SE athlete Casey Cohenmeyer completed the 2017 Cervelo Belgian Waffle Ride despite suffering a separated shoulder just over a month before. This 132 mile (41 miles of dirt), 12k feet of climbing race is already a beast on it’s own. Casey showed a lot of grit and determination to stay focused on the prize and along with some creative coaching, she completed the race, winning the well-deserved BWR Hardwoman Award! Her always awesome race report follows:
How’d the race go down for you?
My journey to BWR this year was a little different than planned. 35 days before the event I had a bad crash on a recon ride and separated my shoulder. Erik, Kris, Christi, Lauren and Wayne scraped me off the pavement and got my bloody self to the doctor. Possible surgery and six weeks off the bike they said. I said, how about five? I listened to my doc and somehow got back on the bike in three and out on the dirt in four, and finally lined up week five with a jersey stocked with ibuprofen.
The day was epic, gorgeous blue skies, 100 degree heat at times, searing headwinds on the way home. The “neutral” roll out was predictably road race paced followed by the Cougar Pass downhill dirt, an epic comedy of crashes, littered with ejected water bottles, I got down competently and safely, if not quickly, then settled on some fast wheels and got through the next pavement, passing quite a few groups.
Then I ONLY got passed for the next four hours. Only passed. I swear everyone in the whole ride was in front of me. Very demoralizing, but I tried to stay positive.
My blackest moments ironically came in Black Canyon on mile 50 or so. My shoulder was getting tired and the climbing was wearing on it, I had to fight though those “why am I doing this to myself” thoughts that I think we all have at some point. I pondered stopping for a picnic in a shady spot, but I don’t think an Uber would come get me on a 11 mile dirt road.
Things got better at the top, I took some ibuprofen and settled in for the paved section. By the time I got to Sutherland Dam, I hadn’t seen anyone for at least 20 min, I would have thought I was off course, but I knew the route so well that I wasn’t worried. I got some very appreciated water from some volunteers in a roving truck and continued. I ran into Wayne on the way back in Black Canyon and we stuck together for a while and chatted. Then saw Andrew Danly aka METAL (who had a crazy day of mechanicals) that cheered me up too.
I was stressed about descending the 78, especially in the wind with my new wheels that I wasn’t used to, but I took the lane did control and release with the cars and was fine. Annoyingly a very skilled mountain biker, not on BWR, was there and actually tried to shoo me out of the lane and edge-ride down it. Uh, no dude. That’s how you die. Lemme go ahead and annoy the cars a little, and not die. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.
Once I got back to Bandy Canyon everything changed. I hit the dirt at mile 90 and realized that my shoulder was holding up and that this finish might actually happen. Climbing Black Canyon slowly had left me with legs that were still working. I hit the gas.
I did Bandy cleanly, lots of sand but no crashes or unclips, and then I stared to come up to the carnage of the ride. Riders everywhere in their own personal versions of hell. They don’t call this Hell of The North County for nothing.
Next my home dirt, and I was in freaking heaven. I had a blast railing though Mule, Hodges and reverse Lemon Twist, I even did Hodges faster than I’ve ever done it before. By mile 110 though Rancho Santa Fe, I was stoked. Finishing seemed like it was going to happen, legs just felt like the day after a hard Saturday ride, all was great. Then I hit the new dirt sectors, and by mile 119 I was a head dangling mess, falling apart completely.
I told myself, just get to the Oasis and get a coke. Just get there. A coke will fix you. Last year, when I got to the Oasis, the bikini girls had gone home. This time when I rounded the corner and saw hot chicks with Coke, I knew I could make it those last bits. Never been so happy to see a bikini in my life.
I got to the final 23% climb, Double Peak, in predictably sad shape, but still pedaling. My shoulder didn’t allow me to climb out of the saddle, so I rounded the corner and was thrilled to see cheering spectators and accepted two pushes.
Then the best, most awesome moment of the day was seeing my friend Renee, she screamed for me and then Brandon Ewers aka the Whiskey Cowboy jumped out of the car and they ran screaming to me and pushed me the rest of the way up. Brandon and Renee, I can’t even really explain how much that moment meant to me. I’m so happy you were there and I’m even tearing up typing this.
I held it together at the aid station and had another half coke, then rode the little dirt loop at the top in tears. Literally crying and laughing for joy.
I pulled it together and had fun on the Double Peak dirt descent, then two miles from finish I had my one mechanical of the day, dropped my chain descending Twin Oaks. Wait, crap, this is a 1x. I have no front derailleur to pedal this back on! Facepalm. Pulled over, fixed it and was on my way to the party even filthier.
The magic of this event is the way it brings our amazing cycling community together. Where else do you get pros lining up with amateurs and enthusiasts and all partying together at the end with waffles and beer. Never will a road race or a crit bring me tears of joy. Best. Hardest. Dirtiest. Most terrible. Most fun day ever. This is my favorite day of the year.
Which coach do you work with and how did your training help you prepare for the event?
Adam Mills is my coach and he had to come up with an entirely new plan for me once I got hurt. We had planned for me to be getting lots of big miles in the month leading up to the event, but that got thrown out the window. After the crash, I was off for a week, then a second week of some work on the trainer. Then Adam had me to a combination of trainer rides with intervals, and outside short rides to try and build up my shoulder’s tolerance, and managed to get out on the dirt just twice prior to the event.
What advice do you have for someone up and coming in your cycling discipline?
Don’t separate your shoulder. But seriously….. get out in the dirt as much as you can, and you don’t really need to do ridiculously long seven and eight hour rides to train for this sort of thing. I also found pacing and watching my power on the climbs to be very valuable, as well as drinking a ton, making sure my salt intake was high enough in the heat. Eating back almost all the calories I burned while on the ride I’m sure helped me avoid the dreaded DNF that got 40% of the riders this year.
What is your next event?
Next back to some local criterium races, then Rebecca’s Private Idaho will likely be my next on/off road adventure.