Wednesday, October 28, 2009

race report: DCCX, 25. October 2009 (Spank Me Sunday #4)

My good friend and former teammate Ken has been living in the DC area since last August, and he offered me a standing invitation to come down, visit him, and do a 'cross race. I believe his exact words were more along the lines of "come down and beat up on some MABRA girls." Since violence obviously appeals to me, and since Wilcox had said good things about DCCX, I thought I'd try my hand at that race. I was excited about racing out of town, so much so that when I wrote up my training calendar with my coach, I designated DCCX as an "A" race.

Just one problem, though--when BikeReg for the event finally opened up, I scanned the registration page and realized that they were grouping the 3s with the elites instead of the 4s. At that moment, I could already feel the pain (not to mention, the DEFEAT, oh my God, the defeat) set in. However, it was also noted on the registration page that the Cat 3 results would be subset, with prizes 5 deep. This was a huge tipping point for me--I'd get the opportunity to race against and learn from the really fast chicks, but the results of this experiment would be measured against those of others in my category. I decided to give it a go.

DC-area racer Arley Kemmerer put on a free skills/course intro clinic the day before the race; this was infinitely helpful. We went over the entire course, she had interesting ideas about pretty much every corner, and, best of all, we got to practice the start about five times, which was great since starts are not exactly my strong suit. When I rolled up to the line on Sunday, I was in the correct gear and, though I was nervous about the imminent handing of my ass to me by various 1 and 2 chicks, I was in the right gear and excited to get on the course. After the whistle I managed to clip in, get up the hill, and bounce up on to the grass about mid-pack. It was the hardest and best start I've done all year, and I managed to up the ouch factor by holding on. I was hurting but holy God, I wasn't getting dropped right away the way I was at QuadCross--I was ACTUALLY IN IT. So painful, but so exciting. Of course, as the pain worsened, the excitement turned to fear and nausea, and as we went across the asphalt and back up onto the grass, I had serious doubts about making it through the entire race at that pace. Kept hanging on and staying with people, until the barriers, when Christina Briseno stalled in front of me, I accidentally clipped her coming through, and she started swearing. SHIT, second elite race and I pulled a total n00b move.

While Christina and I went back and forth for the rest of that lap, I started questioning whether I belonged there, and eventually, she pulled away. For the next two laps, I sat in against the pain and worked on keeping Heidi Goldberg (Cat 1 road racer for Kenda, but new at 'cross) behind me. I worked on using momentum, and I was able to do it on this course like I never had before--there was one tiny hill that I kept bombing up when others were falling back. Then Heidi got away from me. Gah! New goal--okay, same goal I had at the start of the race--was not to get lapped by the leader. Meanwhile, while worrying about Arley lapping me, I was lapping some of the Cat 4 women. By splitting the fields the way they did, the promoters attracted a variety of category and ability levels, including a lot of beginners--75 total women, said the announcer--and that was pretty awesome.

The start of lap 4 was excruciating, but once I hit the brick section in the woods the "oh shit" factor turned to "only 1.5 left to go, and still on the lead lap! Woo-hoo!" It was at some point during the beginning of lap 5 that I realized I was actually NOT going to get lapped by Arley. Holy awesome. Stupidly, I relaxed a little. And then... I saw the girl advancing behind me, heard her friends cheering for her (Becca), thought maybe she was a 3 in my race, and wanted to hold her off. "Gaps don't close in cyclocross, they only open," I heard Myerson saying in my head for the umpteenth time, and through the barriers and into the latter half of lap 5, I worked on hammering out that gap again. Owwww. I struck a balance between teasing out space between us and not making stupid mistakes that would crash me out and close the gap. My last barrier sequence was perfect, and I finally nailed the muddy ride-up that I'd been dismounting and running in each of the other laps. I was ass-tired but I kept upright and kept Becca behind me. Once we went through the start and got back on the grass, I used my momentum to get me up the small hill again, then came back down around the turn, sprinted up the asphalt toward the line, and called it a day.

Though I held Becca off, it became apparent she was a 4 and not actually in my race, and I was pretty convinced that, even though I hadn't been lapped, I was DFL. I was wiped, felt like crap, and was basically ready to collapse and cry. I went to Ken's team's tent and put my bike down. The silver lining was Ken had brought draft root beer with sugar in it instead of corn syrup, which was awesome because it meant I could actually consume it (my body and high fructose corn syrup are sworn enemies). So grabbed a root beer from the cooler, started downing it... and then realized halfway through that I was drinking an IBC. Corn syrup city. SHIT. Not only had I just sucked ass at elite racing, but I was about to be in a world of pain. I gulped down some water and decided that, since it was possibly only a matter of time before total stomach shutdown, that I should spin my legs out a bit.

I spun around a bit, then headed over to check the results. Miracle of miracles! I had finished 16th--squarely in the bottom half of the field, but decidedly NOT dead last. They had not subset the Cat 3s in the results, but I was holding on to hopes of, like, squeaking into 5th for the 3s, so I decided to check back in a bit. Sure enough, the next time I wandered back to the results, the 4 podium was going on, and then I heard names being called for the Cat 3 podium, mine among them. OMG! PRIZES! I ran over to the AABC tent, grabbed my camera, and found Ken. We headed back to the podium just as they were starting the awards. They called up someone for 4th... then 3rd... and I was getting confused because my name had been among those called over originally, but they weren't calling me up. Then they called up 2nd. Still not me. There was only one spot left. OH. WOW. It was at this point that I turned around and looked at Ken in disbelief, much like some character in one of those terrible tearjerker sports films my dad used to watch when I was a kid. Then the announcer said, "And all the way from Somerville, Mass..." and called my name. Twenty minutes ago I thought I was the Sultana of Suck, and now they were letting me stand on top of the box!!! Yahtzee!

In my total biketardedness (which is probably evident given how much I've whined about the race, and how sweaty I look in the podium picture), I jumped on the podium before grabbing the prize pack, but luckily someone who had their wits about them gave it to me before I ran off without it. Of course, this meant that I stupidly wandered off holding the prize pack but leaving my bike at the podium. All I can say is, thank God this was DCCX and not Hartford 'cross. Anyway, I successfully retrieved the bike, we packed up, and when Ken and I got back to his place, I dumped out all the schwag from my prize pack...

Holy wow, does DCCX know how to make a girl happy. They gave me a ton of stuff, everything was thoughtful and awesome, and everything was my size. It's obvious the promoters cared a lot about getting women to come out for this event--I was touched.

Also of note: winning the Cat 3 obviously made me feel better about the race overall, but there were some other improvements for me in that race. At one point I passed someone and instinctively threw my elbow out to defend the move; at other times I was using momentum to get up that hill when my reserves were depleted. So, even at the bottom half of the field, I managed to come up with some confidence and that was awesome. The race start, the finish sprint, and the general aggressiveness are all things that I've been working this season with the advice and encouragement of my coach. So, a big, big thanks goes out to Cort for all of that.

Later that evening Ken, his teammate Steve, Steve's wife Jen, my friend Anna (who happens to live two blocks from Ken) and I met up at Quarry House for celebratory beers and great conversation. Anna got to experience cyclists in all their weirdness (you know, talking about food one second, Port-a-Johns the next, and unfortunate Spandex mishaps the third), but she totally rolled with it. Meanwhile, I was nursing the Pyramid Apricot Ales that I can't obtain up in New England, and soon, everyone was giggling.

Ken inevitably knocked back his fourth of five beers and demonstrated the universal hand signal for "bullshit."

It was an awesome weekend of friends and racing. DCCX and my Silver Spring homies do it right!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

race report: Casco Bay Cyclocross, 17. October 2009

So remember how my last post mentioned cumulative pain? Yeahhhhh, about that. After three weekends of Verge NECCS doubles, I was pretty beat... but then my coach sent me an email about a Wednesday practice race.

Have I mentioned my coach yet? No? Well, in a nutshell, working with my new coach this season has been great. Not only has my racing improved a LOT, but so has my 'cross fashion. Said coach has helped me realize that there is absolutely no shame in wearing GoreTex windstopper-type pants--the stuff one of my teammates used to make fun of me for because he said it was drug dealer garb, a.k.a. "smack pants"--while doing a rainy day workout or, hell, even while pre-riding a race course on a clear day... but I digress.

Anyway, so he emails me about this practice race, and I go, and so does Kathy, and we attempt to throw down, only it's, like, us, maybe two Cat 4 guys, and a bunch of Cat 3 guys, so this doesn't work very well. However, she and I suffer through the entire race, which is like 45 minutes or whatever, while a bunch of the other folks are jumping in and out... so there's that dignity, at least. The race is dark, but it's also pan-flat and mostly grass or decent dirt, so I spend the entire evening in my big ring--awesome for me as I am NOT a power rider. I also pretty much shred the barriers every single lap, which is double-awesome, but by the time I return home my eyes are all but rolling back in my head, and the next morning during my running workout my legs feel like they're carrying as many sandbags as a certain Cat 3 men's Verge NECCS leader. Ouch! Friday's short roller session doesn't completely get the lactic acid out, either.

So come Saturday, the lead is not yet out, and it is cold to boot (but thankfully, dry), and I am in the car stressing out over a number of other important life decisions, like music selection and when to crack the seal on my peanut butter and honey sandwich. The drive up I-95 to Portland is gorgeous, however--bright sunshine, changing leaves, the works. When I get to the venue, I pit my wheels, pin, throw my smack pants over my skinsuit, and check out the course.

It's a short asphalt uphill start that turns right onto some grass, then back onto asphalt. As I roll along the top of the park in my hoodie, jacket, and baggy pants, waiting for people to come ask me if I'm selling crack, I note that this is going be a power section. Course turns down again, loops, then back up onto some off-camber, blah blah blah. A lot of grassy corners (which, after my attempts to shred on Wednesday, I could probably do in my sleep from here on out), several steep run-ups, some bumpy doubletrack descents, some barriers, and then, holy hell, this gravelly, sketchy singletrack descent on the side of a hill, where if you slide the wrong way, you fall the frak off and plummet to your season's untimely end. I make a mental note to myself that I REALLY do NOT want to be behind anyone in this section.

After the perusal of the course, I stay warm by riding back and forth along the bike trail by the bay, which makes me look like even more of a drug dealer. I spot a docked cruise liner and, um, I must be burned out or something, because I begin fantasizing about not showing up at the race and, instead, sneaking aboard the liner and gorging myself on shrimp cocktail at the inevitable buffet. "Yeah... I could really go for some cocktail sauce... or perhaps some tartar": NOT what one wants to be thinking prerace, but I'm sure--no, I know--that I've thought dumber things. Hell, I have SAID dumber things. Um, anyway, where were we? Oh right--smack pants and shrimp cocktail, awwww yeah.

At long last, the dreaded/appointed hour draws near, and I roll my smack dealer ass on up the hill toward the staging area. There are only a handful of women racing--three in the 1/2/3 field, and five of us in the 3/4 field. I know, from my copious stalkage of, that Erin and Olivia are the ones to follow. Sure enough, 30s after the 1/2/3s are off and they start us, Olivia and I are jockeying for the hole shot and then I'm chasing her and Erin on the power section. I lose them for a bit, but then they have a hiccup or two at the top of a runup and I catch them again. Then my cumulative pain accrues as Erin and Olivia slip away from me in the corners. Ouch ouch OUCH. I hear one of Adam Myerson's mantras, "Gaps don't close in cyclocross, they only open" in my head, and there it is, happening in front of me. So I work harder to also make it happen behind me. I can still see Lauren from Colby coming through the turns about 15-20s behind me, but I want to gap her out and keep the final podium spot, so for two laps, I put my head down and ride my own race. By the end of lap 3, I see Steph Chase from IBC, who beat me to a pulp both days of Green Mountain and started with the 1/2/3 women, in the distance. I decide that, since I can no longer see Olivia or Erin, Steph is my rabbit/carrot/whatever, and plan to attack her on the final lap.

Unfortunately, when I roll up past the lap cards, no one's ringing bells at me. The USAC officials are sitting around and the lap count says 2 to go, not 1. Oh right... it can't be over already, because we were doing 40 minutes, not 30, of racing, owwwwwww. I mentally regroup for a second, and then look up at Steph at the top of the park and start going for it. All through that lap, I follow her and work on closing the gap between us. I'm still behind her as we go into the sketchy hairpin dirtclod turn. but immediately after that is the scary singletrack, so I sprint past on the grass because I wanted first dibs on the sketchfest. Once I get safely down, I power along the gravel, go hot into the turn before the final runup of the lap, and then... crash. Oh hai, right, gravel = nemesis, did we learn nothing in practice? Fortunately (?) I'm semi-upright and still clipped in, so, though Steph passes me and gets away on the runup, I'm still close behind.

The beginning of lap 5 was a lot like 4, with me following Steph. I'm almost caught up to her when we hit the first runup, and almost get her on the run, but she powers up. So I make my move on the remount instead, and zoom ahead on the inside even though I only have one foot in. I'm working on the gap and trying to clip in simultaneously--fun for the whole family!--but somehow, it works, and I keep her behind me for the rest of the lap, managing to neither fall down the mountainside on the singletrack nor crash on the gravel before the final runup. Yahtzee! By the final runup of the final lap, I've finally figured out to keep the bike in the big ring because there's a downhill right after the runup anyway, and since I'm not worried about THAT, I dull the pain of the runup by thinking of all the runups I did in practice to perky Michael Jackson songs. WHY DO THEY NOT FEEL THE SAME OMG? Whatever. I get to the top, blast cautiously back down (there's gravel at the bottom of the slope before the turn back onto the asphalt, and we knowwwww by now how I am with turns on gravel), then do the final climb, sprinting and wheezing.

I'm walking around still breathing heavily, and one of the marshals asks if I'm "going to die." I respond, "nah, I'm just being dramatic" and 30 seconds later, I collapse on the grass and wait for number 4 to roll in. Then I hang out with Erin and Olivia for a bit. Also, my vanity gets the better of me, and I opt to NOT wear smack pants during the podium presentation:

Putting the "um" in "podium."

In sum: this race was small, but terrific. The course was fun, the surrounding area was beautiful, and the organizers were total sweethearts. Highly recommended for anyone looking for local races next year!

Friday, October 16, 2009

race report: Providence Festival of Cyclocross Day 2, Verge NECCS #6, 10. October 2009

When I rose at an ungodly hour on the morning of Day 2, it was cold but clear. I shuffled around half-groggy, half-on a race day adrenaline kick, loaded the car, and headed off. Just south of Boston, the sun was rising over the water and everything was orange and gorgeous.

Upon arrival at Roger Williams Park in PVD, it was still chilly. I decided that the weather called for a skinsuit (yay!) and kneesocks. I met up with Kathy and we hit the course for a warmup lap. It was a bit different than the day before, with some interesting technical twists. In particular, the course featured a "bowl" section, just over halfway through, that you had to bomb down and bomb back up (or, if you failed at the latter, scramble up on foot). Then, just off to the left of the staging area (if you were facing the finish), the course featured a few more interesting twists and turns. One in particular was a short, steep drop into a 180 with loose ruts at the bottom next to the tape. This caused a lot of people to scratch their heads on the preride... some guys were able to successfully preride it. It was sketchy, though, and I had visions of crashing into the tape and losing 10-30 seconds... so I decided to run it. Also on the same side was an uphill stairs section; the stairs were placed perfectly and you could dismount right into them with terrific momentum. Rawr!

I did well in the initial part of the start and then found myself drifting back near the top of the hill, so once we hit the grass I was fighting for spots again. Grah. Cathy had a fantastic start and was in second or third for a while (I think?) but when she drifted back I found her and followed her. I worked my way past her and then heard Leah on my tail--she was having an amazing race. There was a ton of traffic in the first lap, and we kept getting bogged down in corners. The pain also started to hit me. And it wasn't just the pain of the race itself, it was the pain of the last day of three consecutive weekends of doubles. It was as if I could feel the previous five races all at once.

There are times, however, where the switch on my cumulative pain flips over and the agony becomes almost spiritual. Of course in a race it's a bit grittier and messier than that, but whenever I think of it later, I'm like, "damn, that hurt, and then I made it hurt more." I think that was what happened on Day 2: I hurt, I felt like it was going terribly... and then I decided I could make it hurt more. On the second lap, things smoothed out traffic-wise, but I was still chasing a woman in an unmarked jersey, Nicole, who kept bogging down in the turns. I think I finally passed Nicole on a remount (?) and then gunned for Laura Kozlowski next.

Halfway through the third and final lap, I was finally in front of Laura. Then, just as I was embarking onto the nervewracking hairpin turn before the bowl section, I heard my friend Seth from CB screaming, "You're top ten!" followed by the ubiquitous RMM yelling, "hey, HERE'S an idea! Why don't you ride faster and open up a gap?!" It was exactly the right sequence of heckling--like, "hey, you're doing great, now do better, stupid!"--and suddenly, there was a raging fire under my ass. I let out a roar (literally, and, sadly, a little late for Jungle Cross), dropped down into the bowl, and nailed the ride up to the other side (I hadn't quite managed it on the previous laps). Dove back down, past a cheering Seth, into the hairpin turns and let the nausea pile on up as I worked on keeping Laura behind me. I felt pretty wrecked, but I wanted that top ten, goddammit, and I blasted through the rest of that course like I meant business. When I hit the tech section near the finish, I had a gap, but I scrambled up the hill and passed a junior to put someone else between my wheels and Laura's. Then I concentrated on not screwing up, took a better line on the roots before the asphalt than I had previously, and, once I hit the asphalt, sprinted my ass off, and finished with a grin on my face.

Of course, as you can see in this photo by Geoff Martin, I owe it all to the crazy socks:

I can't tell whether the somewhat dubious onlooker is a hipster or someone from Back Bay Bicycles--perhaps both?

Anyway, the race was great, and I then spent the rest of the morning harass--err, heckling the masters field with Linda, Karen and Kathy.

race report: Providence Festival of Cyclocross Day 1, Verge NECCS #5, 10. October 2009

Since people have been demanding that I update my blog with race reports from last weekend, here goes. (NB: by "people" I mean "Lodri," but she's rad so her opinion counts for, like, that of two people.)

To be honest, much of Day 1's race at Providence is kind of a blur--but not because I was fast. It was raining when I left Boston and muggy and warm (for October) when I arrived in PVD shortly after 7:30. I got a quick loop of the course in, and then went to do pre-race stuff. Decided to stay with short sleeves, given the weather.

Lined up for an uphill asphalt start that took a sort of sharp right up a curb--there was a block in between the curb and the asphalt, but you had to hit it right. This was kind of intimidating, but once I got through the entrance (with a glut of people in front of me) I worked to pick some others off. I found Cathy's wheel again, buried myself there, and got past. Inadvertently got in her way when people started dismounting in front of me on one of the steep MTB-type climbs--d'oh. Eventually lost her and focused on getting past Sally and Emily Curley. I was chasing Sally on the gravel near the lake; not sure about Emily.

If the rest of what I remember from Day 1 is correct--and it probably isn't--the race hurt too much and not enough, simultaneously. Or maybe, it hurt in the wrong ways. I think my lungs were killing me, and that's usually not the case. I used to be a runner, so on the bike, my legs tend to go first but I can still breathe. Um, notsomuch on Saturday. I was juuuust about to finish in front of Sally and Emily and then they both passed me in the tech section before the final sprint. D'oh. Finished respectably--13th out of 44--but not ecstatic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

race report: Gran Prix of Gloucester Day 2, Verge NECCS #4, 4. October 2009

At some point during Day 1 of G-star, when we were both still experiencing post-race euphoria but had swapped out our Lycra for insane amounts of dorky yellow rain gear, my friend Jess and I agreed that the morning's mudder had been so awesome and successful that we could probably completely throw Day 2 and still be happy with the weekend.

The morning of Day 2 was a little misty, but the roads were much drier, and the drive up to Gloucester was a lot less intense. I parked, de-racked, and took on the pre-ride. I immediately realized that Day 2's course was... confusing, and had us rolling DOWN the hill each lap. So I rode that part, but it seemed a bit short. Then I realized, upon watching staging for the men's Cat 4 race, that we were starting UP the hill, and going into another course section. So after the 4s were off, I pre-rode that section. The course wasn't completely together in my head, but I at least knew what lines and tactics to take in which section, and that was helpful.

Pinned, changed into a clean skinsuit, rolled, chatted, various pre-race blahblahblah. I was feeling pretty good, definitely looser (and warmer!) than the day before. Staging was also far less agonizing without the copious amounts of rain, and thusly, the two minutes spent behind the juniors did not feel like the longest part of my life.

The start was an improvement over the previous day's for me, in that I was still in the front until 3/4 of the way (rather than 1/4 to 1/2 the way) up the hill, but people surged past after that. It was okay, though: I drilled it on the grass and quickly got into a chase group with Cathy, my teammate Nancy, and some other girls (I think Lauren?). Once we flipped back down the hill to the other side of the course, however, I took the conservative line through the sand pit... dismounted, ran it, and immediately got dropped. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Whatever, I kept on racing (well, I mean, of course) and, fortunately, it wasn't game over. I caught Lauren at some point mid-lap, and then later in that lap, I think when we were hitting the mud chicanes, I dug into Cathy's wheel--I think she's probably getting tired of me doing this--until I could get by her. When I came down the hill my teammate Charles was standing on the sideline, screaming that I was in 12th. Holy crap, wasn't I, like, 40th in this race last year? Um rad.

I managed to stay in front in the sand pit (which I rode the second time) and could see her surge behind me when we hit the short, sorta-paved, bumpy power section by the water. I'm still not sure how I managed to hold her off before I got to the mud, but I did. Meanwhile, this other girl got past me, and I couldn't quite get the engines up to pass her back, so I ended up rolling down to the finish in 13th. Still: two top 15s, two top 25% finishes, and a very happy, muddy girl.

Once I cooled down I spent some time with Melissa and Chris, who were nice enough to come out and spectate even though she doesn't ride and he no longer races (he used to do downhill MTB). My friends are rad. The rest of the day was nice too: got to see TJ win on his home turf (natch, I was oblivious to that whole sand pit crash thing until I got home and consulted the internets). G-star 2009: big improvement over last year, all-around.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

race report: Gran Prix of Gloucester Day 1, Verge NECCS #3, 3. October 2009

Got on the road at 6:45 a.m. and hydroplaned my way up 128 to Gloucester. When I arrived it was still rainy and disgusting. This is why I pack seven pairs of socks for every 'cross race. I shucked my jeans, pulled up my bibs, threw on the rest of my warmup Spandex, sucked it up, and went for a quick pre-ride before the Cat 4 men took the course. It was soggy but not completely terrible, but I knew the conditions would probably change more than slightly before my race (i.e., duh, more mud, we can always run mud if we have to). With the schedule running late and times in between races tight, my next three objectives were: 1. get the pre-ride gunk off of the frame and out of the drivetrain, 2. keep the drivetrain running pre-race, 3. keep rolling around because the trainer is at home and broken (normally, this would be cause for celebration; on a rainy day, not so much), and 4. stay as warm as possible while doing 1, 2, and 3 in the middle of a gale.

Sooo... 1. The bike wash wasn't crowded, so cleaning the stuff off was easy enough. 2. In between running around to reg and doing other pre-race stuff, I kept lubing the chain (I am really liking Pedro's ChainJ this season; it's drippy enough for a wet race, but not as gunk-attracting as SynLube) and running it through the gears. 3. I rolled around halfheartedly. 4. Rolling around seemed to make me colder, so I got in the car and slathered on a bunch of embrocation before attempting 3. again. This sort of helped until the start line. It was pouring rain and the 3/4 women were staged two minutes behind the cub juniors; the 100-odd seconds without a jacket were pretty uncomfortable.

Once we started, the discomfort of the rain was, of course, replaced by the discomfort of the race. I always have a difficult time with the uphill start at G-star, and Saturday was no different--made it into the hole shot about mid-pack and had to start picking people off through the grass chicanes. Got crashed out behind Clara Kelly in a corner, got back on again. The lack of a proper warmup started to hit me; my transitions onto and off the bike were slow as a result. Same problem after the runup--I normally rock remounts, but I was shaking and struggling to find the pedals. My legs felt like some sort of ancient machinery. By the time we were rolling past the ocean on the south side of the park, I wanted to jump off the bike and jump into the harbor. I know that sounds emo and dramatic, but it really felt like the more preferable line.

Then something happened--I don't remember where or how it occurred but I know that by the time I was back on the grass, my legs were warm again and I was attaching myself to Michele Harrison's wheel. I was able to focus on the task of wearing the wheel down, and I started enjoying the task of picking lines through corners in the mud. I don't remember where I passed Michele, I just remember that it happened. Hope's wheel was next. I think we battled it out a few times, but I got by eventually. Then it was Cathy's wheel again. Sometime during the last lap, I found myself in front of her and behind Julie from IBC, with Julie just almost within reach. I crashed out after trying to remount after the last muddy chicane-turned-runup, but righted myself. Didn't catch Julie, but kept my position to finish 14th out of 75 starters. Considering how I finished last year, and that finishing in the top HALF of Verge races was one of my season goals, with the hope to maybe be 15th at a smaller race like Sterling... that was unfreakingbelievable for me. So, so happy. I <3 mudders!

Friday, October 2, 2009

race report: Green Mountain Cyclocross, Day 2, Verge NECCS #2, 27. September 2009

It was cold and rainy when I left the hotel, and colder and rainier when I arrived in Williston half an hour later. I decided to get a warmup in and switch to a dry skinsuit. Said "screw it" to cycling fashion and pre-rode with a hoodie tucked into my bibs under a wind jacket. The "bringing CXy back" factor was pretty low, but climbing in fleece warmed me right up. As the weather worsened, I retreated to my car and cranked the heat while pinning my number, embrocating, and calling a girlfriend who was racing Blunt Park later that afternoon. Not my usual pre-race M.O., but apparently it did the trick. When I showed up at the start line of this race, it was cold and rainy, but I was feeling relaxed and happy. Cathy heckled me a bit in the staging area, asking me if I was done with my goal of chasing her now that I'd achieved it. We bantered a bit and then I responded that my goal for the race was to find out what it was like to race happy. Ha! No way was I showing my revised goal of "beat Cathy by season's end."

The start was hard. Tasha grabbed the hole shot again; I went through in about 7th or 8th. I was trying to stay in front of Elizabeth, who'd beaten me the day before and at Palmer, and then, somewhere early on in the first lap, I found Cathy's wheel again and Cathy's an expert mountain bike racer, and as the conditions were crap, I knew she'd have a good line. Plus, she's Cat 2 on the road, which makes her, like, a beast.

I tailed Cathy for a bit, and I think I finally got around her in a corner going up the hill after the stairs. Given what happened the day before, plus, you know, New Super Top Secret Season Goal, my race could have probably ended with that, but I kept my head down and kept looking ahead. My legs and mind were working together and I was enjoying (!) the ride, even though it hurt. I came down the recovery sections trying not to slide out, but probably smiling. And when I saw Tasha ahead, I jumped on her wheel and started tailing her because this, this was just crazy and not possibly happening.

Tasha and I caught up to Olivia in front of us, and we became a chase group for a while. We got separated on the pump track section (they were riding up the whole thing, I rode up half and dismounted for the steepest part, then remounted at the flat top and rode down) but then got back together. Then Tasha dropped back and I was racing Olivia. I know that I passed her somewhere in the last lap, and she passed me right back. Meanwhile, my front derailleur was having the issues it usually has in bad conditions, and the large chainring became unusable. But I made the best of the cassette, and was still in such disbelief from "OMG! in front of Cathy! in front of Tasha! is this happening?! whose legs are these?!" that I stuck to Olivia on one of the final climbs and got her at the top. That instantly made all those long, lonely hilly training rides on the road this spring completely worth it.

I managed to hold Olivia off coming down the hill, kept the bike under control until the finish straightaway, and then put my head down and hands in the drops and sprinted. I was still stuck in the small ring, but the effort was enough and I snagged 4th, just off the podium, for my best Verge finish ever. I was beat but I broke into like the biggest grin ever--and at the time I thought I was in 5th.

So, other than the mech issues, one fumble with the bike on the pump track in lap 2, and a bit of braking in the corners (erring on the conservative side was, I think, understandable given the wet weather), everything came together for me during this race. I felt confident, I pushed hard but I meted out my energy with care, and I had just enough left for the sprint. Great day on the bike racing some really awesome women.