Athlete Journal: Alison Mundell Takes on the Tecumseh Trail Marathon

Alison Mundell writes about taking 2nd place in the Tecumseh Trail Marathon six weeks after fracturing her skull in a bike crash.

October 28, 2017—After a night of camping through a cold rain it is evident that it is going to be a chilly race day morning. At 8:30 AM, nearly 200 runners, all dressed in warm layers, begin to board school buses at the finish line. The bus ride to the start line, in Monroe-Morgan State Forest, takes over an hour. On the bus it is crowded and conversations echo—some runners talking about ultra marathons they had completed and others expressing hope about finishing under the 17 minute/mile cut-off pace—I sit quietly and try to avoid thinking about my lack of training.

Just before 10 am the buses arrive to the start line: runners file towards the line, a small “start” banner hung crookedly near a gravel road. After pulling off warm layers and huddling around the start line a few minutes, the race director starts the race.

The first few miles of the course are relatively flat and take place on a one-lane gravel trail. I start fast, trying to warm up—the course eventually turns to a single-track trail comprised of switchbacks— and the pace steadies. There are aid stations with water, Gatorade, and assorted nutrition every 4 or 5 miles; volunteers and runners’ family members and friends are at the aid stations and cheer encouragingly. Three or four other runners are running near me, a comforting reassurance that I haven’t gotten lost and gone off course.

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Coming off of a skull fracture and only a few weeks of training, Mundell finishes second in the Tecumseh Trail Marathon

We cross several paved roads, a nice break from the uneven trails, and a chance to pick up the pace a bit. The volunteers at the last aid station informed me that I was the first female, an exciting feeling: it would be great to win, though I am unsure if I can maintain this pace for 26.2 miles.

I am feeling great until about mile 16. Slowly my joints begin to ache and I start to question whether I should even be racing. The last 10 miles are tough: the hills are steeper, the footing is more rugged, and a girl passes me who looks like she feels a lot better than I do. I can’t stop thinking about the accident I had six weeks ago. It is hard to believe that this time six weeks ago I was lying in the hospital, my skull fractured in several places, a large laceration across my forehead, awaiting to go into surgery; I had thought that I may never be the same again, let alone be able to be back running trails.

The last few miles are dreadful and seem as if they might never end: there are several steep down hills, a freezing stream crossing, and noise from the finish line echoes from across the lake. After what seems like forever I am back in Yellowwood State Forest, where the buses departed from a few hours ago, and where the finish line is located. I cross the line in 4:03:41, it feels great to be done, and even better to know how far I had come in the past six weeks.

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UofL Cycling Wins MTB Conference Championships

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UofL Cycling capped off their best season ever this weekend at the regional championships, hosted by Marian University. Over the course of the season, the team earned 21 podium finishes (8 in the A’s), hosted a race weekend, and won the Conference Championships in the Club Division.

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James Francisco catching some air on the Short Track course.

Saturday’s races were at the Indy Cycloplex venue, with short track in the morning. The course was really fun, with a flowy descent and a mellow climb back up. Josh Smithson started the day off with an impressive 4th place finish in the Men’s B race. John Francisco followed that up with another 4th place in the Men’s A race, with James Francisco rolling in with 10th place.

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John Francisco en route to 4th in Men’s A Short Track.

The Four Cross event was that afternoon. The course was Marian’s BMX track, which has many small rollers and medium sized doubles. Josh decided to enter the Men’s B race at the last minute and pulled off a stellar silver medal finish.

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Josh Smithson warming up for the Four Cross race.

After a rainy night of camping, Josh, James, and Eric Smith took on the Cross-Country race at Southwestway Park. The course featured lots of climbs and long straightaways. Eric pulled off a 9th place finish in the Men’s A race, with James rolling in with 14th. Josh made his way around the course to earn a 6th place finish in Men’s B.

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James Francisco takes a corner on the cross country course.

That afternoon was the downhill race, with Mark Renn making his final collegiate cycling appearance. The course was very fast and smooth, with a few sendable jumps and lots of pedaling. James took the bronze medal in Men’s A field, with Mark bringing home 8th place and Eric rolling in with 12th. Charlie Hamilton had an exceptional performance in the B race, bringing home the win in a competitive field of racers.

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Mark Renn in his final collegiate mountain bike race.

The team earned enough points over the weekend to give them their first ever Conference Championship in the Club Division! Michigan Tech and University of Wisconsin- Whitewater rounded out the podium in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. In addition, Josh Smithson won the omnium for Men’s B. Overall, it was a fantastic season with a total of 21 podium appearances, 8 of which were in the A’s.

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Charlie Hamilton won the Men’s B Downhill Regional Championships.

Lindsey Wilson Race Report

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James Francisco navigates the start of the Men’s A Short Track race

On 9/30 and 10/1, the team ventured down south to test our skills at Lindsey Wilson College.

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Josh Smithson leads up the climb in the Men’s B Short Track race

As we’ve come to expect, the short track course was among the best around. The course features a tough climb, a fun descent, and always makes for fun racing. Josh Smithson started off the day with a solid 8th place in the Men’s B race. James finished 16th in the Men’s A event against a stacked field.

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Mark Renn warming up for Dual Slalom

That afternoon, Mark Renn and Charlie Hamilton represented the team well in the Dual Slalom event. Mark finished 12th in Men’s A and Charlie finished 14th in Men’s B.

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Charlie Hamilton showing off for the crowd in the Downhill race

On Sunday, Charlie finished 9th in the Men’s B Downhill race. In the Men’s A race, Mark finished 13th closely followed by James in 16th by just 3 seconds.

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James Francisco takes the A line on the Short Track course

 

MWCCC Whitewater Race Recap

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James Francisco takes on the Men’s A short track field in Whitewater, WI

Last weekend, the team competed in the 3rd race weekend of the Mid-West Collegiate Cycling Conference mountain bike calendar in Whitewater, WI.

Saturday’s Cross Country event featured a technically challenging course and temperatures in the 90’s. Josh Smithson battled through the heat to finish 7th in the Men’s B XC race. Later in the day, James Francisco managed 15th in a very competitive Men’s A race that saw many other riders drop out due to the heat and the challenging course.

Sunday’s Short Track and Downhill races saw better temperatures than the day before. Josh Smithson earned an impressive 3rd place in the Men’s B event. In the next wave, James Francisco finished 6th in the Men’s A race.

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Charlie Hamilton en route to 1st place in Men’s C downhill

In the Downhill event,  Charlie Hamilton handily won the Men’s C race. James Francisco made in on the podium with 3rd in the Men’s A event, closely followed by Mark Renn in 5th place.

The MWCCC calendar concludes this weekend with the conference championships at Marian University.

Cardinal Cup Recap

The team had a great weekend of racing over Labor Day weekend at the Cardinal Cup. In addition to doing all the work involved with hosting a race, they also managed to bring home an impressive set of results, including 1st place overall in the team competition.

Cross Country

The Cross Country event took place at Ft. Duffield on Saturday morning. The already technical course was made more so by slippery roots and some muddy sections from rain the day before. These challenging conditions made for an intense morning of racing. In the Men’s C race, Daniel Sweet brought home 2nd place. James Francisco, Elijah Eisert, and Josh Smithson swept the podium in the Men’s B race. John Francisco and Eric Smith capped off the morning with 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the Men’s A race.

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The Men’s A field tackles the steep road start to the Cross Country race
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The camera was struggling to keep pace with James Francisco during the Cross Country race

Downhill

The Downhill race took place Saturday afternoon, after the conclusion of the Cross Country Race. Riders navigated a slightly muddy track featuring jumps, rocks, a wall ride, and the infamous creek gap. In the Men’s C race, John Francisco narrowly edged out Charlie Hamilton for the top step of the podium. Daniel Sweet completed UofL’s podium sweep with 3rd place. UofL also swept the Men’s A race. James Francisco took the top honors, holding off gravity specialist Mark Renn in 2nd and Eric Smith in 3rd.

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Mark Renn getting sideways over the creek gap
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Charlie Hamilton sending it at Ft. Duffield
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UofL’s own Kalem Fetters built this custom trailer to shuttle the downhill event.

Short Track

The Short Track event took place on a technical course at Eva Bandman Park on Sunday morning. Riders were faced with wide straightaways, two optional jumps, and an off camber climb to the finish. Daniel Sweet started the day with a 2nd place in the Men’s C race. In the same wave, Alison Mundell earned 1st place in the Women’s B event. In the Men’s B race, James Francisco raced his way to 3rd against a 1-2 punch from Marian University. The Men’s A race played out similarly, with John Francisco and Ben King taking 3rd and 4th, respectively, against a duo from Marian. The team capped off the day with a win in the nail-biting team relay, with the team of Josh Smithson, Alison Mundell, and John Francisco narrowly edging out Team Louisville.

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Fast company toeing the start line at Eva Bandman Park
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It was all focus and no fooling around from Kelsey Voit in the Women’s Cat 3 race
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Alison Mundell dropping some watts en route to UofL’s win in the team relay competition
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Charlie Hamilton liked the course so much he decided to give Short Track racing a try
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Charlie Hamilton checking out one of the jumps on the Short Track course
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James Francisco sharing the Men’s B podium with some fast company at Eva Bandman Park

Cardinal Cup Course Report: Eva Bandman

Following a great day of racing at Ft. Duffield today, we’re busy getting things ready for tomorrow’s Short Track events at Eva Bandman Park. Due to some standing water in the low sections of the park, the existing course has been modified to keep tomorrow’s races fast and dry. There was still some light mud on a few sections as of 6 PM Friday, but we expect that to have tacked up by mid-morning on Sunday. Overall, you can expect a reasonably dry course utilizing many of this park’s great features.

With a high of 81F and sunny skies, it should be a great day of racing. If you didn’t pre-register and want to get in on the fun, day-of registration is available for all categories with only a $5 late fee.

We will also have burgers available on-site if you just want to hang out and watch the races.

See you out there tomorrow!

Cardinal Cup Course Inspection at Ft. Duffield

The UofL squad was out at Ft. Duffield Friday afternoon to set up for the Cross Country and Downhill races on Saturday. Though the park had received several inches of rain at that point and had also been subjected to some high winds, the course still looked race-worthy for Saturday’s events.

Though there was shallow standing water on a few portions of the course, as a whole it handled the high volume of rain very well. The type of mud seen during course marking was composed largely of silt and was not conducive to packing (as opposed to “peanut butter” type mud). In addition, this means that the trails should be able to handle the volume of racers expected without sustaining significant, lasting damage. Finally, both creek crossings have more water than normal, but are still safely rideable.

The rain is due to clear up early Saturday morning, which should make for a great day of racing. The team is planning to come out in a week or two to re-seed the parking area and make repairs to any sections of trails damaged by the race.

Cardinal Cup Weather Update

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We have been keeping a close eye on the weather, and are excited to say that both days of racing are still on! The remnants of Hurricane Harvey will be passing through town on Friday, but should be gone by race time on Saturday.

Due to the topography of the park and the design of the trails, Saturday’s Cross Country and Downhill courses should drain well over the next 36 hours and be race worthy by the first race on Saturday. We have been in contact with the trail manager and are confident that both courses will be rideable Saturday, and that both will be able to handle the volume of race traffic we’re expecting without sustaining significant damage.  According to the latest report from the National Weather Service, rain should clear up by 8 AM on Saturday.

With a high of 79° F and sunny skies, Sunday should be a beautiful day for the Short Track and Team Relay events at Eva Bandman Park. The course should be fast and dry, and Friday’s rain will have eliminated the dusty conditions we’ve had there the past few weeks.

If you missed pre-registration and still want to race, you can register on-site each day for only $5 more. Hope to see you out there!

Course Prep for Inaugural Cardinal Cup

The team had a busy weekend, putting in two days of trail maintenance at Ft. Duffield and Eva Bandman Park ahead of the inaugural Cardinal Cup on September 2nd and 3rd. The downhill course at Ft. Duffield received repairs to numerous lips and berms, in addition to reinforcements to steep banks and modifications to rock gardens.

“It is always great to be able to maintain and improve the trails we use,” said Elijah Eisert. Eisert spent the summer building trails and teaching mountain biking in Colorado, and is aiming to qualify for Cross Country Nationals in Missoula, MT this October.

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Construction of a jump on the downhill course at Ft. Duffield

“We were able to put together a course that will be both challenging and fun for experienced gravity riders, and still safely rideable for beginners,” said John Francisco, team president and one of the event’s promoters. The course makes use of a wide variety of jumps, berms, rock gardens, and a wall ride, while still having safer and slower ride-arounds for each obstacle.

The team also did work at Eva Bandman Park to repair features for the Short Track and Team Relay events. This course has been designed to promote exciting, high speed racing while also utilizing some of the park’s technical features. Features include wide grassy sections for easy passing, a few punchy climbs, a mix of wide and tight corners, two optional jumps, and an off-camber climb to the pavement finish.

The Cardinal Cup will be on September 2nd and 3rd, with Cross Country and Downhill events Saturday, 9/2 at Ft. Duffield, and Short Track and Team Relay events Sunday at Eva Bandman Park. Registration and more info at https://uoflcycling.com/cardinalcup/.

A “Day On” for MLK Day

Louisville Cycling and Triathlon does more than just ride bikes.  We are dedicated not only to creating a bigger and better cycling community, but also to giving back to the Louisville community as a whole.

Several of our members spent their day off from classes as a day in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he stood for as part of UofL’s 8th Annual MLK Day of Service.

Team members Kelsey Voit, Jacob Holtgrewe, and Alison Mundell worked with the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association to pick up trash around the neighborhood.  They worked with several dedicated community members to tidy up the streets, with neighbors joining in to help and passersby thanking the group for their service.  

“It was really cool,” said Kelsey, “to see neighbors coming out of their homes to lend a hand or give us an extra trash bag.  We even saw next door neighbors make new connections through this day of service.”  

The work performed today by our team members, the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association, and all of the UofL students who participated in the event no doubt contributed to the creation of a stronger, more unified Louisville community.  What better way to commemorate Dr. King’s life work than through these positive impacts on our community?