KOOCHELLA

FTW Racing in Minneapolis/St Paul

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On August 3rd, I attempted to ride my bike 240 miles across the state of Minnesota in less than 24 hours, all on gravel roads. This race -the Day Across Minnesota (or the DAMn for short)- was in its third year, and after having crewed a good friend there previous year, I knew I wanted to be a part of it as a competitor. Unfortunately, my training didn’t go as planned, mostly due to some major self-reflection on balance and life priorities (a different, much longer post), and so I showed up to the start line with many goals for the day, only one of them being to finish (spoiler alert: I didn’t). But, along the course of the 155 miles and 16 hours of riding that I did do that day, I managed to accomplish many of the other goals and am choosing to celebrate those victories instead of the DNF that marks my official race result.

Overall, I can’t speak highly enough of the event itself, and would seriously encourage anyone who is curious to consider participating. There were 247 of us lucky cyclists who made it to the start line in Gary, South Dakota, and over the course of the next 24 hours, following the winds from west to east, 117 of us would end just west of the Mississippi river, in Hager City, WI. What an incredibly unique way to traverse across the whole state of Minnesota in a such a short amount of time and be part of such a supportive, inspiring, and caring community. From the race director’s uncle performing his own song literally written for this event at the pre-race meeting, to the people of Gary, SD coming out to cheer on racers at the start, to the fireworks that sent us into the night, I was reminded again and again why the energy at this race something else.

 

Mile 0 (Midnight)

As the clock struck midnight and fireworks painted the night sky, I couldn’t help but take a moment to acknowledge how lucky I was to even be on the start line. I had debated for weeks whether I was even going to race at all, but kind words from a good friend (and an incredible badass who ended up as the 2nd place female herself!) convinced me otherwise, and so here I was, riding a friend’s bike, in trail running shoes, and ready to take whatever was thrown at me. Leading up to the race, I was pretty worried about riding alone throughout the night, as darkness tends to multiply my already highly imaginative fears, but, with the course marked by taillights of riders for miles ahead of me, and the headlights of riders trailing behind me, I barely felt alone. The sound of crickets and gravel crunching beneath my tires accompanied me as I passed farmland after farmland and became a familiar friend as the miles ticked on. At the pre-race meeting, we had been warned that there was a water crossing at mile 25, but expecting it to be a small creek crossing, I was really quite surprised when we reached a flooded lake of standing water on the road and continued to walk through it for about 80 yards. Since I got there alone, I wasn’t quite sure if I was supposed to ride through it, so I decided to do something even worse- I got off my bike and dragged it through the water, moving slowly and drenching my bike (I later learned that carrying my bike above the water would have definitely been the way to go). Because of that #rookiemistake, I was blessed with a crunching sound coming from my bottom bracket as a reminder of my decision for the rest of the day. Finally, I made it to the mile 60 checkpoint by 5:15AM, and besides some slight shoulder pain (which I knew I would have to deal with all day), I felt pretty good. I spent a few moments there restocking and catching up with my crew, but as I knew I would be chasing cutoffs all day, didn’t linger long.

 

Mile 60-120 (5:15AM- 11:30AM)

Having competed in other endurance events, I knew that sunrises always bring me great energy, and therefore was really looking forward to the sunrise to boost my spirits. Maybe it was also the added bonus of getting to experience this sunrise only 6 hours into the race, instead of 20 hours in as I have in other events, but it did not disappoint.

As the world woke up and I wasn’t reduced to only the gravel three feet in front of me, I had the opportunity to take in the settings around me. Being from the suburbs of Chicago and having spent the majority of my life in fairly urban environments, I am always fascinated with the expanses of land that occupy the rural United States. I passed cornfields and horses, farmhouses and barns, and people up early to work on their land. I was also starting to leap frog with some of the same riders and began to strike up conversations as we passed each other. One of the things I love about endurance events is the sense of comradery among competitors, and this race was no different. I rode with a woman who had traveled all the way from New Jersey for this race, a man who had completed it twice before, many rookie riders from all over this great state, and was struck by the uniqueness and why of each person’s journey. As I biked along with the woman from New Jersey, we realized we had missed a turn. No bother, as we had only gone a mile and a half out of our way, but I could tell she was frustrated. Shortly after getting back on course, we hit one of our first minimum maintenance roads of the day, and I was surprised to find that I rode up it with much ease, which, not going to lie, felt pretty good. But by this point (around mile 90), I was already starting to slow down, and was losing my already small cushion of time.

I finally linked up with a woman from Florida around mile 95, and we quickly realized we had more in common that we thought, as she went to the Naval Academy with my cousin! We were also both gingers, which means we were able to commiserate about the glaring sun that had come out in full force. We chatted about bikes and racing and jobs and life in the way that you can really only do when you know you have many more hours ahead of you with nothing to distract you but conversation with a stranger turned friend. We continued to push each other through some seriously soft gravel and rolled into Checkpoint 2 at Mile 120 with 25 minutes to spare. I have never had to chase cutoffs before and it was really weird to roll into an essentially deserted aid station where most crews had already moved on. My crew of Henry, Brian, and Mitch were spectacular though, making sure I had what I needed (FOOD WATER SUNSCREEN) and encouraging me to continue on. It was five minutes to noon by the time Tracy and I left this checkpoint, and we were last two people on the course to leave. We had just 6 hours to go another 65 miles, and it was going to be very close, especially as the heat was beginning to take its toll. By this point I was doing a lot of riding with just one arm on the bars while I tried to stretch out my very cranky shoulder, and if it weren’t for Tracy, I think I would have dropped at this checkpoint. However, I felt a sense of accountability to her (its funny how not wanting to let someone down who was recently a complete stranger can motivate you), as we promised to ride together and do our best to make it to the next checkpoint in time.

 

Mile 120-155 (12PM – 4:30PM)

We instantly rolled out of the checkpoint and into the softest and loosest gravel I have ever experienced. Not only was it challenging to find a line (we were constantly zig zagging across the road), but it felt like every pedal stroke got absorbed into the ground instead of propelling us forward. We had been moving for 12 hours by this point, and the exhaustion and frustration was really beginning to settle in. Trying to stay positive, we focused on all we had accomplished that day. My first ride through the night! My first ride longer than a century! Our new friendship! We slogged on. As we continued, we came across a few other riders along the road who were resting in the shade and convinced them to tag onto our tires. The riders we picked up had already decided to drop at the next major town, but Tracy and I believed we might be able to make it to Checkpoint 3 at Mile 185 just in time. By this point however, we were rolling just around 10mph, and having to put sunscreen on every hour didn’t help our cause.  After three hours of heat and sand, it was pretty clear that this would not be possible. At each turn we’d cross our fingers for better road conditions, only to see the squiggle of tires painted across the road, and sigh with disappointment. We even took to riding the grass alongside the road, as it was often the hardest packed line. And although my legs felt great, the pain in my shoulder was making turning my head more and more difficult. I have definitely pushed through much worse pain before (and for many many many more hours), but I tried to also remind myself of the other goals I had set for the day.

We finally made it to the gas station in the town of Henderson at mile 155 at 4pm, out of water and essentially out of time. Officially, we had two hours to travel 30 miles. On a good day, I could do this. On a day with 155 miles and 16 hours of continuous movement on my body, I could not. Tracy started to experience some pretty serious cramping here as well, and as she curled in a ball outside the gas station, we made an executive decision to call it a day. It was really really really hard to make that call. This would be my first DNF. My first Did Not Finish, something I don’t think I could have come to terms with just a year ago. At first, this decision provided relief. While my legs still felt fresh, the thought of having to hold my handlebars and bear the searing pain I was experiencing in my shoulder made me content with the decision not to remount.

And so, after eating many snacks and a delicious jar of pickles (juice included), our crews arrived to pick us up and take us home. I think the sleep deprivation helped ease my decision, as I could hardly stay awake for the drive to dinner and the drive home, and then promptly slept for 14 hours when I got home, but upon waking up on Sunday morning, a sense of disappointment waved over me. I began to analyze the day prior… Could we have ridden faster? Taken less time at the two checkpoints? Applied less sunscreen? Peed less? These long races are complex and full of small decisions that add up to large outcomes, which unfortunately leaves a lot of details to obsess over. It was hard not to feel like a failure, and that I had let people down.

But was it really a failure? In the past, I certainly would have seen it that way. In my black and white brain, not finishing a race was indeed an F. But as I have been working on getting comfortable in the grey, I choose not to look at it that way. I had a blast that day, met incredible human beings and was supported by fantastic friends and community, biked the longest distance of my life, and learned that you really shouldn’t drag your bike through water if you don’t have to. Yes, there were a few things that went wrong (and that one really big thing), but there were a lot of things that went right. Maybe someday I’ll be back to go it another go, but I’m choosing not to let this DNF haunt me. I’m not saying no to doing hard things, I’m saying no agonizing over what happens when hard things get, well, hard.

 

So, my parting advice to you (and to myself) is this: If you can- thank your legs, thank your people, thank your heart, and go ride your damn bike.

 

Kate

 

Proof that I should have spent MORE time sunscreening…

 

A HUGE THANK YOU to my crew, volunteers, teammates, race organizers and our sponsors who made this day possible for me!!!

Disclaimer: The author of this article is 100% guilty of doing the thing she’s writing about, which is what inspired this post. – Renee Hoffmann 

 

When people say “[insert cycling discipline here] is dead” they mean one of three things:

  • It’s not popular anymore.
  • It’s not exclusive (to me and my group of friends) anymore, therefore it’s no longer cool.
  • I don’t like doing it anymore.

In the land of bike talk, this phrase seems pretty innocuous. Here’s the thing, though — it’s not. When you start dissecting what this phrase means, what it assumes, who says it, and the effect it can have, it becomes evident that it’s actually pretty problematic and ultimately harmful.

Check Your Privilege

When you think about it, trying out a cycling discipline and then moving on to something else actually takes a lot of resources. And I don’t just mean money (which is also a big factor). It takes access to certain gear/equipment, industry or social connections, and living in an environment or society that supports you and normalizes what you’re doing.

For example, cycling “trendsetters” who wax poetic about a certain discipline getting “too popular therefore it’s dead” tend to be privy to inside industry information or know influential industry professionals that many people don’t have access to. Spoiler alert: It’s a (cis/white) boy’s club.

Or there’s the classic case of “person who tries out road, goes really hard, and decides it isn’t for them.” (aka me) During my two-year pursuit of Cat 4 road glory, I had access to a bike team, sponsorships, industry friends/knowledge, and all the equipment I could possibly need. I’ve lived a pretty damn privileged life and used up a ton of resources just to be able to say, “road is dead.” 

For some people, road is a goal.

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Recent discussion on Facebook about 2018 goals. “CRITS” indeed.

Don’t Shit on my Parade

Unless you’re using some sneaky-ass reverse psychology, chances are telling someone that a certain thing they want to try “is dead,” will dissuade them from doing it. Yeah, [insert cycling discipline here] might be old news to you, but for them it’s brand new, shiny, and exciting. Maybe it’s the discipline they’ll fall in love with. Maybe it won’t be, but that doesn’t mean us curmudgeons should make new riders feel like they’re late to the game and shouldn’t bother giving [said discipline] a shot.

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Remember: One person’s midlife crisis is another person’s 21st birthday.

People are Amazing…Even if You Don’t Know About Them

Finally, this phrase and way of thinking is problematic because it fails to take into consideration all of the incredible progress that POC, women, LGBT folks, people with disabilities, and others (basically anyone besides your typical white dude cycling bro who gets all the attention) are making. Examples of a few amazing people/groups that should get way more attention: A Quick Brown Fox, Foxy Moxy, WTF Bikexplorers, SS Gravel Crew, Ellen Noble #bunnyhopthepatriarchy

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Chris Foome, meet Ayesha McGowan.

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Looking Ahead

recruit

We’re holding a Recruitment Meet & Greet
Wednesday, December 13, 6pm-8pm
at Eastlake Craft Brewery, 920 E. Lake St.
(inside Midtown Global Market at the southeast corner)

Koochella Racing is looking for new 2018 team members! Are you a somewhat experienced woman/trans/femme (WTF) rider who is ready to get more into racing (mountain, cyclocross, gravel, BMX, track, road)?  Learn more about the team from a brief overview with Q&A and then get to know current team members:  Sarah, Renee, Lisa, Leah, Kim, Maria, and Bri.  We’re excited to meet you!

Koochella’s mission is to elevate and support WTFs in the sport of cycling.

Feel free to reach out to any current team member or email us at koochella.racing@gmail.com if you’ve got any questions. We hope to see you there!

RSVP on facebook

 

USE THIS cxiscoming v1.0

Cyclo-cross season is upon us and we’ve been gearing up.  BUT WAIT!  Road season never ended!  And track is still in HOT pursuit!!  What if I don’t care AT ALL about competitive cycling, but still love having fun on bikes?  This list is not at all comprehensive (there are links to better calendars on here), but we think there’s something for everyone happening this fall.  At least one Koochella team member will probably be at each of these
upcoming events (all locations in Minneapolis, unless otherwise noted):

August 19-20 – Fixed Gear Classic
@ our local National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, Minnesota
The Fixed Gear Classic features sprint and endurance omniiums for both men (Pro,1/2) and women (Pro, 1/2/3). $5000 in cash prizes will be divided equally between the men and women’s competitions.
on facebook

August 19-20 – Powderhorn24 Community Ride
@ Midtown Greenway/Powderhorn Neighborhood
Powderhorn 24 is a celebration of the Powderhorn neighborhood of South Minneapolis encouraging cyclists, neighbors, families, and spectators to come together to race, volunteer or cheer on riders.
on facebook

Friday, August 19 – Mounds View Crit Road Race p/b PJW Racing,
@ Mounds View, Minnesota
on facebook

Saturday, August 20 – Ride Like A Girl Cycling Dirty Girl Gravel Series #3, p/b Penn Cycling
@ Rosemount, Minnesota
on facebook

Sunday, August 21 – CX Skills Clinic by Marcus Bush, Week 1 of 3:  Corners and Barriers
@ Sibley Field
on facebook

Wednesday, August 23, 6pm-8pm – Sunset Road Ride
Join Koochella team member, Kim, on a ride from the Lake Harriet Bandshell over to Sociable Ciderwerks!
on facebook

August 24-27 All-City Champs, p/b Bike Jerks:
Friends, the ACC’s are back to spice up your Summer! Please join us in Minneapolis from August 24th-26th for three days of partying and a lazy Sunday spent at the beach!
The big news is that All-City is supporting the event this year by purchasing the entries for all Women/Trans/Femme riders.
From All-City:
“To further our goals of helping to make the cycle community as inclusive and welcoming as possible, for our sponsorship this year, we have agreed to pay the entry fee for all women / trans / femme riders. So if you’re thinking you’d like to join in, please do, the good times are on us.”
Thursday, August 24 – Bandit CX, Location:  TBD, afterparty at Fulton Brewing – 414 6th Ave N
Friday, August 25 – SK After Dark Alleycat, registration at 9pm @ Rockit HQ – 715 W Franklin
Saturday, August 26 – All City Championship 2017 Alleycat, registration at 4pm, race at 5pm @ One on One Bike Shop – 117 Washington Ave N
Bring a lock and a map. Expect 25-35 miles all over this fair city of ours.
After party to follow @ the Nomad – 501 Cedar Ave
on facebook

Tuesday, August 29 – Fuerza Cycling x The Hub WTF CX Clinic
SAVE THE DATE! Our buddies on Fuerza have something great in the works!
on facebook

September 1-3 – Singletrack Mind Festival
on facebook

September 17 – UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup/Jingle CX
@ Iowa City, Iowa

CX Worlds! Get Dirty! We’re camping!
on facebook

Saturday, September 23 – All-City Intercontinental CX Champs
probably a LOT of fun.
on facebook

Sunday, September 24 – Gravel Grovel, p/b Venga Velo, Miesville, Minnesota
Sounds messy and so so great!
on facebook

Friday, September 29 – FTW Cheers! Ride p/b Grease Rag
Saturday, September 30 – 6th Annual FTW Wanderabout Ride p/b Grease Rag
Sunday, October 1 –  FTW Brunch! p/b Grease Rag
After last year’s 10-year-anniversary of the Babes in Bikeland Alleycat, Grease Rag is taking a little break from the huge hoopla and hosting a few smaller events this year.

Saturday, 9/30 RevoX

Saturday, 8/7 Donkey CX @ Baker Orchard

Little Guy Racing CX p/b Tonka Cycle & Ski

Reoccurring Happenings:

Mondays, 6pm-dark – W/T/F Bike Polo p/b Twin Cities Bike Polo
@ Green Central Park Elementary
(TCBP) has created this event for WTF – women, trans folx, femmes, and non-binary people of the greater Twin Cities area to come play bike polo and learn more about the sport. Come learn about bike basics, the rules of bike polo, or simply come hang with some rad people! They’ll have extra mallets on hand for new players. Please feel free to reach out to any Twin Cities Bike Polo member if you have any questions. This event will be weekly – come check it out!
on facebook

Tuesdays through SeptemberCX Skills Clinic with local crusher, Nicole Mertz, p/b Park Tool
Join Nicole for hands-on instruction and the opportunity to learn and practice skills and drills specific to the sport of cyclocross. Each week will focus on a different set of skills, ranging from dismounts/remounts, off-camber cornering, and proper bike maintenance. Participants will have the opportunity to win some ParkTool product and swag at the end of each session. This is a FREE clinic, open to people of all ability levels, held every Tuesday evening at 6:00pm starting Aug. 15 and running through the end of September. The clinic takes place at Saint Anthony Park in NorthEast Minneapolis.
Bring any bike, some water, and a helmet. *Helmets are required*
Week 1 focused on mounting/dismounting, shouldering your bike, and barriers
Week 2 will focus on cornering, off-camber, and tire pressure.
on facebook (((taking a break because Nicole broke their collar bone at Trek CX Cup)))

Thursdays (2017 season ends on September 14) – Thursday Night Lights @ NSC Velodrome.
This is where Koochella got its start. Come watch or race us!

Friday mornings, 8am-11am, Powderhorn Park
practice CX skills with Wreckhouse Racing’s Eamon O’Hara and Koochella’s Lisa M. Olson

Keep up to date with Minnesota Cycling Federation’s local calendar (some dates and locations TBA)
CX schedule
Track schedule

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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.

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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.

xox

Anna “Mama Duck” Schwinn