See you at the Races?

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Uncategorized

See you at the Races?

Summer is finally arriving in Seattle, and the rides and adventures that we’ve been dreaming of all winter are approaching. It’s an exciting time, full of training, preparation and anticipation. This year, my calendar is organized around a few big races. I love that these races are fixed dates on the calendar: Ready or not, I get to ride them. And since I’m not a professional racer, there’s no pressure. I can’t (and don’t want to) dedicate my life to training, so racing bikes takes a back seat to running a company and to life in general. My goal for races I enter is to do my personal best. I want to be happy with how I ride, rather than worry about how I stack up against others. That makes it fun, because my goals are attainable, and it also allows me to enter races that are outside my specialty of long-distance individual time trials over rough terrain.

When I’m on the race course, I enjoy the single-minded focus of not thinking about anything else. During these races, I live in the moment. The only thing that matters is keeping the bike moving forward—as quickly as possible. I love pushing myself and my bike to the limit. And since reading the road and the terrain is a big part of riding well, I get to enjoy the landscapes I traverse more vividly than I would otherwise.

It’s only afterward that I am thinking about my ride and my bike. At that point, having experienced these races, and having tested our tires and components at maximum effort, becomes a valuable tool for our product development—together with the feedback from professional racers who are much faster than me and stress their equipment even more. As you can see, there are many reasons why I’m really looking forward to these events.

My first race of the year was a few weeks ago. Gamble Graveler was the first event of a local grassroots series that Rene Herse is sponsoring. It was fun to take the early-morning ferry across the Puget Sound on a Sunday and watch the sunrise turn the Olympic Mountains pink and orange. The 20-mile ride to the start was a good warm-up. The race itself was four laps of a great course on the trails of the Kitsap Peninsula. The trails were fun and just the right amount of challenge—with some beautifully flowing singletrack as a bonus. The weather was perfect. The other racers were all super-nice. It was a great way to start the season, gain some fitness, and fine-tune my bike handling skills. And I enjoyed the company at the post-race lunch and beer garden.

Next on the calendar is Unbound XL. For one week at the end of May, Kansas becomes the gravel capital of the world. Unbound is the world’s most important gravel event, but it’s kept its soul and community, so it’s a wonderful experience. Lining up with the world’s best endurance racers for the 350-mile XL is intimidating, but I know the race will be a blast. And reuniting with many friends and meeting others whom I’ve only known remotely will make the trip to Emporia even more special.

From the (not-so-flat) plains of Kansas to the steep and long climbs of the Olympic Rainforest… Just a few weeks after Unbound is Bon Jon Passout, a race that climbs Bon Jon Pass not just once, but twice. I entered the race last year, and it was so much fun that we decided to sponsor the entire series of three races this year.

When Ted King heard about a gravel race in the mountains near Seattle, the ‘King of Gravel’ decided to come out and race it, too. I’ve ridden with the Ted many times, but I’ve never actually shared a start line with him. I’ll see him at the party after the race…where he’ll be handing out awards to the winners. (We’ve put up a few sets of Rene Herse tires as prizes.)

In July, the third race of the series, Why-Not-Chee, will head into the remote area on the southern edge of the Olympic Mountains, near Lake Wynoochee at the foot of Humptulips Ridge. I’m really excited about that race, as it’s taking me to an area I love, but goes on roads that I’ve never ridden before.

Around the same time, the snow will have melted on the high passes of the Cascade Mountains, and it’s time for the big, unscripted adventures that fill the summer months. But those are a topic for a future post.

If you are interested in the races mentioned above… Unbound unfortunately is sold out (and requires entering a lottery to get in). For the races here in the Pacific Northwest, last I heard there are a few spots left. Hurry to sign up and join the fun. With courses ranging from 17 to 80 miles, plus a non-competitive Gran Fondo category, there is something for everybody. The riders and organizers couldn’t be more welcoming—it’s how racing should be. I hope to see you there!

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