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.