Thursday, October 27, 2011

the very hungry Cat3rpillar: DCCX, 23. October 2011

Wow, I haven't blogged about racing in a really long time. A bunch of other stuff happened this year, most of it awesome (got a poem published, got a new job that I love, and traveled a bunch), and some of it less so (crashed and hurt my lower back about a month and a half before 'cross season started in earnest). Despite my injury, I had a great start to the season at Quad... then got progressively less excited and more disheartened about the season with each New England Verge race I did... then went to the mid-Atlantic, found my mojo again, and raced my face off for two days at Granogue.

More on all of that later, but that brings us to this past weekend.

I did DCCX back in 2009, but skipped it last year for Downeast. This year, however, I decided to skip Downeast. Though I generally consider myself a mudder, the bacteriophobe in me really hates racing through a start-finish area that's covered in thin traces of cow dung. Plus, I thought it would be a good idea to stay out of the Verge rut I'd dug myself into. So, even though DCCX was the weekend after Granogue, I decided to sign up for it.

The drive down was much more merciful than it had been the preceding weekend, plus--BONUS--the no-parking area in front of my friend Ken's condo becomes weekend-long parking at 7 p.m. on Fridays, and I rolled up at about 7:04 to snag the first spot. SCORE. Ken and I shot the shit (we've been friends for years, and he was one of the folks who first got me into bike racing, back when he lived in Boston in 2007), then headed out to dinner with our friends Anna and Jen. After THAT, the cold I'd been nursing all week started to flare up into total nasal congestive doom, but I fought it with some sleep.

Saturday the course was open for pre-riding. If openers matter--and after this weekend, I'm beginning to think they do--I got in, like, the best openers of my life, and it wasn't just the Sudafed I'd taken a couple hours before. I did about 4-5 laps, figured out lines, and made a new friend--an eight-year-old 'cross racer named CeeCee who was going to move up from the kids' race (which she'd destroyed the previous weekend) for her cub junior debut. I talked to her about different tricks she could use to get more height when carrying, and also talked to her about how to get safely lapped.

Openers opened up my nose as well as my legs, so I was able to breathe a little better by the end of the workout. Ken and I got respective dinners from Whole Foods, watched Bridesmaids on On Demand, caught a bit of the Silver Spring Zombie Walk...

... and then headed back, shamefully, to watch Bridesmaids again. To those who hate, I have one word to say: COPCAKES. Anyway, with half an hour to go, I gave up on the movie and went to bed, then tossed and turned and had nightmares involving having to go to the vet put down my childhood dog TWICE because the first time didn't take (beagle zombie?!).

Ken's race was at 10:00 and mine was at noon. We got to the venue at 8:30, which gave me ample time to schlep my trainer to Ken's team tent and watch some of the other races. I did a lap after the 10 a.m. race finished, mostly concerned with the line I was going to take on the downhill hairpin chicane (it was already tricky, and Sunday it was muddier than Saturday). I concluded that it was rideable, hopped on the trainer, and sang Jen an impromptu, sarcastic ballad about my undying love for the trainer.

I switched wheels, and then, with thirty minutes till 'CROSS TIME, something started happening. I found myself feeling a level of nervousness that I haven't had at 'cross races most of this season. It was the good kind of nervousness, the kind that involves being a little scared but also a lot excited, the kind that's a lot like the nervousness you have before a date with someone you really like. And just like that, I realized that, holy crap, 'cross was something that I REALLY LIKED again.

I was staged in the second row of the Women's 3/4 field, with the 15-18 juniors in front of us and the 1/2/3 women in front of them. We went off about 40 seconds to a minute after the juniors.

Starts are generally not my strong suit, but I nailed this one, coming off of the pavement and up onto the grass solidly in the top 10 and in a good position to pass (for me, this is a more solid bet than the hole shot). I kept moving up during the parade lap to the start/finish, and by the time we were at the chicane, I was in the top five. We went through the start finish and when we came to the fast barriers I hit the gas again, then again on the bricks (some people were using the section to recover, but for me, it was big ring all the way). Before I knew it, I was behind Emily from Momentum racing, solidly in third position. Diedre Ribbens had a brief mechanical and we passed her; then I passed Emily and, holy crap, was actually leading. This meant that I was doing everything in my power to not go mental and crash.

I started building a gap on Emily, but Diedre surged by both of us, so I started chasing her instead, and we built on the gap. It was somewhere around here that it hit me: there were about forty women in the race, and I was in second. I had earned six upgrade points over the past eleven months, and, if I could just hold on to second place for the next few laps, I'd earn the final four points towards the ten that I needed for my upgrade. From then on, the race became about building the gap behind me and riding smart.

Diedre and I went through the finish area and the lap cards showed two to go. I thought, "I can do this" and rode another smart lap, surging where I could and recovering where I could, preparing to blow it all on the final lap. Then when we came through again... it was STILL two to go. In retrospect, I think this was because we weren't get lapped by Laura Van Gilder, whereas most of the other racers were, but during a 'cross race, there's not much retrospect: there's just things getting painful and then things getting awful. I'd been planning to see what I could do to catch Diedre in the final lap, but with two to go instead of one, Diedre built a gap on me. I clung on for dear life, miraculously managed to ride the penultimate chicane, and came through the finish area again determined to stay in second. I kept surging and building, until I knew I had enough space to hit the final hairpin chicane with care instead of desperation. I came down it, left foot out, brakes squealing, fork chattering, but line intact. Then I rode up it again, descended, came quickly and cleanly through the final few corners, and sprinted up the finishing straight to hold on to second with 15 seconds to spare.

My brain couldn't believe I'd done it, but my body and bike were moving on autopilot toward the team team tent, where I de-chamoidified and put on jeans and a clean jersey (as if I did this every day or something). Then Ken and I went back over to the finish area to wait for the podium. While we waited, I took advantage of the multiple snack vendors and procured a cone of frites and a tray of mini-pancakes, which I decimated in about five minutes.

Then we had our podium ceremony. Hooray podium!

Then I ate another tray of mini-pancakes, and went back to the team tent for a Yuengling. Hooray beer!

Ken and I went to Chinatown for dinner, then had celebratory cocktails in Silver Spring. Hooray Manhattans and Sidecars!

Then we went back to the condo and watched Bridesmaids AGAIN, because we're chicks like that.

Then I drove home to Massachusetts, unpacked, sent a race resume to our local USAC official, and, twenty-eight hours later, turned into a beautiful, slow-but-not-lapped-by-LVG-even-with-a-gap, Cat 2 cyclocross racer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

sometimes, you see something small and beautiful on the side of the road...

... and hours of winter base miles suddenly seem worth it.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

2010 redux.

Ed. note: When we last left our intrepid hero, it was the autumn of 2010, and she was procrastinating on her race reports. OOPS.

Soooo, um, yeah, about the rest of that 2010 'cross season...

Providence Cyclocross Festival (October 9-10) was a fun weekend. I literally growled when I passed one of my crossresults nemeses in the penultimate lap on Day 2--obviously, it was all in good fun and jest, because making animal noises at LTHR is awesome--but then she came from behind at the end and nipped me in the final sprint for 6th. D'oh. Still a great race, though.

I made my annual return to the MAC the following weekend (October 16-17) to race Granogue, and was really glad I did. The Granogue 'Cross organizers put on a fantastic race at a beautiful venue, and they've been doing it for a decade. The only thing that sucked was something that was completely my fault: I had my car keys in my jacket pocket, and dropped them on the course during warmup. OOPS. Fortunately, Richard Fries and a guy from the Cat 4 men's race found them for me, meaning that I was able to get into my car (and my clean skinsuit) prior to my race. I called it "The Miracle of 'Crossmas." As far as racing went, I just missed the podium both days, with 6th place, but was delighted with the results considering that I'd also started five rows back both days. And, when I wasn't racing I got to hang out with my out with my MAC friends Jess, Vinnie, Steve, Jen, and Ken. All in all, a great weekend.

Downeast Cyclocross (October 23-24) was the following weekend. I carpooled with David Wilcox, and when I showed up at his house to pick him up, I noticed a bag full of tools, including a hacksaw, sitting on the doorstep. I was worried that we were going to have a Misery of a weekend up in Maine, but it turned out that he just had to build his new bike. Whew. He and Brams took care of that, while Lodri and I set up a Thai food buffet on an ironing board in the hotel room. Good times...

... oh, and racing! My legs were DEEEEEEAAAAAAD that weekend, but Crossresults had five top tens on Day 1 and two wins on Day 2, so it was still all good.

Canton Cup took place on October 30. I love the course at Canton because it's sweepy and fast, but also has a lot of running sections where you get to take barriers or other obstacles at momentum. Because the course at Canton's so fast, not nailing its few barriers, obstacles and technical sections means crashing, losing your position, and likely never getting it back--I learned that twice the hard way during last year's race. This year, I arrived early enough to preride the long lap twice, and it made a huge difference. Also, at the start line, the officials told us we were doing three laps, so I quickly planned a rough race strategy (fight for position in the first turns of lap 1, stick with it in lap 2, gun it in lap 3) and stuck with it. I rode a perfect (for me) race, got second, and was PSYCHED. I won some armwarmers, some socks, and a sweet pint glass. (I accidentally broke the pint glass during the first week of the offseason.) For more on the race, see the previous post, which I wrote a few days after the race, but forgot to publish until now.

The next weekend (November 6-7), I traveled to NoHo for Cycle-smart International. I had a freaking fantastic race on Day 1, finishing at 5th (out of 75 starters) behind my friend and longtime nemesis Nancy Labbe-Giguere from LadiesFirst Racing. On Day 2, a traffic jam in the first turn of the race screwed things up a little bit, but I was still OK with 11th.

Plymouth 'Cross (November 13) was the next weekend. Given that I'd spent the previous evening imbibing at a skinsuit party (not kidding... it was AWESOME) at the abode of team captain Colin, I'm not sure how or why I thought the race might go well for me. It didn't.

I was sick as a dog for Lowell CX (November 21) but decided that it would be a good idea to race anyway. It wasn't.

One of my favorite races, Baystate/Sterling Cyclocross, was the next weekend (November 27-28). I was just getting over my cold, but the race was still fun (read: I was almost as competitive as I'd like to have been, but not quite). Also, my spare wheelset disappeared from the pit on Day 1, which was beyond stressful. Fortunately, they reappeared on Day 2.

Immediately after I got over the cold I'd had for Lowell and was getting over at Sterling, I acquired a new cold. STRAIGHT BALLER. I spent NBX GP of Cross (December 4-5) sniffling on my couch and watching Friday Night Lights.

Sometimes a little emo sniffling and rest pay off: by the time The Ice Weasels Cometh (December 11) rolled around, I felt fantastic--so fantastic that I was in 5th at one point, and about to get paid. Then I dropped a chain coming down the flyover, and got dropped by the group I was with. I managed to catch up to and pass Rachel, and get back 6th, though, so I was happy. Then we hung out and drank beer, and went over to Colin's house and drank more beer, so I continued to be happy.

New England Regional Championships (December 19) started really well. Then I crashed coming down the flyover the first time. BrittLee thought I was dead, but I wasn't (even though I'd endo-ed and hit my head). Unfortunately, the crash had left my stem at a 10' angle to my top tube. Not having a spare bike, and knowing the fix would take at least 30 seconds, I opted not to pit. This made cornering during the rest of the race difficult, but I managed to fight back for a couple spots.

When all of that was over, it was time for the offseason. Hooray!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

here we go now, here we go (Canton Cup, 30. October 2010).

Ed. note: When we last left our intrepid hero, it was October of 2010, she was procrastinating on her Providence race report. She also wrote this race report in late October/early November, and totally forgot to publish it until now. OOPS.

While it's hardly been the Trail of Tears, and has definitely been an improvement over last year, this 'cross season has, for me, also involved a few near misses. There was crashing out of third place at Loon Mountain in September, getting nipped at the line at Providence after almost beating Karen Tripp, and finishing just off the podium at Granogue both days (6th--don't get me wrong, I got staged in the 5th row, and still won mad prizes, so I'm psyched). In my better races, I've been finishing JUST behind the people earning upgrade points--something that also happened to me at Canton last year.

You either love the course at Canton, or you hate it. I happen to love it, because it suits my strengths--i.e., it lacks tight corners and has a ton of fast running sections. The problem with the speed of the course is that everyone else is going fast too, which makes it harder to tease out a gap: if you crash, you're kinda toast. That's what happened to me last year, when two crashes put me out of 3rd, then 5th, into 6th. So I designated Canton as an "A" race this year, hoping to improve upon last year's performance.

Canton's traditionally held on the weekend right before Hallowe'en, which means that some people don costumes for the race. While I don't oppose 'crosstumes, I've never worn one at Hallowe'en races because of the potential for it to get in the way. This year, though, some guys on the Twitter were freaking out about the potential for costume call-ups, and I ended up freaking out with them and deciding I needed to come up with a half-ass 'crosstume so that I could stay in the front row call-ups occurred. This is how I ended up wearing red Dame Edna-style glasses and affixing devil horns to my helmet with red electrical tape (and those are the kinds of poor style choices I make when I listen to the advice of Cat 4 pros). Of course, only about two or three other girls also had costumes. One chick was dressed as Hulk Hogan, Lodrina from Geekhouse went as The 80s, and Emily Curley ran a disc wheel on her bike so that it would look like a spaceship and travel equally fast.

Unlike Granogue, where I was staged in the 5th row, and Downeast, where I got bogged down at the start, I managed to not screw things up at Canton. I was on the front row, and went up the hill just behind the lead group, which put me through the hole shot somewhere around 8th or 10th. I played it fairly safe through the gravel, because a. whenever I change position on gravel, I crash, and b. I knew I could make up some places more effectively in the grass turns. Once we got beyond the giant rock and hit the grass, it was ON, and I began picking people off.

Meanwhile, further up the course, Emily's spaceship was battling Hope Strode from Wheelworks. By the time we'd passed the first set of barriers and were approaching the brief doubletrack turn in the woods, I'd managed to get myself into third, and kept them both in my sights. When we got through the grass and onto the asphalt, they were working together (or, okay, one of them was sucking the other's wheel), and I kept chasing. At some point (I think during that lap, but my memory is blanking because, well, sometimes racing makes me stupid) Emily managed to shell Hope, and I caught up to her in the grass turns before the runup.

Once it had registered that I was actually in second, my chief mantra became "Fort, don't ---- this up." I still had Emily in my sights, but was hell-bent on racing smart in an attempt to not screw things up as royally as I had last year. So basically, once I got past Hope, my next project was pretty much to not crash at the base of the runup. I didn't--sa-WEET! And I managed to nail the runup, to boot. I was worried that Hope's roadie skills would enable her to catch me on the track section, so I got into the drops and worked my way into the pain cave. This was great, but I was still playing it safe, and needed to push it more. Bramhall could see this in my face when we came out into the short barriers in the final lap, and he yelled at me to not rein it in. That gave me the extra push I needed to keep things moving. I wrapped up the race in second, and it was awesome!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Providence wrap-up later...

... for now, a few more pics from Night Weasels are up at the crossresults team blog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Night Weasels, Night Weasels: we know how to do it.

I'm pretty sure that, back when Colin allowed me on this team, it wasn't for my Yankovician propensity to turn popular songs into horrific parodies about bike racing (my personal favorite so far: "I'm bringing CXy back / You vain crit racers don't know how to act"). As a result of my bad habit, this past weekend at Gloucester poor Dana had to witness me singing, "Night Weasels, Night Weasels" to the tune of this song:

Fortunately, Dana was buzzed enough not to care. Unfortunately, "Night Weasels, Night Weasels" as sung in Barry Gibb's falsetto has been stuck in my head for the past week and a half. The good news: the race was totally worth it.

Sweens and I arrived at Da Shrew... errr... the Ski Ward around 2:20 (the Princess demanded that we stop en route to buy beverages, and I obliged). Colin put us to work doing course taping and reg-related stuff. It was raining lightly, but not too hard, which meant that, beyond being wet and gunky, the course pre-rides were OK. I was really psyched about the barrier section involving momentum--score! I was also psyched about the fact that crossresults seeding resulted in me being assigned bib no. 13. I'm a total dork, but I've been wanting to do this ever since I watched Transition:

Photo by Chris Gagne

I did two brief bike washes before the race, and by the time we staged, the course was even more disgusting. Even though I like mud, I figured I was pretty hosed since Meredith Miller had preregistered AND Lyne Bessette showed up on the day of, so my plan was to ride as technically solid a race as I could and have a good time. I lined up in the second row behind Miller. There was a little chit-chat about primes, during which Anna Barensfeld threatened to downgrade to Cat 4 because she wanted the Moka pot, and then we waited for the whistle and we were off into the mud and darkness. Being behind Miller was the right decision--I found myself having the best start I've had all year, and was pretty much just floating into the mud. Plus, the inevitable pain of the start was also diffused by the hundreds of shiny glowsticks hanging off of the course tape in the first few turns. Wheeee!

I think I picked up a few spots going over the first bump, and by the time I reached the lighter side of the course, near the barriers (which were so much fun OMG), Colin was yelling, "Christine, you're DEEP IN THE MONEY!" OMG. Money! After that, I honestly spent most of the race enjoying the course and trying to continue not sucking, because I was holding my own in the mud and it was pretty awesome.

Photo by Chris Gagne

At some point I ended up on Frances Morrison's wheel--given that she was wrecking me at Verge races last year, I was pretty psyched. She crashed out in front of me, I went around her, and started chasing Alex Jospe. Holy awesome! I got by her and then she got the spot back and surged ahead.

Then, near the end of lap 3 or 4, Frances caught up to me and went around, along with another rider. We went through the start/finish together but I couldn't keep up. I spent the rest of the time trying to hold off Elizabeth White, but fatigue finally destroyed my handling. I crashed, then she kicked and got around me. When I got to the last half of the last lap, my friend Jen O'Donnell from CB was close behind me, so I tried to keep it as clean as possible and made it over the line in front of her with eight seconds to spare. Also, we were both comfortably on the lead lap with Miller... and in the money!

Getting my first-ever elite payout and having a ton of fun doing it was pretty awesome. Hanging out with a bunch of good friends on a Wednesday night was pretty awesome too. I got home after midnight, but it was totally worth it. Work the next day found me happily wearing last night's glow bracelets. Night Weasels: like my clubbing days, but better.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sucking the Blunt: Blunt Park CX Race, 22. August 2010

Sunday's outing at Blunt Park in Springfield marked my first real 'cross race of the season (sure, the EFTA Big Ring Rumpus was awesome, but it took place in early June, was over an hour long, and didn't include any dismounts, so it doesn't quite count as a 'cross race). More importantly, it was my first 'cross race in the new team kit.

Back in June I made a decision to join up with some fellow geeks at for the fall season, and I haven't regretted it (yet... ask me in December). It's really fun to be teammates with folks who share my deep-seated passion for INTERNET! and terrible puns. Case in point: over the week leading up to the race, e-mails were flying back and forth on the team mailing list, as we all tried to come up with as many seventh grade-style "blunt" jokes as possible.

Anyway, I was pretty excited about rocking our new Squadra kit, because (a) it looks awesome and (b) it involves a pair of bib shorts that actually grip my "oh my God you're tiny, are you SURE you're a bike racer?" legs. SPEAKING OF AWESOME: my friend Aumiller, who also was at Blunt, gifted me the most awesome pair of tall socks ever. They say "I'M WITH AWESOME." Aums quipped that perhaps I shouldn't wear the socks that day... because, say, what if I *wasn't* awesome? False advertising would, like, totally suck.

Apparently Aums is a clairvoyant, because I really wasn't with Awesome during most of the race. I lined up in front, but didn't react quickly enough at the start, and got bogged down behind almost all of LadiesFirst. Caught up to Giulia of Central Wheel, passed her in the first barrier, and battled her for a while on the first lap, but crashed myself out as she got away. D'oh! Then I was chasing another woman who kept remarking to her friend on the sidelines, "Auggggh, she's sticking to me like PEANUT BUTTER!" Ever the ambassador of the fledgling brand, I coolly replied, "Damn right I am!" and then promptly lost my hold on her in, like, the next lap.

I did manage to keep the racer who was chasing me behind me, and finished in the top half and on the lead lap, which is much better than I did at Blunt last year (remember that chick in green who was shouldering her bike for 3/4 of a mile after getting a mechanical in a crash? Oh right, that was me), but still isn't slaying by any stretch of the imagination. But hey, IT'S AUGUST. Colin always says that it's OK to suck on Saturday as long as you don't suck on Sunday. I say it's OK to suck in August as long as you don't suck in September. We'll see how that works out.