Mud Sweat & Gears #1 and #2

The day after Cross Vegas felt like eternity..I got about four hours of sleep, flew across three time zones, wandered around Atlanta for a few hours before my work meeting and dinner…The next day we had our final meeting, said our goodbyes and I hit the road for Asheville feeling a variety of conflicting emotions.  It was definitely a heavy time for me and many nights had passed without restful sleep.

On one hand I was thrilled that the cyclocross season had begun and I could share the experience with such an amazing coach, team, sponsors, friends; in the “other” part of my life I was unemployed for the third time in a year, without a backup plan and a huge stack of bills…

Moving to Asheville had a lot to do with getting out of my comfort zone and setting myself up to better achieve my cycling goals; getting settled has been more challenging than I anticipated but challenge was the point.  It might seem crazy to shape my life around the dream of “making it” in a professional sport that ultimately does not pay the bills, but I’ve been so lucky to have Dave, our parents, family and friends behind me the whole time.  In the same time the patience, hard work and dedication has me pointed in the right direction.

That being said, Apple Cross and Cross Vegas left me very tired but also very hungry for more.  Maybe the sleep deprivation was getting to me but I decided to race the Mud Sweat & Gears series openers in Unicoi, TN.  Dave and I did a few of these races last year and always had a great time.  Hours after I arrived in Asheville I was on the road again!

The Farmhouse Gallery proved to be an incredible setting for a cross race; nestled in the mountains the beautiful gardens had it all–peacocks, a covered bridge, barbeque…the course was pretty fun too!  It was nice to reunite with the eastern TN/western NC cx contingent before racing on what felt very much like a perfect summer day.

the start! photo: David Tankersley

I took the hole shot and tried my best to get a gap the women and target the Cat 3 men who started a couple of minutes before us.

a bit lonely on the first Rachel Wingo-Hager

The short drive to Unicoi had me feeling sluggish, but the race atmosphere rejuvenated me and my stress must have fueled my legs.  Somehow I felt stronger as the race went on; I worked my way through the men’s field and almost made the top five!  After the race I was utterly surprised and honored when a couple of ladies asked for advice on cornering in the technical sections.  Luckily we had enough time to get some skills practice in before the men’s race began!

I found some company! photo: David Lehn

Since the venue was only about an hour away, I had the luxury of sleeping in my own bed on Saturday night.  Sunday’s course was run backwards and it felt equally fun but even faster!

photo: David Lehn

photo: David Lehn

My race went about the same as it had the first day, though fatigue was setting in and I admit that the finish line was a welcome sight.

Dave still had some residual damage from his broken heel and tibia, but he had been mountain biking again and decided to give racing a shot.  As per usual we quickly swapped the one nice wheelset we’ve shared since last season.  He held his own in the P/1/2 field–impressive considering he couldn’t walk for most of the summer!

breaking in the new skinsuit and looking GOOD! photo: David Lehn

The weekend was a blast and just what I needed mentally.  Thank you MSG Cyclocross and Farmhouse Gallery!  Having the opportunity to do five races in nine days in three very different time zones and states was a first for me and what I consider “living the dream.”  It’s far too easy to lose encouragement in times of difficulty but I kept my head up and my focus and drive were renewed…


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