Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals

Posted by Christina on May 19, 2018 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (6)

From Christina Gokey-Smith:

I strive to teach my clients not to give any special treatment to a national title race. It’s another race and the focus is still on the process. Focusing on the end result derails us off the path we work so hard to stay on. It’s the daily work, the daily grind, both physically and mentally, that these athletes work on. Success means sticking to the process. Every. Single. Day. I understand life happens and gets in the way at what seems to be the most inopportune times. As an athlete myself, I also know the benefits of staying true to the process. We don’t make a big deal out of it when things happen that are out of our control. We look at the situation and figure out a solution. We don’t wait until things go wrong to practice this. We establish a strong habit of positivity. We are always learning and growing and practicing an attitude that will lead to success. Here’s a brief race recap from a few of my athletes that have learned this perspective on racing.

Race Recap by Sheree Tomba:


We all know there are a few things we have some control over leading up to race day: how much sleep did I get, is my nutrition dialed in, have I put in the work on the bike, is all my gear organized, is my bike turned up and in good working condition. Then you get on the start line and you get to deal with the realities of the race. Jen Ragan-Marlowe, Kim Chance and Leigh Anne Robertson were three of the many Cycle Smith athletes who tackled this year’s, mountain bike Nationals event at the Iron Mountain Trail in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The physical training was there, but it was the mental training that allowed them to keep going when the unexpected challenges hit. There was no shortage of riders who took the dreaded three letters “DNF” next to their name in the results; whether it was due to crashing, flats, broken bikes, over heating or just overwhelmed from fatigued.

Jen trained hard leading up to Nationals, putting in lots of hours on the mountain bike at local trails, as well as several rides on the race course. Unfortunately, she was sick two weeks before the race and had only just started to feel better leading into the race weekend, so she knew her fitness was compromised. However, she had done plenty of six-hour mountain bike races in the past and knew that her legs could go the distance even if she wasn’t 100 percent. The rocky trail with long climbs and descents was tough coming from the comparatively flat trail options in the Dallas area. Jen’s hand became to cramp as the muscles attempted to compensate for the unfamiliar terrain. A hand cramp may seem like a minor annoyance, but for those of you who have done longer races, you know how those little pains and discomforts can drive you mad over the course of several hours. As the going got tough, Jen reminded herself of the things Christina always coaches on, “you have to be tough mentally and focus.” She used positive thoughts to continue to propel herself forward all the way across the finish line to claim a spot on the podium in her age group.

Kim was returning to nationals after racing last year. She was prepared with a new bike, a Camelbak that could hold more water and a plan to go steady from the start. Things didn’t go as smoothly as she hoped and despite a steadier pace, she still found herself struggling with heat and fatigue. One of her teammates gave her a word of encouragement as Kim passed by on the start of her second lap; “Kim, don’t quit, keep going. So many people are pulling out. You’re in the medals, just keep going.” Kim was just starting to fade but focused back in, pushing out the temptation of quitting. “You can do it,” she told herself, “stay steady, keep moving, don’t quit.” When the cramps started to set in all over her arms and triceps, she had another opportunity to use her mental toughness, praying for the evil cramps to go away and leave her alone. Even with a slightly slower time than last year, Kim took 2nd overall in her age group.

Leigh Anne had to work with adversity that she’d never experienced before in a race. She found herself vomiting all throughout the first lap and as soon as she got some relief from the stomach problems, cramps set in on lap two and never let up. Working with Christina as a coach has really transformed the way she looks at the mental aspect of racing. Before working with Christina, “I had no idea what it meant to be in the moment,” shared Leigh Anne. However, after reading some of the books Christina recommended, things started to click. She’s been amazed at how working on her mindset and focusing on what she has to do in the present moment, has helped her in all different areas, whether it be clearing a technical trail feature or obtaining a better race result.

Leigh Anne used a tool from one of her favorite books, “The Art of Mental Training,” to help her get through the grueling race. Her letter for race day was “F.” Every time she found her mind filling with bad thoughts and focusing on the suffering she would change it with “f” words: focused, fast, flow, finisher, fierce. As she rolled those things through her mind she was able to distract herself from the negativity. While she was hoping for a better day physically and a better result, she was extremely proud of herself and her effort, knowing that she gave it everything she had that day.

These athletes are able to continually push themselves to the next level because they understand the important role played by their minds in conquering physical challenges. Despite having tough race days, each one of them is already thinking about their next event and looking forward to getting back on the bike.

Speed Week

Posted by Christina on May 19, 2017 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I am writing this on my return flight home from Speed Week with my new team for 2017: Papa John’s presented by Trek. (No, no, I am not eating the pizza quite yet but soon they will be introducing a gluten-free option.) Each of the women on my team are really strong riders and I’m leaving the start of our season excited for what is to come. Our time at Speed Week was fairly successful, however, we didn’t get the overall win. In my mind, that gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to continue to grow as a team.

Speed Week is a series of crits in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. There are podium presentations after each day but our main focus as team was to have a rider take the overall victory. Points towards the overall are awarded during the week on specific laps as well as for the final finishing place for each race.

The racing began in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Rocky Hill Criterium, a new venue situated on a racetrack with a switch back climb. The course was wide open and unprotected from the strong winds making it easy for protected riders or really difficult for riders on the front. I spent a lot of time on the front, followed attacks from other riders and lead my teammate out for mid race points. After all the work I had done during the race, I felt completely spent on the final lap. Thankfully, one of my teammates was able to cover for me and lead out our sprinter, Tina Pic. After they went around me, I looked back to see a huge gap between me and the rest of the field, but by the time I rolled around the final corner, it seemed like 100 girls flew by me. However, we got the win and that’s what was important.

Based on last year, I knew day two in Belmont was going to be a tough course. Erica Allar always nails it from the start so I was ready for the race to go from the gun. But today the first move would be even more decisive as wet roads and pouring rain became a factor. I lined up at the start, ready for the whistle. As expected, Erica immediately drove up the pace. Even though I started in the back, I was able to quickly move into a good position, but Erica had already rolled off the front. Since we held the leader’s jersey, our team had no choice but to chase. Tina and I were the only ones from the team left in the field when I heard our director, Crater, yell from the sidelines, “12 seconds.” I continued to pull, but now we were getting attacked and riders from other teams were getting across to the break. About four to five laps were left in the race when my teammate, Sara Tussey, who had been sick, surprised me and came to the front of the pack. I was so relieved to see her. She helped me chase until the last lap. When some of the riders started to dive to the inside on the final downhill turn I sat up not wanting to partake in the wet roller derby. The risk outweighed the reward that day and we lost the overall lead we had gained the day before.

The first two days were extremely tough and I did a lot of work that was made harder due to an unknown problem with my bike. Ailton De Souza was rooming next to us in Walterboro and after looking at my bike exclaimed, “No, you can’t ride this.” Puzzled, I responded, “Well, I’ve already done two races on it. What are you talking about?” He showed me that my chain guard had been catching on the bolts of my chainrings, creating massive resistance every pedal stroke. This would explain why my intensity factors were well over 1.0 for both days of racing. If you aren’t tracking with me, this essential means my efforts during both races of racing were much harder than a normal hard workout.

We had a few days rest before the next race in Waltoboro. My bike was now working correctly and I was looking forward to the race as the technical course suited my strengths. Debbie, Tina and I were on the front going into the final lap so Debbie could take the gamblers prime, right after there was a crash somewhere behind me and the race was neutralized. We got restarted with two laps to go. Not a good decision considering the course was only a kilometer long. I didn’t get to line up at the front and it was a struggle to move since most of the racers that were previously off the back were allowed to restart with the pack. Payton had put a good effort in to move Tina up since she got caught at the back on the restart. Another crash right in front of me on the second to last turn. I touched my brake to avoid it and we lost what would have been a win. Tina ended up in 4th.


Day four of racing found us in Spartanburg. I stayed close to the front and we tried to grab mid race points throughout the race. Because of this we missed a counter move from Peta Mullins and had to chase. I was blown after chasing for several laps and then towards the end of the race, Rachel from Fearless Femme got away off the front. Luckily, Tina won the field sprint, collecting more points towards the overall.

Sunday was the big day, the famous Athens Twighlight on the original course, a four corner crit with an incline on the back side. This race has over 25,000 spectators who come out to watch, making it extremely loud and a lot of fun. They were announcing primes on every lap so the race was fast from the gun. My goal was to stay at the front and go with moves but not to go for any mid race points so I would have something left to lead Tina out at the end. It always seems that when I cover a move, the counter follows my big effort. My teammate Sara was able to get on the front to help chase a move we missed. She is like a freight train in her ability to chase, she spent everything she had left but it was enough to pull the race back together. We were going into the final lap and I knew my competitor Peta was behind me so I was waiting on my teammate Tina’s wheel. Peta jumped and I followed, yelling at Tina to get on my wheel but the crowds were so loud that Tina couldn’t hear me and I gapped her in the process. We missed the top two spots that day but grabbed 3rd and 4th which put us in 2nd overall and 2nd in the team overall.

Roswell would be the final day. The course had a very long start finish and today it was in a head wind. After going with some moves and short lived breaks, the counter came when I was boxed in, most likely a strategic move by the Fearless Femme riders. Again, I missed the move and had to chase. We had help from LA Sweat who had been putting on an impressive performance all week. Two laps to go, I yelled for my teammates to get to the front and Kim Pettit made her way there to help Debbie. After Payton and I worked hard in the chase group, we closed down the gap but we still weren’t quite close enough for the long sprint finish. Tina ended up in 3rd for the day and we finished Speed Week 2nd overall and 2nd for the team overall. We have our homework to do and I am very hungry for the rest of the season.

Why Are You Doing This Again??

Posted by Christina on March 9, 2017 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

by Derrick Birdsall

It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. Let’s face it… at nearly 50 years old now, many of my peers are getting ready to retire (some already have!), or are settling down to life with the grandkids.

Contrary to that, I’m pretty much constantly sore from the grind of daily training on the bike, and throw in the occasional crash and there are definitely days when I’m limping around.

I’ve fallen pretty hard the last couple weeks and as a result I’m hobbling around pretty good while the contusions heal and I’ve had several folks inquire “why are you doing this again?” or “when are you going to realize that your body can’t take it?” or “You know you’re not 20 something anymore?” And on and on.

Well… here’s why:

Well, for starters…. A couple years ago I went to the Dr’s and was informed that my BP was getting high. So I went from one medicine to another, trying to regulate my BP with a drug that wouldn’t mess with my body. Over the course of 9-10 weeks I bounced from one to another and at the end of it, in March, 2015, to be exact… my body broke down and I had a very, very long and horrible night in the middle of the New Mexican desert while my system told me enough was enough. After a night of cold sweats, convulsions and a ton of misery I decided right then and there that it was time for a change.

In addition, I’d gained a lot of weight. I was pretty much a porker, eating anything at will and felt like shit almost all of the time. The last time I checked on the scale, before I got too disgusted with myself, I weighed 264 pounds in 2013 or so. I’m sure that I gained more weight than that… I just quit caring.

I had been dabbling with getting back on the bike, I’d purchased my first new bike (a nice gravel ride) in December 2014 and had been easing back into riding. But nothing really serious. By the middle of 2015 I came to the conclusion that I needed some help on how to get things going and in August or so, I hooked up with my coach, Christina Gokey Smith (National champion now!!) and started the work.

Christina keeps me focused and on track and makes sure that my body and mind are constantly challenged. Going on 18 months into the program, I’ve dropped quite a bit of weight and gained a substantial amount of fitness. And the work is only just beginning as far as I’m concerned. Now that my body is getting used to the stress of training, I need to start perfecting my diet and changing a lifetime of bad eating habits. As a Masters athlete, I don’t have the cushion I did as a 20 something bike racer to eat, drink and not sleep. All the little details that once upon a time didn’t amount to anything – I’ve got to pay close attention to.

3 years ago, I never, ever would have believed that I could ride hard again. I never believed that I could train, and race again. I was convinced that my life had started that slow, gradual slide into old age and being unable to do things any more. After 18 months of hard work, I truly believe I’ve found the fountain of youth – and it’s called riding a bike!

Christina has been working with me to clean up my diet, and to stay mindful of things going on around me, and to help manage my stress brought on by an exceedingly busy work and home life. I am confident that as more time (and work) goes by, I will be able to ride harder than I can even imagine today – and that’s quite a lot! As Christina says, it’s all part of the process!!

So, when someone asks me “just what the hell are you doing this for”? It’s those bottles of pills – and I’m not going back!


Texas Women's Cycling Development Program

Posted by Christina on February 11, 2013 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 Mentoring Program for female cyclist.

  If you know of a female cyclist who may benefit from this program. Please Contact Christina