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.