Special Weather

After what seems like months of unseasonable luck in the winter weather forecast, it looks as if normal January weather patterns will be taking over just in time for my drive to Louisville…

 

The “Special Weather Statement” at the top basically says that Louisville will see rain most of the day tomorrow, and that it’s transitioning to snow in the afternoon. After that, it’s going to be cold and cloudy. Cyclocross weather? Yes. Weather that I like? Not particularly.

Luckily, I’ve got some bitchin’ mud tires, warm clothes, and a strong desire to just get this race over with. It’s been a long road, and I’m ready to race until my eyeballs sweat then just live life as a normal person for a little bit before returning to life as an endurance mountain bike racer.

Closing In

The turn of the new year marks two weeks out from what could be the biggest small race I’ve ever been to. Worlds, small?  Well, yeah… apparently only 5 women in the world aged 30-34 really want to try and win a world championship. This means two things to me- 1) I’ll be in familiar territory as far as “small group” racing style, and 2) It’s time to up my game. Since if you’re my age and reasonably fast, you’re racing in the elite ranks.

Small field aside, the taper begins this week, and I’m ready to race as if my life depends on it. Thursday morning, my power numbers were stout. The cycle of insane efforts on the bike followed by laying around doing not much of anything are paying off, and I’m excited to see what happens once I’m all the way rested.
I also started taking a B12 supplement. I’m skeptical about supplements, but B12 isn’t very expensive, and, as a water soluble vitamin, if I were to overdose (very unlikely given the small amount actually absorbed by the body when consumed orally), the excess is excreted in the urine. So far, the only difference I’ve noticed is that I’ve felt “good” at times of the day when I’d normally feel tired. The nice power numbers? I still mainly attribute those to hard work and rest. The B12 doesn’t hurt, though.

Neither do the beets.

Along with the hard work and rest, I’ve also avoided alcohol since Christmas. The avoidance of empty alcohol calories leaves the door open for consumption of holiday snacks with less guilt. It also means that I’ll have some catching up to do after Worlds. Lucky for me, we have some customers who know how to leave a beer tip:

 

 

Adventures in Self-Promotion, part 19

In an effort to drum up a little more traffic to the all-powerful blog, I’m experimenting with a couple of “social media” outlets. I’ve created a new Twitter account- @BrickhouseMTB (I’ll be phasing out the AndreaMemphis account). I’ve also created a Brickhouse Racing fan page on Facebook. It’ll mostly be photos and links to new posts, so I promise that if you subscribe to it, you won’t get a bunch of annoying “OMG, here’s pictures of my food!” type posts that you might see if you actually were my friend. If you’ve ever wanted to find me on Facebook, but didn’t want to put off that “stalker” vibe because we’ve never really met, then this is the place for you.

What I’m hoping for now is that you, my loyal and wonderful blog readers, help me out by re-tweeting, re-posting, sending invites, etc. so that I can get more followers. More readers/followers = more blog traffic = more visibility to my sponsors = more sponsorship = bigger and bad-asser races = better, more exciting stories for you to read on my blog. See? It’s really all about you and your desire to see me in my “hey y’all, watch this!” adventures in bike racing. So, share away!

P.S. Once my webmaster is back in town from a weeklong trip up North for business/holidays, I’ll have some sort of fancy buttons that’ll make everything a little simpler.

 

Tennessee State Championship Cyclocross

As I mentioned in my last post, the week leading up to the State Championship race was filled with intervals and elbow busting. I managed to relax and recover enough that I was feeling good and (somewhat nervously) confident about the race. I was fully expecting Kim Fasczewski to show up and put up a hell of a fight, but found out Saturday night that she would be wrapping up her season win in a North Georgia series. When we arrived at Lock 4 park and saw all the fast ladies who’d come out of the woodwork for the Championship, it was obvious that the race would be a killer nonetheless.

I realized during my pre-ride that the course was likely the most technical one of the season. The corners were greasy, and it never went straight for more than a few seconds at a time. It was also laid out on the side of a hill- at the beginning of the course, the hill was more gradual, getting steeper as the course wrapped around the side of the Lock 4 peninsula. I don’t mind tech, but I tend to excel on power courses. It was going to be tough.

Eight of us lined up (biggest race of the year!) We laid into it from the gun, Paula Burks got the holeshot- looking back on the power file for the day, the first 10 seconds of racing, I averaged about 700 watts. Kirsten- a rider from Wooden Wave- jumped around early and took off. She was getting a tiny gap, so I hopped around Paula at the barriers and chased. Somewhere a few turns into being on her wheel, I passed her and attacked up one of the steep spots. As I started lap 2, I was alone.

The course wound around so much that I was able to watch the ensuing chase behind me. Kirsten fell back and Jessica Owings took over. Eventually, Paula found her groove and chased in 2nd while Jessica and Amy Phillips battled out for 3rd. Lucky for me, by then, there were only a couple of laps to go.

 

Tough win on a tough course. Nice to have on my last race before Worlds, though I can’t help but wish I’d ridden less conservatively. Thankfully, the Louisville course should be a more balanced mix of power and tech. Til then, my schedule at work will be light while I make the final push in my training intensity and try to mentally prep myself for what I hope is the hardest and most successful cyclocross race I’ve entered.

 

 

A Weekend with the Men

After a brief hiatus from CX racing following the Outdoors, Inc. race, jumping back in on Saturday was a little like hopping into a chilly pool. I’ve started my last cycle of training intensity before Worlds, and the two races over the weekend were an effective addition to the stress.

Saturday morning was cold- somewhere around 30 degrees. We bundled up and rode over to a nearby church for the first annual Cordova Cross race. Once we were registered, we rode a couple of laps of the course to stay warm. The course itself was pretty boss and contained most of the fun/challenging elements that you could ask for in a cyclocross race- fast sections, mud pit, uphill barriers, sketchy-steep turns, power sections… all packed in to a relatively short loop around the church property.  The field was divided in to A, B, and Women’s groups for scoring, though we all started together. I entered the women’s race, but from the start, ended up staying near the front of the pack. While I was clawing back any men that were unhitched from the lead group, Ryan was busy winning the A race, and we both took home a win in our respective categories (I landed 4th overall against the guys).

Trophies!

Sunday was a bit more serious. We packed up and day-tripped the Arkansas State Championship race. The promoter decided that no categories (including women’s open) racing the B race would receive a payout. Shitty. Also, being from Tennessee, I don’t qualify to win an Arkansas jersey. SO, I decided to race the men’s “A” race to see if I could grab one of the top 5 spots and take home a little cash.
The race course was sweet- it was mostly soft grass and typical CX-type terrain. However, it included one section of snotty, greasy, and occasionally rocky singletrack. When roll call started, I lined up in the front row in case anyone was wondering if I really meant business.

Of course I did… I was wearing my “business” armwarmers…

From the gun, I made an aggressive start. Ryan ended up behind me, and didn’t make it up to my wheel until around 4 laps in. This was the first race for me on Ryan’s Reynolds wheels with the Challenge Limus mud tire. As the race progressed, I got more and more comfortable with the surprising amount of traction they afforded me on the soft grass and slick trail.

They’re officially on my “awesome” list:

 

Also on the “awesome” list, carbon tubular wheels:

 

 

 

(those last few are courtesy of Cliff Li)

Once again, I ended up in 4th place behind 2 Arkansas men and Ryan, who finished 3rd. Another good, hard day of training in the books. The only place I feel like I’m really lacking is in the last 20 minutes of a 60 min race. Fortunately for me, the Worlds race is only 40 minutes long, so I should be able to lay the hammer down for the entirety of the race. Looking forward, the next couple of weeks is going to be a rabbithole of intensity, including two hard workouts and the TN State Championship CX race on Sunday. I foresee lots of compression tights and sleep.

 

Outdoors, Inc. MidSouth Cyclocross Championship

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was somewhat nervous going into this race. I’d had a slightly fatiguing training week, and I was unsure of my ability to defend “home turf” against the women who could potentially show up from out-of-town. However, following suit to most of the other races I’ve been to this season, the women’s field (6 of us) was somewhat small (partially due to the schedule conflict that pulled a few Nashville women north to the USGP race in Louisville, KY).

We lined up behind the group of “B” race men- cat 4s and beginner masters racers- and started a minute behind the group. I decided to take the initiative and dive into the wind head-first. I wasn’t sure how the other women would react, but it made for a good photo…

 

It took a lap or two to work through the slowest of the male traffic, but I eventually put a sizable gap between me and the other women. The next few laps, I had the pleasure of both bleeding out of my eyes and hearing all of my coworkers/friends cheering me on. Sponsorship gold, Jerry…

(notice worlds most badass armwarmers in that shot)

Hopefully, some more, awesome photos will surface soon.

Not all piss and vinegar

The Outdoors, Inc Cyclocross race is less than a week away now, and my nerves are already twitching. This race last year, I was in poor cyclocross shape- there was time off following the end of the endurance season followed by the start of low intensity base training. I was soundly thrashed by both Heather Ladd and Kat Williams. It was painful to get beaten so hard with all of my peers watching… I wished during the entire race that a giant mutant catfish would emerge from the the Mississippi River and swallow me whole.

This year is very different… at least along the lines of my own skills and fitness. It’s not different in that I still have the same insecurities about getting my ass kicked in front of all of my friends and co-workers. I’m not sure who all will show up- there’s bound to be an Arkansas contingent, but the Nashville gals (including Kat and others who are strong and fiercely competitive) are unknowns since many racers from Nashville will be going north to the USGP race in Louisville.

This is one of those races where I feel like I need to live up to expectations, and I’m nervous about the possibility that I can’t do so. The good part? It’ll make me race like my life depends on it… or wish for the imaginary catfish to swallow me and take me out to sea.

 

Gearhead CX Race Report

Since this post is largely about trying to beat guys in races, Fred, who commented on my previous post, should probably stop reading now.

Race #1 was against the women and cat 4 men. There were 3 other women and a handful of guys. First place was $200 (woohoo!), and I was planning on doubling up and jumping into the men’s open race just after the women’s, so my strategy going in was similar to McEwen- race hard enough to win the women’s race, and leave the guys alone. It started out like that, but within a couple of laps, I was gaining ground on the leader of the cat 4 race. I eventually passed him, and, of course, he chased, so I had to bust ass to stay away. Winning. Wait… Winning? Shit.

I tried my best to cool down a little without getting totally relaxed. I grabbed a gel and some water and kept rolling around until people started to line up.

Race #2: The payout was 10 deep, and 12 of us lined up. The goal was twofold- get money, and fu… uh… race hard. The start was great- I jumped into the course ahead of a couple of the slowest racers but behind the guys that I wasn’t sure of whether or not I’d pass. In the next few laps, I chased several of them down. For a while, I was alone between the 5 leaders and the ones behind me. I realized that I was pulling Larry Yancey (Mr. Honeybadger himself) back. It took a minute, but I eventually passed him in the box of turns just after the first barrier. The last three laps was hell. I felt every pedal stoke from the first race, but managed to hold off all of the guys that I’d passed and finish in 5th place.

Bounty for the day… (thanks Gearhead for such an awesome race/payout!)

 

Today, I suffered and, for the first time in a while, felt fast. It was both painful and liberating at the same time. A mile-marker on my road to Worlds…

 

McEwen CX

Since daylight savings is giving me an extra hour of beer-drinking blog-writing time tonight, I figured I’d go ahead & get today’s race report out of the way.

Ryan and I went to McEwen today (just west of Nashville). When I arrived at registration, I found out that there’d be a small (4 of us) but competitive women’s 1/2/3 field. Woohoo!

We lined up behind the Cat 3 men and started 30 seconds back from them. I had the holeshot, but dropped back in the first couple of turns in order to get a feel for the other women’s strengths/weaknesses. At the first log barrier, my nerves got the best of me, and I mis-timed a dismount- I was off in time, but lifted my bike late and bonked my front wheel into the tree at full-speed… my bike bounced backwards hard enough to send me into an odd dirt/mtb shoe interpretation of a 180 ballet pirouette. At that point, I’d been on Jessica Owings wheel, but Amanda Ragle took advantage of my screw-up and passed me going into a nasty off-camber turn along the edge of a stank-ass cow pond.

Somewhere soon after, I passed Jessica to stay on Amanda’s wheel. My temporary plan was to stick to her wheel for a little bit, then throw down a strategized attack later in the race. However, we soon took to the barriers, and I ended up getting a gap on the ground (thank you, Coach, for those 20x dismount workouts…) When I took the lead, I maintained the same, barely maintainable pace that we’d done for the first lap. Amanda & Jessica did not.

I kept hammering the course as hard as possible. I could see Amanda a couple of turns back, so I didn’t want to let off at all. After a few laps, Ryan gave me a time check of “well over a minute.” I kept hammering. I was pulling the cat 3 men in like fish on a trotline. Soon enough, I was bearing down on the guy who was in 4th when I realized that I could no longer see Amanda in any of the turns behind me. I made the executive decision to downshift and take it down a notch. I’ll be racing for bigger money in Jonesboro tomorrow, so I forced myself to swallow my pride and not totally bleed out of my eyes in order to achieve the “make all the guys my bitches” goal.

At just under breakneck speed, I concentrated mainly on not braking much. I realized today that with the ill-fitting geometry of my previous CX bike, I was just now starting to learn how to turn fast enough to squirm/roll my rear tire under. Fun stuff!

Later, in the podium photo, I potentiated the Nashville rumor that I’m a “lesbian biker chick”… who cares what anyone thinks when you’re on the top step?

November MH&F

It’s November, which, if you live in Memphis, means two things… 1) the weather will, at some point, cease to be unseasonably warm and start to be unseasonably cold (usually within a span of 24 hours); and 2) Outdoors, Inc’s annual  Cyclocross Race headlines Memphis Health and Fitness magazine. I could tell you all about the race here, but then you wouldn’t have a reason to either click that link or read the article in Memphis Health and Fitness.

Last year, I was photographed and included in a sidebar along with the article… sort of a “meet a real life cyclocross racer” thing. This year will be similar, except for the cover photo. Instead of using a photo of racers taken during a previous cyclocross race, they realized that during cyclocross races, people generally scowl, drool, and have a gelatinous mixture of sweat and boogers hanging from the end of their noses. Instead, it made sense to take a photo of someone doing cyclocross things outside of the whole race situation.

So, a few weeks ago, I met a photographer & publisher at Mud Island park. They took a lot of photos- standing, running (up stairs and on the ground), riding, etc. The fun part was doing everything in slow motion while smiling, looking at the camera and trying to look like I was not doing whatever it was in slow motion. Everyone’s favorite one? Shoulder my bike and freeze in place while running up the stairs…

Hopefully, next time I run up those stairs, I’ll be going much faster and be dragging the souls of my competition along with me. The race is November 13th. Come out, watch, and heckle. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to drink a beer and yell at people on a Sunday morning- perfectly acceptable behavior for any cyclocross race.

 

And, on a totally random note, here’s a video that made me smile: