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.