Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playing on snow: December by the Numbers

Ski season started later than it was supposed to.  But I put 9 days on snow this month.  Unlikely that I'll get back on snow before the new year, so that's probably the final count.

So far I've:
  • Led 4 new instructors through learning how to teach (in the freezing rain!) and hired all 4
  • Skied in EPIC southern PA powder while reminding 6 old instructors how to do their jobs
  • Understudied an awesome clinician up at Hunter with 12 PSIA'ers from Virginia, PA, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut
  • Studied indoors during 1 of the nastiest, rainiest days at Liberty in a while
  • Taught back to back to back clinics (3), squeezing 2 quarters of the Steelers kicking the Ravens all over the place (!)
  • Worked a bunch of hours in lab when not many others were there
  • Taught 0 members of the skiing public
  • Tubed on man-made snow 8 times on Christmas day.  In the drizzle. 6 with spins.

What I haven't done:
  • Skied in Vermont.
  • Blogged much.  Only a few here.  1 Diva Ski Tips entry.
  • Been ready for Christmas early.  Yes, I was wrapping all gifts on Christmas Eve.
  • Lost weight.  Enormous amount of candy is killing that.
  • Gained weight.  Not sure how this works.
  • 0 Miles.  Haven't been on any of my bikes since Reston.  Intend to start base miles on the trainer later this week.  Or next.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How my goals for cross season turned out

For some reason, I announced my cross season goals on my blog.  Perhaps this was an attempt at accountability.  I'm not sure that it worked, but here's how they worked out.

Continue having fun.  Especially true when I stopped caring so much about how I finished and rode more for myself.

Ride the muddy lines whenever it's smart.  There were plenty of muddy lines this year.  I have some clothes that may never recover.

Learn to settle into my own pace within the first two laps.  Important because, as counted over beers last night, I had the hole shot or was second onto the grass in 8 of 13 races this year.  2 had combined fields with 1/2/3's for the start, so they almost don't count.  I checked my lap times on my watch at Taneytown and Reston - I don't slow down, everyone else just speeds up.

Finish top 5 in a 3/4 MAC race.  I surprised myself by doing this on the last race of the season.  Perhaps the small field and technical course helped, but comments from a bunch of people came in later about how strong I looked, so I'll take it.

Incorporate some weekly core training and stretching.  I was a bit more hit or miss about this than I should be, but also included some hill interval running and a few long runs, so certainly better than last year.

On the fence:
Clean my own bike at least once.  Shea and I disagree whether I've fulfilled this.  In the freezing cold rain at Granogue, I spent at least 4 minutes at the bike wash removing the bulk of the mud.  But he's done the cleaning of all the minutia during the week between races.

Get rid of the double hop on my remount. This depends entirely on whether the remount occurs on the first lap or the last.

Keep my training hours as high as they are now for the latter half of the season.  I didn't keep a training log.  Therefore I don't know.  The weather was not conducive to late season road training.  If I had to guess, this belongs in the FAIL column.

Win.  Twice.  Then I won't have to waffle about when I'm ready to go up to the 1/2/3's. I didn't win.  After writing that I had a great race at DCCX and took 2nd.  But I'm not waffling about going up.  I got the upgrade.  Next year I'll just have to get faster.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The final 2009 race reports part 2: Reston

Reston: MAC championships. 3/4 Women's field with all the strong contenders for the Cat 3 series title.  Snow.

Yes, Snow.  There was no snow where I was in Vermont 4 days before this race, but there was snow Saturday.  Oh, wait, did I say snow?  Because I actually meant mud.  There was snow early and even some scenic snow late.  I even toyed with the idea of racing the 9 am race.  But the ice scared me into spectating with Jess.  By our race, it was muddy.  Maybe not the muddiest of our season, but close.

For whatever reason they started all the women at once.  There isn't a better way to annoy us, even if you did do the callups right.  It means we can't tell at all which field is where or meter our race efforts accordingly.  LH was getting hot and bothered about this.  In the end, it worked out to her advantage - she had a great start and got away early for the win.

I was just out for fun.  I started behind a Baltimore-based C3 elite rider who normally starts well, but had ice frozen in her cleat - so it was a bit slower than normal.  By the time we hit the first little muddy off camber uphill mess, fellow LSVer Julia and some other Cat 4's were in the mix.  I rode a clean line through there and got some space.  Soon we were into the barriers, down through the sweeping off camber muddy section, past the pits to a run/ride up.  That first lap I rode it.  I was pretty psyched about that.  Across the dam - not as windy this year but sketchier because there was still ice on everything but the far right hand line (I found that out the hard way during pre-rides).  Up to the runup that I crashed at the bottom of last year after my first hole shot ever.

I was feeling good on the bike.  The slippery downhill and off camber sections were rolling.  The deep, thick mud after pavement transition was scary, but better at speed than in my pre-rides.  I chose the mud puddles when I could - ground underneath was solid somewhere down there.  Because so many turns had a mud-generated speed limit, rest was good.  Attacking the uphills and the flats was important.  Eventually a few cat 4's came by me, but I was carefree - having a great time on the bike.  Crossy, who is normally way ahead of me, passed and I hung on, but couldn't quite catch her on the bell lap of my season. 

I finished a surprising 5th.  For a day when I was really just out to have fun, I pulled together a mistake-free race on a technical course that played to my strengths.  I beat some ladies that had been spanking me around lately.   I took my head out of the game.  Even with small fields, my previous best MAC finish was 11th, so this counts as ending the season on a high note.  The trusty Bianchi survived the mud.  The kit... well, lets just say whoever thought white panels was a good idea hopefully likes a bit of the subtle dalmatian look.

Click through for pictures this time!

The final 2009 race reports part 1: Taneytown

Okay, okay, I'm finally getting around to some race reports from the MABRA championships and MAC championship races.

Taneytown - November 29th - MABRA championships.  After seeing that the woman who'd been crushing us all routinely was still registered as  Cat 4, despite several people suggesting that was inappropriate after three Cat 4 wins in grand fashion, I resigned myself to just go have fun and let the wheels roll.  A pre-ride on Saturday (nominally I stopped by to help out, but the FUJI team was locked and loaded by 3pm) told me that the course was wetter than it looked but pretty much the same as last year.  Fast and flat with a few pretty awesome off camber turns, a fast set of barriers, and a rough paved start/finish stretch that barely sloped.  I had a decent start and was second in to the first mud pit/running section.  The previous races had torn the course up - gooey, slippery mud made the corners tricky and some sections unrideable.  I felt strong, leading for about 1/2 of the first lap before Allyson went by.  A few of us worked to hang onto her, but I faded and was passed by a couple people toward the end of the lap.

Eventually, I was riding just ahead of Doron again.  Doron who I could not hang onto at Schooley Mill.  Doron who comes to practices and is generally really good fun to ride against.  She attacked on a gravel section, I responded and took the line going back onto the grass.  Almost overcooked it, but managed to gap her by a few seconds for the effort.  Eventually we came upon Tracy, who was having a good race with the elites, promoter legs and all.  Doron, Tracy and I traded back and forth for a bit - I finally got past them for good after a really fun moment riding three abreast uphill through the soul-sucking mud by the pits, with everyone yelling for one or more of us.  Doron took the low line onto the off camber - I took the outside line - she crashed.  I clipped out but got moving again soon after.

At the end of the day, I finished 6th.  I wasn't thrilled with that, but I had a decent race and only made a few mistakes (including riding my bike all the way until it was stuck up to the bottom bracket in mud before dismounting once!) - I had so much fun, though - I even sprinted the finish. 

There were at least 5 or 6 different spots on course that I felt at home on the bike, strong and happy.  To top it off, prizes went to 6 and I scored an awesome Sheila Moon shirt along with some other goodies for the effort.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Catching up

The gap between ski season and cross season is the perfect chance to catch up.  And I have some serious catching up to do - beer, coffee, bread and chocolate.  Bad tv.  A push in lab to get some things going before my weekends are gone again. 

But I'm also getting behind.  On studying for ski teaching.  On my blog (yes, I know, I owe myself two race reports and have a few other posts in the works... they're coming, really...).  Maybe even on keeping up with Facebook.  Definitely on core work and other such calorie-burning nonsense.

There are a number of others who've spent time this week reflecting on cross season.  I think I'm still recovering.  Realizing that I too have the bug that is cross.  The love of going out to push myself to painful limits every Sunday.  I wouldn't have expected that from myself.  I never really thought I was an athlete until becoming a competitive cyclist.  Maybe it's because I never before treated my body as an athlete should.

The funny thing is, gym class brought my GPA down.  Maybe it's better that way - the high school athletes I knew are now, based on their Facebook pages anyway, more sedentary.  In a few cases, college and high school buds have turned out to be accomplished triathletes.  Perhaps team sports aren't all they are cracked up to be? 

Friday, December 4, 2009

No more sandbagging...

After a good bit of success this year as a Cat 4 cyclocrosser, I did it.  I applied for what should be an automatic upgrade to Cat 3.

It's a scary step - I didn't make all my goals this year  (more on that next week, I think), but have had a lot of fun and gotten way better on the bike.  And I believe at the core that Cat 4 is a development category... staying there would be sandbagging.  But, there are some really fast Cat 3's... like LH and Crossy and Ms. Rock.  And I'll race in the 1/2/3 Elite field at the local MABRA races.  This means I've gotta get faster next year.  A lot faster. 

For now, I'll race Sunday, maybe as a Cat 3, maybe not depending on when that upgrade goes through - it's a 3/4 field so it doesn't matter.  In the snow?

I'm more than halfway checked out - it's been a long season of racing, starting last March at Rockburn with a dismal mountain biking effort.  This weekend, I'm just out to have some fun. Maybe I should arrange for hot toddy handups...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

De ja vu?

On my way to Mt-there-wasn't-any-Snow-yet Sunday evening, I was happy to catch most of the second half of the Steelers game on the radio.  Yes, from about 50 miles south of Albany to Bennington, Vermont I had not just one AM radio station but 3 that were flirting in and out of coverage - just enough to catch most plays on either Westwood One or the Steelers network or the Ravens gameday broadcast. 

I was, of course, reminded of the other two times where Steelers games and AM radio graced a long drive.  Once, driving east to Baltimore in a moving truck, listening to the station that seriously lasted like 300 miles in the midwest.

Before that, though, a long time ago, AM fuzziness was linked with another important ski trip - my journey from Pittsburgh to Vail when I moved to Colorado.  The little Geo I had at the time got okay coverage and I strained to hear the plays of a game at Cleveland.  Much to my dismay, as I was leaving Ohio and the range of the Cleveland fanbase, the game went into overtime.  I frantically scanned the radio for live coverage to no avail and discovered during recaps later that the Steelers won it, by a field goal in overtime.

Again on Sunday I was, in some ways, embarking on another new adventure in ski teaching.  I made the PSIA-E Development Team in March, so I was headed to Vermont for Ed Staff training with our peers and coaches and uniform pickup, among other things.  Sunday - Steelers at Baltimore.  Without Polamalu.  Without Big Ben.  I cursed at the refs, yelled at the Ravens, cheered for my black and gold, but agh, the game went to overtime as I was nearing Vermont.  Unlike last time, though, I got to listen to OT - perhaps they'd eke out another OT win? Alas, my good dejavu vibes didn't work.  Even awesome work by the defense couldn't save us - Dixon threw an interception and we lost by a field goal.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rest and recharge...

This year we again 'skipped' Thanksgiving.  Not the feeling appreciative part, but we skipped all obligations and stayed home.  A day with no obligations.  In a life where ski season overlaps by a week or two with mountain bike race season, which overlaps with cross season, which overlaps with ski season... yeah, you get the picture. 

This year's Thanksgiving day video game didn't match up to last years, though.  Neither of us is impressed with the decidedly old-school Super Mario Brothers Wii, having each lost at least 100 Mario/Luigi lives to the pixel world.  That doesn't mean we didn't play it for much of the day and now have sore thumbs for the effort.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Missing out on pie...

Rockburn Cross was sponsored by Dangerously Delicious Pies this year.  Lots of people discovered how great they were at the stand selling pie.  A few 6th place finishers even got a free pie.  I missed it by one place. But alas, I am not sad... I don't need pie when there are margaritas and chocolate molten cakes in my house.

I have been to a fair few practices at Rockburn.  I know some of the corners well.  Last year, I had an absolutely abysmal race there - even though our team was sponsoring it.  Perhaps I was still tired from a week of mountain biking in Spain.  Or could it have been that just 36 hours prior I was dancing on the bar?  Nah, I'm going with the long flight home, complete with 3 hours of dehydrating delay on the runway and an overnight in a sketchy airport hotel near JFK.  But anyway, I wanted to do well at this rendition.

A crash on 95 held up a lot of volunteers, so I helped at registration again most of the morning - except for when I got out my big mouth (having left the camera at home and cowbell in the car) to cheer Shea, Mazz, and Allan - the 3 LSVers we had in the 9am Cat 4 race.  All finished in the top 30.  Mazz did that while crashing at least three times.

I put in two laps right before the elite masters race - legs were tired but not dead (!) and loving the changes they made to this year's course.  Got on the trainer for a spinning warmup - ugh, okay, legs not so good.  Cut down the number of hard intervals in my warmup - just not enough juice.  But I did get to watch Karl take out some tape and stakes at the hands of FatMarc.  I love cross.

My race - I was amped at the start, but in a weird way.  Didn't feel like I was wasting energy worrying.  I had decided in my morning shower that the goal was truly to go race my guts out and let the cards fall as they may.  I also really wanted to be on the podium after missing by one spot on Saturday.

A few hundred yards of pavement for the start, then a few hundred yards of grass before - you guessed it, a sand pit.  I wanted to head into the sand either first or behind someone I knew wouldn't crash.  When the whistle blew, I had another good start (okay, seriously, if there were an award for hole shots...! maybe pie for the hole shot next year?! oh wait, I won't be racing Cat 4 anymore) and hit the grass first.

As I was headed out of a careful ride through the sand pit, I knew the effort to get ahead early was worth it - I heard Melani crashing and slowing up a few others in the process.  Soon we were off into the woods for some good fun and by the time we hit the hill, I was second with the leader in sight.  Good for my head - my stomach, however, was not happy with the whole racing my guts out thing.  At the very end of the lap though, I crashed.  Not hard, but hard enough to lose a position to another local who is really well matched with me.  I got close but never got that 10 second fumble back.

For lap 2, I actually got to stay within sight of the leaders for a long time.  First time this has happened... hmm... all year.  But for every second I made up riding muddy hills and sweeping turns well, I lost on the  climbs.  I dug deep to pass a few times near the barriers, only to find I didn't have enough matches left to keep the intensity on some of the power sections.  I wound up 5th, losing a position in the last lap.  Ah, well.  6th place might've gotten pie.  I got a t-shirt and some coffee.  And some ridiculously colorful leg warmers...

The cycling community around here is so much fun - I realized watching a few of the races that I personally know almost a quarter of the guys in some of the fields.  And want them all to do well.  They return the favor  - I pretty much didn't go around a corner yesterday without hearing someone cheering me on.  Another fantastic November weekend in the books.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If there were an award for hole shots...

After a few weeks of either not great racing or overindulgence of fried food, I was ready to go for the Howard County double this weekend.  Featuring two really fun courses by the BBC and C3 guys, local, and both on the MABRA series, I was hoping to get something back and put together a couple of good races.  I was also hoping to win, but it turns out that while I was fast comparatively early in the season, everyone around me is getting faster.

Saturday - Schooley Mill.  A new race in a great new venue.  This venue must be a promoter's (and racer's) dream - indoor bathrooms and reg, centralized parking, the right amount of pavement for an uphill start, built in horse jumps and wooden steps to use as obstacles, a good muddy marshy area by a creek, a pond to threaten anyone who misses that right hand turn, and even a steep hill to put the barriers on.  Off the bike 3 times per lap - and they didn't even have to use the sandy horse arena!

After helping at reg all morning, I put in two laps before getting on the trainer for a full warmup during the elite masters race. Cool to see teammate Bernie win a sprint at the line, then I was headed to my start.

In the pre-rides, it was clear that getting to the first runup in good position could be critical - from a total of about 8 times through there including during the race, I never did find a comfortable line for the dismount and run up those steps.  At the whistle I pushed up the hill for the hole shot.  Again.  My starts are certainly in order right now.

Hitting the grass, I could tell by the cheering that BBC rider Lindsay D. was off my back wheel to the right.  In the first off camber turn, all of the sudden, there were handlebars locked with mine on the left.  An elbow and a line change later, the other side of those handlebars was into the tape (albeit temporarily).  It wasn't a good choice tactically for her to be trying to pass there - sit on my wheel until it opens up a bit - if you're strength is strength, don't try to pass on the technical sections - especially not on the outside of an off camber.  Shortly after that first run-up, said rider and a few others blew by.  This was a bit of a power course, and I just didn't have it.  I think I knew that with a heart-sinking feeling even on my warmup laps, where I was in my littlest gear and standing for some of the hills.

I was running in 5th for a bit, but the gaps in front were opening and gaps behind were closing.  Doron passed me at the barriers and I kept her close for a long time, going back and forth a few times, but she pulled away during lap 3.  I could tell Lindsay D. was close and getting closer - her dad, who is a sweetie and usually cheers for me, stopped doing so about halfway through the race.  On the last lap, he was urging her to pass and drop me - I dropped into a bigger gear and gained a bit of a gap on the next flat section.  Even though Doron went into the tape at the end of the last lap, I couldn't get her back and wound up 6th.  It was a great ride for her and for Lindsay, but I was pretty disappointed in my own effort.  I kept my head in the game, but the legs just weren't where I want them to be and I made a few technical mistakes that cost time.

After the race, I just sat on the back of the car, felt like serious crapola.  I think a bunch of people talked to me then.  I'm not sure who they were or what we talked about.  Eventually I went and found a twix bar (none of the healthy recovery food I had seemed at all interesting).  The sugar rush helped.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm officially almost 2 weeks overdue with a race report from the Tacchino race on November 8.  I'm not the only one.

Although yes, I have good excuses - lots of stuff to keep up with at work coupled with a women's cycling seminar series that I'm organizing and a weekend in Pittsburgh have meant I haven't had a lot of time for blogging lately.

But really, I've been avoiding writing this one.  I am disappointed in how I did, despite putting together a rather mistake-free race.  After going to Tacchino with hopes to win it, I was thoroughly spanked by 4 other women who were well ahead of me by the 2nd lap.  I also got lapped for the first time this year by the winner of the elite race.  I was not with it enough to know for sure that this was what happened, but Bill, Shawn, and a few others in the pit figured out that's what I was asking them as I rode by (Thanks guys!).  Luckily, my brain was still working enough to know to sprint at the finish and hold my position.

The race itself was fun.  I was second onto the grass from the start, but watched Allyson fly by and off the front about halfway into the lap.  The woman who had the hole shot went straight through the tape on a sharp turn, so I was second for a bit.  Until I hit some pavement and a few ladies went flying by.  Despite the fact that I was getting crushed more than I'd hoped or expected to, it was better than sitting at home, drinking beer and watching the Steelers.  Luckily, the Steelers played on Monday night, so I got to sit at the bar, drink beer, and watch the Steelers anyway. 

For pretty much 4 out of 5 laps, Christine sat on my wheel - I kept attacking on the roadie sections to keep her there but it hurt.  She was losing some time on the downhills, making it up on the uphills, but for some reason the one really steep uphill was a place that I got her every time.  I owe it to a summer of passing the guys on the uphills at mountain bike races, I guess. It was fun to race that close with someone - often we're so spread out that you really don't have to think about how to keep someone from passing you at the barriers, where to take a line so they can't go inside and take the position, etc.

It was an amazing day to be outside, hanging out at a bike race with friends.  We had a team tent (with preferred parking, 'team' dogs that were wandering off and begging for sausages, lots and lots of cookies, and general good cheer to go with the heckling.  And Coppi put together great prize bags, even for 5th place.  Thanks for a great race!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Word problem

A 140ish* pound cyclist is doing slacker hill repeats in the woods on a perfect Indian summer day in November.  On the first downhill/recovery she oversteers a corner** and crashes over the bars. Does she:
a) apologize out loud to her drivetrain
b) immediately decide that this recovery should be longer than planned to account for having to pick oneself up out of the leaves and sticks
c) almost do an encore performance the next time down
d) pull down the side of her shorts*** to check out the impending bruise
e) all of the above

*As you may already know, my methods for measuring my weight are not as accurate as anything I use in lab or will have to measure bike weight after the holidays.  So this is an estimate, based on a wacky scale and a guess at what my shoes and helmet weigh.  I'm probably optimistically underestimating.
**Hey, it's been a while since I've gotten to play in the woods.
***No one was around.  Not a single soul once I was off the pavement.  What are the chances of that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Divas blog about skiing...

Woohoo.  The DivaSkiTips blog is up.  It's been up, but I finally feel justified announcing it since I finally finished a post for it.  Put together by a few divas, it's meant for the ski instructor who's bored at work, studying for an exam, or (as we all are, I hope) a perpetual learner.  We all learn by doing, and part of that for the divas is writing about it.  So there ya go.  Our tech tips, teaching strategies, even a few exam hints.  So head on over and check out what I think about how you should set your goals for ski season.  Funny enough, it feels a bit like how I set my own goals for 'cross and skiing this fall.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Barriers, a barn and a sand pit.

Saturday we raced at Fair Hill - another race put on by the esteemed DCCoD gang.  It was a MAC race, which for me meant a stacked field of 3/4 women, if not a very big one.  But all the fast Cat 3's were there, ready and willing to beat up on us lowly Cat 4's.  This was our first dry weekend in a while, so it would be a good test for where my legs are.

I loved this course, actually.  A few rolling hills, some tight off camber turns, two sets of barriers (!!! yay! I like barriers!! except when I crash into one during warmups, oops!), a concert barrier with a fence next to it, a horse barn to snake through (seriously!), and oh yeah, some sand.  Not just a little bit of sand.  Nice, loose, beautiful footing for horses jumping - you know, the kind that is soft when a 1200 pound animal is landing in it on tiny little hooves.  It's also the kind that's really soft when 140lb bike racers try to pedal through it on tires barely over an inch wide.  Especially when we try to make the turns that FatMarc laid out for us.  Wow.  In pre-ride laps, I learned two things - there were no good lines but I could ride the whole sand section.  But it might be faster to run.  This became a moot point during the race as someone crashed in front of me on all but the last lap on our way in and again on the next turn, so I was off my bike a few extra times. 

With a race on Sunday and a light training load last week, I decided to go a bit off my normal pace and use Saturday as a fun opener.  The easiest way for me to do this is to force myself to go a bit slower off the start.  After a call-up (yay! thanks refs and promoters for rewarding those who register early and race the series!), I had a second row start behind Flying Penguins Jess.  She bobbled a little, but we got up the road and I was in about 8th onto the grass.  From there, I got passed a few times, but was riding well - trying to spin smoothly.  I eked the insides of a few corners and passed some riders who were taking outside lines... loving the way my bike and I are working together in the corners right now.

Did I say I love barriers?  On the concrete barrier, which was sorta through a hole in some chain link I managed to slam my front wheel down onto it one time and ran my crank/pedal into the fence on a different lap.  Dumb mistakes.  Luckily, no damage.

I wound up 11th on the day, out of 19, so it's actually my first 'bottom 50%' finish this year (a statistic that crossresults.com keeps track of for me).  Happily, Jess finished 2nd and LH got a few upgrade points herself even after laying it down in the sand on the last lap.  Good racing, ladies.

The only thing I'd change - podium's only went to 3 in all of the amateur categories - possibly the only race we'll do this year that doesn't at least recognize the top 5 with a chance to get their picture taken on the podium.  Congrats to Shea, anyway - he was 5th!

Some of the links lead to pics taken by awesome local photographers.  We forgot our camera both days this weekend.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to make chocolate flavored "cheese"

Yesterday morning, as part of my attempt to limit caffeine leading up to a weekend full of races, I decided to have warm milk.  Often, I just sweeten it a bit with agave nectar and go.  Sometimes I splurge and make hot chocolate.  Yesterday, I split the difference and went for a warm hot chocolatey-protein drink.  Warm milk plus a couple scoops of the Luna Recovery Protein Smoothie (Chocolate!) that I like so much mixed with cold milk.  Like most powdered protein mixes, the Luna stuff is recalcitrant about going into solution and often leaves chunks of sugar/mix floating on the surface. 

So I thought nothing of it on my drive to work, during which I struggled to get a few drips of my concoction out of my travel mug.  A bit of extra swirling did the trick, clearly (in my head anyway) chunks of mix were just blocking access to the morning's treat.  Little did I know...  after getting to work, I whipped out a spoon to mix vigorously again.  Only to discover that what was in my mug resembled something more like a thick, brown cottage cheese than hot chocolate.  Something in the Luna drink plus warm milk catalyzes some kind of curdling reaction.  Trust me, I will not try that again. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mmmmm.... ski season is coming part 2...

Returning instructors' meeting.  Those of you out there who teach know, this is not always the best use of one's time.  But I've managed to teach for some 14 years and only gone to 1 of these prior to now.  A few years of being in college, a few times of moving, and a few well-timed weddings kept me away from the fun.  But seriously, it's not that bad.

Sunday was ours - led by a former educator, it's short and sweet and full of props for people who've been doing good stuff.  Last year I made the list because I'd taught 110+ hours.  That landed me in the top 5 of part time instructors.  As a testament to how busy we were last year, I logged some 118 or so hours of teaching and clinic leading and didn't make the top 10.  crazy stuff.  But I did get props for making the Dev Team at the end of the season on my first attempt.  Lots of fellow instructors already knew this - I spent most of the day receiving hugs, hearty handshakes and shoulder nudging/grabbing/shaking as well as some charges to "fix" their skiing.

The question... can I live up to their expectations?  What about my own expectations?  I'm coming into the season fitter than I've ever been so I've got no excuse.  There are some definite finesse-type improvements I'd like to incorporate into my movement patterns this year.  A challenging task when I spend most of my time on the hill teaching or leading clinics.  At the exam in March, I struggled with acheiving a round turn shape and mightily bombed the one footed skiing tasks - a testament to a lack of flow and finesse when my balance is altered a bit.  I'm also not thrilled with the quality of my average demo maneuver right now. 

There are some teaching goals I have as well, but as I'll be experimenting with a few of the people that might read this eventually, I'll keep those quiet for now. 

In less than a month, the ski season rolls...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brisk days = brisk rides

I've been blog slackin' lately.  Chalk it up to having too many fun things to do. 

Fall has come and the leaves are about halfway blown off the trees.  Last weekend, I hedged about whether to race on Saturday, decided to do an epic mountain bike ride with some friends, hedged on that because of hunting season, decided to ride our local haunt Patapsco (the Superfly got excited - it's been sitting in the basement for a few weeks now awaiting a chance to go play), and then... you guessed it, got rained out.  We wound up on the road, slightly under-dressed, feeling chatty and social, and more than slightly under-motivated.  But it worked.  It was fun.  Not as good as exploring the hunting grounds, but arguably safer.  I think there was only one driver who earned a middle finger.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The fast and furious land of DCCX

We missed DCCX last year.  We were mountain biking in Spain that week.  I didn't know what to expect, but was really excited for this one.

I was gunning for this race - it's a big race in the MABRA series - which for me meant a large Cat 4 field (44 starters!) and perhaps a chance to win (I didn't).  I did all my prep right - some hard rides this week, an off day on Saturday, pre-rides and warm-up on the trainer while watching teammates in the elite masters race, all the right food, etc.  The course was great - some flat sections and a lot of sweeping turns that just really flowed fast and if you had the bike handling skills to rail them, it was all good.  A few three-pedal-stroke hills and two longer gradual climbs on the road at the start and finish.  Pre-riding it, I thought it was a course that would favor the roadies a bit.

They say that cross is all about the start.  I took the hole shot (again), as I'd wanted to.  The uphill start on the road quickly funneled into a left hand turn up and around some trees on the grass - lots of previous races had gotten bottlenecked early there and I wanted to stay out of traffic.  Proving that the start is killer important - here's partway through the first lap - the top three podium places are in this picture - all mountain bikers by trade, so I guess I was wrong about the whole roadie thing.

I was ready to turn myself inside out for this one and was trying to get away early.  I knew someone was sitting on my wheel on the long flat straightaway into the headwind on the first lap, so I intentionally slowed enough that she had to go around me.  I realized immediately I was not going to catch her wheel as I had intended (nor was I going to see her again).  She probably finished 2 minutes ahead of me if I had to guess and (according to the announcer) well into the elite field that started about a minute before we did.

The rest of the race I was just pounding on the pedals pretty much solo. Christine W. and newcomer Natalie were beating up on each other about 15 seconds back for much of the ride.  The cheering section by the barriers was insane.  I know there were a few people up there I knew - I'm also quite certain there were a few people that learned my name during the race as the yelling (Eric) was so loud (keep pedaling!).

I passed a few elite riders who were flagging early, went back and forth with an elite rider who was dropping me on the road only to get caught in the off camber turns, went by Tracy L. a bit later, and tried to be super nice to every lapped rider I came across.  That always made a big difference to me last year - lots more fun to know that even if you're not winning, others recognize you're working your bum off to be where you are in your own race.

I wound up with a sweet bag of prizes after taking second on the day (including Belgian chocolates!).

As a testament to how hard this race was and the energy I put out, Shea met me at the finish and asked what I wanted.  Normally I want water, my protein drink, or something equally healthy.  But yesterday, I wanted the beer that was on tap and I'd been jonesing for all morning and afternoon.

I promptly started hacking up a lung as punishment for drinking cold fizzy things immediately after racing.

Props to Jess who, in her third cx race was in the top 20, which means top 50%!  Rock on chica.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Still cleaning the mud from my ears - Granogue and Wissahickon

It's Wednesday and I still haven't written race reports.  Guess it's just that kind of a week. Did the big double of Granogue and Wissahickon this weekend.


Granogue - a technical course with sweeping off camber turns, a significant downhill, and two steep run-ups.  This was a MAC series race, which means a big field mixed with the fast cat 3's.  I was shooting for top 50%, hoping for top 10.  It had poured rain for about 3 days leading into the race and I could tell without a pre-ride it was gonna be sloppy.  Warming up on the trainer, I was watching the B masters crash the downhill and (often) go through the tape... one after another.  Crazy.  Ours was the third race of the day and already there was no semblance of grass between the tape, just mud. After scrumming for a front row start, I drafted up the hill and pulled around at the top for the hole shot.  Seems like no one wanted to lead onto the grass, and while I knew it wasn't a sustainable position, I was happy to choose my own lines through the first couple of mud-infused turns.

I felt great on my bike.  And like crap off of it.  The run ups were sucking my shoes down into the mud and holding them there, it seemed.  I could barely get traction (I will find my spikes for the next muddy race!) and wound up crawling at least twice.  Remounts were miserable - I caught my shorts 3 times on the seat.  After the hole shot, I was passed a few times on the uphills and then wound up trading places for much of the race with Anne of Sturdy Girl - she was racing in the Master's category, so it was fun to go back and forth with her.

On the last lap, I laid it down fast on the first downhill after the start (headed back toward the parking area) and slid at least 15 feet through the slip-n-slide mud.  At least one onlooker cheered.  Hey, at least if I'm gonna crash, I did so with style.  Got up and had some trouble getting put back together - turns out there was so much mud on my left glove I could barely hold onto the hoods.

Later in the lap, I was riding the downhill well and a rider had dropped her chain and was on the rideable line.  I said something and, thankfully, she moved over about 3 inches.  That was all I needed - in retrospect, this was extra nice of her - we were racing against each other and nothing said she had to move out of the way to fix that chain.  But if she hadn't, I'm afraid I would have run smack into her!  I sprinted at the end, not knowing (or wanting to) who was behind me (turns out, no one) and wound up crossing the line about half a wheel behind Anne for 12th in the Cat 3/4 field.

Wissahickon -  It wasn't easy dragging myself out of bed after 3 Saturday night loads of laundry (a warm glove of mine missed out on load #2) and shoes drying on the heating vent...  We ventured to Dick's Saturday night for a tent - the possibility of rain and likelihood that I was gonna warm up on the trainer again made me bite the bullet.  Turns out, those things are cheaper than I thought.

We got to Wiss a bit later than I'd hoped - I had planned time for a quick lap then bike cleanup and warmup.  But alas, it was not to be.  I told myself that it was okay - nothing about muddy water coming off my back wheel is warm.  In fact, it leads to a condition known as cold butt.  In spinning out before the start I achieved that condition.  It was soon to be followed by cold feet after plowing them through 6 inch deep puddles in the sand.

On lap 1, I was regretting not pre-riding.  I had a mediocre start (from the front row, again) but got boxed out what felt like 15 times in the first 3 turns, including once where I was unceremoniously pushed into a shin-height wooden fence.  Grunting at the woman who did this to me yielded a bit more space, so I wasn't resigned to the fate of men in other races who wound up crashing over it.  Getting pushed into tape I'm okay with.  Immovable objects... not so much.

About halfway through lap 1 of 4, my rear derailleur pooped out.  It just wasn't interested in shifting.  Arg.  Luckily, I've got it geared 36-46 in the front with enough chain to cross shift, so at least I had two gears for the remainder of the race.  I was, however, spun out on the road sections.  On a pitchy little hill just after the sandpits I managed to ride it while being pushed into the tape - fun!  It was a great move by whomever was doing it - she forced me into a harder line but I managed to ride it anyway.  On subsequent laps I would generally spin out partway up that hill.

The spiral of death at Wiss was truly that - mud and a slight hill makes that feature way more interesting.  Everyone crashed in here it seemed, including me - I laid it down at least twice in the spiral.  And the runup after the barriers was tough - slippery that I could barely get traction, but with a decent high speed dismount.  In all, lots of fun off camber and a few tricky little downhills that begged for attention.

By the last lap I was racing against one other woman who I managed to beat up the pitchy hill but then crashed on an off camber and she gapped me.  No legs or gears left for the sprint, I wound up 15th out of 34 on the day.  I'm pleased but not thrilled with that.  Tactically not my best race, but with the shifting troubles and gummy legs from Saturday's effort, I'm happy I did that well.

As I said, Epic.

Pics from Joe Mallis, Shea, and Cycling Captured

Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting ready for snow season...

Okay, I know, it's wrong to be thinking this much about skiing when we're not even halfway into cross season yet.  But it's 42 degrees and raining.  It snowed in upstate PA today.  And I have a lot of skiing related items on my to do list...

A few things to do before December 1st (ski season starts Nov 30 for me):
1.  Make appointment for boot work.  (Done!)
2.  Order new skis. (Done!)
3.  Find warmer mittens.
4.  Figure out availability/schedule for season.  This process requires simultaneous comprehension of at least 3 calendars, 2 lists, and an ability to guess when I'll have to give lab meeting in the spring.
5.  Shop for ski pants.  Recently lost weight means current black pants will fall down.  Even with my new belt.
6.  Brag about new skis - Atomic Elysian's. 92mm underfoot and super fun.  Did I mention it's technically a women's ski?

7.  Gain the ability to see into the future - when will the snow be ideal for a trip to Utah?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall treat: apple chips

Yeah, apple chips.  But not those processed oversweet undertasty ones in the bag from Superfresh that cost like $4 an ounce.  Homemade chips.  Who knew?  And it's so easy.

Take an apple. Or two. Or three.  Slice it super thin (you do have a mandolin, don't you?!).  Arrange on two cookie sheets on parchment paper.  Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake 1 hour at 225.  Turn them all over, sprinkle again and bake for about another hour until they are getting crispy.  Try not to steal too many directly out of the oven.  A bonus - I was getting impatient and took them out still a bit soft.  As they've been cooling, they are getting crisper.

Lovely fresh taste.  Easy. Healthy.  Pretty.  The camera battery is dead or I'd show you.  They won't last until tomorrow, so you'll just have to try it yourself.  What more can you ask for in a recipe from a girl who is trying to stay at race weight?

Update: turns out I have a camera in my phone...


Monday, October 12, 2009

Spiral of delight at Iron Cross Lite

Iron Cross was this weekend - 62 miles of cross racing. some 238 people finished it.  I was not one of them.  I didn't start it either.  So good for them.

I did race Saturday for 'Iron Cross Lite' - which is a regular cross race at the same venue.  Known for it's "spiral of death" - a feature similar to those huge blue and yellow lollipops with flat concentric circles.  You ride in, flip a little tight turn and ride out.

The course was similar but better than last year - a single barrier log in the woods section removed ambiguity about whether to hop or dismount and the climbing was broken up into two sections.  Improvements in the sand pit configuration also affected a lot of races (read as, a bunch of  people, none of which were me, wound up lying in the sand under their bikes and, in all cases, were causing other racers to wish they'd had a better start).

Saturday's field was a combined women's field 1/2/3/4 - ouch, I pity the PA-based Cat 4's.  But I wanted to race with the fast chicks and see where I stacked up, so it was a perfect race for that.  18 starters, including at least several other Cat 4's. After a mediocre start, I climbed through the pack on the first hill, working my way up to about 7th or so - I was encouraged, this was my first not front row start all season and the start and subsequent passing went well.  A rider crashed in front of us in the first (rideable) sand pit, so we were off our bikes and running early on.  Betsy was off the front by about 2 minutes into the first lap - I held with the lead group for a bit, then had a terrible barrier on the backside (in the woods) - I ran into a bike/rider next to me.  Oops.  Gotta get the bike under control with hand on the top tube.  After a long pull coming back up the start hill, I bridged up and was back in the top 5 but in pain.  My only thought as I passed Shea yelling his head off was that I was in last lap pain at the end of the first lap - not a good sign.

I held on pretty well for the second lap as well, and was probably 7th after it.  Had a phenomenal write-home-about-this-one downhill barrier in the woods that time.  Perfectly done with a (non-double-hop) remount.  Yay!  Shortly thereafter I was surprised to see EH, who I expected to be in the top five - she'd dropped a chain and was working to get back up there.  The spiral was treating me well - I was spinning it in my big ring and not losing speed to other riders as I did last year.  I love that never going to stop turning feature!

Three laps to go... But, I burned too many matches on those first two laps and faded quickly into 9th.  I'm actually really pleased with that - top 50% in a combined field is where I hope to be right now.

Next up - another double - the infamous Granogue and Wissahickon.

Sidenote - we forgot the camera again, so no pictures til I can find some online later this week.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Uh-oh, time to set some goals...

I told myself I could wait until after my first three cross races to set goals for the season.  And now I'm putting it off... but time to put what I've been mulling over in writing so I can commit to it officially.  In no particular order, here are some things I'm shooting for the race season...

Continue having fun.  Ride the muddy lines whenever it's smart.  Clean my own bike at least once. Learn to settle into my own pace within the first two laps.

Win.  Twice.  Then I won't have to waffle about when I'm ready to go up to the 1/2/3's.

Finish top 5 in a 3/4 MAC race - I might only have 3 chances at this one and those cat 3 women are strong.

Keep my training hours as high as they are now for the latter half of the season, even when it's dark after normal work hours.  I have no excuse - I have the flexibility to leave lab midday for a ride and come back.

Incorporate some weekly core training and stretching.  Else, those hip flexors are gonna hurt come ski season.

Get rid of the double hop on my remount.  Yeah, if you read my blog, you might think that I did that already.  But apparently I only did for remounts at practice.  At races, arg, it's there.  I'm sure it's faster to slow down for half a step and mount smoothly onto the pedal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The two sides of sportsmanship

With Shea racing an early race and my race not until 1:30, I'm spending quite a few hours hanging out at the cross races this year. My people watching theme of the weekend - sportsmanship.

Webster's says:
sportsmanship: noun, conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

Wikipedia might have it better:
Sportsmanship is conformance to the rules, spirit, and etiquette of sport. More grandly, it may be considered the ethos of sport. ... Sportsmanship expresses an aspiration or ethos that the activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors.
Perhaps more to the point, I think of it as how one responds to adversity - either our own or that of the competition.   This aspect defines us as cyclists - either as true lovers of the sport or simply riders. Here are just two stories from my weekend - both are responses to cyclists' own adversity and happened within minutes of each other...

I was in the pits for a several of the B-men on Sunday.  Standing there with several C3 guys, chatting and watching the barrier/fly-over combo (cheers to race coordinators for figuring out a way to put the pits in a great place to watch!).  Near the end of the race, a rider rolls up to the log barrier, dismounts onto an apparently twisted ankle, and promptly slams his bike across the log in frustration.  Just behind him, another competitor was forced to avert.  I watched in horror - I couldn't believe twisted-ankle-guy would jeopardize the safety of his compatriots like that let alone allow himself to show such disrespect for himself and his bike.  He hobbled through the tape into the pits, threw his bike on the ground again, and sat, massaging his ankle.  I was disappointed for this guy - here, he had a chance to show himself how tough he can be mentally and blew it.  One of the officials watched the whole thing.  Here's a note - if you are out racing cross, you shouldn't need to be reminded of your love and respect for the sport by anyone with a clipboard.

By contrast, about a lap into the B-men's race, Matty B. rolled past the pits but panted '10 speed rear'.  He had rolled a rear tubular on Saturday, and, as such, already had his own spare wheel on.  No one else is in the pit to ask, so I go scrambling across the course to the reg area, looking for one of my own or Matt's teammates.  Finding a teammate of mine, we grabbed his spare bike off the car and I brought it back to the pit, prepared to cannibalize the rear.  By the time I returned, three others had two rear 10 speed wheels ready for Matt to come back around with a leaking clincher. 

About 3 laps later into the race, we see, halfway back on the lap, coming up the steep hill, Matt is now running with his bike shouldered.  He had rolled the borrowed tubular clean off the rim such that it was dangling only by its valve stem.  A long time of running later, he comes back into the pit.  This had given us time to put air in his own clincher, make sure it wasn't leaking, and be ready for a second wheel change for Matt on the day (third on the weekend).  He only had a lap to go in the race and was DFL.  But he pulled it together to avoid the DNF - showing us how much he loves the sport and how he took his own adversity as a challenge - a test of determination to finish.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Double the fun 2: Reality Check

Race 2 on the weekend was Kelley Acres Cross, outside of Frederick, MD.  Set on an idyllic mid-atlantic farm setting / the promoter's front yard, it has the elements of a truly awesome race.  Especially since they added the flyover.  Yeah, I had to google it before the race - it's the only flyover of its kind in mid-atlantic cross.

This was the day of wheel issues for a lot of people.  Several friends had rolled tubies on Saturday and were operating on limited pit support.  Shea rolled a Tufo in the first half of his first lap in the C race, after a great start and while he was in about 10th - but way far from the pits so he walked it in for his first DNF.  Ah well, luckily for him, he got into the B race for his own reality check about how fast those guys are.  My friend Matt took two wheel changes and I wound up changing wheels before the start.

Despite a bunch of protein recovery food, goat's cheese on crackers and steak on Saturday evening, my legs were feeling the effort.  I resolved to only pre-ride the course (which included a longish climb) once so as to not drain myself warming up.  Yeah, I was feeling that sluggish.  About 5 minutes before the start I was spinning on the road to stay loose and heard something in my tire - arg!  An open safety pin had lodged in my front tubular clincher - I hit the pits before my race for my pit wheel and some choice words.

The race: Front row start and a big Cat 4 field (22 starters!).  Again, no callups, but I'm getting better at finessing my way to the start line where I want to be.  I had a awesome start and easily had the hole shot onto the grass.  This was good, as there was a tight turn and a small barrier right after the gentle downhill start and I wanted to choose my lines.  I led into the barrier and for part of the first lap before being passed by a woman who had a lot of confusion before her race about which category she was in.  (sidenote: if there's any question whether you should be in Cat 4 or Cat 1/2/3/elite, that probably means it should be the latter, and never reveal such confusion at the start line).  After a strong first lap, the top 5 or so of us were still pretty tightly knit - Loretta was off my wheel again on her Superfly.

During lap 2 I was feeling the burn, so to speak.  On the backside climb, 3 riders passed me, one of whom was absolutely flying up it.  Loretta stuck on my wheel until the next time round to the barrier/log pile, which she was riding... I heard a noise over the barriers and looked over to see shock fluid leaking everywhere.  She pulled off to the outside of the turn in a smooth getting out of the way move for a DNF.  Bummer.

I spent the rest of the race battling to get Tami (who I practice with regularly) off my wheel.  She claimed I was dropping her on the downhills - I think she was being kind, though.  Either way, I eventually had a shifting error on a pitchy uphill and wound up off my bike - she pushed by and gapped me - I never could get back on.  It was fun to be chasing people that I know and being pushed by women I knew would not fade behind me.  My technical skills were on despite my lack of legs - I bottomed out a crank cornering once and nailed the barrier/flyover combo every time.  Those steps had to be taken 2 at a time, no doubt.  All in all, 6th on the day - reality check that I'm not really dominating the Cat 4's as much as my first two races might indicate.  I'm pleased, but I had to dig really deep for that finish - 3+ minutes off the leader - the double was tough on me.  It was all true Cat 4's, though I think that gave Lynda the second win for an automatic upgrade.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Double the fun Part 1: A second 2nd

This weekend was my first of two intended double race weekends on the season.  Here's the first of two race reports:

Saturday: Breast Cancer Awareness race in Hagerstown.  It was a relatively small Cat 4 field, but had some strong riders that I have gotten blown out by before. This was a course that I wouldn't say necessarily suits me.  Love the off camber turns, which are everywhere, but with no rest and only one reasonably steep hill and one dismount per lap, I guess it's one that doesn't not suit me either - I just like the really technical stuff better.  As a side note, it was one of the most minimally marked races I've ever ridden.  This wasn't a problem in our race, but I heard mumblings that there was some blurring of the lines in the elite men's race.  C'mon, guys, sportsmanship.

My race: I had a good start and was third wheel onto the grass. Three women passed me on the first straightaway (now I'm 6th).  This was about where I lost count, a feature that became funny afterwards.  On one of the tough off camber turns on the first lap, a rider crashed as did the girl behind her.  I moved up two spots.  And passed two more riders within the first half of the first lap.  According to my count, I was 5th.  I continued to believe this for the entirety of a 5 lap race.  I knew for a fact that Leann was off the front and the ladies behind me were pushing me to ride hard.  Karl and other teammates were yelling for me.... loudly.  And often.  The course gave no rest, but neither did my cheering sections.  At urging from the peanut gallery, I tried to run bigger gears and spin through the turns more than normal. 

About halfway through, I found myself rolling up behind a local elite rider who I practice with often - she was in the race that started 1 minute ahead of us.  She was having bike trouble (rolled tubie and dropped chain) and I was happy to hold her wheel for even a minute.  I 'battled' with her for a bit and made only one mental mistake - riding partway up a hill before dismounting.  Altogether, I held my position within my own race and finished 2nd.  It felt better than that, though.  I had a great, consistent race on a course that I didn't think was made for me and I lost to a woman who is a Cat 2 on the road.  But probably about 30 seconds.  Fun.  I scored some pink socks for the effort.

This was my second 2nd place finish on the young season. 

Up and coming: Part 2 of the weekend: A reality check.  And look for a post about goals for the cross season  later this week when I figure out what they are.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pretty pictures: Ed Sander CX at Lilypons

I've already written up the day's events, but here are some better pics of my shenanigans.  Thanks to the friends (Anne) and others (Tom B of NCVC) who took them!

Holding onto her wheel for a bit....

Still riding the hill on the last lap.

Looking very serious.

Tom B's perspective... I like it!  Lots of lily ponds at this one and a few people even got wet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Time on the trainer

Uh-oh, that time of year is coming - when the light wanes shortly after (or as it has tonight) before I leave lab for the day and I wind up half-heartedly spinning on the trainer in the basement instead of getting fresh air under my legs.  I'm hoping to keep these sessions to a minimum this fall - especially as I finally have a dedicated road bike built, so none of this switching wheels stuff to ride my cross race bike on the tarmac.  Shea just built up the road bike today - I'm wondering what color bar tape I've got...

As I find my way into trainer-land, I will note a few things:

1.  It's really windy out there tonight.  My lack of dedication for leaving lab early for a ride might be tied to that.

2.  One of my main goals for the next 6 months is to maintain some cycling fitness through until March.  I failed miserably at this last year, failing to ride a bike _at all_ from mid-December until the day before my first race at Rockburn in late March.  I hope to sneak in some mid-afternoon rides followed by evenings at work.  And, because I'm a bit of a wimp about the cold, it also means trainer time.  Weekends are out from December through March... gotta ski during ski season.  The possibility of night mountain bike rides is intriguing, but limited in terms of a true workout while taking up a lot of time, so I'm not sure that's going to be part of the plan.

3.  I have to figure out how to make trainer time more fun.  Options include bad beach books to read, girly movies, abysmal but addictive reality TV, and perhaps sports highlights or upbeat music.  As much as I would like to think that I can read science papers and spin at the same time, it's probably unrealistic to think I can be that productive.

4.  I have to be more effective/less lazy while on the trainer.  Not sure how to acheive this, but I think item 3 is probably important.  Can't make it too much fun, though. Last fall I found myself sitting there without spinning, watching terrible reality tv without realizing I'd stopped pedaling.  Oops.  That just doesn't happen when you're out on the road. 

Best trainer workout ever so far - reliving the steelers last minute superbowl victory while watching the highlights.  Too bad they don't play that well all the time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yes, Virginia, I am a mudder...

Can you imagine a more perfect muddy bike race?  Couple inches of rain overnight, misty morning, beautiful 70 degree sun by the afternoon for my cross season opener - the Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross event at Lily Pons watergardens south of Frederick, MD.

This is the first year they've bumped the Cat 4 women (that's novice, for you non-cyclists) into our own class for the MABRA series.  I weaseled my way into a front row start (hey, if they'd actually done callups as advertised, I would've been front row by order of reg. AND last year's points) and had the hole shot onto the off camber turn onto the grass.  I did a great job of taking my brain out of this early success and quickly settled into a sustainable but strong pace - two women passed me early but I lost track of one and the other had a tough barrier and I didn't see her again.

In the pre-ride, I found that an acquaintance from the mountain bike circuit was racing her first cross race.  On her Superfly.  Now, with the quantity of mud there, this probably wasn't all bad for her.  I knew she'd be strong.  I didn't think she'd be hanging on my wheel for the first two laps and then finally pass me in the mud pits (which she was riding and I was running) for the eventual win.  I stayed on for a while, then got dropped but felt really good - she was still in sight and I caught a couple of women in the back of the Elite field (including one who I practice with and was SUPER encouraging - sometimes I love racing with women!).

The course was mostly the same as last year - flat for the first half with a couple hundred yards of mud pit - a few short hills and technical off camber stuff on the other half.  A mandatory run-up and slip-sliding short downhill in the back section make it interesting.  I rode really well - still not feeling great at race pace on my dismounts and remounts, despite all the practice.  But I rode all the rideable hills.  Pretty sure I half-heartedly pushed my bike up many of them last year.  Great cheering from friends and teammates pushed me to buckle down and pedal hard.  If you're reading this - I heard you all and THANKS!  And congrats to all the friends and teammates who raced today as well!

Honestly, it felt like I rode a great race and was 2nd (!!!!!) in the Cat 4's out of 20 starters (18 finished).  Pretty psyched about that - in this series last year when it was Cat 3/4 I occasionally broke the top 10 and finished in the bottom half most of the time.  My best ever finish by far in cross!  As for my prizes on the day - I scored a pair leg warmers and a pair of woolie socks which look fuzzy warm but are too big so Shea'll get them. Wonder how I'll handle next weekend's double?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What are the rules of accounting?

In bike racing, the easiest place to lose weight is to get nicer bike parts.  The cheapest is off your body.  A year ago, I decided I should "make race weight" - meaning lose a few pounds. Of course, then Ski Liberty introduced chicken cheese steaks, and a few of those every weekend with large quantities of beer and zero time on the bike and I was quickly back to my usual winter weight - not heavy, by any means, but not as healthy as I could be.

This spring, I focused on eating foods high in protein, keeping snack foods out of the house, and riding at higher intensities.  I'm at a lower 'race weight' now than a year ago.  But here's the thing - I can't tell you how much weight I've lost.  That's because I'm a scientist and can't decide how to measure and report it accurately.  Do I go from heaviest to lightest?  But that doesn't take into account the daily weight fluctuations we all know occur.  So do I guess the heaviest I was in the morning versus the heaviest I am now in the morning?

Wait, I know, I'll give a range with standard deviation - let's say 12 lbs +/- 2. I don't actually have the data to compute standard deviation properly here, but since it's approximately the range for which 95% of the datapoints fall within two standard deviations of the stated mean... uh-oh, that means 12lbs +/- 1.  Final answer.  The quantity of beer in my fridge suggests I won't be able to increase that number much even though it's cross season.

Did I mention I suspect random errors are introduced by my $12 scale?

Of course, I've also recently lightened my bike with some sweet new wheels to go with my $12 scale.  Priorities...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joining the bloody knee club...

Turns out, its not safe for the skin on your knees to ride with me.  If you're female on a mountain bike (or singlespeed cross bike!), at least.  I'm the 5th person riding with me to skin a knee this summer.  I think it started with Dirty Girl, then a newbie, then Jess at cyclocross camp and finally another newbie (aka Box Chuckin' Sister) just last weekend.  4 of the 5 (counting me) were left knees.  I saved the least amount of blood for myself...  (most of that is mud!).

Shea and I were out for a fast ride after work, hoping to avoid the rain.  I was trying to keep up, even though he's pretty fast on the new 29er, and took a corner too hard, lost front traction and was suddenly on the ground.  Ah, well.  I did slow down a bit after that.  It was the "good" kind of wreck, though - riding to the limits of the bike, flowing well.  Much better riding than my rock garden escapade on Sunday.  I hope this flow thing translates to my cross bike Sunday even if I have to crash a few times to get there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Funny math: 2 + 2 + 2 = 1

Yesterday - Terror of Teaberry at Michaux.  Series finale.  Although I prerode the course, felt pretty strong aerobically and wasn't one of the ~30% of riders that flatted (go tubeless and check your tire pressure, people!), I was a bit disappointed in my race.  Last week I ripped a ton of rock gardens in Frederick, the week before I rode a lot of yesterday's course, before that I was in West Virginia rolling over their rocks.  But yesterday, with just a little bit 'o slime on the buggers, I froze up.  By the last mile or so, I conceded, walking pretty much every rock garden stretch.  Oh well.

On a good note, the singletrack descent early in the race was sketchy.  Like - lock up your rear and glissade down it.  I was terrified but survived.  With limited front braking available (bubble in the hydraulic discovered 10 minutes before race start) - in retrospect that might've been a good thing right there.  Spent some time very close to trees and lots of time feeling my rear wheel slip sideways over rocks, logs and bumps, but no true crashes.

I wound up 2nd.  Rode for a while with Mindy, who was about the same as me technically but having more success in the rock gardens.  I couldn't seem to drop her, then she passed me and I hung on for quite a while, but got caught in the wrong gear and couldn't catch her after that.  As a show that I was in fact trying, I did catch a guy wearing the same shade of red, but realized as I was passing him that my brain must not be working so well - how does one mistake a 180lb male for a 125lb female even if they are wearing the same color?  I made it in under my goal time and even onto the first 'page' of 10 miler results - pleased with that.  Shea smoked everyone again with a strong ride on the new bike and was super-psyched.

Overall - yeah, I won.  That's where the 2 + 2 + 2 = 1 math comes in.  Three 2nd places, but I was the only one to finish the series.  Scored a jar of Heed and a new pair of gloves for my efforts yesterday.  Fun races - next time I resolve to bring my A-game for the rock gardens.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not one of the cool kids...

I never was one of the cool kids. But this weekend, I'm still not. Over 600 (yes, 600!) people are racing cyclocross within 2 miles of my house, including some people who are sleeping here tonight, but I'm not one of them. I'm a bit sad - Charm City was my first cross race and I was immediately hooked. It's been a year - I know I'm still addicted but have to wait a week to join the 'in' crowd.

Tomorrow (Sunday), I'll be taking the Superfly out for a little spin that we'll call the Michaux Terror of Teaberry. I'm racing the 10 miler still - if I finish, I'll be the only female to do so for all three races and therefore will win the series. A bit of a hollow victory if it happens, but I'm hoping for a good race. And really, I'm the only one who came back for more after the mud and rain soaked fest that was Michaux Maximus this year - I probably deserve it just for finishing that one.

Anyway, we pre-rode there a couple weeks ago, so I have a good idea (barring mechanicals) of a goal time. No, I'm not telling. Sometimes, I just don't want to broadcast my failures. Or my own mental sandbagging by setting goals that are too easily achievable.

Speaking of goals - I'm having trouble setting some for cross. I know I'm a ton more fit than I was last year going into the season and my skills are way better. I've even mostly deleted the double-hop from my remounts - last year I barely even had a remount. But where to set my season goals?

I'm planning to race the local series, which has a Cat 4 only women's field. Can I make it consistently into the top 10?  Do I shoot for the earned upgrade to Cat 3? Then I'd have to race with the big girls next year... will I be ready for that if I do? Will I even want to? Does that mean I'll have to take this bike racing thing more seriously - like, get a proper training plan and such? Is it even realistic to think that I can podium in a reasonable field of Cat 4 women on a good day? I'd like to think so, and hot laps at practice the other night with some other Cat 4's were encouraging, but I tend to think they were not pushing as hard as I was. So in all this nebulousness, I'm forced to be patient. I won't know a reasonable goal until I go out and have a decent race. Or two. Or three. I'm not good at patience...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time trialin' to a personal best... barely.

Tonight was the last evening informal time trial of the season, and, under perfect weather with just a light breeze, Shea and I were the only riders to show. Ah well... it's like everyone is getting ready for cyclocross already or something? Regardless, I needed a hard workout with hills and wanted to take advantage of the chance to gauge my fitness compared to earlier in the year. Thankfully, Mojo, who organizes these things, was willing to sit around and wait with his stopwatch.

I knew by looking at my watch that I was making pretty good time, and at some point knew that I was doing a good job on pushing the pain override button when I stopped being able to calculate my finish time if I rode the rest the way I'd ridden the first part. For example, given a 14 mile course, 3.67 = 1/4, so I was looking at my watch and multiplying by 4. Yeah, clearly too much oxygen on the right (or is it left?!) side of my brain. That didn't stick.

Shea passed me somewhere around mile 5 and I kept him in sight up the next hill before losing him again. He was riding comfortably, which was great to see.

By the end, my legs were cooked. I rode hard to the finish line and beat my previous best by a whole 8 seconds. Ah, well, that one was a good ride too.

My times over the summer:
6/23 - 53:40
7/7 - 52:46
7/21 - 52:17
8/4 - 54:16
9/15 - 52:09

Just barely missed the 52 minute mark tonight. arg. I can truly compare these times - I rode 'em all on my cross bike with cheap road wheels. The only change has been a new compact crankset with lower gearing for cross... not sure this helped me tonight, but expect that I'll be enjoying it on the grass at cross practice tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching up, playing hard

Seems like it's been a while since I've blogged and I guess it has. I can't seem to keep up with writing about all the awesome end of summer riding that we've been doing. So this is going up with no pictures, links or anything useful. Briefly:

Terroring the Teaberry - last weekend - pre-ride of Michaux Terror of Teaberry course. This was a blast for me. The group was huge (think 50?!), split quickly and I eventually got dropped back to where I needed to be for the first ~12 miles. Great tight single track, rocky fireroad descents, reasonable climbs. Very fun. We regrouped in the parking area and went out with a smaller group to ride the next 12 or so miles. This time, it was mostly LSV guys led by Kent and Jes from Gettysburg Bikes. Last year, my first ride with LSV guys was about this time and I got dropped so far off the back that Bernie came back looking for me. This time, I got dropped, but never more than by a minute or two. Thankfully and unfortunately, a few of the guys flatted, so I even got a couple of chances to breathe. Fun. Quite a bit of hike-a-biking on the ridge trail, but fun. Afterwards, we bonded all campfire like over beers and zucchini muffins. I'll look forward to racing the 25 miler next year. For now, the last race of my mountain biking season is next weekend on the first 12 miles.

Singlespeeding it (intentionally) - when I got the Superfly, I planned to convert my Cannondale 26er with a headshock to a singlespeed for training (especially when riding with newbies) and mucky days. Last week we finally got it put together (Surly singleator, geared at 32x18) and took it out Monday night to our local haunt. Shea wanted to test ride my Superfly properly anyway... beautiful Loch Raven ride and I really think my Cannondale and Superfly handle pretty similarly, so I wasn't totally screwed by having smaller wheels. Except the part where I went to jump a curb on my way out of the parking area and had the timing a bit off for my rear wheel. Luckily, I was running pretty high pressure, so twas embarrassing but at least we didn't have to change a flat.

Crossing the red line - last week we dropped over to cross practice at Druid hill. Where the grass is tall and the acorns are aplenty. I properly crashed on a remount in front of Kris, who was leading practice. Mounting onto back wheel = bad. No double hop before doing so = progress. Hot laps were tough on me. The run-up was sapping all my limited strength and speed - I really need to start doing some consistent running or at least a few running hill intervals. The guys set it up so that the downhill off of the run-up/barriers had a nice wheel-sized hole in it. I nearly lost my late lunch a few times. We rode until it was nearly very dark - good workout, but I have a feeling that first cross race is going to kick my butt in a mere 13 days...

In lieu of an enduro race - I seriously considered heading down to Poor Farm to race a 5 hour lap race yesterday. But decided not to when some smart teammate pointed out that, in fact, I'll be racing almost every weekend between now and ski season. Instead, I assembled a small group of 6 crazy souls and headed out to Frederick for some rockin' and a rollin'. After about 8 miles on rocky, rolling doubletrack, we looped back toward the car and found some singletrack so sweet that several times it was noted, "I don't care how we have to get outta here, this is awesome". I rode some features I didn't think I had in me - and dabbed on a bunch more. Big ramped logs, big rocks, little logs, rock gardens galore. I did manage a header over a small log and a near face into stick/ditch event. Sense of direction was good, and we were generally heading toward the car, but after finally finding the road, talking to a stoned driver who said, yeah, 'that's a gravel road', we started a seemingly interminable climb on said gravel road. Mike, who was riding away on his Singlespeed Niner, claimed "it's a good way to spin out the legs"... I was thinking I was just throwing a bunch of lactic acid into them. And in fact, I was - I'm sore today despite some of the Luna recovery stuff, watermelon, and beer. So, I didn't do an enduro race of 5 hours on smooth trails - instead I rode 5 hours with friends on a gorgeous day, getting lost in the rock gardens. It was a near-epic ride and fabulous revitalization... gotta love it when I get to use the fitness I've got to enjoy the stuff I didn't think I could even ride let alone dig.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy trails near Deep Creek Lake, MD

Last weekend, we made it a long weekend, and we rode 5 days in a row in Western Maryland. Thus, this is also a long blog entry. The good, bad and ugly.

The great: Davis, WV race loop.

A mere hour from Deep Creek is the West Virginia State Championships race loop - 18 miles give or take of pristine single track on private land with a trail head pretty much in the town. We stopped by Blackwater Bikes and asked the skinny guy, Van, where his favorite riding is nearby. He sent us away with a free map, lots of notes about where the colored blazes change, and awesome beta about how to make it through the area they are currently logging. He also sent us to Hypno Coffee - we liked it enough to buy a freshly roasted pound of espresso blend. At the trailhead, we contemplated whether to take the dogs or leave 'em in the car - it was low 60s, but totally remote with the possibility of a shorter loop if they got tired, so we decided to bring 'em along.

Really great riding - true single track, seriously well built for bikes. With all the instruction about where to go, we only mis-navigated once, winding up traversing a quarter mile or so of bog cleared for pimpeline access. Like occasionally sink up to your rear hub bog. Yuck. It connected back to the main trail, though, so we were all good. From dry singletrack through grassy meadows to the 'famous' moon rock section (think large rock slabs with pits, pockets, and gorges the width of a tire - I walked a bit), switchbacked climbing on loam, and a kick your arms into submission rock garden laden downhill, this loop had it all. Loved it. We'll be back. I didn't have to holler "Honey, we dropped the dogs!" until about Mile 16. It was great to have the furry monsters along. Allie found the bogs much more fun than I did...

The pretty frickin' good: Margraff Plantation Trails, Accident, MD.

At Deep Creek, we visited the 'bike shop', which also sells kayaks, waterskis, snowboards and all things sport related for a recreational mountain lake. And a few bikes. The guys there sent us to Margraff, which I had read about online and wanted to try. "A bit overgrown" was the warning. Really, it was actually only overgrown if you go the wrong way into the bramble bushes, walking your bike ahead of you to stay skinny, emerging with itchy scratchies all over. This loop, which is only 7 miles, absolutely rocked. I noted to Shea that it really felt like we spent a lot of time going downhill but not much going uphill. That's a testament to how well laid out the uphills must be. I wish they ran a race there.

My notes on Margraff: directions online were a bit confusing. Turn left at the sign that says "Margraff Plantation" and park in the lot there. Directly behind the car is the easiest singletrack to find. Turn right the first intersection and ride the loop counter clockwise. There are a few places here where it's good to keep sharp eyes out for white blazes on the trees - for instance (in order as I remember them) climb a hill, come out in a meadow with a gas well, and grab the trail behind the gas well on the left. Get back to the main set of intersections where the trail forms a figure 8 and stay right. After climbing on singletrack, cross the gravel road and look left at the edge of where it (might be) mowed for the trail, which is an awesome loamy section with a pretty fun log pile that is bigger than I normally ride, but I got it. Fun! Shea even found some jumps.

Just after those, instead of dropping further down the hill to the right (into the brambles), stay left and emerge in a field. Cross the dirt road, stay left of that gas well and near the tree line to find the single track hidden in the weeds. Another fun downhill and a climb to the car for a refill of the water bottles and another lap. Unless you have the dogs with you - apparently fat city dogs do not become fast trail dogs overnight.

The not-as-good: Green Ridge Park, Flintstone, MD.

The MD state champs were held here many years ago and the guidebook suggested it was on the 12 mile loop that's 'impossible to get lost on'. That was mostly true except for one spot where local kids might've stolen the sign - we eventually figured out to cross the road and start up the road where I spotted a single mtn bike sign in the woods on the left less than a hundred or so yards from where we hit the road in the first place. Anyway, I wanted to like this place. It's like 3 miles off of Interstate 68 on the way home. But the uphills were aplenty and downhills mostly on doubletrack without much technical or twisty fun. A bit rocky, sure, and eventually we came upon a few really nicely built bridges that seemed a bit out of place - super well-maintained parts among a bunch of washed up old fire roads. Sort of unsatisfying.

The really so-not-worth it: Adventure Sports Center, McHenry, MD (above Wisp).

Newer trails - a hand-drawn map at the trailhead should've been our first clue. Mostly used as a place to teach climbing, there is one small singletrack loop (think 1-2 miles, max) with a fun little downhill, but not much else.

The also not-worth-it: New Germany State Park, Grantsville, MD.

Beautiful park for camping, hiking with family, and swimming/fishing in the reservoir. No dogs allowed. Only a few miles of narrow trail, probably lots of flat, untechnical double track based on the map.

Fun times in the mountains...