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.