Monday, July 11, 2011

State Champion, SERC #9 and the "Bad Idea Jeans" weekend.

Kym and Paula celebrating the State Road Race WIN.

Well, I did it again. I put on my Bad Idea Jeans and went racing. What? You have never heard of my Bad Idea Jeans?? Well, let me explain... I come up with super fun ideas which are also logistically, physically and (sometimes) a bit emotionally "challenging". Mark has taken to calling these ideas many things over the years (crazy, demented, etc.) but in recent years he simply reminds me that I might be wearing my "bad idea jeans" and should reconsider. I rarely do. I like how the jeans fit.

Last week it was brought to my attention that the TN State Road Race Championships were this Saturday in Johnson City, TN. Sunday was race #9 in the SERC series in Huntsville, AL. Both races were withing day-trip driving distance of home and I have ridden the SERC course before; never mind that it is one of the most technical courses we races all season. I started thinking (which often leads to me putting on those infamous pants) that with some careful logistical planning we could do both races. Now that Paula has returned and is not only a fantastic mountain bike racer but also a kick butt road racer who has her goal set on Master Road Nationals next month, I figured I could sucker, I mean convince, her to join me.

It took no effort at all to convince Paula to join in the fun; I suspect she also owns a pair of bad idea jeans. Mark, being the incredibly supportive husband, volunteered to work the feed zone on Saturday for us and drive us all over the Southeast to our races. We decided to take Paula's new truck (which makes all other truck in the universe look small) and travel in style. The photo is the "before" shot. She looks even better with the US Stove car magnets on the doors and Trek bikes on the rack!!!

We departed Chattanooga at 7:30am on Saturday for Johnson City and a 12:20pm race. Travel was uneventful and we arrived with a plan and time to relax and prepare for the race. The goal of the day was to get Paula the win. There were some decent hills on the course and we hoped that we had the legs to get her away. Well, to quote my friend Steve "Even the best laid battle plan rarely survives contact with the enemy". We had a strong field of 15 ladies, including two teams with 4 riders each. Okay, so we were a bit out numbered but we hoped we had fitness and experience on our side. Paula and I have been racing as teammates for a LONG time and it showed. We set the pace, controlled the hills and created the eventual winning group of 6 rider. About halfway into the race Paula rolled up next to me and told me that she thought I had better legs today, she was going to work and lead me out at the finish. Okay, change of plans but we can adapt. And adapt we did. She killed it the second half of the race, wore out the field and was the PERFECT lead out. I took the win by over a bike length and am now the TN State Road Race Champion. I can't remember the last time I raced with such an incredible teammate. We were perfect together. And the first half of the weekend was complete. US Stove-Trek has a state title to add to the resume.

Now to get home. Of course the race and after effects took longer than planned and we had to eat so by the time we got moving we were behind schedule. Then we hit construction traffic. Mark drove like a rock star and I navigated and detoured us around the mess and we arrived back in Chattanooga about 7:45pm. Hmmm.... we still have to shower, pack and drive two hours to Huntsville tonight. We frantically got ready for the turn around (while watching the Tour de France... it is July) and were ready to roll by 8:45pm. And then it began to rain, just as we were going to load everything into the back of the truck. We decided that we should get to bed NOW and leave early in the morning for Huntsville instead. Again, the best laid plans....

Sunday morning came WAY too early (5am) and it was the first time all weekend that I thought MAYBE this whole thing was a bad idea. Oh well, too late to change the plans now. We made it to Huntsville without incident and although it was HOT, the sun was shining and we were ready to race. We met most of the rest of the team there (they all pre-rode and were well rested) and we were ready to get it done. My warm-up consisted of riding the first part of the course (I am glad I did, there were a couple of tricky turns I needed to see). My legs actually felt pretty good. Hmmm, maybe I was going to be able to pull this off. We lined up and I took the lead in the first pavement stretch before we hit the trail. I never looked back. One rider stayed with me for a short while but before I knew it I was off the front alone. I was feeling pretty good but I had no idea how long that was going to last and if the weekend's "fun" was going to catch up to me mid race.

About half of the course in Huntsville is fast and the other half is technical. Really, really technical for a race course. Nothing that is unrideable but enough  that one wants to pre-ride (hint) and know the best lines and the kind of speed that one can carry into any given section. Well, I had raced there last year but a year is a long time ago. I mostly remembered the big obstacles and was doing well... and then it happened. Just as I was thinking "There is a tricky downhill coming up here soon" I was on top of it and out of control. It was one of those moments when all I could think was "Uh oh, this is not going to end well". Sure enough, it didn't. I ate it HARD and spent a frantic bit of time collecting bike, glasses and other gear, putting my chain back on the bike and checking to see where the other rides were. Damn Kym, SLOW DOWN. I rode a bit more apprehensively the rest of the race and crossed the finish line tired, bruised, bloody and in FIRST place. Whew. I did it. Two for two. The bad idea jeans fit well all weekend.

Kym and Paula on the SERC podium on Sunday.

My teammates also rocked the day. Paula took third, just behind Carey. Catherine was 4th, Emily 7th and Shannon 8th. Kristi had her best finish of the year in her category with 2nd on her single speed (against geared riders).

Mark drove us home and I collapsed on the couch for the rest of the night and watched other riders race (the Tour again...)

Whew. What a weekend. I guess Monday is what happens when you need a break from all the fun. I might need a couple of Mondays this week.

The bad idea jeans are back in the closet for now. I may have a date with them on Thursday. We are headed to the Cherohala Skyway...

Thanks for reading.

Paula's back!!!!

For those who have known us for a while, you already know Paula. For those who don't, you have missed out all these year. Our good friend and former teammate Paula is back racing with us and we are a better group of ladies for having her return. She's super fun and a KICK BUTT bike racer. She took a couple of years off to explore other things and now she's ready to rip everyone's legs off again. WELCOME BACK.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Racing local and Rockin' it with US Stove

The girls with the US Stove goods.

The Raccoon Mountain SERC is always one of my favorites. I love racing at home. I get to sleep in my own bed, cook my meals in my own kitchen (instead of a hotel microwave) and I know the trail like the back of my hand. I was excited. And a bit nervous. I always get a little worked up about the local races but I was mostly just excited.

Race day came and we all did great. I took the lead from the start and after about 5 minutes I had the trail to myself. Catherine spent the race in a heated battle with Carey for second, ultimately taking a strong third place. Carey is one tough competitor. It has been great having her race the series this year. Paula, our new old teammate (welcome back after a two year break!!!) took 4th and Emily rolled in for 5th.  Kristi had a unfortunate flat tire but was all smiles cheering for us for the rest of the race. Shannon and Amy both finished in the top 10. A great team weekend for all of us!!!

Paula, Kym and Catherine on the podium.
The BEST part of the weekend was US Stove, our super awesome sponsor, came out and cooked hot dogs and cheered for everyone. There were a LOT of happy racers after the race. Hopefully it will translate into stove and grill sales. After seeing all of the awesome products, how could you not buy one. I can't even look at a grill at Home Depot anymore. I guess it's just like bikes, once you get something nice, there is just no comparison.

Thanks for reading...

BUMP and Grind

This year marks a significant accomplishment for me. It is the year I finally won BUMP and Grind in Birmingham. This race has been my nemesis for many seasons. I LOVE the course. It is perfect for me. Fast, twisty, one good climb and a lot of sweet single track. It is also unforgiving. Over the years I have flatted, double flatted, TRIPLE flatted, blown up wheels, blown up myself, broken a free hub body, etc. You get the picture. It is the one race in the Southeast that I have never won. And it is a big one. This year was my year. I was really hoping for some decent legs, in spite of all the school work and heat, and I was mentally prepared.

The course is a LONG lap, 24 miles for the first one and another 8 for a second lap. We decided to pre-ride only a short section of it in order to save our legs. Even our "short" section ended up being a 2 hour pre-ride. Oops. I might have mis-calculated a little on the time it was going to take us. Fortunately we had a pool at the hotel to recover in. Mark, Catherine and I enjoyed a relaxing evening at the hotel and we went to sleep early, dreaming of the next day's race.

We awoke on race day to hot temperatures and sunny skies. It was going to be a long, hot day. I decided early that pacing myself was the best strategy and when they said "go" I went hard but not crazy. I took the lead early and never looked back. It was hot but I felt good. Actually, I felt GREAT. I just kept getting stronger the whole race and I had a blast. I was all smiles at the finish.

Catherine was a rock star and even after a flat tire raced back to take second place. Mark broke his frame. Enough said.

Whew. After that, how could we top things off???

How about a win the following weekend on my home trails??