Monday, October 29, 2012

Race Report: Illinois Ozark 10K Trail Run

Saturday morning was beautiful.  It was sunny and the high 30s at race time.  There was a slight breeze.  I was fretting over my clothing choices because I was chilly getting ready.  I had to remind myself to dress for the run and not the standing around pre-race.  We got to the park and picked up packets.  It was early enough that I went back to the car for a few minutes to relax.  It finally got close enough and I head out for a short warm up.  I had a GU with me, but decided to save it until mid run.  About 15 minutes before start I finally dragged myself out into the cold.  A final restroom stop and time to warm up.  We ran a short loop around the streets near the ball field and headed to the line.  After the national anthem, I moved to the front of pack and tossed my jacket to the sidelines.  We got a whistle and were off.
I still feel odd when I move to the front -- like an imposter.

I stayed with the lead group for about half a mile.  I was trying to pace with them, but realized it was something I couldn't sustain -- I needed to run my own race.  Around about that time, Ryan passed me.  With his long stride I wasn't surprised.  We hit the trail a little less than a mile in and started going up, up, up.  From last year I remember how much energy I expended trying to run this first one.  I switched to a quick walk and focused on turnover.  I was able to pass two of the ladies who had passed me on the pavement, as well as Ryan.  At a mile and a half we finally hit the top of the bluff.  I began running again and the trail began its descent.  I kept my eyes on the trail and moved as quickly as I could without tripping over my own feet.  I finally reached the bottom and the flat section of the race.  Ryan passed me again, as did some girl who came out of nowhere and made me feel like I was standing still!  I saw the three mile mark and knew I was halfway.  I was mentally preparing myself for the climb that was yet to come.  I came out into the opening and got passed by another woman.  She had been in the lead group with me at the start and I had passed her on the first climb.  I grabbed a cup of water and began the uphill.

The beauty of trail running...amazing scenery.   
Finish strong!

I found a good walking pace up the stone "stairs" and managed to pass the woman again.  Ryan was just ahead of me.  Leg speed, leg speed.  I got passed him again as well.  The trail flattened and I ran again until it tilted back up.  Time to walk again.  I saw another woman ahead of me and I tried to shut down the gap.  I was closing in on her until we reached the top.  She was able to descend faster than me--story of my life.  This descent was less treacherous than the first.  It was also the uphill we originally climbed.  I saw the marker for mile five and knew I was close to pavement.  I popped out of the woods and onto the road.  The first half mile or so of the road was downhill, until we made the left back to the park.  It was around there that Ryan passed me again.  I tried to move in behind him and pace/draft off of him, but I couldn't match his stride.  I turned the corner into the parking lot and started moving my arms faster hoping my legs would follow suit.  Finally the finish!  I had no idea how many woman were in front of me, but I was just glad to be done.  Official time was 55:29, a little less than two minutes faster than last year's race.  1st in AG, 4th in women, 19 overall.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Race Report: Bubba #2 Sylvan Spring

Sunday's race was at a venue new to me.  I've done a crit there before, so I knew it would be hilly but didn't know what else.  I started the morning by bike marshaling the Rock n Roll half marathon course.  After grabbing breakfast we headed to the park.  It was unusually warm for the day, race time temp was about 80 degrees with lots of sun.  I got a lap and a half preride in on the course and did the rest of my warm up in the field at the top of the park by the barriers.

The course started on pavement before 180ing back to a long gradual climb.  It curved right and picked up an old sidewalk that you could ride most of the way to the top.  From there was a series of switchbacks -- four I think -- up and down.  We then wound around to the bottom of the park before starting the second climb.  The second climb was as long or steep as the first.  It led to the top side of the park again.  There were some curves and turns and a few small elevation changes before heading down to the parking lot.  The course cut across the parking lot before leading back into the trees and the hardest climb.  The beginning of this one wasn't tough, it was the small kicker at the end that hurt.  From there you turned right and had the barriers.  Then it was a bumpy little down hill that led to a hard left to take you back to the start/finish.  
Topping the small kicker that hurt.  *Photo Credit: Don McKinney
We had eight ladies in the A race and 15 in our B race . . . a pretty good size field.  The whistle blew and we took off.  I would say I got my best jump of the season. Liz led out, Britta was right behind and I was sitting third wheel.  I knew someone was right behind me, but didn't know who.  We stayed close and tight until we wound around the top section of the field.  There was a little downhill 180 to a short uphill right.  I was geared wrong for the uphill and had to dab to get around the turn.  Cat passed me at that point.  I got going again, determined to take back third place.  I caught onto Cat after the parking lot and was able to pass her on the third climb.  By this time there was a short gap and Britta had taken over the lead.  By the time we finished the second climb of the second lap. Britta had a small gap on Liz.  I was able to close the ground and sit on Liz's wheel.  We were even through the barriers and she got a jump on the downhill.  I went around her on the pavement.  I know she stayed close to me for the next lap and a half, but I was eventually able to gain a good gap.  We did six laps for the race, but I was never able to bring Britta back.  I think she probably had a 20 second lead on me.  The toughest part of the race for me were the barriers after the climb.  My legs felt a bit jello like every time across them.
The bottom after the gradual downhill.  Courtney hot on me. *Photo credit: Mike Dawson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Report: Bubba #1 Queeny Park

It's finally time for Bubba CX!  This year we started at Queeny Park.  I raced Queeny two years ago, but missed it last year do to Joules CX. The course used some of the same features as two years ago, but had a good deal of change as well.  It started uphill on pavement before hitting the grass and dropping into single track in the woods.  The single track sections on the entire course were mud.  Peanut butter is the best way to describe it.  After the first single track section, there was a nice grassy climb that led to an open field before you dropped back into the wood.  That drop in was downhill and to the left, tree roots and such as well.  I dabbed going through there on my warm up, but found throughout the race if I stayed high and left I rode it comfortably.  From there we wound around, had a nice big puddle that could be avoided, another 90 degree left in the mud before heading out to the path.  The path wound up the hill, a great climb! Then it went over into the grass hill side.  We went down the hill on a gravel path, 180 and out into the parking lot before hitting a short steep run up, 180 and down hill to the parking lot to a 180 and another run up.  From there we wound up the hillside, going anaerobic, back to the path, cut through the grass and the parking lot back to the finish.  1.54 miles in all.

Off the line headed to the woods.  *Photo Credit: Don McKinney
The weather couldn't make up it's mind.  Sunny one minute, totally overcast the next -- wind was continuous though.  I warmed up around the course and in the parking lot.  I felt really good going to the line.  We had five ladies in the A race and about 10 in the B race.  The whistle blew and Liz took off.  She got a little gap, but Cat was close and Britta was on her wheel.  I was sitting fourth and Teresa was behind me.  We hit the thicker mud and I realized I was geared wrong.  I could barely turn my pedals.  I managed to push through, but lost some ground.  I would need to work to catch back on.  I rode hard and clean, taking better lines than I had in my recon lap.  I hit the pavement climb and headed over to the grass.  My smalls were there cheering and that always gives me energy.  I did the first run up and got a surprise . . . they had added the second since my pre-ride.  Okay, off and up again.  I got back on the bike and began the slow grind up.  I added gear when I hit the pavement and pushed hard.  I got over by the pit and the course tape was broken.  Oh heck!  Which way do I go?  I went right.  I should have gone left.  I kept going, broke the tape twice and got back on the course.  In that I got the tape wrapped around my neck--I've got a pretty sweet abrasion on there from it.  Although I lost some time in that move, I saw Liz was close.  I was able to catch her.  As I pulled along side Liz, I could tell she was unhappy. I told her "then let's hunt Britta down. Come on!"
On the hunt for first *Photo credit: Don McKinney
I adjusted my gearing as I dropped back into the woods.  This time through was much better.  I came out and saw Cat and Britta climbing the hill.  I dug deep and went after them.  I passed them in the open field before we headed back into the woods.  Britta had responded to my attack and was with me.  I focused on riding good lines and staying up right.  She was on me until we hit the run up.  I dismounted at the bottom and took the inside line.  She tried to ride it and got about half way up and was forced to dismount.  Her dismount was awkard and she cut across and tried to run into my line.  I guess I've become a pretty aggressive racer because I'm not giving up my line that easily.  She tried to cut me off and I kept going.  She yelled "What are you doing?"  I said holding my line.  She said you can't run into me.  I responded "I didn't.  You need to learn how to ride your bike."  She got ahead of me on the remount and I took a little too much risk/speed on the downhill before the next run up.  I didn't go down or into the barriers, but I was a bit scared.  I was able to catch her wheel right after the pit and I sat on it until we went into the woods.  We had three laps to go. I saw the line she took in the mud and knew it wasn't good.  Sure enough, she almost went over and had to unclip.  I rode around her and focused and riding smart.

For the next three laps I would gain a gap through the single track and mud and she would close it down in the open sections and hills.  On the final lap I knew I need to get through the single track as quickly as possible because she would be powering through the open sections trying to catch me.  I also kept repeating to myself what Coach Chuck told me . . . the race was in front of me.  I needed to know she was back there, but not let it take my attention off what I had to do.  I got on the bike after the run ups and my legs were yelling at me.  I was worried that if it came to a sprint, I was history.  I didn't think I had the explosive jump left in me.  I reached the top of the grass climb and knew I needed to finish it off.  I revved up my cadence and added a gear, revved it up again and added another.  Push hard now and make a gap so a sprint isn't even an possibility.  I hit the grass by the pit and jumped back out in the parking lot.  I put my head down and added another gear.  I couldn't hear her, and hoped that I had the lead I needed.  The line was in sight . . . yes!!!  Put a notch in the W column.
The big puddle -- Yes, I did ride through it twice :-) *Photo credit:  Mike Dawson
Final lap -- but this was what it looked like most of the race. *Photo credit: Dennis Fickinger 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Race Report: Veldrijden Columbia 2012

I was so excited that this race got moved earlier in the season.  Last year it was after state and the turn out was light...such a shame because the venue is so awesome!

I got there early and pre-rode the course before the first race started. We had had a good rain the night before, so I knew we'd have some mud.  The course was very similar to last year.  The major change was that the sand pit was out (yeah me!), but after the single track section, there was a bit of climbing added.  Overall, a good course that suited me well.  I warmed up around the park and felt pretty good going to the line.  My only concern was the amount of guys I had seen flatting out in earlier races.  I had a bike in the pit, so while I might be delayed I flatted, I wouldn't be out totally.  And I knew what to look out for after rolling my tire on this course last year.

Unfortunately there were only three ladies (Cat, Allison) in the Open race.  The whistle blew and we were off.  Cat jumped out early and I was right behind her.  I couldn't get clipped in and my right foot kept slipping.  I finally got settled, but Cat had a little gap.  We circled around to the drop in for the first single track section.  With the rain it was slick, but not sloppy.  The drop in was short and turned hard left with tree roots all around.  I rode my brakes through it and stayed up.  Allison was behind me and ran it.  I heard her say "Come on Suzanne."  I guess she got momentum going faster than me.  I came up out of the woods and went after Cat.  I kept her in my sites through the barriers and next single track section.  We started the climb.  It went up, 180 down and 180 back up before a 90 turn.  I went too wide on the down hill turn and broke the tape.  I just kept going and headed up and across the hill and waited until Allison was right there and went back on with a smaller gap than I had on her before.  We headed back to the third wooded section and the tough hill.  Last year the hill was a hard climb, but doable.  With the soft ground and mud I had already decided it would be a run up this year.  It's the spot where I made up the most ground every lap.
Few things make me smile like splashing through a creek! *Photo credit: Mike Dawson
I knew I was closing ground on Cat.  We ran the stairs and headed to start finish and back around.  This lap I was much cleaner dropping into the woods.  I rode much more aggressively through the single track and rode the 180s on the back hill cleanly.  We hit the run up and I knew Cat was catchable.  I remounted the bike and headed across and down to the stairs. I shouldered the bike and ran hard.  I caught and passed her about three steps from the top.  I put my head down and pedaled.  For the rest of the race I concentrated on riding clean and gaining daylight.  My lead grew as the race went on, but I knew a mistake would be costly.  We ended up doing five laps on the race.  With two to go, I was approaching the stairs and saw my sunshine.  Boo was at the bottom.  He started heckling me and telling me he could beat me up the stairs.  I could barely talk, but said "Bring it, little man!"  He did.  I passed the start/finish and Larry teased me with lap cards but finally flipped to 1.  I got to race my little man on the stairs again, and this time had Bella, fresh from cheer camp with her pon poms.  It was the best last lap a momma could want!
That's a winner! *Photo Credit: Dan Singer
It's the first time I've had a lead to hold for so long.  I never let up because I was fearful one of the ladies would get a second wind and close it down.  It was a fun course, great win.  My struggle for the race was my pedals.  I will be detailing my cleats this week to get the extraneous mud out of them.  I talked myself through though and just kept turning them over while I worked to clip in.
Podium shot with Allison & Cat.  *photo credit: Dan Singer