Race Report: CCA Road Championships

The date was June 11, 2016. Temperature was expected to reach close to 100 degrees. Most people would stay inside to keep cool, but it was the Carolina Cycling Associate Road Race Championships. Two SWS riders, Allie Wetzel and Jill Caputi, were among the insane testing their luck with the heat to claim the Women’s 19+ CCA Championship title. There was money, a medal, and beer on the line. This was no time to mess around.

The 54mile race started at 1:00pm. The course was 17mile of flat country roads with one hill up to an overpass. During lap 2 the cramps starting to happen. There was no escaping the heat. We are not really sure what happened between lap 2 and 3. Tunnel vision kicked in. The focus was all on finishing the race alive.

About two and a half hours after the start of the race Allie crossed the finish line claiming the Women’s 19+ CCA championship title. Jill somehow crossed the finish line alive to claim second place. Both women were exhausted after the race.

We are so thankful to C4 for hosting this amazing event. The course was well marked and the volunteers were amazing! We think Jill is still alive because of a kind volunteer that handed her a cold water around mile 46.

A big thank you to all our sponsors for supporting the SWS team which helps us to achieve these results. CEP Compression tights were a leg saver after the ride and their Women’s Dynamic+ Cycle Ultralight Short Socks kept the ladies’ feet comfortable during the race. We actually think their feed were the only part of the body that was not cramping by the end of the race. The Sportique chamois cream kept the ride smooth. The muscle gel was amazing at providing much needed relief from the muscle aches and joint tension after the race.

 

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Race Report: North Star Grand Prix and TOAD

northstarAlways one to take advantage of the situation, Emily was able to fit in some racing while she spent two weeks in St. Paul, MN for some coursework. The first weekend she jumped in the Women’s Amateur Open Criterium as part of the North Star Grand Prix series in Mankato, MN. Fortunately her acclimation to North Carolina temperatures gave her the edge during the 85 degree heat advisory that weekend! Emily picked up a mid-race prime and placed 2nd overall.

The quite impressive Tour of America’s Dairyland race series was occurring around the TOADsame time and since Milwaukee was “on the way home” it only made sense that she stopped to catch a race. The venue for the Downer Classic was amazing and the field was packed at 63 riders. Emily got caught up behind a crash that split the field for the remainder of the race, but she was able to finish strong with the chase group sprinting for a 4th place pack finish. This race series will definitely be on the radar for next year!

Thanks to CEP recovery tights for making the drive back to North Carolina a little more bearable post-race!

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Race Report: USA Duathlon Sprint Nationals

RACE REPORT, USAT Duathlon Sprint Nationals: DEAD CANARY, ANYONE?

DuNatsThe timing of Short Course/Sprint Duathlon Nationals was less than ideal for those of us returning from ITU Du Worlds in Spain just a few weeks before. I had been sick with a cold for about ten days, and racing again after winning the gold in my age group in Spain was a bit hard to get motivated so soon for. Having Nationals in Bend, Oregon I thought may also be a challenge for me, as having raced in nearby Sunriver twice, the heat, altitude, and extra dry climate had been more than uncomfortable for me. I had also experienced problems racing USAC Masters Cycling Nat’s in Utah two years ago in similar conditions: midday, altitude, dry heat. I run low hemoglobin and fight exercise-induced asthma, which these conditions always provoke and results in a struggle for me racing.

But no matter, this part of Oregon is absolutely beautiful, and even though I didn’t need to go race to claim a spot for next year’s Du Worlds (age group gold at Worlds gives automatic bid), the trip was already paid for, and I wanted to see my friends!

Four of us rented a beautiful home near the race venue. Doing so was great for staying in, not fighting the crowds, and cooking the night before. Two were racing the Standard event, which started early morning, two of us the Sprint, which started at 1:10 p.m. The early crew woke to 38* temps, the midday crew we treated to mid-80* temps.

I heard the two early racers leave, and in my drowsy, waking state, I suddenly became aware of a strong natural gas odor. I thought it strange, as my bedroom door was closed and I was farthest away from the kitchen. I disregarded it and tried to sleep more, as my race wasn’t for several more hours and my other housemate and my plan was to ride our bikes to the race around 11, hopefully to catch our friends in the early race finishing, yet to not hang out too much in the variable weather.

As I got out of bed another hour or so later, there was that strong gas smell again. I went downstairs to the kitchen, and couldn’t smell it there, and didn’t smell it by the stove. Climbing the stairs again, I smell strong gas odor by all the bedrooms. As my friend also doing the Sprint gets up, I tell her about the gas. We go downstairs and turn on the lights, and indeed find the burner knob on, but no flame. It had been on all night, gas infiltrating the house and seeping upstairs into our bedrooms!

I immediately opened all the windows in the house, but although the gas smell that I could sense upstairs finally cleared, we still stayed in that house for several more hours before leaving for the race…not thinking much of it.

Watching our friends in the Standard race on-line from the house, we could see our one friend’s pace suddenly drop back after the first mile of the 10K run. She is a fast and excellent runner, so we figured her nagging hamstring injury must be bothering her and she was playing it smart and dropping back her pace to stay in the race to finish and claim her sports for next year’s Worlds team.

Finally we ride to the venue, set up, and our race starts. It is hot and my HR is elevated before we even begin. Starting the first 5K run, I find I am winded even before the first mile marker. I look down at my watch at mile 1, and although slower but still close to my normal run pace, I am exhausted already and know I cannot hold it. I slow my pace greatly on mile 2, even more on mile 3. At the run turnaround, I see my very fast running housemate, also struggling and way behind where she normally should be. I stumble to get to my bike and am so far behind my normal competition, I wonder if my usual strong bike leg can make up such a vast difference.

The bike was a steady climb, six miles up a ~2-5% grade to the turnaround. I am passing people, but find I am getting very winded and my usual power is not there. It took me until the turnaround to catch my main competitor. I was hoping on the downhill, to regain whatever strength I was missing to pass her and then try to somehow hold her off on the last run.

But I couldn’t pass her. There was very little strength in my legs. I felt ½ the power I usually have. She took off, and I struggled. On a downhill!

The last run I felt like a suffering animal that needed to be put out of its misery. I couldn’t breathe; could barely jog. And it is only 1.5 miles.

I immediately blamed it on the geographical conditions, the heat, the cold I had just fought off. But something was nagging me. It hit us all in the house. Is it a coincidence that all three/four of us had unusually subpar performances, feeling extreme exhaustion? Our housemate in the earlier race said, “I was exhausted at mile 1 and felt like my legs wouldn’t move”….the same exact thing the two of us in the later sprint race experienced. And both of them have raced at altitude without this kind of result.

The icing on the cake to put all the pieces together for me was I finally looked up my Strava data. Per the Strava uphill segment results on the bike course, I was FASTER the day before the race, while spinning up the hill!! And I truly was going comfortably the day before, and also truly struggling race day…something I rarely do on the bike in a duathlon.

I know it’s speculative, and I know I tend to race poorly in heat and altitude, all contributing factors. Fighting a cold for ten days after Spain before didn’t help. I didn’t run the day before, so I cannot make any conclusions about running in the Bend climate/altitude. But to have my bike be slower than me spinning up the day before makes me truly wonder about that gas being on all night, and the smell so strong upstairs the morning of the race… and us all experiencing a low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. The half-life of carbon monoxide is five hours. Less obvious symptoms are fatigue and weakness. The hemoglobin binds up with CO instead of O2, and therefore muscular demand cannot be met. My hemoglobin as mentioned runs low, so much of what I did have was most likely bound up with CO. My Sprint-race housemate and I being in the house longer, even with the windows open, probably was not enough time to clear it from our bodies.

I had been trying to decide whether it would be worth me going back there next year (Nationals is held on the same course two years), if I cannot meet climate/altitude conditions in training and expect a different result. But in light of what now I think happened, I am hoping this might have been the ultimate cause of our suffering on the race course that day.

I ended up 2nd in my age group, despite the suffering and much slower pacing than in Spain a couple weeks before. I was lucky, and grateful, to be that well placed. But mostly thankful that none of us ended up with severe CO poisoning during the night!

((We are so proud of you K!!!!!))

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Race Report: Bur-Mill

A Different Kind of Race Day

Race day used to mean countless hours of training and an extended ritual of preparations.  There was the carefully planned dinner and breakfast (along with tapering and carbo-loading), plus no alcohol, arrival hours before the start and a thorough warmup on the trainer. There was always some level of familiarity with the course too. Racing is serious business for roadies (and some cx-ers) no matter the category or age. Stomach knots were not uncommon.

 

Fast forward a few years to now. Team Quirk is arriving at the race course with twenty minutes till the start, toddler in tears because an hour is way too long in the car seat. There’s a ready-to-brew drip cup of coffee still on the kitchen counter, and part two of breakfast is a banana crammed hastily as we roll into Greensboro. It’s a 6-hour enduro mtb race and we’ve decided en route that I should take the first 1-2 laps. Never mind that I’ve never seen the course before, and I’m generally the one who needs more time to warm up. Did I mention my mountain bike was purchased with the intention of goofing around between race seasons?

 

Armed with the knowledge that this course was full of ascents, descents and roots, and a quick run-down from the race promoter, we tackled the unfamiliar course like pros (still fueled no doubt by a hearty tartiflette at dinner). However, while our co-ed duo competitors were pumping each other up with “You’ve got this, babe” as they swiftly traded off laps, we were just trying to stay near the transition area around the appointed time, and keep our little one from running down to the fishing pier alone.

 

In the end, we had a successful day. I logged 32 miles of trails, more than I would have done outside a race scenario, and they were quicker than my usual pace. We just missed the podium (and some sweet owl prizes), but both spouses got to ride that day.  Plus, the little guy got to throw tons of sticks and say hi to a stuffed, mounted bear more times than we could count.

 

Special recognition to Sportique Century Cream for keeping the chamois situation controlled, and to Honey Stinger for the quick, easy and super-tasty nutrition.

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Race Report: Berger Hardware Bikes Criterium

SWS was excited to have another BHB Criterium Series this year! There is nothing better BHBCrit2than a local race series that has a local brewery- Crank Arm Brewery– putting up growlers for the top placers!

This past weekend we saw our very own Emily Graff take the podium in second, outsprinting two other riders she had been working with to catch Jamie (Constellation Cycling)- who solo’d off the front following a mid-race prime.

BHBCritEmPrior to her own race, Emily’s 10 year old son Josh jumped in the junior field and finished his very first criterium. The BHB course is family friendly and offers plenty of space for the young ones to ride and romp while their parents race.

SWS can’t wait to see the BHB CX course this fall:)

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Raven Rock Ramble

A few words from Danielle Baker the Baker:)

The first Sunday in May is always the day the Raven Rock Ramble is held. Find out all about this amazingly well organized supported charity ride here: http://ravenrockramble.org/whyride.htm

This ride is a must do for anyone in the triangle! There are SIX routes ranging in distance from 10 miles to 100 miles (106-ish according to my computer the last time I did the century ride). Needless to say, I love this ride!!! Baker’s Cakes has been a sponsor for several years, I make a ton of mini cupcakes to share with the riders at the amazing food spread at the end of the ride! I could go on and on about how awesome everybody is at this race! Today as I walked into the shelter, the volunteers cheered, “The cupcakes are here!”

Among other accolades from riders, “I love the cupcakes!” ☺️ As I chatted with the IMG_0988volunteers, another volunteer got my packet and brought it over to me! Amazing!!! Everyone from volunteers to riders are so nice!!

My goal for today was to ride the metric century (actually 66.75 miles, but who’s counting) as a fast hard ride in preparation for Masters Nationals. (I bumped into former teammate Meredith Woods Blake on my way to the line up). I found my friend Chuck at the front of the riders queued up and he pointed out some guys to hang with (electric banana, cat up, etc). The group rolled out of Harris Lake County Park at a leisurely pace. I told Chuck I was going to stick to his wheel like glue. The man is a cycling machine, strong and steady and very very experienced! Slowly the pace picked up. Well, it picked up and then it slowed down, over and over again. At one point a small pace line started and I thought we had some good organization, but it fizzled as too many people hopped in on the right and didn’t pull over to the left and stay on the wheel in front of them. Chuck worked his way to the first 20 or so guys and I went with him. And then, and this is the sad part, we came to the first SAG station, the 100 mile route and 60 mile route split, I said goodbye to Chuck and made the turn on the 60 mile route… With only 2 other guys from the Tri Cyclists bike team. 53 miles to ride and I was in a group of THREE!!!!!

Ok, not everybody needs to ride 100 miles to prove they’re tough, right?!??? Adam and Mike from Tri Cyclists were really nice (the theme of the day). We worked together at a nice steady pace. It was readily evident it’s a lot harder to hide in a group of three than in a bigger group!!!! We stopped to refill bottles at the 30 mile SAG and it started to drizzle. We rode and rode and then it started to pour. We rode and rode and then there were a couple flashes of lightening and then the thunder. Sigh. It was a wet wet ride back to the finish. We finished the 66.75 miles in 3:11, just under 21mph. Thank goodness I had Sportique Century Femme Chamois Cream on today!!  I hustled to dry off, chow down on my burrito, and pull on my CEP Pro Recovery Tights!!!! All in all an amazing ride rain or shine made better by the amazing organizers, volunteers, and sponsors.

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Race Report: Belmont Criterium

Allie and Emily packed their car and headed to Charlotte. After watching the Professional Charlotte Criterium Saturday night, Allie and Emily lined up for the Belmont Criterium inspired and feeling speedy. After a fast 30 minutes on the technical course Emily, one of our cat 4 riders, took 5th in the field sprint!! We are so proud of her solid race.

Allie took 9th in the women’s ¾ race and then hopped in the pro 1/2/3 to see what the 20160501_173939corners felt like at the higher speeds. She has one word for us… FUN!

Both Allie and Emily donned CEP Dynamic Ultralight socks to keep their racing feet fresh and dry, and recovered with CEP Recovery Pro Tights (which are essential for long car trips!!). Sportique Century Femme Chamois Cream once again offered a weekend free from saddle rub.

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Race Report: Wolfpack Classic

Ah. Success. The ladies of Spokeswomen showed up and had a solid race weekend. Thank you to NCSU Cycling for hosting the events.

Saturday: Wolfpack Classic Road Race 13015165_10209359275238150_4845779773657709097_n

Danielle, Kristin, and Allie worked hard and team strategy paid off. Danielle found herself in a two-women breakaway on the first lap that sustained the entire race. A late attack on the break secured the win for Danielle. Allie and Kristin came in 4th and 5th respectively in the field sprint.

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Sunday: Wolfpack Classic Criterium13087823_947433808468_2194280592600446194_n

Emily and Danielle rode strong, and Danielle gave Emily a superb leadout for the win and took 2nd herself. Jill and Allie showed up strong in the cheer section, both thankful for the arch support and compression offered by the CEP dynamic ultra light socks!

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Race Report: Criterium Nationals Women’s 3/4

CritNatsSWS rider Allie Wetzel headed down to Greensville, SC this past weekend to watch the Professional Criterium National Championships and race the amateur women’s ¾ race beforehand.

 

 

The field split early, with a strong pack of 9 heading into the last laps. Allie had a good CritNatsCEPposition in the field and was feeling great on her new gearing (thanks Crawford Service Course!!!!!), but coming into the last two laps she found herself on top of a 4-man pile up. It’s never fun to go down, but rider and bike escaped nearly unscathed. Luckily Allie remembered to pack her CEP compression pants and Sportique Muscle Rub so her legs are ready for another weekend.

 

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Sponsor Spotlight: Berger Hardware Bikes

With the infamous Raleigh criterium series less than a month away, it’s time we shine the spotlight on our sponsor Berger Hardware.

BHB, as we call them, are known for putting on a killer summer criterium series, a brutal fall cyclocross series, and sale of Firefly bikes.

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The 7th annual BHB Criterium Series will start May 14th on the notorious Dorthea Dix course. Last year, Spokeswomen saw our very own Danielle Baker on the top step of the series podium and Allie Wetzel taking third overall in the series. It’s a fun and fast race with steep kicker that will make even the best legs scream. Prizes and primes are always on Par, sombreros and beer growlers not withstanding.

Look up Berger Hardware Bikes on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with race series happenings, results, and pics.

 

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