KOOCHELLA

FTW Racing in Minneapolis/St Paul

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!!!

2K19 KOOCHELLA CLASSIC:
BRUNCH CAT

It is time again for our annual alley-cat bicycle race!! We aim to make this event as community-focused and beginner-friendly as possible. This year, we’re going to BRUNCH. This race is for any and all beings and first -time alley cat racers are welcomed and encouraged to try this one out! We are looking forward to enjoying this wonderful day with you! 

Proceeds from our Sunday Funday will go to our Cyclocross (CX) Scholarship! More information and applications for which will be posted soon after the Classic. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DAY OF NITTY GRITTY

10AM Coffee Hour & $10 Registration at Cherry Cycles  

11AM Race Start

2PM Race Cut-Off 

 

*IMPORTANT INFO FOR VOLUNTEERS: 

Because it’s BRUNCH CAT, we are going to have a potluck after the race. Because it’s us, we have options for you. 

OPTION 1:  Bring Food/Snacks for POTLUCK BRUNCH after the race. SIGN UP>> HERE!

OPTION 2: Classic Alley-Cat Stop Volunteer. SIGN UP >> HERE!

 

*IMPORTANT THINGS FOR RIDERS TO BRING

  • Bicycle (or unicycle or tricycle), 
  • Helmet
  • Lock 
  • Pens!
  • MUG & ENTIRE CUTLERY SET (SPOON, FORK & KNIFE)
    Making garbage is so 2k18. Just be responsible for your desires and byo fave coffee receptacle.
  • All of your friends
  • A welcoming and inclusive attitude

SEE YOU THERE!!!!

 

Our incredible sponsors:

Yess Yoga

All-City Cycles

Borah Teamwear

Cherry Cycles

Kali Protectives

Lake Cycling

PeaceCoffee

Sturdy Bag Designs

 

Cycling can be a dangerous sport. Koochella Racing, LLC is not liable for any interesting ramp tricks gone wrong. Please ride responsibly for the sake of others sanity. By participating in this event, you give Koochella Racing, LLC and associated sponsors full rights to use your image and likeness in any form (including but not limited to photography and video) indefinitely. Thank you!

 

*SAFER SPACES POLICY: Any unwelcome sexual advances, homophobic or transphobic “jokes” and language, macho showmanship, lack of respect for gender pronouns, belittling insider lingo, negative comments on someone’s gear or ability, excluding people based on gender/race/ability/orientation, etc., will be called out and you might be asked to leave. (Language from Grease Rag Ride & Wrench)

 

I thought we might have a mild winter this year in Minneapolis. (So hopeful, so naive.)  I’ve spent most of my life in Michigan and upstate New York, insulated from bitter temps by giant lakes. I can blast through looming snowdrifts in my little Toyota Corolla without flinching. I have mastered winter? Not in Minnesota and not on my bicycle. So in January I signed up for an 8 week spin class led by a local cycling coach. The class would be 90 minutes long and structured by intervals for building endurance, power, and mental focus. It would be for cyclists by a cyclist.

I (my name is Anna) could ride in this snow, or I could not [image description: full shot of woman standing in freshly fallen snow in bike shorts and winter boots, laughing]

In November I had just finished my first ever season racing (cyclocross) and wanted to build on the fitness I developed during the season. I planned to be that hardcore commuter and winter rider after the two less-than-committed winters I’ve spent in MN so far, but that plan quickly fell apart once extreme cold and record snowfall arrived. I have no trainer, cycling computer, power meter, or online training platform, which are all very expensive separately or together. Spin class was going to give me the opportunity to ride 20-25 miles a week indoors as well as use technology and training metrics for the first time without buying new equipment.

In class we use the STAGES training platform, bike, and power meter. The class is located at a YMCA and registration was open to nonmembers (me). I spent a couple of classes dialing in my fit on the spin bike. Everything is adjustable, so you can wiggle and slide all the components around to approximate the feel of your IRL bicycle. I’m in the middle of my second 8 week session right now and I finally feel like I understand how all the numbers we train with work together. My power numbers have finally improved! I don’t want to admit how much I’ve fallen for the numbers . . . To my surprise, I felt fine working out with a bunch of other folx. (Usually I ride alone.)  The bikes are well-spaced, and everyone in class is working/suffering by their individual metrics together, which I find motivating. Spin class is like riding a bike! But there are no weather or scenery or bumps or stops affecting my ride.

Warm-up [image description: shot from above legs in bike shorts on a spin bike]

That might sound boring, but I do find enough stimulation in class to focus for 90 minutes. The bikes face a projection screen where all participants’ power percentages are displayed and the computer on your bike shows your speed, cadence, watts generated, calories burned, and so on. Because of this class, I now know what all these training words mean and how they relate to my individual capability.

I figured out my preferred numbers about a month into class: my favorite cadence, when to focus more on pushing or on spinning, etc. Each session I complete a three to four minute FTP test. I ride as hard as I can sustain for that period of time, which determines the maximum 100% power (measured in watts) I can sustain for 20-60 minutes (there is an equation for this; STAGES calculates). That’s the number that the intervals for the rest of class will dip below and above. I’ll ride for a period of time at 80% of this wattage, then 90%, then 100%, then 50%, then 120%… You get the idea. And then I leave class feeling like a wet noodle, yet refreshed by own sweat and endorphins.

Bri and I smiling and sweating after spin class [image description: close-up of two smiling people in a room of spin bikes]

I was becoming very frustrated from class to class when my numbers were not increasing despite feeling stronger and putting out what I perceived as increasing efforts. As it turns out, looking at what the computer says I’m doing is the main difference between just riding my bike outside and doing whatever I think is a challenging ride and training. Riding with the technology in spin class has changed the way I will approach riding. While I ride bikes because I love riding bikes, I love more and more the work I can put into riding my bike. I see myself spinning next year, but in the meantime I’ve been setting tip money aside in a jar (really) to buy a cycling computer, accompanying sensors, and heartrate monitor to help me train. Another day, another dollar, another ride.

 

 

 

 

 

The Women Behind knog

As part of our sponsorship from knog, the whole team recently flew out to Australia to tour the offices and get a behind-the-scenes scoop on how our favorite lights and locks are made!

…just kidding. That would have been sweet, though.

We did, however, sit down (digitally) with the women behind the brand. Their roles vary from graphic designer to logistics and they all pack a big punch when it comes to product innovation, brand marketing, and smoothly-running day-t0-day operations. Read on to learn a bit about these incredible individuals!

Michelle – Product Designer

Tell us more about your role at knog. 

I’m one of the behind the scenes designers that make the awesome sketches, drawings and ideas into a reality. I put together the computer files and the drawings so that the factories know what to make. And then I make sure that they make them the way that we want them to.

Finish this sentence: The one thing people should know about Australia is… 

That we don’t all look at speak like Steve Irwin (but some of us do!). Australia is diversely multicultural and I love being able to call people from many different backgrounds my family, friends and colleagues. (And to be able to eat food from many different cultures right down the street. Yum!)

 

Maddy – Graphic Designer

Tell us a bit about yourself! 

Due to a number of unfortunate incidents occurring over the years, my bike riding days are currently on hold. I love to travel (cannot wait for my next trip to Japan), try new restaurants and spend time with family and friends.

What’s your fav musical group right now? 

Michael Kiwanuka

Leah – International Sales Manager

What are some of the challenges you face working in the bike industry? 

It is still a very male dominant industry, there’s no doubt about that. Of course in the early years, if you’re a female at a tradeshow you were immediately mistaken for a promo girl. Thankfully times have changed since then, and I’m very lucky that I currently work with such great companies and people all around the world, who treat you like an equal no matter your gender. I would really love to see more females working in the bike industry, and now is a better time than ever to see that happen.

What’s your favorite knog product? 

The Oi bell. The design, its so revolutionary, yet so simple. The best thing is watching people’s reactions when they first see it, its like love at first sight! The Oi bell has been such a global success, and we are about to clock over 1 million units produced since its launch 18 months ago!

 

Meesha – Logistics

Tell us about yourself! 

I have a bright yellow retro bike and I love  going to music concerts, hiking and brunch.

Finish this sentence: The one thing people should know about Australia is… 

The coffee is the best in the world.

 

Virginia – Finance/HR Manager

What do you like most about working in the bike industry? 

The relaxed but busy vibe.

Finish this sentence: The one thing people should know about Australia is… 

AUSTRALIA IS INFAMOUS FOR its dangerous animals. With more deadly snakes than any other country worldwide, it isn’t surprising. Though sharks, spiders, and snakes get the majority of bad press, it is actually an awesome array of predators and venomous critters that have earned Australia its fearsome reputation

Not enough knog in your life? Check out the brand’s latest project, the Bandicoot headlamp, and pledge money to the kickstarter to get one for yourself!

I first met Jenny during QBP’s annual intern bikepacking trip (Jenny was an engineering intern). Her can-do attitude and general stoke factor was immediately evident as she stuffed (at least) two cases of beer into the back of her cargo bike for the 40-ish mile round trip journey. Yeah, no big deal. Also, it was like 95 degrees out that day.

Anyways, All-City wisely hired her shortly after the internship ended, and she’s been making magic for them ever since.

When did your interest in bikes begin?

I was running a lot in high school, and decided that I wanted to do a triathlon. I didn’t have a bike so I bought this World Sport from a garage sale and made it my summer project to tear it apart and clean it and then put it together. It went really terribly because I had no idea what I was doing and no guidance, but it was really fun and I wanted to learn how to do it properly. I got a job at a shop through MSU’s triathlon club and started riding and working with bikes more seriously.

 

What’s your current bike style? 

Commuting is what I do most, just because I have to go places, like work, every day. I race cyclocross and I have dabbled in gravel, but I think riding mountain bikes with my friends is my favorite bike style. That includes bike packing trips, which I’m hoping to do more of this year.

Why engineering?

Up until halfway through my sophomore year of college, my major was philosophy. I was also working at a shop, and having a lot of fun learning how to fix bikes. There was a ton I wanted to learn though, and the shop mostly serviced bikes for college kids, so the technology was pretty unimpressive. One of my friends at the shop was doing mechanical engineering, and had done internships with Trek. When I heard about the things he was doing there I wanted that internship, so I started engineering as a second major. I have always liked making and fixing things way more than reading and writing, so it felt more natural, and I went that route.

 

How’d you get your start in the bike industry?

I got connected through that bike shop, MSU Bikes. I worked in the front room, which was the shop area, and all the repairs were done in the back. It was really small, and most of our customers were students on tight budgets, so I always tried to fix their stuff without having to check it in and have them pay for the repairs. Our head mechanic was also really cool and would teach me how to service high end stuff, which I was a lot more interested in. Learning how to wrench got me a long way, and I think it was a foot in the door when I went to apply for the Trek internship.

What advice would you give to other femme/trans/women (FTW) folks who want to work in the bike industry, but don’t know where to start?

I would say learn as much as you possibly can, and just start tearing into things. The bike industry is definitely intimidating when you’re new, because there is so much to take in, and it seems like everyone else is already in the know. But in my experience people respect when you want to fix your own stuff, and if you want to learn how to do something there will definitely be someone who will teach you. And don’t doubt your abilities just because others have been conditioned to seem more confident. That took me a long time to learn.

 

Can you tell us about any exciting projects you’re working on right now or are they all top secret?

I think they are mostly top secret, but I can say that I am working on things that are pretty.

If you could engineer anything in the world, what would it be?

I could get down with designing motorcycles. My second choice would be artisanal kitchen equipment.

 

What’s it like working at All-City?

It’s great, everyone is so passionate. Sometimes I’ll see a heated argument break out during a meeting over something that seemed so minor. And it’s obvious that it only got heated because of how much everyone cares, because after the meeting we go back to talking about Law and Order Valentine’s cards. The team works together really well, and it’s cool to see how much thought and care is behind every single detail.

Where’s your favorite place to ride?

My favorite ride is my commute to work because I love my job!!! Just kidding. The coolest riding I have ever done was on the Colorado Trail. Around here I like riding the bandit trails along the river. There are always new things to see and explore.

 

Favorite quote/saying:

Live laugh love

Follow Jenny on Instagram <3 <3