Thursday, September 29, 2011

Muddy Pictures

I just wanted to add this cool sequence of pictures from Sunday that were posted by Cycle Exposure after I'd already written up my race report. I feel lame even mentioning this, but I feel like I'm actually starting look like a lean racer chick in this weekend's photos. Even Emily commented on my muscles in one, although she could just be mocking my interest in analyzing the number and degree of visible muscles I can find in race pictures of myself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Indy CX Weekend

After what seemed like a very long double CX weekend, the logical thing to do is to spend Monday reliving it all by looking at a bajillion Facebook pictures and silly videos, right? In addition to my own blogging, I also volunteered to keep up with the CX coverage for Bloomington VeloNews this season after our esteemed local cycle-razzi Geraint Parry moved back to England last winter. So now I am busy following and photographing the racing exploits of other Bloomington residents in addition to my own. I realize that at least half of my readers come from BVN already, (another 40% are people Googling abdominal scars) but if you want to read what I have to say about other people's races click on over and check it out.

The race course at Brookside on Saturday had a decidedly roadie bias (the course designer would freely admit this intention), so it didn't exactly bode well for my skill set. The field was a little tougher than the one at Fisherman's Park. Before the race I identified a couple of girls who would almost definitely beat me and 3-4 that could go either way. It turned out that 3 of the 4 went the way of beating me, plus another one surprised me. I ended up fourth out of the Cat 4 open and seventh in the wave. I did beat one 35+ women who had beaten me the week before, so that was a positive. Overall, it wasn't an exceptional race for me, but I'd give myself a "meets expectations" on my performance evaluation.

Rain all Saturday night and Sunday made for slick conditions at Ft. Harrison State Park. Although our early race didn't have the epic mudfest conditions of the elite races in the afternoon, the slick turns and sloppy fire road on the back of the course still played to my advantage. I got a good start and stayed with the top three for the better part of the first lap. I then lost contact with them and was eventually passed by one more powerful rider, but I kept it rubber side down for all but one corner and maintained my position for the rest of the race. This left me in third place in the Cat 4 open and a best-ever wave finish of fifth. I managed to beat a couple more good 35+ women from previous races, and even if it doesn't sound as good as "winning" at Fisherman's park, it was probably my best performance so far this season. The girls that got first and second in my category were really strong and racing for the first time this season. Luckily, one was just on a short weekend stopover before her Cat 3 upgrade, so I still feel like I might have a decent chance at winning the series. There's still a long way to go, though.

Besides the racing, the best part of the weekend was actually spectating during the muddy elite races. There were a bunch of crazy people handing out money and beer at the barriers. Luckily, someone made this awesome video of the festivities, which is bound to become a classic of "Joey's Okay" proportions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

And This One Time, at Fisherman's Park

For so many years, I had to tell the story: "No, I've never actually won a race. At least not one with other people in it. Well, except for this one time at Brookside in 2006, I beat one girl, and it was awesome."

And then my day came. I climbed to the top step of a real live cyclocross podium at a real live OVCX race, and this is the picture I have to prove it:

Looks a whole heck of a lot like, "this one time I beat this one girl", huh?

Well, don't let the picture fool you. It was a tough battle getting there.

A steady drizzle through the morning left the grass on the course slick, although no real mud had started to build up when I took my practice lap. I wasn't feeling too great, mostly due to nerves. It didn't help that my bike seemed to weigh 20 pounds more than the sprightly steed that I'd ridden at Applecross the week before. When I finished the lap, I realized why and didn't feel so bad.

All of the wet grass was clogging my brakes and making my bike look like Swamp Thing:

Adam got it cleaned off and loosened my brakes a little to compensate for the buildup that would happen during the race, and then I had to just line up and hope for the best. Three categories started in my wave: Cat 4 open women, Cat 4 35+ women, and junior girls 15-18. We were all mixed together and then separated on the results at the end.

I got a nice front-row center call-up and a decent start off the line. I was in third until the first barrier, but lost a few places before a particularly tight turn where a I got caught behind a crash and lost a couple more. I started to make up the ground and then I was bumped off course when I tried to pass a girl on a twisty up and down section. It was probably mostly my fault for not calling out that I was passing, but I was a little too gassed to yell and hoped I could sneak through.

So the first lap concluded with me chase mode, and it stayed that way until about a third of the way into the third lap. At that point, I had lost the wave leaders, but still seemed to be in good position within my age group and was making up ground on who I thought was the category leader. Then a couple of girls passed me and I started getting worried. Fortunately, the last half of the course had a lot of off-camber and slick up-and-down turns. Rather than killing it, I stayed calm and focused on being smooth and mistake-free. This worked perfectly, as I managed to pass back the two girls who'd just caught me and finish off the one I'd been chasing all race when they each made mistakes on the slick stuff.

Clearing the last technical section, I gunned it as hard as I could to get away from the girls I'd just passed. There was still a chance that I'd have to defend for a fourth lap if no singlespeed men lapped me before the finish line. Part of me wanted to get a fourth lap in, because I knew some of the top women in the wave would, but I was also 95% sure that I was leading the under-35 race and really just wanted to seal my win. So when I glanced over so see the rider coming around me before the final uphill was male, I said a silent thank you and pushed with all my might to make sure no women passed me before the finish.

Even though I got to stand on the top step of the podium, I was still beaten by a couple of hella fast juniors and four women from the 35+ category. So my first "win" still feels like unfinished business. I want to make it to the for-real top of my wave and not the arbitrarily age-graded top. The good news is that I'll head to Brookside on Saturday with greater confidence and try to climb a little further up the ladder. It should be good. After all, I did beat that one girl there that one time.

Speaking of confidence, I wore these nifty socks yesterday. Sure they match my kit, but they also just kind of spoke to me. I mean, it's just a little easier to have swagger in competition when your socks are "cocky":

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Huber's Applecross

So the test results are in. New wheels: freakin' awesome. Body: meh, pretty good.

I got a good start at Huber's Applecross today. I contended for the hole shot with a girl from Illinois who had won the day before, and when the course narrowed into the first turn I let her take the lead. The pace seemed a little slow through the first part of the course, so I passed her right before the apple orchard section (mmm, rotten apple smell). Unfortunately, I found myself being flung through the air at the exit of the orchard. A closer inspection on the next lap revealed a pretty large hole camouflaged by the grass that I'd failed to notice on my pre-ride.

The cool thing was that while I scrambled to get back on the bike I realized that I gapped the field enough that I almost had time to remount and keep going without losing my lead, but I panicked at bit and didn't move efficiently enough. I tacked onto the back of the lead group and tried to regain my senses, but things got pretty crazy shortly thereafter. There was a weird section where the course appeared to go down a steep off camber hill and then back up. However, it was taped wide enough that I could ride the high side of the downhill and low side of the uphill so that it was more of just a zig zag with a few pedal strokes of climbing. I got caught up behind a lot of traffic in that section and the climb ending in a run-up after it. Some of the 35+ women were catching up at that point and I kind of lost my bearings as to my place in the pack. A couple of crashes in front of me on the gravel-to-grass transition right before the sand pit during the second lap made things even less clear. I just tried to maintain at point.

The middle laps were rough because, even though I'd made up a few places, I'd lost sight of the leaders. I also had a two or three girls following me that I needed to hold off. It's ironic that I just did a blog post on how awesome it is to have people cheering for me during races, because I was getting the complete opposite today. Amongst a Louisville-heavy crowd being pursued by several Louisville girls, I was mostly hearing cheers for my competitors and knowing that they were still in hot pursuit. One finally got around me and started to slip away when I saw the lap board and realized we were in for four laps instead of three. I got close to making the place back during the last lap, but didn't quite make it. When we crossed the finish line, it was announced that we were second and third. At that point I was a little disappointed that I hadn't fought harder for second, but at least I'd made my first real cyclocross podium.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Time to 'Cross

Sunday I will be testing out my body and my new wheels at Huber's Applecross before things really heat up with the beginning of the OVCX series. I did have a minute or two a couple of weeks ago where I suddenly wished I was continuing my 6 solo streak at the DINO 24, but it passed pretty quickly. If I'm going to be racing every weekend until Christmas, it's probably best to keep it to 30-40 minute bouts.

Anyway, I figured I'd get myself and everyone else pumped up with what became my unofficial CX anthem last season. Weird choice, I know. I think it started last season going up that annoying steep section at Fisherman's Park when I heard Fred Rose yelling, "You're a warrior!" I'm not even sure if it was intended for me or for his girlfriend who was likely on a nearby section of the course that just happened to be half a lap or so ahead of me. Regardless, it made me laugh and maybe made me push a little harder for a while. I realized that with so many vocal 'cross peeps and the short and twisty courses, it's pretty hard to go more than a minute or two without a friend yelling for you. So it's more about the feeling than the exact lyrics, but "somewhere in the crowd there's you" is pretty much everyone I know instead of any specific person. Plus, the peppy beat eases the pain just a little.

Good luck to everyone tuning it up at Applecross or Lionhearts CX or topping it off at the DINO 24 Hour this weekend! I guess we'll all converge again in Louisville in a week.