Race For Sight – Windsor, NY – July 19

July 21, 2008


Saturday was a hot and humid one, but NY Bellas Kate and Melissa seemed to handle the heat just fine, finishing the A and B races with 1st and 2nd place women results respectively.  This race is one to generate funds for resources for the seeing-impaired in the area and and the course has been in existence for years.  I raced it the last time in 1994, where I touched wheels with another racer and went down, getting stitches in the back of my hand and swearing to never race there again.  Why I tried it again this year, I’m not exactly sure.  The A course was 38 and the Bs did 27 mostly flat miles.

Melissa and I warmed up with another teacher friend of hers and talked teaching as well as a little about racing strategies.  Melissa also expressed that she was just racing for the idea of fun with no expectations as she is in the middle of her baby-making project this summer and was feeling pretty full of fluids in her gut.  Good to get a little intense exercise in before the next stage of this particular summer event!  

Citizens’ races are such great fun, since there’s plenty of people to work with, you can tuck into the pack of men, and suck wheel if you’re so inclined.  Much more exciting than racing with a handful of women in a licensed upstate NY race.  Both Melissa and I were able to race with others rather than just dangling off the back somewhere alone.

My race with the As was fast and at one moment quite scary, as there was a crash right in front of me – I felt the guy’s drink splashing on my legs as I missed riding over his bouncing bike by a fraction of an inch.  Scheiße!  That’s EXACTLY why I had sworn off this flat race all these years!  There aren’t enough hills to break up the pack.  In any event, once I got over my shot nerves, I was pleased to find that the pace was quite doable for me, and that I saw only once another woman in the front with me, and as soon as we hit the small hills, I never saw her again.  

As in the Owasco Flyer, I rode with the big man, Glen Swan again (and his other homies, Jack R. and Mark S. who are bigshots in their own way…) and this time I made him rub knuckles with me while standing in the street, so that we could get that out of the way ahead of the race and he wouldn’t think I would take him out.  I tried to stay in the top 10-15 people for the whole race and did find myself having to pull now and then, which made the second lap a little less easy for me.  The chase group in which I found myself worked pretty hard until the very last bit – when I asked where exactly the finish was, I was surprised that many of them just seemed to stop pushing as we approached the final climb.  That puzzled me.  I ended up beating a bunch of studs who really should have been ahead of me.  Granted, I could hardly walk when I got off my bike, but that was weird.

My speedskating friend Marcia was there to spectate, and she did a great job cheering Melissa on when she came through the corner in town – naturally the VB jersey made her easy to find.  (Me not so, however.  Marcia thought I might have been in the crash, because she missed me coming by twice – so well tucked in the men’s pack I was!)

Two very sweaty women:


Gold Rush: Alex does Downieville

July 21, 2008

By Alex Fabros
San Luis Obispo, California

Well, let me just start by saying that I’m no Jeannie Longo. I was barely hanging in there for this epic cross country, and I’m four years younger.

Anyway, my drive from San Luis Obispo to the CA Gold Country town of Downieville got progressively smokier, with a really thick pall hanging over the Sierras. That was on Friday, the day prior to the XC. I had a super-fun pre-ride down First Divide trail and cleaned everything, even this one rock step-up that I regularly screw up. My tire choice was perfect and I felt like I had good legs.

On Saturday, the air quality was surprisingly much improved from Friday. It was still uncomfortably hot, and I can’t even say that it was typical Sierra dry heat ’cause it wasn’t, but it was manageable. The number of racers was huge this year – too huge, really, for how the race is started. There were 800 racers divided into Pro/Expert, Sport, and Beginner, starting in 5 min waves. The trail really can’t handle this surge, and it can turn into ridiculous and unsafe passes, especially on the descents.

Back to the start, though. Bellas Heidi and Julie were racing Expert and started at the same time I did. Too bad we hadn’t hired a photographer, as I think we looked pretty good motoring up the initial fire road climb. We stuck together for a while, then I made some headway around some riders, and still the road continued, up, up, up, for 8 miles and 3000+ feet. A bit of a descent, then – guess what – more climbing. Finally it ended, and a new trail, Sunrise, got its debut in the Classic. Sunrise is fun and twisty, but I certainly didn’t make up much time on it. Personally, I think it’d be much more fun to ride rather than race it. After that, the real descending and fun began. I was pretty happy, passing racers and not getting passed myself. I thought I was rockin’ it, but others were REALLY rockin’ it, specifically Heidi and Julie. I’m not sure how far in front of Julie I was on the climb, but I’d been around 10 min ahead of Heidi. As I stopped to tighten my front skewer for the second time (mental note – just replace the damn thing!), just before the final descent on Third Divide trail (about 20-25 min left in the race), Heidi politely inquired if I was all right there on the side of the trail. Dang, she must’ve bombed the baby heads to make up 10 min!! We descended together for a mile or so, kind of tweaked that these Sport guys wouldn’t let us by on the singletrack, and then Heidi did something about it. I closed my eyes as she made a couple of risky passes that would’ve had serious repercussions for her had the passes failed, but they didn’t and she broke free of the traffic jam. I was just not aggro enough to try that, which maybe isn’t the best race attitude, but I’m very injury-averse.

So, I ended up plodding in with a time of 3:04, which got me fourth place, just on the podium (for some reason, the organizers awarded top-four). Julie was right behind me, so she made some time on the descent, as well. I’m not sure why Shannon E couldn’t race, but there were at least three Bellas representin’ (and I saw several former Bellas, as well). And this year, I didn’t have to dash off to get back to work or whatever, so I could finally stick around for the festivities like the river jump (Heidi and Abby Hipley were the only women competitors), the pixie cross, and the Saddle Tramps. Definitely a fun time!

Allie on Podium at MTB Nationals!

July 21, 2008

Allie has done it again. This time she lands an amazing 5th place at Mountain Bike Nationals – Downhill. Check out the pics in Cyclingnews

More updates soon….

Berkeley Bicycle Club Criterium, CA

July 20, 2008



Berkeley Bicycle Club Criterium, CA
1st, April Hamlin, Women 4
3rd, Andrea Monroe, Women 35+

Camp Pendleton International Triathlon, CA

July 19, 2008


Camp Pendleton International Triathlon, CA

3/31, Raja Lahti, Women 30-34
6/8, Whitney DeSpain, Athena Women

Watsonville Criterium, CA

July 19, 2008

Watsonville Criterium, CA
1st, Natasha Perry, Women

My day at the “Mini-Mussel” Triathlon

July 16, 2008

Seneca Lake State Park, Geneva, NY

By Sue Atwood

Ooh, ooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?

Lynyrd Skynyrd, “That Smell”


Let me start by saying that the Musselman has a lot going for it. It has super organization, great volunteers, and good courses. But that smell! I am not one who is usually bothered by natural odors. I actually like the smell of skunk. I can pick up all sorts of animal waste and not think twice about it. I can ride by a farm where liquid manure has been spread and almost enjoy the odor. It just doesn’t bother me (man-made perfume, though – that’s a different story!) I had been warned that the smell at this triathlon was pretty objectionable, but I just didn’t think it would be that bad. Was I ever wrong. It hit me when I first got out of the car at the park and it didn’t go away (of course, we got away from it when we were on the bike course and you didn’t notice it when swimming, but still!) There was lots of time spent setting up and waiting so it did get a little tiresome. But enough of the bad and on with the good!

Fellow Bella Janet (who is mostly responsible for getting me into triathlons), had participated at this venue previously. She decided not to race this year, instead volunteering to help with the running of the race. We were able to carpool together, which made the drive so much more enjoyable for me, considering we left well before daybreak. We drove through substantial fog, but as the morning progressed, the fog started lifting. At one point, as we crested a hill overlooking a valley, I thought the fog below took on the appearance of a lake. Janet (being of Swedish descent) thought it looked like snow. Of course, my camera was stashed in a bag in the trunk, so I wasn’t able to snap a photo. I doubt that the effect would have been the same, at least that’s what I’m telling myself to make me feel better!

Janet and I stayed together through registration which was held off site and which went very smoothly. Upon arriving at the park, she departed to fulfill her volunteer duties and I got my gear set up in transition in record time. Once set up, I made my way to the body marking, where Janet was ready with the permanent marker. We were numbered in five places! Janet included some smiley faces along with the numbers and they drew a couple of comments from fellow athletes. It’s always good for morale!

I had lots and lots of time to debate with myself whether I wanted to wear my wet suit or not. The lake temperature was reported to be 72 degrees, so I didn’t really need it for warmth. It does help with flotation, though, and since I’m not a good swimmer (in fact, I’m a terrible swimmer,) I ultimately decided to wear it. I managed to get a good warm up swim just before the start, something that I need to do to get into the rhythm of breathing and calm my butterflies. Seneca Lake is the second longest of the Finger Lakes(38 miles) but greatest in volume. It is 618 feet deep at its deepest point and has a mean depth of 291 feet. It rarely freezes in the winter. It has waves! Bigger waves than I have ever swum in before. I realized the wet suit was helping me to roll with the waves. I mentally congratulated myself for making a good decision for once.

There was a short pre-race meeting, and then it was time for the first of five waves of swimmers. My wave was the third to start. Once again, I saw Janet as she was helping give a hand to the athletes as we were stepping off the dock into the water. It was good to see her smiling face and her calm demeanor further quelled the uneasiness in my stomach. We quickly waded to deeper water, waited just a couple of minutes and then we were off. Within minutes I had gotten swiped in the face by a wave just as I was breathing in. Uh oh. It was similar to the feeling you have when you get the wind knocked out of you. But I was in the water. I wanted to yell for help from the kayakers, but I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. I also couldn’t raise my hand, because I was busy treading water to stay afloat. Thankfully, my wet suit helped keep me buoyant enough that I was able to cough and sputter and finally get my breath. The entire episode seemed like an eternity, but probably was 1-2 minutes at most. I was able to get back into the rhythm of swimming and managed to make it out of the water in pretty decent shape. As I was running toward the transition area, I heard Janet running beside me, shouting encouragement and reminding me to remember to drink on the bike leg.

My transition to the bike was uneventful but the first couple of miles of the bike leg were very crowded. The first several miles of the bike course are a gradual climb and we had a pretty stiff headwind to boot. It took a lot of mental effort to keep fighting into the wind, but I hoped the tailwind at the far end of the course would make up for it (it did.) About half-way into the course, we turned west and after another mile or two, crested a hill with a beautiful view overlooking the lake. I felt so completely happy and lucky that I am able to participate in something which brings me tremendous joy. It was about this time that I passed three women standing on the side of the course cheering wildly. They each had on grass skirts and I wondered for a minute if our own crazy Bella LiLynn was there. I gave them a good “woo-hooo” as I went by and felt completely stoked!

It seemed I had a pretty clumsy dismount from the bike – probably should practice that a little more. I did hear Janet in the background, again shouting encouragement, but this time I didn’t see her. My transition into running gear went very smoothly and before I knew it I was out on the run course. It was in full sunshine and hot! Did I say hot? I love the heat, but it was hot even by my standards. I had trouble keeping my breathing deep and even. I settled into a pace I figured I could maintain to the end. Lo and behold, I started to feel better and was able to pick up the pace a little for the last mile.

The finish area was lined with spectators for quite a while, which really helped make the last few yards painless. Next thing I knew, I was handed a cowbell with a special mini-mussel finisher paint scheme and a bottle of water, which I desperately needed (even though I *had* remembered to drink on the bike leg!) Janet and I reconnected and after a short rest, we headed out onto the bike course for a little cool-down lap. We returned with plenty of time to change clothes and get to the start of the men’s elite race. My biggest disappointment of the day came when I discovered that the battery in my camera was dead. No photos. Oh well, there’s always next year. It was pretty neat to hear the athletes’ accomplishments introduced over the PA as they made their way down the dock into the water. When the start gun went off, my overwhelming impression was astonishment at how fast they swam! As they neared the completion of their swim, we walked to their transition area so we could watch them. Since none of them wore wet suits, and their bike shoes are already clipped into their pedals, all they had to do was throw down their goggles and swim caps, put on their bike helmet and run to the bike mount line. Our original intention was to watch the start of the women’s race and the end of the men’s race, but by this time both Janet and I were feeling pretty tired and we still had to drive home. We made our way back to the car, loaded up our gear and we were on our way.

Did I mention that it was hot? We stopped a few miles down the road at a donut shop where Janet got an iced coffee and I decided on a strawberry-banana smoothie. I had never had a smoothie from this particular chain before. It was awful! I don’t have the most discerning taste buds, but this was on the verge of being un-drinkable. What a disappointment. All-in-all, I was pretty happy with the results – 8th in my age group. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but hey, that’s all the more incentive to get out and train!

Katina’s latest Off-Road Success!

July 16, 2008

by Katina
Hi Gang!
Great news — I raced yesterday at the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) #5 race in Windham Mountain, NY, located in the picturesque Catskill Mountains and won my age group! Although there were only a total of 30 women expert racers, the 40 and over racers lined up behind the younger gals. I had a good start and was on the wheel of last year’s national champion in my age group (she has since moved into the 50+ age group). We separated ourselves from the other master riders. The course was approximately 4 miles in length and we rode only 2 laps which was fine with me because there was more than 2 miles of climbing per lap and the heat was suffocating at times. The climbing was intermixed with single track and newly constructed wooden bridges covered in chicken wire. I feel off her wheel each time up the climb, but by the time we got to the top of the hill on our second lap, I was only 20 yards back. I knew she was riding the single track smoother than myself, but mentally prepared myself to close down the gap and hang on her wheel through the final descent. I was fortunate not to have any mistakes on the descent and let her take me through the single track. With about 100 yards to go, I came around her for a sprint! It was awesome! Even though she wasn’t in my age group, I knew the quality of rider she was. So, I won my age group and the next woman in my age group came in about 13 minutes back, but I made the podium and am thrilled.
In other news — I also qualified for the U.S. National Championships next weekend in Mt. Snow, Vermont and got to meet some other cool VBs: Allie, a crazy downiller chick from Paterson, NY (maybe NJ?) and Jen, a pro cross country rider from Boulder, CO.
It was a good day!
Not sure if I’m headed to Mt. Snow for the National Championships but will need to make up my mind soon.
 Editor’s note:  YES, since this writing, Katina IS going!

Giv’r Skidoo! National Podium Time for Allie

July 15, 2008

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

wyndam mountain“You want this! Pedal, damnit, you want this!! You’re gonna watch from the sidelines again if you don’t get your ass moving!!! You’re run’s been clean enough to get it, now GO!!”

I wish I could say that this is what I was thinking to myself as I raced toward the finish of the downhill finals at the Windam Resort in NY this Sunday, but it wasn’t.

I was screaming it out loud like a damned maniac as I came out of the second to last wooded section, past mothers and children, past other spectators and probably past someone with just the right type of credentials to diagnose me as a bona-fide loony.

July 1st, 2001, NCS #3 at Deer Valley Resort in UT. That was the last time I stood on the podium at a national for a downhill event. My friend Tammy Pickerell and I took first and second, respectively in our expert class and I said hello to the pro ranks and goodbye to the DH podium. A lot has changed since then. Moves, marriage, houses and other obligations should have kept me from even trying to keep up with the newer, younger more talented racers who kept popping up, but with change comes circumstance, and circumstance can be used to an advantage.

It’s funny what just the right combination of desire, confidence and chance will do. This weekend there were two major gravity races running. One, the Windham national, that seemed to draw racers traveling through to the US Nationals in Vermont next week then on to the Worlds in Canada, and two, the Mountain States Cup in Colorado that drew most of the local racers who also happened to be most of the national racers. So, the racing population of the United States was split which caused our field to be rather small, small enough, in fact to make me think I had a pretty damned good chance of getting on the podium.

I arrived late and didn’t have a chance to walk the course before practice. I took a slow cruiser down and was kinda surprised at just how steep a course could get. There had been very little rain here the past few weeks and all of the dirt was powdery, but the exposed roots and rocks were still grippy. The course went straight down the mountain’s fall line with a few sweeping turns in dry grassy exposed areas that, if a rider stayed low and counterbalanced, shot the bike perfectly into the next wooded section with no braking required. The weather held Friday through Sunday morning’s practice runs, and the course’s iambic pentameter went something like this: Bump bump bump bump skid..bump…WAHOOOOOOOO…bump.bump.bump bump clank bump…YEEEHHAAAA…

That was before the rain came.

Our small pro women’s field ascended the chairlift just as the first drops started to fall. By the time we made our way over to the starting block, it was a steady rain. Twenty minutes before our starting time, the heavens let loose and we ran to the ski patrol hut for cover. What in the hell was the course going to look like now?? No one really spoke too much about it, but Lauren, who had also just moved from CA and I looked at each other, both just a little concerned about what the rain meant for those of us who haven’t ridden mud in a looooong time.

I’ll be honest, once my qualifying run started and I ducked into the woods, where the dirt used to be powdery and predictable, I was shocked. I no longer knew where or when to brake, my tires had a solid layer of muddy silt packed on them and I couldn’t stay clipped in or on my line for anything. As I slid and surfed my way down the steeps spectators heard me asking, “What the hell???”

Once that nonsense was over, I gingerly rode the first grassy sweeping turn and stayed up, but got sucked too low to hit my line in the next wooded section. The next grassy sweeper I tried to carry a little more speed and counterbalance, but went skidding and spinning on my side as I watched the course go by. Thus went the entire run. What a debacle!

At the bottom, Lauren and I exchanged horrified glances that were then shared with the rest of the field. We all slinked off to the bike rinse to wash…everything.

The rain continued through most of the men’s qualifying, but then miraculously stopped. The ladies went up for the last time to race our final. This was it.

In the words of my friend and co-dh racer Alicia Hamilton, “Giv’r Skidoo!!!” What the hell? I’m either gonna podium or come in last with a spectacular crash story. No more of this pussyfooting around in the woods crap. I was hauling in practice, why not now?

I had a good start and it felt like I dove into the first wooded section. The dirt was holding much better than in qualifying and I hit my lines with speed and caution. I hit every line except for one where I came to a near stop after nicking a tree and then my slowdown in the woods where I actually inhaled and started to choke on a glob of mud.

I carried much more speed in the damp woods than I did in qualifying, but not as much as in practice, and then I came to the second to last grassy connector where I wanted to coast. It was here that I realized I needed to take further pro-active action.

I pedaled through the grass and into the last bit of woods before the big chute and double at the finish. I stayed clipped in and pedaled through the gravel at the last sweeping turn. I braked slightly before and in the entrance of the chute and hit the double low and perfectly and jammed on the cranks as soon as I felt my tires hit the earth and on through to the finish.

I knew it wasn’t my fastest run, but I knew it was faster than my qualifier. I heard my time announced and breathed, “YES!” I had taken thirty seconds off of my qualifying time. After all was said and done, I had done well enough for fourth place, just three seconds off of third.

Even though it wasn’t a full field I’d be a liar if I said I’m not still thrilled. I loved every bit of it and I loved racing with the people who were there. I guess that the East Coast is kinda agreeing with me.

On a side note, I had the opportunity to meet quite a few people, one who is an eight-year-old future downhiller. (I just know it, as long as she keeps bugging her dad for that bike) and a woman who approached me and said, “you are so much fun to watch when you race! I just love watching you ride!” She had seen me at Plattekill the past weekend and then here. Something that I had never expected to hear from someone, but was I ever flattered to have her tell me that!

Allie Podiums at MTB #5 – Pro Downhill

July 14, 2008


Allie finished in 4th Place in the Pro Downhill event at the National Mountain Bike Series #5 held on Windham, New York.

Allie’s announcement


Allie’s report

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