Baby Ducks Take the Track by Storm!

If there’s one thing that makes our track racer hearts pitter-patter, it’s seeing new female-presenting riders take to the track for the first time, watching that sparkle in their eyes as they ride their first laps, and then seeing that sparkle turn into fierce determination as they become glorious track monsters. Racing is nearly here and a whole slew of women (over 20!) are gearing up for their first season of racing. This spring, Anna “Mama Duck” Schwinn, Linsey “Linzilla” Hamilton, and Renee “Dark Horse” Hoppe teamed up to co-teach the Women, Trans, Femme Intro Track Class. For many of these riders, riding and racing on the track marked their first time riding a fixed gear bike and trying out sanctioned racing. Their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious, reminding returning riders both old and new of their first few times riding our beloved boards…

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See the full album here. 

Pep Talk

My first track race of the season, 2013.

First night of racing, first race, 2013. What you can’t see is that I’m so scared that my legs are shaking.

Race License: check

Track Pass: check

Velodrome Bike Parking: check

Gear: check

Sweet bike: check

I have all the gear I’ll need for the season. My bike is good to go. I have lycra for days and a brand new pair of track gloves that I’m in love with.

I’m an hour away from being picked up to go to my first night of structured training for the season, and I’m so nervous I can’t sit down. My palms ache. I had to force some food into my stomach so I won’t get lightheaded at practice… I’ve been so nervous, I haven’t eaten all day.

It’s funny. This will be my fourth season racing, I’m captain of a team, and I’m still nervous.

I am telling myself now that I’m nervous because I didn’t train enough (I’ve been traveling and working a lot). I’m going to embarrass myself. All the new women are going to be so much faster than I am. It’s going to be me off the back, all alone, looking stupid. I’m listing excuses to not go.

It’s funny because I remember that one season where all I did was train and I was a total beast… and I sold myself the same negativity and excuses then as I am now.

When other people say these things, I have a pep talk for them. When it comes to myself, I just pace and worry. The koolaid hasn’t been self-serve.

But today, for some reason, I really need it. So here goes:

Anna, girl, you just need to get out there.

Every season has a first training session. Every season has a first race. They are always terrifying- you just need to jump in and get started.

You only get faster and better from here.

Racing is so good for you, and you know it. It makes you stronger, physically and mentally. It makes those around you stronger, too, which is why you’re always dragging your friends into it. Best of all, it gives you a way of appreciating and respecting strength in yourself and others. And you love that. It makes you so happy.

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First criterium, 2014. I got lapped twice and was so sick that I was puking on the course… I still had a blast and learned a ton from it. 

Remember that in those races where you’re falling off the back, being lapped like crazy, that you’re still having fun. You’re cheering yourself on in your head, thinking of ways to get better for next time. You’re cheering on your friends lapping you because, goddamn, they are so much faster than last season. And that’s so awesome.

Remember every race where you’ve surprised yourself. Remember when you held on longer than you thought you could and how awesome that felt.

First day of track practice, 2015. I can't remember being happier that year. We blasted Prince over the speakers at NSC and tore up our legs.

First day of track practice, 2015. We blasted Prince over the speakers at NSC and tore up our legs. It was so wonderful.

You have waited all winter for today. Rubber is finally meeting boards. Last year, entering turn one for the first time that season felt like coming home again. That’s what you get to do today, and that’s pretty cool.

Girl, this season is going to be so rad. You’re going to have so much fun. You always do. You love it. 

Get out there and make those legs burn. Turn yourself inside out. And do it all with a smile. You deserve it.

Eat those vegetables. Try really hard. Get it, girl.

Anna

Anna "Mama Duck" Schwinn

Anna “Mama Duck” Schwinn

6 Reasons You Should NEVER Try Road Racing

Even though we personally think road racing is pretty great, that’s no reason for you to. Here’s our top six reasons you should absolutely never under any circumstances try out road racing…

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You must absolutely have the most expensive, lightweight, and top-of-the-line bike to compete.

Your aluminum or steel drop bar bike simply won’t work in race settings. The components are old, your chain could use some lube, and the brake pads squeak when you brake hard. Hell, the whole thing would probably fall to pieces before the start gun went off. Everyone knows that carbon bikes preceded the Tour de France, after all.

Steel is real, yo.

Steel is real, yo.

Hills.

What are you supposed to do about the hills? Ride up them? Riding up hills on your bike makes your legs and lungs burn, and sometimes even makes you sweaty. Those kinds of feelings should only be experienced within the sterile environment of an indoor gym.

It will be hard.

There’s a saying, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” That saying doesn’t apply here. You’ve seen those photos online of people’s “pain faces” during races. The faces that communicate that wearer is sliding down a slide made of cheese graters, or just drank an entire bottle of hot sauce. The incomparable glory that comes with finishing your first race or getting on the podium is not worth the temporary pain.

You won’t know anyone there.

The real reason road racers wear matching kits is to identify who their friends are. Otherwise they’d never be able to recognize each other with helmets and sunglasses on. It’s like whale calls for people. The only time people on teams interact with outsiders is when they go all sharks vs. jets on each other. *snaps*

friends

It’s too dangerous.

Imagine hurtling around corners and down hills in a pack of cyclists with nothing to protect you besides some lycra and a helmet. Better stick to bike paths. No one ever gets hurt riding there. Between the dogs on leashes strung across the bike lane, runners wearing earbuds, and close calls with other cyclists, you’re better off there than in a bike race. Bike paths are safe. Or better yet, hang up your bike helmet and lean your bike against your living room wall. The safest way to use your bike is to sit on the couch and lovingly gaze at it. No one ever dies from inactivity.

It’s your first criterium or road race and everyone else will be faster than you.

It is a scientific fact that every local race field is made up of riders who just decided that they didn’t feel like going pro. When faced with numerous sponsorships to choose from, fame, and international glory they were like, “nah, I’d rather do the local race circuit.” Better quit while you’re ahead and avoid racing with those monsters forever.

Photo credit: Matthew Pastick (far right)

From left to right: Renee getting dropped in every Tuesday Night World, Renee getting mostly dropped in every Tuesday Night World, and Renee mostly keeping up in every Tuesday Night World. (photos taken over 3 year span)

 

**Most photos by: Matthew Pastick

Koochella Beginner Women’s (Trans & Non-Binary Inclusive) Road Clinic

In anticipation of our first week of sanctioned road racing in Minnesota, this Sunday 13 women grabbed their road bikes and headed out to Fort Snelling for Koochella’s second annual Beginner Women’s (Trans & Non-Binary Inclusive) Road Race Clinic. We covered everything from what race categories are, to equipment, to race skills and what to expect on race day. The women present ranged from racers with 1-2 seasons under their belt who wanted to strengthen their skills, to completely beginner women who are excited to sign up for their first races this season! Local crushers Erin Young, Tiana “T-Bits” Johnson, and Denise Ward helped out with tips, suggestions, and in assisting with drills. Huge thanks to everyone who showed up or helped out! We’re SO stoked to see some of you at crits and road races this week! If you’re attending or racing this week and see any of these women, be sure to give them a high five and cheer them on! #moreismore
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road clinic 1

Try Really Hard

So we have this common saying on the team. It goes something like this…

Person 1: Statement about how hard certain part of the course, race, etc was and how silly they looked trying to overcome it. 

Person 2: But at least we tried really hard!

Person 1 & 2: *highfive in agreement*

This whole conversation seems pretty inconsequential, right?

And in some ways, it might be, however the idea of celebrating coming in dead last during a scratch race, crashing a million times on a cross course, or having the least graceful dismount/mount ever because, in the end, you tried really hard is important and valuable – especially to a growing women’s field. Let’s take a moment to break that idea down:

koochella anna cross photo by matthew pastick

The face of someone who wasn’t having the best race ever, but still tried really hard. And looked fly as hell.

There’s no shame in trying hard.

Maybe you keep getting dropped in every single criterium you do. Perhaps you feel like everyone else is way faster at technical cross courses than you, or that your standing sprint is awful. Maybe you felt like you turned yourself inside out during a race, only to still miss that coveted podium spot. That’s okay. It’s important to recognize weaknesses as long as you don’t dwell on them, rely on them for excuses, or allow them to control your life. Regardless of how any race or training ride goes, trying really hard not only makes you a better rider, but also increases the excitement and overall skill level in the entire field. Imagine watching a race on the velodrome where everyone is only giving 60% effort because they know that there’s one fast rider who is going to crush everyone. Sounds pretty boring and uninspiring, right? Imagine that same race, except now everyone is giving 100% and trying to reel in that fast rider. That’s the race that’s going to motivate racers to keep coming back, continue to train hard, and progress as athletes. Even if no one is able to catch up to that super fast rider, at least everyone gave it their all, and that’s something to always be proud of. In short, trying really hard, even if you “fail,” is an achievement worthy of both praise and celebration.

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These women got second, third, and fourth place respectively. They were all trying really hard.

Dedication is the only thing you can control.

In a sport rife with crashes, inclement weather, malfunctioning equipment, illness, and injury, training and racing goals can easily become derailed. That’s why, in many ways, your dedication is the only thing you can control. It’s important and empowering to set goals for yourself and work to achieve those goals. Do those intervals you hate, go out of your way to ride up that hill on your commute home, eat more vegetables than you normally do, or go on training rides with cyclists who are faster than you. Even if you can’t complete that workout or are totally exhausted by the end of that ride, (or hate vegetables for that matter), dedicating yourself to something you are passionate about is brave. Even if you go into that season or race feeling like you’re still not where you want to be, knowing that you’ve been trying really hard is something to be proud of.

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This rider tried so hard that her legs got bloody.

That being said, we all have those races or rides where nothing is going your way and you feel that internal flame of effort die out. You might give up and switch into “survival” mode, in which your main goal becomes to just finish or find the nearest point where you can quit. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, that’s perfectly okay. We all sometimes get “beat down” by exhaustion, tough courses, or hard races. Acknowledge it in that moment and make a pact with yourself that, despite feeling negative about your performance right now, you’ll keep trying really hard next time.

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Trying really hard isn’t always pretty.

You think about you more than anyone else thinks about you.

This isn’t to say that we’re all self-absorbed assholes, it’s just that most of us are too busy working, volunteering, spending time with family and friends, and riding our bikes to worry too much about what’s going on in everyone else’s life. Think about it – when’s the last time you finished a race and immediately thought, “I wonder how so-and-so did?” Unless it’s a friend who you know was trying really hard to podium or was particularly concerned about this race for any number of reasons, chances are they aren’t your first thought (if they are, however, kudos to you for being a loyal and concerned friend!). Next time you leave a race feeling less than stellar about your performance, just remember that everyone else is probably thinking about their own race too, not yours.

Support other women who try really hard.

So you’ve made a pact with yourself to dedicate yourself to your passion (which we sincerely hope is cycling related), and try really hard. Awesome! Remember that not every rider celebrates trying hard like you do and sometimes they might need reminders that trying really hard is about as rad as it gets. Support your fellow cyclists by congratulating them on their efforts, whether they’re on the podium, DFL, or DNF and strive to make our wonderful sport as welcoming and enthusiastic as it gets. From our perspective, more is more. The more women, races, and posi feelings there are, the better cycling becomes for everyone involved.

koochella pain face photo by blake

Pain faces = trying SO hard. Photo by: Blake Kelley