My 2012 Voter Guide

Two Quick Updates: 

**First, you do NOT need photo ID to vote tomorrow. Go to your polling place, state your name and address. That is all. Don't be intimidated!!**

**Second, thanks to Anne for a link to Judge voting info (see below 

Ok, we're all completely exhausted by national election coverage. What's lost in the shuffle is the importance -- and in many cases, far greater impact -- of down-ticket races. People running for the State Board of Education, Natural Resources District, County Commission, etc. can have tremendous impact on our local quality of life. So I present to you: a brief, selective voter guide, mostly for folks in Lancaster County, but with some other Nebraska races, too.

First, and most importantly, vote FOR Lillie Larsen for State Board of Education. She has experience on the Lincoln school board, extensive experience in education, and understands the needs of teachers, students, and school districts. Her opponent has wild and disturbing views regarding education, no education background, and would greatly and negatively impact education in Nebraska.

Proposed Amendments:

Amendment 1: Against. Impeaching someone running for office? Not something to enshrine in the constitution, in my mind.

Amendment 2: Against. I don't think there's any need to make hunting a constitutional issue, either. This amendment looks to pander to gun advocates. It's not like voting against this will hamper hunting rights.

Amendment 3: FOR. When the state moved to 2-term term limits for the Unicameral, it quickly became clear that the lack of experience in office would become an issue -- less experienced legislators equal stronger influence of lobbyists and party politics, even in a non-partisan body. If you don't like a senator, um, vote them out of office. This amendment at least allows for three terms.

Amendment 4: FOR. Ok, this one's difficult, I know. But Nebraska's state senators make very little money for a pretty substantial time commitment. What does that mean? Only certain types of people -- lawyers, the independently wealthy, etc. -- can afford to serve in office. Raise the pay, and you open up the possibility for people from less privileged backgrounds to consider the office.

City of Lincoln sewer bond issue: Vote FOR. Investing in infrastructure isn't sexy, but damn, it matters. Fund it before we end up in the situation Omaha is in, which is way overdue, tremendously necessary, extremely expensive, and deeply controversial.

In the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District elections, vote for Ann Bleed in District 7 and Milt Schmidt in District 9. Ann is on the board of the Great Plains Trail Network, and also, importantly, supports trail infrastructure like finishing the connector of the MoPac trail between Lincoln and Omaha. Milt won't get away with not supporting trails, since his son Craig is one of Lincoln's cycling superstars, coordinator of Gravel Worlds. (The Lancaster County Democrats also endorse Doug Samuelson and Ken Reitan.)

For County Commissioner, vote FOR Darl Naumann. He's a small business owner who has experience working with Lincoln mayors and NE governors in economic development. The county board for Lancaster County serves an important interstitial function between the city & state, so someone with experience working at both levels is key, especially in light of Lincoln's growth.

SCC Board of Governors: vote FOR Ruth Johnson, District 4. Ruth was a neighbor of mine growing up. She's thoughtful, caring, and a fantastically articulate woman. (Lancaster County Democrats also endorse Robert Feit, Carl Humphrey, Helen Griffin, and Jim Garver.)


If you're lucky enough to live in a legislative district up for election, you have some great candidates to vote for.

Ken Haar in District 21 (northern Lincoln/county). Haar is a wind energy champion. He also spoke out strongly against TransCanada -- if you were at the public hearing at Pershing, he brought down the house with his opposition to the pipeline.

Kyle Michaelis in District 27 (southwestern Lincoln). I met Kyle when I was a young campaign staffer and he a young political blogger/journalist. He's smart, thoughtful, and very sharp. His coverage of Nebraska politics at newnebraska.net has been thorough and insightful. He gets how the system works, and thus would work well within it.

Kate Bolz in District 29 (south central Lincoln). Bolz is making quality education her number one priority. That's enough for me.


These are the ones you probably know most about. But just in case -- Korey Reiman for Congress in Lincoln, John Ewing if you live in Omaha. Bob Kerrey for Senate. And yes, Barack Obama for President, even if Nebraska's electoral votes will go to Romney.

*Ed. Note: if anyone knows about the judges, send info my way! UPDATE: Info on judges here: http://nebar.com/associations/8143/files/JPE-2012_ResultsOnly.pdf



Cyclocross Season is in Full Swing

Ah, cyclocross. My favorite season of the year! So many races with maximum hang-out time with excellent folks. Recap of the season so far...

The weather knew 'cross season was here, and things turned blustery and a little rainy for the first race, Greenstreet Twilight CX at Swanson Park on September 12. This was my first cross race on the WMD, and I was eager to see how things would go. Especially with the addition of a couple singletrack sections and a little log jump, I was extremely happy to be on a steel bike. Feels so good going over roots and bumps. War Axe makes a fine, fine bike.
Photo: Jeremy Cook
After a strong start with the lead group of men, I ended up following a guy onto the wrong side of the tape and had to watch 2/3 of the field ride by before I could file back in. Frustrating. Fought my way back up to a 14th place finish, first for women. And on that note, we have a really strong field of 3/4 women racing in Nebraska this year, and it's super exciting.

Next up was a last-minute decision to road trip to Madison for the USGP. Between the generosity of a van seat in the Trek Sprinter van (currently starring in an episode of Behind THE Barriers) thanks to my Trek CXC buddies and the gracious host housing of teammate Emily's parents, the trip was made grad-student-affordable.

The Madison course was pretty excellent, with gnarly off-camber descents, sharp turns, and on day one, very few wide open sections. It rained a little bit, but drought-addled ground made for damp grass and nothing more. These were my first races in a 2/3 field, and with late registration, I had last-row call-ups both days. This meant trying to fight for position, find better lines around the women ahead of me, and try to move up and not get passed. I moved my way from 35th up to 21st on Saturday. Sunday, the course was opened up a bit, and I moved from 38th to 24th on a much faster course. I was feeling better Sunday, early season race jitters seemed to have subsided enough. Emily had front row starts both days, and while it took me two laps to get her on Saturday, I had her by the end of the first lap Sunday. Great racing from my teammate, a welcome beacon to chase! Photos below, all from Sunday, courtesy of Emily's dad.

Catching Emily on the run up.
Charging up the pavement section.

Winding through some trees.

Top of the run-up, bringing the bike back down.

The trip was great, but travel is exhausting. Took a while to catch up on sleep, not to mention homework. I took last weekend off, spending days reading and chilling at the Farmer's Market. Oh, and I was the first finisher in a Hustle in there, too...

Mid-week racing was back last night, and Sheclismo really represented, showing Nebraska cycling that cyclocross is something we're all about! We had 6 women in the 3/4 field, and Sydney was able to take a quick break from her dissertation to take home the win in the 1/2/3 race.

I had a first lap full of mishaps, and between getting squeezed between a guy who bobbled and a tree right at the holeshot, a mess of a first barrier run (the barriers weren't up during warm-up laps, so they surprised a lot of the folks in front of me), and trouble clipping in, well, I had some fire burning in me. After regaining the lead in the women's field, I tried to chase after the lead men's group, but they were on more fire than me, being led by Josh Rice.

At one point, I took a quick look back and saw that Kat, back from a year abroad in Norway and racing on a singlespeed, had made her way into second, with Emily and Sara hot on her heels. KAT IS BACK!!! She and I had an awesome roommate rivalry our first year doing 'cross, and it really got me going to see her back in the mix. John Peterson was out taking his always-excellent photos last night, and got a few of me that show just how hot it was. I mean, it was probably in the upper 70s, but it felt hot for 'cross and it was windy...

Running the barriers. Everything but the remounts felt good. Photo: John Peterson

Railing the slick corners, tripod style. Photo: John Peterson
The course, as expected, was bone dry and dusty. Cornering was an adventure, really a game of chicken with yourself. I kept it upright, thankfully, as several friends ended the race with bloody knees. My parents came out to watch the race -- I gave my dad permission to heckle me in German, which was a mistake only because it made me laugh every time I went by him -- and my mom got a great shot of me and my fellow podium teammates for the night, rehydrating right after the race.

I love my team. Strong, fun, competitive, multi-talented women. 4 languages spoken in this group alone! Photo: Jane Reinkordt
Podium! Coffee & sunglasses! Photo: Jon Curran
Thanks to the Flatwater crew for putting on a mid-week race series I can ride my bike to. I'll have to miss next week for the Homegrown Film Festival (you should come), but I'll be back on the 17th.

Next up, Fontenelle GP in Omaha on Saturday, and trying to figure out how to get to Ft. Collins for the next USGP...


Dakota Five-O, Take Two

I don't have as much to write about the Dakota Five-O as I did last year. In fact, at the last minute, I almost didn't go. Well, I'm really glad I went. I had a really good race. Not too hard, not too exhausting, a good deal faster than last year, and finished feeling confident in my riding abilities, not defeated. 
 Beautiful sunset in Halsey National Forest, Nebraska Sandhills.

Full moon rising over the Sandhills, between Thedford and Valentine.

Splitting the drive to Spearfish into two days was nice. Stayed at Smith Falls near Valentine after a beautiful sunset and full moon drive through the Sandhills Friday evening. Saturday morning brought a very somber drive through Whiteclay and Pine Ridge before entering the Black Hills, taking the scenic route north from Hot Springs, past Mt. Rushmore, and stopping at a very rocky trail near Rapid City. 
Riding near Rapid City on Saturday, line reading.
Getting out of the car felt good, and the sharp shale on the trail had me on my toes right away. Though it took fifteen minutes or so to warm up, I suddenly had this moment where I came up on a bunch of rocks with no obvious line (to novice eyes) and I popped up onto this big rock, down through a couple small ones and realized that that would have stopped me dead in my tracks a couple months ago. I kept riding, and it was like a warp speed tunnel opened in front of my eyes. I knew where to ride, my tires were gripping the rocks, and I felt awesome. I've described it since as somewhat akin to reading and understanding a new language for the first time (and then realized that maybe that's not an analogy that works for a lot of people...go learn a new language, it's great). Needless to say, my confidence for Sunday's race was now where it needed to be.

Pre-race face, tent hair, Sunday, early morning. Photo by Mark Emery.
Camp was quiet early on Saturday night, save for being near some sort of generator. Woke up to crisp air, but nothing like the freezing cold from last year. Coffee, breakfast, tying back that tent hair, ditching the hoodie, and it was off to the start to see off Wave 1. I lined up with some excellent Nebraska women -- Casey Sheppard, Whitney Porn, and Carly Thompsen -- and we headed out of town and up the hill. Going up, Carly asked if I had a strategy. "Nope, just ride," I said, "try not to blow up. Enjoy it." I have a feeling the upcoming cyclocross season will change my JRA* attitude, but that's all I've been wanting to do recently.

I rode with Whitney up until the first aid station, where her camelbak still had water and I needed to refill my bottles. Bummer, because I was having fun riding and chatting with her. But I was really happy not to have the pack on my back this year. I was happy to see where I'd missed the turn last year, knowing right there that that was a 20-minute bonus. For much of the race, I had people following me, and got my choice of the line. Many sections I remembered being unrideable and terrifying were fun this time. 

The climbs did wear on me, though, and I spent a good deal of time wondering about switching up the 1x10 for a double up front and a bit of time thinking about how much more comfortable the ride would be with a rear shock.

Riding the ridge, not walking it.
This ridge and descent after the Bacon Station provided the most satisfaction of the whole day. I walked this whole thing last year, not wanting to faceplant. After my Colorado adventure in June -- and in no small part due to watching my idol Georgia Gould and the rest of the racers in the Women's World Cup and Olympic MTB races -- I slid my behind back off the seat and over my rear wheel and carefully, cleanly made my way down through the very-tight-for-a-29er switchbacks. After we were through it, the woman behind me said "Wow, I'm really glad I was behind you. You rode that great, it was awesome to follow your line." I thanked her, saying I was a Nebraskan who didn't get much of a chance for this kind of riding. "I'm from the mountains," she replied, "and I can't ride like that." Well, that felt great. I popped over a couple jumps on the last descents down through the singletrack, just having fun. I ended up sprinting the woman who complimented me for the finish, 6:14 this year. Nice improvement, and I know where I can make up more time. For one, I need to get better at passing. 

Post-race, tacos and beer. Covered in dust, coughing.
It was so dusty and dry that I was coughing like a miner. Beers, tacos, and then taking in the park atmosphere and strider kids races. I was tired, but not completely wrecked. Yeah, I could've gone harder. But I didn't. One interesting thing about the way I did this race was that I used the course feature on the Garmin, a new device for me. I set my goal time for 6:30, and so I had a little pace arrow telling me if I was on track. I passed the pace arrow about halfway through the race, and I kept my eye on the countdown time, seeing if it might be possible to make it in 6 hours. With better passing early on and one aid station stop that I didn't really need to make, I probably could have. Should I have set a more ambitious pace for myself? Hard to say if that would have been demotivating if I hadn't caught the arrow or if it would have pushed me harder.

Double rainbow, what does it mean?
The drive home on Monday was long, as expected. Had a really nice breakfast at Talley's Silver Spoon in Rapid City (hey Lincoln, someone open something like this, please?), drove through the Badlands for the first time since I was a kid, had a mint chip root beer float in Winner (and it was a winner), took a swim in the Niobrara, and returned to eastern Nebraska to be greeted by storm clouds and a double rainbow. What does it mean?

*JRA -- just ridin' around


Late summer dinner

Not going to work in a cubicle every day is pretty amazing. I forgot how wonderful it is to set my day's work based on my own rhythms.

It could mean complicated cooking, too, but mostly, I've just added a few slightly more complicated or time-consuming pieces to my regular cooking routines. Last night, fresh from a trip to the farmer's market where a Mexican American farmer's lovely smelling herbs drew me to her tent, Rancho el Milagro. This herb, she said, would make my salsa (and of course now, I can't remember the name of it). Dinner plan, commence!

I picked up onions and garlic from Robinette Farms, queso fresco from Dutch Girl Creamery, and sunflower sprouts from Shadowbrook Farms. I had tomatoes from my mother's garden at home, jalape├▒os from my own, and plenty of flour to take the time to make homemade tortillas. I fixed up some TVP with homemade taco seasoning, set out some fresh limes, and I may just have had the best tacos I've ever made. 

 Eat fresh, eat local. It makes you happy. Seriously.



It wasn't easy, but I got up early enough for 16 miles of early morning gravel before work today.


Northern Adventure

The view from the tent door Thursday night/Friday morning. Photo taken sometime in the night. It's good to get away.


Something different on skinny tires

We made a team executive decision to vote with our feet (wheels?) and register for the Nebraska State Championship Road Time Trial en masse. Sunday morning, 6 strong and beautiful Sheclismas hit the pavement in the so-called "race of truth" -- 24 miles, solo. All photos courtesy of Dan Farnam.

 Of course, we at Sheclismo World Headquarters all know Sydney Brown is the fastest woman in Nebraska, but it was nice to have her bring home a medal for the team proving as much. She cranked it out in one hour and 47 seconds. So sleek and fast.

Emily Hoesly, who came into the cyclocross scene last fall, joined in on the team spirit and made it across the line our fastest Cat 4 in 1:11:07.

On my shiny new road bike, I was just 40 seconds shy of Emily's time, with 1:11:51. More on that new bike and my experience in a bit.

Allison Hunt came back to the road after a bit of a hiatus, and we're stoked she's rocking our kit. She came through the line in 1:14:21.

Newcomer Emily Grace, who's really the one responsible for getting us all to sign up -- she wants to try a bit of everything before she leaves the States for graduate Physics research in the UK -- threw slicks on her beloved Kona Jake and cranked out the miles in 1:22:43.

And Sara Nispel, who jumped in to register at the last minute, rocked her first time trial in 1:24:02. Note her amazing bar tape style.

Ok, so what did I think of the TT? Well, I should've spent a bit more time on the new bike (an awesome Trek Madone 6 WSD set up for me by the Midtown Omaha Trek Store), particularly in the mock-aero position. When I went for a longer ride Saturday, I felt like the saddle wasn't really in the right place. Granted, it's not my tried-and-true WTB Deva, so I thought maybe it was just different, not bad. Well, it was bad. My hip flexors and hamstring attachments started to hurt from just a few miles in, and I was definitely not sitting on my sit bones, as it were. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. Gentlemen, I'm happy to explain to you if you ask.

My goal for the race was to get as close to a 20 mph average as possible, knowing that hitting that over the full 24 mile distance with a bit of headwind was likely to be a bit out of reach. The other goal I had was to attain a negative split, meaning a faster second half than first. I hit the 12 mile turnaround at 36 minutes flat, making 1:12 or less the goal. My average speed for the first half was sitting right around 19 mph. After a sloppy turnaround where I thought they were telling me I had to go through the cones, bike-rodeo style, I kicked it up, enjoyed the bit of tailwind, and enjoyed throwing thumbs-up to my teammates who'd had later start times.

My average pace kept ticking up, and by halfway back, I was fluctuating between 19.6 and 19.8 mph. The last five miles, I knew I'd be cutting it really close to make my goal. I pushed, I counted seconds, I went as hard as I could through the finish. I coasted for the first time in 24 miles as I rolled down the road to head back to the parking lot, and when I started to pedal again, I cried out. My hip flexors and hamstring attachments were in agony, and didn't want to work. Whimpering, I got myself across the highway, pulling off through some deep mud and into the grass. I got off the bike, worried I might just fall over. I was spared that, but it felt like I had doll legs or something with how little they wanted to bend. New rapper name: TT-Pain.

Mega-awesome site planning by Greenstreet Velo -- we got to shower in the Yutan High School locker room. My goodness, that was welcome.

In true Sheclismo style, we celebrated our accomplishments with a little Bulleit. Bring on 'cross season...we're ready.


Ponca's Revenge, a Three-for-One Race Deal

Pre-ride team photo for Emily's first ever race. Photo: Matt Gersib
Ok, before you read my post about the Ponca State Championship MTB race, go read Emily's. It's amazing. Seriously, did you do that yet? Ok...read on.

While southeastern Nebraska finally got some much-needed rain Thursday night and Friday morning, up in the northeast, they'd only gotten a trace.

"What if it rains while we're out there," Rafal asked at the start line.

"Unless it's bad lightning, or it really becomes impossible to ride, we're going to keep going," Roxanne replied.

We started the race on dry and dusty trails, nevermind the looming storm clouds and occasional thunder. So dusty, in fact, that right after the upper road crossing on the first lap, I slid out so bad I nearly lost it in the loose stuff. Fun. fast. And through some bad luck for Anne, I'd put a bit of a gap on her, holding it steady by cranking up the climbs on my 1 x 10.

Crazy rooted descent. Photo: Jeremy Cook
My Colorado weekend definitely had me doing much better on the few technical sections this year. It was especially awesome to come through that section with singletrack superstar Rox watching, saying "nice" with every line I successfully picked, closing with "yep, that's it!" as I made it to the bottom.

Ok, so dry & dusty, right? Well, then it started raining. Light at first, which felt pretty good, but then it got heavier. After leading through lap 2, and then having a funny slow slog through now crazy greasy sections with Anne on lap 3, she overtook me on the long climb after the feed zone, when my need to stand on top of my gear was thwarted by my completely mud-packed and therefore tractionless tire. I was frustrated to watch her crank by in a granny gear, more frustrated because in cyclocross, I love the mud. But a thick mountain bike tire full of mud, well, that's totally different. Late in that lap, CX superstar Troy Krause came up to me, and we commiserated that point a bit. This was no muddy cx race. 
Climbing up to the road. Photo: Michael McColgan

As usual, some of the middle of the race is a blur. My bike slid out from under me a few times, but with how soaked and muddy I was, I hardly cared. With the start/finish and feed zone being in separate places on the course, I got thrown off on my lap counting. Emily was all done racing and was great giving me bottles and food, and at road crossings, Megan, Rafal and April gave me updates on my gap to Anne. Their estimates varied from 4 minutes one lap, to closing in on 2 the next, to 10 maybe? I slogged through as the track dried out and the Cat 1s and 2s joined us. I took my fourth-hour pee break. I envied their cleaner bikes and how awesome the trail was getting as I was getting too tired to enjoy it.

Righteous descending. Photo: Michael McColgan
Some parts of the course were rocking fun, and on the last lap, many of them were totally climbable for me once again. I made it cleanly over the steep jump to the road crossing at the top of the bluff for the first time on my last lap. And wow, that was awesome. I knew I was flirting with the cutoff time, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it. I was pretty sure I didn't want to make it, not wanting to have to decide. I kept watching my clock, wondering how far up Anne was and guessing she'd be going out for another. I really didn't want to have that happen and have me miss the cutoff, but I just didn't have it in me to push harder. Gersib came by me, saying that even if he made the cutoff, he was done. That probably sealed it for me, and I eased off the gas for good, cruising into the finish 2 minutes after the cutoff, 4 minutes behind Anne, who'd been hoping I wouldn't make it and be crazy enough to go out for a 7th lap.
"You've got a little something on your face." All done. Photo: Jeremiah Grell
I finished soaked, pruned hands, tired, and happy. Thanks, as always, to everyone who makes this as special as it is to me. The smile pretty much says it all.



It's summer-ish. Spent the weekend in Colorado testing my comfort limits (and greatly exceeding their bounds) on close to 60 miles of Rocky Mountain singletrack.

I could probably live there...


Minnesota Gravel at the Almanzo 100

We had a fun trip north last weekend to the southeastern corner of Minnesota for the Almanzo 100 gravel race (and for some travelers, the more daunting Royal 162). Berly and I had an amazing bathroom, wheelchair accessible, which resulted in a full-bathroom shower and a phone next to the toilet, just in case of SHEnanigans...

The trophies for this fantastically run, beautifully designed and marketed event are Mason jars of gravel. Rad. I was pretty sure there was no way I was in contention for one of them -- with some 550 toeing the line and roughly 100 of them women -- but I was hoping for a top-10 female spot. I've been getting miles in, mixing disciplines, and in the hot (for MN) and windy conditions, I might actually be better off than the northerners.

The start was incredible, with riders stretched all along curved road, 6 or 7 across. Berly and I rocked our awesome-looking new kits -- looking sleek! 

 We all sang happy birthday to race organizer Chris Skogen's son, who just turned 6. Pretty awesome. And then the race began! It was a crazy fast, dusty start, and I moved my way up toward roughly the second or third group. (Though really, there were so many riders that aside from the front pack, it was just lines and lines of bikes.) The first 20 miles flew by. A couple climbs shook things up a bit, and they weren't like the rollers we have here. Nope, these were half-milers winding up out of valleys with anywhere from 15-20% grades. At least the gravel was somewhere just bigger than crushed limestone, so worrying about white rock traction wasn't an issue.

Yeah, you gotta watch those children. Shifty little buggers.

 Lots of roads wound through the woods, and the shade offered some nice relief from the sun, which was pushing temperatures well into the 80s. The other benefit was a break from the wind, which was sustained at 30+ mph all day. The crosswinds were the worst -- I've never come that close to being literally blown off the road before, and found myself in the gutter more than once. And trying to follow wheels of total strangers in conditions like that wasn't exactly the most comfortable. So while I'd find people to ride with a bit from time to time, I was mostly flying solo.

 Grocery store water and bathroom stop in Preston, 40 miles in. Really dusty legs. I tried to make this a really quick stop, and it's debatable whether the roughly 10 minute wait for a real bathroom was worth it. At least it was nice and cool in the store, too.

There were about 20 miles between Preston and the oasis at Forestville State Park, and when I hit the road again, all the people I'd been riding nearby were still resting and refueling. I hit the long headwind climbs out of town alone, burying my head and staring at my cue card begging for a turn out of the wind. It came in the form of Jay Road, the first climb where I got off the bike. Good thing I'd been staring at the card, too, because a pack a little bit ahead of me missed the turn.

Pack riding somewhere in the hot dust. Photo by Craig Linder.
These 20 miles felt really long, and the heat and wind were starting to wear on me. In a section with tailwind, I made up new lyrics to "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby" that went replaced "the real thing" with "a tailwind." You come up with some damn silly things deep into these rides that seem super clever at the time.

It got cloudy, and with all the dust and wind, I started wishing it might rain. Pulled into Forestville, refilled bottles and got some nice cold hose water through the helmet, sat in a lawn chair for about 3 minutes, and mounted back up next to a fellow Lincolnite, Dave McCollough, who I introduced myself to after spotting his Trek Store kit and Cycle Works bottles. It was his first gravel grinder, and he was crushing it on a SS 29er. Way to go!

We climbed, then climbed again, then climbed again. Sure, it was pretty, but the winding descents, while super fun, were somehow not making up for all the uphills. Halfway up another climb, 71 or so miles in, I had to pull off the road, get a little "you can do this" pep talk, and stare at this little beer can tree. C'mon. 30 more miles.

Another difference from our grid system? I'd look at the cue sheet, thinking I'd have say 2 miles of crosswind before turning to a tailwind. But then the road would curve and I'd pretty much feel like crying. On one of those roads, there was suddenly someone passing me kind of slowly, and then I saw the camera, and then..."CORNBREAD!!!" Oh, I was so happy to see a familiar smiling face. Nevermind that he had 60 miles on me at that point.

I was SO happy to see Corey. That's the only thing that smile is about. Photo: Cornbread

I hung in his draft for a couple miles, but eventually, around when I fumbled for my camera to take this picture, I lost contact. I was glad, too, because I didn't want him to slow down because of me. But damn, that was a nice draft.

The last 25 miles were pretty excruciating, despite there being a couple sections with pretty righteous tailwinds. I was having a lot of trouble breathing again, and anytime I took a deep breath, my lungs would go through sharp and excruciating pain. Full of dust, tired of working so hard. I started leapfrogging with a couple groups and a couple women, and there was a glimmer of competitiveness that snuck back in. Maybe I was top 20? Maybe higher? If that woman is the difference between a top-whatever spot and not, should I try a little harder?

I ran out of water for the third time that day. A couple riders -- all of a sudden, I met like 3 guys named Dan, maybe I was hallucinating -- gave me fluids, one some horribly opaque pink thing I had to hand back for fear of what havoc it would wreak on my system. I was staring at my computer...10 miles, 9, then 8...ok, this is like a ride to Pepe's, 5, more blasted headwind, almost there, watertower visible...and then pavement. Highway. Headwind. I tucked my head down and threw it in a big gear, so ready to finish.

At the line, people were cheering and Chris was there waiting with a handshake. Super classy. It was a perfect way to finish. 8 hours, 39 minutes, with 8:11 of it ride time. According to the roster (and not sure of gender on some names), that made me either 8th or 9th among the women, 179th overall.

 Big thanks to Sam & Skip at War Axe and Eric at Monkey Wrench for putting together a fine, fine bicycle for me. Not only was I comfortable and confident, but I was getting compliments on it all day. That definitely makes a girl feel good.
And more thanks to my Nebraska gravel travel crew. Had a blast with Berly, Rafal, Cornbread and Schmidty, as well as with Dave and Andy. Next up: a bit of time off, Ponca, and then Odin's Revenge!


Battle Royale at Platte

Hot & humid pretty much sums up the Platte River State Park race this year. Not my favorite weather. At least most of the course is shaded...

Pre-race. Soft trail, no point in warming up for the marathon. Photo: Jeremiah Grell
Cruising up the climb on lap 1. Photo: Jeremiah Grell

The race itself, well it started a little hectic. Lemans start, and my pump went bouncing out of my jersey, had to run back to get it. Climbed much better on my 1x10, floating past people spinning their granny gears. Lost contact with Anne right after the rock garden on lap one after a bunch of messy Cat 3 traffic. (Guys, please just cat up instead of getting frustrated with us when trying to pass. I am looking for good spots for you to get around, but I'm racing too, you know.) I also made the mistake of goofing off too much at the start line, forgetting to eat something right before we started. I crashed in gully the first time through, slamming the nose of my saddle into a very sensitive place. By the end of lap one, I was hungry and already feeling dehydration seeping in.
Faceplant root on Yun2, still ahead of Anne at this point. Photo: Jeremiah Grell

I regrouped in the feed zone, and Roxy let me know Anne was about a minute up on me. I dug into the climbs, but I just didn't feel like I had it in me to mount a successful chase. A secondary goal, however, was taking more risks, and Platte is the perfect course to do that. It is varied, technical, beautifully hand built, and very challenging for a beginner. I think the best thing about racing there this year was having tons of fun on sections that felt well above my ability just a year ago. Take the section Yun2, remembered for last year's faceplant. This year, I went flying through those dips, getting my stomach to flip up that way you get when driving a little too fast over rolling gravel roads.

It was great that Cycle Works had so many volunteers stationed all along the trail, many of them buddies of mine fresh off of completing TransIowa. I enjoyed chatting with Scott as I scampered through the rock garden, Bruce and Aaron in the gully, and others wandering from place to place throughout.

I am not posing intentionally. I am merely smiling for Kyle Hansen's camera and taking a chance to stop. Photo: Kyle Hansen

Lots of marathoners were taking big breaks in their camp chairs between laps. The heat was really brutal, with temperatures well above 90 with humidity of 90% or so. After lap 3, which had been pretty solitary, I rolled out with Rafal, who was really struggling in the heat, and my racing buddy from last year, Scott Noel. I think the Cat 1s and 2s were on course at this point, but I'm not really sure. Lap 4 involved a couple stupid crashes, and in the last third of it, even with an hour left, I was struggling with whether to go on. As I came into the feed zone, though, there were Emily & Megan, calmly pouring water over me, filling my bottles, getting me stocked up, and just very subtly preparing me for a fifth lap. "This is what having a race wife must be like," I thought.

Trying to cool off in the feed zone with a frozen water bottle. Mildly successful. Photo: Emily Hoesly
So off I went for lap 5, otherwise known as my Usher Raymond "Nice n' Slow" lap. All I had to do was finish. Mark flew by me with a huge lead in the 1s, harnessing the gnarness. I stopped to pee in the woods (this is becoming a trend in hour four...), and I slammed my way through the gully and last open section, finishing at 4 hours, 5 minutes. Last year, I did one lap less in about the same amount of time and in way less heat. 17th out of 28, 2nd in women's. Major props to Anne on the win, and to Jen Deep, cranking out 4 laps with a smile on her face til the end.

Podium style, with henna & a Ranger in a War Axe koozie. Photo: Michael McColgan

I love my bike race family. Big thanks to Corey, who found me right after I finished and brought water, beer, a veggie burger, and tons of ice water for my head. Don't think I would've eaten otherwise, as shellshocked as I felt. It really is awesome to be part of this community.

Chillin' with villains Rafal, Noah, and Megan. Photo: Emily Hoesly