Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Single Speed USA 2013: Taking Winona by Storm!

Reflecting back on this weekend, I still can't believe it's all real... like some fantastically vivid dream that was indescribably detailed and blurred all at the same time.

We headed down to Winona early on Friday to get a spin in before the fun began on Saturday morning.  It was my first ever attempt at Single Speed USA (SSUSA), hosted by 29nSngl, and the anxiety was settling in early.  Jay had worked like crazy all week singling-out my LaMere 29'er with an eccentric BB30 that our pal The Mayor fabricated with the help of Hwood's coaching on dimensions.... time to test it out!

The bike rode awesome and, although some of the sections of Holzinger wore me out on cold legs, the terrain I was sailing over and through was exhilarating and fun!  After an hour of spinning, we returned to the lodge and I was bouncing off the walls over the awesome, rocky decent leading to the finish.  If you would have asked me to do that a year ago, and I would have given ya a dirty look and walked my chicken-butt down the hill slowly.  Oh what a difference a great bike and awesome coach (hubby) can make!

After the ride, we headed over to Gabby's to pick up our race packets and throw back some beers with our buds.  Damn it's cheap to drink in Winona!  $2 for pints of Surly Furious... yes, please!  We tied a few on and I squirmed in my seat as H&K and I talked about the next day's party strategy.  It was a left brain / right brain struggle as part of me wanted to screw around and take it easy... but the racer in me had wanted to win, since the moment I registered.  I never let myself set goals like that - I always try to focus on just having fun... but this was something I couldn't deny that I wanted BAD!

Come morning, my anxiety was thru the roof and I was struggling to choke down some eggs before heading over to Holzinger Lodge.  We fell into rhythm with the crowd as we walked our bikes to an open field for the le mons start (running 1/4 mile on foot to your bike to begin the race
).  Lucky for me and H&K, the trail fairies left our bikes alone and they were right where we left them.  We got into the trail with lil fuss and started heading up the bluff to tackle the 4,000+ feet of climbing that was to come.  H&K had to wait for me a couple times, but then my legs woke up and it was hard to think about partyin'... I just wanted to go FAST!  As ladies passed us, it started to bug me and I just wanted to chase them down.  When we climbed into the Cherrybomb part of the coarse, I'd gapped H&K and had to wait a bit before we went into the woods.  My legs complained and lactic acid started gathering.  Once back on the bike, though, the pain subsided.  We were riding with a few others and I got into a smooth rhythm, watching only the 2 riders in front of me.  Before I knew it, H&K was gone.  I stopped and waited, but my legs screamed and I had to get moving again before I fell totally apart.

I was in time trial mode, now, and picking off the girls who'd passed me before and never looked back.  I caught 5 in Cherrybomb and overtook another as we entered our last Holizinger loop to the finish.  Atop Holzinger with 3 miles to go, I found another.  Once the pass was made, I tried to get outta sight and outta mind fast, pedaling to my limit as I tried to make it to the finish.  Crossing the line, I was blown away when I found my name as 3rd woman on the list!  (although technically I think I was 4th since one gal didn't sign in).  Only 1 minute behind the gal who finished 3rd!  Astonished and boiling over with joy, I threw back some brews with my hubby and pals, waiting for the final battle... please, oh please, let it be a derby!

Sov got on the mic and gave trophies to the 1st place male & female of the race.  Then, it was time to announce the final challenge for the title.. DERBY!  Ladies first!  Lucky for me, Chuck had used my Bianchi MUSS for the race so I was able to use the bike I'd learned how to derby on in the final event.

Walking thru crowd to the derby was calm and slow.  All I could think about was Homey Fest...with my MUSS in hand, we were zen, and it was like I was finally arriving at the moment I'd been dreaming of for months.  Kerry, the defending champ, and the Drunkcyclist gal were my competitors, and we pedaled 'round and 'round inside the wall of onlookers.  Everything seemed to move in slow mo and I played it from a defensive stance, slowing my speed and forcing them to come to me.   Since my smaller size gives me much less momentum than the boys I learned from, using my balance at slow speeds was my most effective weapon.

Drunkcyclist was the first to go, dabbing after losing balance with our impact.  Just me and the defending champ.  We circled twice, setting up our strategies... I brought my speed almost to a hault, slowly pedaled forward, watching Kerry close the gap, waiting patiently for her to come to me.  She attacked me from behind and, once she'd committed to her balance against my wheel, I surged forward to eliminate the support, forcing her off balance and out of the game.  The crowd roared and I let out a 'warrior' scream with everything I had.

It took everything in me not to cry - I did it... I actually did it!  The moment I'd been dreaming of came true, and all of the energy in the circle sparked and amplified in the excitement of it all.

With belt tightly secured around my waist, I watched as the men entered the ring.  With more participants, the derby went longer and got more intense.  Down to the final two, Spinner won it with the same strategy I'd employed, making the other rider come to him.  It worked and we threw up our fists in celebration as the new champion was crowned.  
Next up were heats of Bucketball to help determine the finalists for the next host city.  The excitement was high as the riders rode for their town's honor.  It came down to Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Michigan, with the final feat of strength to take place at the after-party just hours later...

We hit the after-party at Market Street Tap hard with DNF rockin' out tunes as we celebrated and sang along.  "Super Drunk Guy" was quite entertaining as well, rolling around on the floor in a stupor as the crowd rocked out and the guys jammed out awesome tune after awesome tune.  

Fireworks littered the floor as the racers danced to the music and Geno parted the crowds by riding and sliding his single speed on the beer-soaked floor.  The final Host City representatives gathered at Hammerschlagen in the back, taking their turns at driving a nail into a log with the sharp end of the hammer... tough!  In the end, Michigan took it!  Next year, Copper Harbor here we come!



 Spinner and Me - SSUSA 2013 Champs partyin' hard!
The drinks were cheap, the entertainment was awesome, and everything was PERFECT!  As we loaded the cars up with the gear and filtered out into the streets, another derby began.  Hollywood and G-Money found two bikes hooked to a sign via cable lock and snapped the sign to get at 'em, riding the bikes side by side in the derby as H&K watched on with her key in hand.   The crowd thinned and we headed back to camp with Chucker, G-Money, Chris, Wheels, Hollywood, Metal Mike, and Fastway Freddie.  Exhausted and well-embibed, it wasn't a surprise to see everyone quickly retreat to their tents. 

 Packing up the next morning was bitter sweet... so much fun I didn't want to leave, but we had a puppy to get home to.  We said goodbye to the crue, loaded up the Scamp, and pointed the truck north.

I can't thank the sponsors, volunteers, or participants enough for making that weekend so amazing and memorable.  Thanks to 29nSngl for putting on a killer weekend & race, Hollywood Cycles for singling out my bike and making sure I was ready to rock, Podiumwear for the comfortable and durable cycling apparel and letting me do what I wanted with the design (hottest kit there!), LaMere Cycles for the killer bike that flew thru the trails, and the Minneapolis Mafia for teaching me to derby!  And if it weren't for my husband Jay, I never would have experienced all this awesomeness.. I love you to the moon & back!

365 days to wear the belt.... Copper Harbor 2014, here we come!

Ridin' high,
Kristy Kreme