Monday, September 28, 2009

Blunt Park Cyclocross Mudfest

Wow, that was the muddiest race I have ever done! Since it was an Open Women's race, we were the last race of the day and the course had turned into mud soup by that time. There were at least three muddy ponds to ride through (during warm up I watched Michele A ride through one and it looked like half her bike disappeared into it - I couldn't stop laughing!), and there really wasn't any part of the course that wasn't mud. Well, there might have been one small stretch where you could go way off the racing line and be on slick wet grass instead of wheel-sucking mud, but that was it.

My goal for the race was as follows: Stay upright.
I almost succeeded, but more on that later.

I started in the 2nd row and sprinted off the line (pavement), passed a few people and took a good line into the first corner (and into the mud). Then it was chaos. A twisty muddy section, then a large log forcing a dismount, then more muddy twisty bits, and another log (stay on bike but put foot down for stability), more mud and a then another log and forced dismount, followed by choice between mud soup or off camber roots, resulting in running to higher ground to remount, then more mud, more twists, and finally some pavement (ahhh!), then back into mud and another log dismount, a huge mud puddle, and then the section with alternative grass non-racing-line areas, then back into mud, chicanes (generally better to run), then into the barriers (3 barriers! who does 3 barriers??), mud sucking you down between them, remount and more twists and turns and two more giant mud puddles, then an up and downhill chicane (dismounting and running recommended for sure) and then more mud and more twisting and finally you're back on the pavement and across the start/finish line to do it all again. Phew!

Ok, the first lap I went out hard (probably too hard) and was holding my own for most of the lap, and then I got unsettled in the muddy chicane and sort of ran out of gas after that. A few people (including teammate Terri) passed me before the barriers (I think) and then I was on my own for the rest of the race, except for a little leapfrogging with a masters racer and two juniors.

The juniors were faster than me in the twisty muddy sections and passed me, but when we got to the pavement, I shifted into the big ring, left them behind and kept them there. (Ah, satisfaction!) The master racer was definitely faster than me everywhere, but he kept having problems and I would pass him while he was either fixing a mechanical or picking himself up out of the mud. Eventually this would come back to bite me when, on the last lap, I decided to go a little harder and came screaming into one of the forced log dismounts, preparing to do an awesome running dismount, only to find out that I was actually clipped in with my left foot and I went down HARD! As I'm lying on the ground, the master guy is coming up behind me yelling something like, "I'm going fast!", and I scrambled and was up and over the log and getting back on my bike as he passed me. As I started racing again, I could hear Todd R in my head saying, "You can stay clipped in if your coming slowly into the barriers, but definitely not when your riding fast." No kidding! That took all the wind out of my sails and I just went into self-preservation mode for the rest of the race. Luckily I was in no-man's land and wasn't in any danger of being caught and passed at that point, but I was hoping to close in on both the master racer and the woman in front of me. Oh well.

The lessons I learned from this race are as follows. 1) Find out if there is a bike wash and wash the mud out of your brakes before you race! Both Michele and I started the race with our bikes caked in mud and while everything still worked, it would have been much nicer to start with clean equipment (especially the brakes) 2) While it's awesome when you can clip into your pedals even if they're caked in mud, beware that you might actually be clipped in even if you didn't try to clip in, therefore, always unclip left foot before coming hot into the barriers (or log) 3) I love Campy!!! A fall in warm up and later on falling in the race resulted in both of my shifter mechanisms being submerged and encased in mud. The bike shifted perfectly with no issues at all for the entire race. I had zero mechanical issues. 4) I love Time Attack pedals and cleats! I could clip in every time, the only real issues I had were finding the pedal - once I found it, clip! (and of course the previously stated clipping without trying)

On another note, my new bike rocks! It is so light - I think that was slightly unrealized at the time, but considering that I had to carry my bike 6 times each lap, over the course of 4 laps, I would have been a lot slower if I was picking up and carrying my heavy old bike that much. What a way to start it's life as a 'cross bike. Awww, poor baby!

Komen 5K

On Saturday I ran the Komen 5K charity race for my corporate team and with my friend, Linda. Our team collectively raised over $2000 for the charity.

I've been running once or twice a week for a little over a month now, both to prepare for cross and in anticipation of this event. I'm happy to report that I completed the run on Saturday with an under 10:00 minute mile average, which is definitely a personal best!

It was a gorgeous day, there were thousands of runners and walkers, all raising money for a great cause and I'm happy that I was a part of it.

If anyone still would like to donate money to the charity, you can do so here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quad 'Cross 2009

Well - I got back to racing this weekend at the Quad Cross race in Bedford, MA. It was great to have a race so close to home, especially since I was out quite late the previous night at ML's bachelorette party. I limited myself to one glass of wine, but I still ate too much rich food, culminating with "Molten Chocolate" from Finale. Drool...

Anyway, being my first race of the (cross) season, not having been on the bike most of the prior week, and the anticipated late night, my only goal for this race was "to have fun". Knowing that was my goal didn't really help with the nervous anticipation, however, as my heat rate was practically in my Tempo zone in the car driving out to the race. Ack!

I got there early enough to ride the course two times before the Cat 4 men started and once more in between their race and ours. When I pulled up to the start line I was much more composed and relaxed than I had been earlier.

Waiting to start, I was chatting with my friend Rebekah (who I hadn't seen since my last cross race back in November 2008) and suddenly we were off. I had lined up on row two, since I wasn't planning on trying to get in front or anything, and suddenly I realized that all the first row girls were getting away from the second row girls. Heck! I can go faster than that! So I got out of the saddle and closed the gap.

On lap 1, nothing eventful happened for me until the barriers. They came just after a blind corner and they exited with a tight u-turn into the only real spongy uphill woods section. I had been able to ride it in my warmup, but since I was in a group at that point, I thought it would be safer to run it, which I did, and did not give up any places there. Yay!

The next significant point was coming into the final single barrier. In the men's Cat 4 race, I watched practically the entire field wipe out in the turn leading to that barrier, so I knew to watch out. (See Geoff's photos of that here.) I remembered Todd R's clinic instructions to "dismount and coast as long as you can", so I glided down the slope and stepped off in the apex of the turn. It felt very smooth and almost graceful.

I actually passed the rider in front of me with that technique, and I was pretty happy about it. And then... I had to wipe that self-satisfied smile off my face when I crashed in the mud of the next hairpin. Argh! The girl I had passed passed me back, along with at least one other. I picked myself up, lost more time bobbling around in the wrong gear, and finally got going again.

On the second lap I was more or less on my own and I just concentrated on being smooth and steady, tried to take deep breaths on the downhills to get my heart rate under control, and rode the spongy woods section (still faster for me than running).

On the third lap I passed the girl in front of me (in the barriers!) and on the fourth lap I passed another girl (the one with whom I had dosie-doed in the first lap) right before the finish. I even managed to get out of the saddle and sprint to the line to make sure she didn't come around me. I was cooked after the sprint and just sort of stumbled off my bike and sat on the ground for a bit trying to breathe. Geoff captured it on film (of course).

That was a HUGE improvement over my first two years of cross racing, because it was the first time that I've had enough energy left at the end of the race to pass anyone. In previous years, I've been the one being passed in the last lap or two.

In the end I finished 18th out of 30 starters and 28 finishers. I am pleased with that result as my only goal was to "have fun", which I did. Looking forward to more races!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Haven't posted in a while

I've been meaning to post on a lot of things, but I haven't found the time. It's rainy today so it seems like a good opportunity.

I was lucky enough to be able to take 4 weeks off of work this July & August. I couldn't take them all at once, but I was off for two weeks, worked for one week, then was off for two more weeks. It was really nice, and I got the chance to relax and experience life at my preferred speed, instead of the crazy hectic life I usually lead.

One of the weeks was spent on Cape Cod with Sallie, Michele, & Catherine at Sallie's mom's beautiful house in Chatham. We spent some time at the beach, rode our bikes, went to coffee shops, practiced yoga, and ate really well.

Speaking of eating well, the CSA produce that we're getting continues to be wonderful. We had a couple of weeks where everything was purple. Purple carrots, purple peppers, purple broccoli, and three different variations of purple eggplant. We also had glorious peaches and several different types of melon. Yum!

Now that the seasons are changing we are starting to get more fall produce. We are getting a lot of corn, red peppers, apples, and different types of squash.

The change of season also marks the transition from road cycling to off-road cycling and I'm starting my cyclocross racing season tomorrow! It will be an appropriate kick-off since it will be a mudfest after all the rain today. :-) It's not cyclocross without mud!

I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll get my race reports posted without too much delay and maybe that will inspire me to update this blog more regularly.