut on a descent and almost went off the side of a cliff! It was gnarly, but extremely comical because I couldn’t even get my bike off of me to stand back up! The whole day was quite the adventure! I finished the race in fourth, and I was proud that I had at least given it a shot. 

Without that double mud flap the front of me would have looked like the back!

I’m a firm believer in living life to its fullest, and sometimes that means playing in the mud! I’m so extremely thankful for Carlos, who is my amazing husband and coach, my awesome team, and my most supportive sponsors, Plano Cycling and Fitness, Elete Electrolytes, Square One Cafe, Legacy Chiropractic, Legacy Merch, Roman Strength, ESI Grips, Pactimo, LIV Cycling, The Light Co., and Smith Optics! It’s my first year as part of The Watt Posse, PACC’s Elete team, and I’m excited to bring home the Pro Women’s 2015 Texas State Champion Marathon Jersey and my second ever Pro Women’s State Champion Cross-Country Jersey!

 

My second cross country state championship title!

 
      

2015 Pro Women Texas State Championship

Advertisements

Pace Bend…Bluebonnets, Bikes, and Good Times!

Welcome to Pace Bend

Two Thursday’s ago Carlos and I pulled our camper down to Spice Wood, TX. Sunday was the fifth race of the Texas Mountain Bike Cross Country State Championship Series at Pace Bend Park. We had the extra time so we decided to get away from Dallas early, hang out with friends and teammates, ride our little hearts out, and just have a heck of a good time.

Kisses!!

 

Fun in the sun!

Sonya and I roaming around through the fields of Bluebonnets

The forecast was not looking promising and there was a high chance of rain predicted for the entire weekend. Luckily, we had absolutely PERFECT weather the enitre weekend…until we got to the starting line on Sunday morning. That’s when it started misting steadily. The soil at Pace Bend actually holds water really well, but the small limestone rocks are a bear with even the slightest moisture. The course this year was being run in the reverse direction than the normal flow, and therefore different than the previous years we’ve raced it. Because of this change, the first three miles of the race was now constant limestone, which translates to wet, slippery rocks.

The women’s pro field was a bit smaller this time with only six of us lining up, but strong contenders none the less. My goal was to be first into singletrack so that I had the trail to myself without any distractions. My plan worked perfectly as I lead our group up the mile and a half climb and was first into the trail. The rocks were everything I expected them to be, SUPER SLIPPERY! I was extremely thankful to be at the front because I definitely had to put a foot down more than once to save myself from hitting the ground. It felt so chaotic. Many times I look for rocks in the trail that I can just pop over for a faster line, but now I found myself having to change my mind frame. I needed to look for dirt, and there really wasn’t much of that in those first few miles. After getting out of the first long rocky section, I started to finally catch some speed and opened up. Next thing I knew, I was coming around a corner and there was another six foot patch of baby head limestone. I braked right before I approached it to shave off some speed, and once I got through it, I heard the terrible sound of the girl behind me hitting the ground. I slowed down and yelled to see if she was okay, but she wasn’t answering. I yelled again and still no answer. Finally I came to a complete stop and shouted a third time. This time she responded but I couldn’t understand what she said. The poor thing had gotten the air completely knocked out of her. Two more girls in our group, Fiona and Sarah, have now caught up to us and since they were closer to her, I ask them to check up on her. Once I got the thumbs up that she was okay to ride out by herself, the three of us continued our race together.

Not like anyone is ever really a “fan” of crashing, but I have had my fair share of wipeouts to know that I was NOT willing to go down that day! For the remainder of that lap I was hesitant, tense, and basically everything you DON’T want to be when you’re riding your bike. My legs were strong, but that does you no good when you’re tip toeing through slick rocks and roots. At some point I bobbled and Fiona came around me. I stayed close to her through the woods and a few miles later I turned the corner to see her on the ground. She had gone over her bars. Sarah and I stopped to make sure Fiona was okay along with another male rider. She was having trouble getting going again. Finally she said it was okay and it was mainly her elbow that hurt. Once again, Sarah and I continued racing.

Carlos dropping in like a boss! photo credit Sonya Minnerly

Gotta get that smile in! photo credit Sonya Minnerly

At this point, it had become a race of attrition. This wasn’t about fitness anymore, but riding as smooth as possible and finishing in one piece. I tried to hammer it where the trail allowed, then calm down and relax going into the technical sections. Midway through my final lap my friend and teammate, Steve Minnerly caught up to me. I moved out of the way and followed his lines the rest of the race. It was such a blast and my favorite part of the whole day because it felt just like a fun group ride hauling butt through the woods! Steve is not only one of the fastest guys I know, but he’s also 61 years old…pretty amazing! We rolled through the finish line together, both of us in first place!

This has been our second wet, and rocky race of the season. With all the abuse that my beautiful Lust has taken through these wet races and training rides, she began making some funny noises in the past week. So I’ve gotta give a HUGE THANK YOU to Daryl over at Plano Cycling and Fitness for taking apart my entire drive train, and cockpit the day before we left to Pace Bend. He searched up and down for the creaky sounds and made sure everything was properly lubed, greased, and torqued…funny noises gone, shifting perfect!! For the next three courses, the rocks are out of the way and hopefully the rain is too! I’m definitely ready for some fast, tacky, singletrack!

Ignite Your Passion

I’ve been pretty quiet on here for most of the year. Our lives go through seasons, and 2014 has felt like a season of change, trials, and transition. Not specifically in mountain biking, although there were definitely a few tests of character there. So sometimes it just seems right to step back, pray a bit, and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives. We like to dream big, be healthy, help others, and have fun! I shared a quote on Facebook the other day from one of my favorite people, Anthony Robbins, that REALLY hit home. It said, “Cultivate the feelings of excitement and passion. These can turn any challenge into a tremendous opportunity, giving us the unbridled power to move our lives forward at a faster tempo than ever before. Ignite your passion by using your physiology: Speak more rapidly, visualize images more quickly, and move your body in the direction you want to go.” As I sat down to write a recap of the year, this quote really took me back to the beginning, my first mountain bike race. I remember it like it was just yesterday. That morning Carlos and I woke up from camping at Solavaca and headed over to pick up our number plates at the registration table. I was so nervous that I thought I was going to throw up. We walked around and watched the Cat 1 girls fly by us on their third lap. That was absolutely nuts to me! THREE laps! Are you serious?!? I could barely get through one without dying! It seemed so unattainable in my mind to be at their level, but I was hungry…hungry to be better. That was the Fall of 2009. Since that day, we’ve gone through so so much! Hard tails, full suspensions, 26, 29, 27.5. Bumps, bruises, stitches, happy tears, sad tears, and even hitting the wall, bonking tears. Some of our greatest friendships and greatest struggles have been created through cycling, and through it all we’ve suffered together, laughed together, and grown together. Each season, each race, each training ride has made me a stronger rider but most importantly, a stronger person.
2014 season was filled with many ups and downs, and not too long ago it even crossed my mind to sit the rest of the races out. I had a great start in the first race at Rocky Hill, and then the momentum quickly disintegrated after my crash at Mellow Johnny’s which was followed by a bad case of bronchitis and a few more bad crashes. I fought to stay in the standings and was struggling not only physically, but mentally.

My friends, my family, my faith, and my husband have been my biggest support and lifted me up when I was down. I never actually could let myself give up, even though I wanted to, and I am SO GLAD I didn’t! After flatting in the Comfort race, a few weeks later I went on to win in Abilene. I rode strong at Big Cedar finishing only 14 seconds behind first place and accidentally doing a whole nother lap of the course because of a mishap in communication at the starting line. It was an awesome day of riding for sure! Then I battled it out in Coldsprings with Melissa White, the new Cat 1 19-39 State Champion, and newly upgraded pro. She is a solid competitor, awesome person, and I’m so excited to have an even stronger and larger pro field in 2015. I took the win that day, and it locked me into the top spot for the series! WOW!!!! Mid season, I didn’t think there was a chance in the world that this could happen, but God had a greater plan for me!

In May we wrapped it all up in Warda for the State Championship season finale. We enjoyed the perfect weather, hung out with some great friends, and raced our tails off. I got to stand on the top step for my very first Texas State Championship Jersey! Carlos achieved his Top 10 goal, finishing 8th overall! Also, huge congrats to our friend and teammate, Dale Dawesome for also becoming the new Cat 1 30-39 State Champion, as well as our cycling client, teammate, and great friend, Leigh Anne Robertson for winning the Cat 3 40+ State Championship in her very first full season of racing! She’s improved leaps and bounds, and it’s only the beginning! We are so proud of her!!

To top it all off, we just got back yesterday from our last race of the Texas Cup Series. Carlos finished in third place overall, I came in first, and Leigh Anne won the overall in her very first season of Cat 2! If there’s one word to describe it all, I would say PERSEVERANCE. Never, never, NEVER give up!

Canyon Fever

20131120-210728.jpg

Last Thursday Carlos and I set out on our journey to the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon for the kickoff of the 2014 Hill Country Bicycle Works Mountain Bike Marathon Championship Series. If you’ve never been out to this gorgeous canyon in the middle of the Texas panhandle, it is absolutely worth the trek! So much so that we made a four day weekend out of it! Since we got an early start on the road, we arrived at our campsite around 2:30 in the afternoon.

20131120-210900.jpg

We set up camp and headed out for a ride. The trail was marked perfectly and the views were just as breathtaking as we remembered. When we got back from our ride, we were excited to see our friends and teammates Steve and Sonya all set up at the site next to ours! Ah, let the weekend of friends, fun, riding, and racing begin!

20131120-210519.jpg

20131120-212854.jpg

The evening was COLD so we ate some delicious homemade chicken soup to keep ourselves warm.

Friday morning we went out for another lap of the canyon and sectioned a few spots of the trail. The rest of the day we prepped our bikes for the following morning and kicked our feet up in good company.

20131120-213045.jpg

I’m going to back track a little bit to the past month. Almost exactly a month ago was the last race of the cross country season in Tyler. There wasn’t a particular reason I didn’t blog about the race other than I just got lazy, busy, and SICK! The weekend of the Tyler race, the heavens opened up on us while we were camping, the day before the race. It was a huge storm that struck down trees and we even got hailed on! It was pretty bad. The rain came down so hard that our canopy started to cave in on us and all of our stuff was under it, including our bikes! The bad thing was that the canopy was right next to a tree and it was lighting like crazy, so we didn’t want to stay there to hold up the fort. We took cover in the truck and every few minutes Carlos would run out and make sure the canopy didn’t completely cave in. Poor guy got so soaked and next thing we knew he came down with a cold a few days later. Boo.

I thought I was home free when the first few days of his cold I felt fine…and then it hit me! Next thing I knew it was all in my chest and there was no riding going on in the Uranga household. I was having all sorts of trouble breathing and after a few weeks went by I finally just bit the bullet and made an appointment with my asthma doctor. It turned out that I had some major inflammation in my airways. He put me on a round of antibiotics, which dramatically decreased the inflammation, but I was still having this strange tightness in my throat which makes me feel like I can’t breathe, plus I was constantly having these dull headaches. I’m now on another round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. I nearly cried when my doctor said I couldn’t race the marathon. I decided to wait out the decision making till Saturday to reevaluate how I was feeling.

After riding Thursday and Friday, I was feeling really good. My congestion was gone, breathing was much better, and no more headache, so I made the call to register for the race with the support of my husband and my coach. I was given the green light to race as long as I PROMISED to pull the plug if I wasn’t feeling well. Sweet!

20131120-211406.jpg

A little more back tracking to the weekend before the marathon, and here we were camping again, but this time at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, TX….another MUST for any mountain biker!

As Carlos and I were out exploring this beauty, he was caught a little off guard by a rocky drop off, and next thing he knew he was over his bars and landed solid on his hip and thigh! It looked bad and my heart dropped! There was no soft dirt for him to land on and rock is not very forgiving. Thank God he’s got some meat on his bones and he was okay, just very very sore. After our ride we were cleaning our bikes for the next days ride when we came across a crack on my carbon front wheel. Uh! It just wasn’t in the cards for us to ride. With all the signs that were right in front of us we took the weekend for what it was, a weekend all to ourselves to cuddle by the fire and just RELAX!!! Amazing how we need so much to happen in order to rest our bodies.

Okay, fast forward to Palo Duro and Thursday’s pre-ride…Carlos had a little tuck and roll action on a slippery decent. Of course it was Murphy’s Law, and you better betcha, that the rolling action was on the same side that he went down on the weekend before! Ouch. So here he is sore leg, sore hip, and sore shoulder.

Come race day, the morning was perfect and I woke up to the most AMAZING rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life! It started out small and next thing we knew it turned into a full blown double rainbow! We couldn’t even fit it in the screen of our phone to get it all in the shot!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

20131120-213205.jpg

The Minnerly’s drove me over to the starting area so I could register and pick up my number plate. I was feeling really good and my game plan was to LISTEN TO MY BODY since my health and riding have been little to nothing in the past four weeks. Today was not the day to try to be a hero and I wasn’t willing to risk getting myself sick again. On the other hand, Carlos woke up with some stomach pains and his breakfast was not going down very well.

The race began as a mass start. I was in the first row and Carlos was a few rows behind me. When they sounded the horn I made sure to stay up at the front, but out of the wind, which happened to be blowing around 30 mph the ENTIRE race! There was a two mile start loop which started on the road and then dropped into single track. I was the second girl going into single track behind Nina Baum (Stan’s NoTubes). The start was fast just as I expected and about five miles into the race I knew I needed to back off. I was happy to be out of the traffic behind me and stuck with my plan to tone down my pace. Somewhere back in the canyon Alison Kinsler (Nuke Sunrise Trail Bombers) came up on me and I went ahead and let her pass. I didn’t even attempt to chase her down.

About half way through my first lap Carlos had picked his way through the crowd and passed me. His pace was a little too brisk for my taste and it turns out it was a little too brisk for him too with the bumps and bruises he had accumulated in the previous weeks. As I approached the feed zone heading into my second lap I saw Carlos there swapping out his bottles. To my advantage Sonya was standing there with my bottle in her hand so I got to head out a few seconds before him. I just kept my pace and when I got to the first sandy, steep climb I I hopped off my bike to save a bit of energy. This was a bad move on my part because Carlos came up on me so fast that I couldn’t get out of his way in time. He was forced to I unclip and right away his legs started cramping. Uh! I felt so bad for being the reason he didn’t ride up the climb and it was much too soon in the race for him to be cramping. I immediately knew this was not going to be good. He told me to keep going so he could keep his legs moving. I rode off and continued my race.

Carlos struggled the rest of that lap fighting cramps. To make matters worse he had misplaced his pocket flask of Elete and so he had no relief. The combination of cramps, lack of calories, and his XC race pace (sarcasm) that morning was not ideal. He made the decision to pull the plug after that lap. As a certified cycling coach, he sometimes laughs at himself for being his own worst client when it comes to not following his game plan. So this winter his goal is to do more marathons for that simple reason, to make himself stick with his game plan!

During my first and second laps I had a terrible, throbbing, sinus headache. It got so bad through my second lap that I had almost convinced myself to pull out of the race. The last few miles when I was covered a little bit more from the wind, my headache went away, so you better believe that I kept on going! My legs were feeling surprisingly good still and my pace was still steady. The only thing putting a limp in my step was the wind. It was gnarly! At one point in the canyon I turned a corner and almost got blown off a cliff, and in an open section, I was literally blown off the trail! It was nuts climbing into a headwind. That’s not really the norm on a mountain bike. It felt more like I was on a brutal road ride.

All in all it turned out to be a pretty decent race for me, finishing in third and receiving a very healthy payout! The race was very well put together and organized.

20131120-212337.jpg

Nothing to complain about and so much more fun than being sick on the sidelines! Life is good.

20131120-212646.jpg

20131120-213322.jpgI’m excited to finally be back on my bike and enjoying this awesome weather! Now the countdown begins till it’s new bike day!!!! It should be any day now when my new wheels arrive at the shop!! Ah! Can’t wait!

Stay posted tomorrow for week five of my Countdown to Christmas…What’s Your Secret Training Weapon?!?

20131120-212828.jpg

September Race Recap

Fall is HERE!!!!!!!! My favorite time of year! The last race of the TMBRA Texas State Championship Series is a week and a half away, and that will conclude three and a half years of racing in the books. Oh how time flies!

Three weeks ago was the Dave Boyd Huntsville Classic. Throughout the entire spring we were super spoiled by staying in hotels because of the constant racing, week after week, . It was time to break out the camping gear and enjoy mother earth a little bit deeper. All of the previous TMBRA Fall Series race venues (Huntsville, Ruston, Tyler) always bring back such sweet memories! This is where our TMBRA family began to form, and new friendships blossomed. Not everyone likes Huntsville because of its lack of elevation gain, and “technical” features, if you don’t want to include ginormous piles of sand and roots as “technical.”  That is basically what Huntsville is, a SUPER fast, rooty, sandpit. Which, by the way, is perfect for taking a spill in. I got to experience that sand one on one right in my face! I just don’t understand why anybody wouldn’t enjoy going that fast on a mountain bike no matter how “non-technical” it is.  As long as the rubber is rolling on dirt I’m a happy camper!

Carlos’ race went really well! He got a solid start going into the trees somewhere around top ten. Through out the race he began to move up little by little and next thing he knew he was rolling through the finish in fifth in a stacked field of nineteen guys!!! Oh man, it was so exciting! I can’t even describe how much my heart was jumping with joy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the Women’s Pro field we had SEVEN girls! I know to all you boys this seems like a puny number, but that’s HUGE for us! So awesome to see cycling really start to grow for us women.  We have, hands down, the most AMAZING support here in Texas! In numerous races there has been an added payout for the women and not only that, but this past weekend in Ruston, LA there was equal prize money for the Pro Men’s and Women’s Categories! WOW! I’d like say a huge THANK YOU to Jennifer Behling for making this happen right out of her own pocket! And ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time she has contributed to the women’s prize money. With that being said, my race in Huntsville was fast and FUN! Yes, I got to eat a little bit of dirt, but pushing yourself to the limit is always a blast! I walked away with the win, a nice envelope filled with a little green, a jar filled with a little sand, and an awesome Muscle Milk backpack now filled with a little cycling stuff!

Now Ruston was the real adventure! This is really one of our favorite races and trails of all time. Park Ranger James Ramsaur really knows how to keep a trail in tip-top condition. It’s so awesome that they even blow the trail off to clear it of leaves and pine needles! Between that, the flowy burms, the screaming Tomac Hill, beautiful scenery, pristine soil, and race organization to absolute perfection with Tobin and Jennifer…why wouldn’t you make the drive to the piney woods in Louisiana?

We got the earliest start for the weekend that we could and arrived at the park around 3:30pm Friday, set up camp, and hit the trail. It was all the bit of fun that I remembered! Saturday morning after breakfast and coffee we went out for one last pre-ride before resting up for the Tomac Hill Time Trial (TT) that evening. I was the only girl to do the TT, which was absolutely absurd to me because there was even a payout. So I got to have a little under ten minutes of fun riding my bike as fast as I could and I got paid for it!!! Score! I have to say that I was a bit nervous starting out on Tomac Hill where all eyes are on you and the penalty for failure is pretty high. But I cleaned the drop and had a smooth ride, so I was a happy camper!

Now Sunday was a different story.  The forecast was predicting a high chance of rain overnight Saturday and through Sunday morning. We were crossing our fingers that the weather man would be wrong, as they normally are (sorry weather man, but it’s the truth.)  Before bed we cleaned up camp, left out only what we would need in the morning, and put our bikes along with everything else under our canopy. This was going to be our first time camping in the rain, and it started to come down pretty early. At some point in the night I got out of the tent to tinkle and on my way back, checked out how the canopy was holding up…not very good! Uh oh! There was so much water that it starting caving in on both sides and water was dripping on my bike! So Carlos adjusted the straps and fortunately that fixed the problem before it got ugly. I finally got some good sleep towards the end of the night.

My favorite husband got up early and woke me up with my coffee and oatmeal. What can I say girls, I picked a good one! So we sat in our tent having breakfast waiting for the rain to settle down. It was perfect timing when it stopped, giving us just enough time to tear down our entire campsite, load up the truck, get ready and then realize that our start was earlier than we had thought…oops! So our warmup was pretty non-existent, which is never fun (or good) to start a race cold. But it was what it was.

There were only two of us in the women’s pro field, Jen and myself.  I knew that I didn’t really want to be full throttle for this race because the muddy conditions are still very new to me. The soil is similar to that of Tyler State Park, which I have ridden in the rain before, but I was still a little hesitant to just open up. So I pretty much just kept a steady pace for the whole race. Carlos’ category started two minutes behind us. In my first lap a few of his guys passed me and shortly after Carlos came by. He was looking strong and had a good pace going in third place.  When he passed, he told me his water bottle had popped out of his cage. Uh! Not good.  As the race went on it rained on and off a few times and the trail was getting sloppier and sloppier.  I was in the middle of my second lap when I saw Carlos’ jersey in the distance for the first time since he had gone by me earlier.  I didn’t know what was going on because I knew I wasn’t going any faster than before. I was going back and forth with James, who was in fourth right behind Carlos. Without knowing what Carlos’ race had fully been like, the last thing I wanted to see was us catch up to him and him lose his position. Well, what I didn’t know was that he had slipped on some roots and hit the ground hard in his first lap.  All in all he was okay, just got twisted pretty good. This, in addition to nearly an hour of race pace with no water, and then trying to make up time on the second lap with a super slippery back tire on the climbs made out for him hitting the wall. In the last mile of the trail James rode by him to take third.  Carlos and I crossed the line together, him in fourth and myself in first.

Although it wasn’t the race he had visualized, he still made out with a solid finish, and I had SO MUCH FUN! I know not everyone may feel the same, but I thought the mud was a blast to slide around in! You really got to test your limits in the corners and pray that the mud or slippery roots wouldn’t claim you.  We were dirty as could be, and our bikes needed a whole lotta tender loving care, but it was well worth it! So many memories come from races like this, and they are ones you’ll never forget.

One more XC race for the year in Tyler next weekend will wrap up the season. Hope to see everyone out there…this is one you don’t want to miss!

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!

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.

20130323-184915.jpg

20130323-184942.jpg

20130323-185326.jpg

20130323-184927.jpg

20130323-185341.jpg

20130323-185017.jpg

20130323-185030.jpg

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

The Wacko Waco MTB Yeah Man Extravaganza!

Lisa WacoSaturday was the second race of the season at Cameron Park in Waco, TX. This is one of my favorite courses of the whole year. I don’t know why I like the suffering of this trail so much, maybe the feeling of accomplishment once it’s over, but I do know that four laps is definitely not for the weak-minded. Each lap was about 5.8 miles and roughly 830 feet of climbing.

With Waco being a little under two hours away and having an 11am start time, we decided to drive down early morning on race day. After not getting in a solid warmup the weekend before at Rockyhill, we also decided to load up the truck with both our mountain and road bikes so we could warmup on the trainer. (We have a hard time fitting our 29er wheels on the Cyclops.)

The morning was COLD, and when I say “cold” I mean Texas cold, not Colorado cold…so about 30 something degrees. I was really looking forward to the day warming up right around launching time, and it really ended up to be a PERFECT day for racing at about 58 degrees. Delicious! No excess clothing required and just the way I like it! There were eight of us in the Women’s Open Category and the start was in a field with two 360 degree turns to spread everything out. It worked, because as we took off and headed into the first turn I got pushed to the outside and was already playing catch up to get to the front. Before entering single track I passed a few girls and went in 5th wheel. The first few miles there was no room to pass and I was stuck. Christina and Jessica had already gapped us and were out of sight. Once we hit the jeep road I was on the gas. I moved into third place and was chasing the rest of the race. There was a lot of traffic, most especially in that first lap, and much of it was in some of the tightest, steepest parts of the trail. But despite all that, I felt GREAT and finished in third! This is the same race that I won four months ago and since then I improved my time by nearly EIGHT MINUTES!

Carlos Waco

The Mellow Johnny’s Classic is approaching fast, only a week and a half away, and it’s getting pretty exciting! This Saturday we’ll be pre-riding the course for next weekend. Sunday we’ll be out in Comfort, TX for race number three of the TMBRA series. I’m looking forward to another great weekend of riding and racing with my favorite husband!