Trophies are nice, but they tend to sit around and collect dust. Not the case with the Slobberknocker trophy. Ryan’s George Foreman grill was falling apart (thank gawd), so I finished it off with style.
The Slobberknocker is a 75 mile gravel grinder in Perryville, Arkansas. With my past gravel road racing experience at Southern Cross, I opted to ride my cyclocross bike. Most people were riding mountain bikes and told me I was brave for bringing the CX rig. I knew that there were a couple of gnarly spots on the course, but that the skinny tires would be faster on ~90% of the route. In light of my ongoing minor awe at the volume/intensity of training I’ve been absorbing lately, I added a motivational sticker:
The course started out on 6 miles of pavement before turning into the gravel roads of the Ouachita National Forest. The rollout from Perryville went smoothly. My plan was to get ahead of the other women from the start so that I wouldn’t have to wonder what my placing was on course. I ended up on the front, shoulder to shoulder with Frank Webber (on his CX bike) for the neutral motorpace out of town.
At the first climb (still on the pavement), I sat back and watched as a bunch of riders hammered up while I rode a hard, but non-strenuous tempo up the hill. I figured as long as no women were challenging me, I’d keep the pace at about 90-95% of “beast mode” in order to not destroy myself before next weekend’s Cohutta 100. Like Southern Cross, my climbing strategy was to stand and pedal singlespeed style rather than gear down and spin.
The course was rolling big ring stuff for a while, but once I was on the bigger climbs in the Forest, my strategy was also to cruise the descents easy to avoid flat tires or wrecks. This meant that I was back & forth with a lot of guys on mountain bikes who would granny gear uphill then let loose downhill. There were only a few spots were I really had to ride the brakes and creep. I only heard the rim hit a rock once or twice. (Tubeless FTW!)
One part of the course (the descent to/climb out of Lake Sylvia) was two-way traffic to an aid station/turnaround where you could see the people ahead of (or behind) you. After a quick pit stop at the Aid Station, I was making my way up the climb when Laureen Coffelt zoomed past on her way down. Even though I knew that meant she was a solid 5-10 minutes behind me, it motivated me go one gear harder.
Speaking of motivation, I almost forgot to add a song to this post (weird video… you’ll notice something new each time you watch it)
The course after the turnaround was a couple more climbs and a bunch of flat/rollers. After the initial sketch of the last big descent, I hit the big ring and hauled all sorts of ass, absorbing a large quantity of guys who had been just ahead of me all day. Rolling back into town, I realized that I was going to come in under 5 hours (not that it was a goal or anything, since I really had no idea how long the course would take, but it’s a good benchmark).
Official finish time, 4:54- landing me in 1st place with $200, a belt buckle, and a sweet trophy woodsplitter maul. Bam!
Results aren’t online yet, but I’ll post a link & maybe some more photos as they turn up.
I decided to add some interest to the intensity of my training this week with the Tiger Lane Criterium race. Given the difficulty of my upcoming races and how hard I’ve been training lately, I’d felt unsure about going. However, with all of the other women in town avoiding the race, I figured it was a pride thing and pinned my number anyway.
As many youngling roadies have discovered, criterium racing (click the link and scroll down a little if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is somewhat of a learned skill. Much like cyclocross, because of the added bike and pack handling skills required for crit success, it’s possible to have exceptional fitness but still suck at it. The physiological efforts of a fast crit is similar to cyclocross as well- most of the time, you’re close to threshold, with repetitive leg/lung searing attacks sprinkled throughout the duration of the race.
I haven’t been training for the attack-type effort, much less ridden in a crit since June of 2010, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. The “women’s race” was run in conjunction with the Cat 4 men- a group that can be somewhat unpredictable due to the variety of riders ranging from recently upgraded 5s, cat 4s for life, sandbaggers afraid of cat 3 racing, as well as former cat 2s (yeah, I’m serious, there was a downgraded cat 2 in my race).
The course was flat, fast, and relatively non-technical. As we lined up for roll call, I did my best to stay stone-faced despite the fact that my heart rate was already above 130bpm. When the race started, I immediately stuck like glue to the first few wheels. My strategy was to stay near the front where the pace was smooth and I could follow the important moves. It was a good one- I barely used my brakes, and, though we were often 2-3 deep through the turns, everything was smooth. Even at high speeds, the group was surprisingly calm and non-sketchy. I chased a few breaks and made a few of my own attacks. I couldn’t help myself…
About 3/4 of the way through the race, a small break formed. Noticing that it was the magical mix of 1 rider from each of the attending teams, I jumped and bridged. According to Ryan, we had a workable gap started as we rounded the home stretch. Even though we were killing it, for some reason, someone chased down the break. It was a total cat 4 move on someone’s part, because there was seriously a member of each team in the group (i.e. someone chased down their own teammate). Maybe they were mad that I was up there?
The last few laps were somewhat uneventful. A lot of riders were stuck in the back because of the breakneck pace. I sat around near the front until the former cat 2 rolled off the front on the last lap (and won). The resulting surge/sprint landed me somewhere in the top half of the field for the sprint.
Given the situation, I’m pretty stoked on the whole thing. I’ve still got the crit skills on lock, and that sort of intensity will do wonders for my upcoming racing endeavors. Unfortunately, because of said races, I don’t think I’ll make it back to the crits until the last of the 4 race series. Big thanks to the 901 Racing guys for putting on a great race AND including a women’s payout!
I might catch some isht for this, but I think it’s worth saying. Guys, you don’t have to read. This doesn’t really involve you.
Over the weekend, I worked neutral mechanical support for the Los Locos Duathon. While I was there, I was amazed at the number of beautiful, strong ladies who were not taking care of themselves.
Ladies… I’m talking about your breasts here.
I saw so many cases of breast abuse during the run portions of the race that I wanted to start a neutral breast support tent. Do you WANT them to be friends with your belly button by the time you’re 50? Seriously?!
If you’re female and still reading, let me give you some sage advice. If you have larger than pancake-sized boobs, the same sports bra that you wear for yoga class, yardwork, lifting weights, or even cycling will NOT work for running. You know that feeling of something smacking you in the chin with every stride? That’s your breasts- it’s not good for them, and it’s not necessary. There are awesome sports bras out there, but you aren’t going to find them at Target for $20. Educate yourself. Do a little searching on the internet, then head down to your LRS (local run shop) or LBS (local bra shop) and start trying things on. Your boobs will thank you.
My other sage advice is this…
Well, it’s more of an etiquette/self respect thing…
Triathlons are places where you’ll see people wearing very little in the way of clothing. It makes sense- it’s a sport that involves swimming. It’s hot. Etc. See below:
The triathlon-friendly swimsuit. Makes perfect sense. Should you wear one to a duathlon? I’d hazard a guess that if any female triathlete showed up to a duathlon in her favorite tri-suit that no one would bat an eyelash.
However, if you’re green enough to multisport that
A) You consider bootyshorts to be “close enough” to traditional tri gear that you can ride a bike in them
B) You attempt to run the wrong direction out of transition
C) Your pre-race warmup includes bending over and touching your toes while the guy in line behind you at the portajohn is looking embarrassed and diverting his gaze.
You should probably reconsider your choice of clothing, so that people aren’t snickering and giving you this look:
As I mentioned in my Ouachita report, I have three injured fingers- a sprained middle one on the right hand, and a sprained/broken middle and sprained index on the left. The most painful, colorful, and most sausage-like one is definitely the index finger.
Following the race, Fullface Kenny texted me for a race update. The conversation went like this (I wanted to take a screenshot, but I just figured out that my phone doesn’t do that without downloading an app):
FFK: Finished Yet?
Me: Yeah. 3rd after a flat and a bad wreck
FFK: You OK after the wreck?
Me: I may have broken my hand
FFK: Minor details :)
FFK: A broken hand X-Ray is worth some free beer
So, the next morning, I went to the Minor Med place to get checked out, and was given the aforementioned diagnosis and fitted with some finger splints:
Surprisingly enough, I can still do prettymuch everything I need to do at work, with the exception of adjusting hubs and truing wheels… the little arms of the splints get caught up on the spokes. Also, I occasionally have to use a screwdriver to open up a tight quick release. I did get called Edward Scissorhands when I was trying to re-wrap an old gripshift cable.
Tuesday, I noticed that my middle finger is not healing straight. My days as a hand model are officially over.
Wednesday, Kenny kept with his promise, and I found this in the mailbox:
The healing process is slow. I can work or ride a little without my fingers splinted, but they start to get sore after a couple of hours. It’s going to be an indefinite amount of time before I can ride my road bike since I can’t operate the front brake right now. Luckily, I can still operate my mountain bike with no issues, so my training doesn’t have to take a break for healing.
Hopefully, the ortho will have a positive prognosis when I visit on Monday. I’ll update then.
I’ve got quite a collection of 3rd place finishes from “big” races.
It all started with Marathon Nationals in 2010:
Then, in 2011, I kept the Bronze collection strong.
Fools Gold 100:
2012 has been the year that I’ve stepped up the mediocrity… starting off with a Master’s World Championship Bronze:
Then, more bronze at Spa City:
…and, to polish it off, a cute little 3rd place quartz from Ouachita:
Yes, being able to podium at a race is something I’m thankful for.
On the other hand, always being on the lowest step is something that is sprouting a deep seeded discontent somewhere in between my liver and my stomach. It had only been a mild annoyance before, but when I heard the latest XXC Podcast with (relatively new) pro endurance racer Jonathan Davis, I really started to feel restless. Among other things, he talked about his dedicated training and recovery routine. I feel like I have a similar desire to dedicate my life to racing a bike much like he has, but I also feel like I’m stuck someplace in between the dream of becoming a professional bike racer and the reality that I can’t quit my day job unless someone magically calls me tomorrow and offers me a pro contract.
I don’t want to sound like I’m discouraged, because I’m not… more like really anxious and a little frustrated with a touch of impatience thrown in. So, this season, I’m hoping/training to get at least another step up… if not see the top at least once at something other than a regional level race. Sure, my goal of “World Domination” might seem a little ambitious at this point, but at least it gives me something to shoot for.
The entry list for the Ouachita Challenge always seems to be a mixed bag. 2010 seemed like the year of the pros. Last year, the field was slightly more sedate. This year, Carey Lowery showed back up, as well as Jessica Rawlins (state XC champ of Texas) and a host of other strong regional ladies. I finally had a chance to race the new Air9 RDO. Of course, I love the singlespeed best, but with a chance to win, it wasn’t the choice for a race with miles of flat/rolling road injected into its front and midsections.
I lucked out with work- Poolboy Matt was able to get Sunday off and come out to crew for me- a huge time saver on this sort of course.We arrived at camp Sunday just before sunset and rode the pump track for a while to get the car out of our legs. Afterward, we sat around the campfire and traded stories with the Texas guys.
Sunday morning was pretty typical. As always, I woke up with a race song in my head…
We struck camp and headed to Oden High School where the race started. I was a little late to the lineup and ended up only being able to nudge my way about halfway up into the field. For most endurance races, that’s not a huge deal, but for this one, getting into the draft of the lead groups in the 7 miles of road prior to the initial singletrack can give you a huge headstart on competitors that get stuck out in the wind.
I did not make it to the lead group. I was able to get some good paceline action, though. It was about the time that the asphalt changed to gravel when I saw Jessica for the first time. She was smack in the middle of a paceline of her Bicycles Plus teammates, who, from what I overheard from one of the guys, were all cat 1 cross country racers who were there to help Jessica out. I stuck to their wheels for a while before they took off after Carey Lowery up the final climb before the singletrack. I wasn’t about to blow myself up at 5 miles into the race. I figured I’d let them beat each other up a bit then tackle the loser.
After a little singletrack climbing, I rolled up on Jessica and her guys. I managed to get on her wheel and chill out a little. From what I could tell, she probably had me on fitness, but I had the rock riding advantage. With Blowout Mountain ahead, that was a good thing. I was waiting patiently for a chance to get around her when she (I think) dropped her chain. I calmly made haste down the back of Brushy Mountain through the first aid station.
The next portion of rocky awesomeness up and across Blowout was like home to me. Unfortunately, I punched a rock with my rear tire. Stan’s sealant went up in a roostertail behind me, and I pulled off the trail and rotated the hole down to let the sealant work. It seemed to have closed the puncture, so I decided to gamble and aired the tire back up with my one Big Air CO2. It appeared to hold… until I rolled down the trail another 20 feet, and it started spewing again. CRAP.
I found another safe spot to pull off (not always easy on Blowout) and proceeded to add a tube to my tire. About the time I was getting the tube into the tire, Jessica rolled by. One of her guys stopped to ask if I was OK. When he did, he accidentally dropped a CO2 out of his pack… lucky me!! I finished the change and headed down the trail with my rear tire bouncing like a basketball over the rocks (I wasn’t about to pinch flat). Time elapsed with flat… 10 minutes. In hindsight, the initial CO2 gamble was a bad idea. If it would have worked, though…
Next it was up & over one more mountain before hitting the road to/from Sims. There, I met Matt, swapped bottles, and refilled my seat pack. Matt said that Jessica had blown through with her teammates about 4 minutes prior. I could tell I was a little overheated when I left, so I refrained from going all out on the road to the Womble Trail portion of the course. Once I was there, I settled back into my trail rhythm. I was tired, but feeling like I would be able to successfully maintain a slightly gentler pace than what I’d sustained through the Ouachita Trail.
I made it over Mauldin Mountain and was headed down the back side when suddenly, I was wrecking. I don’t really know what happened, because I didn’t ever look ahead of me and register an “oh shit, I’m going to wreck” in my head. There were some roots… they may have been a little slick and off camber… no idea. All I know is that I watch my left hand smash against the ground with my fingers bending back towards my wrist. When I came to rest, I was face down with my feet downhill and my helmet just off the edge of the trail. The two guys that had been following me were pretty freaked out. They offered to get help. I told them I was going to be ok, but that I’d hurt my hand. In my head, I was thinking more along the lines of, “OH MY GOD MY HAND IS MANGLED.”
I heard one of the guys say he’d go get my bike. I have no idea where it was, but, with their help (and by help, I mean, they drug me back up onto the trail) I was back on and riding pretty quickly. I hope I wasn’t rude to them in my demanding that they just give me my bike so that I could keep going… they were concerned, but I just wanted to be riding again during the space between the initial “hurt” and when the adrenaline wore off and the real pain (from both my hand and the multitude of the other cuts/bruises) set in.
The last 15 miles hurt. I made a promise to myself that I could cry on the other side of the finish line as long as I kept my shit together the rest of the way there.
After what seemed like forever, I was back out onto the forest road and headed back in to Oden. I made it a point to big ring the gravel climb that had nearly crushed my soul with cramps the year before. Minutes after that, Matt appeared on his singlespeed with words of encouragement. I chatted with him for a minute before taking off on the wheel of another racer. Finish time, 6:05… 3rd place by less than 2 minutes.
Once I was over the line, I dropped my bike and sat down against a nearby building. It seemed like Matt and everyone else was trying to help me, but all I wanted was some water and to be left alone. Something about the way I was acting or looking caught the eye of the nearby paramedics. They also kept checking in on me, and one eventually convinced me to go sit in the ambulance where it was cool and get a bag of IV fluids.
It did make me feel much better.
Of course, the pain of hurt fingers and other bruised/abraded joints eventually set in once I was cooled off and calmed down. Three of my knuckles started to swell (the index and middle fingers on my left hand and the middle finger of my right hand) as well as the area over my left 5th metacarpal.
This morning, I went to the doctor. Turns out, save a small fracture at the end of the proximal phalange of my left middle finger, the remainder of my injuries are all in the soft tissue. I’ve typed this entire post with 7 working fingers (the other 3 are in splints). I’m to go back to an ortho doc in 1 week for re-evaluation.
I’m crossing my splints for a speedy recovery.
I haven’t been doing much of anything since racing on Saturday.
(photo courtesy of Fullface Kenny)
Sunday, I laid around the house in the throes of post-race misery.
Revisiting the revelation from my previous post… racing is hard for everyone, no matter how fast or slow you are. It makes everyone sore and tired. However, the physical and mental fatigue generated when you have the ability to push yourself at or above lactate threshold for hours on end is another level of hurt. At least, for me it has been. It’s highly possible that someone faster than me is reading this right now and wondering why I don’t stop with the whining.
My post-race experience has been the obvious full-body soreness coupled with a loss of appetite, inability to sleep (a combination of pain, sweating, and mental unrest), and a general feeling of mild depression and malaise. That was, for the most part, how I spent Sunday and Monday. Post-race Mondays are always great when I get to explain to everyone at work how I didn’t win.
I don’t think they particularly care, and, honestly, I don’t particularly mind having an awesome personal performance like this one and getting 3rd behind the likes of Pua and Sara. It’s the times where I feel like I should have done better than suck to explain. Thankfully, this wasn’t one of those times.
After a couple of days of being tired and lazy (my recovery rides consisted of riding my bike the 1mile to work and back as well as rolling around the skatepark a little while Poolboy Matt shredded on his BMX bike), yesterday was time to unf*ck myself and get back to work. Matt and I went out for a 3 hour wind fight (which I believe I won). I don’t normally take breaks during rides, but we had to stop and check out this guy, who was crossing the road somewhere north of Arlington…
I normally save turtles from the road. Not this type, though. If you’re not well-versed in “animals of the deep South,” just know that the snapping turtle is one of the meanest creatures on this wonderful earth. This was a pretty big one- huge claws, shell at least a foot long, and a fat, at least 4-inch-long tail that looked like something out of a dinosaur exhibit at the museum. I’d rank it right up there with the Honey Badger and rabid dog as “top 5 animals not to f*ck with.”
The ride, followed up by a good yoga class, were enough to finish peeling back the layers of funk that I’d been dealing with. Sometimes you rest more. Other times, it’s better to just jump right back in. This was one of those times.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, the weather forecast for Hot Springs had looked dismal. First, rain in the forecast, then torrential rain ahead of the race and a 50% chance of rain during. It eventually evolved into a perfect, sunny day with temperatures in the low 60s. Nonetheless, I’d readied the singlespeed by tearing apart my fancy new Air9 RDO in order to race a suspension fork (still waiting on one for the singlespeed, so it was set up rigid) and my new set of ENVE carbon wheels.
Unlike previous years (where the women’s roster was smaller), the growing popularity of the USA Cycling Pro UET series had drawn several out-of state hitters, including the likes of Pua Mata (not to disrespect the other women by not naming them, but, since… spoiler alert… Pua won, I’ll leave the additional e-stalking of the entry list up to you).
The change for the better in the weather forecast didn’t “necessitate” the reliability of the singlespeed. However, from my past season of NUE racing, I’ve found an unexpected comfort zone in taking on Pro class women without the use of extra gears.
So, Saturday morning, I placed my bike in the rack and lined up for the most ridiculous LeMans start in modern endurance racing- ~300 yards of running on gravel and asphalt. At the least, it’s incredibly inconvenient. At the worst, the length of the run invites injuries such as sprained ankles and “tripping & falling on your face on the asphalt,” which is exactly what happened to a racer immediately to my left as the pack veered towards the bike racks. Luckily, I made it to my bike unscathed.
Also lucky for me, I made it onto the wheel of local endurance matriarch Laureen Coffelt at the start of the first lap. I followed her until nearly halfway through when she slid out on a root and I was able to sneak around. She’d been tough competition in the past, so I knew I’d have to keep kicking ass to stay ahead. In the 2nd and 3rd laps, I’d find myself battling back & forth with Jessica Cerra. I passed her partway through the 3rd lap and kept the pedal to the floor.
I had an epiphany somewhere around lap 4 or 5. I’d been riding at a breakneck pace for far upwards of 4 hours when the famous Greg Lemond quote “It never gets easier, you just go faster,” entered into my head. All I could think about was how much that quote was cheating aspiring beginners into a false sense that they would never experience greater pain, just greater speed. Greg was right- it doesn’t get easier. To the contrary, it gets harder. You go faster for longer periods of time. It hurts like hell in a perfect sort of way.
I thought of that for what seemed like a long time. The previous two years, I’d had bad days at that race. I’d exhausted myself and death-marched around the course in my granny gear. I’d felt tired and sore after it was over. Now was different. I was in my 5th lap and hammering up hills past people like I was still on lap 2. My brain was constantly overriding the burn in my legs that was telling me to take it easy. I started my 6th lap, and my body felt like it was ready to fall apart. As I rounded the pits, Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne yelled that there was another woman just around the corner.
I put my head down and caught her on a muddy hill just before the trail dove into the woods. My legs threatened to cramp, and I thought of a much better quote, courtesy of Kevin, one of my favorite yoga instructors…
“One more time, for enlightenment!”
I managed to stay ahead for the entire lap, finishing my 6 in 6hrs, 10 minutes- 3rd place behind Pua Mata and Sara Gibeau (a rider from Colorado). The other two women who had been so competitive during the race were not far behind. I laid on the ground in the pit area for the next 30 minutes… exhausted and enlightened.
It’s nice to break a streak of bad luck at a particular race (though, honestly, the only other race where I’ve had much bad luck is ORAMM. I’ll get that one eventually). It’s also nice to break that streak with a performance that surprises myself. I’m left wondering where the combination of leftover cyclocross fitness and increasing endurance will land me this year.
So, if you follow Brickhouse Racing on Facebook, you already know that the Air9 RDO magically showed up on Monday. I built it and rode this morning. First impressions? (in random order)
-It rides just like an Air9 CYA, but about 1.5 pounds lighter. The stiffness of the Enve wheels and carbon frame make it handle like a road bike. I feel like I could inflate the tires a little more and rock a criterium on it.
-I wish that Niner had included i-spec XTR shifters with the build. I’m ordering the (not Matchmaker cheap OR easy) conversion kit next week so I can clean the cockpit up a little.
-The Raceface Crank, BB, and PF30 adapter weighs exactly the same as a Truvativ XX BB30 crank and PF30 BB.
-Even on the medium frame, I still need a setback seatpost. I’m going to take the fancy red RDO post that came with the bike and put it on my road bike.
-The alloy Niner stem is really, really, nice. The 90/6deg that came with my bike weighs 107g. I just can’t use it since I’m rockin’ the medium frame (taller headtube), and I need a serious negative rise to get my handlebars anywhere close to where I want them. I went for the Zipp Service Course in -17deg, and I’m still wanting a little more drop.
-It weighs in at 20.12 pounds.
-I haven’t had a chance to take nice photos yet. Here’s a photo I took with my phone:
So, the choice is made, right? I’m gonna race the awesome new hotness, right?
Not so fast…
I’m 95% certain I’m going to end up pirating the suspension fork off of the A9RDO hawtness and slap it on my trusty singlespeed (it’s patiently waiting on a suspension fork of its very own since I sold the shared 20mm thru-axle fork that I was previously using). I hate riding gears when it’s sloppy. Don’t get me wrong… I’m always looking to torture test some new stuff. Just not in my first race of the season, and not when the conditions/terrain lend itself so well to singlespeeding.
Even though I’m not taking most of everyone’s advice, Of course, I always appreciate your input.
In non-Spa City 6hr news, I did a post- SouthernX podcast interview with XXC Mag that should be out in the next day or two. I’ll post a link once it’s up.