Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My midwest marathon continued: US Pro XCT Subaru Cup, Mt. Morris, WI, June 25-27, 2010

Timing is everything. And with Nature Valley one week and the US Pro XCT Subaru Cup the following weekend, it meant I could stay one week back in my old stomping grounds, Red Wing, MN and see a few old friends and hang out with my family. I rode new trails I had never ridden, took my road bike on back roads, visited my Grandma. It was a great week.

Oma and me.

Nik & Musa checking out Calf-ee.

Musa wanted a mohawk. I started...

Paul had to finish. Turns out I am not very good at giving haircuts.

Beautiful sunset at the farm.

Then it was back to racing. My Mom and Dad ventured to middle of nowhere Wisconsin with me. It was about a 4.5 hour drive. I packed my bike in the back of the Buick and we were on our way. My parents are troopers, that is for sure. It was a hot, humid weekend, but they were there.
Friday night we enjoyed a nice meal at the only semi decent restaurant in Wautoma with Katie and her parents, Mark, Ryan, Dave, etc. It was a pretty typical midwest scene. A little trip back in time. Saturday morning came soon enough, but our race was in the heat of the day at 12:30. Mom and my high school friend Tanya took the $2 chairlift up for the XC race and my dad sat in the feedzone. Saturday was a suffer fest. It was miserable out. The course was a lot of fun, but I was not riding well. I could not find any flow. Lap one I missed the trail on a corner. Oops. Lots of people sped by. And then on lap 2, I lost concentration in the rocks while looking up at spectators crossing the course and my bike was stopped instantly by a rock due to my lack of speed. Down I went. Handlebar in the ribs. Wrist on the rock. It knocked the wind out of me. I stopped and had to evaluate if I would continue. Of course I would. I have never quit a race willingly. I forged on, riding a bit better, for a lackluster 12th place. Not how I wanted my day to go, but I was glad it was over and we could head back to the AC in the hotel.

Suffering on the switch back climb.

My friend Tanya, drove 2 hours to watch. It was so good to catch up. She thinks I'm crazy.

Sunday was a new day. I tried to not concentrate on the pain, decided to race regardless and set out to redeem myself. It was hot and humid again, but I reminded myself that it was a short race. I can do anything for 18 minutes and 3 laps. Little did I know they would extend our lap right before our race. Ouch. Another big climb. I had an o.k. start. I followed Georgia who got pinched in the corner, thus I was kind of stuck. But I didn't panic. Eventually the group that was 'stuck' behind a slower rider, watching as the leaders were riding away, got around and started closing in. It was a fight. The entire race. At some point with about 3 to go, I finally made a move and rode into 5th and stayed there. When I was fighting for it, I had to remind myself that I wanted it. I heard Tim's voice in my head, "how bad do you want it?" Well, I wanted it bad. And for the first time at a national mtb series race, I WAS ON THE PODIUM for something other than Super D. I was totally psyched. Granted, my plan was to pack up and bolt directly after the race in order to get back to see my best friend I grew up with before flying out the next day, but heck, waiting for the podium was worth it!!! A very satisfying way to end my mountain bike season. I am opting out of nationals, due to the 8000 ft. altitude in Granby. It was fun last year, but not that fun. I have decided to end my season, chill and get ready for cyclocross. I'll still race, but no getting on a plane until Vegas!

The final move into 5th for good! (photo by Dave McElwaine)

And the most awesome way to end my season. (photo by Dave McElwaine)

Although watching Kayla (my friend Liz's daughter) sheer her goat for the Cannon Valley Fair was fun too! I think her Grandpa Mike did most of the work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nature Valley Grand Prix, June 16-20, 2010

Me, Mary, Michael, Emily & Kristen

Nature Valley GP was a totally different experience than in 2008. Being a part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride made this stage race a totally enjoyable experience. Michael Engleman is an amazing, insightful person with so much knowledge to share and the women involved in this were all aspiring to be better versions of themselves. It was a joy to meet these ladies and ride with them. I entered this race with not just the goal to finish. I wanted to push myself and do the best I could do. As it turned out, I improved immensely from 2 years ago. There is still room for improvement and I have a lot to learn, but dare I say, road racing is not that bad. I really enjoy stage racing and if I can't afford to do it on the dirt, I guess the road is the next best thing! Here is a quick recap of my experience.
Stage 1: St. Paul Time Trial. I had the privilege of getting up at 5:45 to be on T.V. before our 8:30 a.m. start. Granted it was 3:45 Portland time, but duty calls. It was a lot of fun. I did not have my best TT, but with the travel and chaos the day prior, I think my body was in shock. I finished in 45th, so top half, 1'16" down. A rough start.
Stage 2: St. Paul Downtown Criterium. This was one of the fastest crits I have ever raced. I don't recall ever doing such a fast, hard crit in my life. It was so fun. Although with 5 crashes, it kept you on your toes. I was cautious and kept myself safe. I finished with the same time as the leaders, in 38th, moving my GC to 42nd.
Stage 3: Cannon Falls Road Race. As bummed as I was to not race, I understood the officials call. Dangerous weather in the state and area caused the race to be canceled when we were on the line ready to start. I think we were all in shock initially, but it sunk in that we were packing up and going home. No race results on this one.
Stage 4: Minneapolis Uptown Criterium. There was a reported 15,000 spectators at this race. It was a fight from the start, especially since I didn't get into my pedals and was off the back from the gun. I worked my way up, but then got sick of fighting for position. I finished with the same time as the leaders, but back in 51st. My GC did not change.
Stage 5: Menomonie Road Race. With a half hour delay, we were relaxed at the start. This would be our only road race of this stage race. There were 4 of our 6 left and unfortunately after the second hill, I was back to racing alone. I was the only team member that made the cut on that first KOH to finish with the main pack. We were 26" off the winner, but the majority of us were just about together. Somehow I made up 11 seconds to be tied for the cat 2 amateur jersey, so pressure was on for the Stillwater crit. I finished 26th and moved up to 32nd in GC.
Stage 6: Stillwater Criterium. This race is hard. There is no way around it. I don't think you can ever be ready for the pain of climbing Chilkoot hill 13 times. Last time I did this race in 2008, I didn't even last half the race. This year, however, leading my team, I got a call up and started well. I was pulled with 2 to go, but the green jersey was up the road, so I did not give up the fight. I did not obtain that title, but the results for this race were so inaccurate. No matter what lap we were pulled on, if it was the last 5, we got 4'25" down. I was happy I lasted so long, but I need to get more comfortable at taking downhill corners at 100% speed. My final finish was 28th. Last time it was in the 60's. I am faster, stronger and actually had fun. It was an amazing experience to have Michael Engleman as our coach and to be a part of this experience. Thank you once again Nature Valley for sponsoring the pro ride. I should also thank Robin Secrist for being unable to go, because it allowed me to be a part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride. Our host family was great and this experience will be one to remember.

Family dinner post St. Paul Crit.

Post race sillyness

Beautiful sky post storm.

I like this sign!

The ladies on Lake Calhoun.

Had to squeeze in a canoe ride.

The family after Stillwater.

And if you still want more, I had to do a video for the Nature Valley Pro Ride. Here is the link:

Monday, June 14, 2010

6 hours of Mt. Hood = FUN!!!

Although we didn't venture to the cabin this past weekend, we did venture to the dirt. Our weekend was busy, with Tim throwing a team BBQ on Friday evening for his new team, River City/Specialized. I say he threw the party, but you know who did all the work, right? There was quite a crowd here. Nice folks. Tim is happy with his move to that team, so I'll be the supportive wife. Saturday Tim needed to sleep in, so after we finally got moving, we did a road ride, then went to join in the fun at Cirque du Cycling as spectators. This was one thing I didn't need to see:

Since we couldn't just watch bike racing all weekend, we headed up to Ski Bowl for the 6 hours of Mt. Hood race. Tim and I paired up to ride as a team. The course was great, we had sunny skies for most of the day and although a bit windy and chilly when wet and sweaty, it was a perfect day. What day isn't perfect when mountain biking with friends? Even a mechanical on my 3rd lap that rendered my bike unrideable could not wipe the smile off my face. Despite the mechanical issue, Tim and I finished 2nd to Alice and her partner. They were ahead when my bike broke, so it probably didn't make a difference. It is one of those races... anything can happen. Fun was had by all and it was great to see some people racing that I had not seen for a long while.

Tim finishing the final lap. His 6th. We did 11.

Team Butler

Hanging with the ladies.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic: June 3-6, 2010

With rain looming in the forecast, it was an uncertain start to Mt. Hood Cycling Classic on Thursday outside of Trout Lake, WA. We had the cars packed and were ready for whatever mother nature was going to throw at us. I am happy to report that I stayed dry for 3 out of 4 days and the temperatures were agreeable. It was a fun 4 days of racing, hanging at the cabin hosting some friends. Good times. Here is a quick recap of the shorter OBRA event, as only the Pro/1/2 men raced the entire week. We raced Thursday through Sunday.

STAGE 1: Mt. Adams Road Race; 54 miles, 3600 ft. of climbing
Tim and I packed up in the morning and headed east. After registering, we headed to Trout Lake. It had been a while since we had driven towards Mt. Adams. It was great. And the race course was spectacular. Due to late snow, the race organizer had to have the road plowed, so there were sections of very wet snow melt with narrow passageway. There was also a few gravel sections. It was a lot of fun. Towards the end I found myself not in very good position, so I made my way to the front finally and was in position for the sprint. I was on a train, and then the eventual winner made a quick move left and almost took me out. I braked, but still held on for a 3rd place finish in the sprint. It was a good start for the week. Tim finished with the leaders, so he was also on equal ground with his group.

Tim's inaugural race in his new kit!

Stage 1 podium in the rain.

STAGE 2: Scenic Gorge Time Trial; 18.5 miles, 1974 ft. of climbing
Although I had done this TT twice, this would be my first time on a TT bike. And to add to the fun, Josh Berry lent me his disc. I was scared out of my mind initially due to the wind, but once on course, it was amazing. Unfortunately in the starting gate, when I back pedaled, my chain fell off (note to self: do not cross chain and then pedal backwards). I missed my start b/c I was fumbling around trying to get it back on. Maybe 6-7 seconds. And then I had shifting issues. I am not sure why, because it was shifting perfectly before. I guess transport, bike blowing over before the race, etc. It may have tweaked my front deraileur just enough to be a problem. I still had a fairly good race. I ended up 4th, just one tenth of a second off the podium. I was still in third in the GC, so I was not going to sweat it. Tim rode well, but his group is too fast! He didn't place how he wanted to.

STAGE 3: Wy'East Road Race; 71 miles, 8500 ft of climbing
I was a bit dismayed that we had a shortened course, but it was hard enough for sure. We started at the Billy Bob Snow Park off road 44. Our start was delayed by 40 minutes. But when it started, it was game on. It was a brisk race. One initial pee break. Since last year I got lucky, I thought I would try it again. It was windy. I made 3-4 attempts to get away, but no one was going to let me go. With those matches burned, I entered the access road with the lead group but with 1.5 miles to go, those with a few more matches were able to push the pace beyond what my little legs wanted to go. I willed them to go faster. I wanted to stay with the group. But pop goes the Sue. I lost a minute in 1.5 miles to the winner. Luckily, no one in the top 6 were close enough in the overall to threaten my podium position. I did not know that at the time, but I rode as hard as I could. That stage will always be a bit of an ass kicker. Tim hung with the pack until just before the access road exit and then it was all he could do to crawl to the finish. He fought hard.

STAGE 4: Hood River Criterium; 45 minutes of pain!
Before I headed down to Hood River, I had gotten word that the OBRA results were finalized after stage 3. Due to the rain and the slick conditions, they made it optional and the reversed the course. I was pretty torn with the news, but I was racing regardless. I needed practice at crits. And I really like this one. It was my first ever in 2007. Off the gun, I took the lead in order to be safe. I spent a majority of the race on the front, all of it in the top 5. It started raining during our race, there was a crash, but I was in front of it and by the end, only 9 of us finished. My strategy didn't work. I didn't get to the last corner first and I was too far back to contest the sprint and finished 4th. But I was safe, I had fun and I had the best fans on the course! Thanks to those who were there cheering. It is very motivating to hear, "Go Sue. Go Butler!" during the entire race.

Tim right in the mix.

GC leaders got called up. I think I was making fun of what the announcer said about me.

Off the front in the rain. (photo courtesy of Matt Haughey)

Another fantastic shot by Matt Haughey.

Our race dwindled to 9 or so of us. (photo by Maria Patla)

The end of a fun four days!

I went back up to the cabin to spend the night, watch movies, do laundry, clean and then pack up and head out Monday. It was a great weekend. Next up: 6 hours of Mt. Hood and then Nature Valley!