Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Mountain Cyclocross, Day 1, Verge NECCS #1, 26. September 2009

After a super-long, tiring week, the early, 3-hour drive up to Williston was actually gorgeous and calming. When I left Somerville the sun was rising over the Mystic. Mist was rising over the lakes throughout New Hampshire, and when I arrived at my destination up north, it was dewy and sunny and some of the trees were already changing color.

I hit registration, then took a couple warmup laps on what I soon realized was going to be a difficult, atypical 'cross course. Set at the Catamount outdoor resort, the rather lengthy course was full of chicanes and climbing. There was also a steep hill with logs in the woods (for me, that means "runup") and a descending (yay recovery) section thereafter.

With a front-row, slightly uphill start, I managed to get through the hole shot just behind Natasha taking it, then settled in for more climbing as some other women passed me. I still felt fierce, though, especially when I found Cathy Rowell's wheel and stuck to it for about half of the very long lap--chasing her in a 'cross race was one of the goals I set for myself early on this season. Yes, I told Cathy afterward, she was actually on a list that was hanging on my kitchen wall:

Fortunately, Cathy did not find this creepy--in fact, she was flattered. Whew!

Back to the race: we hit the power/recovery descent, zoomed back toward the parking lot and toward a chicane on a hill that (for most riders, including the pros) was best taken as a runup. I attempted to block Cathy by running past and remounting in front of her, but blew up from the extra effort and started fading back. I lost a few more spots after that, which didn't do much for me mentally, particularly since one of my crossresults "victim," Emily Curley, had snagged a spot in front of me and was successfully holding on to it. The following two laps were lonely and painful.

Finished a fairly respectable 12th--which would have been my best Verge finish to date (see: the rest of the goals list, which I totally need to update anyhow due to the upgrade), except that the field was only 21 women. I was happy about chasing Cathy, but definitely hoping to do better on Day 2.

The rest of Day 1 was fun and amusing. Here, for example, is a photo of my pal Jen riding the trainer in a skirt:

Monday, September 21, 2009

race report: Sucker Brook 'Cross, 20. September 2009

First things first: Auburn, NH is NOT off Route 95. I should have relied on MapQuest like I did last year, but unfortunately, I printed the promoter's directions (which said 95 not 93), and was halfway to Portsmouth before I realized the mistake. That's what I get for a. not MapQuesting and b. not being from here. I then proceeded to grumble and grouse my way through the back roads (thank heavens for the road atlas in my car) until I reached 93. Fortunately, I'd hit the road with time to spare, and arrived at the race at 7:48--

"7:48?!?! Where... where... WHERE IS MY CHAMOIS?!?!"

--yeah, um, sorry, where was I? Oh right, finally in Auburn, after getting lost. Reg was mercifully quick (I probably avoided the 7:30 crowds), and I pinned, stuck on the headphones, and got a good lap in. OH MY GOD I LOVE THAT COURSE. The off-camber was a bit steeper than I remembered it being last year (then again, last year I was sorta like "Whaaaa where am I?!?! hold me" for my first few races; now I'm like "oh right, I'm in the pain cave, yo").

Anyway, the start. Was stuck behind some folks--guhhhh I wish more races would stage by 'crossresults--and also, uphill starts aren't my strong suit, even when paved (seriously, give me a muddy track or flat grassy field any day of the week). Once I got to the gravel/grass, I started battling for position and taking places back. Didn't do a terrible job, either. At one point (I think lap 2?) I was battling Julie from IBC. I have NEVER fought it out with her--she is a BEAST. She ultimately passed me, but damn, that was rad. (Also glad to see her having a good race after coming back from an injury.) Also, I stayed in front of her teammate who beat me last week.

The other rad thing about the race was that, for me, it was technically pretty solid. My PSI choice (34/32 on Mud2/Jet) worked fantastically on both the grass and the doubletrack dirt/rocks. A couple other people got flats, so I was glad I stayed up in the 30s. I didn't ride the first sand pit section--I ran half and remounted on the grass area--which is what most offroad riders would consider the sissy line, but was what I knew would work for me. Yeah, I probably lost one place to Sally (I already told her I'd be out for blood next time, hehe) because she was screaming through the sand each time, but I didn't lose two or three places from crashing in it halfway through... that would have sucked more. In fact, I actually didn't crash at all. I had one minor mech issue--a shifting thing that I fixed in five seconds--and one near-miss, but I righted myself and didn't go down.

Mentally, I was also with it, though when I reached the point of nausea halfway through the last lap I may have dialed back a little more than I should have; the gap between Sally and me widened as a result. What I needed to do was catch her in the barriers and gap her BEFORE the sand, but I wasn't thinking clearly and, naturally, my dumb plan to recover on the pre-sand doubletrack and THEN attack fell through.

It was otherwise a smart race for me, though, and I snuck into 10th (out of 32 starters, including some chicks who've scored Verge podiums in the past) within 2:00 of the leader. Second top 10 3/4 finish this year--hell, EVER--so I'm delighted with the result.

race report: Quad 'Cross 2009, Women's P/1/2/3 Race (Spank Me Sunday #3), 13. September 2009

My original race plan was: "one lap of racin', four laps of drinkin'," but I'm pleased to report that during the elite women's race at QuadCX, I actually enjoyed four laps of racing and one lap of drinking. That's right, enjoyed. The course was fantastic this year, and the best thing about the race was being able to ride it again.

I wasn't as nervous for the start of this race as I had been for the earlier one, but once we got going I freaked a little and lost some places on the grass--which is a nice way of saying, I dropped to the back. And tried to catch on. And managed to chase Meg from Hup about half a lap, then lost her and was racing in DFL.

So in short: it hurrrrrrrt. Still, it was fun despite (or maybe because of?) the pain. A bunch of my friends cheered for me, including my roadie teammates; they must be catching the CX bug because they kept yelling "beer beer beer!" at me from various parts of the course.

Speaking of, about a minute or two after Mo Roy and Anna Barensfeld lapped me, I Henny-thugged it in the single barrier section. The resultant burning in my stomach distracted my mind from the pain in my legs for the final lap, and though I got lapped by a few more women, I managed to hold the last one off at the final climb. Yay! My guts felt absolutely wretched afterward, but I'm glad I survived a double day. I plan to do a few 1/2/3 races later in the season, and hopefully won't get lapped if I have fresh legs!

I finished at -1, but one of the MRC elite racers rolled a tubular, so I am listed ahead of her in the results! Muahaha. That'll probably never happen again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

race report: Quad 'Cross 2009, Women's 3/4 race, 13. September 2009

Worked on a lot of my old and new goals in this race, with a decent degree of success--very happy.

Improve pre-race focus: check. My admin on Sunday morning was in order and stellar. Okay, so my trainer broke again, but I rolled around the MCC grounds blasting the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen on my headphones. By the time I rolled to the line, I was ready to slay dragons. ("What, no dragons here?! Okayfine, I'll slay some damsels, whatever.")

Good start: check. Second into the hole shot behind Natalia G., held it for about 3/4 of a lap. (Being up there is nerve-wracking. Gotta work on that.)

Reduce crashes: check. I wiped out on some wet asphalt in the woods, but recovery was pretty quick. May have had another minor crash or two elsewhere, but again, quick recovery.

Fight back when passed: this was hard to do in laps 2 and 3, but on the final lap, Giulia and I were battling it out and I was in the game. She passed me, I passed back in the barriers (per my plan!), etc. That was rad. She drafted me across the parking lot to the final grass section and then advanced--oops, my mistake. Still, finished juuuust behind her, and turned some former nemeses into victims. Also awesome.

Get my head back in the game, block other stuff out: check. By the end of the race I had tunnel vision: didn't know what was going on outside the course, who was cheering for me, etc.--just knew that I was fighting Giulia. Happy to see mental improvement over the course of a race.

Season goal of top ten finishes in 3/4 races: check. 9/30 starters (28 finishers). I'm pleased.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm bringing CXy back.

Here is the new and beautiful assortment of socks procured for this year's 'cross season:

Here is what I have been doing to them in practice:

These days I'm learning a lot about what not to do on gravel. Thank Goddess for OxyClean!

Photos courtesy of Krautmaster E., a.k.a. Mom, who was in town last weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

race report: Palmer CX, a.k.a. "Jungle Cross," 29. August 2009 (Accelerated Cure Project #2, Spank Me Sunday #2)

"The spankings will continue until handling improves."

Dear Lord, I have *got* to stop crashing. Alternatively, perhaps given that I crashed at least eight times at Palmer, I now have the season covered? Oops, no, probably just jinxed myself. DAMMIT.

Anyway. Rolled into the parking lot in the rain, wayyyy too hyped up on coffee. Took a lap in same (rain, not coffee). Much to the amusement of some of the marshals, I dropped several F-bombs upon reaching the lake after the first section of singletrack--the water was knee-deep. Thankfully, I had brought six pairs of socks. I continued my warmup with some lackluster time on the trainer, but at least I was staying loose.

Then I went to line up. Given that a lot of the course was pretty MTB-like, I was bummed that no one at the line laughed at the joke I made when we were told we had 4:20 till the start. I mean, I'm not a stoner either, but come ON, it wrote itself. Anyway. My start was pretty good--I was right behind MRC, Perri Mertens, and Natasha until I crashed pre-lake. Still, managed to right myself and get up to the grass chicanes behind them. Early on in the race, I started feeling like I was bonking, but I did okay until we reached the chicanes in the second lap and I could see CBRC gaining ground on me. Yeeowch. Managed to keep Tasha in sight and hold CBRC off until another crash in the mud sent me flying off to the side of the course. D'oh. Cyclonauts passed me on... maybe lap 3?... when I went to the pit to fix my shifter and drop my glasses, which had become useless.

In some ways, it was an improvement over last week: the first lap went MUCH better than Blunt Park, and despite the two crashes that lap, neither of which cost me that much time, most of my other lines were okay. I did not get lapped.

But: one of my friends (the same one who told me to ride the log last week) was heckling me during the race, saying, "you're faster than this!" It embarrassed me a little because there was some truth to it--I was definitely NOT on my A-game.

So the race was also a good reminder of things to work on this season. I would like to do the following:
-get a smoother routine back in place for race day. SpectaCX was great in that it made me really happy about racing again, but spoiled me a bit in that when we weren't racing (which was most of the time), we were hanging out shooting the shit, and it was really laid-back. I need to readjust to time constraints, and plan for needing more time when the weather is crappy.
-fight back when I get passed. Being passed takes me down a notch mentally (I think this is true for most people), and in 'cross, I'm at my best when I'm reacting rather than thinking. So I want to make fighting back my default reaction, unless I know that I'm at an area of the course where I should bide my time (i.e., if I'm passed right before going into a barrier section, better to dismount and pass her again running).
-pay attention to choices that the strong racers are making in terms of everything from gear to lines, etc. Consider the options and decide whether they work for me.
-not be intimidated by the race leaders (particularly on SMS days), focusing instead on the race within the race.
-transfer my nervous energy into pushing/reacting rather than crashing. If the physics of potential --> kinetic energy always worked the way my race did Saturday, life would suck. Maybe I need to start thinking of races as rollercoasters, with the understanding that, if I take out whatever I'm feeling that day--happy, sad, nervous, pissed--on the course, the ride will be fraking awesome. I had one of my best races last year on a weekend where I was sad and pissed... it stands to reason that I can have another good race if I'm channeling run-of-the-mill nervousness.
-tune other crap out unless it gets me fired up. If someone is yelling something annoying at me in a corner, get out of the corner quickly and safely. If someone is being encouraging, transfer their positive energy back into my race. If someone is offering me a beer, pass and ask them for a rain check post-race... unless I'm pouring all of my reserves into the second race of a double day and still getting spanked, in which case, grab and drink the goddamn beer.