Monday, December 20, 2010

Week one of a CSA

That's community supported agriculture for y'all non-foodies. I've been loving the farmer's market this fall, but with the way our weekends are, we don't always get there.  Not sure how we didn't figure this out sooner, but there's a pretty sweet little market just a mile from the house.  They have milk in glass bottles.  I bought some.  Then I came home and mentioned to Shea that we could still join the winter CSA.  He didn't take much (really, any) convincing.  We get to pick what we want each week - usually there are a few choices.

Week 1:
2 kohlrabi (not sure what I'm making with these just yet...)
1 quart of fresh cranberries
1 quart completely awesome cremini mushrooms
1 large butternut squash
1 pound ginger maple bison sausage
1 big tub of plain local (Chambersburg, PA) yogurt

I've been using the yogurt for some special blackberry wheatgerm smoothies with protein powder.  Indulgent in the nutritious way.

The squash and cranberries are making their way into a salad now and mushrooms plus awesome eggs = excellent omelets.

As I get to play with new veggies, when I come up with a great recipe, maybe I'll share.  Or maybe I'll just keep it secret - sort like the cardamom apple turnovers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2 x 1 = 2 (aka belated Rockburn race report)

Only a few people read this blog - it's mostly for me and I look back at it as a journal when I need to.  I left you last time on a cliff hanger of sorts - heading into the second day of a double weekend of cross racing, wondering if I had the mental and physical fortitude to win twice.  Of course, pretty much everyone who reads this blog is also facebook friends with me or was at the race and knows the answer.

Rockburn.  Two years ago I had a crap race here, even though we were promoting it.  Shea and I flew in that morning from New York, having gotten laid over coming back from Spain after a week of mountain bike riding followed by a single night of true debauchery.  Last year, Rockburn was in the part of the season where everyone else was getting faster and I was just getting frustrated.

This year - 13 or so Cat 3's to the line.  A flowy course with some climbs, singletrack, a sand pit that required attention.  I had a good start but Katy came by me on the ramp onto the grass.  I sat on her wheel through the sand but just didn't want to go that slowly on the next technical sections - her strength is power from the road but I can cook her sometimes in the corners.  I burned a couple matches passing her on the next straightaway, getting around on the inside as we curled down the hill onto singletrack.
First lap singletrack.  Photo: Joe Mallis

And that was that.  I was off the front. Again.  But this time (unlike pretty much every other time, and there have been a lot this season and last), I didn't doubt myself.  At Rockburn, the challenge was for me - could I prove to myself that I was strong enough, tough enough to ride perfectly and fast... again.
Photo: Samantha Rynas

The Kelly crew was cheering loudly.  I barely heard them.  I was in a different place.  The one where all you see is the grass in front of you, the only thoughts were when to shift and which foot needed to be down for the next corner... (okay, once over the barriers I let myself think my bike was heavy, then remembered that it isn't and chided myself for being a wimp). 
Photo: teammate Galen Wallace

The announcer was butchering my easy-to-pronounce last name.  By the 4th lap, my teammates were calling me that as well.  I had a 45 second gap and managed to crack a smile... The guys would tell me later that I got a good part of that gap climbing on the first lap.  I don't believe them, but it would be cool if I had.
Two Kelly women on the Podium!  Jen will be faster than me in no time.  Photo: Samantha Rynas  

In 'cross - you win twice in respectable fields, you upgrade or get upgraded.
Yikes, cat 2 in 'cross!
Next year, hanging with the big girls.  Well, they aren't big. They are just wicked fast.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

...the one where I finally won...

Some people win their first cross race.  Others win sometime in their first season.  Others never win.  That wasn't me, though.  I didn't start racing cross with a couple seasons of road racing or triathlon fitness under my belt.  And half a mountain bike race season didn't really count.   My first year I got lapped at nearly every race.  I've been on the podium and in the front of the field more times than I care to count this year and last without sealing the deal.  I raced 42 cross races in three seasons before this weekend.

I stayed home to race locally and help out at Schooley Mill and Rockburn (aka the HoCoCx2x).  It's a Cat 3 field only, but I hadn't treated the last couple MABRA races as priorities and mechanical'd at one of them, so I really didn't know where my legs would be against the field.  But as it turned out, it would be the weekend my legs and head came together to put me (and the season) where I wanted.

Saturday - Schooley Mill

An early start, I spent most of the morning at registration or taking podium pics and handing out prizes, really trying to be ass-in-chair-with-legs-up whenever possible.  Shea finished his race and took over the prize-doling tasks and I got into my normal pre-race routine.  I didn't love the power-friendly course on my pre-rides.  I wanted more turns, something technical to give my handling skills an advantage.  My efforts Friday during setup to encourage more turns had added a few, but not enough. Bernie came for a visit as I was finishing my trainer warmup and offered to take my Bianchi to the pits.  Karl pinned my number on for me.  Someone showed up at the start line to take my jacket.

In a field of only 10, I had a front row start and wanted the first lap prime for the leader of our race - a t-shirt from friend and team sponsor Jason at Woof Cycling.  We were off.  I had the start I wanted and the holeshot onto the grass.  The field stayed together through the first chicanes and off cambers until we hit the first climb.  I punched it and got a bit of a gap.  By the time we hit the barriers, the gap had grown to about 5 seconds over current series leader Katy.  I knew she was probably the one to watch for - we've gone back and forth the few times we've race together this year.  I focused on a smooth set of barriers, egged on by the announcer, Chris Mayhew, who did quite a lot of coaching my remounts in August at cross camp.  It sounded like the entire Kelly team was in the pits nearby.

Past the barriers, through some turns, then onto doubletrack.  An easy place to slack off and lose time - no spectators were out there yelling at me to dig deep.  But, my head was in a great place.  I was focused on one thing - going as fast as I could and still racing a technically perfect (or at least, passable) race.  Big ring - on more than one lap I was near the top of my cassette.

An S-curve off camber section and then I was already down by the pond, trying not to notice Galen and his camera, who I have a habit of crashing in front of.   I came through after the first lap (getting the prime!) with a sickening realization - I had a 10 second gap on the field that I wanted to hold and the lap cards went up indicating I had another 4 laps to go.  In a season where many of our races have gotten cut short (I've raced as little as 32 minutes for a "40 minute race"), I was gonna be out there for at least 46.  That's nearly 50% longer for you math geeks.

Surprisingly, I settled into my pace and was loving the turns at speed.  I wasn't that much slower than my first lap and was a little faster than those behind me.  I heard my name and gap times shouted all over the course.  At the bottom of the hill, the C3 gang reminded me to power up it.  I reminded myself that I can rest on Monday.  Coach Rodger urged me through some turns and into the big ring on the doubletrack.  I could see Katy, but I could see she was pretty much in the same place every lap.  Every time I hit the first S turn, she was heading up the little steep hill.  Every time by the horse jumps she was rounding left as I stood to climb.  On the last lap she closed a bit, but I held on for my first cross win.  Even without where I placed, it was one of my best races of the year.

I rolled through the finish (with one hand off the bars - didn't trust myself for both and clearly hadn't practiced!), about to be corraled by my own husband to the podium.  Ken (another LSVer) who was marshalling said, "That's a hard way to win a race."  Well, I wouldn't know as that's the only way I've done it.

I gave Shea, Rodger and a couple others hugs, then started to cramp.  Spinning over behind the building, I nearly started to cry.  Here's the thing, yeah, I am more than psyched that I met a goal I worked so hard for.  But it was even better to do it in front of the hometown crowd - the guys who taught me the love of this crazy sport.  Where, literally, nearly everyone knew my name.

After all the congrats'ing, Bill from In The Crosshairs interviewed me.  See it here.  Maybe I should always eat donut holes.  For some reason, other pics from the race are sorta sparse.

About 4 hours later doubt set it.  Could I do it again? Would I be able to muster up the mental intensity to be that hungry again?  Two days in a row?

... to be continued...

Monday, November 22, 2010

....quiet until the elusive w...

Tacchinio, Photo: Tracy Pafel
I've skipped writing about a few races of late.  At Fair Hill, I put a gap on the field on the first lap only to get blown away by my own inability to sustain the pace.  Still had a good race, but was 4th, one off the podium in what would be a theme for the weekend.  I also raced the elite race.  And was 14th. It hurt.  Sunday, on some very tired legs, I dragged myself up the Tacchinio hills to 5th in a field where I expected to be further up.  Prizes went to 3rd, 13th, and 3rd, respectively.  Luckily, my teammate Bernie came along and we giggled our way through the tandem race.  Okay, he pedaled, I giggled. 
Photo: Galen Wallace
Last weekend - no racing.  I needed the downtime but was starting to have doubts.  One of my season's goals last year was to win.  I didn't.  That meant one of my season goals this year was to win.  And I just wasn't doing it.

The MAC series is great - big fields, racing for every spot, good people.  And the series finale was in New York this weekend.  I wanted to go.  Sort of.  There were carbon wheels on the line for the series winner and I was in third going into the weekend.  Mathematically unlikely, but possible. 

But my team was promoting one of the two races this weekend that are 45 minutes or less from my house.  I decided to give up any vampire-like tendencies and race at home.  No sneaking off into the woods of a MAC race for me.  We hosted the registration binder assembly party and supervised prize distribution and podiums. I got to hang out with my teammates for a race they'd done most of the hard planning work for already.  Registration, course set up, tear down, etc etc etc. all went off with nary a hitch - great job LSV and BBC.

An aside...
Dear racers who I had to tell more than once that prizes could not be distributed until results were final (particularly any Masters' B riders who asked more than twice in 5 minutes - there are at least two of you),

I don't make the rules.  They are there for a reason - namely that if results aren't final, the wrong people get the wrong stuff.  I can't even change the rules if you have a birthday party to go to and didn't plan on being on the podium. Though I think you did because you raced down from the elite masters today so you could go to said birthday party. And when you hover around me while I'm trying to do a podium for the race that just finished, it's distracting.  And then I forget to do the Juniors podium, and the cyclocross dads of the world give me dirty looks.  As if I did it on purpose.  As if I wasn't horrified with myself and apologetic.  As if I were getting paid for corralling skinny guys in spandex onto a podium to get their portraits with my little camera.  So, impatient masters' riders, be happy we had results up faster than almost every other race you've attended this year.  (And only once was there a protest.  All day.  A++ to the officials.  But imagine if there had been a protest in your race?)  Be happy that I know the prize value at our race was more than triple what you've gotten at some others so when you got your prize bag within an hour of the end of your race, you could smile again.  Be happy I didn't tell you to go find some guy named Joe in a black shirt for your prizes.  Be happy that Ms. Rock can't get her hands on you to write "vampire" somewhere conspicuous in permanent marker.

But seriously, thanks for coming to our race and congrats on doing well. Thanks to the many people who appreciated the jobs I did on Saturday before my race.  Especially the guy who did so as I was rolling to the line for my race Sunday.

your juniors-podium-forgetting day-of-registration-collector reg-binder-assembly-cook promoting-team-racer-chick prize-distributor.

So that was Saturday.  Well, that wasn't all of Saturday.  I raced.  This is already long, so that will be another story. 

But others raced too, and, for one of them, his body gave out for a bit.  He was ahead of some MDs in his race that did what anyone would - stopped their own anaerobic effort and helped.  Everyone worried as the sirens came and went.  The police took his bike into evidence. We were all reminded of how precious life is and how much we should enjoy the good moments.   Thankfully, we were all relieved several hours later to hear promising updates on his condition.  Still very serious, but not as bad as we feared in the moment.  We are all a community and share a common love - of racing our bikes so hard it hurts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


For a blog named "muddy skier", there hasn't been much mud lately.  In fact, we haven't take a hose to the bikes yet this 'cross season.  Sand in the shifters, check.  Dust so thick it clogs my nose for days after a race (Charm City, Cincinnati, Nittany, even DCCX), check.

It's November.  It's a Thursday.  It's raining.  I'm hopeful.  Bring on the mud.

In other news, the snowmaking ponds at resorts all over the east are filling up.  Much needed rain.  Luckily I don't live in Vermont, or I'd have to choose between skiing and 'cross right now.  Word is - Killington's open.

Monday, November 1, 2010

the wall

If I'm honest, I hit the wall for cross a bit this weekend.  I came home last night disappointed. 

Not in my finishes per se (7th at Beacon, 8th at HPCX, though I was definitely up there hoping for better), but disappointed because it felt like there was something left in my legs.  I forgot my pain button a few times.  I felt whiny to myself warming up about pushing it, even.  It took me at least a minute to pull my head back after a crash yesterday and get back on the gas.  Saturday the pain was definitely there on the running sections, but there were a few straightaways back in the woods where I eased up a bit without realizing it until I was in the next turn.  Chatting with one of the elite women yesterday after my race, I felt better knowing that I wasn't the only one who forgets to go hard sometimes.

Last weekend at DCCX, I rolled a tubular (which feels a bit like a rite of passage in cross... it's firmly reglued now).  I managed a reasonable enough chase effort that I cracked on the last lap and was passed by a few other women. Where was that intensity this weekend? Am I mid-season burnt?  Training has taken a lot of mental effort lately, too, even though all I think about is cross.

At least I didn't crash myself this weekend.  Saturday was clean, even with all the running I only overcooked one corner and had to put a foot down.  I wound up in a tangle on Sunday when the wheel I was on went down, but managed not to have big technical mental errors myself.  Even had the best pass of my season near the pits - inside line through a 180 turn, railing the bike. I'll take that positive into a chilly Monday morning.

Monday, October 25, 2010

the one where I needed my teammates


Last year, I had magic legs at DCCX and had a blast.  It's one of the only (maybe THE only) MABRA race I'm doing this year - it's the local series, but the competition is deeper elsewhere right now in the Cat 3 women's fields.  That said, this being the biggest race of the series, it was as stacked as it could be with 15 of us in the Cat 3's.

Good start - right where I wanted to be with a rider off the front by a few seconds but catchable.  My goal, have a clean first lap.  I did.  It was fast and clean.  Lap 2 was also pretty solid.  But on lap 3, I was rounding the corner toward team row, an off camber, dusty right hand turn with some roots, when all of the sudden... you guessed it... I was crashing.  Again.  It felt like I was gonna save it.  I clipped out on the inside and almost had it.  Then I hit a bump or something and it all went wrong again.  In a split second that felt like slow motion, I was under my bike, under the tape.  Again.  Sorta like Granogue.

Banged up but fine, when I got up my rear wheel wasn't moving... a quick check, damn, I'd rolled the tire partway off and it was stuck in the frame - I pulled it back on and got going.  Now, I should say that Shea was in the team tent area, about as far away from the pits as you can imagine on this course.  Eric was standing right next to me having watched the whole thing.  He'd put my bike in the pits for me and knew where it was.  By the time I got to the pits at a slightly conservative speed, they were both there having sprinted to help me get the bike change achieved.

A lap later, they were yelling I could have my bike back.  Hmm.... I don't have a spare carbon wheel with a 10speed cassette on it.  Did they know I'd rolled it?

Well, of course they did.  But this is where Charly comes into play.  He'd run to his car to grab his race wheel and had it on my bike that quickly.  After another Becky-is-on-the-ground snafu in the pit (and some accompanying shin bruises to show for it), I was back on my Santa Cruz, which is so much lighter and fits so much better that it was probably worth rolling on the ground to get it back for another lap and a half plus.

But, no magic legs this time.  I'd burned a lot of matches in all that rolling on the ground and trying to get back to where I was.  And it showed on the last lap.  I was closing on a small group, pulling along another rider who'd had a mechanical, but couldn't keep her wheel when it came down to it.  Happy to see that she made it past two in front of us, but I finished 8th on the day.

the ones with the crashes on the first lap

Granogue.  It's always epic.  Last year, particularly so.

This year Granogue was doubling up, with big fields and two days of racing.  I was finishing a stint of 7 races in 16 days.  I think I'm still recovering, even as late as this race report is.

Day 1.  The crash in the sand pit.  Lap 1 - the top 5 of us ran front wheels into cassettes and wound up laying in the sand.  I dropped a chain and had some trouble with the remount, so I spent the next 30 minutes fighting back from about 8th to 4th.

Day 2.  The sketchy remount that I didn't crash on.  But I crashed on the approach.  In fact, crash might not be the right word.  Nystrom described it as "acrobatic" and later said, "I've never seen anyone do a cartwheel with their bike before".  In all of that, I only lost a spot or two and battled to stay on, but Erin and Britlee got off the front by about 20 seconds that I wouldn't get back from Erin.  Britlee dropped her chain on the last lap but held onto 2nd at the line in sprint.  She's strong.

Lots of good folks out racing their guts out last weekend.  Good to see Diane in the points, Kat recovering from a nasty crash on day 1, the masters' "mid-pack" riders duking it out with each other, Phil eking out a granogue double-double, Weaver deciding not to ride the Saturday run-up, even though he could in practice, Cati on my heels, J.T. flying the Kelly green and in the top half her first year racing cross, Stacey in the money in her first UCI weekend, and Zach, putting his shoe back on at the top of the run-up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The triple... UCI3 cross festival, Cincinnati

When I said "more to come", I really meant "we're going to try to wear out the new clutch in our Focus by driving it nearly 2500 miles in less then two weeks."  Triple race report, only a week or so late.

Cincinnati.  The only 3 day cross festival, well, anywhere really.  Three days of hanging out on a gorgeous weekend in October with friends from cross - Diane, FatMarc, Bad Kat and Andy, Wes, Weaver, Kris, Breyla, Meatball- it's cool how fun the cross community is.  They cheered for me and asked Shea (who rode in the last race each day) how he finished the next morning.  Good gang.

Friday - Cyclo-stampede.  Put a park on the side of a hill and then throw some spaghetti on it - that's what the course was.  Friday's course had more climbing and descending than some mountain bike races I've done (yes, Fair Hill and Wakefield, I'm talking about you).  Stand to get up there, grab brakes at the corner at the bottom of the next downhill, repeat.  I actually sorta liked it in a masochistic way.  It was truly a course in which I was either a) standing to climb, b) wishing I was standing but not having the power, or c) putting my bum off the back and grabbing some levers, hoping those carbon brake pads morphed into something just a little more powerful.

Front row start in a smallish field.  They stage the Open 3/4 women ahead of the masters (35+ women) and then start us all together.  I led onto the grass - I wanted to - I didn't have a great line on the first off camber to the right and figured that making others follow me was better than the alternative.  On lap 2, I got passed by a young woman on a really sweet bike.  Turns out, she would win, and the bike (a Stevens) was brand new.  I watched a masters' rider go through the tape twice on the same turn after the barriers.  I contemplated riding the mini-waterbars they had on a hill.  But I didn't.  It wasn't a 100% ride for me, so the dismount and run was faster.  I don't think any of the women's elite riders rode it either.

I had a big gap in front and a big gap behind.  I finished 2nd.  Pleased, but wanting more.  I then proceeded to walk around, talk, wait in line for things, stand around some more, then run around the course watching Shea ride to 3rd (his first cx podium - a 12 year old won his race).  Yeah, so in other words, I completely screwed my recovery in ways that I paid for on Saturday.

Saturday - Java Johnny's - oof.  Legs feeling a hot, hilly day yesterday.  A big ring course.  Oof.  Nothing like needing some power.  A pretty flat park, with some sketchy acorn tree corners, a pain in the butt sandpit x 2 (think U-turn in the sand, just an excuse to get me off my bike), some fun ups and downs behind the pool.

A good start.  I led onto the grass.  I was second by the time a stake and some tape yielded to my bike with a crunch on a sweeper.  Turns out FatMarc nailed the same stake several hours later, only they'd beefed it up a bit.  I rode the tricky S curve around a tree/uphill.  Whoops.  I didn't ride it all the way.   A quick flip of the front wheel and I was laying on the ground, under my bike.  3 spots down, but only one was in my race.

I just couldn't hang onto those masters' riders.  It was where I needed to be to get help and get back up there.  Kat was on my wheel.  I tried to keep her there - we were racing for 5th and 6th and if 4th had started to fade at all, I wanted help in the chase.  But no such luck. Kat dropped back on the last lap and I finished 5th on the day.  The announcer noted that I'd missed the podium.

After being very diligent about my immediate recovery, eating a fantastic iced pumpkin muffin from Java Johnny's and taking a little nap, a college friend showed up and I got to explain 'cross to her while talking about what it's like (for her) to be a medical resident.  Then we watched Shea get badgered by announcers and hecklers alike as he rode to 4th behind 3 guys not old enough to drink.  Two of them were under 15.  To say that Cinci has a great juniors development culture is an understatement.

Sunday - the infamous Harbin ParkA course preview didn't really show me what was everyone was talking about on this course - JPow and others had declared it an all-time fave.  But what's the big deal?  Well, balance, folks, balance.  Some winding around the trees technical sections was spaced out from the off camber ups and downs by a couple of power sections.  The high speed off camber section was followed by a no-brakes-but-I-really-want-to-grab-em downhill where you can easily hit 30mph.  The sand pit was maybe rideable uphill, but I ran it to save matches.  The second pass through per lap was downhill - with speed and a good entry, you could gain seconds in it.

Another front row start.  The Ohio ladies like to gravitate to the second row when they get about 8 deep in the call-ups.  Fine by me.  Second wheel onto the grass, I was about 3rd by the time we hit the steep up-down-up off cambers.  Good thing.  I felt/heard someone clip my rear wheel and definitely heard several people behind me crash.  A tell-tale hiss meant a flat.  But it wasn't mine, and I was standing in the pedals, trying to get a gap up the rather steep finish line hill.

I rode in second for about a lap - Leah was already off the front.  By the start of the second lap, I was plodding through the sand.  I got passed.  Twice.  FatMarc yelled at me.  I got on their wheels and stayed there for about a 1/2 lap.  I got dropped but was holding about a 7-10 second gap.  On the first half of the 3rd lap, I had a good sand pit.  I tried to bury myself and make it back to 2nd, knowing the other rider in that group was in the Masters' category.
Photo: Jeffery Jakucyk

I stood up, on an uphill.  In my easiest gear.  My legs laughed at me.  On a different day, that was a big ring uphill.  But not Sunday.  I backed off.  The gap was reasonable behind me.  No need to crash.  I rode pretty hard still, though.  The barriers were swimming in my eyes on the last lap.  I squeaked up the finish line hill with a smile.  Hey, I regained that podium spot.
Photo: Jeffery Jakucyk
More Cinci cross photos:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the ones in massachusetts: part 2

Day 2.  Brisk morning.  Much of the course was similar, but different.  Everyone was talking about the run-up.  Now, I'll say this - in last year's mud, I'm sure it was terrible, miserable, clawing with your hands to get up it.  Honestly, I thought it was a pretty standard run-up and the dirt was torn up enough that you just had to look where you put  your foot.  Oh, it was too steep to push your bike, that's for sure.  No sand.  An uphill road start/finish.  Some long power sections in the wind coming off the ocean.  Did I mention this race course is literally in the park that is the beach?!  As in, the bathrooms have changing stalls and footwashes.  And there are huge rocks on the coast and scattered around the course.  A few mini-spiral of death S-curves, including a very challenging one set on the hillside next to a softball field.

Second row start.  Chilly.  Embro working but not as well as I'd like.  Talked to a woman (Christine, I think) that apparently I battled with last year at DCCX.  She had started in the elite field ahead of us. Impressive memory, she even knew my name.

A great start. Or so I thought.  I was about 5th wheel up the hill when all of the sudden, I was boxed in and swarmed from both sides.  Elbows rubbing, handlebars in my butt, onto the grass we went - everyone upright, but I was about 25th wheel.  Lots of ground to make up.  I was making progress passing people, including a few on the run-up and remount.  Those that had forgotten to shift, paid the price at the top and the first lap was like a wobblefest with 8 or so women trying to stand on their pedals while I tried to weave through without getting knocked over.

Somewhere in there, though, someone apparently stuck a post-it on my bum - "Please pass me then crash right in front of me".  This happened about 4 times in a lap and a half.  Once near the sand, a woman literally passed me and just fell over.  I rolled over her bike, grabbing brakes in time that I didn't endo over her thigh and managed to only lose a spot or two.  More time was lost when ladies crashed in the off camber mini-spiral and on the S turns to the barriers.

I felt decent, was working hard, but just couldn't get up to the lead group.   I worked my way into the top ten, where I battled with about 4 other women for the last two laps - all of us were within a few seconds of each other, and held my last lap position to finish 10th of 88 starters.  Not a bad day and one of the few races where I was really racing the entire time and a two second slack-off or bobble meant I was going to lose a spot. 

In retrospect, other than the start, my biggest mistake was that we weren't working together very well - I definitely did some drafting and once managed to take a pull that was reciprocated, but other than that, it was a battle for each spot and we missed opportunities to draft near the chainlink fence and leading up to the run-up. Clearly we're not used to organizing a chase because I know there were women with me that had the legs to get up there if we'd been a bit smarter.

Afterwards.   I stood at the finish line, laughing and chatting with the ladies who'd been nearby.  Ali pulled out 22nd - awesome for her.  It was clear that it was a hard race, though none of us could pinpoint why.  And that we'd had fun.

I grabbed a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie (serious yum, even though I was already a bit chilly) and Shea had the car packed up before I even knew what to do with myself.  (He had a second row start Sunday and finished 19th on a course that didn't necessarily favor a technical mountain biker as much as Saturday's).

We stopped in nearby Manchester for brunch at a little restaurant before braving the drive.  Shea's lobster eggs benedict looked pretty awesome.  Too bad I'm allergic to shellfish.

Driving home.  Using a complicated computer-charges-phone-which-uses-3G-internet-to-get-audio-broadcast of Steelers vs. Ravens, I listened to the defense blow it in the last minute of the game.  Oh well.

Moral of the story.  Gloucester is totally worth the drive.  In case you were wondering.

Monday, October 4, 2010

the ones in massachusetts: part 1

Race reports from Gloucester, Mass (pronounced glouster, in case you don't want to sound like the idiot I was last week, saying it the way it's spelled).  The hub of New England Cross.  One of the biggest races in the Eastern half of the US.  1700 riders pre-registered over two days.

Our last minute decision.  We decided to go to this race on Tuesday.  No, not a Tuesday in August.  But last Tuesday.  You see, I was enthralled when I glanced at the pre-reg list.  The concept of lining up with nearly 100 other women was just too good to miss out on - a big field around here (and, as the New Englanders admitted, up there for most races) is 40 or 50...  They were staging by points, a system that meant my last-minuteness wouldn't put me all the way at the back for the start.

The trip.  10 hours.  With stops.  Rain.  Traffic in Connecticut.  Bridge crosswind in PA hard enough that we stopped at the next exit to check the bikes.  We went through PA and around NYC.  Others went through it.  Their drive was even longer.  Arrived to a little b&b in Rockport with a huge soft bed.

Day 1.  Driving the 10 minutes to the race as the sun rises over the Atlantic. Not bad.  A brisk morning.  Shea was wait-listed but got a number, starting from the very back of the 8am men's 4 race, he worked his way to 30th by the finish. 

My pre-rides told me the course was pretty technical and way fun, and the start was going to be critical.  A downhill road start to an off camber bumpy grass section that quickly went through a 180 degree chicane before spurting out onto a flat straightaway.  The possibilities for crashing and bottlenecks on the chicane and off camber were significant.  I wanted my own line through there, not someone else's.

After some of the women missed their callups, I wound up on the front row for the start and was 2nd wheel onto the grass.  I hung behind Brittlee for about 1/3 of the first lap before passing her and riding in the lead for a bit.  Holding the pace down, I was trying to let someone come by and be in the wind.  But they were too smart for a while.  When the eventual winner flew by me, I missed her wheel and crushed myself trying to catch her.  Turns out she's 14.  Awesome.  We drove 10 hours so I could get my *ss handed to me by a woman too young to drive.

This was one of those days where I just felt great on the bike.  I was in the right gear every time I came off a downhill or remounted after the barriers.  I was off the brakes and flowing through the corners.  I was strong in the sand, hitting the line around the rooty tree, missing the rocks on the downhill before the barriers.  I wound up 6th, less than a minute off the winner.

Afterwards. We enjoyed a beer (yeah, just one for me) while watching the lobster boats check traps in the harbor and heckling by the barriers during the masters' races.  I was in the pits with some friendlies for the elite women - which was fun until new-to-Baltimore Evie rolled a tubie about as far away as possible from the pits and DNF'd.  Watching the pro's hit those corners with no brakes, whew.  Good stuff.  We hung out in the evening over in Rockport, indulging in ice cream and eating seafood (fish for me) for dinner.  Lobster was $13. With sides.

I'll put up some pictures later this week when I find them online.  Surely there were some cameras out there, and I know Shea shot some video of Day 1.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

4 races in two weeks, more to come...

Charm City Cross. 1.2 miles from my house.  Still, we drove to the race - hey I can barely ride 10 feet with two bikes in the grass let alone get my pit bike that far on city streets!  Two races.  One weekend.  Two pros from Rock Lobster crashing at our house.  A local course with 3 or 4 dismounts per lap including questionably rideable sand, a couple of very challenging off camber spots, and a typical uphill start/finish.
Photo: Anthony Skorochod
Day 1: Twisty course.  Legs felt good.  Head, well, it felt good. It just didn't behave.  I made dumb mistakes and got frustrated about it.  Crashed before the first run-up.  Took a bike change for it (shifter was way twisted).  Got my A bike back a 1/2 lap later (awesome pit support from Shea!) and promptly ran it into a barrier.  Grr...  Another lap later, I was bouncing it off of barriers.  Not a clean day.  Wound up 7th on the day after unremarkable last two laps of holding where I was.
Photo: Dennis Smith
Day 2: A little more power oriented, but still, 3 or 4 dismounts per lap and a really smooth turn section out by the ball field.  I've worked a lot on my barriers and it shows when I'm racing.  I passed people at Nittany, I passed people on Day 2 at Charm City through the barriers.  Perhaps that's why my mental mishaps on Day 1 were so frustrating.
Photo: Tracy Patel, also shown, Laurie W
This was one of the most fun races I've had in a while.  Decent start, wound up in the lead by the first time past the pits, felt smooth and focused.  Eventually we did some elbow bumping and I got passed a few times.  Stacey came past me then crashed about two seconds later - somehow I grabbed the TRPs and managed to stop without running her or her bike over.  She was very apologetic - I didn't mind - that's racing and it's not like she was trying to crash!

By the last lap, I was duking it out with Erin, who'd ridden away at Nittany.  Stacey was ahead about about 20 seconds and uncatchable for me at that point.  So it was down to a race for 4th.  I closed all the corners to hold my spot.  The once or so I lost it, I passed through the barriers.  I sprinted my guts out.  I held it by a half a bike length.  What good fun.
Photo: Anthony Skorochod
Whirlybird Cross.  I missed a favorite race to go to this MAC race in PA - the Ed Sanders' Memorial Race at Lilypons.  But the field size in PA was substantial and for now I want to at least hold onto my front row starts for the MAC series.  Drizzle on the drive up, but it was dry.  Bone dry.  Hard, bone-rattling dry.  There are two kinds of places where cross races are often held - city parks and school/city ballfields.  This was the latter.  That means lots of long straightaways, short off camber sections on the edges of the fields, and, in this case, swoops around trees.  A true power course, I stayed in my big ring the entire time.
Photo: Dennis Smith
The start was uneventful, and I was about 5th wheel around the first turns but I could not get on a wheel and stay there.  I spent most of the next 3 laps in no man's land, and wound up 5th in the B race.

One of the rare opportunites this year to race the Elite race, so I went for the double.  A small field of only 12 when I signed up, I knew it was a good chance to test my legs against the big girls and yet I still would likely make back my entry fee.  I figured DFL was a possibility, but I was 9th for most of the race with one woman, Lisa, who had some early technical mistakes and was sneaking up on me.  Just before the bell lap, we traded positions a couple times and then she hung on my wheel for the bell lap...  Until the last straightaway, when I was passed.  I flew into the high speed barriers, passed Lisa on the run/remount through them, and dropped down the S turns on the hill with a slight gap that I managed to hold in the sprint.  It was fun racing. 
I think this is the finish. Photo: Dennis Smith
So a pretty successful day - two top ten results (one in a field of only 12, but still) and my first elite race, and yeah, thanks to equal women's payouts, I made back the entry and even some tolls.

Life only got better when I got back to the car and checked the Steelers' score.  38-3 Steelers in the 4th.

Monday, September 20, 2010

my shoulder is sore... must be cx season

Walking to work this morning, I put my bag on my right shoulder.  Oof, there's a bruise there.  Last weekend, we were only off once per lap.  This weekend was the hometown races - Charm City Cross - just 1.3 miles from my house.  Two races. 6 laps of pre-riding.  Off 4 times per lap most laps (I rode the sand pits a couple of times).  Full on shouldering for the run up, the sand, and occasionally the railroad ties = lotsa bouncing frame on shoulder action.

Friday, September 17, 2010

the small world of cross

I leave the slumbering elite rider from San Francisco on the couch next to his and his teammate's bike boxes and wheel cartons filling up our rowhouse living room and go for my Friday morning spin.  High cadence, low effort, mostly flat - perfect for riding in circles around a lake, people watching.  Druid Hill is just a mile or so from our house, so escaping the traffic for a bike path around a lake suits for this kind of ride.  Yeah, I'd rather ride in the country, but it takes 20 minutes to get to fun roads.  And 20 minutes to get back.  And this was a 40 minute ride.  And the people watching in Baltimore city parks is fantastic.

I digress.

My second lap around the lake, I squint through the sunlight and see a cyclist in a full kit on a cross bike, looking my way.  A quick conversation reveals he's from the Czech Republic.  He wanted to know where registration is for tomorrow's Charm City race, having brought his bike from Europe on a business trip so he could race in Baltimore.  He rode the 15 miles from his airport hotel to the race venue today.  I assume he'll repeat that tomorrow to get to the race.

I figured given this amount of effort, perhaps he was racing the Elite UCI race?  Nope... he's a masters' rider.  How cool.

I love cross.  Apparently there are crazy people everywhere.

Monday, September 13, 2010

no woulda coulda shoulda for me...

Nittany Cross.  A long drive.  A very early morning - Shea's race was at 9.  Walked the course with the dogs.  Flat. Fast.  One rooty section, a couple of high speed corners to pay attention to, lotsa flat grassy power sections.  Two laps on the bike before the 9am race, some cheering and getting dressed and soon I was on the trainer for my warmup.  A few moments of holy crap, cross season is really here in the morning, but race nerves weren't too bad.

Going to the scrum fest, I realized that a) I was late even though we still had 20 minutes til our race (hey ladies, when it's colder out, we won't do that) and b) I didn't care that much because it was staged by order of reg and I was on the ball.  Actually, maybe it was by last year's final standings, but the first 12 or so got a callup, then it was scrum... As we're standing there, they changed the start to dis-include the prologue loop.  I was actually sort of expecting that - our race is the only one of the day with 3 waves of starts and the prologue took you backwards on the course for a couple hundred yards.

I was aggressive in the start and had the hole shot to the first critical corner.  It felt like the field spread out immediately.  Others told me it didn't and there were some early crashes, but from my perspective I was pulling about 45 women single file up toward the master's riders who'd gone off a minute earlier.

Feeling strong and racing my own race as I worked through the master's women, I just put it all out there.  That was good enough for 2 1/2 laps.  Then I got passed and couldn't hang on by the end of that lap - the leader and another woman were about 10-15 seconds ahead of me for most of the last two laps.

Eh, whatever.  The announcers noticed I'd led the field, I felt awesome, and I finished 3rd on the day in a deep field of 3/4 women.  How cool was it to see that many ladies out there?!  That doesn't even count the 27 pre-registered in the women's UCI race - nearly as many as the men's pro race.

What a blast. Lots of familiar faces and voices in the pits hollering for each other and sharing a beer afterwards.  A great virgin race for the new Santa Cruz Stigmata.  Turns out we parked next to another woman who had the green one.  Not too many of those on the east coast.

As a side note, after seeing podium pics I've decided to never wear that skort with a jersey again.  Suffice it to say I don't sit around my house trying on my jersey with various bottoms to see what would look good in pictures.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

anxious... excited...

I've been anxious for this cross season since last December.  I am stronger, have more base fitness, have spent some coach-prescribed time during the summer running and yoga-ing... but am I faster?  I have a sweet new ride outfitted with awesome green bar tape, tubulars on new-to-me wheels, a spare bike... but am I faster?   Six cx skills sessions with intervals in the past 15 days, a new flow to my remount, some tweaks to my carries, a couple changes to my uphill dismount... but am I faster? 

Saturday.  Saturday starts cross.  I'm anxious.  Excited.  Can't wait for the cowbells and friends.  The red-line efforts.  The crashing frustration.  The mud (there won't be any mud on Saturday, but I want some mud).  The dewy morning pre-rides.  The trainer warm-ups under a tent with my i-pod.  The night before nerves that often yield baked goods to share.  The bruised right shoulder.  The crisp air that lets us bring the dogs for some hatchback-based socialization.  Did I mention the mud?

How will I tell if I'm faster?  What if everyone else around me is too?  I'll just have to know.  To believe.  To know that I love this crazy endeavor as much as anyone else out there.  That I've put the time in.  And will continue to.  To enjoy the adrenaline rush of a good start or a strong pass.  Appreciate the precision of a good set of barriers, earned through many many preseason repetitions.  Know that even on the worst days, I showed up. 

I'll bring what I have.  Put it out there.  Race smart and hard.  Let the results fall where they may.  It's easy to trap myself into goals that are numbers.  Results.  Upgrades.  Don't ask me what those goals are.  They aren't the ones that matter.

And yes, this is my pre-first-race-of-the-year pep-talk to myself.  Here's hoping it works and I have more fun than ever out there.

Friday, August 27, 2010

...what happens in west virginia...

...doesn't happen many other places.

The long promised second post from the Big Bear Ultra race weekend.  Three highlights from a cultural environment that just can't be replicated east of West Virginia. 

1) Shots at registration
On-site reg. was cheaper than on-line reg.  So we showed up with a check in hand.  Pulled through the guard gate and up to about two cars with mountain bikes on 'em.  A family picnic was happening - is there really a race here tomorrow?  A tent was up - oh, look, some waivers to sign.  We get to chatting with the promoter/registration volunteer/course marking guy/aid station master (yes, one guy, all those things).  Seems it's his birthday.  We're signing our lives away.  His family is bringing him the first of several rounds of shots in plastic cups.  They offered us some - we declined.  His birthday cake had boobs on it - big enough that they couldn't just be made from icing - there were real cake mounds in there.  A two year old may have been pumping the keg.  Welcome to West Virginia.

2) Golf carts with fat tires
Next to registration, is a golf cart.  Or four.  The shifter knob on one is a Miller Lite tap.  No, it doesn't actually dispense beer anymore.  We're chatting with the birthday-promoter about the golf carts - he says there are like 1200 of them in the campgrounds on site.  I find this remarkable.  He goes on to tell me that many of them are worth more than my two best bikes combined.  Who knew.

Someone's grandma toddles by.  She overhears our conversation about off-road golf carts"See that blue one over there?  It's mine.  It only has a little lift kit - just enough to get me in trouble."  She keeps walking past our rather incredulous looks.

3) Fireworks and telephone poles
I knew from some blogs online that there was a fairly good party scene to be had post-race.  We hung with some other guys from PA who race the MASS circuit before venturing over to the big campfire.   Well into the second keg of the night, the group is just getting going.  The drunkest guy remarks that he's probably not driving home.  Several others agree. 

Drunkest guy gets another beer and a stick.  Shea remarks It's always the drunkest guys who want to play with the fire.  We look over 20 minutes later.  Something is emitting greenish sparks.  Hmm.... there's a ceramic insulator.  And that's an old telephone pole it's attached to.  Not your ordinary firewood - those guys come prepared.  Sparks fly near their tents and sleeping pads.  They must have good karma - nothing went up in flames while we watched.

The fireworks had started at 11pm and randomly a few went off around 6am that morning.  Somehow, I thought this vagabond group of mountain bikers might be out of fireworks.  But no, they had a whole 30 gallon Rubbermaid container full.  The MO - pick one out, light it right there (over the bin) and aim it in some random direction.  Toward the port-a-potties.  Toward their cars, tents, each other, the field.  Oh, wait, there's a hollow log in the fire.  A big one - it's making a semi-TeePee with the short telephone pole.  Drunkest guy has an idea.... drop a bottle rocket into the hollow log.  Not trusting my own karma, we wandered back to our own campsite.  Fireworks continued for most of the night.

No doubt, I felt like yuppy cityfolk for part of the weekend.  Until I was telling someone about candle bombs - a campfire trick I know thanks to some Utah friends from Pennsylvania.  Maybe next year I'll see if my Pennsyltucky side comes prepared... probably not with telephone poles, though.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

and that's a wrap

Sunday was my last mountain bike race of the season - Cranky Monkey at Fountainhead.  I've raced there before.  I've won there before.  The course was a given. The weather was not - after late night and early morning deliberating, they ran the race.  No significant rain, even with the 70% chance of morning thunderstorms.  Awesome.

Last year, I raced the same course with about the same lap traffic on the same bike with the same wheels in similar weather with a similarly dry and sandy course.  So the goal was simple.  Beat last year's time.  Hopefully by a lot. 

Off the gun with the clydesdales, we rolled along about a mile of road before dropping into singletrack.  5 of them were off the front, I was in no man's land, and some other guys and the rest of the gals were somewhere behind me.  I tried to hit my pushing-it-but-not-blowing up pace.  I've raced a bunch of the long races, which is great - gave me the confidence to know that even if I blew up completely, I'd have legs to finish the race. 
Photo thanks to Andrew Burnette
Fountainhead has sandy corners and loads of roots, some a bit washed out.  What I'd forgotten, though, was how many little climbs are thrown in there.  The first 2 and last 2 miles of each lap are up-down-up-down-up-down.  I was riding well technically, but not fantastic, and felt like I was at my speed limit on some of the tighter downhills and turns.  After a summer of really hot long races, I have to say I barely have to think about the nutrition part anymore.  Drink heed.  Drink Perpetuem.  Eat something with salt and caffeine in it.  Take electrolytes. 

I didn't see another woman after the start.  And there were few rabbits in the woods.  I passed some guys from earlier waves but didn't ride with anyone for any length of time.  After the Big Bear race where I had a buddy for like 30 miles, it was a bit odd.  But nice to flow through the sections in my own head, choosing lines, changing gears, making my own mistakes.  I wound up 44th out of 77 starters for the 9:45 sport race.  Cool.  I'm getting faster than some of the guys...

Yes, I won.  It's funny how different race series have different speeds - the Cranky series is definitely slower, than, for instance, the Sport 35+ MASS women who fly by me at every race.  But it wasn't about who I was racing.  It was about the time.  Am I faster than last year's 1:56:59?  Yeah.  Finished in 1:49:43, more than 7 minutes faster.  That works out to 6.2% faster.  I probably have to improve that much again to be competitive in the expert fields, slow fields or not. 

Mmm... cold coke.  The best finish line drink, ever.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

end of an endurance season...

okay, that post title sounds a bit melancholy.  sad, perhaps.  The Big Bear Ultra was my last endurance race for the year - I'm skipping a few upcoming races to prep the legs and lungs for cross.  We went to this race simply for fun.  I was meant to be done after Fair Hill, but wanted one more and couldn't have chosen a better race.

I googled and googled before this race, looking for last year's race reports, Garmin files, anything to tell me about what the course was like, elevation profiles, really much of anything.  But it's West Virginia.  As you'll see in the next post, they do things differently there (yes, the weekend requires two posts - this race report and a summary of the local entertainment).  So I couldn't find much.  I could guess the elevation was less than the Stoopid 50 but who knows by how much.  And the trails in WV can be hard or easy.  So who knew.

Race day, the promoter Mark looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to send out a drop bag.  Turns out, they had plenty of PB&J's, gels, etc at the aid stations and we didn't need anything I'd put in the drop.  But since they were pretty much out of food at the late aid stations by the time I got there, if I'd needed it...

After a mass start around the campground, the field worked into some tight singletrack with a few wet, mudholes and lovely rocks.  I dabbed a bit, got passed as usual by some guys that I would see again later, but was really just out to ride my own race and have fun doing it.  I settled into a pace a bit slower than I've been hitting it for these long races.

Next up was a crazy chimney rocks section.  I walked it - barely handlebar width with walls about 10 feet high of rock.  A sharp right hand turn and a few more feet to a 3 foot drop off.  Needless to say, glad I was already pushing the bike.

A couple of sketchy downhills and some lovely bermed turns through the trees later, I was back at the start for the mid-race pit stop at mile 23.  Some coke, a full camelback and a water bottle change later, I was back on the horse.

Now, I should say that for about 15 of the first 23 miles Farmer Steve was behind me.  Chatting and crashing.  Breaking his already not-in-great-shape drivetrain.  I didn't expect to see him again - he claimed a broken shifter cable had caught him in the big ring.  But a familiar Southern Ohio accent came up again, and there he was.  Turns out, he found a full suspension 29er to borrow and finish the race.  Sorta fun having someone to ride with.  I did almost all of the pulling and pace setting for 30+ miles, but I could tell by the little gaps and yo-yoing that Steve was doing on some of the climbs that I really wasn't holding him up.

We got through a creek bottom and headed up - I passed Matt who was in rough shape, cramping, and kept going. Up, up, bottom bracket creaking, up some more.  This was pretty much the biggest climb on the course.  Another rider was cramping too.  I felt bad - this climb had the potential to be demoralizing if you were already having a tough time.  But I kept going.  Pushing harder as the race went on.  Finding familiar territory in the other direction through the pine trees.  Riding technically better than I have in a race in a while.  Hopping logs, rolling through rock gardens, even surviving only about 5 minutes of I-don't-feel-like-racing-anymore bonk.  Down a long doubletrack with loose rocks and a few switchbacks.  Jarring, forearm-bashing downhill.  The only one on the course but almost everyone took note of it.

All of the sudden, we were in a grassy section near the end.  I got my head up at the right time and saw the arrows in the trees where a fair few riders missed the only marginally marked section of the course.  Steve's friend Joe saw me and followed me into the trees, having taken a detour to talk to a few of the locals.

I rode past the pit - Shea was in his shorts still and cheering me on - it was great to see that he'd finished his first endurance race - he's had more than his share of mechanicals this year.  I was a little sad to go through the finish.  I could've taken another 5 miles of that piney section in the woods.

Turns out that only 2 women came for the Ultra distance.  So I won.  In a time much slower than last year's winner, but it's a win nonetheless and who knows how fast or slow I would've ridden given a bigger field.  I scored an awesome beer/flower stein and some moola for the effort.

Oh yeah, we'll be back next year.  Don't let their course description (38 miles of singletrack, 10 miles roads) fool you - the way that other races in the Mid-Atlantic count singletrack, this course is 100% singletrack.  That's 48 miles.  The only vehicles making it down the "roads" - read as washed out fireroads from 25 years ago - have two wheels. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

epic adventures at the watershed

The problem with a great trail system on the east coast is that often it's a bit too easy to get lost.  In Utah, the theme is pretty simple, you go up along the side of a mountain, you go down the other side, rinse and repeat.  You get on the bike and GO somewhere.

Where our terrain is a bit more limited, we don't go anywhere.  Except in circles.  Little loops, connecting one trail to another, figure 8's, all within a handful of square miles.  It took me a while to get used to this and find my way around our local haunts.  But even my cat-like sense of direction (and sense of distance/altitude) still fails when we're somewhere less familiar.

Like Frederick.  Ah, Frederick.  The trails are fantastic. Rocky, steep, mostly rideable.  And completely unmapped.

I've been out there 3 times so far this year.  Not enough.

Trip 1:  Mazz, Shea and I.  We got ridiculously misguided, ran out of water with more than an hour left of riding, and I broke my Sidi's.  Yeah, really - I hit a rock with my crank (a common occurrence) and the sole separated from the upper.  Total ride time was at least 3 hours longer than we'd planned on.  The awesomeness of the riding might've been overshadowed by the complete and total bonk-tasticness of the afternoon.  38 miles in 7 1/2 hours.  In May.  Ouch.

Trip 2: Mazz, Marc and I.  We only got a bit lost, and made it back to the car (and Mexican food) about 1 1/2  hours later than anticipated.  But this relative success was partly because we stuck to some of the trails with blazes in Gambrill.  Mazz did a header over a log at least once, Marc cussed him out for riding his singlespeed up stuff that our geared 29ers thought should be walked.  Good times.  And margaritas and Mexican afterwards at Poblano Grill.  Perfect post-ride food.

Trip 3:  Shea and I.  We couldn't find our intended (new to us) parking spot, but found it by bikes after parking at a popular one.  Total ride time: 15 minutes longer than planned.  No kidding.  Of course, we stopped and some really nice guy named Dave made sure we went the right direction on one of those little gravel roads, but this must've been a record.  Oh, and that counts riding the steep ass hill my coach wanted me to start on and dropping through some phenomenal new singletrack.  I rode hard and started to flow, even through the rock gardens.  Shea even said he was almost at his race pace following me through a smooth spot.  Cool.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

putting on a clean jersey

I wash bike clothes more often than anything else.  Ok, except during ski season, then I wash ski socks more often than anything else.

This week we both ran out of clean socks.  But bike shorts and jerseys and gloves are ready to go.

When I hang dry it all, it's a virtual Kelly advertisement at my house.

But that's not what this post is about.  Last year, I wore a team T-shirt on the podiums I got on.  It was too big, not flattering, and not well-recognized.  I've always kept an extra kit in my race bag... just in case a husband or someone else forgets something truly essential - he's only had to wear girl shorts once... amazing what a girl-shaped chamois will do for your memory!

So now I'm doing the right thing and wearing my clean jersey when I make the podium.

Okay, so I've only managed this twice.  But I like the pattern.  At Michaux, it was, to say the least, pouring down rain when I missed my name being called at the awards ceremony.

Here's hoping I need that clean kit at a few cross races this year.  37 days. Not that I'm counting.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Joining the bloody knee club: round 2

I wrote last year about how everyone who rides with me gets a bloody knee or two.  I'm the one with the trouble this month.

A few weeks ago at Fair Hill, I raced 50 miles and crashed only once, but managed to scrape up both knees in the process.  No biggie.

Until last week when I was running.  I tripped on the sidewalk and fell flat on my face, sorta like a 9 year old.  Laying on a Baltimore street with oozing road rash on both of those newly healed knees, both palms and one elbow, I toughed it out and jogged home.  Past the bus stop with all the people waiting. 

Yeah, that's what I needed in my morning - showing off my I-can't-pick-up-my-feet wounds to a some random Baltimoreans - of course, it is Baltimore, so we should be used to seeing blood. A shower and several howling episodes of Nu-skin spray later, I was off to work.

Yesterday, I was thinking how well I was healing - the scabs were starting to come off and pink new skin was waiting underneath.

But there's a rule for pink new skin - don't abuse it.  Trail running last night... you guessed it, I tripped on a root and fell flat on my face.  Again.  Possibly flatter this time.  So much for that new skin... 

I was also covered in dirt.  Dirt + sweat = a "tan" belly - I'm still fishing some wood chips out of my belly button - perhaps next time I'll wear a shirt instead of just a sports bra. 

Next week, no matter what the coach says, I'm running before I ride!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

rookie mistakes

I've got a new teammate who's a runner by first trade and cyclist second.  And somewhere in there she mountain biked a few times ten years ago without much success.  On a ride a few weeks ago with her,  I realized how much more I know about bikes, bike maintenance, and even how to ride the logs than I did a few years ago.  I owe it all to the peeps who were patient with me and the blood vessels that continue to heal my bruises.

So here are some of easy-to-fix rookie mistakes I've noticed over the last year or so of hanging out with a few newbies in the woods:

1.  Smearing dirty, oily fingers all over the disc brake rotor.

2.  Laying the bike down on the drive train side.  Even the not-so-rookies do this.  It drives my mechanic crazy.

3.  Riding with one leg straight on the downhills. 

4.  Looking where you don't want to wind up.  Hey, sis who rode into/over a rather large rock - this is you.

5.  Over or under tightening skewers.  Yes, I've watched people's REAR wheels fall out of the dropouts over logs. Yes, I've watched this happen more than once.

6.  Under-inflating tires.  Guess this isn't a rookie mistake - it's the single thing my in-house mechanic is not very good at.  Especially when it's his bike.  I predict I will see more of this at Michaux this weekend.

7.  Underestimating the importance of clean shorts for (and after) every ride.

8.  Dropping a chain going uphill due to poor shifting.  Oh, wait, some pros might occasionally do this too...

Monday, July 19, 2010

the one with something left

Yesterday was the Fair Hill race.  Here is my long race report of a pretty solid day. 

Aside: two years ago, my first race ever on a bike and only a bike was at Fair Hill (I did a couple tri's in Utah before realizing that I naturally sink and hate running... I'm a slow learner).  I surprised myself by placing 2nd in the beginner race, the best finish I would have for a while.  That's before I even knew that cyclocross existed.  No, I'm not kidding.  What a difference two years makes.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear if you ask me, I've been doing some enduro stuff this year and was in for 50 miles.  A hot day - it was due to be 90 long before I was due to be off my bike.  And I knew the field was stacked with women that have beaten me by a little and a lot at some of the other long races on the MASS series this year.  But I had a time goal and was going out hard, figuring that it would mean fewer miles in the heat later, even if I bonked.

After a couple miles of doubletrack, we were strung out enough to find some twisty, rooty Fair Hill singletrack.  I am starting to get over the need to yield every time a guy is behind me - finally realizing that I've earned my spot in the train just as much as they have and I'm only slightly more likely to dab on some rocks or a log.  And I'm getting faster at dabbing.

Aside: I also am getting better at holding my line for passes.  This didn't work out for one guy yesterday, who assumed when he called a pass that he could take the trail and I should venture into the derailleur-threatening-stick-laden grass next to it.  He locked handlebars, we both went down for a second, and he rode off.  Note to guys passing me - call your pass and let me have my line and we'll get along just fine.

Lap 1 (27 miles) felt good.  My heart rate was up there for at least the first 1 1/2 hours - almost my normal XC race pace and I was riding clean.  In one swoopy section, I had my own little train of guys behind me.  One of them commented that I smelled better than the last guy he was riding behind.  Eventually they broke off and I was spinning in the woods, drinking Heed and Perpetuem, taking water over my head at the aid stations, and mostly riding smart.

I crashed once on a sharp left hand turn - just leaned it over too far and found myself laying near my bike in the middle of the trail.  Whoops.  A guy with an Aussie accent helped me up.  There are advantages to crashing, I guess.

For about the last 8 miles of lap 1, I was dreaming of the Coke I had safely tucked in my cooler at the finish/start of lap 2.  I could almost taste it.  I was awesome - I finally made it through the rather significant climbing in the last part of the lap, Shea was sitting in a chair, waiting for me.  A fresh supply of Heed and Cerasport, 3/4 of that coke and a couple electrolyte pills later, I was back on my bike for 23 miles of "fun".

This is about the time I usually bonk mentally and have a tough time keeping my pace up.  A guy came by who claimed that every time he passed me he broke his chain (twice at that point) - he must be a bit faster, I thought, so I decided to keep him in sight.  About 5 miles later, he was having some trouble on the climbs and my legs were still feeling good, I passed him and found out later that he broke his chain... again.

Alone for a bit, I squinted when I saw a Bike Line riding across a field ahead of me - hmmm... looked like ponytails.  I was surprised to see Loretta that close, but was gaining on her.  About a mile before the last aid station, she offered the pass, I took it.  Then she realized she'd just given up a spot, and I attacked a bit.  She held on tight.  After a quick move around me on a road section into singletrack, she was gone to the races.  Ah, well.  I had not attacked so hard that I was gassed - I knew we had several steep-ish climbs left, but I figured I wouldn't see her again.

I did.  She was walking up one of those climbs.  When I passed her, she said she cracked. Okay, this never happens to me.  I'm never the one with something left at the end.  Especially on days where I go out hard.  I gapped her and rode semi-conservatively but still, like I was being chased.

About a mile from the finish, I saw two riders moving a bit slower.  A pink jersey... hmmm... but the hips looked like they were too skinny... still, I was pushing my own pace and came up on them in a truly lucky spot in the field, figured out that this was a woman in my race and passed easily.  Shea watched that pass.  I was surprised but determined to ride cleanly on the singletrack and be prepared for a sprint to the finish.

Pink jersey (found out later she's Lisa) was giving it what she had, but I had more.  I got around a slow moving 4 wheeler in the middle of the trail and started the sprint as soon as I hit the asphalt.  By the time I shifted into my big ring, I had no idea how much of a gap I had and was going too fast/too dizzy to look back.  I rode hard to the finish - turns out she gave up on the sprint just after the asphalt started...

I feel a bit bad - I didn't get to congratulate her on a good race.  I was too busy hiding under a tree, trying not to puke.

I was in disbelief when they said I was 3rd.  Seriously?!  I was right in the middle of my goal time window and it was true, I'd squeaked onto the podium in the last 3 miles.

First and second were two of the faster riders in the mid-atlantic and came in nearly 40 minutes ahead of me... I still have some work to do, but what a difference two years makes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The chain devil strikes...

This is actually two race reports.  They both include action by the chain devil.  I was doing the double as a test for cross - where are my legs?  It's been a few months since I raced something under 2 hours

July 10, Hotcycle in Leesburg, VA

Rookie mistakes... I should be done making them, right?  But we left the house without rain gear and were rather damp by the time it stopped raining.  The course was slimy muddy, flat and fast.  A handful of sport women showed up, including Emily from Gripped Racing, who smoked us at Greenbriar and I hoped to hang with.  She had the hole shot but was tentative in the first couple of turns - she recently broke a frame and was on a borrowed ride.  So I passed within the first 1/4 mile and rode like I was being chased.  Soon after I came across Shea, who was DFL in his field fixing a mechanical - I couldn't compute what was happening but saw he had some small parts out... later I figured out that he'd broken a chain and was fixing it with a quicklink.  He passed me later in the lap - looking strong but I could hear Emily back there by about 10 seconds.  We cleared through the slightly more technical section and hit some really flat, super fast trails in the trees.  I put the hammer down and made up some time.... No sign of her by the end of a fast lap 1.

Lap 2 I knew I was losing time in the technical spots, especially as I got into some slower sport riders.  Emily made contact and about 30 seconds later I went for a pass around two guys.  A stick got kicked directly into my drive train... you know where this is going, right?  Emily passed me as I looked despondently at the broken chain and slightly twisted derailleur.  Ugh.  Turns out I could've put the derailleur back and fixed the chain, but I didn't realize the derailleur was still actually in one piece, so I walked it in. :-(  I've been racing a lot and haven't DNF'd in nearly a year.  Bummed to do so while in the lead, actually racing against someone, but that's racing, right?  Shea climbed back up to 22nd in the Sport Men's field.

July 11, D&Q Summer Sizzler in Sewell, NJ

The Sizzler course is "flat" - I don't know how people come up with this - it's true there are no sustained climbs.  But there is no where to rest, few places to feed, and lots of pitchy little stand-and-hope-you-clear-the-uphills-roots sections.  Lots of roots, a few log overs, and a ton of sandy corners on this course. 

The usual MASS suspects were racing with me yesterday, including Caiti who I knew would be tough out there.  I had the hole shot and then crashed early on a slick log over, losing a spot to Caiti... we hung together for a bit - I was gaining on her in the corners, she was gaining on me on those steep little uphills.  She laid it down in a corner, I passed her and we stayed together.  I could see a plan was forming - work together, pushing each other to hold off the field, then race the last 1/2 lap or so against each other for the win.  At least, that was my plan.

But, the chain devil was out this weekend, remember?  In her crash, something got misadjusted in Caiti's drivetrain, so she was shifting with only the front derailleur.  That lasted about 2 miles before a mis-shift coming out of the stream led to a chain laying on the ground.  Bummer.  So now my help was gone and I was MTB time trialing, knowing there were at least 2 others in the field who've beaten me handily in the past.  They were back there... somewhere....

FatMarc was yelling every time I saw him - eat, drink, keep steady.  Useful stuff.  At the end of Lap 2, another Masters' Woman came by me.  I kept her in sight for most of the 3rd lap - trying to keep up or at least stay close...  I thought I saw 2nd place in my race, but the twists in the trail meant I had no idea how far back anyone was.  So I kept pushing.  And hung on for the win!  Hard race, hard course.  Legs hung in there, but there's still some work to do before cross season starts in 9 weeks...

You thought 3 broken chains weren't enough this weekend, eh chain devil?  I hear he also got Susan, who was leading the women's sport masters' race and Dirty Rock, a friend from cross.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When in Belgium... drink the beer!

I've been a bit lax about the blog lately, having gotten back from Europe over a week ago. Pictures to share, fun times and good food to recount. For now, I'll stick to the beer. I don't pretend to be an expert, but with the help of a beer guidebook, we made our way to a few breweries and I sampled as much as I could. Most beers there are served in glasses branded with the brewery name. Not sure this really does much except make it obvious what you're drinking.

We stopped in Achouffe at the brewery, which was a fun tavern for people watching while I sipped the truly stunning La Chouffe blonde. Unlike a lot of Belgian beers, this one may actually be better on tap.
Next up was the miniscule Fantome in the village of Soy. Again, a brewery stop led to a taste and a bottle to bring home. This place is tiny - one room, one tap, boxes everywhere. The beer left something to be desired.
At dinner that night in Hamoir, Belgium, I indulged in some trappiste abbey ale - the Rochefort 8. This was a favorite for the trip. Excellent alongside my guinea fowl with tarragon sauce.

The next day we did something the Belgians apparently like to do, hike then drink beer. At the tiny Marckloff brewpub in Durbuy, the brewmaster told us in halting English about his Louisiana peach ale that wasn't for sale but was for export. But he let us buy a bottle to bring back. The blonde was good, not spectacular, but very solid.

We did a bit of bistro hopping in Durbuy through the middle of the day. Next up for me was a Durboyse brown. Not bad. Very local.

Finally, that night we found a small cafe with the World Cup game on and a single owner doing all the beer pouring, cooking, cleaning and serving.

She was awesome. I had the Leffe (yum), Orval (not bad), the Ramee blonde and the Kriek cherry lambic on tap after the Spaniards won their game. The Ramee was the standout favorite of the trip for me.

I brought back 9 different Belgian beers, including some blondes, browns, and some trappistes. The wine store near my house has a bunch of Belgian beer - they carry 6 of the ones I brought back but not my favorite of the bunch (Ramee) - imagine my surprise when I saw they have beers from the tiny Fantome. They are also almost painfully expensive here - $6 a bottle for the Rochefort - at the beer distributor in Belgium, those were about $1.60. Even at a fancy restaurant they were a mere $3.75. Ah, the price of having someone else import it.

No, we haven't had any of them yet. Shea's been sick. Perhaps we should have a beer dinner? Surely anyone who comes could add to the tasting selection simply by stopping down the street at our wine store.