Monday, October 12, 2009

Providence Cyclocross Festival

What a great weekend! The weather was amazing and the race courses were twisty, up, down, and all around fun. After the races it was good times with good friends, watching, cheering and heckling the other racers, wandering around the bike expo and enjoying the glorious autumn weather.

On Saturday the we got to the venue 30 minutes before the start of the first race, so I had the chance to pre-ride the course twice, which was great. It was helpful to know what to expect, and also gave me the opportunity to warm up properly, which is something that I'm working on doing better. Then I registered and chatted with some friends, and got on my trainer to continue warming up. Had a totally zen moment when a hawk flew down to the ground about 10 yards in front of my trainer and just hung out there for a while to watch all the crazy bike people.

At the start I was in the second row, but had decided to start conservatively so I didn't try to contest the hole shot. The course was still pretty muddy from the rain overnight, and there were some sections where it was sort of slick. My slower start meant that I got to pass some people, which was fun, and I was pleasantly surprised when one of those people turned out to be Ivy, who is a Cat 3. I tried to put as much distance between her and myself as I could, in the hopes of holding her off for the rest of the race (which I did!).

I was really happy with the way that I did the barriers in this race. There was a long flat lead-up to them and I was able to swing my leg over and coast into the barriers smoothly, which felt great! I still can't manage to do a running, leaping remount, but I am getting smoother at remounting and don't need to come to a complete stop to remount anymore, which is nice and obviously saves time.

The one spot in the race which slowed me up every lap was the steep muddy run-up before the finish line. Every time I got to this point I felt like the mud was sucking me down into it, and it was all I could do to slowly crawl up that hill, leaning on my bike the whole time. It was probably only 15-20 seconds of "running", but it felt like the hardest 15-20 seconds of the entire race. I needed about 2 minutes to recover from that section every lap.

This weakness really hit home on the last lap, when I was closing in on Jill M from Cambridge and a Specialized rider. I was only a bike-length behind them coming into that run-up, but after that they were beyond my reach and although I sprinted strongly up to the finish, catching them wasn't even a possibility. Guess I need to work on uphill running sprints, huh? I ended up placing 23rd out of 39 finishers (not sure how many started).

Photo by Geoff Martin (beastgp)

On Sunday I was also in the second row for the start, and once again started conservatively. There were a lot more women starting this race and it was a big mess with lots of riders falling down in the twisty section after the start. Luckily I was able to move around them without crashing myself. The first lap was a little bit of a blur, mostly trying to avoid other riders and put some space in between them and myself. On the second lap I had a lot more breathing room, so I concentrated on riding well and keeping good lines. I passed quite a few riders with mechanicals. On the third lap I focused on staying in ahead of the riders who were behind me and tried to pick off a couple of the ones in front of me. I was shocked when one of those riders turned out to be teammate Cathy R, and saddened because it looked like she was in a lot of pain from a crash.

On the last lap, Ann (Sturdy Girl) was hot on my tail, and I tried to go as fast as I could up the finishing hill. She had a lot of speed on me and I could hear her coming around on my right. I stood up and sprinted for the finish with all I had (even going for a bike throw on the line), but it wasn't enough and she beat me by about 2 inches. Sigh.

In the end, I had a lot of fun on the course, and my legs felt a lot better than they had on Saturday. I had another good race, maybe even better than the day before, but oddly enough, my finishing results were exactly the same: 23rd place. (This time out of 44 finishers, and I'm told there were 13 DNFs.)

I am very exited to have a new set of nemeses and victims on :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Of Cats and Flats...

(Or... why I'm not listed in the results for either day of Gloucester)

On Friday, our kitty Rimmer got sick and we had to take him to the cat hospital for fluids and medications. They let us take him home that night, but we had to bring him back in for more treatment on Saturday morning, so I missed Day 1.

Luckily our stoic little cat started to feel much better and to eat again, and he was well enough that I felt like I could race on Sunday.

Day 2 involved failing to get a decent warm up, watching my teammate Janet R crash, riding the sand, passing people as I got going, and then - smack! - I was on the ground. I wasn't sure what happened, so I picked myself up and kept racing, but soon realized I could barely keep my bike upright in the turns. I was about as far from the pit as you could get, so I called it a day. My front tire was as flat as a pancake. It was my first 'cross mechanical and first 'cross DNF. Oh well - got that over with. On to Providence!

Here's one of my favorite shots of Rimmer investigating the camera lens.