People of Earth,
My goal in starting Koochella with my friends was to facilitate growth of competition in our local track racing community. We would foster new racers and recruit our competition and make racing fun in the process. We would talk about the beginner amateur racing experience and how it can be positively transformative to the individual and community.
Our track racing community has grown substantially in the three years Koochella has been in business. And while there is always room to grow, Minnesota track racing is on the up and up.
And what’s probably most exciting to me is that Koochella can’t take all the credit. Growth is a community imperative. That’s why we’re successful.
As a result, my personal focus has been elsewhere. With a great group of women in action on the Koochella team, I sought to broaden the team’s impact by extending space within the Koochella club umbrella to women’s teams starting up in other cities. In the 2016 racing season, Club Koochella consisted of five women’s teams in four states. Four of those women’s teams were track-focused to help grow programs in other velodromes.
I started to realize months ago that with the unique demands of my professional life and my broader personal focus that I was not the best Koochella team captain to have at home. My mission had diverged from that of the team I had helped to build. I looked around and it was obvious that I was taking valuable space and resources from an up-and-coming racer that would benefit from it far more than I.
I shared this with my teammates and they stepped up immediately and with enthusiasm, because that’s the kind of strong, capable, and motivated people they are. And, to be honest, they were running most of the team operations as it was.
It isn’t a sad departure. I’m happy for where the team will go, as I always am. I am happy to have gotten to know and race alongside these incredible people. I am better for knowing every single one of the women who has worn a Koochella kit. But I know in my heart that the success of the program is more proven by what it can do without me than by what I can do for it.
As far as what’s next for me, I’m going to keep doing what meshes with my mission statement: facilitating opportunities for women/trans/femme people within cycling, the sport and the pastime. I will continue to be active and work for good things. I will push for elevating the sport. And yes, there will be a new crazy-kitted vehicle for my personal racing- which I am able to have because I know that Koochella is in better hands than mine.
Thank you, Koochella, for everything you’ve given me. I’m a much better person because of you and I’m so excited to see what you become. I know you’ll knock it out of the park.
You are all diamonds. Stay dry.
Anna “Mama Duck” Schwinn
Co-Founder and Proud Former Captain of Koochella
Cross is here.
Last night, my cyclocross season began with the Angry Catfish sponsored Wednesday Night Cross at Aquila Park. It’s our local cross warm-up series, a great opportunity for new riders to check out the sport or to get their feet grassy. And if you listened closely, you would have heard me yelling obscenities at the grass from every point in the course during the Intermediate race.
See, typically, I’m a track racer. I love everything about track racing. It’s warm, dry, smooth, fast, and fancy.
Cyclocross, on the other hand, is cold, wet, muddy, slow, and gritty. It’s a completely different game. Each sport has its merits. Just because you love one doesn’t mean that you’ll hate the other. But my relationship with cyclocross is complicated. Despite the title of this entry, I won’t say that I genuinely hate cyclocross, but I certainly don’t think it is fun. I find cyclocross races to be completely miserable, actually.
So why even jump in the race? Racing costs money. Bikes cost money. Training takes time. It hurts. It’s slow. If it isn’t fun after all of that, why even do it? This is the question I ask myself when I line up for any cyclocross race- which I do a lot during the Fall. Despite how I feel about the sport, I still train and race for it.
See, cyclocross is amazing. Even as someone who finds no joy in the sport, I really can’t recommend it enough.
Why do cyclocross?
Cyclocross is a spectacle.
It’s a big, ridiculous obstacle course for adults on bikes in the middle of a party. If someone would have just explained this to me to begin with, I would have taken up cyclocross a lot sooner.
Think about it. You meet in the park on whatever bike you have, and you ride through sand, dirt, puddles, and jump over obstacles. In Minnesota, you do all of this, but you get to battle snow towards the end of the season. Oh, and then people dress up in costumes and give out snacks and beer to you while you race. That’s pretty freaking hilarious.
When you look at the sport this way, even on your worst race day, you can’t not look around and laugh a little.
Cyclocross makes you stronger.
On the velodrome, when you push really hard you have the instant gratification of speed- it’s one of the things that makes track racing super rewarding from a mental and physical perspective.
It doesn’t work that way in cyclocross, that’s for sure. You’re fighting a course and the elements. They’ll throw mud and dust and cold your way. They’ll muck up your drivetrain to a point where you’re fighting that as well. You will be in scenarios where it takes all of your physical strength to barely propel yourself forward and all your mental fortitude to keep pushing even though you may only be moving at a speed juuust fast enough to keep you upright.
It can be soul crushing at points. However, without even realizing it, you’ll notice that it gets easier from the first lap to the second, from one race to the next. You soon realize that you’re not just getting stronger, but that you were stronger than you thought you were to begin with.
Cyclocross makes you a fantastic bike handler.
Your ability to push your pedals is only a fraction of what it takes to be successful on a cyclocross course. You have to know what to do with your bike… and be able to do it. You have to be sensitive to the surfaces you’re riding on and how these surfaces change throughout the race. You need to know what lines to hold and how to hold them… on an off-camber hillside… in the dust… while turning right… without crashing into someone else.
You’ll be able to bunny hop curbs. You’ll be able to dismount your bike like a pro when you get to school. You’ll also be much better at your next derby in the park. You’ll be a bike ninja before you know it.
Cyclocross makes everything else seem more fun.
That sounds pretty grim, but I mean it! Because the sport is so mentally taxing, you’ll find yourself able to enjoy other riding and life experiences more. Your threshold for what is unbearable will have been extended and suddenly, that one tough hill on your slog to the office doesn’t feel so bad because, after all, it isn’t uphill in the mud with your heart exploding out of your chest. Piece of cake!
Cyclocross makes you want to play on whatever bike you’re riding. With your new bike handling skills, you won’t think twice about riding what used to be intimidating obstacles on the road or trail. Plus, in Minnesota, training and racing cross equips you beautifully to ride on the ice and snow come winter.
Sucking at something is the first step to being kind of good at something.
The immortal words of Jake the Dog apply extremely well here. There are people who will naturally be great at the sport and who will find joy and encouragement in winning- wonderful for them.
For the rest of us, know that the only way to go from your first cyclocross race is up. You can only get better from here. Look for those signs of improvement in yourself and you’ll see them with each race. Last night, I managed to get through a 45 minute Intermediate race without needing to walk my bike up a hill. Sounds like peanuts… but that certainly wasn’t where I was last season. Plus, I know I can do better for the next race… and that’s what I’m looking forward to.
Eat your vegetables. They are good for you.
Look, not everything that’s good for you feels good- cyclocross is a perfect example of that. It feels terrible… but you quickly learn to relish in the fact that it’s making you better just for participating.
Anyway, I had fun last night- the kind of fun you have when you’re at the depths of your misery. I’ll do it again. And again and again.
I hope you’ll give it a try.
See you on the course!
You are all diamonds.
(Sorry in advance, this is going to get sappy)
I started writing this post after the final night race last season… in my head… during the warm up.
I was wearing a wrap dress for the final night (we dress up every year at the NSC Velodrome for the season closer), which was pinned like crazy to the bib shorts underneath so it wouldn’t flap around in the draft. I was warming up with Beth Franklin and Sarah Bonneville, dressed as a roller girl and Wonder Woman, respectively. As we were doing exchanges and laughing and talking, I remember thinking that as younger person I would have killed to know that women like this even existed, strong women with drive and amazing attitudes. They were just so cool in all the best ways.
There we were, having grown faster and stronger with one another over months and years, looking ridiculous. We moved fast as a single entity in the way you really only can on a steep-banked track. Matching speed and lines, flying over other riders, sitting super tight on each other’s wheels, listening to the tires’ low rumble on the boards. The track surface was pink and everything was beautiful.
I teared up in that paceline. I felt so fortunate to be these women’s friend, teammate, and competition. I was so grateful for what the sport and community had given to me and I was so happy to see it thriving, especially after almost having lost our velodrome the previous winter.
I realized as I jumped out of the paceline and came off the track to get myself together, that I was descending into an infield full of women who I also totally respected and adored (an amazing problem to have). I did some slow laps on the inner track with my head down so I wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. It was a race night, after all, and people were pulling their focus together. I was pretty certain that tears in my eyes would have set off a hilarious chain reaction.
Last night was the final race night for the NSC Velodrome 2016 season. If 2015 was about understanding the value of what a racing community could mean for me, 2016 was all about seeing how it could transform other people.
Where last season saw the introduction of a regular second women’s field, 2016 is the first complete season where a separate women’s 1/2/3 field was assumed throughout the season schedule. Despite being the third season in a row with 20+ women coming through the introductory clinic, we enjoyed the highest retention of new women racers yet thanks to new teams such as Fuerza.
Because I wasn’t racing them, I had the pleasure of watching as the W4 group not only picked up speed, but rode in tighter and tighter formations and lines as the season progressed. It was straight up magical to watch this group grow stronger physically and mentally in the way I had enjoyed my first few seasons. Plus, the confidence these women exuded by the end of the season both for the form of racing as well as the venue itself was straight up inspiring. They owned their sport and they owned their place on the infield.
I’ve been notified by several of this year’s fresh class of racers that they are coming for me. Which makes me smile like an idiot. I know you are. I see you sizing me up over there. I can’t wait. I’m already working on my training calendar for next year in anticipation of you.
Thank you, women of the NSC Velodrome community. You’ve made me a better person over the years that I’ve been fortunate to spend with you, and you continue to make me better. I love how we build one another up and how we get stronger together. I wish we could bottle what we have and send it to every velodrome in the world.
I’m totally humbled and inspired by you, and I can’t wait until next season.
See you in May.
Our second-annual Koochella Classic took place over three days, featuring a fixie crit, alleycat, and bingo/brunch/beach sesh. With “Sweet 16” details like face painting, Pokemon-themed spoke cards, and casually blasting Avril Lavigne’s top hits, the 50+ riders who participated were treated to a weekend of celebrating all things bikes with a teenage twist.
HUGE thank you to our primary sponsor, knog, along with all of the other local businesses and companies who pitched in to make this weekend special.
We kicked off Friday night with the fixie crit. Riders raced 10 laps. Competition among the top rider and facepaint competitions were fierce.
A photo posted by Koochella (@koochella_racing) on
The following afternoon featured the main event…the #koochellasweet16 alleycat! Riders collected their #gottacatchemall spoke cards and quickly settled in at Sunrise Cyclery to get to routing ahead of the 6pm start time. The race ended up being right around 20 miles with the top finishers coming in at searingly fast times.
A photo posted by Koochella (@koochella_racing) on
Afterparty shenanigans took place at Northeast’s finest cider brewery, Sociable Cider Werks, which also happened to be the final stop of the race.
Day three brought relaxation and recovery to our weary legs. Britt’s legendary bingo prowess, with equal parts sass and spunk, made our recovery brunch at Red Stag Supperclub that much better.
Thanks so much to everyone who participated, supported, and volunteered! You’re all diamonds.