Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

This post is a little early, but it's been floating around in my head for a while now. I've mostly just been waiting to get past the end of cyclocross and Christmas to put it out there. I have a couple of New Year's resolutions that I want to make, and I would appreciate any help that I can get from my dear readers. Here they are:

1) To increase both the quantity and quality of my friendships.

2) To cultivate interests outside of cycling so that I have other things to talk about with all of these awesome new friends.

Okay, so I feel like kind of a loser putting these goals out there for the world to see, but then there's that whole "admitting you have a problem" thing. Perhaps people will find my willingness to admit weakness endearing?

I keep seeing things about "meaningful relationships" being a key factor for both health and happiness in various articles that I read, and I usually feel like I'm lacking in that area. How did I find myself in this position? I guess the short version is that seven years ago I got married and moved to a new town where I didn't know anyone and proceeded to struggle with employment woes and general growing pains.  I was too focused on other things and never really made the connections that I should have.  Longtime readers will know a lot of that story, but even though I just rid myself of the latest employment woes a couple of months ago (and learned some important lessons for the future in the process), I feel like I am finally starting to get things figured out in terms of who I am and what I want.

I have made peace with my decision to pursue a career that requires me to spend my days behind a desk working on things that I'm not particularly passionate about (as long as I don't let my overly competitive self start taking it too seriously). It's a perfectly acceptable way to pay for the things I do care about, and I get 36 PTO days and 9 paid holidays a year on which I can sneak away for more fun stuff. The downside of this is that I spend my days surrounded by people with whom I have nothing in common except for the desire to get paid so we can do more fun stuff, although we have very different opinions about what is considered fun. Compare this to my husband's situation where everyone he works with presumably likes bikes, and now he's at the point where he can pretty much chooses his coworkers, and you can imagine how he spends his days in more socially stimulating environment than I do. I've come to the conclusion that I need better relationships outside of work to look forward to and make getting through the daily grind a little more tolerable.

As far as cultivating interests outside of cycling, I feel like this is a result of taking my training way too seriously for too long. For a few years, I felt like I was a slave to my training plan, and spending time on other things was just a distraction. I've since come to see it in a more realistic light, and realize that path is not what's going to make me happy. So I've come to terms with the idea that missing a workout, eating an unhealthy meal, or staying up past my bedtime could actually be better for my well being sometimes, if it's for the right reason. Now I'm just looking for a reason. I could definitely use some suggestions for new interests to explore, and preferably a companion with which to explore them.

So now is where I ask for help. I love all my cycling friends, but I feel like I don't really know people as well as I could. In this "off season", rather than just disappearing for the winter and posting pictures of ourselves riding trainers on Facebook, I would like to try to see people and maybe even do non-cycling things. So if you're doing something fun, I'd appreciate an invitation. If you don't live nearby, but need someone to talk to or just want to say hi, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever; I'm not hard to find. I'll do my best to try and initiate more contact, as well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

And Then It Was Over

After three months of trying to think of witty ways to say that I had a bad race, my first year of surviving the elite women's wave of OVCX/ICX has come to a close.  The only thing left now is to think of a witty way to say that I had a good race, and frankly, I'm at a loss there, too.

So that's that.  On the day that I more or less showed up to cheer on friends/teammates and also just to not be a quitter, the mud gods smiled upon me.  Considering that I came to the starting line already planning my hand-up taking strategy and didn't turn down the (big) swig of peppermint mocha Kahlua something-or-other that was offered to me in the staging area (tasty), that was quite an accomplishment.  

When the whistle blew and we poured into the rutted field where I had also shown brightly a few weeks ago, I found myself not falling off the back per usual.  Even when gaps would open, they would close at the next turn, and I came to the first muddy run-up in a very respectable position.  I picked off a couple of girls on foot and and continued to make up ground on the hill section, which was much longer and more technical than it had been at the ICX race.  I fought hard throughout the race, and although I lost a couple of places that I had caught early in the race, I still managed good-for-me 22nd out of 27. That is soooooo not last place.  I even managed to beat a girl who I've never beaten ever before and a couple of last year's "victims" that have been getting the better of me all season.

So that's a wrap.  I definitely learned some hard lessons this season, but now I'm feeling more motivated than ever. I sort of feel like I had to just go ahead and fail this year to get it out of the way.  Now there's no more fear, only new business to be taken care of. So after I have had a few days to let the CX buzz (hangover) wear off, I'm going to take my annual Christmas trip to Oklahoma and come back ready for a brilliant new year.  See you on the other side!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slinging Mud

Well, another weekend of cyclocross racing is complete, and while it was fun and all, I don't feel like I have a lot offer race-report-wise.   I was sorely tempted to just forego the boring details of my weekend's racing and go with the "Bangable Under-23 Dudes in OVCX" post that I've been contemplating since some anonymous sources brought up the subject last week.  Let's face it; it would be pretty hilarious, except for the whole embarrassing the crap out of everyone involved part.  I mean, everyone loves a good parody of a satire and all, but I've deciding to limit my mud-slinging to the cyclocross course only.


To paraphrase Colt: It's not creepy, it's cyclocross. Man, I miss "Who's #1?"

Anyway, Saturday I raced the ICX finale at Trader's Point, and Sunday was the OVCX John Bryan race in Ohio.  Both were a lot closer to legitimate mud races than we've had all year and were great reminders of why I love racing in mud.  

Saturday started off beautifully as I passed Rebecca Zink through the slop early in the first lap and almost had myself convinced that I might be able to stay there until the end, but while I made it to the top of the muddy run-up first and bombed down unclipped kamikaze-style, I found that it left me completely redlined as we passed back through the start/finish area.  I was left with three more laps of torture and a lot of thoughts about how awesome racing in mud is if, you know, you  have the power for it.  Unfortunately, even for a good mud rider, this can happen when you lose your focus:

Sunday's course was one of my least favorites from 2011.  I mostly just remembered a constant feeling of riding spongy slog up a never-ending 2% grade with not a lot of technical turning, save a little snippet of singletrack.  This year was a lot more turny and covered in slick, sloppy mud.  While I didn't get off the line that well and struggled on the 2% drag to the first turn, I was actually amazed at how easily I was moving up at the beginning of the race.  I was basically just letting my bike go, hitting all the good lines that the girls in front of me weren't taking, and making up places pretty easily.  Of course, the straight draggy parts had to come eventually, and I fell off the pace.

Luckily for me but unluckily for her, I came across a girl running her bike right before the pits with about a lap and a half to go.  She made a quick bike exchange and came out of the pits a bike length or two ahead.  I accelerated to get into the singletrack first and was able to hold off a normally faster rider for the remaining lap and a half.  (Yay for not last!)  Sure the mechanical allowed me to catch up and she was probably demoralized, but she did have a functional bike by the time I got to her, so I'm going to call it good on my part.

So Sunday will bring the final race of the season.  I'll be sad that it's over, but I'm also looking forward a fresh start in the new year.  I can't wait to get back in the gym, put in some base miles, and look forward to "racing for not last" being a thing of the past.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

OVCX Brookside

I didn't get a real good start
And had a bunch of girls in my way
Eh eh
But thanks to muddy turn'
I never really fell off the pace
Eh eh, hey ey

I get to the stairs and I run real strong
But my friends don't tell me that something's wrong
Then my chain fell off...

And eh, there's nothing else I can say
Eh eh, eh eh
There's nothing else I can say
Eh eh, eh eh
I wish it would've gone another way
Eh eh, eh eh
There's nothing else I can say
Eh eh, eh eh

Yep, that pretty much covers it.  The Brookside OVCX race was one pretty good lap where I managed to stay with a big group of girls, although I was at the back, which was frustrating on a slick, turny course.  Then I got aggressive trying to move up on the stairs, possibly caught my bike on someone else's bike, and remounted at the top to find that I'd dropped my chain. Then my glove got stuck in between the chain and the chain ring (while still on my hand).  Panic ensued, and I lost big chunk of time that I was having no luck closing over the course of the next lap.  The last two laps can be summarized by the fact that I got $3 and a beer hand-up.  And for one of the dollars I actually ran backwards on the course, grabbed it, and gave Tim O. a kiss on the cheek in return, as kisses for dollars seem to be proper etiquette now.

So it was not my most glorious race of the season, but I managed not last even after all of that.  That's kind of funny after fighting tooth and nail for not last and Lexington and coming up short.  I did manage to be featured in an online article for Cyclocross Magazine.


In other news, it seems like I might accidentally be becoming an endurance mountain bike racer again.  I'd been harboring all of these big plans for track and crits next summer, but that doesn't seem to be the way life is pushing me, and maybe I'm actually getting smart enough to learn to go with the flow.

Four years ago I wanted to be an endurance racer so badly and drove all over the country (usually alone) to get to races.  I loved the people I met and the experiences that I had, but it was expensive and kind of lonely, since I was the only person the area that did that sort of thing at the time.  Since then, I've started going with the (logistically) easy, fun, social option over exhausting ego-stroking pursuits.  However, things are converging in such a way that endurance racing is starting to look like the easy, fun, social option instead of the hard, scary, lonely option it was a few years ago.

Last week I saw on Facebook that Janelle, fresh off her Gravel Grovel victory, had signed up for the Big Frog 65 in April.  The race hadn't even been on my radar until that point, but it suddenly seemed like a great idea, and I asked if she wanted a teammate to come along.  The other thing coming down the pipeline is the now more-than-rumored Cincinnati-area 6 hour mountain bike series that Big Dave Sports is putting together for next summer.  A tentative schedule has come out and the venues are all under three hours away, and the four-race series is nicely spaced through May, June, and July.  The first one is four weeks after the Big Frog 65 and the last one is the last weekend of July, leaving a good six weeks to tune up the speed before 'cross.  Plus, several friends seem interested in racing the series, as well, so hopefully there will be no more long, lonely road trips to cabins without cell phone service.

Tentative 6 Hour Series Schedule:

Saturday, May 25, 2013 - England-Idlewild
Saturday, June 22, 2013 - Versailles
Sunday, July 14, 2013 - East Fork
Sunday, July 28, 2013 - Hueston Woods