Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Ups and Downs of Cyclocross

After a month's hiatus from racing cyclocross, I was able to get back out and race the past three weekends. My overall bike fitness seems to dropped off the face of the earth this Fall, so no expectations were set.

Magnusson Park 
One of the races within the MFG series, this race pulled about 40 Cat 4 ladies out to race. It's a flat, fast course that caters to the fit road cyclist, but still had some fun mud, run ups and tight turns. My teammate Mal has been crushing cross races lately, so I made it my goal to catch her and hang on. She was in my sights for a lot of the race, but would serge ahead on the long climb, which zapped my energy. Near the end of the race, I caught her and we rode together under the finish line banner not knowing that we had just been lapped by the 1/2 women, so that meant our race was over too. Our finished lacked any kind of excitement, but we finished 5th and 6th!

Trying to keep up with Mal

Sprinker
This race is under a different series, Cross Revolution, which are known for having more technical courses than MFG. Hearing others say "this is more technical than Silver Lake" (another really tough course) made the nerves rise while I warmed up on the trainer. I had a pretty "meh" attitude toward this race, so I dilly daddled and didn't allow time for a pre-ride of the course. Going in blind!

This course had it all! Deep off camber mud, torn up dirt/rocky sections, barrier to a run up, more off camber, more run ups. It was a loooong course and I think we only did 4 laps. After a lap or two, I found myself again on the wheel of my teammate Mal (I LOVE RACING WITH HER) and we encouraged each other to keep pushing. She informed me that we were sitting 2nd and 3rd, which got me really pumped. WE COULD PODIUM! We kept the gas on for the final lap and I snagged 2nd and she came in right behind me for 3rd! Racing this course was really good practice. Technical sections usually scare me, but with more practice they are less daunting.

May and Mal, at it again!

SO FUN! 2nd and 3rd!

Marymoor
After finishing 2 semi-successful races, I set higher goals for Marymoor. I wanted to podium. The schedule for this race was different than others with later start times and races going into the dark hours under the lights of the velodrome. Yes, a cyclocross race at a velodrome. The forecast called for increasing rain throughout the day and that's exactly what happened. The first races of the day were pretty dang dry with all parts of the course very ridable, but as the day progressed, that dirt turned to mud, which turned to deeper mud. #cyclocrossweather This cross season hasn't given us PNWers any mud practice, so many people including myself went into this race not knowing what to do with all the mud/off-camber mess that was this course.




By the 2nd lap of the race, I was running all off camber sections, but even that was hard. My shoes were so packed with mud that I didn't have any better traction than my bike did, so I still fell. Try to stand up, fall again. It became very frustrating. I could barely walk! Some girls were able to ride this stuff and they passed me which made me quickly scratch my podium goals. By the 2nd to last lap, I was over it. Thoughts of a DNF passed through my mind. My bike became very difficult to pedal. I assumed that it was because I was tired, but no, it was because it was caked with mud. Somehow, I continued to the finish line and even eeked out a little sprint. Although I thought I was pretty much in last place, I came out in 11th, which is my worst result this season, but still pretty good in a field of 40. Post race, my attitude turned around once I had dry, warm clothes on and a beer in my hand. Looking back, I wish I would have had a better attitude about the mud instead of getting frustrated.

Not as muddy as I feel.
Hagens Berman/Society Consulting ladies!
Woodland Park is this Sunday and the end of the MFG series. I have two goals:
1. Keep up with my teammates
2. Have fun no matter what. I'm not allowed to get pissed off.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The end of my 20s

Turning 30 always seemed so far off to me. 30 sounded so grown up. An age where I should have my shit together. I remember doing goal exercises when I was younger where we would state where we'd be in 5, 10, 15 years. Back then, I said I'd be married and own a house by 30. Those were my goals...how lame! Where is the adventure and excitement in those goals? Neither of those things have happened (yet), but I'm definitely not going to get down on myself because they haven't happened.

In these last few days in my 20s, I've been doing the natural thing many people do when they reach a age milestone: reflecting. What am I happy with? What do I wish I would have done? What will I do with the next 30 years? Obviously I can't go back and change the things I wish I would have done, so I've been focusing on what stands out as the best times of my last 30 years and the things I want to get out of my life in the next 30.

Best of times:
  • Being born a healthy baby, duh
  • Being born into the best family
  • Meeting friends in elementary and middle school who would continue to be my best friends years later
  • Graduating from college
  • Living in Bellingham/attending Western Washington University. I give Bellingham/WWU credit for my found love of nature, the mountains, snowboarding. I believe it really shaped me into the person I am today. 
  • Meeting Aaron and spending the last 8+ years with him
  • Finding my love for sweating: running, cycling, triathlon
  • Epic mid-week pow days at Mt. Baker when it was practically just my group of friends on the mountain
  • Summers vacations at Lake Vermilion with the family
  • Team Cat Club
Looking forward:
  • Buy that house & get married! ;)
  • Say 'YES' to more adventure. No excuses, no regrets. #livelikeliz
  • Grow my Marketing career
  • Read more books, continue to learn
  • Be in nature more. It is guaranteed to sooth the soul and cure any and all things.
  • Have a kid. Maybe. 
  • Live in the woods (in a house/cabin, not hippie like)
  • Keep moving: cycling, running, hiking. 
  • Be happy

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#crossishere

For me it was the period between 4th of July, which was my last crit, and September 1st when my excitement really started to build for cyclocross season. With full season of road racing under my belt along with some newly acquired mountain biking skills, I was hopeful that I could have a more successful cross season.

After only one night of cross practice, I decided to shake off the cob webs and race Labor Day Cross on Sept 1st. The course was flat with some sharp turns, gravel, and barriers into a run up. Exactly the course (read: not technical) I needed to see where I was at.

Off the line, I was 4th wheel behind two of my teammates, but I missed the 3rd or 4th turn riding straight into the tape and was quickly passed by a handful of girls. I spent the first 2 laps pacing off another girl, and had no idea how many cat 4s were in front of us. On lap 3 I felt okay and had enough gas to make my pass and chase down some others in front of me. The last lap was lonesome and when I'm by myself, I really don't know how much I need to push. There wasn't a chance I could catch anymore ladies so I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be passed. In a field of 17, I crossed the finish line 5th, the best I've ever done in a cross race! All my cycling this year is paying off!

The real test of my fitness would be the first MFG race at Lake Samammish. These races pull fields much larger than Labor Day cross and better competition. On Sunday, I lined up with 39 other Cat 4s probably 3rd row back and was wishing I was closer to the front. On the first turn though, I was able to take it tighter than the majority of racers, so got in front of a good chunk of the field.


The rest of the race I pretty much tried not to blow up and die while picking off other ladies. Not only was it hot (80+ degrees), there were 3 sand sections which required shouldering the bike and running through loose sand. Sand sucks the life out of you! Remounting the bike after the 3rd beach section, it was questionable whether or not I was going to be able to pedal my bike I was that tired. All I could think about was water, too. Why didn't I ask someone to give me a bottle hand up?!




I finished the race in 8th place nearly keeling over my handlebars in exhaustion. I tried to muster out a wave and a "good job" to the other ladies, but I needed to get to the team tent, lay down in the shade and drink all the water on earth.

At team camp back in February or March, I had set a goal of placing top 10 in a MFG cross race and I did it on the first race of the series! Last year I was consistently placing mid to back of the pack in cat 4s, so seeing a huge improvement this year is quite motivating. New goal? I want a WIN.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

The NUUNjas do Ragnar Wasatch Back

I ran Ragnar Wasatch Back this past weekend in the mountains of Utah. In it's 11th year running, this is Ragnar's original relay. Where it all started and where the name Ragnar came from.

Team Nuunjas was a bit of a random group, but we all meshed really well. No van drama, just all really awesome people that I'd do another relay with anytime. I have no motivation to recap the whole weekend in detail, so here's are some photos to tell the story.


I was runner 3 on the team and my first run was a 6.7 mile flattish run through beautiful Utah farm country. Strava file here.

We cycled through our first runs and handed off to Van 2 around 6pm. We took the baton back at around 10pm at Snowbasin Ski area.
Night time selfie!
My 2nd leg was my night leg. 5 miles slightly up hill. Very peaceful and oh so many stars in the sky. Strava file here. And Cameron took a video of my exchange with George!


Trying to sleep, but was not successful. At least I got to see the sun rise.
Team waiting for Tiffany to come into Exchange 24.
Utah is really pretty
My final leg was the more difficult of the three. 7.7 miles of a lot of up and a lot of down. Now, I hadn't been running like at all prior to this relay, so after my first two legs, I was sore, tired, and frankly didn't want to run 7.7 miles. But of course I wasn't going to quit before I finished, so I shuffled along, each step hurting more than the last. This run was an ugly one. I walked a lot, it was hot, I was cranky, just wanted to be done. Knowing that I didn't have to run 1 more step once I reached the next exchanged powered me to keep pushing. Strava file here.

My feelings about my final leg. I was being a little dramatic...
But then I was done and I was happy again!
The team rallied through everyone's final legs in the heat and after 31 hours of running, cheering, not sleeping, eating lot of Cheez-its and drinking a ton of Nuun, WE FINISHED!



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ballard Crit

This was my first time racing the Ballard Crit, and my 2nd crit ever. There seemed to be a lot of hype around the race as it's the local crit, lots of spectators, big fields, and many racer's 'A' race of the year. Add a "our team is racing to win" email from our team president and I had a whole bunch of nerves in the days leading up to the race.

Although we were to "race to win," my personal goals for the race were to keep the rubber side down and to keep up with the main pack. I decided before the race started to not attack in this crit like I did at the Tour de Bloom in hopes that I could keep my energy to simply keep up and not get dropped.

Cat 4 women was the first race of many on Saturday afternoon starting at 3:30pm. I rode over from my house early, warmed up with teammates, previewed the course and tried to shake out all the nerves I could. My two teammates and I decided that none of us felt like we had a 'win' in us and that we would all ride the best we could and would only cover attacks if they were from certain teams.


The race started quick, but not "oh my gosh this this fast." I knew the money spot is 2nd, 3rd or 4th wheel, so I tried my best to stay right there. I took a few pulls and put in some work at the front so I wouldn't be considered a wheel sucker, but played it smart to not get too tired in the wind.


The best part of this race was having cheers around the entire course. I had tons of friends, teammates and family out and heard "GO MEGAN!" every single lap. I particularly liked it when my teammate Sean confirmed that I was in a good spot and he yelled "Stay right there!"




With 3ish laps to go, the pace was getting hotter and I knew this was the time to be near the front. I attempted to stay in a good place and as we rounded the 4th corner I went all out and sprinted to the finish taking 5th place. I am SO PUMPED with this race! I not only kept up with the main group, but I was aggressive and stayed near the front, but not work too much. This has been something I haven't been very good at, so executing it felt awesome. My sprint can use a lot of work, so I'll be working on that before my next crit on July 4th.

After the race, I stayed through all of the races to cheer on friends and drink beer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lately: Sea Otter, Ragnar Zion, Tour de Bloom

Since I last posted, I've been quite busy and I was close to not posting about all the adventures I've been on, but decided I better document them for future reference. I went to Sea Otter in California to work and race my bike, went to Utah for work and play and most recently, raced my first crit. It's been a busy month, so I'll give a quick run down of each. It's a little lengthy...

Sea Otter Road Race
Working Sea Otter was...work. Not much to be said there. I did get to get away one morning and race in the women's road race. Not knowing what to expect with being such a newby in the road racing scene and how I'd stack up with the California girls, I went into it with a "I'm doing this for fun" attitude.

The course was a roller coaster - up and down, up and down the entire time. It was a lolly-pop loop where we descended into a loop we'd do 4 times, then climb back up to the finish. With over 3k feet of climbing, this was easily the hardest race and maybe bike ride I've ever done. Short story: I got dropped on the first hill of the first loop, so went on a not really scenic bike ride with a few others who also got dropped, passed all of them and climbed my way into 6th place in the Cat 4s. We were racing with the 3s too, which made it hard to know who I was actually racing against. Surprisingly, I earned 1 point in this race toward a Cat 3 upgrade.

Ragnar Trail Zion
This trip was quite the adventure. Last year's race left expectations of hot sun and high altitude headaches, so when the chance-for-rain forecast came out for this year's race I was like, wtf. The first day of the relay went off like any other trail relay does and things were going just dandy. I had my first run at 5pm, which was the Red Loop (8.3 miles). With my lack of running lately, it was hard, but enjoyable and the scenery wasn't to be beat!

As the sun set, I had the usual night time running anxiety, but made it through the Yellow loop (4.5 miles) at 1:30am. As I came in off my run, it had started to sprinkle, just a tad. I climbed into the tent to catch some sleep and was woken to the sound of pouring rain. I got texts from my teammates saying it was too dangerous to run on the muddy, river-like trails, so we decided to wait until dawn to decide what we were going to do to finish the relay. Well, I woke up to Catey opening the tent for me to see that it was a winter wonderland outside and it was snowing fairly hard. Our team decided  quickly to quit, but shortly after, Ragnar called the race, so we don't consider ourselves quitters. :)

I assigned myself to work Ragnar Trail Zion so I could tack on a few vacation days after the relay to explore Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Here are a few of my favorite photos and here is a video I made of our hike in Zion. https://vimeo.com/94256338








Tour de Bloom - Crit
Tour de Bloom is an omnium meaning it has 3 stages (hill climb, crit and road race), but you can pick and choose which events you want to do or you can do all three and go for the GC (general classification). Relatively last minute, I decided to drive East to Wenatchee with my bike friends for a weekend of bike racing fun. I decided to skip out on the hill climb and just do the crit and road race. After getting back from Utah 4 days prior, I wasn't feeling like my legs could get after 3 hard efforts in 2 days.

This was my first criterium, so the nerves were all over the place. Luckily, I had 5 other teammates in the race who helped me chill out a bit. Unlike road races, once the whistle blows, its go time. No neutral roll out, no ease into the race, just go, and go hard. I quickly felt the intensity in my legs and lungs and wondered how the hell I was going to sustain this effort for 30 minutes.

After a few laps, my teammate crashed out. It was bad. Probably the scariest thing I've ever seen on a bike. I felt like I should have stopped to help her (I'm sure everyone else did), but we had to continue the race. Crashes happen. As we came around for the next lap, we were stopped by the officials because she was receiving medical attention and we had to go back to the start line where we'd resume the race once the course was clear. You could feel the nerves in our group after watching the crash...

Anyway, the race went on. After we restarted, I hung on for about 2 laps then decided to try out a break away. Had I ever done this before? No. Did I know what I was doing? No. But I did learn from the men's 4/5 race that we needed to work to tire out the rest of the pack, but keep our girls who were going for the GC fresh for the sprint finish. I did my work, but spent all my pennies. The peleton caught me and I quickly found myself at the back, then struggling to stay attached, then officially...dropped. I spent the next 13ish laps working with 2 other girls. I'd pull for a lap, they'd pull for a lap. We were THIS CLOSE to getting lapped, but held on and we finished a minute or so after the main pack. I did out sprint the 2 other girls I was with - win for me!

I found my teammates, congratulated Steph who took 2nd, checked in on Elizabeth who crashed (she is okay!), then had to sit on the sidewalk because I was so exhausted. 10.8 miles, 30 minutes of hard riding and I was SPENT. Lot's to learn about crit racing, but I liked the environment and constant cheers. This won't be my last crit.



Tour de Bloom - Road Race
I was up all night with a stomach ache that lingered into the start of the race, so I was starting off on a great foot that morning. Ana, Mal and I warmed up on the last 4 miles of the course and discovered we'd be finishing into a gnarly headwind. Note taken. We knew the race would be windy because we were literally in the middle of Washington state where fields and rolling hills make up the landscape. In other words, nothing to block the wind. Since we had raced the crit the day before and a couple of the girls had done the hill climb, none of us were really excited to jump into this race.

Can you tell how excited we are?
The course was a 34 mile loop with lots of rollers and maybe two substantial climbs. According to Strava http://www.strava.com/activities/137565757, we climbed 1,400ft, but it felt as if we climbed more...probably because of the headwind, everything felt uphill. I distinctly remember miles 21-26ish feeling like absolute crap. I was so close to dropping off the back a number of times, but each time I fought back to stay on knowing getting dropped would suck more than working hard to stay on. And with the relentless wind, if you did get dropped there was very little chance you could catch back on, so that was motivation to keep digging.

Fortunately, my team was out in numbers - we had 5 girls in the race, so we were able to work together a lot better than with just 3 or 4 of us. We all felt this was the first race we actually executed great team work and the plan that we had kinda set before the race. We were all worn out and tired, but working and suffering together made it a little more tolerable. Each of us took a turn pulling on the front of the pack, both Ana and Mal tried for a break away, we relieved each other when someone needed rest and in the end Ana led Mal out for the final sprint and Mal WON! Although I crossed the finish line 7th, watching my teammates take 1 and 2 was such a proud moment. We all worked for that end goal and I felt we all shared the victory as a team. But I am REALLY happy with my 7th place (there were 19 in the field).

Crossing the finish.

The best teammates anyone could ask for

What's next? No races confirmed on the calendar the rest of May, so lots of time to work on intensity and climbing. Until next time!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Off to Sea Otter

I'm currently enroute to Monterrey, California to attend the Sea Otter Classic on behalf of my work, Nuun Hydration. I feel pretty lucky that events like these are work. Hang out in the sun in California and talk to people about Nuun? Ok! Oh and I get to race my bike too? Double ok! Although these events are a lot of fun: bike riding, hanging out in the sun, industry parties, beer, beer and more beer, they are also freaking exhausting and overwhelming.

Sea Otter offers something for any kind of bike rider. For example, we have three employees racing at various events: road, cyclocross and downhill. I'm representing Nuun at the women's cat 4 road race which will go off at 7am (early!) on Sunday. But after 2 long days standing on my feet sharing the good word of Nuun to all the cyclists, racing a 40 mile road race with 4,200 feet of climbing is going to hurt so, so bad. I wonder if any of the other ladies racing with me will also be working? Or do they have the pleasure to live close by and roll out that morning? Whatever the case is, I know it's going to hurt and I'll be surprised if I can keep up. I'm going out there with a "race hard, but have fun" attitude. If I get dropped, then it'll be a tough 40 mile training ride.

I'll have a full report of what I think of Sea Otter when I return, but follow along at Instagram and Twitter for some of my perspective of the event.