Nationals: just another race, just another Monday.

Well, we’ve managed to see another season of cyclocross come and go. I’m not even done cleaning up from this season and my eyes are already fixated on the next. I guess now is a time to reflect on Nationals, the week leading up, and then to look at my goals of next year.

My Nationals trip began more than a week before the event. I flew out to Austin to join my JAM Fund teammates at the team house on Friday the second. That Sunday saw myself, Birch and Anthony waking up early to drive three hours north to Dallas to race day 2 of Resolution Cup. One day was all we needed as a prep for Nationals. More was too much risk for fatigue or broken equipment, not to mention more money on hotels and such. One day was fine. Day 1 apparently had been very muddy, and though that would have been great prep for Nationals (unbeknownst at the time), I was glad to race on the drier day for the sake of cleaning. The three of us brought no one for the pits, no mechanic, and no non-racer to help us. Luckily we were able to wrangle Barry to pit for us, as he was already going to be in there. We were hoping it was more a formality to have someone in there.
We show up to the venue and have time for just a couple of pre-laps. I was not confident with the lines anywhere. The ruts were not the good lines, and the good lines were spongy or slick. There was a technical little woods section with ups, downs, mud, roots and tight turns. This was the section where I was most worried about my line choices.


It was cold out, I raced with two pairs of gloves and leg warmers. My hands ended up being too warm, but it was an okay decision for a race barely above freezing the week before Nationals. Only 18 elite women showed up to the start line, and that was more than had been there the day before. They also had a W Jr race and an open race that had over twice as many women, so it wasn’t an abysmal showing. Apparently this was the first time this event had been run as a UCI event, so I am sad that more people didn’t show up for the UCI race, but at the same time I totally understand why so many didn’t. Some people’s season was over, some only raced one day, some didn’t want to race the weekend before. All fair reasons, but thank you promoters for this last chance for UCI points, a chance to qualify for nats through ProCX rankings, and the opportunity for fast-paced racing after a few weeks off.

The race went off, and I thought my start wasn’t too bad. There were only two full rows and a few others in a third. I was in the second row. But oh my…. the start straight… so much long… So much pedal. As a person who usually relies on power I have a hilariously terrible start in every race. I just can’t seem to find that pop. What this race made me realize is that it isn’t even so much the lack of pop, it’s the lack of maintaining that. I was okay until maybe halfway through the start straight, when we would normally be hitting the first turn, and I just sat up. “WHY ARE WE STILL GOING HARD!? WE WILL GET THERE ONLY A SECOND LATER IF WE JUST SLOW DOWN!!” I was one of the last people to go into the first turn. I tried to move up throughout the race. Though I wasn’t confident in all of the turns and the woods section, I was finding that most of my lines were better and faster than some of the women I was behind. I am getting better at that stuff, yay! At one point, I go to pass a girl for a turn. I pass her on the inside line, but my bars are much in front of hers at the apex of the wide grassy turn. She was NOT having it and came over on me. Even the spectators boo’ed her for it. She popped my rear canti’s open with her leg. In races past I have gotten off of my bike and fixed them right there, but I knew that this course was flat save for the woods section, and I decided to pedal my way to the pits. I raised my arm so Barry knew I was coming in. I yelled “rear brakes open” as I took my pit bike. Pedaling out of the pits I thought something was a little weird. Through the woods I wondered if I was bottoming out. I had put 25 PSI (my standard pressure) in all 4 tires before the race, surely I didn’t flat in the pits. Despite thinking something was amiss, I rode passed the pits a half a lap later. For the turns after that, I was sliding sideways. I had no traction. I pitted again. Barry told me that I had 7 PSI in that tire when I came in. Must have been a slow leak from something I picked up in pre-ride, maybe? Either way, SO GLAD BARRY WAS THERE! I had never pitted twice before. The rest of the race was mostly uneventful and I rolled across the line in 9th place, picking up a few extra UCI points for the start of next season.

Fast forward to Tuesday. In Austin. I feel as if I have taken ill. Scratchy throat, itchy dry watery eyes. That night, sore neck and sosososoooo tired. I was in bed every available moment. I was no pleasure to be around, as I hadn’t been sick all season until this point. Now, the week of nationals I feel this way? Unacceptable. We are still unsure if I am sick or was experiencing cedar allergies. I have been home for two days now and am still coughing up a storm, the last stage in all of my prior illnesses, leading me to think that indeed I have been sick. [update, I have gone 3 nights now without sleep due to coughing. I can’t do core work because my abs are sore from coughing.]

At the course at last. So much sun, a beautiful day, not at all ominous.
At the course at last. So much sun, a beautiful day, not at all ominous.

Wednesday I put in a great workout, and Friday I went to the course to do a few laps of the course. It had been raining Friday morning so I figured this would be an okay recon, as I was expecting similar conditions for the race on Sunday. The gopro video of one of my laps can be seen in my previous post. My initial thoughts of the course: even when dry, not really a course that suits me. I am not the fastest turner right now and there are only two-three power sections on the course; the long start/finish straight and near the pits. I did think, however, that I could have excelled if I not only rode well on the day, but raced well.

Kitted up
Kitted up

Saturday showed extreme mud. I went to the course to watch my teammates in their collegiate races and pre-ride, but all of the mud deterred me from getting on the course. Maybe it would have been good for me to go out there, but I wasn’t ready to risk breaking my bike or my body trying to ride conditions that maybe weren’t representative of when they would be come race-time. The riders out there couldn’t even stay on their feet, let alone ride.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling good; I had gotten a good night’s sleep, wasn’t too congested, and really enjoyed that pre-race oatmeal. Then the twitter explosion happened. Police turning people away at #cxnats? Shhh, don’t tell but, I was almost relieved. But, I am always pretty nervous on race-day and always have that “Why do I pay to do this?” mentality. After the news came out that the race was indeed cancelled, I went from tentative relief to shattered disbelief. The anxiety was short-lived when they announced the race would be held the following day. Just another day to do openers and to get my head. But, after my ride on Sunday I felt worse then I had maybe all week. I was back in my head, and my head was full of snot. I had to go across the street to the Whataburger to get salt to gargle with saltwater. I was up all night coughing with a dry throat. I woke up and felt cold and stiff and had no appetite. I had tried to not mention my illness “publicly” all week in hopes to appear strong, but I woke up on Monday with anything but strength in me.

These barriers were so tall, and I am actually glad they were muddy because I could barely mount and pedal up that hill when it was dry. haha Photo by Kevin McRee Creative.
These barriers were so tall, and I am actually glad they were muddy because I could barely mount and pedal up that hill when it was dry. Photo by Kevin McRee Creative.

Showing up at the cold and somewhat sad venue, I couldn’t judge the course without getting on it. It looked muddy, but I underestimated what that even meant. We had a very short window for pre-rides; I did one lap though some had time for two. This was the first time I had ever encountered mud that locked up my rear wheel-I couldn’t pedal through it. I had to stop twice before the first pit to scrape the mud out of the way of my rear wheel. My shoes were packed. I was actually very surprised that I could still clip in, even if I couldn’t pedal through the mud. Between traffic and mud I had to walk a lot of the technical sections on my one lap. There were a few races between the pre-ride and the elite women and plenty of time for the conditions to change; and change they did. The course became tackier and the mud was sticking less to the bike. I was thinking I would need to pit every half lap, but I only pitted once come race-time. There were many places on the course I had committed to running, and I was tempted to try and ride them in the drier conditions, but I decided upright and running was faster than botching an attempt to ride.

And this was after I scraped the worst of the mud off. Post-pre-ride
And this was after I scraped the worst of the mud off. Post-pre-ride

I gridded in the 4th row out of 7. In the words of Kathryn Cumming, that is humbling. My starts are so bad. Why must they be that bad? I didn’t think it was too bad until I saw it on the broadcast. I saw holes in front of me, I tried to put my bike in them but the legs just weren’t there. I’d been working all week on getting my mind in a state to start well, and for the first time I was thinking “I need to be in that hole and I CAN get there”, but I just couldn’t. Then, when the long straight took a slight turn to the left and hit the little punchy hill, everyone bunched up. I actually tapped my brakes. Before that point, I was maybe in the back 10. After the first turn and after the first crash I was stuck behind, I counted and I was 15th from last. Moving up, but not there yet. There were quite a few mishaps in front of me on that first lap forcing me to slow down and often get off my bike, but I tried to stay calm. On the first running section I got some good air-time as Nick was the cameraman operating that part of the course for behind the barriers. I bombed through trying to make passes. The announcers said “JAM Fund rider”. The number of times I have been a nameless JAM Fund rider saddens me, and I am debating a name tag for next season. The nameless announcers. I got passed a few times on Monday and I always make note when I get passed because it doesn’t happen often. Mostly because I go straight to the back of the field at the start of the race. I pitted once for mud, and debated a second time but didn’t want to lose my place. I was just barely holding off Erica Zeveta for that last lap. I thought she was coming around me at the start of the bell lap, but my one true victory was keeping my bars in front of hers as she was coming around. I told her “good work” as she went to pass, but then was like… brap. Other than that, I felt like I didn’t have it in me. Between the illness and the postponement, I really feel like the wind had left my sails. AL reassured me that everyone feels flat on a muddy day, and that may be part of it, too.

Love this photo from Keven McRee creative, shows off my bling and the mud flying behind!
Love this photo from Keven McRee creative, shows off my bling and the mud flying behind!

I crossed the line in 15th. I was just behind BrittLee Bowman in 14th. My back was exploding after every run, I barely remembered to sprint out of corners, I couldn’t talk myself into going hard on the pavement. I barely feel like I raced. Physically I felt it, I did, but mentally I felt unfulfilled, and still do. I got 15th at Nationals! I should be stoked! And I am, I just wish my head had been clearer so I could have given it the physical and mental 100% the race deserved. Maybe it was also the lack of after-party (the true travesty of #treegate) that took the catharsis away from the season. Party aside, I am so happy with 15th and feel it really reflects the season I have had!

The muddy pits post-race
The muddy pits post-race

Some random season stats/facts:
15th at Nationals
22nd in the nation
160th in the world
33 UCI points
24 races this season
37 races in my career
Rode a Rapha Focus CX Mares all season.
Ran SRAM Force and SRAM Red.
Crank Brothers Candy pedals.
Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes.
Fizik Arione Donna saddle.
Ran a 27-11 cassette every race.
Ran a 46-38 and a 44-38 with 170mm cranks.
Raced on Easton carbon tubulars.
Raced on FMB Supermuds for like, 90% of the season.
Raced 1 file tread all year, only because it was on my pit bike on the rear wheel.
I can tell the different between 25psi and 7psi, I am unsure of telling the different between those ranges. I am assuming either this will change with experience, or you are all just a bunch of pretentious assholes.
I have ergo bend bars, debating going classic.
I don’t have a warm-up routine.
I do have a breakfast routine.
I never know what to wear, and always default to being warmer.

Looking at next season, there are so many things I can do to improve. I started this season being off the bike from May to mid July and then needing to cram in Ironman 70.3 training. Being able to train offroad and all through the summer and fall will do wonders for me next year. Watching the nationals replay, watching how smooth Compton is, I know that her skill can only come with experience and time. I cannot sit idly by and wait for this time to pass, I am going to work this summer on my bike handling, I am going to have some fun, and am going to figure out the art to starting a bike race. I don’t want the hole shot, but I do at least want to maintain my position. I want to develop the confidence to approach all elements on the course with only respectful hesitation on preride, not fearful hesitation. I want to no longer be the girl people rush to get around before the technical sections. I want to leave the negative stigmas behind, or at least prove them untrue. Cycling has a lot to offer me, and I think I have a lot to offer cycling; I look forward to taking the next year to focus on cyclocross.

Thank you so much to all of my supporters, sponsors, teammates, friends, fans, and competitors for a great season!!
It was so stellar. I am getting more pumped about it as I write. Maybe this was the kind of catharsis I needed??

But seriously I am still sick and I have a headache from coughing.

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