On May 22, three Moxie Cycling Ambassadors competed in the Esprit De She Duathlon/Triathlon in Lakeville, Minnesota. The three all brought different perspectives:
Melissa Hunter: The Endurance Racer
Jess Rundlett: The Social Cyclist
Chris Schmit: The Comeback Kid
These are their stories:
Melissa Hunter: The Endurance Racer
Last weekend I rode in two events that, for me, couldn’t have been much different from each other despite their similarities in paper. Both involved bikes, both were geared for women, and both were new rider friendly. I’m going to tell a few stories about the rides to showcase the variety in cycling events that are available to female riders!
Riotgrrravel is a gravel race / ride hosted by a woman and her family in the MN Twin Cities area. It’s a labor of love, a free event put on by Ellie that welcomes riders of all ages and abilities to join. The only request is that riders be female or ride as a guest of a female rider. In years past the organizer had attended gravel rides in the Minnesota area and noticed the low number of female riders on the rosters. These gravel rides tend to be long, grueling efforts that unintentionally intimidate newer riders, especially women, from signing up. The rides are unsupported (no aid stations), you navigate yourself (no signs telling you where to turn), and most of the riders that show up would consider themselves serious cyclists. To be fair, I really love these longer events, often dressing myself in the typical racer garb and have tons of fun throttling myself on the bike for a half day at a time. However, this is definitely not everyone’s idea of a fun day!
This is Ellie, the woman behind Riotgrrravel:
To combat this, Riotgrrravel created rides with three distances — a 10 mile, 20 mile, and a 33 mile. The 10 mile course doesn’t require you to navigate (it’s a simple “out for five miles, turn around, head back” kind of a route). If you don’t finish, Ellie or a member of her crew will come look for you if necessary. Anyone is welcome – riders of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds come to ride in her event. The longer distance option is a little closer to the events mentioned above – riders must navigate on their own using cards printed with directions, and I saw more than a few wander off course during the event requiring one of us other riders to yell at them to turn around and get back on course!
I decided to ride the 33 mile “race” this year on my fat bike. After a grueling spring of racing and ultra cycling events, I wanted a chill paced ride. I wanted to spend the day talking with other cyclists, helping others out where I could. I helped calm a woman’s fears before the race about her ability to finish, and later I rolled along with a few other women and talked about flat repair and bike maintenance, assuring them I had enough CO2 cartridges in my frame bag to fix a million flats (ok, just 7, but it was still an excessive amount!). Other times I was able to talk to riders to help distract them and take their minds off of their weary legs. I had plenty of food and snacks in my frame bag in case anyone needed a sugary pick-me-up.
My favorite part of the ride was rolling along next to a friend’s 11 year old daughter Nadia. The two of them had signed up for the 33 mile ride that day, her daughter on a mountain bike and her mom riding a ‘cross bike and pulling a bike trailer carrying her other daughter, a young child. I spent a good portion of the first part of the ride next to Nadia. She was cheerful and talked up a storm, telling me stories as we climbed hills. She said it was good to talk to someone while you climbed hills to help take your mind off of your legs. She also told me about the importance of helmets, and the evolution of her cycling gear and bikes. She says she now loves jerseys because not all of them look like they are only for boys, and she’s happy to have a nice bike that makes it easier for her to tackle harder things. Her mom is an amazing ultracyclist, but dared not tell Nadia that she had never ridden that far or on that difficult of a ride when she was Nadia’s age. Nadia took it all in stride, crossing the finish line with a big smile on her face! The small crowd gathered at the finish line cheered for her and her mom as they crossed the finish line side by side. What an accomplishment!
Esprit de She
After Riotgrrravel, I ran home to clean myself up, swap out bikes from the fat bike to the road bike, and drove to the packet pick up for my local Esprit de She. Esprit de She is a duathlon / triathlon series open to women. I chose to do a duathlon relay with a friend — she’d do all the running, and I’d do all the biking.
There was a large event expo in progress with booths from many different vendors. Ladies who signed up received a gorgeous Moxie jersey, a gift bag with samples from the vendors, and custom printed race numbers. There were information sessions to cover all the rules of the race and the logistics — it was a chip timed event with multiple transition areas, rules about how and where to display your number on your body and your bike, and the event had a post race party afterwards!
During my information session the announcer asked who in the audience would be attending their first multi-sport event. Approximately a third of the women there raised their hands! I was in good company, as I was completely out of my element trying to process the logistics of pulling off a complicated race. I was happy to hear that the course would be marked, complete with course marshals directing traffic and even a few aid stations along the way. Hundreds of women would participate in this event and things would likely get congested if everyone didn’t help focus on the details that would help make it run smoothly.
The next morning, I awoke early to get ready and tiptoed out of the house to try not to wake my sleeping family. My friend met me and we carpooled to the race. Luckily I had dropped my bike off the night before into the transition area so we didn’t have a lot to do. Women were milling around everywhere and the announcer’s voice was booming over the loudspeaker. A lot of women were sporting their new jerseys, making for a bright, cheerful crowd.
The runners lined up, organized by expected pace. They were released every 5-10 seconds in packs of four to keep congestion down on the narrow path leading out of the parking lot. Everything ran like a well oiled machine! I hightailed it to the transition area to wait for my friend to run in.
Once at transition I eagerly scanned the incoming runners for my friend. Ladies were flying into the transition area and a handful of other relay riders spotted their runners, passed off their chips, and biked away. Soon my friend Katie ran up and I was off! I bolted for my bike, already wearing my bike shoes and helmet. My bike shoes made quite the racket as I jogged along next to my bike, clip clop clip clop. I jumped on my bike as I exited and slammed on a few gears, determined to bury myself for the bike portion.
There was a steady stream of riders in front of me, and I quickly accelerated and began passing people. I had heard the triathlon / duathlon rules about passing other riders and did my best to comply. I passed what felt like hundreds of people on the bike and it was absolutely exhilarating! Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, “on your left!”, “on your left!”, “thank you!!!!” This was my first “fast” effort in quite some time, and it was empowering to push up hills and zoom around corners on my zippy road bike.
I got back to transition earlier than I expected, but luckily Katie had been watching for me and was ready to go. We again passed off the chip and she sped away as I breathlessly collected myself in the transition area. After a bit I began quickly walking the path back to the finish, not wanting to miss her. Katie came into the finish smiling ear to ear and looking good!
We received medals for our participation and complimentary mimosas and champagne!
Katie figured out she had hit a PR during her run segments, and I beamed about how much faster I rode than I thought I could. We sauntered up to the results TVs to see our overall time. Imagine our shock when we saw we were the THIRD PLACE relay team!! We were so proud of our results and our effort — we knew we had done our best.
These two events happened in a short period of about 24 hours. They were very different even though both were aimed at getting women to try new athletic events that may initially intimidate them. The friendly, supportive atmosphere was present at both with the homey vibe at Riotgrrravel and the fun festive atmosphere at Esprit De She. I feel that this juxtaposition shows that there’s something out there for everyone if you’re brave enough to show up and risk looking silly as you try something new.
I encourage you to search out your options in your area, who knows what you may find!
All Riotgrrravel photos compliments of Kate Lockhart, and unlabeled Esprit De She photos taken by Melissa Hunter!
Jess Rundlett: The Social Cyclist
I signed up for Esprit De She way back in November, in time to get the free Moxie skirt with registration. I knew the race was a long way away, and was banking on having plenty of time to up my running game. I’m a cyclist and not a runner. At all. I’m also a procrastinator – and by race day my training had consisted of logging 10,000 steps every day, a couple of two mile runs around my neighborhood and purchasing new running shoes at Kyle’s Bikes.
The day before Esprit De She, I competed in RiotGRRRaveL, a 33 mile gravel bicycle race. I knocked that out in just under three hours and was quite satisfied with my performance – but unsure what Saturday’s race would mean for Sunday’s race. Saturday afternoon was dedicated to Esprit De She preparations – attending the mandatory pre-race meeting, picking up my rider packet, and setting up my road bike and gear in the transition area. I was anxious about leaving my bike overnight, but knew I needed a smooth morning on race day.
It was a sleepless night leading up to the race. By 3:00AM, I had already dreamt that my bike had been stripped by the time I arrived at the transition area and that I overslept and missed the 7:30AM start time by two hours. In that dream, I was so crushed to not be able to start the race that I decided to quit sleeping. My 6:00AM alarm was early enough, and I was grateful to be staying with a friend only 0.7 miles from Lifetime Fitness.
The morning was a bit hectic – I was nervous, but trying to eat my breakfast, drink my coffee, braid my hair evenly, get ready to go and not forget anything. I was thankful to have thought ahead and put all my race necessities, including the ankle bracelet timing chip, in one location.
My race attire was my favorite Moxie Iris Sweetheart Jersey and long, legging-type shorts from Target. On my feet I wore my favorite SmartWool socks and my new Asics – which I swapped for cycling shoes in the transition area. I topped off the outfit with a BIKEIOWA cycling cap.
After arriving at the race, I lined up with the ten minute mile group. That, it turns out, was a bit optimistic for my running pace. I was quickly passed by much of the group, but settled in with slightly slower women. The speed didn’t matter – we were moving forward through the course. Shortly after the run began, I felt foolish, thinking: “Right now I am only running to get to my bike.”
The bike portion was my time to crush it. I jumped on my bike and was quite surprised to see a friend from my local bike shop! He shouted to me: “This is the part you love, Jess!” That was all the reminder I needed to give it my all. I had concerns about riding on busy thoroughfares – but local law enforcement had a strong presence and motorists were respectful of the hundreds of cyclists in the right lane. I thanked every officer I saw and was grateful for a safe 12.94 miles at an average speed of 14.83 mph.
The second run was tough. I had never practiced running after a bike ride. Shortly after I laced up my shoes, my calves cramped. As I was attempting to walk out the cramps, I scraped my arm on a chain link fence and started bleeding – but then I saw some goats contained by the fence and that made me chuckle. I vowed that I’d use my best cycling strategy: “Go hard when it’s easy and go easy when it’s hard.” I did that and kept moving forward, walking some uphills and running all the downhills. It worked, and I made it to the finish line.
Looking back, both of my transitions were slower than they should have been. They were each under two and a half minutes, but I could have moved with more haste through the transition area. Lesson learned and time wasted.
My “realistic goal” for the Esprit De She was to finish in 2:15:00. My “optimistic goal” was to finish in 2:00:00. I wanted to finish each two mile run in under 30 minutes and knew that any time I made up had to be on the bike. As I crossed the finish line, my time was 1:47:24 (And it was 9:25AM – only 23 hours and 55 minutes after RiotGRRRaveL had started)! I was feeling surprised, happy and strong. (The exhaustion from completing two races in 24 hours didn’t hit until I got home). Two complementary glasses of champagne made for a good personal victory celebration!
After checking out the vendor fair and taking more fun finish line photos with my race medal than most people, it was time to shower, head home to Iowa, and put a wildly successful race weekend in the books. I couldn’t help but think that being a success doesn’t always mean coming in first. Sometimes it means exceeding the expectations you set for yourself.
As my Crew Chief said on the drive home: “Don’t lose that medal. It means something.” The medal has a place of honor, on the hutch in my living room and it means a lot of somethings – the least of which is I can run further than I thought.
All Riotrrravel photos compliments of Kate Lockhart.
Chris Schmitt: The Comeback Kid
May 22—RACE DAY: My alarm is set to go off at 3:00 a.m. just 4.5 hours after I go to bed at the conclusion of my oldest son’s graduation party—and one hour before my friend Lisa is set to pick me up to drive to Lakeville. Five months ago I was 30 pounds heavier and hadn’t run in almost 10 years. I had said goodbye to multi-sport after a chronic knee injury, and really, my kids’ schedule had taken over my own.
As the sun came up in Lakeville, we pulled into the Lifetime Fitness parking lot to find race volunteers already scurrying about making final preparations. After picking up our packets and leaving my bike in the swim to bike transition area, we moved the van and found the body markers in the bike to run transition (T2) area just a few blocks away.
#183 was written in permanent black marker on both arms, I remember this and was prepared. When the young man asked my age (46) and proceeded to write it on the back of my left calf, I was taken aback. Really? I like anonymity…no need to advertise my age! His response, “tell your friends it’s how you placed in the race.” What? Um, no. Challenge accepted, game on. My goal of finishing just changed. I left my running shoes and racing bib number in T2 and moved back to the pool area.
Sporting my bright blue Moxie Jersey, a pair of black tri-shorts, and the yellow race swim cap, I moved into the swim staging area. Swimmers were self selecting their swim start time based upon their estimated swim finish time. As a former competitive swimmer, I was pretty confident in my ability to move quickly through 5 lengths of the pool. I arrived at the 1:30 or faster pace sign and met the women around me…a fourteen year old (her leg told me!) from Stillwater, a 59 year old runner, a 39 year old training for her first half ironman in Norway this summer, and the winner of last years EDS sporting #1 instead of her age. I bet she was in her early 20’s…not that it really matters. After singing the National Anthem, the race began for #1, and at 20 second intervals the rest of us followed. I went into the pool 6th and passed my new 59 year old friend before exiting the swim.
In transition one (T1), my wet body plus the cool air was a wake up call as I headed out through the gate and mounted my bike. Helmet, glasses, shoes, bike. I passed 39 year old future Norwegian Half Iron Man within the first mile or so. Bright orange cones, yellow signs, and county sheriffs directed me out into the city onto closed roads. We made our way past Lakeville South and North High Schools and through quiet neighborhoods. At one point I thought I was approaching a fellow racer and picked up my pace, only to find that I had just overtaken an older gentleman (perhaps 70, but no one had written that on his leg). Honestly, I expected to be passed while on my bike, but found myself entering the bike to run transition area on my own.
The duathletes were exiting T2 as I entered, and neither of us was expecting the other. After a few “heads up” calls, I found my way to my shoes, hung up my bike, and made a quick shoe change. Yes, I remembered to take off my helmet. There are always one or two or head out on the run with their helmets on. I was not that girl…this time.
The run is my nemesis. I don’t like it. I actually fear it. I hadn’t trained properly. I only signed up because the run was short. Two miles. I can walk or limp two miles. However, I hadn’t been passed on the bike, and the young man in the body marking area had challenged me. I was going to finish better than 46th. I had a head start over most racers and knew they were chasing me down. As I exited T2, there were fans cheering on friends and strangers. I heard, “GO 183, you’ve got this.” And I felt something different than fear. I felt determination. I was surrounded by women who were giving it their best and I was motivated. I ran. Not fast mind you, but I ran. As a duathlete approached me—they were running toward T1 as I was running away from T2—and said, “I’m done.” I replied, “No, you’re not! You’ve got this!” She turned and looked at me, and continued running. I must admit that the only hill on the course got the best of me and I slowed to a walk for a minute or so, but as I crested the hill, I picked up my pace and peaked behind me. There was a young woman approaching, and in line with the spirit of the run, she also had words of encouragement. As “age 16” passed me, I found myself in a place of extreme gratitude. I was surrounded by friends whom I have never met. We are kindred spirits who figure out who we are in the pool, on the bike, and pounding the pavement. Pushing our bodies and cleansing our minds and finding strength to do the rest of what the world demands or expects of us.
As I crossed the finish line, alone, the emcee called out my name and congratulated me on my finish, I wondered where I’d eventually end up with a staggered start, the finish times are unknown. I welcomed my new friends from the swim start in as they finished and we walked around to the timing tent. Never, in my 10 years or so of racing, had I been first in my age group, until that day. Of 138 triathletes, I was 11th overall. I wouldn’t recognize the young man who did my body marking if I saw him again, but I silently said, “see?”
The Esprit de She was well done. From the introduction on the website to the pre-race information, to the announcement of the winners on the podium, it was the most well organized and fun race I’ve ever attended.
WAIT! Hold the press! I forgot to mention the post race party!! Best swag. Did you see the race “t-shirt?” It’s a beautiful, high tech fabric Moxie tank in fun melon/yellow/pink colors. Also included was 2 glasses of champagne (or mimosas!), a Gildan t-shirt or socks, a beautiful plate of food including quiche and fresh berries, and a whole bunch of samples and coupons.
As we pulled out of the parking lot with our giant race medals hanging around our necks, Lisa turned to me and said, “registration for next year opens in November, are you in?” My response, “Yes, if the stars align.”
Unlabeled Esprit De She photos courtesy of Chris Schmit.