Right at this very moment I sit on an airplane to Canada. There is a ton of excitement but also a hint of disappointment. This trip has been planned for quite some time and I’ve spent months preparing for it. I signed up for the BC Stage Race, which many of you know is an awesome 7 day mountain bike race, and decided to make it a focus for racing this year. Unfortunately things aren’t guaranteed and there can be kinks in the plans. On my birthday two weeks before the race I was out with a bunch of friends on a downhill trail clearing table tops and ended up getting too much air and casing my face into another table top. I actually don’t remember anything after leaving my house with my friend Missy until the next morning. The stories I’ve heard from all my friends about my short term memory, not really being coherent, and even forgetting who my roommate was terrifying! Two years ago at the Pisgah Enduro I took a very similar fall and got a concussion then too. I’m sure you all know math well but that’s two in two years. Concussions are serious as most of you have probably heard of the awful stories from football players in the NFL. The first concussion that I got I brushed off and the next day resumed normal life and acted as if it never happened, and actually within a few days was on a plane headed to Colorado with my DST friends for a great week of nonstop biking and beer drinking. This spiraled out of control and I suffered from this for months. I was in denial of actually being seriously hurt, because there was no blood or broken bones to physically stop me and make me rest. Instead I found myself having poor short term memory that left me frustrated and angry at everyone and everything. My work, school, and day-to-day life took a downfall.
My attitude in many ways gets me far in life. I’m driven with every fiber of my body to do as well as I can in everything which helps me in working fulltime, going to grad school, and racing my bike all at the same time. However, it does blind me in many ways and one of them is seeing when it is better to take a time out and that sometimes my plan is not going to work out and that is ok.
This time I woke up at my parents’ house cuddled up with Dale, my redbone coonhound, the morning after the accident with what seemed to be the biggest hangover of my life. What happened? How did I end up here? This can’t be good. My mom in frustration from answering these questions for hours on end throughout the night already without knowing that I had actually snapped out of it brushed me off and told me to go to sleep. Which in turn made me panic and led to a very long moment of trying to really remember what happened. I had no idea and it left me with tears and real questions like what is today? How long have I been at my parents’ house? Why is my jaw in excruciating pain and my mouth filled with bloody ulcers? Within those moments I knew a bike was part of this pain.
Bikes bring me more than enjoyment in life. Bikes introduce me to lifetime friendships, hours of laughter, new places, and endless adventures. The downfall is it is a dangerous sport and the harder you ride the harder you fall. With this fall I knew I had to take it seriously. The last concussion left me in a daze for months because I didn’t take care of myself. This time I slept for days and avoided work, school, and Facebook for the rest of the week. The hardest part in the recovery was sitting down with my friend Steve Rider, who is a neurologist, in his office after hours and realizing I could no longer participate in the BC Bike Race. There was no way I could go to the race and take it easy, and I was not allowed to ride a bike for two weeks leading up to the BC Bike Race.
Luckily everything really does work out for the better. I sit here now on a plane returning home from volunteering at the BC Bike Race and having literally the time of my life. I helped out with Bike transportation where we loaded six hundred bikes on and off semis every day. It required 5am wake up calls but by 7:30 I was usually able to go ride my bike. One day I even got to help out with Media team and drive a Mitsibushi star galaxy van around, hang out with the hilarious Rocky Mountain man Tippey, and cheer on the racers with Sam while he played the Trombone. The week of volunteering was filled with beautiful scenic ferry rides, new friendships, great trail riding, lots of swimming, cheering racers and friends on, some of the best outside sleeping under the stars I’ve ever experienced, and a new appreciation for the hard work behind the scenes of bike races.
The last few days I even got to meet up with Daniel and Shaggy and ride a ton of trails that the race doesn’t cover. We rode a ton of double black diamond trails that I was very cautious on to not wreck which led me to walking when I double thought something. Which if you know me you know that’s a big step to protecting my noggin! After the race Thomas Turner even joined us and we had a great ride in Whistler riding some of the most root filled, rockiest, tight single track I rode all week. On top of it all there was berries, bears, scenic views, and water falls to fill up the rest of the ride.
There’s no way to put in words just how good of time was had volunteering at the BC stage race. It would probably take a book to fill up all the good times that were had and the new appreciation I have developed for what it takes to put on a mountain bike race. The BC stage race is a must to put on your bucket list even if you go and volunteer. The places the bike race take you to are beautiful and they really highlight all the places in British Columbia, Canada. I’m lucky to be able to go back next year and hopefully race my heart out, and even luckier that I have for the most part taken care of myself this time and am feeling normal and ready to get back at it soon.
A big thanks to all my friends and family for being there through a tough time and helping out with the recovery. My short term has gotten tremendously better and I’m able to ride my bike with caution and no jumping. Also a huge thanks to the BC Bike Race for letting me come hang out and help for a week and I can’t wait to be there next year.
The last time I wrote a blog was for the Pisgah Stage race and the first time I write a blog this year is for the Pisgah Stage Race. No it’s not been a year; the date was moved from September to April. A lot has happened in that time period, some racing and a lot of training and recovery from last season. I’ve done a few races from the snake creek gap to 12 hours of Santos. Training has been made easy by Provision Sports and Medicine who I get my coaching through. They understand my targets and they understand that recovery and keeping cycling fun are essential. Provision Sports and Sports Medicine are the big reason and support in allowing me to go to the Pisgah Stage Race, so a big Thank you goes their way.
The Pisgah Stage Race is always a good time and has a big piece of my heart. Three years ago I did the race and was not the rider that I am today by any means. I walked a lot of the single track, I cried once on the trail, and was so sure I was not going to be able to make it to the end of the week, but I did and I got a little tougher. From that point the growth in my mountain biking has grown beyond even my knowing. I used to walk down black mountain in total disbelief that people actually rode that , and I wondered even how people enjoyed it. Now here I am three years later and I actually can’t get enough of Pisgah and mountain biking.
This year I got first in enduro and second overall by less than two minutes after spending most of the week in third. Not only did I get tougher after the first Pisgah Stage Race that I did three years ago but I got a little tougher after this year’s stage race. The fact is whether your first or last place everyone is trying hard and even though I have come a long way in three years I still find myself suffering and pushing through walls all the time.
The first few days of the stage race were not only hard but with the muddy rainy conditions it made it that much harder. There were a lot of gravel roads that Ally and Sarah were stronger than me on. It felt like everyday if I just had ten more miles of single track I could have done it but really who knows, because they are some strong ladies.
Everyday though I pushed myself up the gravel climbs as fast as I could and imagined that they were right around the corner and even though I didn’t see them they were just a minute away. It worked well and I was able to finish within reach of second place every day. The fourth day though was all mine, it consists of my favorite trails in Pisgah: squirrel, laurel, and pilot. I was able to stay with Ally and Sarah on the first gravel road and was able to get in front for the rest of the day and gap them even more on the enduro.
By the end of the stage I had taken second overall.
The last Pisgah Stage Race I was stronger than my competition Clair Garcia on the gravel and she killed me on the single track. This year my competition was stronger on the gravel and I killed them on the single track. Each race brings different challenges and it is all about fighting through them and making you stronger along the way. It’s easy to give up and give in when it is not going your way but if you keep pushing yourself through all the hard moments, the bad thoughts, and everything else that is holding yourself back you’ll find you are actually stronger than you think and you can accomplish more than you could ever even dream up. It keeps life exciting and I can’t wait till my next race and my next battle! Till then Cheers!
First of all I need to give a big huge Thank You to the sponsors that allowed me to be able to race this season as much as I did. Provision Sports in Knoxville has gone above and beyond helping me through coaching, being there when I need advice, and making me faster and stronger every time I get on the bike. Tennessee Valley Bikes, especially Scott, for staying on top of my bike maintenance week by week and allowing me to not have to deal with any mechanicals. Kona Bikes for providing me with a race machine that does downhill, cross country, dual slalom, and every style of biking out there. The Kona Hei Hei Supreme is everything I need for racing mountain bikes. TVB Race and all its sponsors. Tomato Head for fueling my machine with delicious grub, Three Bears coffee for the
finest caffeine. Vick Dyer for helping Scott and I buy a house last year and Three Rivers Market for all the great food. Also, thanks to Savory Sweet Truck for feeding me after Tuesday Night Dirty South rides. Also last but not least AMBC. I am a very lucky girl to be part of a club that builds awesome trails through out Knoxville that provide some of the best training hours for myself.
It’s been a few weeks since my last mountain bike race, USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships at Beech Mountain, and I’ve been able to take some time to recover and have had a couple weekends at home being lazy and having time with the dog. This year was by far the most intense race schedule I have ever had. Yes I have only been racing for a few years but still I think it would be intense for anyone. It was 9 weeks of racing and 26 individual races. Shenandoah kicked it off and Beech Mountain was the finale. I think my race schedule was one weekend too long because if you have heard about my experience at nationals it was not my best performance by a long shot. However, I ended this season as the best season yet. I won a lot of races, got to ride downhill this year, got second at Monster Cross, won the Pisgah Stage Race, got third in the Queen of Pisgah Series, got third at Shenandoah, won the individual omnium for the SECCC conference, and came home with 6 medals from nationals. I am very happy to say the least. In the past four or so years since I first picked up a bike a lot has changed but my love from day one for the bike is still the same and I am sure that is why I continue to improve.
Since the last blog post, the first race I did was the Pisgah Stage Race. I have no idea why I even really signed up for it and what motivated me to do it, but I am glad I did. I had a collegiate race at Union the weekend before where I competed in the short track, XC, downhill, and Mountain Cross. For the most part I did not feel all that exhausted from it and was able to make the transition to the Pisgah Stage race fairly smoothly. The first day I didn’t really know who my competition was or who all was in the women’s field. I had spent the night before writing a ten page paper for school and had not put a lot of thought into the goals of the week. I really just wanted to make it through the first day and then sort it out afterwards. I started off in the front feeling pretty strong, probably because I had been doing so many XC races, and was able to stay on the front. At around hour two, though, we went up Horse Cove from Squirrel Gap to Funnel Top and I probably should have been riding it but I chose the hiking option. This is where I met my competition, the lady from Australia. I heard a rider back and there she was riding her bike on what I had been hiking. I smiled and gave her a “good job” compliment. I tried not to look scared but I was. I hopped on the bike and refused to let her wheel go. We popped out at Funnel Top and it hit an uphill so I took the pass because she was slowing up. However, she continued to stay on my wheel for all of Funnel Top and then for the long climb up to Buckhorn Gap. We then had to hike over Black Mountain and I knew that I did not want her to be near me at this point. I took off on the last part of the climb and dug deep and she popped off my wheel. This gave me an extra push and even though it was just a minute lead,I knew that mentally it was hurtful to her and encouraging for me (mostly because that has happened to me a lot!). I started up Black Mountain and hike a biked like a mad woman. It’s crazy to think that two years ago, hiking up Black Mountain with Scott, I completely came unraveled and was on the brink of tears yelling to Scott that I wasn’t a hiker I was a mountain biker. (It’s a miracle Scott ever took me back after all that complaining, and it’s crazy just how much my feelings about what mountain biking have changed since that day).
Back to the story though. I could hear her for the most part below me hiking and I just kept pushing faster. I was at the top before I even realized and started the descent down. I love the descent down Black mountain more than almost any other trail. It’s a testimony for just how far I have come. I used to walk down the whole descent and now I ride the whole thing with never putting a foot down. Black Mountain was the enduro for this stage and to be honest I wanted to win it very badly. However, I just had killed myself on that HAB and I was in survival mode to the bottom. My arms, brain, legs, and feet had enough and were just waiting on the finish line. I finished the first day in first place in open women with a huge smile. I did not think that it was a possibility and could not have been more happy at that moment. At the same time though it made me want first more than ever and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
The whole week ended up about the same way. Killing myself on the climbs and staying smooth and steady on the descents trying to recover at the same time. The Australian was always within a few minutes of me and she was actually a faster descender than me on 4 out of 5 of the enduros. Not to brag on myself but I am good at going downhill and I actually thought going into this race that I would make time up on the descents not the climbs. Wrong! She is a badass! The last day was probably my favorite day though, and no, it’s not because it was the last day! It’s a better reason than that! It was my favorite because I had the best run down Farlow Gap I have ever had and it may end up being my best ever! The funny thing is I dreaded this stage more than ever because I knew she was faster going down hill and Farlow could really give her an advantage.
One of my favorite women, Brenda Simril, was at the stage race competing with Lee in the duo category. On the way up the gravel climb to Farlow I knew that I wanted to be behind them going down Farlow. First Brenda can handle a bike better than most men, and second they both have ridden Farlow more than me. I hopped on their wheel and told them that I was just going to try and stay on their wheels down Farlow as far as possible. We started the descent and this is where I fell deeper into love with my Hei Hei and the Reverb seat post dropper. We ended up clearing it down to the second creek crossing. Which is literally the whole first part of Farlow. I usually end up getting caught in huge rocks, lose momentum, and have to get off and walk. Not today! It was great to yell to so many guys hiking to watch out, two ladies coming by, and yes we passed ALOT of hikers! By the time we got all the way down Farlow I couldn’t stop smiling. I even fell slightly in love with the Simrils (I hope that’s not creepy, because there are no creepy intentions) because we cleaned so much together. The three of us smiled and laughed about how great that was and I swear I was beyond ecstatic and could have died happy at that moment! It’s weird yes, but after racing five days to my max and having the most fun on the part that I dreaded the worst will make me feel that way! Of course there was still a 7 mile climb to Bracken Mountain where there was, luckily, whiskey at the top, because I had now reached an all time low of the race. I no longer was the happiest person in the world. I was done, and I was mad that the race didn’t end on Farlow and very resentful actually that I had to do that turd of a climb after having so much fun. Hah! I was on an emotional roller coaster! That is what stage races do to you.
I finished first in the Women’s open, and second in the women’s open enduro. I had one of the best weeks of my life. My friend Zirkle from Knoxville had just retired and I convinced him it was now or never if he wanted to do the stage race and got him to tag a long. We had a blast and made new, inspiring friends from California, who were on a team called F*c* Cancer, because one of the guys was in the process of fighting leukemia yet had the biggest smile of anyone out there. We got to hang out with the Simrils, Betty, and Henry who were a blast, drink good beer, eat even better food, ride our bikes everyday in one of the prettiest places in the world, and have the best times ever. What more could you want? Not much! That’s why the Pisgah Stage Race was so effing awesome and I plan to do more stage racing next year!
The week after the stage race was another collegiate race where I won my first dual slalom race, and won the XC and short track after some tough battling with the Brevard girls. My legs were definitely sore from the stage race but I still had a great weekend.
The next weekend, if my memory serves me right, was the SECCC Championship Races. At this point I was second in the conference because of missing a race, but if I was able to beat the first place girl the conference title would be mine. Conference was held at Lees McRae college, and in my opinion served up the best course of the year. They had a little bit of everything from gravel climbs to super technical descents. A great short track course that utilized a piece of muddy single track and a creek crossing as well. Then the dual slalom course, even though shorter and a little wider then other courses, was downright mud fun at its best. Finally, of course, the downhill was by far the muddiest, most technical, rockiest, steepest, and funnest of the year.
First was the XC race bright and early on Saturday. I pre-rode the course the day before and despite the rain it did not seem muddy. However at the start of the race the rain came down and it came down hard. My choice to not put mud tires on was a bad choice. The course was muddy and started with about a mile of uphill, wide singletrack to a gravel road before entering into the single track. Allison from Brevard and I battled up the climb and I ended up second going into the single track. After a sharp corner in the single track I took the pass and was able to put some time down. I would say this course was everything that I love in MTBing. It had short steep climbs, with sharp corners, roots, rocks, and a bomber downhill that was very hard to get through. I starting catching the Men’s riders the first lap and didn’t really have any problems passing. I made it through the rock garden perfectly and was able to have a good lead by the end of the first lap. The second lap went about the same as the first but as I entered the rock garden a male rider was in front of me and I informed him that I was back so that if he wasn’t able to ride it he should get out of the way. Needless to say he stopped right in front of me causing me to try and squeeze by a with horrific line and ultimately I ended up riding my top tube. This was very uncomfortable even if I’m not a dude. I popped out of the single track and climbed the gravel road just thinking about how I had one more lap and the pain would be over. The third lap was great until Cory, my teammate caught me, and while letting him take the pass we collided full force and I threw him down the bank into the woods. Because I had not seen my competitors in a while I helped Cory up and sent him on his way. This cost us both some minutes but really it was quite funny afterwards. Either way I ended up first in the XC.
It was a great weekend of racing and I was able to come home with the SECCC individual omnium title and Cory also was able to secure his spot in first. It’s the first year that King University had a mountain bike team and not just me as an individual racer. Also we had a new coach that really pushed us in mountain biking. I think personally by having a team to travel with and a coach to support me and my teammates made us stronger and gave me the opportunity to travel to so many races and win the SECCC individual omnium. For that I’m extremely thankful.
After conference I raced Double Dare, which in hindsight was not smart right before nationals, so that I could secure my third place position in the Queen of Pisgah Series. I usually partner up with Scott but because I wanted to take it easy with nationals coming up I thought he should get a partner who would want to take it a little bit more seriously. I was able to convince my friend Rachel to partner with me. We were in it to win it, for “fun” that is. The thing about Double Dare is that just finishing with the minimum is super difficult and tiring. We hiked a ton and climbed so much. We finished though with smiles and we are still able to laugh about that weekend which is really the goal anyways.
Next up Nationals! The weekend I had been waiting on for months. After having such a competitive year I felt ready, and I wanted some medals. Unfortunately my body thought otherwise. The first race I competed in was the short track on Friday which went straight up the mountain and then took a left and descended down to the start again. I would say this was not the race I wanted to win but of course I wanted to podium. We took off and I felt great the first lap and actually ended up coming around in first place. After that things slowly fell apart. I am very good at pacing myself and that usually is not a problem, but after getting passed by the Brevard girls and then an Air Force lady I thought I must have just pushed it too hard, and I did not have a small enough gear to “spin it to win it”. I settled in at fourth and after finishing I realized it was more than just pace and over gearing; I wasn’t breathing. Asthma sucks!
I have had asthma for over half my life and with the help of a terrific doctor, Dr. Mejia, I keep it under raps and under control 98% of the time. Whether it was the leaves, getting sick, or even just exhaustion I don’t know but all I know is that my lungs gave up right then and there. I’ve always been embarrassed by this sickness because as an athlete I hear all the time that my inhaler gives me an unfair advantage and other stuff that is completely rude from people who obviously have no incite or understanding about asthma. When my throat closes up and fills with mucus the last thing I think is thank goodness I have asthma because my inhaler really helps me. Or when I can’t walk down my drive way with out getting out of breath, do I think having asthma really helps me as an athlete. Either way enough ranting to those people.
My doctor was able to keep me healthy enough for the weekend to compete but it was no where near my normal. I watched the girls that I competed all year with ride away with no ability to keep up. I even quit for a moment after lap two of the cross country race because of a broken heart and aggravation with my lungs. I wanted so badly to be able to make my lungs work but they wouldn’t. It is unexplainable to people that don’t have asthma, but there is something totally different about being out of breath because you are riding hard and being out of breath because your lungs are closing up. Allison from Warren Wilson caught up to me as I was standing off the side of the course and yelled some encouragement and I realized quitting was not for me today. I needed to finish even if it was not my fastest. I had to walk up some of the climb, which if you know me is something on a normal day I refuse to do, and even pull back on the descents so I could rest more. I finished 6th which in my mind is not my best but at the end of the day is a great position.
I shed some tears after the race, not a lot, but a few in frustration with my self and then geared up for the downhill. I got 4th in the downhill which was very exciting and then I got fourth in dual slalom after having third secured but losing my pedal in the last corner costing me my position (bummer!). The gravity results secured me 2nd in individual omnium at Collegiate Nationals. I would be going home with a silver medal! Woo hoo!
Then team relay, which is a 4 lap race with at least two team members and one has to be female. Most teams have 4 members so that they can maximize each lap. Cory and I were the only ones from our team competing and had to do two laps each. First was a long shot but we both killed ourselves and I deflated my lungs of every last breath knowing this was our last race of the weekend. We got second! We killed it even with two people and it was awesome!
I came home from nationals with 6 medals and am very happy and thankful for that. The thing I am most thankful for though is the support crew that came out to cheer us on. My parents, Scott, Anna, Coach Joe and his lovely wife Alex, Daniel and Perry Sanders, Emily (King’s cycling mom), and of course coach Allen. They came out for both days of nationals and stood out in the cold. They even ran up the hill cheering encouragements. During the XC Race there is no way I would have finished with out them there. It seems silly to say that but having them there, making me smile through the pain, really pushed me through to that finish line. Encouraging words go along way!
I’m currently still working full time and going to school full time (If anyone wants to pay me to ride my bike I’m taking offers:)!! ). Therefore my week after the stage race has been spent catching up on life and not my blog! 😦 This weekend though I will make it happen! Sorry for the delay!
In the past few weeks I went from racing 100 miles at Shenandoah to racing 25 miles at my first MTB Collegiate race of the year and now 70 miles at Monster Cross. They all had great endings and were equally hard.
Shenandoah started off with a bang! Literally my alarm was a gong going off at 5 A.M. It was a muggy weekend and Scott and I slept in the van. We ended up keeping the door open on the van and battled the bugs because the heat was unbearable. Fortunately it seemed to have cooled up. I battled for my spot in the port-o-let line, drank a bunch of coffee, got dressed, got on the bike, and lined up for the race all before sunrise.
I got a good starting position and battled my way through the start on the road section. I knew from last year that getting into the single track in a good position was necessary. The bad thing about having the road as the start is that “roadies” get in front of you because yes they are stronger, but not necessary stronger at getting over rocks as fast you. There was a little bit of this battle, but for the most part I gave the person in front of me enough room to dab and get out of my way if need be.
Everything ended up running smoothly for the most part. I got a little bogged down on the descents, but there was nothing I could really do about that. I can’t expect everyone to have my thrill for speed right? I do wish they’d get the eff out of my way though! 🙂 I thought a lot before passing but then I really was about to run the guy over, so I asked for the pass and took it. Shit! Is my tire flat??? Yes!! Go figure! Bad karma instantly comes to my mind.
I get off and immediately decide to put a tube in and not worry about it! Wait! Where is my seat bag? Not on my bike I’ll tell you that much! So dumb founded I start pumping air into my tire with my hand pump and waited til I saw someone that would help me. Scott wasn’t far behind so I forced him to pull over on the fun descent that he was doing well on and help me! Thank you Scott!! It turns out I left my saddle bag in the car. It never made it on to the bike! That’s a major “My Bad” moment! You live and you learn.. Right!? I’m sure I won’t make that mistake again though!
The rest of the race went off with out a hitch! I climbed strong, was able to actually draft with a group of guys on the road section (which I have never gotten that lucky before) and was at the finish before I knew it. Don’t get me wrong in a hundred miles there was a lot of suffering and back and forth nausea, but it’s always good in those moments to suffer through, smile even when it’s not fun, and even laugh at how ridiculous you are for doing this heinous race. It makes the time go by faster if you try to ignore your pain. 🙂
I ended up shaving twenty minutes off my time, I got to beat Scott for another year at Shenandoah, and got to STAND ON THE PODIUM BOX!! THIRD PLACE WOO HOO!!! Going into Shenandoah this year I just wanted to do as good as I did last year time wise and if it put me in the top five again that would be great, so to do better in both aspects I was beyond tickled.
^^^^^Above is a link to the Kaysee & Scott show by Thom Parsons
After Shenandoah Scott an I went to Delaware to spend time with his mom and some of her nursing friends from Grad school. It was four days of catching up on school work, beach drinks, lots of smiles, casual bike riding, and pure relaxation! then we were on our way back to Johnson City, TN where I had my first collegiate race of the year at ETSU. Scott dropped me off Saturday morning at 7 and then he was off to Knoxville to work at the bike shop. First on the agenda for the day was the down hill. Cory Rimmer, my teammate at King, and I pre rode the course with no faults. Well except the fact I almost chickened out on the tiniest of rock drops after watching people crash. When we did the actual downhill race runs though Cory took three hard spills, and I slid out in the same section on both runs. The trails ended up being really wet and I would say all racers probably went down at one point during the course. The results aren’t posted, so we still don’t know how we did.
The second part of the day was the short track race in a field with a jump over a bike length’s of a ditch as a faster line in the race. During practice I watched at least five girls and many more men eat it. Literally their faces went into the ground after not pulling up enough and their front wheel diving down. I’m the type of person that I will ride almost anything with no second thoughts as long as no one is in front of me, or the person in front of me rides it. However, if I sit there and watch people taste the dirt I’m going to start second guessing myself. I followed LMC racer Cody Phillips into the jump during practice. Landed it fine, but the nose felt heavy on the ground. In my mind I barely made it. It was time to kit up for the race, and I had decided it was not worth getting hurt over a tiny jump I was going to do the ride around in the race.
Cory and I warmed up together, and I let him hear all about my not wanting to race the short track. Racing 25 minutes in a field did not seem appealing after having done Shenandoah six days before. I was afraid my legs would have no idea how to go that hard that fast. Then on top of that the jump had my head in a foggy mess. Why couldn’t I just ride it? Cory being the good teammate he is called my bullshit and told me we were going to do the jump right now ( his words were: All I’m hearing from you right now is your negativity Kaysee I know you have done way worse then that ), so we took off and I followed him right into the jump (this time actually putting an effort in pulling my front wheel up) and landed it perfectly with room to spare. My excitement over took me. I let out my southern woot!! Then was off to line up for the short track with a 100 % more confidence. A big thank you Cory!
My coach, Alan Sparks, told me at the line that I should take the starting right hand corner “tight”! Of course was my thought! We were off! I thought I should just try really hard to get out in front before the jump in case their is a girl that goes down, and that’s exactly what I did. I clipped in immediately and at mock speed the corner with a “close to knee dragging ground” lean. My coach and Cory told me afterwards they both had to look away they were sure I was about to go down! No worries guys! I got this! haha I put a big gap between me and second place and was able to hold it for the full race. The jump made the race phone for me and I finished first with a 40 sec gap! 🙂
Next was four cross. I have never participated in this in my life. I even kept my saddle raised high because I was too tired to worry about it. Also I have never dealt with a “gate” start. I stumbled around in the qualifying lap before spending some time practicing it. Lindsey Wilson College has a group of serious BMX ladies that showed the rest of us how it is we are supposed to ride our bikes. Oh and that my MTB is not the best bike for a BMX track! haha 🙂 I ended up getting 7th which was enough to get some points! Yaay! It’s so great to see so many ladies my age and younger out there riding all types of disciplines in biking and killing it.
Sunday morning was the Cross country race and fortunately the heat was gone and it was perfect racing weather. The ground was slick, and I knew going in that smooth was going to be fast. ETSU has a 6 mile loop that has steep climbs, tons of roots, and tech features that keep you busy. Saturday was a long day and I could feel it laying heavy on me Sunday. I knew though that Sarah Hill from Brevard had participated in all the activities the day before and I knew she was going to be the toughest competition of the day. Sarah is strong and she handles her bike as good or better than me. Getting in the woods first and getting away was my strategy. It worked well and I took the lead immediately and held on to it till the finish. Being off the front it’s hard to know if they are twenty seconds back or minutes back, and I found myself pushing it one minute and the next I felt myself settling in. Either way I finished first with some minutes to spare. I’m very happy with how the weekend went, and I look forward to more race weekends for collegiate. It’s always such a great atmosphere of racers that are competing against each other but are also very encouraging to one another whether we are on the same team or not.
Now to Monster Cross and all its hurting. I chose to ride my road bike, the Kona Zone 2, I felt that it was a more challenging ride, but I have really been enjoying riding the road bike on gravel roads in the past couple of weeks. Plus in Monster Cross half of the mileage is on the road. I started in the front this year with a great start. Last year I really had a hard time staying with the group on the road without running completely out of breath. This year I was able to stick with the front pack with ease and hit the first gravel climb with good speed. I’m not sure if I was in the front at this point or if Carey was actually in front of me and I just never saw her pull over and get the flat, and to be honest I thought she was in front of me because she is a beast and that was just my assumption. However when Scott caught me on the descent of the first gravel road he told me I was first and the excitement level spiked. Also the anxiety heightened! how am I going to maintain this for 60 more miles.
The gravel climbs at the beginning were not so bad and descents were fun on the Zone 2. I found myself intermingling with a lot of my friends at the beginning of the race. Back and forth with Scott Smith, Chris Joice, and Daniel Sanders helped me to keep a good pace. The climb up to from North Mills to the parkway was great, but once you get to the parkway it just becomes relentless for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles! Ah Stop!
For me I always suffer so much on races like this, meaning no single track, my brain stops working and I just want to be done I’m not having fun. However this year I have gotten good at wanting to suffer even on the gravel and road. Having the new Kona Zone 2 has really changed that for me. It is comfortable and having a road bike on a gravel descent just makes it a little bit more challenging and I like that! haha Going up the parkway I tried to keep my brain from sucking all my energy and motivation out of me. I tried not to let people pass me without trying to stick with them or keep them within sight and then on the flats/descents I would try to work with as many people as I could. I tried actually racing smart instead of just suffering and hating life till the finish. Also being on the parkway you get some of the most spectacular views and that helped my legs to loosen up.
I knew Carey was chasing me and I wondered just how long I could keep her off my trail, but towards the end of the parkway she caught me. We exchanged some smiles and kind words and went back to racing. She put in a hard effort but my road gearing became some trouble at this point with my legs getting tired I definitely wanted to have a smaller gear to spin. I at least tried to keep her in sight because I knew from the profile that the climb was almost done and on the descent I could catch her within reason. I could even see Carey catch Scott and wondered what they were discussing and how Scott was feeling. I ended up passing Scott pretty fast on a flat before the descent with my gears vs his single speed. I gave him a reassuring smile and woot, but I didn’t want to chat in case there was a chance I could catch Carey. I was right I descended the parkway possibly too fast passing some men on my way down and caught Carey right before we got to the left turn at the last aid station. Everyone stopped except Carey and I there was no way I was going to stop this close to the finish with having her right there. I took a few big pedal strokes and we decided to work together and see what happens at the end in case Brenda was catching us. This worked for like 10 minutes then Carey spun away from me. My legs were shot and they were not having that road gearing anymore on the steep climbs. We were close to the end and Carey gave me some encouraging words and all I could do was laugh because I did not have it anymore. There was hope I would be able to catch her again on the descent or the last bit of road section but it never happened. She won by a minute and a half. Which I have never finished that close to Carey in my life and when starting Monster Cross I did not think that this would be the race it would happen, actually I would say this would be the last race this was possible at. I surprised my self and finished with the biggest smile ever. Plus the rain held off for me to finish and I couldn’t be happier about that!
A big humongous shout out to Tennessee Valley Bicycles for always upgrading my bike for the better. I’m not always the most knowledgeable on what is needed for my bikes but Scott stays on top of it for me! I ended up getting a new rock shock fork and upgraded from 100mm of travel to 120mm travel and now I am in squishy heaven! Also for monster cross I got to run my Kona Zone two carbon road bike with cross tires because Kona is awesome enough to know that road racing bikes need the option to run wide tires! Thank you Kona!
ORAMM! WOW! That’s all got to say. Well only part of what I have to say really. I feel great about my performance and my personal improvement from last year is tremendous, 48 minutes faster tremendous! This was able to get me third in the Open women with being 15 minutes off first place, and then first in the Enduro (Which I Crushed, killed, and all of the above) with my best run down heartbreak ever! My only disappointment is that the camera guy wasn’t at the bottom of heartbreak to capture me cleaning the bottom section to redeem the photos that he took of me at the Pisgah Enduro completely eating it!
ORAMM is officially the first race of this season for me. I took almost 6 weeks off of racing after Transylvania to get ready for September and everything that happens after that. It is one of the best decisions I have made is to rest for a little while and just enjoy some non racing rides on my bike. I was able to spend a week in Colorado with friends riding, and I’ve spent many hours and miles on my new Kona Zone Two Road Bike. Which believe it or not has been a lot of fun.
At the start of ORAMM I certainly felt the nervous jitters of not knowing how the day was going to go. I really wanted to put in a better time then last year, but I felt like last year was a great year for me and in my mind it seemed hard to beat. Also I had spent Saturday baking in the sun at the ORV road race volunteering then driving to North Carolina that night and not getting a good nights sleep. I just wasn’t sure how lively and robust I was going to feel. Which I actually ended up feeling great!
It’s no secret that gravel roads are not my fortay when it comes to MTBing, but I think knowing how much road and gravel there was going to be I mentally was prepared and did well. The race starts off climbing up a greenway style road from Old Fort to the start of Kitsuma trail. Kitsuma starts with a steep climb that has switch back after switch back. The biggest problem is at this stage of the race people that are great road climbers are in front of you walking because they are maybe not as good as you are on the single track. It’s all good though. I think everyone expects a little bit of a back up at this point. I got up the trail fairly well and actually passed some stragglers in front of me and had a great descent until I hit a pack of guys. The unfortunate thing about MTBing is that people are forceful and expectant of letting you pass them if they are behind you on the uphill, but when it comes to descending they would rather cause a jam of people. I have learned to expect it and it doesn’t bother me that much anymore, but for all those that are new to experiencing it you best get used to it!
After kitsuma there is the climb up Heartbreak ridge to the star gap descent. All this went more then smoothly for me. I was able to get in a good spot on the uphill for the descent and only spent the last few seconds being jammed up. At this point there is no more descending till you get to Heartbreak the second time around. Tons of gravel rolling climbs and descents all the way to where Curtis Creek Climb starts. This is where it pitches up and becomes relentless. Last year I remember passing a lot of people on this climb, and I wanted to do the same thing this year. I wanted to even see some improvement. The first 1/2 mile I ended up getting passed and I could feel my brain start going to it’s dark gravel part of the brain.
I ended up taking a deep breath, started thinking about purely making it to heartbreak as soon as I could. Before I knew it I started passing people again and was at the parkway in no time. Unfortunately when you make it to the parkway you still have a lot of climbing to go. I ended up riding with a guy and we both took turns pulling at a good pace. We passed over 10 others. Before we got to heartbreak I had decided that I was going to race the enduro. It is like I got a second wind or something because the hike up to Heartbreak I got in front of the other guy and put the bike on my back and hiked away from him. That way I didn’t have to worry about getting around him on the descent. When the descent started it was pure bliss.
The last time I did heartbreak was at the Pisgah Enduro and I wish I could have rode the Pisgah enduro as fast as I was at ORAMM. It didn’t even feel like the same descent. Maybe having done all that gravel and road climbing my bike and I were ready for some fun. All the guys in front of my would let me pass pretty fast. I think having the I9 hubs buzzing up on you fast will force you over. There are two big kickers on heartbreak that are hard to climb so I climbed as far as I could before getting off and running up the rest. My heart rate had to be well close to 200 and I honestly had not given that sort of effort at all during ORAMM. I was determined to get that win on the enduro section.
The whole way down heartbreak passing all those guys was for sure one of that happiest moments of my life. Then to top it off I cleared the bottom section like a champ. When I crossed the enduro finish I knew I won. Blue Ridge Adventures wanted me to wait a couple of days though before I really would know. This made the news even more exciting because all day on Monday I kept telling myself I could have just been behind a ton of slow men and it just made me feel fast. No! I was first by a long shot, 6:33 to be exact. Also to top it off out of over 400 riders I ended up getting 7th overall. I beat Scott by over a minute, which he is the person I always try to just hang onto on the descents. Needless to say I had a great run this day. Did I mention I didn’t even have a seat post dropper this time! I did miss it though!
After Heartbreak the race is not over there is still another gravel climb back to Kitsuma, where you have to climb all the way back up. It’s always the hardest part for me. You know you are slower the second time around and you don’t even have people in front of you getting in the way to blame it on. I had given everything I had on Heartbreak so I was in survival mode to the finish were I finished with a time of 6:12. Woo Hoo!! 3rd in the Open Women category!
The biggest thing that helped me at this race is to ditch the Wingnut. I personally cannot stand using it anymore. I have given it more then enough chances to love it, but I hate it ALOT! I think a lot of it has to do with I am not big enough to wear it so it just slings all over my body and I’m constantly having a battle with it. Instead I have been using an undershirt with a bladder pocket sewed on. It makes me look like I grew a hunch back but the comfort level is tremendously different.
Also my Nox Composites wheels are one of my favorite things on the bike right now. The stiffness is incredible. I can take turns without feeling the wheels flex in, and just even being able to ride over rocks, drops, and roots like there is nothing there is simply amazing!
So what’s so fun about all of this!? First off, the descent down Heartbreak put a smile on my face for days. Second, it makes your beer taste at least 50% better after you finish. Lastly, the endorphins last for 48 hours. You can’t get that from an elliptical or a Sunday filled with watching football or Nascar. Trust me!
Day five after not racing and I am just now starting to get back into the flow of working and walking again. Yes walking! I’m sure you have heard that not only was the Transylvania Epic a hard seven days of mountain biking but it also made sure to go out with a bang and many of us ended up with stomach bugs that were crippling to say the least. I still have not ridden my bike since the stage race and have barely gotten any unpacking done. The fact that I have been able to feed myself (besides the time my parents drove up from Morristown to give Scott and I chicken noodle soup), make it to work most days, and feed my dog has been a win in itself.
The Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race was a first for me this year and of course I am beyond excited that I entered it. (Even if I did decide to do some heinous racing in Pisgah less than a week before! Which speaking of needs a blog of its own and will be posted shortly after this. I need more time!!) I was competing in the U25 category which ended up being one of the most competitive categories in the whole race. I raced Emily Shields from the BMC Dirt Project and Ellen Noble from the Trek Bear Development Team. Both are very strong girls and honestly going into the race were the picks to win the U25 category. As Vicki Barclay said one day, I definitely came in as the underdog and to do as well as I did I’m super excited. Of course number one would have been better, but Emily had it this week and she killed it! Go Emily!
The week started off with a time trial. Not sure why, but yes a 15 mile TT to start your epic week of mtbing. Luckily though it gave me plenty of time to settle in on Sunday after having to work Monday through Friday, trying to unpack from the Pisgah weekend, try to pack for a whole week in Pennsylvania and arrive at campsite on Saturday at 11 p.m. Scott and I found a spot right on top of a hill to set camp, which ended up making days seem longer while having to make that last climb up to camp.
Because my bike is so small it doesn’t fit a bottle cage. So, I started the race with a bottle in my jersey pocket. However within the first thirty seconds of riding on the TT course I ditched it! I really could not handle the jiggle and jangle that was occurring on my back. I figured 15 miles, who needs water anyways. ME!!!! I need water and within the first five miles. It was hot and in the time trial you have no idea how you are doing comparatively to the others because you all go off at different times, so I just kept trying harder but then stopping myself because I knew the next days I would need a lot of energy. Either way I recommend to never ditch water in a summer race no matter what.
Ellen won the TT race and I was second by 25 seconds and Emily was third. The next day was a forty-two mile MTB race that ended up probably being one of the best days of the event but my body did not think so. I am not sure if all those hours in Pisgah the weekend before still had me depleted or what but I was feeling sluggish. Emily took the lead pretty instantly on the gravel road and I ended up sitting in with a group of three guys til we hit the single track and ended up passing them and started off feeling great through the rocky single track.
I love technical single track. I am not sure what happens to my mind but put me on single-track and my mind instantly starts focusing on what is the best line and pedaling fast but smooth. However put me back on a gravel road and I instantly pick a small gear and try to just spin it out. I defiantly found out this past week that the gravel roads are mentally my toughest challenge in races and it is something that I need to work on. Emily stayed in the lead for most of the day but then got a flat towards the end and I ended up taking the lead with four minutes or so.
The third day was the enduro stage which was defiantly one of my favorite stages even though that was the stage I got a flat tire. After the Pisgah 111K I ended up putting a seat post dropper on my bike that I borrowed from Scott, the Kind Shock LEV. I have been fighting this battle where I feel as if I didn’t need a dropper seat post and it wouldn’t make me any faster, but after descending Pilot Rock in the 111K and fighting with the seat back and forth I gave into this battle. Needless to say it is one of the best upgrades I have done for myself. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with putting the saddle down all the way just putting it partially down and being able to get lower helps your descending tremendously. Also on top of the seat post dropper I got some sweet new wheels from NOX Composites. They are carbon rims with an asymmetrical profile so that the tension in the spokes can be more even, which then makes the wheels much stronger. I definitely felt the difference in PA with all the rocks! The timing could not have been more perfect in getting these.
I ended up winning the enduro stage and actually taking over the green jersey along with my white jersey for the U25 win. I was beyond excited about this, and realized I needed to start taking the enduro stages more seriously even if my competition wasn’t taking the time to scan in and out. Unfortunately there was the gravel stage for day four. This is known as the roadie stage, which is really not my thing at all. I planned on just hanging on, but as the day went on I just felt like I was settling in and not really getting faster at all. I would put it as my I just want to finish mode. Every pedal stroke gets me closer to the finish, but I just found myself in the smallest gear. Oops! Both Ellen and Emily beat me this day but I was still able to hold onto second place with Emily taking the lead. This is where I say goodbye to the white jersey.
Day five ended up being a great day for me though! I finished fourth overall in the women’s category and only a little under a few minutes behind the leader Vicki Barclay. I went into this stage with not so much of an, I want first place back attitude, but more of an, I want a redemption on how horrible I performed the day before attitude. I decided that even though there was going to be a lot of gravel roads that I was not going to settle in and I was going to pick the gear up and pedal harder. For me I have found that a high cadence doesn’t technically mean a faster speed. I have noticed that a cadence around eighty with a higher gear does much better for me, and that is what I did this day and ended up doing pretty well. I found myself on the gravel roads alone a lot but towards the end I ended up running into Cheryl Sornson, who was the women’s overall leader the week, and we were able to work together for the last long section of gravel road. This stage ended with an enduro finish so after the gravel road Cheryl took off while I scanned in and then it was off towards the bottom!! I didn’t put enough time in on this stage though and I still was second in the overall time, but day five was a great day on the bike.
Day six and seven feel like the same days in my mind. Probably because it was the end of the week and there was some fatigue setting in. Plus it seems as if the amount of single track starts to decrease by these days and I really was just trying to get through it. There was still plenty amounts of fun single track but the amount of gravel in between seemed to be growing. Especially on the last day when climbing an awesome piece of single track just to pop out and descend gravel my spirits were getting to their ending point.
I ended up placing second in the U25 and second in the women’s overall enduro which is a great way to finish my first Trans-Sylvania Epic. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to get to do it again. A big shout out goes to Kona’s Spencer for giving me a base layer with a hydration pack slot sewed on to it, because this honestly saved my back and shoulders tremendously. Not having to deal with all the straps and having it snug on my back with out all the hassle is everything I’ve ever wanted. The Kona Hei Hei Supreme handled all of the rocks like a champ especially with newly added features (Nox composites rims and Kind Shock seat post dropper).
I chose to participate in the Stage eight shenanigans where we had to down an impossibly hard pretzel and whoopee pies. I am proud to say I was one of few that didn’t cheat, but honestly I would have if I knew everyone else was! 😉 I actually even took quite a spill and left with a nice egg on my shin! Another great way to remember Trans-Sylvania Epic!