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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Gravel Grovel: Winter is Coming

Back in the summer when I was dreading the BCSP DINO race, I joked that I was going to replace the "Die Biting the Throat" sticker on the top tube of my mountain bike with one that said "Winter is Coming".  I think those are appropriate words for House Rodkey, considering that no matter what season it is, it's always almost cyclocross season.  Except maybe for right now, when it's almost the end of cyclocross season, and so far winter has yet to really peek out at us.  Janelle and I were just discussing last weekend how we might not get to use our "cyclocross pajamas" (aka thermal skinsuits), but even with the surprisingly sunny season that we've had so far, December 'cross is it's own thing.  We've still got three weeks and four chances to break out the fuzzy stuff.

This weekend was a break in both the cyclocross calendar and the mild weather, and it provided evidence that winter, yes, for-real winter, is coming.  You know, that January and February stuff that we pretend isn't happening until it's upon us?  For better or worse, I decided to go ahead and face winter this weekend by participating the Sub-9 Gravel Grovel.

I guess I wanted to prove to myself that my HTFU switch still worked, since my lack of endurance racing (and endurance training) the last couple of years has left it dormant for quite some time.  I also know that the impending winter will also bring team recon rides for the Death March, and I don't want to be such a weak link as I was last year.  So I figured I should at least make it through the distance of a slightly longer and harder ride by myself and let the shock wear off before I add the pressure of trying to keep up with my male teammates.  Without a big spring trip to the Ouachita Challenge like I had for a few years, I think my winter training goals are focused more on proving myself a worthwhile Wheel(wo)man at the Death March and spring training camp than any individual spring races.

Anyway, the Gravel Grovel went pretty well.  It was a shock to break out my full winter gear for the first time this season, since it was upper 20's at the start and never really got past the low-to-mid 30's throughout the day.  Although I was dressed for the occasion, it was still a little rough dealing with those temperatures for that long when I hadn't experienced them in so many months.  Brain freeze on downhills and frozen water bottles aren't things to which I'm acclimated at the moment.

Making it through the race was about as hard as I expected it to be but no worse.  I did briefly consider looking into bailout options about halfway through, but I knew I had to kept going.  Overall, I did pretty well at just keeping the legs going and keeping my mind on happy thoughts beyond how many hours of riding I had left.  My time wasn't that great, but that's not surprising as steady-state pedaling efforts are not my forte, especially when I've completely not been training for them.  Overall, I was just happy that I got out and did it.  Maybe winter won't be so bad after all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Something a Little Different

This weekend I actually managed to put my plan of showing up at my next race ready to race and figure out *something* that I could do well.  Circumstances were in my favor on Saturday, as the penultimate race of the ICX series at Major Taylor Velodrome once again had a strong collegiate race showing. Since all levels of collegiate women started in our wave, I had plenty of ability-appropriate competition.

The start was still not that awesome as we dumped into a long section of flat, swoopy grass with three large peanut butter mud bog sections.  I spent most of the first pass through losing positions, but when we transitioned to other side of the bipolar course, I was able to plug the leak and start moving up again.  In stark contrast to the grass crit on one side, you crossed the pavement and climbed up the big grinding hill behind the stands, which wasn't used in either of the MTV races that I did last year.  My secret-weapon 11-32 cassette served me well, and I was able to knock out a tidy rhythm up the hill while my competition was forced into awkward out-of-the-saddle mashing. This was followed by some tricky off-camber maneuvering and a twisty decent back down the hill.  Obviously, that half of the course suited me better.

I quickly made the goal of picking off three girls before the race was over.  Strangely, most of the ground that I made up after the first lap happened in the field section where I forced myself to scoot to the edge of my saddle, stick my tongue out, and mash through the bumps and the mud.  By the last pass through the field, I had accomplished my goal by picking off three Marion girls was looking up to see if I could find one more victim.  To my astonishment, I could see my teammate Val not *that* far around the next turn.  It was the closest I've been to her that late in the race, and I put in one last hard surge in an attempt to close.  It wasn't successful, but later the results revealed that I had finished closer to both Val and Rebecca, my two nemeses from last year's ICX series, than I ever had before.  It felt awesome to go out and really turn myself inside out again and actually see some return for my efforts.

At Sunday's OVCX race in Lexington, I was determined to match my effort from the day before.  This was a little harder, because the remote location made for a sparse field, and I knew that the chances of my having  many girls within striking distance was slim.  I still did my best, and even though I found myself entering the second lap in a battle for not-last place, I still stayed on the gas and was determined to fight until the end.  My slump really started at BloomingCross, where I basically showed up to the race not feeling up to the task and very early on decided that the fight for not last wasn't worth it.  I admit that it is still pretty taxing on the soul to work so hard for so little, but I decided to at least put myself out there again on Sunday.  Unfortunately, after going blow for blow with Emily Falk the entire race, it came down to a sprint on the paved finish and she prevailed.  So I was left with another DFL, but at least I raced for it this time.

So I'm down to four races left this season, and I just wan'cross, I've decided to jump into the Gravel Grovel.  I haven't done 60+ miles even on pavement since training camp in April, so it will definitely be a challenge.  I guess I'm just in the mood for something a little masochistic, I guess.  No matter how it turns out it should at least be fun/interesting/painful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Want it Wednesday: Giro Sica Shoes

So after an uneventful weekend off from racing (totally forgot to stop by the blowup doll store and didn't get arrested otherwise), I figure it's a good chance to participate in the new and improved Want It Wednesday.  Now it's even easier to want stuff, and you can do it on any Wednesday that you like, just the see the details in the link above.

So what do I want? Well, a lot of things, but most of the list is philosophical right now, and we're talking about actual, physical, bike-related retail goods.  In that area, I'm actually pretty satisfied at the moment.  Before the Cincy 3 I shelled out some dough on the Columbia website for the sweet blue plaid coat and fur boots that I'm wearing below in hopes that they would see me through the 20 degree nastiness at the end of the season.  Really, they just made standing around in 40 degrees and rain tolerable-ish.  Lets face it: my body just doesn't generate sufficient heat, even when there are nifty space-age aluminum foil layers to try to keep it in.

Thinking back across the season so far, I can only think of one other purchasable object that would have made things better: toe spikes.  Before the past two weekend of which we won't speak further, I found myself running up the squishy side of a dam at Bradford Woods many times at the last ICX race, followed by a few trips up some uneven limestone stairs that were also accompanied by some squishy footing (and me in purple Tulle).

I'm pretty bad at run-ups, but I think most of my problem is that I have to take really tiny steps because I'm unsure of my footing.  Unfortunately, I've always worn Sidi shoes, but none of the models that come in my size (38) come with the option of toe spikes.  I guess running up muddy inclines isn't ladylike or something.  Regardless, the silver pair I bought last season will likely be my last Sidis, anyway, as my husband's mostly commuter and weekend warrior oriented shop could no longer move the number of high-end shoes required to meet Sidi's dealer demands.  He has already switched to Giro mountain bike shoes and seems pretty happy with them.  I'm not really due for a new pair for a while, but the inevitable purchase, plus the appeal of toe spikes, is kind of making me want to get them a bit sooner.

There's just one hard decision:  Black and teal to match my helmet?

Or white and pink to match my bike?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

People That Beat You When You're Crying Don't Count

The other day I mentioned to someone that, in a way, not winning makes better blogging than winning does, because you have to think of an interesting way to say that your race sucked.  I was pretty proud of my diversion efforts last week.  This week, no amount of wit could cover the whining, although the whining was so bad, it still managed to draw a few chuckles.

The distracted feeling of the past couple of weeks persisted through the Cincy 3 weekend, leading to my blowing off Friday completely and a pretty bad finish on Saturday.  Sunday morning, my body showed up, but my head didn't.  A minute or so into the race I made a stupid mistake that resulted in my laying on the ground, overwhelmed by how much I didn't want to be racing at that particular moment.  Then I cried. I got up, got my chain on, and forced myself to proceed forward on the course, because DNFing a 'cross race is stupid.  There was really no hiding my rock-bottom status, though, as I pedaled around the course and when everyone at the Shamrock tent asked me what was wrong as I came by, it was pretty embarrassing. Ultimately, I still passed three girls without really trying, but it was still a pretty bad day.

Anyway, after the race was over and I managed to get dressed and gain my composure only to lose it again every time someone tried to hug/console/encourage me.  (As my friend Emily used to say, DOOOON'T LOOK AT IT!)  Rebecca tried to make me feel better by saying that she was also beaten by some Cat 4 girls.  My reply was that I had been beaten by A LOT of Cat 4 girls the day before, but in my assessment of Sunday's race, "people that beat you when you're crying don't count."  As soon as it was out of my mouth, I knew how ridiculous it sounded, but it inspired much strategizing among those present.  If you extrapolate on my theory, the easiest way to win is just to start bawling on the starting line.  Tim even made it a point to tell me after his race that he forgot to cry.

I normally only choose the most flattering pictures for the blog, but this one seemed appropriate.  This is my "trying to outsprint mid-pack Cat 4's" face.

Oh well.  Not the proudest moment of my racing career.  So the question now is what to do next.  I'm obviously no more adept now than I was a year ago at pulling myself out of a slump, although I actually came up with some good ideas this morning that I would like to try.  It occurred to me that I should have focused on what I could have done well at Harbin, rather than the fact that I was ultimately doomed to fail.  I had a front-row start with a selective feature early in the race (multiple successive off-camber turns).  Instead of thinking about how I couldn't hang with the top ten riders' pace the whole race, I should have focused on going out as hard as I possibly could and just focused on staying in the top ten through the off-camber section, so that I could gain the advantage of avoiding the cluster-fudge that ensued.  Then if I had something left, I could kill it through the first sand pit and see where I stood.  I still might have faded at the end, but it would have put me in a position for a possibly decent finish.  I think I need start reminding myself to figure out *something* good that I can do each race and maybe build on that.

So I'm not ready to toss away the season, but I am questioning the wisdom of going to the USGP this weekend.  Even last year when I was on an upswing, the conditions of the USGP (hotel bed, restaurant food, super early start, no OVCX points) didn't exactly set me up for a good race.  It didn't really matter that much because I was just there to have a good time and celebrate my birthday in 'crossy style. A couple of not-great races just slid off my back.  However, right now I want to do what I can to really set myself up to have a good race next time I line up on the starting grid, so I'm not sure if starting another "distracted" race is a good idea.  I sort of feel like my head, legs, and, frankly, liver might like to take the weekend off, even if it is the most fun weekend of the year.

Perhaps I'll just sleep in on Sunday morning, go for a leisurely ride, then take a blow-up doll down to Bryan Park and give hand-ups to the folks on the walking trail.  I'm sure it will be just as good and that I won't get arrested for at least an hour or so.  That could make a way more interesting blog post than some moderate level of success in a race would, right?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Introducing The OVCX Heckler's Guide to Literal Nutritional Off-Roading

(At least in the elite race people give you stuff when it all goes to hell.) - me

So for two weeks in a row things have gone "all to hell" for me vs. the "meets expectations" I was at least achieving at the beginning of the season.  This is due partially to a crisis of motivation/ confidence, in that I'm getting averse to the pain involved in meeting my admittedly low expectations, but that I'm lacking the confidence to set them higher.  This is the point at which, in past seasons, I would walk away thinking the only solution was a season break and more training, but damnit, I've been waiting months for this, and I can't give up now.  The other part is all of the fun distractions the past two weekends have provided, which have kind of lured me into participation mode rather than racing mode.  Case in point:  my race yesterday was terrible, but my costume was awesome.

Last year I was waaay too serious to dress up for the Halloween race, in fear that a wardrobe malfunction would tank my chances at the series championship. This year, I have no chances, so I figured I should have fun at least.  That I did, but I definitely didn't arrive at the starting line with an ass-kicking mentality.  At least I got a little real racing in Saturday since there were collegiate categories in the ICX race, and I got mix it up with Marion's B squad a bit.

Unlike the St. Mary's race where grabbing a dollar hand-up was a hard decision, Sunday found me actually scanning the sidelines for hand-ups of any sort by halfway through the race.  In the end, I got a dollar, a mini Hershey bar (that I still haven't eaten), and a swig of cheap beer.  It was especially disappointing that I had to get the dollar from the Don Walker camp while all my friends in the Shamrock area only offered chants of "cast a spell" and "use your evil powers".  I guess it's just as well that no one enabled me in my downward spiral.  I'm really just disappointed that I missed the Jello shots.

With all of the distractions lately, it's a bit hard for me to reconcile the ass-kicking, Paleo-eating girl I want to be, and the back-of-the-pack party participant that's shown up the last couple of weeks.  Okay, so I loved the party part even when I was doing well (we'll call it the "sun and socialization" part of my health equation), but it was way better than when it was celebration instead of consolation.

Anyway, ever since I first saw the Whole9's Guide to Nutritonal Off-Roading, I've been trying figure out how it applied to the healthy weekdays and hand-upy weekends lifestyle that I live from September through December.  Since "It Starts With Food" was published, the Whole 30 plan seems to be catching on in the endurance mountain biking world, as least as opposed to two years ago with I was just a weirdo trying to tweak my fat metabolism.  However, I haven't heard many rumblings among the CX crowd, so until then, I present you with "The OVCX Heckler's Guide to Literal Nutritional Off-Roading" to get you through all of your tough weekend decisions.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nothin' But a Good Time

There really isn't much to say about this weekend's racing.  I did ICX Backyard Cross race on Saturday and BloomingCross on Sunday.  I still seem to be missing the mojo I lost last weekend, despite the rumor that mojo handups would be given out on Saturday.  I apparently didn't get one.  It was a hard, ugly slog, and the first time I have ever not liked racing in mud.  I love slick, sloppy mud and railing corners, but I wasn't into the sticky peanut butter mud on top of an open power course on Saturday.  That was just hard.

Sunday's course was much better, especially since it was Adam's piece de resistance of the past few weeks. It was much better laid out than in years past and really took advantage of the great venue (multiple locations of flush potties!), and the beautiful weather that always seems to occur on BloomingCross race day.  Unfortunately, I made a dumb mistake in that between switching from my Limus from Saturday to the trainer tire to the Grifo that I actually intended to race on, the actual race tire never got pumped up.  I spent most of the first lap trying to figure out why the course was so slick when it wasn't wet at all until I finally realized that it was just my super squirmy tire.  I got a new back wheel about halfway through, which made the rest of the race more pleasant, but didn't save me from last place.

After the "real" race, I once again participated in the Little 500 bike race at the end of the day, where we ride stock Little 500 bikes (super heavy, single hard gear, slick tires, coaster brakes, platform pedals) on the cross 'course.  It's super fun because it's just such a ridiculous thing to do and the people that stay around to watch are extra hand-up and heckle-y.  See this lovely action sequence:

Seriously, who is that chick drinking Budweiser with sand it?  Kind of gross, but I felt obligated to drink if I wanted the dollar.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicken Statues and a Slap Bracelet Beer Coozy

This weekend produced no notable results, witty insights, or inspiration for song parodies. Really, I think I'll stick to my Facebook assertion that the highlights of my weekend were the Brookville chickens and the "slap bracelet beer coozy", mostly because I can't really figure out the point of either, and yet find them very entertaining.

The chicken encounter was the result of my being a little too relaxed about my Saturday ICX series "opener race", as that is what I usually consider ICX races.  I thought I knew where the exit for Richmond was on the way to Cincinnati, and I forgot to get an actual address to put into the GPS before leaving the house.  This only occurred to me as I was going to pick up Adam's co-worker and our recently recruited teammate, Erik, so bonus points for dragging another person into my mess.  Anyway, I took off in the general direction of Richmond, which was correct in a general direction sense, but definitely not the most efficient route to the race.  We ended up taking quite the scenic route, viewing the rural Indiana scenery, passing up many opportunities to rent canoes, and witnessing the many artistically rendered chicken statues of Brookville, IN.

The race itself was less than blah.  As a result of the detour, we arrived an hour later than planned, and I didn't get a chance to do a practice lap of the course.  Starting cold, I did okay for about one minute before the first rough uphill drag took the wind out of my sails, and the first pass up the run-up did me in not long thereafter.  I basically just rode from that point on, only pausing to complete a couple of stupid one-women crashes.  I still accomplished my goal of getting a hard ride in my legs, and still got second out the two Cat 3 women.  For my efforts, I won a pair of white arm warmers with a bunch of breast cancer logos on them and a "slap bracelet beer coozy", as I called it, which was basically a flat piece of foam with metal bars in it that curled up when you hit it on stuff like the slap bracelets that were all of the rage among my elementary school crowd circa 1990.  It made a fun toy at least.

Sunday was the Gun Club.  Yeah, you know, one of the high holy days of the OVCX calendar?  The site of one of my biggest breakthrough races last year?  This year's course was even extra ripe for the taking with lots of twisty, twisty goodness, all of last year's steep spots suddenly reversed and pointed down, and zero barriers.  There was also a sweet Euro flyover, but I would say that was one feature that didn't really play to my advantage.

Unfortunately, I woke up feeling like poopy poopy doodoo and never really got my mojo going.  I faired slightly better than usual, because it seems there a still some Cat 3 girls who got there on power and are still at a disadvantage handling-wise.  I just wasn't able to use that as much as I wanted to because my power disadvantage was also bigger than normal which mostly negated my technical advantage.  In the end, I made a stupid mistake less than a minute from the finish that cost me two places.

So double weekend one of six is complete.  Lets hope my mojo kicks soon.


Oh, yeah.  I also accepted a new job this week, so that will be a interesting change and a little more money to contribute to the track bike fund.  I'm a little nervous about leaving my comfortably uncomfortable current situation, but hopefully I can settle in and start moving back towards just doing my job then going home and focusing on bikes, without the stress and distraction I've been facing for most of the last year.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

OVCX #2: St. Mary's

 I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need
hey hey
Well I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need
hey hey
And I said I need dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need
And if I share with you my pain face, would you share your dollar with me?

After Lion of the Den, I said that podium pictures were probably going to be fewer and further in between this season.  In that vein, I'd say that the picture above is about as close as I'll get.  I'm posing with my very first torn, sweaty dollar bill hand-up after retrieving it from my sports bra at the end of the race.

Technically it's not the first time I've crossed the finish line with more cash stuffed in my skinsuit than when started (beginning balance is typically zero), but rummaging through the sandpit in true gold digger style during last year's BloomingCross Little 5 bike race doesn't really count.  My objective was much more to provide entertainment and grab money than it was to really race.  On Sunday, the decision that I've been contemplating since last year's St. Mary's race finally stared me in the face.

How many times last year did I heckle dudes to "take the dollar, you're out of the money, anyway"?  In retrospect, it was a pretty harsh assessment to make from my lofty Cat 4 pedestal, standing there in my warm clothes, hard cider in hand and podium swag stored in the car, my suffering successfully completed for the day.  I just thought receiving trivial amounts of money mid-race sounded exciting, and the one time the opportunity arose for Cat 4 women, I was so focused I never even saw what was in front of me until I looked at the pictures later.

The part that I didn't understand was that while OVCX pays cash prizes to 20 places for Elite men and 10 places for Elite women, that the payout for retaining your pride goes down to (# of starters - 1).  Not last is still better than last.  Perhaps if I were used to top 5's, a 20th place standing would cause me to give up and ride it in grabbing every dollar, cup of beer, slice of bacon, jello shot, gummi worm, and free puppy available between the place where it all went to hell and the finish line.  (At least in the elite race people give you stuff when it all goes to hell.)

As things stand now, I still have performance standards that might not seem like much to others, but between me and my page, still allow me to leave races feeling okay about things.  Sunday I found myself in the "acceptable performance" zone, but working very hard to stay there. As I approached the "Shamrock Cycles Strava Challenge Start Zone" (the "segment" was approximately 30 ft. long and contained two turns and a variety of proffered goods) on the second lap, I heard Tim calling my name and "dollar hand-up" over his megaphone.  I sighted my prize and made the call, the long awaited dollar, or cautiously guard my lead over the next girl back?  If I played my cards right, I could have both.  So I grabbed as I exited the turn and almost made it, but my balance was off and I hurtled for the tape on the far side.  A handful of brake and a jutted out foot allowed me to stay upright and moving, even with a big loss of momentum.  I quickly stuffed the dollar and sprinted to keep my lead.  Totally worth it.

I managed to hold my 20th out of 22 place to end, and chalked another one up in the "meets expectations" column.  I'm still waiting for my first "exceeds expectations" of the season, but it's still early.  The first few weeks of the season have been much lighter than last year, and I'll be missing next weekend due to a visit from my parents.  After that, it will be six weekends in a row of doubles (one triple, actually), and I think that will be where I start see progress.  I'm not sure if heavy racing really improves my fitness or just beats away my inhibitions, but last year it seemed like more was better.  Hopefully the pattern will continue.

Monday, September 17, 2012

OVCX #1 - Huber's Apple Cross

The OVCX opener went a little better than the previous weekend's beatdowns.  I got a good start, but quickly faded towards the back of the 30-deep elite women's field.  That's not totally surprising in a field that boasted the entire Bob's Red Mill elite women's team and the United States' two most recent Under-23 women's national champions.  Quite impressive for a non-UCI regional series race.

Anyway, I faded, but I stayed closer to the next people up, didn't get lapped by Ashley James and Katie Antonneau, and didn't finish last.  Early reports were that I finished, "Like, fifth from last!", but upon further inspection, one was a DNS, so it was only fourth from last.  More importantly, I got the confirmation that last weekend was unable to give me:  I'm okay.  I don't magically suck; I just haven't moved up to where I want to be yet.  

Out of the 30 riders number 26-28 were as such:  the 2011 OVCX Cat 4 35+ Women's champion, the 2011 OVCX Cat 4 Open Women's champion, and the 2011 OVCX Junior Women 15-18 champion. Last year's points show Karin Reed, Emily Falk, and I as the most consistently good riders in our respective age groups among the Cat 4 women's wave.  Notice I said "most consistently good" as opposed to dominant, because none of us were.  There were a few dominant riders early in the season, but they quickly upgraded, and left a pool of us swapping around battling for the overall top 5 or so in the wave.  There were plenty of other good riders who were either a race or two short to make the series podium or had bad races, but in the end, it was just the category winners who moved up.  

Now we are the little fish in the big pond, but we're still battling it out like always.  Karin successfully attacked during my third lap slump, tipping the balance back to "Nemesis" from "Victim" on my page, while I stayed ahead of Emily the whole time bringing my record up to 3:7 against her (damn that Gun Club sprint).

So I'm okay.  I'm not off the back in no man's land.  I still have my place, although I'll admit I'm crossing my fingers for some auto upgrades to come out what is shaping up to be a super tough Cat 4 women's group so far this year to fill in things a bit for us newbie 3's (and give some of my old Cat 4 buddies a chance at some podium glory).  Hopefully, as the season progresses, so I will I, and I will become an established 3 instead of a newbie.  For now, though, it's enough to know that I'm not alone.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Opening Weekend 2012

"If I look back, I am lost." - Daenerys Targaryen

What a useful bit of wisdom from a fictional character who knows how to take lemons and make lemonade, or more accurately take petrified dragon eggs and make dragons.  Maybe my yet-to-be-purchased track bike needs a dragon name.

But this weekend was about my ghetto-named cyclocross bike, which I am apparently not as good at riding as I was last season.  It was also about my bedazzled skinsuit:

Since the early fall weather usually only warrants a short-sleeved skinsuit for 3 or 4 races at best, I opted not to buy a new short-sleeved skinsuit, and instead recycle the long-sleeved one from last season.  I also opted to do the alteration myself, hemming up the free edge with a Bedazzler rather than bland old sewing.  It was a hit.

Anyway, on to the racing.  Since the ICX opener was moved up to this weekend after I'd already signed up for the Lionheart CX tune-up race, I got a double-dose of big girl class racing to get the season started off right.  Or at least started.

Basically, work has sucked most of the time since last 'cross season ended.  I think it actually started sucking towards the end of the season, but I was focused on winning the OVCX championship, so I didn't notice as much. (I remember going home crying after being kept late in a somewhat pointless meeting during one of the really dark days of the year a few days before Kings CX, and riding in the dark out of spite.  Missing my intended workout obviously didn't hurt my performance that weekend.)  Anyway, once the OVCX season ended, work took over, and I apparently let the next nine months slip away in stressed/depressed fog thinking, "Oh, I have plenty of time to get ready before the season starts."

And then it started. had me predicted for a solid mid-pack finish in my first 1/2/3 race for Saturday, but I found myself slipping off the main pack early in the first lap.  There was one girl behind me and I tried to force myself into thinking she was right on my wheel so that I'd be motivated to keep going hard.  That is when, "If I look back, I am lost" came into my mind.  Then I looked back.  I saw I had a good sized gap, only to look forward and see the lap counter had two more laps to go than I was expected.  Total demoralization kicked in and I started thinking about how I couldn't take five more laps of pain.  Then my gap was gone and the girl passed me right before the stairs on "Heckle Hill" in front the biggest crowd of spectators boosted by the early-season tune-up race.

I'll admit that I totally gave up at that point, but I couldn't just drop out, so I kept slogging along.  Then I realized the girl was coming back.  When the gap had all but closed with a lap and half to go. I threw down an attack before a muddy twisty section knowing that holding the lead to finish would hurt, but at least my pride would be salvaged a bit.  I made it and felt good about the fact that I had turned it around a bit, and spared myself last place at least.  So 45 minutes races really are a lot harder than 30 minutes races, but I guess the extra 15 minutes was enough to completely lose it and still kind of get it back again.

Sunday, not so much.  I had low expectations since the Cat 3 field consisted of myself, Rebecca, and Val. Considering that I had been on the tail-end of that trio so many times last season, I didn't really expect much to change unless one of them had disintegrated even more in the intervening months than I had.  Sure enough, they each did extremely well, staying within a minute of the overall winner, and I languished in DFL no man's land.  Since there were only three of us, I still managed to get on the podium, so I figure I need to post the picture since I expect these will be much more rare this season.

So as Debbie Downer as all that was, back to my original point:  If I look back, I am lost.  I can't get the last nine months of training back.  Nor can lament the fast Cat 4 I used to be.  All I can do push forward with what I have now.  Time to jump into the fire.  I might get burned, or I might come out of it with a dragon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Track 101

It's been over a week since I completed my Track 101 class at Major Taylor Velodrome, but it was a super busy week at work, so I didn't get a chance to blog.  I don't guess there is a whole to lot to report, but I did have lot of fun.

We started out with a short classroom session where the instructor explained the etiquette of track riding, then we got our bikes headed for the track.  We learned the basics of how to start and stop (harder on a fixie) and practiced balancing and bumping on the apron.  Then we took to the track in earnest with some paceline work.  We didn't really get into any full race skills, and I'm still a little scared of the idea of a sprint finish when I'm already gassed. Here's me pretending like I'm sprinting, but it's really only about 70% effort.

I mistakenly thought that once the class was completed that you were considered ready to race.  However, that is not the case, which was actually a bit of a relief when the clinic ended, and I definitely did not feel ready to race yet.  I guess I still need to do 2-3 more hours of practice track time and then I can enter the Thursday night intro races.  Then it will be a matter of proving to the local track authorities that I'm not a menace to society and can hold my own against the big girls on Friday nights without injuring myself or others.  That's all fine, since the track season is ending and CX is beginning, so I wasn't going to race track this season anyway.  I just need to get hella strong over the winter, save up for a bike, and then get my extra track time in April.  Then I can start working on my "Last Friday Night" parodies.

The good news is that the 2013 Giant catalog came out this week, and the new Omnium is white, which is more my style than the blue version I posted for "Want it Wednesday" a couple of weeks.  Picture this with some pink bar tape and a white and pink Fizik Vitesse saddle:

It'll be like New New's cute little metrosexual brother.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Want it Wednesday: Mud Tires

I'm shredding
Shredding every puddle
Trying to shove the pigment of dirt
Into my skin

'Cause different
Doesn't feel so different
And blowing out is better
Than always sitting in

Let the rain fall down
And wake my dreams
Let it wash away
My sanity
'Cause I wanna feel the thunder
I wanna scream
Let the rain fall down
I'm coming clean, I'm coming clean

Today's "Want it Wednesday" is more of an "ordered it yesterday".  No super exciting fantasy blingy-ness, but not a minor purchase either.  I just ordered another pair of the same wheels I used for cyclocross last year (Velocity Major Tom rims with Ultegra hubs) and a pair of Challenge Limus tires to go on them.

I really feel like the switch to tubulars last season was a huge help for me.  My handling skills were better than the average Cat 4 before, and the tires only helped the matter.  As you probably know, I'm pretty confident about my chances on a muddy day, and my single outright win of the season came on the stickiest, sloppiest day of the year.

However, the thing that surprised me was that once my victory was done and the cheap pink bubble wine was consumed, I had to pit for Adam during the last race of the day, and he ended up only using his B bike for about half a lap.  When I asked him about it afterward, he complained of how terrible riding the Griffos on his B bike were in those conditions and how he couldn't wait to get back on his mud tires.  It was a little funny to me, but until he made than comment, I thought that the Griffos that I had been riding for every second of every race the whole season were awesome in those in those conditions.  It made me wonder what I'd been missing.

So this year the Griffos will be back for dry conditions, but I'll be rocking the Limuses in the mud.  We'll see if they make me pray for rain even more than I have in the past.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Want It Wednesday: Giant Omnium

Want something?  Of course you do.  Click here and share it with the world.

It's hard to deny that my taste in what constitutes a good time on a bike has changed in the last couple of years.  From traveling the country to do endurance mountain bike races to recently uttering, "This whole racing for longer than an hour stuff is for the birds" upon finishing the XC race Muscatatuck.  Of course, I was half joking when I said that, but only half.

Whether or not my genes made me built for power, I'm finding that I much prefer to train for it over slogging through big chunks of steady state.  Lets face it, if 2004-2010 is any indication, it's not as if my genes really made me built for endurance, either.  The main difference is that I spent a lot fewer hours training last season, but doing so finally reach some tangible level of cycling success, even if it was just in Cat 4. Eight hour weeks and winning beats the hell out of 12+ hour weeks and losing.

As I've expressed multiple times lately, I'm worried about how (uh-mmm, mumble mumble) hours a week will stand up at the Cat 3 level, but there's very little I can do about that in the next six and a half weeks, so I suppose if I fail, I fail, and I'll learn a lesson for next year.  I do rest little easier knowing that I had the exact same thoughts this time last season and it all worked out fine.  I guess we'll find out soon enough the strength of my dark cyclocross sorcery.

Anyway, since I keep leaning toward the sprint-ier side of cycling, I think it may be time I went all the way, at least for the "off season".  For less than the price of a pretty full-suspension 29er that needs a fork upgrade, I could become a member of the growing sorority of the region's premiere girl-quads that call the newly revitalized and rebranded Major Taylor Velodrome home on summer evenings.

It may just be something stirring in Indiana now that Marion University has MTV under new and better management, but it sort of seems like we're on the verge of a track renaissance in the US.  A couple of weeks ago, a friend who lives in Nashville, TN said that she knows a lot people getting into track racing right now, and the closest velodromes for them are four-ish hours either north or south, Indianapolis or Atlanta.  That makes an hour and fifteen minute drive on a Friday night seem pretty small.  I guess people just really need a new way to drink beer and heckle when it's not 'cross season.  I need a new way to stomp pedals and *be* heckled when it's not 'cross season.  I also really want to write a "Last Friday Night" parody blog post next summer.

So I'm setting my plan in action.  I'm going to sign up for the last Saturday "Track 101/102" class of the season on August 25 and rent a bike.  Then, if it's all I'd hoped it would be, I can start saving up to get my own bike by next April.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Indy Crit: An Easier Way to Ride Zipp Wheels

The Ohio Valley Cyclocross Series races are superior to all other forms of amateur cycling in the region, save one aspect:  If you want to spend an OVCX race on a borrowed set of Zipp wheels, you have to have the best race of your life and then hope the OVCX athlete of the week committee notices and deems your best race ever proportionally better than that of anyone else of your gender across all categories who also had a good race that week.  Even then, it's more about the glory than the wheels, otherwise you'd just hope your name is drawn to take them home permanently at the end of the season.

Saturday I found an easier way.  Rather than giving a little piece of your soul to ride some Zipp wheels, at the Indy Crit, all you have to give is a little piece of your elbow.

One of these wheels is not like the other.  It also highlights the fact that my road wheels are apparently sub-par, even for the Cat 4 women's field.  
Photo Credit: Scott Brooks

I had planned on not racing for the month of July in favor of a Hail Mary attempt at getting my sh*t together in time for CX.  However, as the premiere event of the Indiana road season (to paraphrase our team director in some guilt inducing emails) loomed, I first relented and signed up to volunteer.  Then two days before the race, I saw that the Cat 4 women's field was relatively huge and that I had two teammates in the race.  Despite the Wheel(wo)men's rapid team growth on paper, we hadn't had more than two girls in the same race at the same time outside of the Death March, so I relented and signed up to make it a Cat 4 Wheel(wo)men trio. (We still never got more than two of us in the same picture.)

Things started off as well as could be expected.  I went straight to the front in hopes of getting and keeping a good position.  It worked pretty well, although I was having to to work pretty hard to keep moving back to the front as we cycled through something like a backwards pace line. A few laps in I found myself cycling towards the back again as we hit the pavement-to-brick transition entering "the circle" for which The Circle City is named.

I heard a scream followed by the slow motion pause before one girl started to tumble and the others began to pile on top of her.  I was a few wheels back, but still too close to avoid, so I basically slammed into the pile straight-on and then somehow flipped or flopped to the side.  I expected some major road rashy pain, but a few seconds later I found myself lying on my back feeling pretty okay except for a couple of random cuts and an elbow that was more "strawberry" than full-on road rash (it's still strangely swollen, though, while not especially painful).

My bike initially seemed okay, except a dropped chain, but as I started riding to the pit, I found the chain was rubbing the spokes.  Luckily, the mechanic in the pit got it functional and replaced my stock Giant brand front wheel with a loaner Zipp one, which was pretty exciting, and gave me a push as the pack came around.  

At this point, I was pretty well recovered from the efforts of the early part of the race and we were probably over half-way through the 30 minute race.  With my "free lap" having stretched into several laps, I had the opportunity to manage my first finish with the pack if I could just handle 10-15 minutes of pain.  And I mostly succeeded.  I survived all but the final attack going into the beginning of the last lap, and didn't quite manage to outsprint the other straggler who peeled off at the same time I did.  I still managed 15th out of 28 starters, so I was pretty happy.

So I'm still not particularly awesome at crits, but I get a little better every time.  At least this weekend reminded me that I want to learn how to be good at them. I'm also pretty excited about our Cat 4 women's team finally seeming to come together a bit.  With a little more experience, and possible reappearance by Sarah Bauer on the road scene next season, I think we might be able to pull on some real organized team efforts.  Of course, 'cross is nigh, so all that silliness will have to wait until spring.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Crash-man Cometh

I've been in a bit of a work-related depression lately, so I've barely been interested in riding bikes, much less blogging about them.  In the last month, I've honed my skills at the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike clinic, blew off the French Lick DINO race when Adam hurt his back, and finally participated in my first Bloomington Crit after several years of spectating.  I guess it took a good ol' roasty hot double race weekend to get me back on the bloggy train.

Anyway, this weekend was the annual "DINO AMBC Challenge" weekend, which includes short track and downhill races on Saturday in addition to the normal cross country race on Sunday.  The one time I actually got up the courage to sign up for the downhill, it started pouring rain right before the race and wimped out, but the short track is always one of my favorite races of the year.  Even when I was still bad at cyclocross, I always faired better in the short track than I did cross country.

So despite showing up feeling flat and crappy, I still took the front-row starting spot that none of the Cat 2 men that we were starting with seemed to want.  At the BCSP DINO race, I had a horrible start (several pedal strokes to get clipped in) followed by completely unsnappy legs on the opening climb.  Standing on the short track starting line, I hoped that I hadn't lost the hole shot magic that served me so well all through last CX season.  Apparently I still had it.  I got a perfect clip-in and good positioning when the field came together.  I wanted to get out in front of the other women, without chopping any dudes who would ultimately be faster than me just to get the hole shot.  I think I hit a pretty good balance, because I only had a couple really itching to get around at the end of the first lap.  I definitely felt fast, and when I came through Adam was screaming about how good I was doing.  Apparently, I gained about 10 seconds during the first two minutes of the race.

Unfortunately, it didn't last.  I took a weird line through the first turn of the second lap since we were all still pretty bunched up and rammed into a little stump that I didn't see until it was too late.  A decently hard crash was followed by rushed panic, trying to ride with my bars turned around backwards, and a dropped chain.  First to last, just like that.  There were only three of us, so I worked my way up to second pretty easily, but the first place girl was never to be seen again.  She put some additional time into me besides what I lost in the crash, but I still feel like I would have done really well if I hadn't lost my mojo at the beginning.

It was super dusty.  Compare with the 2009 version below.

The XC was another beast entirely. Muscatatuck is one of my least-favorite courses, and Sunday was just another day in a streak of triple-digit temperatures.  That combination was compounded by a 4-6 weeks long drought coming to an end with a big downpour a few hours before the race start.  I was excited to have a day off from watering my garden, and I thought the rain would improve the dusty conditions from my Saturday pre-ride, but I guess it just didn't have enough time to soak in.  It was slick.

I once again attempted the hole shot, which is particularly difficult on this course, which has about 150 meters of slight downhill before the singletrack, and even that space is strewn with trees, fences, and outbuildings which must be avoided while also trying not to ram into the competition.  I hit the woods in third, and felt good enough to work my way to first.  However, I managed to get the lead right before my most hated section of the course.  A slick, rocky hill that I had to run up, followed by another creek crossing and "the switchbacks from hell" as I like to call them.  I maintained my lead through most of that section, but the switchbacks took their toll and I found myself in third again.  I was making ground up, until we got to my second most hated second of the course: the "bomb down, grind up, over and over" section, where I lost contact with the leaders and burned enough matches that I couldn't hold off fourth place when we finally made it to some swoopy goodness.  Then I managed another high-speed crash so that my left knee matched the my right from the day before, with another dropped chain to boot.  This cost me 4th-6th place.  After that, I just sort of rode it in, managing to lose another place and suffer another crash.  I normally only have one in-race crash per year, but somehow I managed three in one weekend.

So the way it ends sounds kind of awful, but I'm focusing on the fact that I rode *really* well for the first half-hour or so.  It was freakin' hot and I haven't been doing anything like proper XC training in forever.  With the work stuff that I mentioned earlier, I really never got going again properly after cyclcross ended, so I've been really afraid that I'd lost what I'd had last season.  The good news is that don't really seem to have lost anything; I just haven't gained what I need to be a successful Cat 3.

I've got 10 weeks to turn that around, but as I've been discussing with Jamie the past few days, I need to get my "health base" built back up before I can properly tune my motor.  In that vein, here's a picture of me eating wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from a BPA-free can post-race.  Don't I look excited?

Okay, it's just the only picture anyone took of me at the race that I know of, so it will have to do for now. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Negative Nancy

I was almost done with a long post about how much I was dreading Sunday's DINO race at BCSP, and both the old and the more recent resentments that had built up to that dread.  However, in the process of dragging out all of those feelings, I think worked through what I needed to work though and came to the conclusion that having those feelings posted publicly would only stunt me in pursuit to grow up and move on.  It took me a while to figure it out, but it's obvious that negativity towards myself and my competition only slows me down, rather than motivating me to be faster.  

I'll make it short.  There was a record number of Cat 2 women's racers with a field of 26.  I got 14th out of those 26 with a time that was three minutes faster than my winning time last year.  I'm fairly certain the course was just fast, though, because I definitely felt weaker than last year, but I guess you always feel weaker buried in the middle of the pack than you do at the front.

So that's that.  Time to start working on improving both my fitness and my attitude.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Want It Wednesday: Giant Anthem X 29er 4 W

Want to share your wants on Wednesdays?  Click here.

A few weeks ago, Jez "wanted" an Anthem X Advanced 29er.  Well, yeah.  I suppose that maybe it's not so obvious to everyone, but I really just don't even look at bikes that aren't Giants.  Since Giant doesn't make a singlespeed frame, I might cheat with on them with a custom Shamrock Cycles model if I had the funds.  In general though, if I were going to buy a $9000 mountain bike (or even the wholesale cost that I would actually pay), it would go toward the nicest model in the Giant line, which is currently the Anthem X Advanced 29er.

However, I'm so behind on lusting after the newest, coolest thing in Giant's press releases each spring (I really just need some lighter wheels for my aluminum hardtail 29er), that I pretty much skimmed right over the sparkly new carbon fiber delight that was the focus of the press releases until my eyes landed on this instead:

Not carbon fiber, but a thing of beauty nonetheless.  Probably about a 27 lb. thing of beauty if one tried to race it exactly the way it's pictured.  Of course, I would never leave it the way it's pictured.  White bikes are the perfect canvas for pinkification, and the light blue accents would coordinate nicely.  It's kind of a shame about the fork, because it's quite pretty, but doesn't really meet standards otherwise.  You're going to have go for the "girly murdered out" Anthem X 29er 0 W model if you want better parts (it's been getting great reviews).

As it is, the 4 W model is just affordable enough to make think that I can squeeze it out of my budget, but then I remember that I've budgeted for exactly 0 new bikes this year.  And if I did spend the money, it should be on improvements to my hardtail, instead of pouring more money into pretty but underspec'd bikes that I intend to upgrade beyond adding pink highlights and never do.  It's fun to imagine how it would look, though.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fast Twitch

We've tried to wash our hands of all of this
We never talk of our lacking fast twitch
And how we're blown out and slogging 
With our heads on the floor
So we jumped on some bikes 
And when we couldn't really sprint, we'd say

I can't be held responsible
She was setting the pace
And I won't be held responsible
They said to run in the first place

I've been remiss in my blogging since what I'd hoped to be my Billy Brubaker Moment at Ceraland has so far not really come to fruition. There have been a few notables over the last few weeks, but nothing that seemed worthy of a full post.  However, as I stood in the gym waiting to do my second set of 155 pound deadlifts, which are getting more comfortable and less back-threatening, "The Freshman" by The Verve Pipe started playing on the "all the good songs from when I was in high school" Sirius radio station they usually have going in the afternoon.  This song always make me think of myself and my other frequently injured college running buddies for some reason, and along with thoughts of Jamie's Tweet and Meredith's blog post got me inspired.

I had my "real crit" debut last weekend at the McDonald's Capital City Criterium in Frankfort, KY, but I haven't really wanted to do a race report all week, because I got next-to-last.  Or I won the sprint for not last if you want to look at the glass as half-full and want to generate a lot of "Likes" on Facebook from friends who you suspect didn't really read the whole statement.  I wouldn't call the race terrible or anything; just another step on the what's seeming to be really steep learning curve.  I made it 40% of the way through the race before I got dropped, so that was a bit of improvement.  I might have made it longer, but I took a risk that didn't pay off.  I knew that part of the reason I was struggling was that I was stuck at the back of the pack, so on a straight I rode up to the front and jumped into second position when the train got messy through a corner.  Wow. Second wheel is sooooooo much easily than the back of the pack.  I just have to learn to get there and stay there without feeling like an asshole.

The asshole feeling was what did me in.  I felt like I should take a token pull to absolve myself for cutting into the front of the pack.  Unfortunately, when my token pull ended was about the time the 1/2/3 girls lapped us, and as I was sucked back to the back, the front girls mixed with the 1/2/3's as they had been explicitly told not to do.  The increased pace plus being back in the yo yo zone did me in.  I rejoined for a bit when they came around and lasted until the pack sped up again for a prime near the end of the race.  Finally, I found myself overtaken by a girl who was dropped early in the race but was pulled back up to me when the pack lapped her (karma much?).  I couldn't shake her, so I sat up and waited for the last straight.  I would be damned if I let her relegate me to last place, so I followed her through the final turn, we started to speed up, and I dug deep to put a half a bike length on her before the line.

So, despite my poor result, I had a good time and put many of the crit-related fears that have built up in my mind over the years to rest.  It actually seems like a discipline that I could get into for the "off-season", since I'm currently burnt out on XC mountain bike racing and my brief experience with open road racing didn't impress me much.  I've just got to keep working and learning until I can keep myself buried for the entire race.  Then we can see how my sprint fairs against the front-of-the-pack girls. I know that as a former runner I'm supposed to assume that I don't have one, but the 155 pound deadlifts say that maybe, just maybe, I might have more than I think.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ceraland 2.0: My Billy Brubaker Moment

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on this old post, and I've been meaning revisit it ever since. The reason is that when I read the post I realized that, although it took two years to happen, I finally got my Billy Brubaker moment and even got a picture to prove it.:

In case you didn't click through above, my definition of a Billy Brubaker moment is a small success that gives you the confidence to achieve bigger successes.  Although I spent the days following last fall's AppleCross wondering what would have happened if I hadn't crashed myself out of the lead, at the end of the season I had a pretty good idea.  I could have won the pre-season race and ended up Cat 3 pack fill, instead of getting third, realizing that I wasn't ready to cat up yet, and becoming the OVCX Cat 4 women's champion.  Some might argue that Cat 3 pack fill is better, but after five years of being pack fill (at best), I needed the season of learning to battle it out weekend after weekend with something that I considered worth winning on the line.  I'm also sure that those lessons will prove more useful in the future than another season of struggling for "not last" would have.  Sometimes small successes are better than big ones.

Anyway, this weekend was the redux of the Ceraland circuit race that I originally blew off for gardening.  Since all but one of the scheduled races were cancelled due to the severe weather, the promoter brought it back this weekend, and included a women's Cat 4 race, as opposed to the single 1/2/3/4 race offered the first time around.  So I figured it was a good time to get back on the road racing horse after kicking my season off with a DFL and a DNF (yeah...left that one off the blog) back in March.  There were five of us in the race, but we started in the same group as the Cat 5 men.  Things started off badly with me once again not knowing what to do with myself on the downhill corner going into the beginning of the second lap.  I got gapped and couldn't (or wouldn't) close, and quickly found myself alone and disgusted with myself for wasting $35 and the drive over to Columbus for five minutes of racing.

Then I realized that with the speed I had been dropped, I would be lapped quickly and that this was a good thing.  I just had to be ready when the pack came by, and I could at least still get some good racing experience in, even if my result was still another DFL.  However, as I heard the wheels behind me, sped up, and successfully re-integrated myself with the group, I realized that there was only one girl left from the starting group.  I just had to stay on until we caught the others and I would have a shot at getting myself back out of last place.  Once I was in again, it wasn't that hard to stay there, except for each time through the turn where I got dropped the first time, when I would have to pedal with all my might to keep contact until the group slowed again.  I'm not sure how many laps I stayed there, but it was enough to pass two other girls who didn't jump into the pack, and I realized that I had snuck my way onto the podium.  I did get dropped again when the group sped up a bit with five laps to go, but then I had something to fight for and was able to maintain my place soloing in the last few laps.

Unfortunately, for my first road race "podium", they didn't actually have a podium, but they did give a cash payout instead of merchandise prizes, a rarity for Cat 4 women.  So even though I felt like a bit of a jerk for getting on the podium by cunning rather than speed, it definitely felt like a huge victory for me since it was about the first smart thing I've done in a road race ever.  I'll only do handful of other road races over the rest of the spring and summer, since I'm trying not to overdo the racing before 'cross season starts, but I'm crossing my fingers that today will prove to be the Billy Brubaker moment of my road racing career.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hippie Things I Did This Weekend: The Square Foot Garden

Both my training plan and the part of me that wants to someday not suck at road racing said that I should race on Saturday.  There was no shortage of choices:  OSRS Germantown, the Ceraland circuit race just down the road in Columbus, or rarely-seen 30+ woman fields at Hillsborough Roubaix in Illinois.  The only problem was transportation.  Adam wanted to do Ceraland, but that was last-place in my choices.  If I'm going to race road, it needs to be in a group big enough (preferably Cat 4 or at least 3/4 only) to allow me to practice burying myself in the pack and hiding from the wind.  I've still got to get that skill down before I move on to more advance things.  Ceraland only had one girl pre-registered, and even if more were to show up, it would be a small, mixed 1/2/3/4 field, which pretty much means it would have turned into a time-trial for me after about 5 minutes.  My teammate Sarah had mentioned possibly making the trip to Hillsborough-Roubaix, so I thought I could maybe get a ride with her, but I didn't want to be an inconvenience since my race would have started an hour earlier than hers.  As the weekend drew closer and I was filled with indecision, I knew what I really wanted to do: build my Square Foot Garden.

I've toyed with a little garden off the back porch for a couple of years, but I've really been wanting to make the jump to something that was a legitimate food source and not just a weed patch where I'd remember to plant and harvest stuff every couple of months.  I bought the book "All New Square Foot Gardening" last fall, but being cyclocross season, it kind of got pushed aside.  Then the weather got nice and I realized I was under the gun if I wanted to actually get everything planted, so I sat down and read the whole book last weekend.  Then, while spending week trying to commit to race plans, I was plotting my Friday trip to Lowe's to gather supplies.  The plan was to race Saturday and build a garden on Sunday, but it was obvious that my heart was way more into the gardening project, so I decided to just knock it out and improve my road racing skills on some other day when I was more into it.

So after three hours or so of shopping, hauling, and stacking supplies on Friday, and another seven hours of hard labor in the rain on Saturday (would have been a crappy day to race, anyway).  I now have 48 neatly arranged squares of super special "Mel's Mix" soil in which to lay out a lovely food supply that will mature in waves rather than sticking with pounds of ripe whatevers at once.  The main garden is three boxes that are six inches deep with mulched areas in-between to keep Adam from having to mow so much.

Then, in the side yard, I have a 12-inch deep box that will be used for longer carrots, potatoes, and other larger root crops.  I'm also going to put a trellis on the north side where winter squash vines can climb without blocking sunlight from the rest of the plants.

The project was a lot of work, and I think I may have already blown my annual vegetable budget, but it should provide a lot of low-maintenance growing years to come.  Hopefully I can learn a lot this year and add a couple more boxes next year, so that I can produce almost all of our household vegetables myself.  I can't fully explain my motivation for this, as shopping at the farmer's market already provides pretty good separation between myself and the industrial food system, but it will be nice to be able to race on Saturday mornings without the annoying consequence of having to eat grocery store vegetables.  I still don't have an egg solution, since my research so far has shown that, unless you live in a rural area with no restrictions on number of birds or the amount of space you have to move them to fresh grass daily, backyard hens are more of pets with benefits than a real food source.  I guess that it is just an extension of the realization that I've made since I've started buying most of my food from local farmers, that there is so much more to the food world than what you see in a grocery stores and that even "normal" vegetables are so much better in the home-grown form because of the varieties used.  Whether plant or animal, if something has been bred for mass production, it's almost inevitable that compromises have been made in the flavor.  Now that I have my own little backyard lab, I can experience the full range of what different types of vegetables are really supposed to taste like.