Race Report: Leadville Stage Race

The Leadville Stage Race follows the same course as the Leadville Trail 100 MTB (“LT100”) but takes place over 3 days. I decided to enter the Leadville Stage Race as a way of training on the Leadville course in a fully supported format.

Stage 1 was 40 miles. It featured challenging climbs (St Kevin’s, Sugarloaf Pass & Hagerman Pass), a wicked descent down Powerline, some rough riding on jeep trails & a bit of singletrack. Stage 1 ended at the Twin Lakes Dam.

Smiling on Powerline during Stage 1!…but only because it was one of the uphill sections on the descent. Photo credit: Athlinks

I felt really good: I was climbing better than I have ever climbed up St Kevin’s.  And, I surprised myself at how many people I passed going up & over Sugarloaf and Hagerman Pass.  But, for me, the Powerline descent was NOT fun:  I literally have nightmares about Powerline & hopped off the bike to walk sections that fell outside my comfort zone. Later, I crashed on a rugged jeep road by taking a sandy corner on a descent too fast.  At the end of Stage 1, I found myself in 10th place in my age group.

Stage 2: Climbing Columbine…are we there yet? Photo credit: Athlinks

Stage 2 was “only” 20 miles and started at Twin Lakes.  It went up the tough Columbine climb & down again.  It was a bumpy 2 miles to start with a bit of a false flat followed by 8 tough miles of climbing to the summit, which is just shy of 13,000 ft.  The top 1/3 of Columbine has sections in that are super steep & very rocky.

Stage 2: more Columbine fun. Photo credit: Athlinks

The day was drizzly, foggy & cold…not exactly my favorite kind of weather.  8 miles up Columbine Mine is a LONG time to climb with very little relief on the way up.  But, I felt good during the climb & passed a ton of people on the way up, which was really encouraging.  I had a solid time on the way up and a not-so-great time going down. So, at the end of Stage 2, I sat solidly in 9th place in my age group.

Stage 3 was 42 miles & began at Twin Lakes the following day.  It retraced the route (in reverse) of Stage 1 back to Leadville with the last couple of miles going up “The Boulevard.”

I love multi-day races: I almost always get stronger with each day that passes in these types of events.  So, I toed the line on Stage 3 feeling really good but nervous about hitting a sub 4 hour time that I needed to qualify for the Stage Race 10.5 hr belt buckle.  I knew it would be tough but I was ready to ride hard right out of the gate.

The beginning was slow with racers squeezing into a short single track section.  A  few miles later, things got jammed up again going up the single track that snakes up the hill towards the jeep trail that leads to the Pipeline aid station. But I hit the next couple of time checks with on-target times, including the bottom of the fearsome Powerline climb.  And, I surprised myself by being able to ride up virtually all but the super steep hike-a-bike sections.  Powerline takes a LONG time to climb but eventually I made it to the top and then had to grit my teeth & descend down from 11,000 ft down the rocky & wet Hagerman and Sugarloaf Passes.

Then, I climbed up to Carter Summit with little to no time cushion and I knew I’d have to push things down St Kevins and all the way back into Leadville in order to make the time cut for the Stage Race belt buckle.  I gritted my teeth & did my best to minimize time loss going down St Kevins. With that last descent behind me, I motored into Leadville—passing all kinds of people in the last couple of miles (being a strong time trialist helps—even at Leadville!).

The Leadville Stage Race was a great opportunity to spend 3 days riding on the Leadville course: it should really help me out a lot at the LT100 race in 2 weeks.  In the end, I finished 8th in the women’s 40-49 general classification. But, I came in a few minutes over the 10.5 hr Stage Race belt buckle time limit (sigh).  After reviewing my race data & connecting with a number of people (including my coach, Chad Welch), it’s clear to me that I’m losing too much time on every single descent on the LT100 course.  So, as they say, it’s time to take those lemons & make some lemonade, which for me, translates into some focused descending skills work this week.

Stage 2: Finish line! Photo credit: Athlinks

Leadville crunch time!

Lots of gravel riding on the MTB!

The last few weeks have been a blur of hard training, a much-needed recovery week, dealing with a personal loss & a quick business trip.  With the Leadville Trail 100 MTB only 6 weeks away, it’s crunch time…

Anyone who lives in Texas knows that the heat has arrived: it’s hot out there, ya’ll! So, I’ve been balancing my rides outdoors with some indoor riding.  For example, I did a hot gravel grinder with the Gritty Teeth Racing crew this morning.  Then, after returning home & getting in some hydration & nutrition, I spent more time in the saddle on the wind trainer (watching Tour de France coverage, bien sûr, since it is July after all!).  Although, it’s always more fun to do an entire ride outside, this combo of outdoor/indoor training will help me recover more quickly so I can train hard again this week.

The strength training I’ve been doing with my coach, Chad Welch, since early November of last year is paying dividends.  Those early morning strength training workouts followed by post-gym recovery rides are hard but amazingly effective.

This past Friday, I decided to hop out on some singletrack on my MTB for the first time in a LONG time.  It was a nice change of pace: being outside in the woods always makes me happy…  But I was pleasantly surprised by how fast & smooth I was riding.  I’m not sure if it’s due to all the time I’ve spent riding rollers or the fact that I’ve dropped weight or that I’ve watched a lot of MTB racing (so I can channel my inner @jolandaneff )…or some combination of all of these things.  But, it was a surprise & it gave me more confidence with the Leadville Stage Race & Leadville Trail 100 MTB on the horizon.

I’ll be heading to Colorado soon in the RV with my dog & my bikes, so look for more training & racing updates with lots of gorgeous mountain scenery!

 

Leadville Training Report: Alpine & Fort Davis Texas

It takes months of training to get ready to toe the line at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB (LT100).  But, it can be challenging to train for a 100 mile MTB race in the mountains when you live at only 600 ft in Central Texas.

So, what’s a girl to do to train for LT100 if she lives in Central Texas? Well, I decided to take advantage of a visit from my husband (who’s working overseas), a big anniversary and a purchase of a new motorhome to make a trek out to West Texas to get in some altitude training & to ride in the mountains.

Feeling “very pro” while I ride rollers in Alpine!

We made the small town of Alpine our home for the week.  Alpine was pretty but I was surprised that it was flat: much of the mountainous terrain either had no roads & or the cool gravel roads were all on private property.  So I had to get more creative than anticipated to get in some climbing although it was a nice change of pace to be riding at altitude (5,000-6,000 ft versus 600 ft back home).

Time for a roller spin!

That’s when my coach (Chad Welch) suggested that I should do the McDonald Observatory Climb on my MTB.  If you’re familiar with the Fort Davis Hammerfest Stage Race, you know that it’s a stage race with an individual time trial stage that is a 14-16 mile climb (depending upon category raced) up to the Observatory.

My Dad agreed to be my support vehicle for my climb up to the Observatory, so he & I went out to Fort Davis the next day.  Dad dropped me off in Downtown Fort Davis.  The plan was that he would check in on me periodically throughout the 16 mile climb to make sure I was doing ok, exchange water bottles, etc.

Climb climb climb!

I estimated it would take me 2 hours on a MTB to make it to the top of the climb (where the road ends at McDonald Observatory).  I took off a bit excited & uncertain since I had never done this climb on any sort of bike, much less a MTB.

My Dad was both my support vehicle & my unofficial cheerleader. He would zip up the road, pull over & then took lots of video along with photos as I passed by.  It was pretty fun, actually & my Dad had a blast as well.  I paced myself & ended up being surprisingly fast: I reached the top of the climb 30 minutes faster than I anticipated.

All smiles at the summit of the climb!
At McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory is located at 6,791 feet at the summit of Mount Locke:  it’s the highest paved road in Texas. While the last part of the climb was tough (it’s very steep), I felt surprisingly good & wondered if I shouldn’t have pushed myself a bit harder….

At any rate, after taking some fun photos, we loaded up my bike & headed down the mountain and back into the town of Fort Davis.

Loading up at the top of the climb to head down the mountain

Then, just outside of Alpine, I had him drop me off so that I could do a cool down ride back into town.  Much to my surprise, my husband met me at that point on his MTB, so I had some company on my cool down ride. (!!!)  However, I made the mistake of not doing a good job of refueling after I finished the ascent to McDonald Observatory & I had a mini bonk during my cool down ride.. (ouch…!).

All in all, I had a lot of fun in Alpine & am really happy I had the experience of riding the climb up to McDonald Observatory.  I can’t wait to climb more mountains in 5 weeks when I head to Leadville to do the Leadville Stage Race & the Leadville Trail 100 MTB this summer!

 

Texas State Time Trial Championship Weekend Race Report

Photo credit to Corvin Alstot

Most cyclists who race either love or hate doing time trials.  I fell in love with this discipline many years ago:  it came out of my roots as a triathlete.

Once I moved back to Texas, I participated in the Texas State Time Trial Championship races every year.  It’s a 2 day event: Saturday is the Individual Time Trial (ITT) day & then my favorite event comes on Sunday: the Team Time Trial (TTT) event.

Several years ago, this event re-located to Hempstead, Texas. It’s a convenient location for competitors coming from DFW, Houston & Austin.  The smooth asphalt, flat course & strong winds make it ideal for time trial racing.

This year’s edition was co-directed by the dynamic duo of Ino Sofjan & Nancy  Kotinek from the Houston-based Northwest Cycling Club  (NWCC).  Once again, Ino, Nancy & the NWCC crew did an outstanding job of putting on one of the best events in Texas road racing.

Camping at the race venue was awesome…thanks, Ino!

I’ve done a fair amount of road racing this year but didn’t focus much on time trial training.  So, I came to Hempstead not expecting to do well: I was looking forward to camping out at the race venue & enjoying time with friends.

I toed the line for my ITT on Saturday a bit nervous: there was a good-sized field in the women’s 40+ race.  I felt good at the start: an issue with my power meter forced me to race by feel (it was liberating not to focus only on the power numbers).   I kept passing people who started in front of me, which is always a good thing in a time trial race.

Even after my race, I didn’t think that I placed well.  A volunteer showed me a  chip timing report that showed me finishing in 2nd place.  But, I didn’t believe that I had placed that high so I went back to my RV for a cool-down.  Then, results were posted showing me placing 2nd…wow!!  But, I miscalculated the timing of the podiums & I missed the podium ceremony.  Thankfully, Nancy graciously called everyone back so that I could pose with the other ladies who finished on the podium.

Wow…2nd place!!!! Thanks to Vie13 for the awesome medals & fabric bibs

Fast forward to day #2: the Team Time Trial (TTT) event.  The TTT is hard but fun: there’s nothing like being in a line of 4 fast ladies motoring across a road for an hour.  And I was really excited because I was racing on an ad-hoc team made up of 3 super strong women:  Debbie Randall, Melissa Kuliska & Angela Man.

At the TTT start line! Photo credit to Venny Wilmeth/Cantu Wheels

All of them are experienced in this discipline, really fast, super nice & they all hold a rock-solid line.  So I was really pumped to be racing with these ladies:  I knew we’d have tough competition but I was confident we’d place well.

That’s me in front, followed by Debbie, then Melissa & Angela. Photo credit to Lisa Lauter

The 4 of us did a very solid TTT with a super-fast initial 20K.  But, we lost more speed than anticipated after the turnaround on the out-and-back course: the wind really had kicked up by the point and made the 2nd half of the race feel brutally tough.  Since we all raced solid ITTs the previous day, I think we were all spent by the time we saw the 5K banner but we motored on….

We ended up placing 3rd in the women’s Cat 3 TTT event (another day, another podium!).  It was great to be on that podium with the 1st place team (Fresh Racing + Pamela Ferguson from Haute Wheels) and the 2nd place team (Team ATC).  And, it was awesome doing the tough but fun TTT with Debbie, Melissa & Angela!  Most of all, it was great to spend time before & after the races with good friends…and to bring home some awesome hardware, too!

Photo credit to Lisa Lauter

Medical Colleagues of Texas Road Race @ Coldspring Race Report by Joy Brott

(Featured photo: credit to Corvin Alstot)

The Medical Colleagues of Texas Road Race at Coldspring, Texas is a long-time road race on the Texas road racing calendar. Called simply “Coldspring,” this road race features a loop-style course with a neutral rollout.  Racers do between 1-5 laps of a 16 mile loop. This comes out to between 14 miles for the Junior racers up to 81 miles for the men P/1/2 (most waves race 30-46 miles).

Climb to the finish line on one of the laps. That’s me in the red jersey/black helmet to the far right (Photo credit to Corvin Alstot)

The course is well-shielded from the wind, thanks to the very tall trees that line most sections of the course.  And it features some short but punchy climbs, with a finish on top of a long hill that’s moderately steep.  The start area is hosted out of Coldspring High School, which has tons of parking (I brought my motorhome & had plenty of room to park). This is a well organized event that’s hosted by Southern Elite & it’s been one of my favorites over the years.

Feeling “so pro” with the motorhome!

 

 

Unlike my previous week’s road race (Bat City Classic at Apache Pass), the wind really wasn’t a factor at Coldspring.  I raced in the Women’s Cat 3, which started with the Women’s P/1/2 in the same race wave with a combined prize list:  we did 3 laps of the course, which came out 46 miles of road racing.

I definitely enjoyed the Coldspring race:  it’s a fun course that has enough hills to make things challenging.  All of the ladies worked well together & seemed to genuinely have FUN racing.  The main field yo-yo’ed during the course of the 46 miles with some solo attacks, then some painfully slow recovery periods followed by, you guessed it, more attacks.  But the majority of the ladies made it to the uphill finish in the main field.

I have to admit that I do like an uphill sprint finish in a road race. But I was starting to fade a bit in the final couple of miles of the race:  I think it was an issue of nutrition more than anything else: I should have taken more than a single serving of my race nutrition.  So while I started near the front of the group on the finishing hill, I definitely faded.  But happily, I pulled out enough of a sprint to finish 3rd in the Women’s Cat 3 (woo hoo! Another weekend…another podium!).

Podium time! (photo credit to Katie Kantzes)

Bat City Classic Road Race by Joy Brott

Time to go racing!

To road race aficionados in Texas, the Bat City Classic at Apache Pass road race is the race formerly known as “Walburg.”  This is because the town of Walburg for many years hosted a road race known for spring classic-like conditions.  Walburg’s windy conditions became the stuff of Texas racing legend: the wide open terrain & pervasive winds made for a challenging event.

In 2016, the race formerly known as Walburg moved to its new home at Apache Pass.  Apache Pass is located in Downtown Texas, Texas (a few miles outside of Rockdale).   This race is run by Bat City Cycling Club;  2017 was the 2nd year for the Bat City Classic at Apache Pass.

The route features a large loop that is raced one, two or three times for 28, 55 or 83 miles.  The terrain is mostly flat & wide open with a couple of hills.  The last couple of miles are false flat with a finish line at the tope of a hill.  This race also features a rough section of road (“Texas pavé”) on County Road 302 to give Texas road racers a feel of a Spring Classic road race.

Weather at the 2017 event did not disappoint: thanks to a big storm blowing through the night before, winds were very strong on race day.  Racers had to content with 20+mph sustained winds:  without a doubt the winds at this year’s Bat City Classic road race were even stronger than I remember them being at Walburg.

The Women’s Cat 3 and the Women’s P/1/2 fields were combined into the same start wave, so my race was fast & hard:  the field was strong with some of the fastest ladies in the state.  About 2/3 of the way through lap #1, a breakaway formed with the eventual combined field 1st-4th place finishers.

The wind was relentless for all 55 miles of my race & there was little to no shelter from the wind.  The ladies did not echelon at all, so it was a very long day for all of us dealing with the wind (let’s just say that heart rate & power averages were high).

I had a strong race, staying with the main pack until the last few miles just before the end of the Texas pavé section (that’s when my legs decided to finally hang it up for the day).  Those last few miles were hard: it was a false flat straight into a headwind.  I did get a bit of relief when Sam Goldenstein caught up with me: we worked together to give each other a bit of recovery from the wind & we stayed together to the finish.

I finished my race with a mini sprint, having no idea at the time that Sam & I were the 3rd & 4th place finishers for the Women’s Cat 3.  I also thought that the P/1/2 and Cat 3 Women were racing for a single prize list (based upon info conveyed at packet pickup).  So, I was pleasantly surprised when results were posted showing that I finished 3rd in the Women’s Cat 3 & 11th in the combined field.  Even better, the race offered separate prize lists so the women’s Cat 3 winner (Caitlin Friesen), 2nd place (Jolene Holland), Sam & I scored a bit of prize money at the end as well.

In 2017, the Bat City Classic at Apache Pass definitely came into its own as a true Texas spring classic road race.  Many thanks to the Bat City Cycling Club , volunteers and officials for a well-organized & successful event.  I’ll look forward to racing it again in 2018!

Thrilled to share the podium with these fast ladies! Photo credit to Yulie Johnson

7th Annual Austin Rattler 2017 Race Report by Craig Maatta

Austin Rattler 2017 Start (photo courtesy of Athlinks)

The Austin Rattler is held at the Rocky Hill Ranch (RHR) located in Smithville and is a qualifier for the Blue Print for Athletes Leadville 100 MTB.  The Course is a 20.7 mile loop times 3 that is a combination of winding single track and jeep roads.  While the event itself was an opportunity to challenge myself, meet and hang out with likeminded MTB riders I was there for the coin.  The coin is the ticket to enter the Leadville 100 MTB race.

The Rattler is allocated 100 slots: 50% of the slots were distributed based on performance to the top % of participants in that age group.  The other 50 % were distributed through the on-site event lottery for qualifying Rattler finishers (under 7 hours).  I did not care any way I could get in was good with me.

In 2016 I participated in the Austin Rattler 50 plus category, riding my Niner RDO.  Not knowing what to expect and never have done a MTB ride that long before I finished in 5 hours 38 minutes, suffering severe leg cramps and exhaustion in which I had to get off the bike twice to  stretch. Never the less I was hooked on these long rides, further motivated by going to Leadville that following August to spectate and support team member Joy Brott in her quest to complete the event.

This year 2017 was going to be my year and I had a plan.  The Plan to get to the start line early with the goal of going hard to get to the single track to avoid the bottle neck.  After I got through I was to settle in and average 12 mph or better with an overall time under 5 hours.  The other objective was not to get thirsty or hungry in order to avoid cramping, so I carried 2 bottles of water in my camel back along with protein/electrolyte drink in my bottle cage and would refill each lap.

Bib #392: ready for the start of the Rattler! (photo courtesy of Athlinks)

I arrived at RHR at 0600 for an 0800 start, and, at 0700 I noticed that riders were already lining up at the start so I went over and got my spot about a 3rd of the way from the front. With over 400 riders that participated I was glad I got there early.  While at the start I met a guy from Kentucky who had driven in a week earlier and had told me he a pre rode and was warning me about all the dangers (I think he was trying to psyche me out).  As we approached 0800 they did some announcements followed by the National Anthem which always is cool and pumps me up and before I knew it, we were off.

The first lap I was feeling good my average was good and I got to the single track and though with no problems.  I felt strong and finished the lap in 1 hour 33 minutes averaging over 13 mph.  I was ahead my schedule stopped refilled my water and off for the second lap.

The difference between the first lap and the second is the beginning.  The first lap with all the participants they keep you on the jeep road a lot longer in order to thin things out before you hit the single track.  The second and 3rd lap gets you on single track right away with a lot of climbing to start out.  “Fat Chuck’s Revenge” was a mental challenge; due to not riding it in a while, misjudged how long it is.   I was climbing single track and hitting it hard maxing my heart rate thinking I was close to the top when to find out that it was not but just level out and turned a bit and you had another steep couple of hundred feet of jeep trail to climb.   I made the climb, I recovered and I flew for the next several miles:  things seemed to be OK.   I came out of a low water crossing and into a very bumpy field:  that’s when I seemed to have lost my flow.  Not sure if I had been drinking too much or what caused me to slow…  I did not feel bad; I just could not keep up the speed and ended up finishing in 5 hours and 26 minutes.

The positives of the race were that I improved my time from last year did not have any mechanical thanks to Tri-City Bikes.  Did not cramp and I had a great time.  Additionally, I got to ride “The Wall” three times and even had a Shiner after the race.  Definitely be back next year to try again.

Austin Rattler 2017 Finishers’ Medals. (Photo courtesy of Athlinks)

HTFU Roubaix 2017 Race Report

2017 was the 2nd year for the HTFU Roubaix gravel race. HTFU stands for Harden the F— Up, a name that suits it well: like many gravel events, it’s HARD. It takes place in the scenic Sam Houston National Forest.

HTFU Roubaix is a gravel race put on by Bryan Voytilla & the crew at Kolo Promotions.  And, even better: a portion of each entry fee benefits the Sam Houston Trails Coalition with $950 donated because of HTFU Roubaix.

HTFU features a beautifully scenic 36 mile loop, which translates into 3 distance options: 36 miles; 72 miles & 108 miles. HTFU offers a mix of gravel & pavement.  Since the venue is somewhat remote, participants either camped on-site in the Overflow Campground area or stayed in New Waverly or Huntsville.

As I did in 2016, I raced in the 72 mile (2 lap) Women’s Open event on my Niner BSB9 RDO bike.  HTFU female participation in my event was up in 2016 vs 2017, which was GREAT to see.  The 2  lap event had a mass start together of 73 men & women.

Starting the solo portion of my race…but isn’t the forest GORGEOUS?…. (photo credit to Corvin Alstot)

Very quickly into my race, I knew I was in trouble: I had been sick & hadn’t fully recovered when I toed the start line at HTFU. So, as they say, when things don’t go as planned, just turn your race into a training ride…which is exactly what I did.

After 4 1/2 hours on the bike, I was very happy to see the finish line.  HTFU 2017  wasn’t a great race for me with an 8th place finish in my field.  But, thanks to some good luck & a through pre-race service by Tri-City Bicycles, I didn’t have any mechanicals, I didn’t crash & I had zero flats.  And despite not feeling great on the bike, HTFU gave me both a mental as well as a physical challenge…AND I also had fun, too.

72 miles later as I take back some of my gear…I’m tired but still smiling…(photo credit to Corvin Alstot)
Photo credit to Kenny Lim
Sam Houston National Forest (photo credit to Kenny Lim)