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 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.