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.