Monday, December 19, 2011

Race Report: Veldrijden Columbia

I remember when I first saw Jim's post about a cx race in Columbia.  I was in disbelief!  Shocked, excited.  A cx race in the city park.  I do my cx skill workouts there . . . it was too good to be true.  And somehow, someway it all came together.  And it was everything I could have hoped for.  Someone on posted this description of the course: Take the stairs from Hermann, the run up from Mt. Pleasant, the sand and woods from St. Vincent, the boggy zoysia and long stretches of pavement from Spanish Lake, throw in some tundra and a creek crossing and you have Columbia.  That sums up the course perfectly!
Lined up with the boys!  EEEK!

I actually did get my act together, packed my backpack and rode to the course. I got there early enough to ride the course before any of the races began.  I wanted to watch all the races and truly enjoy the day.  If I have one small down side of the day, it was the turnout.  None of the races had a great turnout.  By 12:30 there were only two of us signed up for the 1/2/3 race.  Larry talked to Beverly and me and decided to combine us with the Elite men's race.  I think the men had about 17 in their race.  We lined up at the back, but got the ok to go with the men at the whistle.
We got the whistle and I jumped in with the boys and was mixing it up.  I held with them through most of the first lap.  My goal was to stay with them through the first lap so that I could see the lines they were taking on the course.  Beverly was no where in sight.  On the second lap, I headed down into the woods and rode through the creek--splash, no problem.  I headed towards the little culvert and decided to try to bunny hop the drain pipe.  I'm assuming I landed wonky because within a pedal stroke I came to a grinding halt.  My tire was off the rim.  WTF!  I shouldered the bike and took off running/walking.  It didn't take long until Beverly passed me.  The worst thing was, I was going to have to run most of the course to get back to the pit. F! F! F! F! As I was running up the hill, I started to take my wheel off so I would be ready to change it when I hit the pit.  I was holding the wheel and BOOM!  I realized that if I let a little air out, I would be able to pop the tire back on the rim.  DUH!  I tried it and it worked and I hopped back on.  I knew I would need to be careful with cornering, but at least I was back on and riding.  I set off to try and catch Beverly . . . and never made it.  I eventually closed the gap to about 45 seconds, but finished 2nd--which was DFL for this race.  Still, I had fun the whole time.  

Climbing that effing hill!
Highlights of the race included:
  • My mom and brothers came out to watch me race!
  • Jim waving his skirt at me . . . and then wearing it.  I didn't get the full HAWT leg look though.
  • Riding the hill on the backside of the football field every lap. (except for the lap sans tire).
  • The stairs.  I love running those stairs, always have.
  • Racing for a full hour with the boys -- women never get to race that long.  I was zapped afterwards though.
  • Pedaling through all the corners.  I still have a long way to go on handling, but I'm starting to get there.
Hittin' the creek! *photo credit: Mike Dawson
Things to work on:
  • Riding the sand.  I tried to ride the pit during warm-up and fell right over.  I ran it every lap.  I need to head over to the park and practice.
  • Off camber turns.  I rode the turn over the ties the first lap, but my line sucked.  I dabbed the subsequent times, and only two of those were smooth.
I have next weekend off racing before heading to Chicago for the UCI New Years Resolution races.  Three races left in this years cx season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Race Report: Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run

Ah the things that tequila after a bike ride gets you into . . . actually, I can't use that excuse this year. I signed up for this race last year due to that reason, but didn't get to race because of an unexpected trip to Texas. So this year I was all about it. The Metro East Tri Club bills this race as "an off-road 7.5 mile Train Run. We run along single-track trails through the scenic Pere Marquette State Park. Ours is considered the toughest and most grueling race in the Midwest!" That don't call this biotch Godzilla for nothing!
I got to carpool up to the race with Bob B, Tommy, Jenny and Liz. Although we spend a lot of Wednesday evenings together during the summer, this was my first race with them. We got to the lodge and picked up our numbers and vest. I was surprised at how many people I knew at a non-cycling event. It seemed like there was someone around every corner. Back at the car, I pinned on my number and found my gloves! I thought I had forgotten them and was more than a bit concerned since it was still only 19 degrees. It was about 10 minutes to our wave going off, so I did a short six minute warm up on another part of the trail.
There were 650 runners registered for the race, and I think something around 20 waves going off, 30 seconds apart. Bob was in wave 10, Liz and I in wave 11, and Tommy and Jenny in wave 12. I have no idea how they cede the waves because there were some hella fast runners starting behind us. We got a whistle and I took off. I looked over my shoulder for Liz but didn't see her. I fell in behind one of the men in our wave and let him pace me out for about the first half mile or so before I couldn't hold with him. It was within that first half mile that the trail went up, and kept going up. I tried to run it, but soon found that I was better off walking. With a good steady stride I was able to pass people and keep my heart rate under control. I decided that would be my strategy for the race. I don't think I've ever walked as much as I did on a run as I did on this one. I totally missed the first two mile markers because I was watching my footing on the ground and engaged in the race. at the first water stop I asked how far we'd come and the volunteer told just over two miles. I took water, but must have swallowed wrong because it made me cough like crazy. I took off running again.
I fell in with a small group of men and paced with them through mile 3 and the second water stop. I GU'd there and had to stop because my GU was so thick. I didn't think I could walk and chew. The group got in front of me so I set off to see if I could catch them. I got them back in sight on occasion, but never caught them. I also kept looking for Bob, wondering how fast of a pace he was keeping because I hadn't caught him.
The fourth mile marker gave me energy because I knew I was over half way done. It was around there I started toying with some girl in pink. I saw in front of me and set off to catch her. I passed her on an uphill, but she got me on the downhill. I worked to make sure I didn't let her out of my sight. The course is cruel in that somewhere right after mile six, you descend to the parking lot and turn and go straight back uphill. I kept her in my sight on that uphill, passing three men and catching her at the top. I reached the top and started running again. We hit the mark for mile seven and she passed me. Nope, not today. I went right back around her and took off. I descended like a mad woman. There were railroad ties in trail and I used those to launch myself. How I didn't fall, I'm still not sure. Regardless, I gapped her big. I wasn't sure how close she and the guy I passed were, and I didn't want to turn around to look so I just went harder. I could hear the crowd as I rounded the bluff and saw the line.
I finished in 1:13:09, which is a 9:45 average. I was 157th overall, 22nd in women and 4th in my age group. I don't know when I've been happier to run a near 10 minute mile, but on that course, I'll take it with a smile. I grabbed water, looked for Bob, and waited for Liz. I ended up running into more people I knew, which made it more fun. Liz came in about 15 minutes later and Bob was not far behind her. I guess I passed him somewhere in that first two miles where I was in the zone.
This amount of uphill in this race made it more challenging than Valmeyer, however the trails at PM were more "civilized". Still, I think it's the toughest run I've ever done. And I'll be back to kick Godzilla's butt next year. (provided it's not the day before state :-P)

Race Report: Bubba #11 Spanish Lake

I was not "feeling it" pre race yesterday. I was struggling getting into my pedals following remounts and just didn't feel like I had the mindset to race. I took out my cleats since it was dry, hoping that I may have an easier time without having them. I got to the park early enough to get two laps done. The course was mainly flat, a few off camber roller coasters, lots of gravel and a nice little run up on the back side. I finished my warm up by doing laps in the soccer fields. The weather was great, high 30s, no wind, sunny. We had nine women in the Open field.
The whistle blew and I was up and out of the saddle but I couldn't get my left foot locked. I was immediately sitting in seventh position. I finally got my foot locked right before the grass. I concentrated on staying connected with the six in front of me as we worked through the first set of turns. As we hit the uphill s-section, I knew I needed to get around some girls. Carrie had to stop on the uphill and caused us to lose the group. I went to the outside of her, but she got in front of me again. We headed through the down and back and did the s turns before the first gravel and I realized I was on my brakes too much. I actually yelled at myself to stay off of the effing brakes. As soon as we hit the gravel, I added a gear, moved my hands to the tops so I couldn't grab brake.  We cut through the trees and hit the second gravel section and Tara came around me. I stayed on her wheel to the barriers and was able to remount faster and pass her. We headed to the back section and the run up. I shouldered my bike on the first time up it. We headed through the thick grass and to the off camber turns. I was able to pass Carrie at that point, but I totally screwed up the second one and went through the tape. I just went with it and kept riding and reentered the course. We hit the pavement and went out for lap two.
Schlepping it up the hill lap 1.  I can't seem to find a smile.  *Photo cred:  Mike Dawson
Ah! Now I'm racing like I know how . . . cheesing it up! *Photo credit:  Mike Dawson

Lap two was better in that I stayed off the brakes, however Tara passed me again in the second patch of gravel. I stayed close to her though, knowing that she floundered with remounting. We also had gained ground on Cat and Britta and were shutting down their gap. We continued to gain through lap two. In the third lap, Tara grabbed Britta's wheel in the first set of turns following the barriers. I got on Tara's wheel immediately before we hit the long stretch before the downhill to the run up. I sat on the train for about 15 sections before making my move. I heard Cat say "that was a stealth pass" as I flew by. We hit the run up and Cat was along side of me. I shouldered my bike again on this run. Cat got in front of me in the thick grass, but I stayed on her wheel and took her lines through the off camber turns and got through them cleanly. We hit the pavement and I added gear and added gear and added gear. I went around her and didn't look back. I couldn't see a shadow. I guess Tara made the same move I did because I could feel someone back on my wheel, although I didn't know who it was. I knew it was Tara when we passed her husband by the barriers. That lap I pushed my bike up the run up instead of carrying it, it felt much harder to me. When we hit the pavement, I again took off. Tara's a tough competitor and I wanted as much ground on her as possible. I was able to put a gap between us and keep it for the rest of the race, finishing in 3rd place.
Shark Attack . . . come on Tara, let's go! *Photo credit: Mike Dawson
Reflections on the day: my start sucked. I let myself get nervous and ride the brakes again (like Concordia) until I was able to relax. I'm getting smoother on the barriers, actually finding a rhythm to run them. And gravel is starting to scare me less as well. Having great hecklers and fans helped immensely, especially the "Go Mommy!" I heard over and over again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Race Report: Boss Cross 4 & Missouri State CX

Another weekend, another road trip . . . this time it was for Boss Cross and the Missouri State CX championships in KC.  Cory and I had the pleasure of having the Sass as our travelling companion.  After a quick S'bux stop, we headed west.  Sass was out cold by the time we went Wentzville.  Cor & I kept ourselves entertained with great stories and Twitter pics from Jim. I was able to add two new Coryisms to my list . . . that blog post will come out post Madison--be warned it is not for the faint of heart.  We hit KC about nine.  After unloading and grabbing Jim, we headed to North to meet G and Trent.  Dinner was great and Patrick joined us after he got settled.

Saturday morning I could hear the rain pouring down outside my window.  It was going to be a nasty race.  We actually found a freestanding Starbucks, with no u-turns, and made it to the race course without incident.  Not so for Jim.  I'm not really sure what happened, but between Patrick and Cory they guided him in.

At the start of our race, it was wet and soggy with temps in the high 40s, low 50s.  The rain had briefly stopped, although it spit on us intermittantly through the race. The race was held at a BMX park, but we weren't actually using any of the course.  Most of the course was held in two large open fields--the upper section was flat with some easy corners, the lower section had a nice grade to it.  In addition, the north part of the course went near the BMX track.  It was the technical, muddy section with two down and backs, a muddy run up over a log, off camber mud and a sloshy mud pit that led out to a long slow uphill grinder.  Fun times!  There were ten women in the open field and we were on course with the Master's 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65 riders.  We got the whistle and I was fourth off the line.  We hit the back section and I was able to pass the third place girl on an uphill.  I could hear someone behind me but was able to hold her off until we got to the muddy run up.  She passed me there.  I rode the muddy off camber well the first lap.  I dismounted and ran the second mud pit and headed up the hill.  I was able to catch the girl who passed me at that point.  I added gear as I passed her and started looking for Karen.  I think I got within about 10 seconds of her during lap two.  I hit the muddy off camber and it just went all to hell.  I let Patrick and John distract me (they were heckling and I was laughing) and I went straight off the course, at Patrick, into a tree.  I jumped off, untangled myself and went back at it.  I lost time on Karen through that whole fiasco.  I have to admit that the other passes through the muddy off camber were no better.  While I didn't run into the tree or go off course anymore, I was never able to completely ride it.  I should have been smart and shouldered the bike and run.  Lesson learned!  The rest of the race was great for me.  I talked myself through any muddy sections with "pick a line and pedal.  pick a line and pedal." It seemed to work.  I must have looked like I was having fun because I got multiple comments during and after the race about smiling.  In the last lap, I came up on Guillarmo, he didn't seem to be having as much fun as me, so I gave him a little butt smack as I passed . . . almost taking myself down as well. I ended up holding onto third without a problem.  My highlight for the race was not freaking out in the mud.  I worked on spinning and finesse.  Even through the off camber mess, I didn't get uptight.  My point of improvement is recognizing my strengths.  I should have improvised and run instead of thinking I needed to try to ride it each time.
Up and over the log on the run up. *Photo cred: Jon Peck

Off camber, downhill and mud.  -Yikes!- *photo credit: Jon Peck

Podium -- Congrats to Sarah and Karen. *photo credit: Jon Peck

Our St. Louis contigent caravaned to the car wash to rinse off the bikes.  It was a sight to see.  The rest of the day was filled with washing kits and shoes, great food, laughs and shopping.  A perfect day in my mind.  Our evening plans took us back to La Bodega--we had dinner there our first KC road trip.  The boys all joined us, including Peter and Travis who had just gotten in, and Cory's teammate Chris.  The food and sangria were outstanding and the laughs were never ending.  Although I do think we made Trent shake his head at us quite a few times.

By Sunday morning, the rain had stopped.  It was still muddy and was cold...34 degrees with a wind chill of 29.  The course was almost identical to Saturday with the exception of it being run backwards and the muddy off camber was taken out.  Instead of climbing the grinder out of the mud, we went downhill into the mud and circled around to the run up and log.  The course conditions had also deteriorated quite a bit.  There was very little solid grass left, and was what there was saturated.  I made a costly clothing mistake for Sunday.  I let the cold scare me and I decided to wear my knickers instead of my skinsuit.  With the weight I've lost this season, the chamois in the knickers is a bit saggy.  I also almost let my head get in the way of me racing well.  I saw one of the ladies I had yet to beat this season and I started to get nervous.  I literally banged my head on the dashboard telling myself to get my head in the race.

We again had 10 ladies at the line.  Sunday we only had Masters 50, 55, and 60 on course with us.  The whistle blew and we took off.  As I raised out of the saddle, my chamois caught on it. EFF ME! I was immediately sitting 6th wheel.  I kept telling myself to calm down and to just stay in contact with the lead five.  Within two turns I was able to pass the girl sitting in 5th.  We were all together through the barriers and down the hill to a muddy 180.  The lead women, as did I, tried to ride it.  (So were some of the men we caught).  Everyone got bogged down and had to do an unplanned dismounted creating a bit of a jam.  Karen and Sarah were able to take advantage of that and get away from us.  We climbed up out of there and headed down to the mud.  As soon as I hit the deep stuff, I dismounted and shouldered the bike.  I sloshed through and decided to keep running.  There were two short sections I may have been able to ride, but I didn't know if it was worth it.  After the log I got on and went after Britta.  I was able to pass her in the upper section of the field and caught up and grabbed Cory's wheel. I know Cory is a good handler through the mud, so I stayed on her wheel and watched her line.  As we turned out of the mud and down the hill, Cory went into the tape and off the course.  I was able to go around her.  At that point, I didn't know where Sarah and Karen were and who was sitting in what place. I crossed through start finish and saw we had four to go.  That lap I tried to ride the muddy 180 again and only got halfway through.  Two guys standing there told me that everyone was having better luck running it so I made up my mind that was my plan the next lap.  I headed off towards the mud pit.  A bunch of the Big Shark guys were there and told me that Sarah wasn't that far ahead and that I could go after her.  I again ran the bike the whole way, ignoring John who told me it was a bike race, not a run.  I tried to remount after the log and again caught my chamois.  I finally got going and headed after Sara.   I saw her when I got into the upper field.  She had about 30 seconds on me at that point.  I put my head down and rode my bike.  I tried to keep a high cadence, but stay relaxed through the mud.  By the time I saw the boys again, they were telling me I was closing the gap.  I asked them to count time for me.  I was close enough to Sara at the point that I could see she was trying to ride part of muddy section where I ran.  I told myself to stick with my strengths and I slogged through.  The boys had moved to the top section by this point and told me the gap was at 15 seconds.  When I rounded the corner, Guillarmo was there telling me it was at 13 seconds.  We headed back through the lower section, down to the mud and out in the open field again.  The gap was around ten at this point.  When we wound towards the start/finish, I made my move.  I added gear and pushed.  I passed and didn't look back.  The cool part of it was the play by play from the announcer as I did it.  We had two to go and the boys were telling me that Karen was catchable, so I kept pushing.  They gave me a gap of 15 seconds and I could see her through most of the lap.  As we headed through the upper half of the field, the men's leader passed me.  It meant that I was now on the last lap.  Try as I may, I couldn't close it down on Karen and ended up with second.  I was pretty happy with my decisions on the course.  I played more to my strengths and stayed relaxed even when my line choice wasn't the best.  I've also learned my lesson about clothing.  
Nothin' but muddy goodness.  *Photo credit: Jon Peck

Yesterday was the second state medal I earned.  This one, although the same place, means much more to me than the crit medal I have.  CX is not my strongest discipline.  I've really worked to improve.  I analyze my races, think through where I need to improve, and then go out and practice those skills.  Sure I do the same thing with road races, but that just seems to come easier.  Some day, some how, I'd really like to win the state jersey.  For now I'm happy with the silver medal.  It is what it is.