Friday, July 3, 2015

Marathon World Championships

First, the Dolomites are amazing!  I've been to a lot of great mountains, but the Dolomites are up there as some of the most special I have ever seen.  Lush green valleys, great small towns, beautiful passes and stunning rock peaks.  This video gives you a better idea than I can trying to describe them!

Second, the Sella Ronda Hero is an awesome event!  Separate of this years World Championships designation, the Sella Ronda Hero is one of the biggest mountain bike races in the world.  4,000 riders in a mass start tackle the loop around the Sella range each year.  The event consumes the town complete with opening ceremonies, kids races, and pasta party.  It's a great vibe similar to Leadville with a good mix of world class elite riders and weekend warriors all out to tackle the same course.  

If you have a bucket list of big races to do in your lifetime you should add THE HERO
Third, I raced the World Championships!  It was an honor just to wear the Stars and Stripes and be part of the World Champs.  The field of racers was pretty amazing this year with Olympians, former World Champs, National Champs and all kinds of fast guys from 50 different countries.  I'll be the first to tell you I'm not at the same level as the guys leading the race, but my goal was to be competitive and finish top half.  That would be mean beating 70 of the 140 riders in the Elite race.  
The first half went well and I was riding hard but comfortably and slowly moved up from the back and worked my way into the 90's.  The hardest climb was the 3rd of 4 main climbs for the day and was a 3,000ft beast with steep sections that were almost un-rideable even with a 30t front chain ring.  I knew that to move up and have my best race I just needed to be steady on that one and then pour on the effort and bury myself for the last hour and half of the race.

Going into that 3rd climb though, I started to feel the effects of the first 2.5 hours of the race.  Position wise I held where I was but could tell my power was dropping off a little.  Pacing and finishing strong is important in any marathon race.  It's especially important when the entire field is so strong.  My mind and body just didn't have that super day and I didn't find that special zone where I could push the last 2 hours at the same pace as the first 3.  I definitely kept trying and the effort level was high, but my pace still slowed into a good but not great result.  After 5.5 hours, 54 miles, and 13,000+ feet of climbing I was 94th out of 140 racers.  
The US had some great results from Howard Grotts in 14th, Mike Broderick 92nd, Lea Davidson in 9th and Mary McConneloug in 28th.  We definitely have some riders that can be competitive at the biggest races in the world and I really hope we see more Americans take on the biggest marathons in Europe in the future.  For me I am truly thankful for the opportunity.  Thanks for reading, God Bless!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sella Ronda Hero - Marathon World Championships Preview

The Dolomites are amazing!  It's hard to describe how awesome these mountains are so here are some photos for you.  The course will be a huge challenge with 15,000ft of climbing in 54 miles.  I was able to do a really solid ride yesterday and one of the longest downhills today. The climbing is really steep in some places and there is some pretty good descending.  There are also some fast gravel road downhills as expected for a big marathon race in Europe.  There is a lot of excitement for the event in the surrounding towns and Saturday will be a special day.

There's not much coverage on the US cycling sites, but here's one race preview - Marathon World Champs

The US has 2 other riders here who are both top 10 contenders - Leah Davidson and Howard Grotts.  I'm hoping they both have amazing rides tomorrow.

Some live coverage and results will be here - Sella Ronda Hero

Monday, June 22, 2015

More than Racing - Friends and Adventures

I just have to say, mountain bike racing is the coolest sport in the world!  Going fast on trails is super fun.  The trails we get to explore are in a lot of the most beautiful places in the world.  Physically it's straight up tough, and it takes world class fitness to reach the elite level.  Best of all, the majority of people that mountain bike are really interesting, good people!

I'm fortunate enough to be pretty good at cycling which has lead to some amazing experiences and opportunities in life.  At the same time trying to be fast leads me to get caught up on my workouts and results, losing sight of how blessed I am just to be able to ride.  Every single one of us who can afford a nice bike, has good health, and can go enjoy some nice trails are far more fortunate than most people in the world.  Don't take it for granted, enjoy your next ride!

Last weekend I raced the Kenda Cup series finals in Big Bear.  I had an average race at best but it was still really nice to see so many friends and the great community that cycling has.  Yeah racing is about trying to ride better than other people.  At the same time I think it's even more about getting to have cool experiences with other people and make some great friends.

Now I'm on a flight to the Italian Dolomites to race a 55mi loop around some awesome mountain range.  Foreign country, mountain passes, hundreds of the fastest riders in the world - adventure on!

A big thank you to Stage21 for all of their support and Cytosport for keeping me fueled! 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Putting in the Work

My goal for the Marathon World Championships in 2 weeks is to finish top half.  Racing 55 miles with 15,000ft of climbing against the fastest marathon racers in the world is not going to be an easy day on the bike!  The course has some pretty brutal climbing, but equally amazing scenery.  I'm also going to be racing to beat the fastest women in the world and 4,000 amateur riders starting 15 minutes behind us.  

It is also my goal to strengthen my relationship with God and with my Dad on this trip.  At home my life gets a little busier than I want it to be with work, training and all the other every day stuff we have to get done.  A week long trip to the mountains is a blessing for me and I'm looking forward to being in an amazing place buzzing with mountain bikers.

My training has been going well and we're getting close to the point where I just need to focus on staying fresh and healthy.  

Big mountain bike ride in the Santa Anas

Climbing repeats on the road
Fro-yo with my girls

Prior to the Grand Junction Off-Road I did 2 really solid weeks of training with a lot of climbing. Those weeks were each about 15 hours with 30,000ft of climbing.  It was a good boost for my endurance and had some intensity mixed in too.  

Then the Grand Junction race week included 4 hours of racing including the crit and cross country. 

After that I needed some rest and took it easy for 6 days.  

I jumped back into my finals 2 weeks of training with a 5 hour mountain bike ride with 10k feet of climbing.  I've done solid threshold and tempo workouts this week and will race the final CA series race in Big Bear tomorrow.  Next week I'll have 2 key workouts, one being a solid endurance ride, and the other a threshold workout.   

Then it's time to travel and taper down even more on race week.  Of course I've been doing this on top of full 40 hour weeks at the office as usual so it's been fairly hard work.  For most of us a 12-hour training week with 3-4 high quality workouts is an accomplishment in itself!     

Physically I can be top half at the World Championships.  I just need to stay healthy, have a good day and most importantly get my heart and mind focused in the right places.  

Check it out!

These mountains are the real deal!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Grand Junction Off-Road

Last weekend I was lucky enough to take a quick 4 day road trip to Colorado.  The quiet time in the car was pretty nice and the Grand Junction Off-Road was another awesome event by Epic Rides.

The trails in Grand Junction are a lot of fun, and have a lot of rocks!  Pre-riding a couple different sections of the course with friends on Friday and Saturday were the most fun parts of the weekend.

Friday night we raced the downtown Fat Tire crit while a few thousand spectators were catching a concert and our race at the same time.  It was really cool and a lot more fun than the Whiskey Off-Road crit since the course was flat and it played out more like a traditional road crit.  I had a good ride and finished with the lead group in about 12th, even with the knobby tires!

Going into the 40 mile XC race I was really going after a top 10.  After an up and down spring and beat down at Marathon Nationals I worked hard to get back on track mentally and training wise.  Even while busy at work and at home I had a great 2 week training block focusing on some bigger endurance and climbing rides.  I was back to being healthy, felt good pre-riding and was ready for a good race.  The course suited me well, it's pretty tough with a good balance of technical sections and climbing.  Just enough to really work yourself over!

I did have a good day and rode well, between 12 and 16th place all race.  There were always a few guys just up the trail and a few more hot on my heals.  In the end my climbing pace was just slightly off where it needed to match the few guys ahead of me and my goal of a top 10 slipped away on the long climb in the middle of the race.  On one hand it was a good solid race and result.  On the other hand I was a little off from the special ride and top 10 I was really hoping to pull off.

Cyclingnews Race Report and Results 

Now it's time to catch-up on some quality time with my girls, catch-up at work, and train hard for Marathons Worlds at the end of the month!  More on that next week...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marathon National Championships

Marathon Nationals is kind of the opposite of the Whiskey 50 event.  Partly because Nationals moves venues year to year there is almost no "event" going on.  It's a bike race for a couple hundred serious racers and that's about it.  The course and racing were pretty darn good though!

Georgia is also kind of the opposite of Southern California.  Very green, lots of flat open land and a whole new world of places to eat.  I had a nice smooth trip out - a travel day without a toddler is almost like a day at the spa.  The race was at a really nice state park and the weather was perfect.  Pre-riding the first few miles was exactly like Ruston, LA where I raced a bunch of times when I first got into mountain biking.  The trails were super fun single track winding through the woods.  Pine needles kept you on your toes cornering and the pump track like ups and downs kept the effort level high.

The race start was fast and aggressive as expected since everyone wanted to be in a good place in the single track.  I got myself in the top 10 and was really comfortable in a train following the leaders the first 30min.  Then the course jumped in and out of a bunch off jeep road sections and the pace got a lot harder.  About 12 guys pulled away and slowly got out of sight ahead of me and I settled into my own pace.  Then there was a solid hour of ripping single track back to the start / finish at the half way point of the race.  Me and 2 others were going hard and I was feeling good.  Right as we pulled out of the last part of the trail, everyone ahead was right there in sight.  We chased down the lead group.  Then we went through the feed zone as a big group of 15 or so and I could not see the bottles I had left there.  I slowed down, but didn't completely stop knowing we just got the leaders and had some road sections just ahead of us...

Things went downhill slowly from there.  I suddenly felt heavier with the effort of the first 2 hours and knew I was in for some trouble with hydrating.  The last feedzone which had neutral bottles was 17 miles away.  I dropped off the back of the group and slowly ran out of water.  Once that happened I was pretty worthless on the bike and switched completely to survival mode.  It was a long hour or so trudging along slowly and somehow my fork also blew out and had no travel.  Once I finally got to the feed zone my stomach felt pretty sick.  I beat myself up pretty good at that point and decided there was no good reason to drag it out another hour to finish the last 10 miles of the course.  I was done.

It was disappointing.  With a better day I know I was capable of a top 5.  But somehow I wasn't that disappointed and had a strong feeling that a better ride there just wasn't meant to be.

Then my lower leg got completely swollen on the way home.  I remembered being stung by something during the race but don't know for sure what it was.  Benadryl didn't help and next thing I know and I was getting shots and a prescription for antibiotics.  It was a rough week.  Mountain bike racing is hard, if you have big goals you will fall short most of the time.  But that is also one of the things that makes it so awesome.

After a couple days of rest and a lot of support from Beth as always, I decided to stick to my original goals for the year.  May 31 is the Grand Junction Off-Road and I petitioned USAC to race the Marathon World Championships at the end of June.  I won't know if I'm going until June 1, but I'm already working hard to make the most of it if the opportunity comes through.  God may still have a special ride in store for me before my season is over.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Whiskey Off-Road

It's already been at least a couple weeks since the Whiskey Off-Road and Marathon Nationals but a lot happened over those weeks for me and the race reports are better late than never.

If you haven't heard already the Whiskey Off-Road is an awesome weekend of bike riding and racing and you need to go next year!  It's one of the few races of the year where the promoters know what it takes to put on a great event, not just a good bike race.  After a bad Sea Otter I was really motivated to put in a good result at Whiskey.  The crit Friday night has felt terrible for me every year I've done it and this year was the same.  After getting up at 5am and driving 6-7 hours with a toddler in the back seat that's to be expected.  It's still fun to see the crowds out for the race and it's a good warm-up for the rest of the weekend.

But that night I came down with a nasty cold and slept terribly.  Saturday was a cold rainy one which was fine since I needed to rest.  We even ended up going to our 2nd cafe for the day and having a big cinnamon roll instead of doing a pre-ride.  I honestly didn't know if I was going to race or not until I woke up Sunday morning.  Obviously I wanted to do well, but I was also putting extra pressure on myself because 6 days later would be Marathon Nationals in Georgia and my goal was to go top 5 there.  Besides wanting a top 5 at Nationals itself, I was telling myself I should be able to do that if I expected to have a chance to race the Marathon World Championships at the end of June.  In hindsight there was no reason to put that extra pressure on myself since there was no automatic qualification for a specific result there anyways.

I ended up feeling ok in the morning and went for it. I was riding well from the get go and got myself into a strong group of guys for the section to skull valley and back.  On the main climb a few of them were climbing a little better and the top 20 slipped away from me but I finished strong for a respectable 26th.  I was really happy just to feel good racing again!

Road trip
Cafe time
I don't have any race photos from Whiskey so here's a cool one from Sea Otter thanks to 

The drive home and a couple busy days at work were not the most restful thing in the world but that Thursday I was on my way to Georgia...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bonelli Hors Categorie and the Sea Otter Classic

The last 2 weekends were filled with 2 huge races here in California and 2 big disappointments for me.  At the end of the day it'a all good though, my life is awesome and God is still amazingly good.

The April 11 UCI race at Bonelli was never a goal of mine, but once when my training went well the couple weeks prior, I decided it fit into the rest of  my race plans I was ready to give it 100%.  The start of the race was aggressive as usual but I got through the first lap without any trouble.  I was riding pretty well around 40th place out of 110 guys and felt fairly comfortable.  Then going into the 2nd half of the race my energy started to drag and dropped off.  I still managed 47th but it was not what I was capable of and I was not happy with the fact that I put in less than my best effort at such a big race.  

Things got worse that night when Cameron threw up before bed and then I woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach bug.  Beth wasn't far behind us.  It was a rough couple days and definitely not good for my recovery.  Luckily it didn't last too long, we powered through the work week and I got in a few easy spins on the road bike. I felt fine by the end of the week and decided to stick with the plan and head to Sea Otter.  

We had a smooth trip and a nice time in Monterey, but I didn't have what it takes when the gun went off for the race.  Once again there was a completely awesome pro field with Olympians, world champs, nationals champs, and all sorts of other fast guys.  The course layout was the most roadie version I've seen at Sea Otter and I didn't get myself near the front like I needed to at the hectic start.  So I spent the whole first lap of the two lap race working my way up past guys just to get into the top half.  Going into lap 2 I still had the potential for a good day as a big group racing for the top 40 was within sight, but my energy started falling apart early into the lap and I suddenly had nothing left to give.  I always want to put up a good fight and was really frustrated that I wasn't able to do that.

It's really cool to see these racing scene doing so well with huge turnouts and the pro fields are the strongest the US has seen in years.  While frustrated I wasn't at my best, I'm thankful just to be a part of it all and look forward to giving it another shot at the Whiskey 50 this weekend.  I'm feeling fine and know that if I can get in that groove of simply enjoying the moment and riding my hardest on race day, then the results will follow.

Thanks for reading and cheering me on!  Dana  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Riding on Faith

After the UCI races at Bonelli and Fontana I was really looking forward to a couple weeks of normal routine and solid training.  Things got a lot busier than I would have liked with work, my hamstring flaring up, and Cameron got sick again.  I kept after it though and made sure I got in the rides that I had planned to do.  Last weekend things came together pretty well with my riding and now I'm ready for 4 big races in a row.  The Bonelli UCI race later today is going to be an awesome event.  Then I have some really big goals for Sea Otter, Whiskey 50 and Marathon Nationals.  

My training and fitness have been solid, but not necessarily better than they've been at times in the past.  Now it's all about being fresh for the races and mentally ready to have a special day.  Both are a lot easier said than done.  For me being mentally ready means focusing on a more positive mindset and relying more on my faith.  I believe that I may still have my best ever race ahead of me.  God gave me the health and ability to race at the highest level.  Now I just need to get fired up about that truth and make the most of it!

Evening training
Zoo time
Play time
The local hills
With an amazing view
Mt Wilson, LA is down there somewhere
Mt. Wilson Climb
Big lunch after a big ride