The year started off with a frustratingly slow recovery from a broken thumb at the Lincoln CX race, an injury that, while minor, made it hurt like hell to hold on to handlebars, especially in the cold. I upgraded to studded tires on my Karate Monkey after falling on the ice one too many times, and I spent a good deal of time leading or participating in indoor trainer sessions with Sydney. We also had a blast debuting Sheclismo with the KC Sprints at Duffy’s!
January miles: 198
February brought more snow and ice to Lincoln, but a couple rounds of melting got me out on the gravel. And despite mega-cold, bar mitts and studded tires kept me rolling to work every day. I continued trainer sessions, too, finding I really enjoyed leading them when I had the chance.
February miles: 315
In March, it was time to get serious about singletrack. I bought my first mountain bike with a suspension fork — Black Betty — and hoped for dry trails whenever possible.
Spent a few days at the end of the month riding around in Denver, skiing, and getting really sick. Then we hustled in an unexpected snowstorm — 25 riders racing through the city in 5 inches or so of heavy falling snow, eating ice cream and drinking spiked hot cocoa.
March miles: 307
April kicked off first thing with the start of the Psycowpath MTB series. Having won the Cat 3 in 2010, I moved up to Cat 2. I decided, however, that I wanted to give Marathon racing a shot whenever possible. Since there are fewer women racing regardless of category, I thought I’d be better able to push my limits and challenge myself if I tried to see just how much I could do in 3 hours. The first race weekend was a triple header, and I was happy to do the Jewell TT a full 15 minutes faster than I had the year before in my first ever singletrack race. That afternoon, I had one of the best and most fun races I’ve had to date in the Short Track XC, where Cat 1 racer Katie Bergmann and I pushed each other all the way to a sprint finish.
I did my first Marathon the next day, cut the sleeves off my jersey, and completed 5 laps, deciding not to go out for a sixth, exhausted. Singletrack continued to dominate, as I founded the Wednesday Women’s Wilderness ride. I ended the month cheering on and watching my awesome friend Janna be the first woman ever to finish TransIowa and going bike camping.
April miles: 320
In May, surprise surprise, I kept riding singletrack! Right off the bat, I faceplanted on a practice ride at Platte, giving myself a gnarly looking cut under my eye and a seriously scraped up face. Hurting, I still raced Marathon that Saturday, and was most happy about having Scott Noel encouraging me to go out for one more lap with him when we were 15 minutes from the 3-hour cutoff. It was a great lap with a teammate.
I started mixing in crit practices, since I decided I should do the road races in my backyard at the end of the month. Putting road slicks on my ‘cross bike, I started getting better at hanging with the group out at The Bridges, and what was more, I was getting better at hopping back on to the group after I’d been dropped. Since road really isn’t my focus at all, I knew race days at the Capital City Criterium and Pioneers Grand Prix would be less than impressive, but it’s too cool to race around the capitol neighborhood — a regular part of my commute — to pass up the opportunity. I ended up having a great time working with junior racer Abby Burke after we lost contact with the lead pack, and it was fun to have so many folks out cheering, too.
The Grand Prix taught me that I didn’t yet know how to read the plays that the more elite racers were making, and once a big attack was made, it was all over for me.
We hustled in pouring rain! Rounded out the month with some fun riding, extending my commute whenever possible. Another bike-related accomplishment: I had an art opening at Tugboat Gallery focusing on women and their bicycles, inspired by early writings from Susan B. Anthony on how bicycles did more for women’s emancipation than anything else, my grandmother’s 1939 bike tour in New England, and the stories I gathered by Lincoln women on why they ride.
May miles: 463
June started out hot and muggy — not my favorite weather. Girl Bike Night wore 80s workout gear. I had a blast going on the Foxhole 100 with friends, riding gravel and singletrack on the way there, teaching pacelines on the way back.
Women’s Wilderness continued to grow, with several women new to off-road riding getting better week by week. I headed up to Ponca State Park with Sydney for the MTB State championships, and was surprised to find just how awesome it is to see another racer in your same kit out on the course. I turned out 5 laps in exactly 3 hours (yeah, I might’ve been a little extra slow at the very end of that last lap to not have the option of going out for a 6th), and noted that my climbing skills needed work.
Another goal on my list for the year was learning to assemble a bike, and with Ian Robertson’s hands-off guidance, I put together a Long Haul Trucker frame obtained from Butch with a Frankenbike-worthy collection of parts. Though I wouldn’t necessarily feel confident doing it all myself — and because I really appreciate a pro build — I do know a lot more about how my bikes are put together, which really helps with maintenance.
The biggest accomplishment of June, though, was going on the Ponca Ride, a PCL staple. It’s a 155-mile gravel and MMR ride straight up to Ponca State Park, but instead of driving like I had the week before, this time, I rode every mile. We left in a crazy thunderstorm, pouring rain, were forced onto pavement until North Bend, then beautiful gravel, dirt, and great times with a group of 18 other awesome riders. I made and solidified some friendships, especially when I started having some serious breathing problems. At 110 miles, in Pender, I was curled up on a park bench, unable to lower my heartrate and unable to take more than a shallow breath without my chest burning in pain. I kept going. I struggled again. I have great friends. They got me there, and I’d never been more proud of myself when I reached the state park sign.
June miles: 640
July! By July, whenever it rained, I was starting to think about cyclocross. Wednesday Women’s Wilderness morphed into Women of Wednesday, as we mapped out little routes at Irvingdale, Neighbors, and Van Dorn Park. We brought a crew of 7 women to a Thursday night ride at Tranquility in Omaha, impressing the pants off the regulars with our numbers.
I was reminded at the Lewis & Clark TT of the benefits of pre-riding, had a great time racing in the Tranquility short track with Sydney and the Master’s Men, and then opted for the Cat 2 instead of the Marathon the next day because of horribly hot weather. Commutes, nacho rides, and fun around town was all hot as hell. I spent the last two weekends of the month racing at Branched Oak, first in the Cornhusker State Games, then in the Marathon. The State Games race was a major flop, and reminded me that even if a race is more for training, you still need to eat right beforehand. After getting a little tune-up in Malcolm’s hustle that Thursday, I did much better in the Marathon, turning out 7 laps and feeling great.
July miles: 457
In August, I had two big events on the horizon: Gravel Worlds and the Dakota 5-O. I continued riding at Wilderness, and added gravel rides to my routine whenever possible. At the beginning of the month, I helped out my friends at the Foxhole during Czech Days, and part of the deal was getting to ride tandems in the parade — with the members of the Bolzen Beer Band riding stoker. I had Ciara and her drum on my bike, and we totally stole the show in the parade. Apparently no one had ever seen a polka band on tandems before!
The weather in August turned cooler and nicer, and it couldn’t have been more welcome. We had another race at Swanson, this time with the trail being run in reverse. I didn’t want to ride too hard, so I made my goal slow & steady, and finished 6 laps feeling good. It rained the night before Gravel Worlds. It was muddy. Following Janna’s advice, I portaged before others, saving my derailleur from destruction and bringing me to the finish 16 hours and 46 minutes after I started the 153.5 mile race, crossing the line with fellow hardwoman Kim Carveth.
Another super proud accomplishment, particularly since I’d spent most of the day flying solo, earning each mile on my own. Cyclocross practice started that following week, and I was finding it hard to keep focus on the 5-O, especially since, after a rather uninspiring experience looking for a new ‘cross bike, I’d gotten in touch with War Axe about building a bike for me. Also that week, I had my best hustle performance to that point, pulling Michael Bikel to the finish for 2nd place right behind Russell. Consensus from the Lincoln Hustle boys: I’d gotten faster. Much faster.
August miles: 544
September began with the Dakota 5-O. What a beautiful, amazing, challenging race. 1st real rock riding experience, 1st creek crossings, 1st ridge riding, 1st riding over funny cattle gate obstacles, 1st roaring down long fire road descents. Better climber than I thought I was (had fun passing people going up long gravel climbs), much more chicken shit descender. I had a proud moment when overhearing guys at a checkpoint say “that’s a crosser” as I got back on my bike to go on. I got lost, added climbs and miles, enjoyed the scenery, struggled a little, and finished strong. As Rafal likes to remind me, I stood around in my kit grinning from ear to ear for about an hour after I finished, that’s how happy I was.
I really rode a bike indoors for the first time, turning TT laps on the D Street circuit. And then it was time to get ready for CX season. With Van Dorn Park so close to home, I was going there at least a couple times per week, learning from veterans and getting faster. I rode Wilderness at night for the first time. The first Streets Alive happened, and I had a great time playing in the beautiful weather with tons of other people on arterials closed to traffic. At the Girly Hustle, we raised over $100 plus goods for the Friendship Home. Fall was on the way.
September miles: 406
In October, I figured out what it feels like to race 3 times per week. With Wednesday races at Van Dorn Park sandwiched between Omaha CX, Joules CX, the Fort Collins USGP — my first big pro race — and Spooky CX, I didn’t have a single weekend off. I was fortunate to have a mechanical before Omaha CX that put me on a demo Trek Cronus, a bike that I came to ride on several occasions throughout the season, whenever I was traveling with or alongside the Trek Midwest CX team. These guys de facto adopted me to travel to a few big races, and I learned a ton about team travel, race prep, working pits and more in the process.
The USGP experience was incredible. To race on course early in the day and then later watch the pros race the same thing was a boost of inspiration, and I was pretty happy with how I measured up against national competition. In October, I also finally won a hustle, not just the women’s division!
October miles: 429
My intense cyclocross travel schedule continued into November, with Boulevard Cup, the Louisville USGP, Lincoln CX, and Jingle CX, plus two more Wednesday night races in Omaha. I was getting stronger and faster, and really enjoyed racing in mixed groups in those night races. We turned out record numbers of women at all of the races in the Midwest CX Stitch series that Sheclismo put on. The schedule was starting to wear on me, though, and after the Louisville trip, I came home sick the week leading into Lincoln CX. The first day was really rough, and I barely held on to my lead in the series with a lackluster finish. The second day, feeling better, I surged through the racers, finally catching and hanging on to Janna until the end. In a fun-filled trip to Jingle CX, I pulled off two podium finishes, ending my year as a Cat 4 and ready to move up to Cat 3.
November miles: 229
In December, I was ready for a break. I entered the month not feeling like doing much of anything. That changed a bit with the much-anticipated arrival of my War Axe, which of course was built up and ready to ride right as the weather was nasty. I only had to wait a few days, though, until it warmed up, got beautiful, and I got to debut her at a just for fun weekend of cyclocross playing in my parents’ pasture, in what became the first annual Cowpie CX.
Much to my chagrin, I was a finalist in the Gamjams Rider of the Year contest, and was humbled by the support from friends. It was certainly nice to have people recognize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve tried to build this sport, in particular for Nebraska women. I added in working with a new citizen bicycle advocacy group called Bicyclincoln, too.
Since I took off to ski for the last week of the year, my last ride in 2011 was on Christmas morning, just a few frosty laps in solitude on my beautiful new bike. Happy New Year, all.
December miles: 158
Wonder how I could possibly remember all this? I’ve been keeping track using bikejournal.com. I logged miles, and added a column for a ride description and the weather that day. It’s great to look back on the notes!
Total miles: 4,466