Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE SINGLE TRACK PASS


The Single Track Pass

To Pass or Be Passed in Single Track

Passing and being passed in Single Track is a crucial Mountain Bike Racing skill.  It’s a skill that should be learned same as hopping over a root, climbing up a boulder, and powering though a rock garden.   Same as hitting your front tire against obstacles, passing can be an annoyance at first.  Once you learn the skill of passing / being passed, your rides will be smoother and your races faster.

I started years ago as a Category 3 Racer and moved my way up the ranks through Category 2 and have been racing in Category 1 for a number of years.  I’ve had to learn how to be passed and pass at every level.  There are a few specific strategies based on the category for successful passes but the constant across all categories is: COMMUNICATION

WHEN YOU ARE THE PASSER  

Passing correctly is one of the challenges of racing and is a skill that must be learned.  When you are riding on single track there will be times when you may not have the option to pass someone until there is a trail opening.  The majority of the time there will be opportunities to pass while in the single track, you just need to know how to do it.

It is the responsibility of any approaching racer to make their presence known, and to announce their intentions. 

Suggestions

  • Rider up
  • On you left
  • On your right
  • Looking for a chance to pass
  • Can I pass on your left?
  • When you get a chance

Overtaking Those from an Earlier Wave

  • Let me know where there is a good spot to pass
  • I see a slight opening, please stay your line and I’ll get around on your left really quick
  • Chasing the leader, could I get by on your left right here really fast
  • Being chased hard, could I get by on your right just after this tree
  • Every second counts for me, could you help me out by just slowing up for a second while I speed past on the left
  • Leader coming up fast

Passing an Experienced Rider

Often times the person you are passing is skilled.  They can see the passing opportunities that you might not.  Have them call out the strategy for the best passing opportunity.

  • Ready for a pass, let me know where you want me to go
  • Let me know best way to get by
  • You think this is a good line for me to take to you right real fast?
  • You let me know where there is a safe spot for me to pass

Passing a Less Experienced Rider

When coming up on an inexperienced rider you should try to “direct the pass.”

  • Could I pass when it’s safe
  • No Need to pull off, I see an opening, I’ll take the outside lane up this switchback if you take the inside
  • Stay on your bike, keep pedaling, I’ll find a good spot
  • Keep pedaling, just try to pull over to the right side of the trail up here and I’ll get by quickly on the left
  • I’ll slide by when you feel it’s safe
  • Keep pushing, there is a clearing just ahead

Passing Racer you are Racing Against

In the event two riders during a race are vying for position, the lead rider does not have to yield to the challenging rider.  However, the rider must hold their line and is not allowed to interfere with another rider’s progress.  You will have to work harder to make a strong move to get by.  Typically will have to be more aggressive and/or power through some of the less favorable terrain to get by.  I’ve passed through the roughage many of times.  You can also work to “sell the pass.” 

  • If they are getting dropped by the leader and you need to get around:
    • Let me by and I’ll try to bridge this gap
  • Let me pull you around for a bit
  • I see an opportunity right here, I’m taking it, on your left

When Racer Speeds Up

Sometimes when I catch a rider and they pick up the pace, I’ll sit in and let them pull me around.  Often I’ve worked really hard to get to a person and I’m not quite ready to pass yet.  Other times the increased pace isn’t enough and I’ll demand the pass.  If you are faster than the guy in front, prove it.  Use your skill and power to motor past quickly while making it as smooth and seamless as possible. 

  • Not looking to pass right now, your speed is perfect
  • If you keep this pace I’ll sit in for a bit
  • If you think you’re not going to be able to hold this pace, yes please let me by
  • Ok, It’s time, see that opening, I’m going to go around you right there

When You are Not Alone

I try to be respectful of the person/s that are trailing me by letting the racer we are overtaking that there are more than one of us.  I will give them more advanced noticed so they can look to find a good place for 2+ to pass.  If you are 2nd, 3rd in line, make sure to also let the person you are passing that there is, "one more."  If there is a train and you are at the end of it, you might be able to squeeze by with the rest but be ready to have to wait for the next opportunity to prevent running the person you are passing into a tree. 

  • 2 Of us
  • 2 Back
  • 2 When you have the chance

WHEN YOU ARE BEING PASSED

Even at the Category 1 level, I still spend plenty of time getting passed.  I try to get the person around me as quick as I possibly can.  It makes both of our races faster!

When you are being Lapped

It shouldn’t matter where you are, please move out of the way.  At this point it’s not about when it’s convenient for you.  It’s about getting out of the way immediately and as safely as possible to get the leaders by.  They are typically nearing the end of their race and every second counts. 

When Being Overtaken by Later Wave

The slower rider should yield the trail to the passer, stay to the right most of the time.  Try to stay your line or pull to the right to give just enough space on the left of the trail for the passer to get by.  I will communicate just as much with the passer as they communicate with me.  If I don’t hear initial communication being made from the passer I will make it.  I feel it’s part of my responsibility to work together with the passer to get them by as quickly, safely and smoothly as possible. 

  • Looking to pass?
  • Let me know when you are ready to pass
  • Need a pass?
  • I’ll let you pass as soon as I can
  • Ok, I’ll pull to the right up here and you go left
  • I’ll take the inside line on this switch back, you take the outside
  • Go left right NOW, NOW NOW GO GO
  • Take the left, take that line, GO GO NOW
  • I’m going to speed up as there is a clearing just ahead

TIPS

  • Make friends out there, we are all in this together
  • Friends will be more favorable to helping you by quickly
  • Be polite even while exhausted
  • A safe pass = good mojo
  • Be careful
  • Be polite
  • Be playful
    • Beer at the finish if you let me by
    • Burger at the finish if you can stick with me
  • Always say THANK YOU for the pass
  • Words of encouragement:
    • Great Pass
    • Go get em
    • Smooth Pass
    • Looking strong
    • Keep it up
    • You are crushing it
    • Try to stay with me
    • You got this
    • Keep pushing

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fat Bike Birkie Race Recap

Drawing over 1,000 racers over 18 states and several countries, the Fat Bike Birkie is the largest Fat Bike Race in the country.  We get to race on the Legendary Cross Country Ski trail of American Birkebeiner located in Cable, WI.  Many consider this the National Championships of Fat Bike Racing.
Some would say it's like a road race but on fat tires in the snow.  Wide open, hard packed and no single track.  You've got the option to race a 21k or 47k course.  Morning of the race it was a beautiful sunny and 20 degrees, great day for a ride.  The volunteers were diligent about grooming this course to perfection and it was perfect.

 The gun went off and we had a moderated roll out.  We were not allowed to pass the leading snowmobile.  The rollout was to slow, you've got hundreds of adrenaline filled racers ready to jam and we were held back.  This caused some mayhem.  Feeling claustrophobic, I immediately went on the defensive, the way you'd drive through downtown Chicago.  Had to pull some quick maneuvers to avoid early pile ups.  After about a half mile they set us free and as the pace picked up, I saw a few of the guys I normally race neck and neck with ride away from me and I knew immediately that I was not "on form."  There are days you feel so strong and powerful, you can pin every climb and hold any wheel.  And there are days when you feel the burn waaaay to early.  I knew I'd need to rely on smart strategy to hold a podium spot. 

The first 6.5 miles (about 30 minutes) is a climb to the top of the mountain.  Push to hard and you risk bonking before you're even a 4th of the way in.  I was in a group with a few guys, Ami Stuart and Megan Barr, 2 of the girls I knew were also fighting for that top spot.  Only a couple miles in we got passed by Jill Cederholm, she was climbing like a Mountain Lion.  Split second decision to either chase or let her go was to let her go.  I knew that if I put to much in and hit a wall to early would not only knock me off the top spot but also off the podium. 



By the time I made it to the highest point it was down to Megan and me.  We had found ourselves a nice pack to roll with.  Thing is, I thought I'd be struggling keeping up with the guys on the descents but come to find a few were holding me back.  The next group up was about 100 maybe 200 yards away.  I decided to make a break for them, they were going just slightly faster then my group and if I could latch onto them I could start building a gap between me and Megan.  I made it about half way til I realized maybe that wasn't such a good idea.  Do I push even harder, risking an unrecoverable blow up or wait for my pack and for the next opportunity to get away.  I am convinced that what happened next is what solidified my 2nd place finish.  My Broken Spoke Racing teammate, Bob Mach, rolls up on my left, reading my mind, says, "I'll get you there."  He pulled me to the group ahead where I was able to sit in while building the gap on Megan.  This is where having a team is crucial.  I've raced 12 times since the New Year and I've had a chance to ride alongside, working together with my teammates in every single one of those races. 

7 Guy Sprint for the 3rd spot on the Podium
The climbing was relentless and recovery was minimal.  Ever been to Great America where you have to wait in line for the ride for 30 minutes to get that 30 second thrill ride?  By the time I hit the 5k left to go sign, I was done.  Holding on for dear life, I watched over a dozen guys pass me.  I kept looking back praying there were no ponytails approaching.  Why the hell was I bonked out? it had only been 2 hours.  I just raced for 4 hours at the Polar Roll and another 3 hours at the Sweaty Yeti without bonking out, why was I now at only 2 hours?  Oh yeah, maybe that's why.  I didn't train this winter like I had last winter in efforts to avoid burnout halfway through Mt. Biking season.  But, I raced every single weekend.  I am learning that while racing can help with fitness and build mental toughness, it can also destroy your legs and mind when you go overboard. 

 
 Was happy at the finish as I had secured my 2nd visit to the podium at the Fat Bike Birkie!  Never would I had ever thought I'd ever be in contention at a massive event like this.  Surreal to me still.  I really wanted to defend the title, and was disappointed of course that I didn't.  Yet something reminded me of how special it is to stand on any step of the podium.


Leia Schnneber 2nd - Jill Cederholm 1st - Heather Stelljes 3rd


Like a dummy I took too long in changing and missed the awards.  This killed me as it really pisses me off when someone doesn't show up for the podium.  Who do you think you are that you can't wait around for a bit and get up there to accept the recognition for what you achieved?  You know how many people would kill to be up there?  Make sacrifices, work their asses off, train for years and may never make it up there.  I remember watching awards and being in awe of those that were there.  The first time I ever made a podium I was a little in shock and SOOOO STOKED!  I felt really bad, so bad I went to the organizers and asked if we could have a redo.  They were open to it as they hadn't given the other's their champion sweatshirts and wanted a picture with us in them.  So I rounded up the girls and they were gracious enough to stand again. 

Bunch of the Ladies that Volunteered

Next stop was the Notorious After Party at the Saw Mill.  I have yet to make it out of there without being dragged out.  Best part of the weekend is eating pizza, drinking beers (or Long Island Ice Teas), telling the tales of the race and cutting loose with awesome cyclists and friends. 

Looking forward to a couple months off from racing and resting up for the Wisconsin Off Road Series.   

Thanks to all those that put this event together.


My Nutrition:  www.hammernutrition.com
I used Heed in my water bottle and 3 of the Vanilla gels.
I like to have a consistent calorie flow from my liquids and I take a gel every 45 minutes.  Soon after the race I drank the Chocolate Recoverite, which is so yummy. 

Massage by Tuesday after a race weekend is Clutch!

My Man:  Mr. Ryan Rollins for supporting me in every way possible. 


Monday, February 19, 2018

906 POLAR ROLL WINTER ADVENTURE RACE REPORT

The 906 Polar Roll is the final race of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series.  It's advertised as a 35 Mile race (Actually 41, Thanks Todd) which starts on the main street of Marquette Michigan.  This has taken the top spot for my all time favorite fat bike race. 


I was nervous about this one as I've never been on a bike for 5 hours much less in the dead of winter.  With a race this long, depending on conditions of the trail, I figured I'd be looking at anywhere from 4 - 5 hours on the bike.  Perfect preparation is imperative to surviving the cold conditions for that amount of time. 
www.ryanstephensphoto.com
The race rolled out on the main street of Marquette Michigan.  Number 553 is my Mr. Rollins lined up with all the fast guys.  I placed myself a few rows back making sure I was in line with the first set of women. My main competition was Sonia Pond and Megan Barr who were leading the Great Lake Series.  Also saw Emily Nordahl, a champion cyclocross racer in the mix. 
The roll out was pretty chill, we quickly headed to a bike path that ran along lake Superior.  I needed to make sure I was in a good position leading into the first section of single track as once we entered it, there was a climb I like to call "The Soul Crusher."  It's a category 4 Climb that took me over 8 minutes to crest.  I had to be as close to the front as possible as once you started this climb you were stuck at the pace of the single line of riders ahead.  I was able to pass a few guys as they got dropped off the back, working to put separation between me and the other women early on. 




The next major hill came shortly after a slight break.  Benson's Hill was a leg burner, my heart rate was high, I was pushing much harder then would have liked so early in the race but I was chasing a guy about 20 ft from me and I wanted to be right on his wheel once we crested the hill as there was a nice long straight away after.  I burned some matches knowing I'd get some recovery time before the next gradual climb through the Marquette South Single Track Trails.  Also, a guy upon passing me said, "There's a girl not far off."  GAME ON




Plan was to give everything I had to be first lady into the single track and start to build a gap.  I also had to prepare for an 8 mile, straight, uphill, snowmobile trail heading into the wind.  You better not be alone when you get there. 


http://www.robmeenderingphotography.com/
Flying through the single track felt so good.  The trails were in the best condition I've ever seen.  Reminding me why I ride in the winter.   Nearing the end of the single track I forced myself to get out of my cornering comfort zone as I needed to stick with the guy I was following.  I absolutely needed his wheel once we jumped out onto the snowmobile trail.  One of my own teammates went by both of us and ended up crashing out the guy I wanted to work with!  What tha!  Dude!  I needed that guy!  There was no chance of me hanging onto my teammate so I slow rolled until my crashed out friend came to rescue me.
There were times I didn't think I'd be able to hold on but I kept thinking of how much worse it would hurt if I was fighting the wind alone.  We had a solid, steady pace going until we saw another pack of guys ahead of us.  My new friend said, "What do you think?"  I said, "Let's go get them!"  We put in an effort and were with our new pack in minutes.  Relief was short lived as you know how it goes, the more guys you add, the faster the group ride.  Again I was pushing harder then I'd hoped to at this point in the race but had no choice.   Kept thinking, c'mon single track, where are you? Save me!


23 Miles and over 2 hours into the race we were finally in Ishpeming.  I was happy to see Tony Wagner standing at the 2nd of 3 aid stations with water bottle and gel in hand.  Tony agreed to be race support in exchange for a room for the weekend.  This relieved much of my pre race anxiety.  Frozen water and food is common during races with temps in the teens.  Not being properly hydrated and fueled can and will destroy your race.  I bought 4 insulated camelback water bottles and filled each with warm water and Heed sports drink from Hammer Nutrition.  I used rubber bands around the bottles to hold my hammer gels.  This way I would get food and water without skipping a beat.  Crucial for the win.  One of the guys I was teaming with had to stop to refill his bottle at the aid station, never caught back up to us.  Cost him 6 positions in the end.  I put some Fully Charged in my 3rd bottle for a little extra zing midway through the race and my last gel was caffeinated for one last kick to get me to the finish. 

www.ryanstephensphoto.com
I made a move on my pack on the first major hill at the start of the Ishpeming trail system.  One of the guys, Evan from the 45 North team not only responded but passed me up halfway up and took off!  What do I do, just let him get away?  He's just a guy, it's not like I'm racing him.  Then I imagined he had a pony tail.  If he had been a girl, would I have let her go?  No Way, I went after him.  Full in and out of my seat sprints to stay with him for the next mile.  We hit the open road and that slowed him down, nice burst of wind in your face will do that to you.  The majority of the final 8 miles was really tight single track with steep punchy climbs.  Evan and I rode together for a few but he gave me the go ahead as he was blowing up.  Off I went, the last 6 miles of the race, alone in the woods with my thoughts. 
  • Don't let up now
  • Ride smooth, no crashing
  • Muscles are on fire, so are everyone else's
  • It Burns!
  • I want that Buckle, I'm gonna get that buckle!
  • That all you got Todd?  Goofy looking little thing weren't you
  • I could actually win this thing
  • www.ryanstephensphoto.com
    I'd love to rip this trail with fresh legs, steal some QOM's
  • Hello Ice patch
  • I want to build a cabin up here
  • Easy on the corners blast it on the straightaways, when is this straightaway going to end!?
  • Wonder if Tony will have that Hot Coffee and Whiskey waiting for me at the finish
  • There's the finish, there it is, I Won, I Won, I just won the Polar Roll!


 I came in at 3hrs and 44 minutes.  Much faster then I had anticipated.  The immaculate course conditions played a big part in that.  It was a perfect race for me, the kind you dream about.  Felt strong and prepared going in.  A feeling I haven't felt at this level since the Birkie last year.  Everything went my way, rode smooth, hard, and had help when I needed it.  Rode on the sweet spot of pleasure and pain.  If you haven't made the trip to Marquette Michigan, make it a mandatory addition to your plans next year.  Marquette truly is a winter wonderland. 


Megan Barr - Leia Schneeberger - Emily Nordahl

Shout outs go to:
My Team Broken Spoke Racing
Mark Barrette from Hammer Nutrition
Race Support Tony Wagner
Scott Robinson from Integration Bodywork
My my Ryan Rollins
All the race directors and volunteers

Next up on the Agenda:
Sweaty Yeti - Neillsville, WI
Hugh Jass - Waterloo, WI
Birkie - Cable, WI
28 Below - Spearfish, South Dakota
 
2018 Polar Roll Buckle Winners
 
GRRRRRR