The 6th Annual World Championships of Elliptical Cycling saw several outstanding performances in the race up Palomar Mountain. At the top of the list were Sarah Brown and Rusty Snow, the two champions are our Riders of the Month for October.
Sarah climbed the 11.69-mile route, which ascends 4209 feet at an average grade of 7%, in 1:20:28, slashing 8 minutes off the record. And she did it while she was 18 weeks pregnant. Rusty faced perhaps the strongest men’s field yet but still came away with his fourth straight victory, topping the mountain in 1:11:05. Read a recap of the race here.
Given their very different and unique circumstances, how confident were the two champs as they went into the race?
“I rode up Palomar for the first time a few weeks before the ElliptiGO World Championships,” Brown said. “I won’t lie, it was brutal! However, my time that day would have put me in a competitive spot based on last year’s results. I also knew that as tough as the ride was on that day, there was definitely room to improve. I thought I had a good shot at the win if I had a good day.”
Snow also felt good about his chances. “This win on paper should’ve been the most difficult, as I was in awe of the level of athletes entered,” he said, “but out of the respect I had for the field, I trained very hard, climbing at least 2000-6000 feet a day for 3-4 months. Knowing I had trained for this year’s race more than I ever have, I was confident that I could race with anyone.”
With strong competitors in both the men’s and women’s races, both of the champs took a conservative approach at the start. Brown explained her strategy: “I knew some of the men in my starting group would go out hard. My initial plan was to go out in the back of the leaders and just feel out the pace for the first few miles of the race. Since I’m pregnant, I wore a heart rate monitor and had a max heart rate that I didn’t want to go over. I didn’t want to push the pace too early and pay for it later.”
Snow spent his time sizing up the lead pack, holding off his breakaway till ¾ through the race. “At about the 7-8 mile mark, I was surprised that the pack seemed to be struggling and breaking, so I waved Eric Blake up to me (a fellow New Englander and first time ElliptiGO World Championships racer), and he surged hard for about 400 meters, breaking the pack up.
“With two miles to go, Garrett Heath caught up to us,” Snow continued. “That wasn’t surprising, as he has run a 13:16 5K, 3:35 for 1500 meters, and he’s world-class competitor who could very well make the Olympic team in 2016. As soon as Garrett caught us, I could hear he was straining, so Eric and I surged to break from Garrett, leaving just the two of us.”
In the final push, Snow’s experience on the mountain and extensive training paid off as he pulled away from Blake. Will he be back in 2016 to make a run at five straight titles? “You bet!” Despite recording his second-fastest time ever, Snow knows he can’t let up. “Sarah’s race opened my eyes to the fact that we need to hammer a 1:05 up Palomar. She was the athlete of the day!”
Brown was definitely the talk of the mountain, especially from all the moms in the crowd. “Since the race started in waves, I was able to pass fellow ElliptiGO riders while climbing and get the necessary motivation to keep pushing. It helps to feel the support of others who are climbing! I just felt proud to be able to lead a strong pack of women who were all working so hard. Palomar is not an easy feat no matter who you are, and I was so amazed at all the competitors for tackling it.”
Did she have any concerns about racing hard? “Darren (my husband and coach) had already set a heart rate threshold that I wasn’t supposed to exceed. My pregnancy comes first and by setting these boundaries, I was comfortable that everything would be okay during the race as long as I followed my plan.
“I think that it’s important to stay active throughout your pregnancy. I wouldn’t add anything unfamiliar, but I think that exercise helps keeps you in a positive state of mind. As my body changes, I’ve had to modify workouts accordingly.
“The ElliptiGO has been a HUGE part of my pregnancy workout routine because I can still get my heart rate up without the pounding on my hips and joints. The key to a successful exercise routine during pregnancy is to just be willing to adapt and adjust with your body. I plan to keep riding up until my due date, so long as my body allows it.”