Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh, hey there, I have a neglected blog...

In the wake of a whirlwind school semester which is currently being finalized with... well...  finals, I have been well aware of the lack of blogging I've done.  It's just that, every time I thought about blogging, I realized that I had some other pressing assignment that I should be working on.  This blog isn't going to get me a really sweet career someday (or is it?), so I need to focus on reaping the most from this educational opportunity which is consuming my already preoccupied life.  Right on.

And so, a whole lot of stuff has been happening, and I haven't been able to write about it.  If we are related somehow via social media, it's likely that you are up to speed, but if not, buckle up; this could be a long and wordy ride...  but I'll try to be brief(ish).

I never planned to race much cross this season - that is, I hadn't planned on it until I realized MTB race season was ending, and I wanted to add some more fun to my schedule.  So I barely rode, didn't exactly train, but raced nearly every weekend.  Now that it's officially over with, I'm glad I did it.  Talk about a learning experience - damn!  I've mentioned in previous posts that I haven't really raced cross before.  I've done a few races here and there, but it's never been my thing.  Yeah, it still isn't - not really.  I do like it though...  next year I'll know what I'm getting myself into, and I'll put a little more effort into being prepared.

The highlight of the season came a little unexpectedly.  We were planning to put on a DAS cyclocross race; there's been one at Owen Bell park since Donnie opened DAS.  This year we'd talked about changing the course a bit - Donnie had some ideas to make the course more spectator friendly.  We also had to change the name of the race because we were using a town park and calling it 'Beer cross' wasn't really good for town image.  No problem...  after joking around at cross practice one Wednesday night, we somehow decided on Beaver Cross.  We got ourselves all set up through USA cycling, and seemed off to a good start.  Then a Facebook post about inequality in women's payouts vs men's payouts spiraled into a never-ending dialogue that had everything from seemingly chauvinist pigs to radical feminists.  Okay, I might be exaggerating, but there were a lot of concerned individuals who felt strongly about what they were saying...  finally, someone pointed out that maybe we should do something rather than talk about it.  Right-O!  Almost immediately, Beaver Cross became all about the Bea....  um, all about the women's payout being as awesome as possible.  Yeah, equal payout would be cool, but how about this time, we show all the ladies that there are people willing to put up some money for them to race.  We ended up with $850 in donations and distributed it 5 deep for both the open women's category AND the 3/4 women's category.  There were also lots of other sweet goodies donated.  Donnie's buddy Oliver offered some of his jerseys... check them out!

Race day went off beautifully!  We had an amazing crew of volunteers helping out, built a kick-ass course, and the weather cooperated for set-up, racing, and clean-up.  This year's race featured in a DJ, a fire, and a quadruple uphill sandpit from your wildest cyclocross nightmares.  To quote one of the participants, it was the "raddest course ever!"  SOOOoooo looking forward to doing it again next year.

...But before next year's cross season gets here, MOUNTAIN BIKE RACING RETURNS!!!  Can you tell I'm excited!?   Well, I have reason to be because there's a lot to be excited about in the New England MTB racing world...  Nationals are coming back to the East coast!  That's right, the end of July will bring some of the fastest racers in the USA out to Bear Creek Resort in PA.  AND THAT'S NOT ALL...  The USA cycling Pro XCT is coming to the East TWICE - to Windham, NY and Catamount, VT.  I bet you're beginning to see why I'm using so many capitals (I'm not sorry if that annoys you... I'm excited; deal with it).  The 2013 season is already looking like it's going to be an amazing one.

Meanwhile, my BA in English is nearing completion...  seriously, I only have senior seminar (two semesters of it) which I'm starting in a few weeks, and my BS in Biology is about a year and half away...  that's if I really buckle down and bust it out - which I've been doing.  Also, my knee problems are en route to a state of resolution...  my IT band is pulling my knee all 'outta-whack' so I'm supposed to be stretching and what-not.  Stretching and use of the foam roller of death seems to be helping a whole lot, so I'll keep on it.

I suppose this wasn't nearly as wordy or long-winded as it could have been...  I'm on break for the next three weeks, so I plan on posting some interesting stuff about fun rides and trail-building.  Here's hoping it doesn't rain the entire time I'm on break!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gloucester GP - adding some experience to my inexperienced status...

Well, that sure was something.  I was hoping to experience a muddy cross race yesterday, and it was delivered.  I don't recall there being many sections of the course that weren't mud unless they were puddles, sand, or pavement.  Challenging is an understatement.

I arrived in Gloucester with plenty of time to register, warm-up, and pre-ride the course.  What I didn't anticipate was maybe wanting to clean my bike off before the start or the fact that it would take me a fair amount of time to get around the course with it being so sloppy.  Slop - what a fun word.  Anyhow, John and John were Skyler's buddies for the day, and she had a blast hanging out with them while I slopped it up.  So I finished my inspection of the course with just under 20 minutes to spare, rode up to my car to drop my water bottle and grab a GU, and by the time I got down to the start area, I'd missed my call-up to row 3 or 4.  

My start in the back of the pack didn't really bother me; I don't have enough experience to warrant a good starting position just yet, and it wouldn't have been fair to people who've been doing this longer.  Last row was just fine.  However, as we hit the mud and I found myself having to dodge other riders, I soon saw the value of starting closer to the front.  At one point, a girl fell in front of me and I rode directly into her.  We politely apologized to one another and were on our way, but in the meantime, the field was getting pretty stretched out.  Over the course of the first lap, which seemingly took forever, I was back and forth with a few other girls, and I tried my best to ride as smooth as possible.  

To sum it up, I managed to stay on the bike when necessary, and I shouldered my bike the proper way on the dismounts, but I had some really ugly moments out there.  All semblance of technical ability was left on the first lap.  I learned a LOT in those three laps (I think it was three anyhow...).  The course was definitely challenging and fun.  It would have been nice to experience the double-race thing and do Saturday's race as well; from what it sounds like, the course was an entirely different animal.  Maybe someday I'll be up for it, but for now, Saturdays I am up for delivering mail.  

I ended up finishing 38th out of 42 finishers - there were a handful of DNFs and DNSs, too.  I wasn't last, and I finished, barely.  It certainly was a learning experience.  Today, my shoulder is sore, it hurts to wear my backpack full of books, and I think I still have some mud in the corners of my eyes, but climbing four flights of stairs with said backpack seems a lot easier than climbing a muddy hill shouldering a bike covered in 20lbs of debris.  Believe it or not - I'm looking forward to doing it again.  The Night Weasels Cometh this Wednesday to Shrewsbury! 

Cross Twenty-Eleven = 3 Races in 3 Months; Cross Twenty-Twelve = 3 Races in 5 Days... any questions?

I guess I finally get it.  There's just something about racing for 40-60 minutes at the highest level you can manage to put out...  I can't say I'm completely buying into it enough where I'm going to do all the silly stuff - like spend time gluing tires to wheels or bring two bikes to a race, though I can see the value in these activities - but I fully intend to learn how and when my body should be pushed to its limit within the course of a race.

Last year, I raced three times, and I had no idea what I was doing other than riding my bike, getting off my bike, remounting my bike, and suffering.  I raced at Mansfield Hollow, Hopbrook, and the local DAS race all at random throughout the season.  While my intention coming into the 2012 season was not to race every weekend, it seems as though I might come pretty close.  The races are close enough, short enough, and fun enough that they don't take too much time out of my homework-filled weekends. The brevity of the actual race and the fact that the course is a shorter circuit than a mountain bike race makes it an ideal event to bring the family to.  I'm not saying that cross is better than mountain biking - I'm only admitting that it does have some perks, and I've decided to embrace it.

So, I started out the season last Saturday at the Expo Wheelman's Silk City Cyclocross in Manchester CT.  The starting line was filled with experienced racers and regardless of my mountain bike fitness, I knew it was going to be a tough race.  Before the start, I spent plenty of time warming up, but I didn't get a chance to ride the course at all.  Rumor had it that it was a mountain biker's sort of course because it had some good off-camber sections and some tricky stuff, so I was hoping that would work to my advantage.  I should have pre-ridden it.  Yes, it was my kind of course, but I made some stupid mistakes, especially on the first lap, that I wouldn't have made if I'd spent some time going through the course carefully before the start.  There was one spot in particular where I was going to fast over a blind hill and didn't know there was a corner on the other side.  No amount of braking could stop me from going through the tape and off course.  You live/race and you learn.  I finished 4th and got to podium with some very fast ladies - the loot was pretty sweet, too... cash and Verge accessories.

Sunday I went up to Auburn, NH for the 2012 Suckerbrook Cyclocross Race.  Unlike Saturday's race, there were two options for the ladies - a category 2/3/4 race and an open race.  Based on my mountain bike license with USAC, I was automatically registered as a Cat 1 cyclocross racer (despite my HUGE lack of experience).  I'm trying to embrace this, and realize that it won't really hurt anything for me to race against the really fast girls.  So that's what I did on Sunday.  It was insane, and I watched as woman after woman rode away from me on the straightaways and I caught up to them in the very small sections of woods.  I left that race with a finish of 15 out of 20 and the knowledge that I needed power...  unfortunately in this case, knowledge is NOT power.

Wednesday night...  The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross in Lancaster, MA.  The women's open race was dubbed Elite Women and for good reason.  The best of the best were there.  Not only were there some of the best women in New England signed up, but these girls are some of the best in the country.  My goals for the night were 1) gain experience, 2) not get lapped, and 3) push harder than I did on Saturday and Sunday.  So, I spent some time warming up with Jordan Dube, and with 15 minutes to go before the race, I noticed my tire was getting a little squirrelly.  Sure enough, I had a flat - fortunately, I had a tube in the car, and even if I hadn't, a couple of people offered to lend me a wheel (thank you again, both Shawn M and Kate N's hubby).  So, I somehow was in the second row at the start and shakin' in my chamois.  Racing on pavement and in a tight pack is terrifying for me - mostly because I have no experience at it - and as luck would have it, the start was on pavement.  I'd pre-ridden this course earlier in the evening, but the sun was still out, so when I hit the dark corners of the course, it was a little unnerving.  I eventually got into a groove and rode hard.  The course was fun.  I managed to ride everything smoothly until the final lap where I went down in some woodchips.  The rider behind me gained some ground but didn't pass me until the final straightaway where we had a sprint finish.  I ended up finishing 11th out of 22.

What a fun couple of days...  and there're more coming.  I can't race Saturday at Gloucester because I need to work, but I'm signed up for Sunday and should be starting somewhere in the last row.  Wednesday night will be a race in Shrewsbury, MA called the Night Weasels, and the following weekend is the Providence Cyclocross Festival - again, I can only race on Sunday.  It's crazy how much more I like it the more I try it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Landmine Classic (NOT the marathon)

Sunday brought my 2012 mountain bike race season to an official close, and while I loved every minute of it (almost), I sure am glad to take a break.  It's funny though...  I say this, but earlier this morning I found myself on Bikereg.com looking at the remaining mountain bike races in the New England area.

I'm signed up for a handful of cyclocross races with the hope that I'll learn how to push myself a little harder.  It's not my favorite sort of racing (short, intense, lots of dismounts and remounts), but it'll keep me going while I'm plugging away at my education.  I'm a little nervous...  I'm inexperienced at it, and I am expected to race at the Cat 1 level because of my experience in the MTB race world.  I've never done a road race, so I can't even draw from that sort of experience (nor do I ever wish to have that experience).

So, mountain bike race season, for me, is complete for 2012.  The Landmine Classic, at Wompatuck State Forest in Hingham Mass, is a race I've done a few times before.  The first time I did it, I hated every moment of it, but I went back and raced the marathon version twice and loved it.  This year, with time constraints and my daughter there waiting for me to finish, I figured there was no need to be out racing for half the day.  Besides, it sure would be nice to come through the 25 mile loop and be finished rather than get back out there for another lap.

The week leading up to the race, like many years in the past, brought with it a fair amount of rain.  For me, that would work to my advantage - I knew I wasn't at my peak for speed, but I knew I could ride the challenging wet roots and rocks without much of a hitch.

The race started off in the usual fashion - me trying to keep up with the other girls at the start.  I think I actually stayed within 20 feet of them for the first 1/2 mile or so.  My starts are terrible though, and they slowly started to slip away.  Hopefully a little bit of cyclocross will help me with that.  Meanwhile, I didn't let that bother me.  I knew there was plenty of tech coming up and hoped they'd slow a little in there.  I never saw either of my opponents again until the end of the race, but I wasn't far from second.  Crystal Anthony finished in 2:08:26, Karin Holmes in 2:14:01, and I was right there at 2:14:52.  There were definitely places where I know I should have been going faster or harder.  I could have passed some people sooner, and instead of taking my time to eat and drink on the paved sections (they connected a lot of the singletrack sections), I could have chugged a little faster and really hammered.  But, as I've already said, I'm not at my fastest right now anyhow.

The course was a blast, and I was fortunate enough to have friends from the NBX team offer to keep an eye on my daughter while I was out racing.  Not only that, but along with the Union Velo team, my NBX pals also provided us with a post-race gourmet buffet.  It was a great ending to the season.

Based on the number of races I did this season with the Root 66 Race Series, I finished in top standing for points.  This means I got to take home a Series Champion Root 66 Jersey!

A big thank you to all of my friends and family this season for putting up with me and this crazy obsession...  it's been a lot of fun.  2013 will be even better!

In the meantime, I'm back in school full-time - 5 courses + 2 labs = a lot of f-ing work.  The good news is, I'm almost done with my English degree, and then I can completely devote myself to Bio and get it done.  Don't ask me what I plan on doing with my degree(s)...  I haven't officially decided on anything yet.  It's an evolutionary process for me, but I know that I'm on the right track with biology.  I can't get enough of it.

Okay, now where did I put that cowbell...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Hampshire 100 (miles): Holy Hell that was HARD!

The longer I wait to write about this, the fluffier my memories seem to become, and quite frankly, there was nothing fluffy about the New Hampshire 100 - neither the 100k nor the 100 mile option.  I didn't even see a fluffy animal out there.  What I did see was a whole lot of New Hampshire countryside... 100 miles of it.  Sure, I saw some of it twice - we rode the 100k loop and went back out for an abbreviated loop of some of the same stuff - but every mile counted, and I certainly did count them.

Saturday morning, I met up with Dan - a fellow DAS rider, and we loaded up his truck and family camper for what we anticipated as being the most epic race of our race season.  It was raining lightly as we packed, but as soon as we hit I-395, the rain came down in sheets and it was slow going.  We had hopes of getting to Greenfield, NH by 1pm, but I think we rolled in closer to 2pm after making a stop in an unmentionable creepy town where things just seemed a little off.  Fortunately, the skies were blue and clear, and the temperatures seemed perfect along with the forecast for Sunday (race day). 

We set up camp while we waited for our friends to arrive.  As soon as Kevin, John, and Haley arrived, we all headed over to check-in at the venue.  Our campground was actually across the street from the start/finish area, and the final stretch of the race went through a portion of the campground.  Kudos to Amy (Dan's wife) for finding us such a sweet place to stay!  

Check-in consisted of acquiring our number plates, a goody bag, a cool t-shirt, and a sweet pint glass.  We joked that since we had the shirt and the glass, we didn't need to actually do the race...  of course, that wasn't why we were there.  Back at the campsite, I was scanning the facebook feed and noticed that our friend Jesse, who had just gotten back to CT from racing Leadville the previous weekend and had ridden all week out west, had decided to come race the 100 miler with us.  We were still expecting Alby to join us at the campground, but with the motto of the more the merrier, we told Jesse he could crash at our site as well.  In the fashion of true campers, we spent a portion of the evening sitting around a non-existant campfire watching youtube videos of silly things that Kevin knew we would enjoy, and we watched as Jesse carbo-loaded on Teddy Grahams and Ginger Snaps.  Ginger Snaps are delicious.

After a restless night of tossing and turning, we woke up at 5am and slowly started to come to terms with the fact that it was, indeed, the day we had been waiting for.  For some of us, the commitment came in January, and for others, March, while some waited until the day before the race...  but there we all were.  

Lining up at the start, I looked around at the enormous amount of people who had shown up for what was bound to be a very long day on the bike.  It was pretty impressive.  The race started in waves - first off was the men's 100 mile open category, then came the singlespeed open category with the women's open, and all of the 100k categories started after us.  I watched as the pack took off quickly in front of me, and I tried to ignore the fact that they were going to have quite a lead on me.  I knew it was going to be a long day.  I also knew that the first 20 miles were supposed to ride fast and easy, but we would hit a wall around mile 20, and that's when things would get really hard really fast.  I figured I'd better not blow up...  boy, am I glad I did what I planned.  The wall was definitely a wall.  Not long after that, we came to the power line climb which was touted as a "power line climb."  There was no riding it.  The course was just too congested at that point.  I was actually amazed at how many people I was riding with through most of the race.  

There was definitely a good amount of climbing.  I decided to race with a GPS so I could keep track of my time and speed.  I wanted to stay on track and finish in 10 hours, but I knew when I came through the start/finish at the 100k mark that it was going to be tough.  I was at about 6.5 hours and I had no idea what the middle of the next loop would look like, but having seen how slow the last miles of the 100k loop had ridden, I knew that I'd have to go as fast as possible in the sections where I could.  At that point, I had no idea where any of the other women were at except that Susan Lynch was somewhere behind me.  

As it turns out, Sue wasn't too far behind me at all.  I'm not exactly sure where we met up, but it was somewhere in the beginning of the second loop, and we spend a fair amount of time riding within site of one another.  It was alongside of Sue that I came to the wall of a climb that we got in exchange for ditching the big climbs that were in the first loop.  This is probably where I got the most negative, if you even want to call it that.  I never really got into any dark places, and I attribute that to the fact that the weather was perfect and I stayed hydrated and jacked up on caffeinated GUs.  I yelled at the hill.  I complained out loud and got very very annoyed at the hill.  The thing is, that doesn't really do much of anything to help.  Sue and I were both walking, and we both got back on our bikes as soon as it looked like there was any sort of traction to be had, but we both got really quiet as we made our way up that beast of an incline.  It was the sort of hill where you can't see how big it is because there are corners in it and every time you go around a corner it goes up some more.  Ahhh, here I am complaining again.  I just want to get across how big this hill was.  It was a very big hill.  There.  

So, I got to the top of the hill, and it's not really the top because it's a road or something that seems to go up some more.  I was waiting for a downhill, but I don't remember getting anything that really satisfied my desire to descend.  At this point, I realized I was pulling away from Sue.  I was digging deep.  I love her to pieces, but a race is a race, and I really really wanted to finally get a chance to drop her on a climb.  Somehow, I still had 'race' left in my legs.  Off I went, and I didn't really see her again until she crossed the line 6 minutes after me.  

I suppose the hardest part of the race for me was switching back and forth from fast fire road riding to slow single track. Shifting mental gears proved to be extremely difficult, and trails that I would normally find to be pretty easy to ride were extremely challenging.  I was a bobbling mess.  Regardless, I was still able to ride a lot of sections that others were walking, so I used that to my advantage.  

So, in all, it was a long day - 10 hours and 14 minutes - 5th overall woman.  4 pee stops, and I think 5 aid station stops, but I can't be sure.  The best pit stop was at the 100k mark where I got my chain lubed and had some coca cola.  I think I drank more soda on Sunday than I have in the past year.  During the race, I drank GU Roctane in very diluted amounts and tried to drink a bottle an hour along with a GU or some sort of food every 45 minutes.  Bananas, as in the 12 hour races, were a staple food for me.  They're just so easy to get down - I really couldn't handle having to chew. As far as pain goes, I felt relatively good on the bike with the exception of my knees (a lot of climbing will do that), and when I got off the bike, I had stabbing pain in between my shoulder blades.  I also became acutely aware that I had an epic diaper rash.  Amazingly though, I escaped the 100 miles with no saddle sores.  

Monday I was fatigued, but not in too much pain.  The diaper rash had subsided.  My biggest issue was exhaustion and getting moving after sitting.  Once I was up and moving, it wasn't horrible.  Tuesday I had planned as a relax and rejuvenate day.  I drove to Westport, CT for 90 minutes in an isolation tank and came out feeling 10 times better than when I went in.  In the evening I went for the weekly mountain bike ride out of DAS and put the hammer down a couple of times which felt surprisingly good.  By this morning, I was feeling much better.  I'm still feeling exhausted, but that's to be expected.  

What's next?   Oh boy... there's a lot going on right now.  I'll get to that some other time, but as far as races go, I have only the Landmine Classic on the 9th of September and then MTB race season is officially done for me.  I plan on doing some cyclocross racing, but that will have to be planned around the jam-packed fall semester of school and being a mommy.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The morning of...

I've never done a blog post on 'the morning of' a race, but it seems that I might have something more interesting to say with my nerves being a jumbled mess.

Last week's race in Meriden, CT at the motorcycle club was The Wrath of the Boneyard.  It is one of my favorites.  I love the course because of its bony rocky nature, and I think that might be a deterrent for some people.  Personally, the more technical the course, the more fun I'm going to have; so bring it.

With no other pro/open racers, I lined up with the rest of the Cat 1 women and raced the same number of laps as them.  We started off fast; I set the pace hard to get myself a good lead before settling into a rhythm.  That's not usually my style, but I've learned to no let others get in my way when there's a chance the course might be technical.  It's the climbs that I seemed to fail at.  For the first few laps, Sue Lynch and I were back and forth, but when she finally passed me on one climb, that was the last I saw of her.  She got about a minute's lead on me, and that's where we finished.  We were also at least eighteen minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.

It was honestly a fantastic race.  Sue and I have been back and forth all season with our times being around the same.  The only time I ever seem to gain anything on her is when there are techy downhills involved.

I raced the 666 TT again this week too.   Despite fumbling through the very first tech section and not really feeling like I wanted to race, I managed to get into my zone and had a really fast and flowy run (flowy for a rocky wasteland of tech).  Week one's time was 44:54 (I think), week two was 44:24 (or around there), and this week I finally broke 44 and pulled out a 43:53.  I'm only doing one more week of this, even though it's a complete blast.   I need to chill out at the local shop ride a couple times before school starts again, and even though the TT is a barrel of laughs, I need to get away from 'racing' for a bit before the NH100 arrives (3 weeks from today... crap).

This week I am off on Wednesday, and I'm planning an enduro type of ride around the Arcadia/Pachaug areas.  I need a solid 6-8 hours on my bike, and it sounds like I'll have a couple of buddies to do it with.

I'm off to Winsted this morning with my number one fan.  She's all fired up for the kid's race, so at least one of us is in race mode.  Winsted Woods has been a slippery mess the past few times I've raced there, so this won't be anything new. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge of slimy rocks and roots rather than the loose sandy corners we've been seeing most of the season.  Here's hoping for a safe and fast race today...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time Trialing, Cow-biking, Time Trialing

I'm finding myself in a block of racing/busy right now with no room to budge.  Beginning last Tuesday, the Arcadia Time Trial Series picked back up again with the most technical MTB time trial around.  It's one of those courses that can and will break anyone who falters in the slightest way.  This race will run on Tuesday evenings through the rest of July, and I intend to race each week.  At the same time, there are back to back races on the Root 66 Race Series every weekend now through August 5th.  After that I have a Sunday off, and then it's time for the New Hampshire 100 miles.  The weekend after that, I'm looking forward to getting away to Maine to witness one of my favorite couples when they tie the knot, but that brings the last week of August along... school begins again.  Fortunately, my one last summer hurrah comes Labor Day weekend with the annual 'DAS and friends' trip up to Kingdom Trails.  I have classes the Friday that we leave, but I'm hoping to strike a deal with my professors so I can get on the road early enough to get some riding in when we arrive Friday.  

So, in the meantime, I'm attempting to work 6 days a week at the post office, and I'm hoping to get back to processing firewood again soon (maybe I'll write a blog post someday to explain what exactly goes on with that monstrosity of a job).  When I'm not working, I'm trying to spend time with my daughter doing fun summer stuff, and when she's with her dad, I ride.  

I'm getting offtrack... life is busy, big deal.  

The Arcadia Time Trial... Last week I went all out.  We pre rode the course beforehand at a pretty good clip, and it was hot out.  Needless to say, I didn't hydrate enough and after a long ride home staring at blinding headlights, my headache had quickly evolved into a migraine.  No sooner had I gotten home when my stomach decided it was time to purge...  I spent the rest of the week meeting the goal of drinking a gallon of water a day and hoping not to overheat again. 
Despite overheating last week, I managed to crank out a pretty fast time.  My time was comparable to last year, but the course is extended by a few minutes.  I'm definitely riding way faster than I was last year.  

In the days following my overheating episode, I did some resting, a short, fast, climby ride on my singlespeed, and some exploring around Nathan Hale.  Getting back out on the singlespeed felt crazy and foreign, but it was soooooo fun!  

Sunday's race was in Keene, NH on the new course at Stonewall Farm.  In the past, the Root 66's Bikes for Bovine event was made up of this one really long loop that had an awful fire-road climb and a long stretch of rail-trail with only a small amount of single-track.  This year's course was an impressive array of tight twisty trails that swooped up and down, back and forth, and dipped through small lines of rocks.  It was perfect!  
The race went okay for me after the first 1 or 2 laps.  It was pretty hot out, and I hadn't ridden the course before, so I had no idea how much climbing was out there.  As it turns out, there was a lot.  I felt myself starting to overheat on the first lap, and after Tuesday, I was a little freaked out, so I dialed my effort back quite a bit...  so much so, that the other girls got quite a lead on me after just the first lap.  Coming through the feed zone after lap 1, I poured a bunch of water over my head and pounded some Accelerade.  I took the opportunity to eat the one GU I had packed (epic fail on my part... I usually race with at least 3 GUs in my pocket), and a little ways into the second lap, I started to feel like I was going to be okay.  For the rest of the race, my speed gradually increased, but at that point, there was no catching back up.  At least I didn't overheat, and immediately after crossing the finish line, I went and laid in the nearby stream.  I was pretty dirty with all of the dust sticking to my sweaty self.  It actually looked like I'd raced a muddy one.
I finished in 3rd (there were three of us).  Crystal Anthony was up a good ten minutes and Kate Northcott about two minutes.  I need to get past my crappy first laps and start rocking them instead.  I think the time trial is helping with that though.

So this week, I got to Arcadia early, and rather than pre-riding the entire course, I cut through some sections and practiced some of the tough technical sections to see where the best lines were.  There are still a couple that I can't quite get, but I actually see where the best lines are and can get part of them.  Maybe next week I'll dial in a couple more.  This course is definitely not one for the roadies.  If you can't ride tech, you best know how to run it.  
Photo of TT peeps  stolen from my buddy Mike's Facebook page.  Thanks Mike.  
I started off hard, but I had it in the back of my mind that I didn't want to overheat.  I consciously tried to breath out the heat and drink a lot.  Also, I soaked myself with water before I started, so I had the cooling effect of a wet jersey to assist me.  I was riding a little sloppy at the beginning, and having forgotten my gloves, I was having trouble gripping the bars without sliding my thumbs into my shifting levers.  Finally, after going over a log, I slipped and hit the lever in mid-air, freaked out and grabbed my breaks, and sent myself over the bars into another log.  My bike landed on my head and back.  Luckily, nothing was too busted.  My knee took a beating on something hard and my hand landed on the log, but I was still able to ride it out.  I ended up with a time a few seconds faster than last week despite feeling slower, crashing, and fumbling my way through lines that I rode easily last week.  

My right hand is swollen in the padded area at the base of my thumb and my knee has a small cut along with some bulbous swelling.  It's funny, but this is the same injury on the same hand that I got at the same time last year...  HAH!  At least I know it will go away.  I'm going to use the trainer the rest of the week... (maybe).
I'm looking forward to Sunday's race in Meriden, CT.  It's got lots of rocks, and it's one of my favorite courses.   Here's hoping my thumb is more happier about pushing the shift lever by then.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

post 12-hour race week, world cup, and some "Race the World"

Tired is an understatement of how I felt last week.  My sleep fluctuated between deep, dead to the world, unmoving unconsciousness to the restless toss and turn type of sleep that comes with pushing your body harder than what is considered normal.  Also, I rode my bike very little.  I went to the local Coast & Toast ride at DAS on Tuesday night, and I rode to the library with the family on Thursday.  The first time I really got on my bike was Saturday morning to pre-ride the World Cup XC race course before the pros would occupy it the rest of the day and also, before I would race five laps of it Sunday morning.

Before I made it up to Windham, NY, it was starting to look like my plans to watch the World Cup racers were going to fall through, and I'd be driving out there solo late Saturday.  I had requested that Saturday off from work back in December, but being a sub, I'm required to work if something comes up that takes the regular carrier I sub for off the route.  I had almost given up hope when I finally got ahold of someone who said they'd do it.  Beyond happy and no longer mad at the world, I let my travel companions know that I was still in.

We all met up at DAS after work on Friday and were on the road shortly before 5pm.  A stop in along the way at Syl's long-time friend's place for dinner left us with full bellies and smiles on our faces.  We finally got to our weekend home, a cabin in the woods, shortly after 11pm.  Arriving there in the dark, the place looked like something out of a scary movie, but seeing it in the light of the morning quickly dispelled any notions of chainsaw-carrying psychos.  Mike took a picture...

We had to be up early to sneak in any pre-riding on the race course; the pro U-23 guys were scheduled to start at 9, and we wanted to be off the course by 8:45.  Getting there later than planned left us with time for only one lap, but it was a well-spent lap.  We found the best lines and committed them to memory, and we were able to see where it was safe to unleash the speed and where it was best to use some caution.  Lack of rain had left the mountain dry and dusty, and the hot windy weather they were getting up there only helped to dry the course out more.  After one lap, our bikes were covered in a thick film of dust.

After the pre-ride, the plan was to get breakfast, head back to the cabin to clean up and chill for a bit, and drive back in time to watch the women's race.  Unfortunately, an excessively long wait for breakfast left us with 30 minutes to drive home, shower, and drive back.  Somehow we got back in time to have only missed the start.  The race was amazing.  Georgia Gould lead the entire race, and by the last lap, had a 50+ second lead on Catherine Pendrel and Katerina Nash.  She was killing it.  We spent the entire race moving around to different technical spots on course to watch how the ladies were choosing their lines, and on the last lap, Syl suggested getting a spot on the final corner before the finish so we could see the last section of the race as well as the finish line.  It turned out to be perfect, but at the same time, we had an up-close view of the heartbreaking finish that put Georgia in 3rd with a flat tire and her teammates sprinting past her for 1st and 2nd.

The men's race seemed pretty boring after that, but Adam Craig's decision to ride a single-speed in baggy shorts gave us all something to talk about and cheer for.  That must have been painful!  After their finish, we headed to the store for dinner supplies and then home to get crackin' on our feast.  Syl's brother was in the area, and he joined us for dinner.  I decided to have a beer, but with the level of exhaustion I was at after not being fully recovered from the prior weekend and walking up and down the mountain in the sun all day, the beer acted like a narcotic and I found myself ready for bed at 7pm.  Somehow, I managed to wait until 9, but as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was pretty much dead to the world until the alarm startled me out of my deep sleep at 5 am.  I probably could have slept until 9am easily, but I wanted to eat breakfast and give it time to digest before my 8am race start.

We headed over to the mountain at around 7, and thankfully, Mike was willing to work the feed zone.  This meant that our bottles were going to stay in the cooler until we needed them.  With the sun already strong at 8am, we would have been drinking some disgustingly warm beverages if he hadn't stood in the sun for us.  Here's Mike's view of the feed zone...

I did my best to warm up, but I knew that nothing was going to prepare my legs for racing up that mountain quite like actually racing up that mountain.  I lined up with Molly Throdahl (spelling?), Jane Pearson, and Francis Morrison - all fast ladies.  On the first lap, Molly quickly pulled away, never to be seen again, and Jane pulled up ahead of me by about 20-30 seconds for most of the race.  I passed Francis somewhere on the first lap on one of the climbs after following her for a short way through some of the technical sections.  I made my way towards Jane and tried to stay within site of her. We could see each other for most of the first four laps, but on the fifth, she later told me that I had gotten too close for comfort, so she turned the power up.  She ended up finishing about 90 seconds or so ahead of me, and Molly was about eleven and a half minutes up.  She was hammering!  She also managed to get the prize for fastest women's lap time.  All podium finishers were awarded with a jug of chocolate milk, but given that fact that milk consumption induces migraines in my poor little head, I let Syl attempt to drink it all.  It was a big jug, and it later served as my Stein when I got home and went to Stein Sunday at the local brewery.

Thanks for the cool shot, Syl!
As soon as the podium stuff was through, I headed over to help out in the feed zone with Syl.  It was a great spot to cheer on friends and other racers.  I was feeling the sun a little too much at that point, but I tried to keep hydrated, and that seemed to help keep me from feeling ill.  Mike appeared to be MIA on the last lap, but he ended up getting a flat near the top of the mountain, so he had to run his bike down the rest of the course.  I give him big kudos for finishing like that.

Lucky for us, we didn't really have to be out of the cabin by any specific time, so we we back and took our time eating, showering, and cleaning up the cabin.  It was nice to be able to drive home clean with full bellies.  The weekend was a complete blast!  What a great couple of guys!  I also got home early enough to head down to the Willimantic Brewing Company to enjoy my postal worker discount and have my new "stein" filled for $5.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Planning in Advance" - Sun up to Sundown MTB race...

I imagine that I'm experiencing the sort of feelings throughout my body that I'll be feeling when I'm old and wrinkled with white hair.  Fortunately, I know this total body-ache will be gone in a few days, and the fatigue will fade into the past along with the memory of the pain.  And then, I will sign up for another 12 hour race and try to push myself even further.

Last weekend was a relaxing non-race weekend spent with the boyfriend and our daughters up at Kingdom Trails.  We rode slow and showed the girls some of the more tame trails while Mike and I ducked out on some more challenging stuff here and there.  On the way home, I was looking at the race schedule for the upcoming weekend, and I had originally planned on doing the Root 66 race in VT, but there was this 12 hour race in CT that kept drawing my attention in.  I had a score to settle with the 12 hour endurance type of event, and that score was with my own ego.  I called it quits after only 9.5 hours at Bradbury last year; in my mind, that's quitting.  So I had a goal this year of completing a 12 hour race.  What better race than one only an hour and twenty minutes from home on the weekend with the most daylight!?  So with only a small amount of haggling, I signed up.  (Shout out to Dan Biscup, haggling is for chumps... the NH100 awaits your registration fee).

So, on Saturday after work, I went home, packed up, and headed out.  I crafted a sweet bed in the back of the mini-cooper.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture, but Alby (who had also signed up spur of the moment as a "business decision") can vouch that I was quite proud of myself.  I got to the venue just in time to check-in and get myself acquainted with my surroundings before heading down to the sweetest boy scout mess hall ever.  There was a salad bar to accompany our pasta dinner, and the obliging man of the kitchen kindly cooked up a special dish of meatless sauce for myself and another rider.  With a full belly, I decided I may as well pre-ride the course, and on my way to the car, I made two new friends, Chris and John, who allowed me to tag-along on their pre-ride.  As it turns out, this would be their first mountain bike race ever, and they were a two-person team.  It seems that this "first bike race ever" idea was a theme for the weekend.  As we made our way around the course, I quickly noted some unusual things: 1) there was a side loop on the first part of every lap that we had to remember to do before looping back into a part where we'd already been and then passing it again later, 2) there was a very grassy field that hadn't been cut very short, 3) there wasn't much single track, and 4) the loops were pretty short.  That being said, the course was not exactly easy, and nor was it boring.

The venue was Mattatuck Boy Scout Camp, and that place is the shizzle.  I'd love to be a boy scout.  As it turns out, I'm a girl, and I'm too old now...  there's always reincarnation.  So, after the pre-ride, there was some consuming of [soda] accompanied by bike/race talk, and we turned in shortly after 10pm.  The snooze in my car wasn't so bad, but it took me awhile to fall asleep because someone was setting off fireworks nearby.  I woke up before my alarm shortly before 5:30, and slowly got my stuff together before the race.

By 6:50, people were finally working their way over to the starting area.  This being the first time this race was put on, there were only a small number of participants, but the promoters and the people who turned out were fantastic.  We got off to our official start at around 7:03 by my watch, and Alby warned me to keep to set the pace and make it comfortable.  Shortly thereafter, he was out of sight.

I'm not going to do a lap by lap explanation of how things went down, because they are all jumble together, and there were 22 of them.  Basically, I went hard for the first 6 hours and managed to complete two laps per hour pretty comfortably while still stopping for calories and water once an hour or so.  It was around the halfway-point when I notice that it was getting warm out and that was making me feel kind of awful.  I quickly dialed back my pace and made an extra effort to drink more water and locate water to dump over my head.  After about two hours of laps with cool-down stops, I started to feel good again.  I also ate some almonds and took my longest break of about 5 minutes.  The last four hours were spent in counting down the hours in my mind.  John Tarbox and I were back and forth throughout the race.  I stayed out there going steady, while he took breaks but rode at a faster speed than I did, and we both seemed to be encouraging one another most of the race.

After pre-riding the course, I'd set myself a high goal of 24 laps for the twelve hour period, but I knew that wasn't going to happen after I started to overheat.  No big deal - the real goal was finishing the 12 hours.  So I kept going.  There were times where I'd feel some negativity creeping in, but somehow, I managed to push those thoughts aside every time they started to surface.  When the cramp in my left shoulder would pop up, I'd tell myself that it was a reminder to practice better posture, and I'd readjust my position.  It was a 12 hour exercise in posture, and it was a hill-repeat workout times twenty-two.  It was an meditation in maintaining a positive outlook while enduring some serious pain in all parts of the body.  I'm proud to say that while I didn't think I'd be able to climb the final hill more than 15 times, I climbed it all 22.

So, I was initially disappointed because I thought I'd only done 95 miles, but I've been informed that I was a few miles over 100.  I can now officially say that I've done a century (I still have yet to do one on the road and could care less).  I finished as the first female, and as it turns out, I was third overall.  In first was Alby (25 laps and a mechanical), and in second was John.  I had no idea that John and I were battling it out for "2nd" the whole time; had I known...  eh, who am I kidding, he was way faster than me! All in all, it was one hell of a good time.  I met some really cool people, and I got to witness some first timers giving it their all on one heck of a tiring course.

In retrospect, I probably should have waited until after the World Cup race weekend to do a 12 hour race, but I am not racing in the actual World Cup race, so it doesn't really matter all that much.  I'm looking forward to what will be a very short race next weekend.

PS - I wish there were some pictures, but I was too busy riding my bike for 12 hours.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

finally feeling it...

While Coyote Hill was a complete debacle, the last two races helped me gain my confidence back, and I was reminded me what it feels like to get into a groove during a race.

Domnarski Farm was 2 X 10 mile laps of hard-core backwoods mountain biking.  That course had some of everything and a whole lot of muddy puddles.  I ended up pulling a third place finish there after finally letting myself start off slow and  easy, just like my legs like.  I tend to feel good after about 45 minutes and drop the hammer then.  If I start off too fast, I spend the rest of the race thinking about how much I want to quit...  not a good state of mind.  Regardless of how well I did, I was left wondering if I'd pushed hard enough; I was still able to run up the basement stairs that night with a load of laundry.

Pat's Peak Cross-Country Race was today, and again, I started off easy.  The course went straight into climbing, and there was nowhere to rest.   I don't remember it being so technical the last time I'd done it a couple years ago, but it's definitely changed for the better.  It was a true mountain bike course: on a mountain with challenging terrain.  I watched as Crystal, Jena, and Mo rode away from me in the beginning, but as the technical single-track wound it's way up the mountain, I maintained sight of Jena and Mo for a while.  Eventually, Mo was completely out of sight, but Jena and I sort of rode together for most of the first lap.  She'd had some issues with her brakes before the start of the race, but the problem resurfaced before we finished the first lap.   I found out later that she wasn't able to finish.

Thinking that I was still chasing Crystal and Mo,  I let myself hope that I'd catch sight of them again after I started gaining momentum in the 2nd and 3rd laps - the 3rd being my best.  I had some good encouragement from the sidelines telling me that I wasn't that far away from Mo, and I kept thinking, cool, but where's Crystal.  I didn't realized until the awards that Crystal didn't finish either.   I ended up in second.  I have no idea what my time was, but I had kept a general watch on my lap times during the race and knew that I had finished the race in well under 3 hours.

I'm not exactly sure what's changed for me in the past two weeks since Coyote Hill, but I'm willing to bet it has to do with the fact that I've actually had time to ride my bike.  I got in one really good 5 hour mountain bike ride this week and a 25 mile ride this past Friday night that I wasn't really recovered from yet.  I did a little bit of yoga and a little bit of technique work.  However,  I think the biggest change I've undergone is a drastic loss of stress.  The school semester is over, and I've only got one class going on right now while I work as many hours as possible, ride my bike a bunch, and spend every minute that I can with my daughter.  I didn't realize how stressed I was over school.

In the upcoming weeks, I'm planning to get in one really long ride every week and add some more commuting to my routine.  Next weekend is a trip to Kingdom Trails with the kids and no racing, and I'm hoping to do a little more relaxing as soon as I'm done with my class on Modern American Grammar.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It may have been Coyote Ugly, but I felt like Princess of the Kingdom...

While I managed to find myself at the top of the podium this weekend, I am sad to announce that first place in pro/open doesn't necessarily mean that I didn't get my ass kicked brutally by the Cat 1 ladies.  I had a terrible race, and all I can say is that school has been my priority for the past month or so - training has not.  Other than that?  No excuses. More on all that in a bit...

The weekend, as a whole, was marvelous.  John H and I rode Friday night from my place over through Mansfield Hollow and back, and we loaded up my bike and a small amount of my luggage while settling  on last minute plans for Saturday's departure.  My week-long English class had me in class through Saturday afternoon, but fortunately, we were out by 1:15, and I was home within minutes of my release.  I've found that I actually save time by commuting on my bike because I don't have to locate a parking spot, lock up my car, or walk across campus.  John and Chris had already packed up my gear; I'd stashed it on the side of the house for just that reason.

We were on the road before 2pm.  The trip north consisted of a whole lot of coffee, some community french bread pizza (I think we all gnawed on the same piece at one point or other), reading aloud (I read to the boys), and a GPS-related off-road adventure (technically, the GPS called it a road).  We had a fun trip - even the mishap with the directions was an adventure.  We finally rolled up to Coyote Hill sometime shortly before 6pm (I think), and after checking in, we hustled out to the course to pre-ride.  It was awesome.  I wasn't sure how I would feel on my 26 inch hard-tail, but I love that bike and the way it handles - no complaints... at least not then.  

We had a blast checking out the loop.  It's the best course, in my opinion, on the schedule.  It's fun, technical, and punishing.  We were in good spirits as we set up camp, chatted with our NBX/Union Velo pals, and headed out to find some food and beer.  We were looking to meet up with the aforementioned pals but couldn't remember where they were going, and we were pretty ravenous.  We ended up at a place called Bailey's Tavern on their outdoor deck.  They had a delicious beer called "Switchback" which ended up being an odd compliment to the Bailey's Cheesecake that we all shared for dessert.  They also had a little something called "fried pickles" - more on that later.

With bellies full, we headed back to the venue where we had set up camp, per suggestion of the property owner, in a nice little patch of woods right near where we'd parked.  A good night's sleep was not had by all.  John left the tent early on to prevent waking us up with his coughing; he was suffering from a cold.  Chris and I stuck it out, but I can honestly say that I woke up at least 20 times to rotate my body around the rock in the center of my "bed."  When I finally decided to emerge from the tent, John was a little more chipper and spry than I care for in the morning. I hope I remember this correctly:  He said, "Cock-a-doodle-do" and "I was just about to wake you guys up because we have a lot to do!"  Ummmmmm, no -   I just woke up.  Looking back now, it was probably not a good sign for my hydration levels that I didn't have to pee right away when I woke up.  TMI?  Get over it.

Breakfast for me was oatmeal, dried fruit, eggs, and coffee.  Breakfast for those ding-dongs was everything else on the menu.  It wasn't my place to tell them not to eat that crap, but I wasn't so sure about racing in the heat after a bunch of sausage and bacon.  As it turns out, it was probably the fried pickles that I should have been worried about.  I'm getting to that...

So, I had brought the Jamis (26er) because I screwed up the brakes on my Fate (29er) the night before we left.  Rather than try to get my bike to the shop via someone else while I was in class Saturday, I threw the Fate in the basement, pulled out the Jamis, pumped up the tires, and decided it was going to get to race its little steel heart out.  I love that bike.  I really do.  But...  big tires would have been a brilliant move out on that bumpy bitch of a course.  I took one hell of a beating as I muscled that thing over every bump I could.  I had fun, but I was in a sorry state as early as the second out of the three laps.  I was honestly ready to quit, especially when I started overheating and got the chills, but I realized I would have to face myself in the morning.  After the flat tire the weekend before, there was no way that I could have left Coyote Hill unfinished.  So I finished.  It was a sad, sad sight.  At least, for me it was.  I had better expectations for myself going into this.  I don't really know why, but I thought that my lack of ride time wouldn't be a problem.  Boy was I wrong.  Luckily, I am down to one class only two nights a week, and I should be able to find plenty of time to actually ride my bike.  

Anyhow, the boys had a great race.  Despite puking up fried pickles "on fried pickle at a time," John came in 6th, and Chris, in his first mountain bike race ever, came in 3rd behind fellow teammate, Rich.  The whole race day was a blast.  It took us awhile to get out of there, but we were eager to get over to Burke and our buddy Jesse joined us for this part of the adventure. We'd intended to do some riding after the race, but there was no way in hell my ass was getting back on a bike just yet.  We found some good food and great service at the Tamarack Grill and then headed up the mountain to check-in to our campsite.  As it turns out, a lean-to at the end of May is the way to go.  We decided not to waste any time setting up a tent and just threw all of our bedding down in the lean-to.  

Jesse and Chris, the young (childless) guys of the group seemed to not value the importance of rest or sleep.  They headed out for a ride down Dead Mooose in the dark while John and I limped around the campsite.  While I showered, I was entertained by a group of noisy campers who were clearly having a fantastic time, and as I laughed along with them, I was informed that the party was at site ___ (I can't remember now).  The info was passed along to Jesse and Chris, and those silly boys made their way over to join the fun.  John and I awoke to the sound of, "ready? go... *BANG*!"  Apparently the party site had a gigantic box full of "poppers" and the boys thought it would be funny to pop some confetti into the lean-to at us.  Lucky for them, it was indeed funny.  After loading up on some beers, they headed back to the party, and we headed back to dreamland.  Next up?  Wild animal knocks over beer bottles at picnic table 5 feet from where we are sleeping.  Luckily, it scared off easily, so I put the food away (should have thought about that earlier), and the rest of the night was uneventful.  

Monday morning we broke-down camp, headed down the mountain for a quick breakfast, and suited up for an epic ride.  Jesse hadn't been to Kingdom Trails before, so we had to fit a little of everything.  We started off on the Burke side by riding up the mountain road to scoot over to Moose Alley, and we took the trails the long way into town.  After a quick stop at the truck for more water, we headed up Darling Hill for an epic loop on that side: Coronary, Pasture Point, Troll Stroll, Webs, Eager Beaver, Violet's Outback, Sidewinder, Old Webs, etc...  It was awesome, and we followed up with a good soak in the river before heading home.  

I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends or a better weekend.  I can't wait to do it again! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's nothing worth 'weeping' over...

Yeah...  this last race, EFTA's Weeping Willow, couldn't even be chalked up to a good workout.  When I realized I was going to have to DNF, I had it in my head that I'd figure out my tire dilemma and head out to ride and explore until the race was over.  Then it became apparent that it wasn't likely that the air would stay in and I was having a good time chatting it up with a good group of people, so I decided to call it a day.

I was probably sunk before I even started the race, but I just hadn't quite noticed yet.  About a couple of miles in, my bike became progressively more and more squirrelly in the front end.  Thinking back, it felt weird when I started the race, but I just thought it was because I was so out of breath.  Now, I realize my tire was probably bogging me down even more than my out of shape lungs were.

So, I finally conceded to the idea that I'd be better off just turning around and heading back rather than trying to finish the first lap, so I hid in the brush and cheered as the men and women who'd started behind me tore their way through the single track.  I inched my way slowly back to the double track, attempted to ride the now very flat tire a little further, and eventually came across a man who appeared to be comfortably reclining in the woods next to his buddy.  These guys were spectating, but only because one couldn't move, and the other was there to make sure he was okay while help came.  I offered to get back as quickly as I could to send for help, the reclining man offered me CO2, and because I couldn't figure out the fancy contraption he used to inject his CO2 cartridges, I graciously allowed the poor guy to put the air in for me.  Don't worry, I brought my bike over to him.  If anyone knows this guy, please tell him thank you again, and I really hope he's okay and recovers quickly.

I was off again, but I knew I was probably going to be racing the slow leak that I had coming from some unseen point on my tire.  By the time I was within 200 meters or so of the start/finish area, the elite men were already starting to come through on their next lap, and people were already notified of the injured man and on their way to retrieve him.

It was a brilliant day for spectating.  The weather was lovely, so standing around all afternoon talking to friends in the sun kept me pretty upbeat despite my first DNF (and hopefully last) of the season.  It is the past couple of days since that I've been getting upset about it.  It's weird how I can be DFL at a bunch of races and care less about that than not finishing.  Anyhow, after I checked out the situation with the wheel, it's apparent that I wouldn't have finished the race even if I had been prepared enough to have my own pump with me.  I had a hole in the rim tape that looked like it had been there awhile; there was Stan's caked around the hole that seemed to have loosened up.  I'm guessing that all of the wet stuff I'd been riding though last week was the final straw, and the sealant could have gone at any time.

So the worst part about it all, is I didn't get a good ride in Sunday, and this week, I'm enrolled in an intensive week-long English class that is consuming every waking moment of my life (with the exception of the 20 minutes or so I'm taking as a break to write this ).  I'm hoping to get outside, regardless of the rain to bust out some intervals on the pavement.  Here's hoping...

One bonus for the week is that the books and short stories I am reading for this class are fantastic.  Tobias Wolff and ZZ Packer are my new favorite writers.  Also, I got my grades for the spring semester and it looks like all of my hard work paid off - four As and a B.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Battered by the Battle...

Yesterday I decided to pretend like I was ready to do a longer-than-usual mountain bike race.  I told myself that it would be good training, and it was a sweet deal.  Really, it was.  You can't usually pay the normal race fee and get more than 20-25 miles for it. This one was a little over 30.  Kudos to the guys and gals at NBX and EFTA for putting on a really well-organized and fun event!  The t-shirts were awesome.

I pre-rode a little bit of the course before the start, and it seemed pretty clear that this was going to be a really, really fast loop.  There was a section of bridges with some slippery roots, and there was a ridge line  with some fun lines through rocks, but there was nothing I felt the need to walk.  In fact, the technical sections were just my thing.  I kind of wish there'd been more of them, but at the same time, the rest of the single-track was fast and flowy.  I hardly used my brakes to slow down in corners because the berms were so perfect that I could just let the gravity and wheels do their thing.  It was SO FUN!  Oh yeah, and there was a big log to go over in the beginning of the loop that I forced myself to ride over 5 out of the 6 times, and it made me feel like I really accomplished something this season, even if I didn't make it to the podium... ever.  More about the podium later...
...But, before I realized how fun it was, I had the usual mental demise that almost forced me to quit.  I say "almost," but I don't think it ever really was an option.  Basically, on laps 2 and 3, I was a mess in my head.  The negativity crept in, and I was having a hard time getting it out.  I even got that horrible feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I might cry.  That's probably about the time that I realized I could snap out of it if I just put my mind to it.  There's that moment when you hit rock bottom of the negativity spectrum and realized that it's your own fault you're there, and it's that moment when you can bounce out quicker than ever.  I told myself to 'cut the shit,' and 'you haven't really been training, silly...,' and 'when's the last time you rode more than 25 miles on a bike?'  Once I came to terms with the fact that the only real problem I was encountering out there was my own shitty attitude, I was fine.  In fact, laps 4, 5, and 6 were amazing.  

When I came through lap 4, I was told that Susan was only 15 seconds ahead of me.  Of course, I assumed they were exaggerating to make me move a little quicker.  However, they must have been right because I came through the technical section on lap 6 and saw her on the trail below.  I knew that if I stayed off the brakes on the descents and got out of the saddle to power through all the climbs, I'd be able to catch her.  My legs were tired, but I had it in me mentally to get out of my own way, so that was all that really mattered at that point.  I was excited.  I had something to push for, and I actually felt like pushing for it.  What I didn't anticipate or hope for was to find her at the top of a hill with a snapped chain; that's not the way I like to make my move.  I was tempted to help her out and then race her to the finish, but at that point, she looked like she had it under control.  So, off I went.  I still went as fast as possible at the end.  I don't know what my lap times were, but in my mind, that lap was my fastest.  I ended up on the podium with Karen and Jena - they were about 10 minutes ahead of me.  This seems to be my consistent distance behind the leaders, only this time I was only 10 minutes behind after 3 hours instead of 2, so I'm moving up in the world.  
All in all, no complaints.  It's time for me to start training.  I have a 100 mile race to finish in August, and I can't be getting all mentally mushed after only 10 miles.  School will be done this week... or maybe in a month; I might be taking a couple summer courses to knock them off the list of requirements for my English degree.  I should know more on that by next week.  Either way, I won't be taking 21 hours of in-school classes.  I'll be working, but work doesn't have homework or papers.  I can't wait to ride my bike!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Logic: If I am to get faster on my bike, then school must give me a break....

 Massasoit was a beat-down for me.  It seemed to me like I really long cyclocross race - complete with run-ups.  I am at the point where I know I am suffering because I haven't been putting in the work I need to, but at the same time, I know that my sanity requires me to ride for pleasure right now as much as possible.  Sure, I've been hitting the "fun" rides as hard as I can, but to keep up with the fast girls, I'm going to have to start doing "fast" rides in lieu of the ones that I use to maintain my sanity.  

The end of the school semester has been throwing me into a panicky whirlwind of papers, finals, and catch-up, and quite frankly, I can't do it all.  Not all the time, anyhow.  I can safely say, I'm almost done for a spell.  I have a paper almost done, another paper to write, and 3 final exams to take.  Sure, I am likely taking two summer courses just to knock them off the list of requirements I have to meet to graduate someday, but those should be cake compared to the load I've been carrying the past few months.  I plan on celebrating next Friday with a beer and nachos.  

So anyhow, Massasoit was tough.  I hung on, but barely.  I went as hard and as fast as I could go, and I even managed a stellar crash with a speedy bounce right back onto the bike.  I might have lost 15 seconds there.  I'm reminding myself constantly that it's early in the season, and I hadn't really intended to be very fast yet anyhow because of my school schedule.  The real race season is coming; I have hopes that by then I'll be a little faster.  

This coming Sunday is the Battle at Burlingame.  I'm not sure who's racing the Pro category besides myself, but I'm really excited because it's a 33 mile race.  In the world of mountain bike racing, you don't usually see anything over 30 miles unless it's considered a marathon category race.  The race is being promoted by some really cool people out of RI, so it's sure to be a fun time.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

WT: Winding Trails or Wicked Terrible? an exercise in pedaling through gritty pudding

We needed the rain.  I've been wishing for it for the past two weeks, but on race day?  I wouldn't have minded a little less of it until my race was over, and the amount we had for the first lap was actually beneficial to the course.

Winding Trails has come a long way as a race venue in the past 5 years.  It isn't my favorite course because there is nothing technical about it, but it's fast and fun.  The sections of single track that they've incorporated over the years are tight and twisty, which means you have to plan your passing for the fire road sections or else hang on through the single track and hope the person in front of you isn't going to do something dangerous (like hit one of the very nearby trees - easily done in fast and/or slippery conditions).

The first lap was insanely fast and the traction was prime.  I had a good start, for once, and stayed with the rest of the girls for a bit.  In fact, after the first lap, I could still see two of girls ahead of me.  The other two were already taking a good lead.  I barely used my brakes except to avoid cornering into a couple of trees, but the fire road sections were awesome because there was no need to slow down.  The climbs felt great.  None of them were anything worth really calling a hill, but I can remember being really out of shape a few years ago and suffering out there.  This time I felt strong and fired up.

By lap two, though, the course was starting to grow soupy.  I was immediately reminded of how crappy a Renegade tire is, and that's what I still had on the back of my bike.  (All of the tires that I want are currently out of stock, so I'm not-so-patiently waiting for one right now).  Anyhow, the loss of traction turned me into a granny out there.  By lap 3 and 4, I was getting accustomed to the slipping and sliding, so I rode a lot more recklessly, but I think my poor performance on lap 2 was probably a really bad thing. During lap 3, I had been reeling in the 4th place girl, it had me motivated, but when I finally caught her, she was getting off her bike to drop out.  She said she had no brakes left, and I was really bummed.  It's tough to motivate yourself to try to catch back up to people you can't even see.  The only thing that was motivating me after that was the thought of keeping the Cat 1 girls off my back.  I'd already been passed by one, and I didn't want Susan Lynch to beat my time again (she is kick-ass awesome, but I need to be faster than her for self-esteem reasons).  My other motivating factor was getting myself warm.  I couldn't feel my feet, and my thumbs were so numb that I was having trouble shifting; my bike wasn't shifting well as it was because of all the grime caked into the chain.

I'm chalking this race up to another learning experience.  I wanted to quit, for sure.  It was soooo cold out there, and absolutely miserable, but finishing was a must.  Also, I think the fact that I've called that race course a wuss course so many times is the reason that it rained so much.  It's all my fault, I tell you, and I'm sorry.  I will try not to call a race course easy ever again if that means it will refrain from becoming covered in gritty pudding.

I should also add that because I was so cold and wet, I only drank a half a bottle of liquid the entire 2 hours.  Fail.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

what do you do in your moments?

Ever hear the saying, "Live in the moment"?

I feel as though that's been a motto that keeps finding its way back into my mind lately.  It's funny, but I want to write blog posts on a regular basis - like once, maybe twice per week, and then I end up trying too hard to think of something to write about and of course, end up writing nothing.  I'm starting to realize that it's the topics that either creep up on me gradually, or the ones that I write because I'm fired up about some injustice in the world, that really seem to work.

So this time, it's one of those posts where I've been waiting around while the thoughts crawl through my mind.  I've let them worm around one another and go round and round again, and even now, I'm not sure if I'll get the thoughts out the right way in writing, but I'm going to try anyways because I was presented with a little bit of free time today.

It's living in the moment that many advocate for, but very few seem to be able to really do.   We get wrapped up in harping over the past or over-planning for the future, and then we realize that the future has come and gone right into the past without us ever really relishing the present.  The present can be used any way we want to use it.  We can be angry in the moment - mellow, thoughtful, rude, cynical, jealous, etc.  We can spend our entire present worrying about things that we can't do anything about in the future, or we can stew about regrets or other things that we can't change about the past.  The only time that we can ever really do anything real is in the present.

It could be argued that we can't ignore the past and that we would be setting ourselves up for failure if we were to avoid planning for the future.  This I agree with, but like anything, there has to be some sort of balance.  To live well in the present, we should be using things we've learned in the past to presently do and enjoy things that will move us in a good direction for our future.  If we do things in the present that are positive, we shouldn't have regrets in the future.  The past, present, and future all go together, but the only one that is truly a gift is the present. (yes, that pun was fully intentional)

So, here are some things that I've been doing lately that have really helped me to feel the gift of the present:

  • Take a walk.  Really feel the way you body moves you along.  Be grateful that you have strong muscles that move you along and lungs that can breathe in air.  If you can't walk, do what you can to enjoy whatever motility you have.  
  • Feel the sunlight on your skin.  Obviously it's not a good idea to lay in the sun for long hours at a time, but our bodies need a little bit of sunlight on a daily basis.  Be grateful for photosynthesis because without it, you'd be dead.
  • Enjoy the smell of something delicious before you eat it.  Take the time to taste your food while you eat it.  
  • Listen to the person talking to you.
  • Just sit and think somewhere that it's quiet.  No phone, no music, no book.  Just you.  Maybe write things down.  
  • When you're working out really hard, enjoy that burning feeling in your lungs.  It might hurt, but it's progress.  
Anyhow, I could go on and on about ways to really enjoy the moments of your life, but I'm not going to bore you with all of the ones that I've been thinking about lately.  What's important is taking time to really enjoy what's happening right now.  Be grateful for the present.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Another early season race done...

Quick and Boring post because I have schoolwork piled up...

Hopbrook Dam is a climbers paradise.  If there's one thing that stood out in everyone's mind after they raced yesterday, it was "that climb" that never seemed to end.  It started off with a steep run that was only rideable for me on my pre-ride and my 3rd lap.  The first lap had too many people clustered together still, the second lap had a rock in the way, and the 4th lap had some goofy dude at the top making me laugh.  Good thing I don't mind laughing.  Anyhow, right after that steep part, there's a long fire road that has some steep pitches here and there and keeps turning corners only to reveal more incline behind it.  As soon as you're at the top, it goes down a little on some windy single track, and then it starts climbing again, and right as you are finally cresting, there are some rocks on the trail that force you to pay attention and dish out some more energy.  Brutal.  4 X Brutal, to be exact.

Lucky for me, Kelly Dolan kept me moving.  We were within a bike's distance of each other for most of the race, but a mechanical took her out of my sight somewhere around the end of the third lap.  I talked to her at the end, and we both seemed to agree that we need to ride some hills before the next race.

So, as for a finish time, I was within ten minutes of the winner, so I really can't complain.  Those girls were f-ing fast!  I refuse to discredit myself with a second to last finish because I am racing against the best of the best now.  Not only that, we had a damn good turnout.  Across the board (all categories), we had more women racing yesterday than I can recall seeing since I started this crazy lifestyle.  Kudos to the women who kicked my butt because you all push me to go way faster and way harder than I ever ordinarily would.

Thanks to Thom Parsons of Cycling Dirt for getting this photo of the results, which I stole:

I had a blast with my teammates yesterday!  Everyone did really well.  A blog posting on the DAS Racing site will be up as soon as possible, so be sure to check there soon.