Monday, November 21, 2011


1. next to the last: the penultimate scene of the play.

I've always liked that word for some reason. I first learned it during my college track days when I'd hear the coach talking to the jumpers about their penultimate step, which I gathered was critical to a good jump. Of course, it sounded way cooler than what it actually meant. I've had plenty of penultimate finishes in my cycling career, but yesterday was the penultimate (perhaps ultimate?) race of my Cat 4 cyclocross career. Luckily, I did not finish next to last; I finished next to first.

I guess I can admit now that I was really hoping for first-first, but it didn't happen. The combination of a small field and sloppy conditions set me up for my best shot at a for-real overall win possibly ever again (save some huge improvement on my part plus hella mud plus Nikki Dalliare doesn't show up scenario in the far future).

At the start, Karin Reed took a huge jump off the front, and I spent most of the first lap chasing her down. As I got closer, I realized that the pack behind me was thinning considerably, but that Sharlyn Golding was emerging and getting closer. Even though it was only her second cross race, I knew she was strong from Storm the Greens and that I only beat her there because her road bike with cross tires setup failed to survive "the Christmas mud hole" and gifted another position to me. However, she had returned to Lexington with a new 'cross bike, and despite the fact that the whole course should have been my Christmas mud hole, it appeared that I wasn't to be given any gifts that day.

I successfully caught and passed Karin early in the second lap (we only did two due to the long course and slow conditions) and then just tried to ride like hell and keep away from Sharlyn. She did eventually catch me with a couple of minutes to go, and then I got antsy trying to get back in front of her before the final uphill. I didn't have the confidence to go up against her in the final uphill once we passed the technical stuff, and I became overly aggressive. I ended up making a few minor slips and losing several bike lengths, so that I spent the last section just hammering to keep Karin from passing me back. In the end, second place was still pretty good, but I really wanted to win one.

Riding the Brown Stripe

So after nine races, my Women's Cat 4 Open OVCX championship is secure. My lead is greater than the points available at the final race, so regardless of who wins, they will not pass me in the series points standings. Since a Cat 3 upgrade is inevitable in the near future, I'm debating whether I should just go ahead and race Cat 3 at the OVCX finale.

1) I want to see how I stand against the next level of competition in real life, rather than just comparing lap times. I *probably* won't be DFL.
2) They are paying 20 places deep, so I might win money.
3) We wouldn't have to leave before the crack of dawn like we have all season, because my race would be later.

1) If I race 4's, I could still get my elusive outright win, even if the Kings CX field is a little tougher than at Lexington. Especially if I cross my fingers for more mud.
2) I'm not sure how informative racing my 2011 self against the Cat 3 field will be, because I'm expecting my 2012 self to be faster. Maybe I should just enjoy one last Cat 4 race, and leave the measuring stick for next year's AppleCross or whatever tune-up races are available.
3) If I race 3's, I will miss most of the Shamrock Cycles vs. Rogue Racing heckle-off. Although switching my role to heckle-ee instead of heckle-er does have it's appealing points, I probably won't get a accurate idea of how I stand against the 3's if I spend the whole race grabbing dollar bills, bacon, and Jello shots.

Looking at my list, I seem to spend more time justifying my cons. I'm not sure if that means I really don't want to cat up yet or that I really should cat up because I need so much justification. Regardless, I have about a week to mull this over, and I'll probably change my mind at least five times before I actually register. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

Navigating a slippery downhill switchback at MTV

I also raced the ICX race at Major Taylor Velodrome on Saturday. Despite hopes that the short and slippery course might play to my advantage, I overcooked a couple of turns in the first few minutes and had to work my way back up from last place. So it ended in typical ICX form, Rebecca and Val up front, me a minute or so back, then the rest of the field a couple of minutes behind me. I'd be thrilled if I could beat just one of them at one race by the time the series is over, so I guess that will be the post-OVCX goal to get me through December.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Best Birthday Weekend Ever!

It's been a busy week since returning from our weekend of 'crossbauchery in Louisville, so I'm a little late getting a report up. For the USGP weekend, the focus was more on fun than racing, and with my 31st birthday taking place on Saturday, this seemed pretty appropriate. I milked it for all it was worth getting a birthday shout-out from the announcer, a cupcake from the hostess of the My Wife, Inc. Cupcake Chronicles, and Happy Birthday serenades both during the race and after.

My races for both days fall into the "meets expectations" category, although perhaps my expectations for the weekend were a little low. Between the hotel bed and the restaurant food, I wasn't really channeling my A game. Saturday I had a bit of a motivation crisis, because I was floating around mid-pack in the mixed 3/4 field and didn't know much about the ability level of the girls around me the race. I ended up 23rd out of 40, knowing that I probably didn't fight as hard to get up to 20th or 21st as I should have. I regretted this after it was over and vowed to give it a better go on Sunday. Well, give it a better go after some post-dinner margaritas on Saturday night, you know. Luckily, my legs weren't aware of the dehydration and fatigue that the rest of my body was feeling, and I rode pretty well, except for a failed remount that lead to a fall and a dropped chain after the barriers on the second lap. This cost me about six places, but I maintained fighter mode as I'd promised myself I would, and made back all of the lost places by the end of the race. My only disappointment was that I just missed catching the 2-3 girls that I'd been chasing before the fall, and ended up in 21st place.

So after all us amateur folks were done racing Sunday, we cleaned up and checked out of our hotel. Then we headed back to the venue, and it was time for the real fun to begin. Since I've probably already shocked my paleo cycling advisor with talk of cupcakes (just one) and margaritas (not the NorCal sort), I will now shock my mother (dooon't look at it) with the sequel to "Best Barriers Ever", in which the Shamrock Cycles Super Friends bring their heckle game to a whole new level. Although my face is either obscured or in the background most of the time, yes, those are my hands doing the dollar bill placement in the opening scene.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Harbin Park 2011: Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Harbin Park holds a special place in the the cyclocross-related section of my heart. It was the venue of my first 'cross race back in 2006, where I came in last out of six women. It was also where I got the crazy idea to try and race the elite class the next year, because there were only ten elite women so everyone got prize money and UCI points. How freaking cool would it be to have a UCI point? The next year Katie Compton showed up, destroyed the elite women and most of the elite men, and put Cincinnati on the UCI cyclocross map. No more freebie UCI points would be handed out from that point on.

As for me, I was learning that, while my mountain biking skills had improved, I hadn't made much progress in gaining the raw power necessary for 'cross success. The only success that the 2007 Harbin Park brought was that I was *not last*. I used my mad skillz on the final turny sections and beat *one girl*. Afterward I witnessed the top girls from my category getting their podium pictures taken in front of the United Dairy Farmer's banner, was extremely jealous, and subconsciously thought, "UCI point be damned. I just want my picture taken in front of that banner."

Well, 2007 self, feast your eyes on this:

Okay, so the fields have evolved a bit since 2007 in that yesterday all females over the age of 15 with no UCI license were lumped into one wave. Within that wave, there were categories for Under 19, Cat 4, Cat 3, and Masters 1/2/3/4 35+. With the Masters World Championships coming to Louisville this winter, efforts are being made to allow masters women to stay out of the UCI elite races and preserve their eligibility for worlds. Good for them, but it also means that us Cat 4 chicks have to race in much faster fields at the big races.

So the field was big and fast, but really there were only six girls in the Cat 4 open class. A couple of my key "nemeses" had signed up for the race but didn't show up, and another didn't finish. So as cool as it was standing on the big stage, it didn't require the dominating performance to get there that it would have in years past.

Overall, I finished 17th out of 35 starters. The field was about half 3's and half 4's with a couple of juniors and one masters Cat 2 (and several 3's that probably should be 2's). It was a good opportunity to see how I stood against the next level of competition, since my days as a Cat 4 are numbered. I beat a few Cat 3's and was the fastest of all the OVCX regulars from my wave, so I think fared pretty well. I think I'm close being able to race in the OVCX "big girls" race without getting my butt completely whipped, but I'm not totally there.

If my magic deadlift-centric training yields the improvements in 2012 that it did in 2011, it shouldn't be a problem. The blessing and the curse of improving way more this season than conventional wisdom says I should have is that I really have no idea what to expect next season. I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hope it keeps working.

Next weekend I will get a chance to test myself against more Cat 3's as the 3/4 field at the Louisville USGP is huge and dare I say, sandbagger-tastic. Yeah, I said it. I guess I should be glad for the experience, but it annoys me that they have a 2/3 and a 3/4 race going at the exact same time and practically all of the 3's signed up for the 3/4 race, despite the fact there will probably only be a couple of 2's at most. But I guess if I get too whiny over getting bumped off the podium for the weekend, that kind of makes me a sandbagger, too.