Race Report: Capitol Stage Race

Here’s a race report from Alli Greening, recounting her experience at the recent Capitol Stage Race.

I had quite a late start to my race season this year due to a major professional exam in late April. I started a low volume,  high intensity training program shortly after that. Then, two weeks in,  raced Mutual of Enumclaw stage race, an absolutely great race that I had no business doing!  

Two weeks later I did the Capitol stage race, in Olympia, which was another great stage race without the strong pro field that Enumclaw had- phew! It’s always rough as a cat 3 racing with 1/2’s, but bona fide pro’s make it a little ridiculous. Still, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, with a short prologue, evening crit, and 67 mile road race the next day I would do my meager weekly mileage over the course. 

The TT was only 6 km, a distance I never feel like I’ve gone hard enough over or have warmed up enough for. This was no exception, especially since I really didn’t get enough warm up, only a little over 15 minutes. Nonetheless, I wasn’t last, which is pretty good for me; even when I’m going well I often finish DFL in the TT and then have pack finishes in the crit and road race. I put on my compression tights and vowed to get to the crit in plenty of time to get a good warm up.

I arrived at the crit plenty early, and since the whole thing was close to home I had actually had a nap in my own bed (with the cats!) between stages and felt pretty recovered. I spent a few minutes getting things out of the car, put my skin suit half on, and then rolled down to sign in before I started to warm up. I was surprised that all the women were already signed in, the race wasn’t for a full hour. Then I turned around, and saw my entire field, minus me, lined up at the start! Whoa, WTF?! What was going on?! I yanked off my t-shirt and pulled up my skinsuit, and lined up at the back just as the official was “reading us our rights.” The word, “holy shitballs,” went through my head. The crit started. Suddenly my goal was simply to not get time cut so I could race tomorrow. I got dropped pretty quickly, as my shocked legs protested mightily. After I got pulled I went back to the car and checked my race bible again, trying to figure out what had just happened. It really said 7:45. I took it down to one of the officials, who didn’t have an answer for me either, he said he was very sorry, but didn’t know where my copy of the bible had come from. Everyone else had managed to show up on time. Later one of the women said there had been email communication about the change, which I either hadn’t seen or gotten.

Again, I put on compression tights and vowed to arrive in time for the road race the next morning. The road race was 67 miles, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had ridden 67 miles, much less raced it. Certainly not in the last 12 months! The best I had done was a couple of 45 mile training rides with some long, moderate intervals recently, which would have to do. The race was a modified out and back, with a loop at the far end. I was pretty sure I’d get dropped before the turn around and would simply ride backwards on the course to DNF. At the start everyone seemed a bit concerned about the distance, though I thought to myself that they would feel much better if they only knew how unprepared I felt! We started, and after a neutral roll out things heated up a little, but stayed together until before the first climb. Team Group Health had about half the field in their kit, and clearly had a plan. They started attacking and things spread out, eventually I got dropped, but at the top of the climb found a capable looking wheel to sit on. She subsequently turned out the most impressive chase back on I have ever seen! It was amazing to just be sitting on for it! I apologized and said if I’d gone to the front and tried to help we both would have still been off the back! As we rolled along a couple of the TGH girls who had attacked early made their way back to the pack as well. We rolled along, occasionally surging a little, until the turn around, where I thought for sure I’d get shelled as people attacked coming out of the turn. The turn was no biggie, and I realized as we started the loop I was committed to 67 miles, with or without the rest of the race. Gulp. We got quite fast and strung out for what felt like 10-15 minutes, but I was able to sit on and then we settled down a lot as suddenly no one wanted to work leading into the first, and gentler, of the two climbs on the return. Then it happened. I blew hard, the race went up the road and I was left out there, all alone, with a good distance and one and a half climbs to go. I could barely do more than soft pedal. I suffered up the stupid hill and then asked the corner marshal at the next turn how much longer this time trial was- he laughed and said only about 10 miles, some more descent and then a stout climb. I kept pedaling as the vultures started to circle above me and the wolves started to close in. I finished 15 minutes off the back, but it felt like hours. At the finish the pro 1/2 men were just finishing their own 90 mile sufferfest that they had started long before us. I was stumbling around in a stupor when one of the guys came up to me, in an equal stupor- I recognized him as an old friend I’d raced with in NM a decade ago, who I knew had since moved to Portland and turned pro. As excited as we were to see each other, about all we could do was grunt and making conversation seemed impossible. We vowed to try to see each other again before I moved out of the area later this summer. 

It’s now two weeks after Capitol, and I’m heading out to test my legs again this weekend, with two road races, probably the last I’ll do the the PNW. Today is only 44 miles, but promises to be a punishing course with lots of hateful little climbs and a longer one each of the 5 laps. Tomorrow is a race in OR, with a separate women’s cat 3 field, and a chance to see Josh, my friend from NM again.

Thanks for reading!

Race Report: Lisa at Stottlemeyer

On May 11, 2013, Lisa, Cathy and Sandrine represented Spokeswomen Racing at the Stottlemeyer 30 mile marathon mountain bike race. Good times were had by all! Here is Lisa’s race report.

After months of shopping, my beautiful new mountain bike had finally arrived. My first ride on it would be a big one: the Stottlemeyer 30 miler marathon mountain bike race. It was a slightly risky thing to do, but given that my other bike fit terribly and needed some repairs, I decided to ride the new one. After double checking all the bolts and dialing in the fit with Beth of True Balance Training, I was ready to go.

Stottlemeyer is my favorite race! Last year was my first time riding the course, and I hadn’t ever ridden my mountain bike for such a long time. I enjoyed myself but didn’t push too hard. This year, I took Stottlemeyer a little more seriously. I knew how to pack my Camelbak and how to plan my nutrition. I decided to stop at only one of the three possible aid stations (last time I had a leisurely break at each one). I also had an idea of how the course went. As a bonus, my husband Jon was racing, too! It would be his second ever mountain bike race. I joked that I’d be trying to catch him, even though I knew that I’d probably not see him, given that he had a 15 minute head start and is a very strong rider.

We arrived at the course on a beautiful May morning. We couldn’t have asked for better weather: partial clouds and pleasant temperatures made for ideal riding conditions on the dry trails. We signed in and affixed the race numbers. Jon and I warmed up by doing several laps on the ending part of the course, a tricky, twisty section with some log and root obstacles. This ended up being a very good strategy for finishing the race. I was amazed at how well my bike handled roots and logs. What a difference! We made final preparations, locked up the car, and rode over to the starting area.

I cheered for Jon as he started, then happily lined up with my field. Then, in a cloud of dust, we were off! The first part of the course was a long fire road climb, and I set a steady pace, knowing that I’d gain ground on the singletrack later. Short climbs, twisty technical sections, flowy downhills, and beautiful scenery abounded.  This was a great race for me since it had many roots and obstacles. I always gain places when it gets technical. I still enjoyed the ride, but in a more focused way. I tried to keep a steady, hard pace the whole time, and think I did a good job because I wasn’t ever comfortable but also kept myself from blowing up. Races like this always heighten your senses: the hills are steeper, the taste of a Clif Shot Blok is more intense, and the dappled sunlight more beautiful. I found myself trying to maximize my speed and efficiency through every corner and obstacle.

Unfortunately, I did catch Jon. He was walking his bike after breaking his XTR derailleur and chain. He had to walk about 4 miles to an aid station, where a mechanic turned his bike into a singlespeed. Despite this setback, he still beat almost 20 people in the 90-person field! He seemed to be in good spirits despite the mishap.

I yelled out to Jon if he wanted me to stop, but he said no. I continued on, feeling sad, for a few minutes, then decided to stay determined because there was nothing I could do to help. The last eight miles of the race were tough, as the new bike made my lower back tired. I couldn’t find a way to let my back rest, so I decided to ride harder and just finish. When I entered the final, technical section, I was glad to have pre-ridden it. I ended up in a small group of women who were all gunning for the finish. I made it through every technical obstacle and was in front when we emerged from the trees onto the final grass finish. I ended up in a head-to-head sprint with a fast rider on a hardtail 29er. I did a little bike throw right at the line and ended up beating her by an inch! Even though my new bike has more travel than I originally planned, it’s still fast! Pivot engineered the suspension so that it stiffens when you pedal harder. It’s awesome.

I ended up completing the technical 30-mile course in 3:23, which is 20 minutes faster than my previous time. Considering that I’m probably less fit this year, this says good things about my new bike and the more aggressive position I’m in! My lower back felt fine as soon as I stopped. Later that week, I switched to a shorter stem, which seemed to fix things. Many thanks to Beth for the excellent bike fit. Another note: this was possibly the best race fueling and recovery I’ve ever had. I think I’ve finally dialed in what to eat before, during, and after – at least for an event like this. I felt great during and after the race and didn’t even need a nap. Legs were tired but not destroyed the next day. I’ll be back next year, hoping for even more improvements!

See you out there soon!

Read more of Lisa’s writing at http://perchancedream.blogspot.com

Teammate of the Month: Mirna Nieto

The days are getting longer, and lately it’s been 50 degrees and drizzly. For cyclists, this is far more comfortable than 40 degrees and pouring rain! With the early season mountain and road races just around the corner, most of us are increasing our training hours and looking forward to racing again sometime soon. You’ll see some of us at the first Budu MTB race this Sunday, February 17, at Dash Point Park in Tacoma. Our time trialists are also gearing up for the early season TTs, and the Mason Lake World Championships (er, Road Race Series) kicks off the WSBA road season in early March. It’s been awhile since we last posted a teammate of the month. As we get back into gear with racing and blogging, we are proud to highlight Mirna Nieto, the 2013 president of our team.

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Mirna’s hometown is Chihuahua, Mexico. She moved to Seattle in 2006 to further her career. She began racing in 2011 with SCCA/Starbucks, where she helped build a successful women’s squad for the team, mentoring new riders and helping teammates gain skill on the road. As one of the founding members of Peterson Racing p/b Spokeswomen, Mirna’s commitment to the success of our team, and women’s cycling in general, is evident in her outstanding leadership and service both on the bike and off.

On the bike, Mirna is an avid Cat 3 track racer. Though she plans to put most of her energy toward riding at the velodrome this year, she also has a strong background on the road, where she is a Category 2 racer. She has raced extensively in road races, criteriums, time trials, and stage races. She has won a few local road races, including two State Championships. As a Cat 3, she won the Capital Stage Race GC, meaning that she had the fastest overall time out of 4 diverse stages (two road races, a time trial, and a criterium).

Mirna was treasurer of Peterson Racing last year, and will serve as president this year. She oversees many aspects of our team and often hosts board meetings and team meetings. In addition to this and her busy career, she is also very involved with the Marymoor Velodrome Association (MVA). She serves on the board, working mainly with the Development Committee, whose purpose is to retain new riders and help them improve. Last year, she taught the PeeWee Pedalers class, which is geared towards kids 5-8 and focuses on bike safety, skill building, and playing fun games on bikes. This year, she plans to focus on the development of women and junior riders on the track by leading the mentor program for new riders that come through the track class (a class which is required for all new track racers). The goal is to pair new racers with a mentor who can help them navigate the first year of racing and support them as they gain skill. If you are interested in track racing–we highly recommend it to racers of any level, since it is a fun race discipline and a great way to learn tactics and gain fitness–please visit http://velodrome.org/mva/.

Our Best Winter Training Tips

It’s time to start putting in some winter base miles! The Pacific Northwest’s rainy climate makes it possible to ride year round, but the constant rain and gray can be tough. Be smart so you can get fit without burning out! Here are the results from a team conversation about the best/silliest/most fun ways to get ready for the spring race season. For tips from a true pro, check out Jess Cutler’s winter training tips.

 1. Know the weather.

  • Don’t just check the weather forecast; check the Doppler radar and wind directions, as you may be able to avoid rain by seeing which direction the weather moves.
  • If you’re going over any big hills, check the freezing level so you don’t hit ice or snow!

2. Moderation and Balance. 

  • Go with the sunbreaks and ride when it’s not pouring rain.
  • Mountain bike, trail run, or ski when it is raining!
  • I’m serious, though: It’s a delicate balance of training through crappy weather and burning all your mental matches too early. If you can balance it so that you are training enough and also not suffering too much, that is key. Otherwise you will probably burn out when it keeps raining through July. If you can find other activities to get out of the rain now and again, it really helps. Plus snow is brighter and less dreary than cold rain.
  • Set your goals for later in the season. We have a lot of races here, and you don’t have to be in shape for the early March training races.
  • Run in the winter!

3. Get the right equipment.

  • To keep your feet warm, and maybe a little dry, layer up on booties (use at least 2), and little hotties (toe wamers) on your shoes, under your booties.  Of course, aren’t we all “little hotties”?
  • Take extra tubes with you, as flats may be more likely.
  • Plastic Baggies are excellent rescue devices for cold feet. Place them (trimmed if possible) over your socks inside your shoes.
  • Investing in a quality raincoat is a must.
  • Use full fenders with a buddy flap for your buddies!! You can buy a buddy flap, or just make one with a piece of a yogurt container and some duct tape.
  • Keeping your core and hands warm is extremely important. I recommend wool base layers, especially in the rain because they stay warm even when wet. For the hands, on a cold rainy day glacier gloves are a must. They are inexpensive and available at Peterson Bicycle!
  • Good bike lights help you be seen when it’s dark out.

4. Be creative with indoor training…or go on vacation.

  • Plan a trip to drier weather! Albuquerque, here I come! 
  • I like to work out to old Billy Blanks Tae Bo or play some Kinect (Dance Central, Zumba, Kinect Sports…). Come cross train with me sometime! Oh, and ice hockey is fun, too. 
  • We have conflicting feelings about indoor riding: (1) Avoid the trainer at all costs (normally I’m ok with the trainer, but this year I’ve had trouble because I keep getting distracted by my flooding basement. Every time I go to ride the trainer, I have to deal with that instead…) (2) If you get stuck with your motivation, try riding the trainer every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. If you do enough indoor riding you’ll eventually go stir crazy and feel ready to get outside. (3) get rollers because they improve your handling and cadence. (4) ride the trainer and rent all the movies you didn’t get to see during the year and watch them on the trainer. Preferably with good soundtracks. Action movies are more exciting when your heart rate is up. 
  • Go to the rock gym, yoga class, or lift weights to build core and upper body strength. Solid fitness in your core can go a long way on the bike. 

5. Sometimes, you just have to ride in the rain.

  • If you do end up out on a miserable rainy day, avoid stopping unless absolutely necessary. If you let your body temp drop too much it can be very difficult to get it back up.
  • Put warm water in my water bottles. I drink more that way.
  • Suit up and ride in the rain and enjoy how green it is…then treat yourself with a nice cup of hot chocolate when you get back
  • Add Bailey’s to the hot chocolate!
  • Soak in the bath after a cold ride to regain feeling in your limbs.
  • If you’re going to ride in the rain, ride with a friend. 🙂 It’s no fun to suffer alone.

6. NOT recommended:

Get injured so you can’t ride. 😦 And spend all your time in the pool (where its easier to pretend its summer.)

Ride in the rain so much that you burn out.