Back racing!

I have to admit, I was nervous to start racing again after my road crash, but 2 weeks ago I felt like I was recovered enough from my concussion to make the move back into the race scene.

I really hadn’t ridden my bike for more than 20 miles in 6 weeks. All of my miles had been on trails mind you (despite my neurologist saying the road was ‘safer’), so I felt confortable enough on my mountain bike to begin the racing process. I was originally supposed to race in the Whiteface 100K Leadville Qualifier in NY, but the prospect of driving 8 hours alone for my first race back was making me feel uneasy. A great conversation with Geronimo K confirmed my fears. He queried why I wanted to put myself through that stress, and suggested a better option would be to race the local Stoopid 50. I immediately felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. What a great idea!

I rode super conservatively at the start of the Stoopid 50. So conservatively, that I came to a standstill at the entry onto the first piece of single track. As Nikki T put it, ‘we could have had an egg sandwich as we waited to ride that section’! Anyway I rode the trails smoothly, paced myself on the road sections, and generally tried to have a good time and enjoy being back in the scene. That Mantra got me 3rdso I can’t complain considering it was my first race back. I must also apologize to Karen Potter for standing on the 2nd step of the podium! I blame the concussion.

Stoopid 50 podium

Motivated by my ability to race again, I signed up for the Hilly Billy Roubaix in good ol’ West Virginia this past weekend. I have won Iron Cross a couple of times, so I thought why the heck not go and race the Hilly Billy. Also, it would force me to do a hard 72 miles. It was HARD!

Suffering in Hilly Billy with a mangled derailleur. Photo: Fred Jordan

Added to the hard factor, the race played out to be a series of unlucky but humorous events. Here is how it all went down:

- Arrived at the race, realized my back brake was locked to my wheel. Panicked. Badgered Zack Adams to help me (Thanks a million Zack and Dan Repp!).

- Had another mechanical 15 mins before race start. Panicked. Badgered Nathan Annon and his friend Travis to help me. So kind! (I should have put Kenda tires on). Breathed. I was going to make it to the start of the race!

- Started race. Was extremely concerned that I could hear my back breaks squeaking (were they rubbing?), and that I was suddenly in a very fast road race. Why was this a good idea again? 

- Began to settle in. Positioned my self reasonably well in the field, hoping to get in a group for a draft on the road sections. Passed a zillion people who had flatted.

- Approached a car sized pothole, front tire went into pot hole. I went over pot hole. Severely bent derailleur hanger and couldn’t bend it back. Couldn’t pedal bike. Panicked. Stood at side of trail looking helpless. Nobody to badger! Kind guy stopped and helped me bend derailleur back (strength!). He didn’t want to bend it too much in case it broke. Tried to pedal. Derailleur made chain rub against spokes. Considered dropping out. Thought, I can make it!

- Rode on my own for 60 miles (only got one draft!). Remembered how much I love the dirt (here I mean the dirt roads, so much more interesting), and dislike the road.

- Went back and forth at the end with a guy who was only able to climb the hills by swerving across the road due to cramps. Eventually had to say “Dude” (not vocabulary I usually use) to be able to ride in a straight line and not follow his pattern.

- Crawled to the finish, wondered why people I normally finish around the same time as were already changed and eating pizza/drinking beer?

- Tried to escape Cycling Dirt – unsuccessful

Cycling Dirt Video here!

Funny part of this whole scenario is that all of the guys who helped me out my misfortunes were friends. A recent conversation on FB went something along the lines of…we helped Vicki do this. Oh we helped Vicki with this. I nearly knocked Vicki off her bike. Cracked. Me Up!!! Thanks to everyone for the help! I do recommend this race despite my own misfortunes. Best marshaled course I have ever raced on. However, I think at this point in the season I would race my mountain bike. Three out of the top 5 guys to finish were on mountain bikes. Also, put fresh tires on.

In over news, if you want to know what the rest of the Stan’s ladies have been up to, check out this great piece written by Shannon Gibson. I am honestly touched by the kind words from Shannon on my recovery. It means so much to me to know I have such a supportive. Great team. Great product.

Until next time…hammer on!

NUE # 1 Cohutta 100 – Lowdown

And then there were 2In previous years there have literally been truckloads of the State College crew heading down to the Cohutta 100. I would say out of all the NUE’s, this is the race we talk about the most: ‘remember the year of the storm, where…

More Than Just Racing

Any event that is promoted by Mike Kuhn and the ‘family’ (TSE, Iron Cross, Rattlin’ 50) and sponsored by our very own Stan’s NoTubes is a recipe for success. The first of these yearly events commenced this past weekend with the Marysville Relay…

Start of the season: Speed play

The 2012 race season has started. The Sweet Hammer is racing once again. It must be time for some sweet blogging!

Having spent most of the winter working and living in Northern California it seemed appropriate to spend a weekend racing and representing my new team at the ProXCT #2 in southern California. When else would I luck out and be able to drive myself to a race near L.A (albeit terrified driving in tinsel town)? With my bike tuned up by the amazing Chris Iles in Los Gatos, I was all set for my first race of the year.

Riding in Northern California

I arrived at Bonelli Park to meet my teammates and reccy the course. There were four of us racing for Stan’s during this hot March weekend: myself, Kaila Hart, Jenny Smith and Sarah Kaufmann. I had spent time with Kaila at the Windham World Cup last year. Kaila is an extremely strong U23 rider, with a brilliant eye for a good pair of jeans. I quickly got to business with her recommendations on this season’s hottest pair. This was my first time meeting Sarah and Jenny and they were as lovely as the rumors heard. They both have a laid back manner but an attention to detail when it comes to racing; I can learn a lot from all of these girls.

The Team L-R: Kaila, Jenny, Vicki, Sarah
Cycling News had described the race course as follows: The 3.1-mile, UCI regulation pro cross country course is a mixture of fast rolling fire road, short punchy climbs and steep twisting descents with four hundred feet of climbing per lap that will challenge riders to their limit. Natural and manmade obstacles have been strategically selected to elevate the difficulty of the course”. Horror.
We headed out on the course and the description was as accurate as in print. It was a roller coaster of short hard climbs, with fast sandy descents (with the odd ‘rock’ feature). No recovery. I looked at my HR warming up. Eeeek. This was going to be fun.

I could tell my approach to the race was totally different to normal. I had been nervous mid-week, but felt remarkably chill the night before. I did things I would never do, like changed my tires and added a new electrolyte solution, Elete Electrolytes, to my feed bottles. I barely like to ride with different socks on from race to race with 100 milers in case it changes my performance.

We were extremely lucky to have Jimmy Deaton as our race mechanic, the wonderful Joan and Matt Wehn as our hosts and ProGold Lubricants very own Bruce Dickman parked next to us (another fantastic sponsor of the team). All of these extra bonuses of being on an elite team take some of the stress out of racing (‘Vicki let me wash and lube your bike for you’ wow!).

On race day I had 2nd to last call up. No excuse though, as the field was smaller than usual (potential Olympians are racing in South Africa). When the whistle went off I nearly laughed out loud; at one point I think I was DFL. Focus Vicki. I stayed calm, and began picking my way through the field. My only real game plan was not to blow up, to stay positive and enjoy the race. I achieved all my goals. Even though I was technically racing mid pack I was enjoying every minute of it, re-affirming my love for bike racing and building my excitement for this year’s races.

Jenny S called this my game face. True. I love bike racing :0)

I also thoroughly enjoyed being fed bottles every lap by Jimmy and Matt. The Elete Electrolytes worked a treat and I will definitely be topping off my bottles with their products this year.

By the time the engine was finally fired up it was all over. I crossed the line in 12th. Not a stellar performance, but not a disaster either considering it was my first ProXCT. Even better, Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s team were strewn all over the results page, with Jenny in 7th, Sarah in 8th and Kaila in 17th.

As usual I spent the rest of the weekend dreaming of racing more ProXCT’s (I tend to do this whatever the discipline of bike race I have just finished). But really, this playing in the park at speed on Saturday afternoon was just a great excuse to race hard, hang out with wonderful folks and test all of the products from our amazing sponsors this year. Now it’s back to building towards NUE #1. I sure will miss the big mountains of California and the friends (really family) I have met here, but I sure am looking forward to my own house, Rich and the pooch. Hammer on.

So long California

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