Author Archives: McKenna Dwyer

McKenna Dwyer – Iceman: November 5, 2016

Coming into the race I probably didn’t get all the training that I needed to, but I was still in better shape then I was about two weeks ago. I haven’t won a race since I shined at the Copper Harbor Trails Festival and I was hoping to end the season on a high note. For those of you who don’t know what Iceman is it’s a point to point race starting in Kalkaska, MI and ending in Traverse City, MI. The race is approximately 30 miles give or take depending on the year and the conditions of the race are in the name. This year, we all lucked out seeing that it was 60 degrees and we could all race in our normal kits and not be cold. This year I feel like I have really struggled mentally because I let my mind get to me making me too nervous before a race. I really want to figure this out for next year but for right now, I learned I had to deal with it until the season was done. The day before the race we got out and rode the last few miles of the course and we already knew there was going to be record breaking times on this course. I felt prepared and was focusing just on my race and having fun and not making it too competitive.

The day of the race we drove the half hour drive down to the race and on the way I decided to watch Peaking: UCI World Cup – 72 Hours with Jenny Rissveds for some motivation and inspiration. I got to the venue and tried to take some beet juice but as you know, having something you don’t like the taste of plus nerves never works out and I puked half of it back up. This has also been something I’ve struggled with this year. I just did some casual warm ups seeing that I don’t need to do any thing to crazy since it’s a long race. We watched the older boys go off and then we lined up and per usual I was being myself on the start line and cracking jokes because it’s what I do when I’m nervous. The race started off casual as we quickly broke the group down to five riders. We switched off pulling and drafting except for one girl who sat on the back and never pulled. About six miles into the race coming out of a short single track section my chain came off and I had to watch that lead group pull away from me. As I struggled to get my chain back on, I counted 30 seconds go by and got on my bike and thought in my head “now I have to go.” Thanks to Nathan Guerra and Vision’s training I knew I would have to use one of my 20 minute efforts from training to close a 30 second gap that seems so small but really has an effect on your body. Of course where my chain came off ended up being the spot where all the climbing started. I struggled to get up the climbs by myself with no help and quickly got pretty tired but knew I just had to get to that lead group to catch a break. I kept pushing until another racer informed me that a group of four girls just went by a few seconds ago, I was closing the gap. Luckily, I just got out on to the road section that was super fast and I put the power down and that group came into view. When this sort of thing happens in a race and the racer comes so close to contact with a lead group it motivates them more and this happened, but they knew I was coming. Once they were in my sights it probably from there still took me 10 minutes to catch up to them. Once I finally caught up we were coming up to the half way point of the race and one of the girls who was a road racer knew I just put in a huge effort to catch up and of course she decided to attack and one rider went with her. After they started their attack my friend Katy passed me and started chasing after them. The girl who hadn’t done any pulling fell pff the back quickly and it was the two girls who pulled away from Katy and me and then it was Katy just 20 feet ahead. Soon that effort started to kick in and Katy pulled away from me. This was all so disappointing to me because I feel like I would’ve been able to go with those two girls if my chain wouldn’t of came of so it’s always frustrating. Knowing that I’ve beaten all the three girls who were ahead of me in previous years was also disappointing but it helps me learn what I did right and wrong. Almost the whole year hasn’t gone well for me and any race I have felt super good in I usually then end up having a mechanical. It had been an off year for me and I hope to recover and come back stronger next year mentally and physically.

I pushed pretty hard for the rest of the race just trying to beat the times of the older girls to get on the overall podium. Honestly, I felt really good in the race and was proud of my body’s improvement over the past two weeks compared to the last couple of NICA races. I got to one of the final climbs and saw my dad who was telling me to push it on the last hill so I of course hammered it up the hill with everyone cheering. I came into the exciting finishing area and was disappointed I couldn’t hold up the three from winning three years in a row but right now I just wanted to place overall. I came through and after about an hour figured out I just made the overall podium getting fifth place overall.

I learned so much form all my failures this year and know what I need to try to key in on for next year. Thank you to Nathan Guerra, Vision Cycling, my family, my friends, and all other supporters and sponsors for helping me make it through this year. This year was definitely tough on me but that’s what makes improving so much fun.

McKenna Dwyer WORS #8 – Reforestation Ramble: August 21, 2016

We originally were planning on not doing this race because my sister had a horse show, she ended up not doing it so we came up to race.  My sister and I drove up Saturday night and my dad was planning on coming early the following morning.  We got up to the race right as the fat bike race was starting that night.  We watched that and I didn’t get the chance to pre ride so I wouldn’t know what the course was like.  The next morning I was talking to people and heard that the course was almost all single track and was fast and flowy.  I watched all of the races and just relaxed in the beginning of the day and hung out with friends.  When it came time for my warm up I just did jumps on my trainer and then got on my mountain bike and started doing some jumps on the road.  I felt really good and felt like I was going to have a good race.  I lined up and was pretty pumped to race even though I didn’t know the course.  When the race started I was basically ahead of everyone and got passed pretty quick, but only by one Cat 1 junior racer.  The first place girl ended up getting away pretty quick and putting in a minute lead by the end of the first lap.  I was third coming through and was just behind second place.  The first lap I was just getting used to the course and was happy that its changed so much from previous years.  So, coming into the second lap I put in a hard effort and caught up to Hanna Mork.  We rode together for awhile and then I gapped her and put in probably my hardest and best effort that I have in awhile.  I kept pushing until I came to where my dad was standing, he told me I was only 10 seconds behind Katy.  When I got to the start to go out on my third and final lap I saw Katy McDicken who was currently in first just at the top of the hill.  She must have known that I was coming because she started pushing harder.  I ended up losing her after having her in my sights for awhile.  When coming through at the end she didn’t beat my by too much so I was proud that I gained a minute on her.  It was a very well deserved win for her after being out for an injury for almost six weeks and this being her fourth race back.  I’m super excited because my next race is the first race of NICA.  I can’t wait to be back racing there!

McKenna Dwyer – Ore To Shore: August 13, 2016

I came in to this race wanting to get top 5 in the women’s soft rock overall race.  Ore to Shore is a point to point race from Negaunee to Marquette, MI.  Knowing nothing about the course is always intimidating, especially when your competitors have raced it before.  The day before the race I just relaxed with my friends and later in the day we rode the last seven miles of the course (the most crucial miles to know are the last ones).  We went over parts of those miles, how to ride them, and where the best lines were.  I already felt really good in pre ride and knew I was going to have a good race if I put my mind to it.  I knew I could win even though this is a sprint race, I know I’m not the strongest out there, but I learned being the strongest doesn’t always matter.  I was excited to be racing and was just preparing myself for the race.

On race day, I woke up to damp conditions but not too wet to make it a mud race.  I ate the best breakfast I could: rice with bacon and eggs, rice with chicken and vegetables, and kiwi.  We drove to the start in Negaunee and I started warming up.  I pictured my race and those last seven miles.  I didn’t really know what the first 21 miles consisted of, but I knew it was all double track.  I was never really good in double track but I knew I was just planning on drafting and staying with the lead group of females.  I was lucky enough to be one of only 45 riders to get a preferred start (there were over 2,000 racing).  I was lined up on the front row and I was extremely nervous being the only girl on the front row.  The race started and I went off strong. Soon enough, Hanna Mork, Katy McDicken, and Maddy Frank were all up with me.  We all raced together for maybe the first 12 miles and then we dropped Maddy.  The rest of us knew we were first, second, and third overall.  We knew the three of us would be taking home top three overall, it was just who would come out on top.  We were all having so much fun racing together considering we always race the same race, but we’re never together.  It was fun to ride with them and to just have casual conversations while we were racing.  We all switched off pulling and drafting each other, while also getting drafts from other racers.  When those last seven miles came, we were all still together and I knew this is where everyone would start making moves to open up gaps.  Hanna made a move and opened up a small gap on Katy and I and we tried to close it.  She ended up crashing and hitting her head hard and Katy and I went by and tried to open up a gap that Hanna quickly closed.  When the large mulch climb came, I was in third and I just got as much momentum on the downhill before the climb and powered right by Hanna, Katy and I reached the top at the same time.  I went by Katy with three miles left and put the power down and quickly opened up a gap.  I kept putting down a fast pace and making sure to be careful to not make any stupid mistakes.  With a mile left I saw Hanna chasing but Katy wasn’t with her.  She caught up with 3/4 of a mile left and I drafted her on to the road and was just resting until I had to start sprinting.  On the last road corner with 1/4 mile left, I started sprinting and Hanna chased, I put down all the power I could until I came in to the finish shoot and Hanna passed me for the win just before the end.  I was so proud of both of us for giving it our all and for Hanna coming back from such a hard crash. We definitely gave the crowd a show with such a close finish, Hanna beating me by .02 seconds for the overall win.  Us girls from Wisco dominated the overall with first (Hanna), second (me), and third (Katy).  It was such an incredible race and I’m definitely prepared for next year and know what changes I have to make.   The rest of the day we swam at the hotel and relaxed and just awaited awards.  When awards came we were all so proud of each other and all the other racers out there.

The day after the race I got to ride with my friends at the south trails and we got some awesome footage, views, and trails.  We rode for almost three hours and enjoyed the time we had left in Marquette.  The trails were packed and it was nice to see so many racers have made it tradition to ride the day after the race.  I received many compliments on having such a close race.  After we were done riding, we all definitely wanted to shower before the long drive home, since we checked out of our hotels already, we had an alternative solution: cliff jumping!  We headed over to Black Rock on Presque Isle and got our dose of fun and we explored around there, swam, and jumped.  We then drove home after such a great weekend.  Thanks to my friends, family, and sponsors for all your support and always making race weekends the best.

McKenna Dwyer WORS #7 – Hixon Forest Epic: August 7, 2016

I came in to this race knowing that there were three other girls that were hungry for the first place medal.  I was determined to get first, but also knew I shouldn’t go too hard considering I was racing Ore To Shore the following weekend, but I can never go easy for a race.  In pre ride, I knew this course was going to probably kill me, I felt like it had more climbing than Cascade.  There’s one really long climb that takes about 15 minutes to get up, and there’s another climb that is short and steep, but seems like it takes forever.  I started in the second row while another competitor got the front row, but I was starting on the good side of the course.  When the race started, I was in fourth for a little while then snuck up to second.  When we got to the sketchy downhill that leads in to the long climb I was still in second until I snuck around first by taking a good line around the 180 in the downhill.  When we were down the hill and on to the flat double that connects the downhill to the uphill, I was right behind the leading group of Elite women.  Hanna Mork who started in first caught up and told me to grab the wheel of the lady ahead of me and we drafted all the way until we got to the start of the climb.  Hanna led me in to the climb and the Elite ladies dropped us almost immediately.  We got maybe a quarter of the way up the hill and another Elite lady caught up, when she wanted to go by Hanna and me, I went by too and started pushing.  I got a gap on both her and Hanna, the Elite woman then caught me at the very top of the hill and passed me right before you come out on the road.  I sprinted on the road and when I went in to the technical single track, I had maybe about a 20-30 second lead on Hanna.  I didn’t go through the single enough in pre ride so I wasn’t the most comfortable in it so that’s where I lost a lot of time in a place that I’m usually so quick in.  Right before the really steep hill I hit a stump that was sticking out on the left side of the trail, I went over the bars and hit my knee really hard and basically got ran over by the Comp guy right behind me.  I took me a little bit to get up since my foot was stuck, this is where Hanna passed me, and I’m sure the other riders were very close behind.  I got to the climb and my knee was hurting pretty bad but that went away quick enough that it didn’t cost me any of my race.  I caught up a little time on the climb and ended up right behind Hanna again.  We rode the rest of the lap together and up the long climb in the second lap.  When we came out on to the road, a Comp guy passed both of us and we hopped on his wheel and before we went in to the single both of them dropped me.  I road out the rest of the race with her in sight but she slowly pulled away and then I was just racing to stay ahead of third but also trying to come in as close behind Hanna as I could.  I finished in second and it was such a hard race, I was cramping almost the whole last lap.  I definitely blew up when I went too hard on the long uphill on the first lap and I think I could’ve held Hanna off longer if I wouldn’t of crashed.  It was a well deserved win considering she also had a slow leaking puncture and she still came out on top.  Very proud of Hanna for getting her first first place of the season!  I race Ore To Shore this weekend and I’m happy to be going back to my favorite city: Marquette, MI.  My goal is to get top 5 in the 28-mile race.

McKenna Dwyer – Wausau 24: July 29, 2016

I signed up to do the 12 hour duo back in January with one of my friends, Katy McDicken.  About six weeks before this race she fractured her elbow, and it was planned that this would be her first race back.  I was mostly nervous for her, seeing that her first time riding a bike in six weeks would be a 12 hour race.  I also didn’t get the chance to pre ride the course so that didn’t help considering I would have to figure out lines while I was racing.

When I started the race, I figured out that the course was really different kinds of single track sectioned off by double track.  The first section of single track is what I call cat litter since it was all loose.  There was a lot of roots and a few harder rock garden sections that I luckily figured out on the first lap.  After that section there was double track with probably the steepest climb of the race in it.  Then probably the hardest section of single track was next, it’s called Ho Chi Minh and is basically all huge rocks that you have to some how find your way through.  So I only made it through the whole thing once because there was this section of the trail that I couldn’t figure out how to get through.  Then there was a small section of double track that I always felt the slowest on for some reason.  The next section of single track was like a medium technicality but it was really tight and twisty.  After that, there was a really long section of double track that started with a really gradual uphill that was hard on your legs but it was really fast and you could carry a lot of speed through the rest of it.  Then you got into the last part of single track that started with a kind of pump track section that you couldn’t really hold too much speed in.  This is where you saw the 10 mile sign in this about 12 mile course.  It was probably the worst section of single track because if you can imagine what riding a trail that was just made feels like, that’s how this section felt.  It was really bumpy and it was awesome to see the 10 mile sign, but it was also sad because you knew the next 2 miles were going to suck.

When it came time for me to start the race, I was doing the first lap so I had to do the quarter mile running start.  I’m not really a runner so when everyone started sprinting off the line I of course was shocked that I would have to run so fast.  Close to the end of the run, my dad passed me and after the race he definitely made fun of me because he beat his daughter who’s 35 years younger than him.  The first lap I got stuck in a lot of lap traffic that luckily sorted itself out quickly.  It felt like my slowest lap a long with my second but we still had the lead so we were just going to keep pushing it at the pace we were setting.  I told myself I was going to push it the third lap and that’s exactly what I did.  I felt so fast that lap and brought in the fastest time of my five laps.  The fourth lap I went really slow until one of my other friends who I race with in the WORS Series caught up to me after Ho Chi Minh and we really pushed it the rest of that lap, and I came in 2 seconds behind my third lap time.  The fifth lap I just kept the pace casual seeing that it was hopefully going to be my last lap.  This was the only lap I made it through Ho Chi Minh and I came in right before it got dark and watched as Katy went out for her last lap.  During breaks I just ate food and relaxed until I went back to wait for the hand off to go on another painful lap.  I didn’t really feel up to my best performance the whole race but I’m just happy Katy came in right after the end time at 10:00 p.m. so I didn’t have to go out for a sixth lap.  We won the race by just going pretty casual and I’m happy with that, it’s fun not always having to go hard for a race and to just enjoy it.  It was also weird to be in the same place as my best friend for 12 hours but to only say a few words to each other when we came in for our laps.  I didn’t have any mechanicals and I really didn’t crash, just had a few slip ups.  I can’t wait to do this race next year and it was probably one of the most fun races to be at.

McKenna Dwyer WORS #6 – Midwest Mountain Bike Championships: July 22-24, 2016

Cross Country

I started off my weekend of racing at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon right after it poured for a couple hours.  The Pro men went off later than they were supposed to due to course changes because of the heavy amount of rain.  Many of the racers I started with only went up the start hill or got a little ways into the race and stopped, I honestly just wanted to finish the race.  The Pro women started one minute before us and I caught up to all of them except for the leader within the first couple of miles.  We all were racing in the same terrible, muddy race conditions and it honestly was just a battle of whose bike worked the best in mud.  I was working with Lindsay Guerra most of the race and going back and forth with a couple of the other Elite racers.  When we got to the skills park (probably the most tricky part of the race) on the first lap this is where I made the mistake that cost me the race.  Rather then just running the first section of boulders and getting back on and riding the rest, I ran the entire skills park and second place gained a huge amount of time on me.  Right after I got out of the skills park my chain came off (luckily this was the only time my chain came off, most other riders weren’t as lucky) and this is where second place caught up to me and passed me and kept getting farther away.  I just raced the rest of the race as best as I could with the conditions and came threw in second.  I mostly was just happy to finish the race, and I still came through in a pretty good position.  I definitely learned a new technique for getting through mud races and I’m happy I have the experience under my belt for future races.

Short Track

I still haven’t figured out a strategy for short track so I usually go hard from the start and it usually works for me.  I started of this race just going hard right away and I basically killed myself for the whole race.  There was a spot on the course where I could see second place the whole time and she was always the same amount of time behind me so that’s how I judged how hard I should go for the rest of the race.  It was honestly just fun to race again, and I’m really just starting to focus on having fun during my races.

It was really fun to spent time camping with my friends and that’s honestly probably my favorite part of race weekends.  Thank you to everyone who came to the race and supported me.  I race the 12 hour duo at Wausau 24 with Katy McDicken next weekend and I’m really excited to see how that race ends up.

McKenna Dwyer WORS #5 – Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic: July 10, 2016

After riding the course about four times the weeks leading up to the race, and slowly walking through it, I felt more prepared for a race then ever.  I came into it knowing every line I wanted to take, and how to take it the quickest.  When it came to the day before the race, I went out and pre rode and just got to know the course further and see if I could find any last minute lines.  I also planned on mentally just going through the whole race working on the basics: cornering, attic position, braking, etc.  I felt completely confident for this race and was happy to finally feel this way.

On race day, I warmed up by just doing some spin ups on the trainer and then a little bit before race time, I hopped on my mountain bike and rode up a hill a couple times.  Minooka has a long lead out starting with a climb and then winding through some double track before going in to the single track.  I knew I wanted to be the first in to that section of single track because it was my strongest section of the race.  I ended up starting three rows back since there was a record amount of Elite women at this race.  Some Cat 1 junior girls got in the front row somehow so that made me nervous right away.  I already was nervous because I knew the hardest part of my race was going to be sprinting to get in to the single track first.

When the race started, I right away was behind because of starting so far back but I managed to get to the top of the first climb before most of my competitors.  I ended up going really hard in the double track and ended up fourth overall out of the Elite women and Cat 1 Juniors in to the single track.  I rode that single track hard and was riding behind Lindsay Guerra and Anna Ganju until they sprinted away from me when it opened up again.  I rode the whole first lap just focusing on the basics and riding with an Elite rider a bit in to the second lap.  I knew I already had a huge gap almost from the start.  On the second lap when I saw who I guessed was in second place coming down a hill I went down a couple minutes earlier, I then laid low for the rest of the race just focusing on hitting everything correctly but still putting up a pace.  The lady I was riding with had fallen back from where I was riding so I finished up the race by myself.  I ended up coming through in first feeling like I’ve had the strongest race that I’ve had in awhile.  I feel like I’m definitely going to peak for the Midwest Mountain Bike Championships and I’m excited to see what happens when I race there.

McKenna Dwyer WORS #4 – Red Flint Firecracker: June 26, 2016

I started off the day feeling pretty good about the race.  I’ve always loved this course because it has minimal climbing and is fast and flowy.  I recently switched back over to my Niner, which I rode last year, because I cracked the frame on my Trek.  The weekend before this race I raced at the first annual Tread Fest in Houghton, MI.  This course actually reminded me a lot of Eau Claire and I had an amazing performance getting first at that race.  The days after that (Sunday-Thursday) I did a bike camp in Houghton and I was riding some of the best trails in the U.P.  It was a very tiring camp but I still felt prepared, maybe even more prepared than usual for this race.

I really worked again on preparing myself for the race before going off with friends and getting distracted from fueling myself correctly.  I had a fun time on Saturday and the day of the race while still fueling myself correctly.  I lined up for the race; confident, fueled, and ready to win. I started the race mostly drafting all the way until the single track and at that point there was only one competitor ahead of me.  At a small double track section I passed a couple ladies and was right back up there with Hanna.  We raced back and forth all of the first lap and a little of the second lap.  A little ways into the second lap, Hanna had some troubles with a Comp racer and then her bike.  This let me get a gap on her and it continuously grew as the race went on.  I’m really proud of Hanna for pushing through both a mentally and physically challenging race that she shouldn’t have had to push through.  She really had a lot of courage to push through these obstacles. After breaking down on the race course Hanna finished up in second place.  I ended winning by almost three minutes. It was really fun to race with Hanna, just like old times.  I really learned a lot about myself as a racer this race and I hope to continue learning to make myself better both on and off the bike.

Vision Cat 1 Junior McKenna Dwyer  taking 1st at WORS #4!

Vision Cat 1 Junior McKenna Dwyer taking 1st at WORS #4!

McKenna Dwyer WORS #3 – Mount Morris Challenge: June 12, 2016

At the end of last race, I had some significant breathing issues and went in and found out 3 days before the race that I had exercise induced asthma.  So, getting an inhaler really helped me breathe better for this race which was one step in the right direction.  On the Friday right before the race, I also had my bike fitted to me, it was really comfortable until we made a slight change which made it uncomfortable for the race.  Getting used to this fit is what really made me sore on race day and I wish I would’ve waited until after the race.  I started preparation for my race on Thursday, I was trying a new strategy in which instead of drinking water I drank Gatorade. Water washes out all of the electrolytes in your system and drinking something high in electrolytes that also has water in it will be even better.  I did every thing correctly to prepare for the race, I just don’t think I planned out my strategy correctly.

So, I started my race and Katy McDicken got ahead of Hanna Mork and me right away.  Hanna and I rode together almost the whole race and it was nice to finally ride a race with her.  A little in to the beginning of the second lap, Hanna pulled ahead by just ten feet and once again, Comp riders started to pass me and it was hard to keep up.  This same thing happened in my previous race and I now know not to let that happen again.  My usual strategy is to get the lead right away and slowly try to increase that gap, but I also know that the Comp riders help with that.  Katy ended up getting first, Hanna got second, and I got third.  I’m happy with my results because I know that great athletes don’t win every race, they become fast by learning from both their losses and their mistakes.

I race next in Houghton/Hancock, MI at a race called Treadfest.  After that race, I have a four day bike camp with friends, and then the fourth WORS race in Eau Claire.  I hope to start going uphill again in racing soon, until the next race…

 

McKenna Dwyer WORS #2 – Battle of Camrock: June 5, 2016

I came in to Camrock knowing the course like the back of my hand.  I ride it all the time and I wasn’t worried about it.  But, warming up before the race I already felt that I wasn’t 100%.  It was one of those days where I just didn’t feel it.  It was nice to have the home course advantage, and I still was going to try my hardest, but I didn’t know how my body was going to take the race.

I lined up and watched the Elite men’s field go off and then I lined up.  Don started the race and I had a great start leading off the Cat 1 Junior female category.  I led most of the first lap with a steady and not too vigorous pace.  The second lap another competitor, and good friend, Katy McDicken passed me and got about a ten foot lead on me.  And then, the Comp riders started coming.  Once the Comp men start to pass you and someone is just a little ways ahead of you, it’s very difficult to catch back up.  So I still put in a strong effort and finished off my two lap race coming in second behind Katy.

I continue to struggle with properly fueling myself before races.  I really didn’t properly fuel myself again and that was a killer.  My goal this season is to get me race nutrition dialed in. Until next race at Nordic Mountain…