TDL- the rest of the race

The time trial was a flat 3 miles… making it really fast. When we arrived at the TT start, it was hot and humid, and there was a nice tailwind. I found out that my start time wasn’t until 7:01pm, so I turned the car on and laid down for a nap. Eventually I warmed up and got going- by my start time, the temp had dropped a couple of degrees (it was probably a chilly 89 degrees), but the tailwind had died. I managed to roll a time of 6 min 40 sec. I may be showing my hand here, but average power for the effort was just over 300 watts. Woohoo! It was good enough for 2nd place (1st was a time of 3:36… I’m pretty confident that I couldn’t have done any better). My time was good enough to move me up to 3rd overall and, with just second separating the top 8 spots, guaranteed a battle in the Sunday criterium.

For those of us looking for a knock-down, drag-out crit, this one didn’t disappoint. A LaSport rider attacked off the start line. The ensuing chase shattered the pack and left six of us up front. All of us threw in some attacks at various parts of the course, which, despite my initial dislike, actually played well to my strengths of a couple of short power-hills and a long stretch of headwind. Despite our best efforts, the six of us stayed together for the finishing sprint.

For the last lap, my position was perfect- behind a Tiger cycling rider who is an excellent sprinter and was stuck at the front of the group in the long headwind before the finish line. When she started to wind up, I stuck to her wheel, then made my move. It could not have been more perfect- I accelerated and veered to her right to pass and win… until she also, for no explicable reason, veered to the right, nearly taking out my front wheel. Instinct kicked in, and instead of swerving from my line, which could have taken someone else out, I backed off for a second and yelled, to which she responded to by getting off my line… but it was too late- the hesitation allowed her to cross the line first with me about half a bike length back. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed. She apologized during the cool down lap, and luckily, even if I’d finished first, it would not have changed the overall results.

So it was just like old times… I finished 2nd to the infamous Debbie Milne (a.k.a. “Tupelo Debbie”). I figured out that road races are starting to bore me (even the more “lively” ones like we had on Saturday), and I don’t mind criteriums as much as I used to. I’ll probably still race the Memphis race (gotta defend my territory) in a couple of weeks.

Here are a few photos:

...and they're off!
...and they're off!
feet
See those feet on the left (in front of my elbows)? That's an attack in progress.
Me- chasing after the first turn
Me- chasing out of the 1st turn and into turn 2
break
...and you're caught. No, you can't pull through. I'm gonna stay right here until I recover from that and figure out who is still behind me, wish I had the steam to counter-attack, and hope that Debbie doesn't...

turn2

turn1

infamous
The one & only

closeup

elbows
Back in the chase group, Casey expresses her frustration through her elbows
sprint1
I'm going for the pass, but between this photo, and the next, lameness...

sprint2

Tour de Louisiane Road Race

Someone get me outta here and back into the woods!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(No story short- the pack generally stayed together… I was daydreaming about chiggers or something and had a lame sprint. Ended up 4th. I think.)

Village Creek Sprint Adventure Race

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to stick with the sprint category for my first attempt at adventure racing. This meant that the course was generally marked and required only very basic map following skills in order to confirm that you were on the proper trail.

The race started with a 5-ish mile run. Luckily, it was on the portion of the trail that included all of the steep pitches (I consider that to be lucky because I rode most of it earlier in the week, and my Garmin showed that some of the hills were in the neighborhood of 30-40% pitches- much easier to climb when you’re not pushing a mountain bike). I had already marked my main competition- a guy that won the sprint division races last year and the one earlier this year.

Funny side story… before the race, I was talking to another solo sprint guy. I told him that since no other women signed up that I’d be gunning to beat all the guys. He pointed to a guy on the other side of the parking lot and warned me that I’d OK except for that guy, because he always won by half an hour or something. I chuckled and said something along the line of, “meh, no problem.”

So, when the race started, I just set pace with “that guy.” Soon enough, going uphill, I passed him. He paced me. I eventually put a little bit of a lead on him, but my transition to the bike was somewhat slow, and we ended up leaving the transition area together. I’m not sure when I lost him, but by the time I got to the first bike checkpoint, I looked back and he was nowhere to be seen. I knew better than to take it easy at that point and kept pushing the pace. My race almost took a disastrous turn when I was crossing a creek and got massive chainsuck. I got off of my bike and tried to yank the chain out, but it the top and bottom lengths of chain were wedged in between chainrings like a sweaty fat chick in skinny jeans. Of course, about a minute later, I got passed by my mark… Soon after, I fixed the chain by using the screwdriver on my bike tool to pry it out.

I got back on my bike, determined to catch, attack, and drop. I caught up on a hill. I inched up behind him until I was about a bike length back, then pedaled as hard as I could (wanting to look un-catchable), passed him with a quickness, and bombed down the other side of the hill. This guy had some serious upper body muscle, so I knew I’d be at a disadvantage carrying and paddling the kayak in the next stage and needed all the extra time I could get.

The kayak portion generally sucked. The inflatable boats we used spin around easily in the water, but I quickly figured out how to sit in the front and get moving. The worst part was carrying the awkward, heavy boat back up the hill after paddling a mile.

Amazingly, I was still in the lead when I received instruction for the final stage- run to the swimming area of the lake, swim out to a marker, and swim back. I made the mistake of not removing my hat, sunglasses, and hydration pack, so when I got to the water, I flailed around like a drowning rat. I lost what bit of a lead I had. He exited the water just ahead of me, but headed back up the hill rather than going to the course marshall to get his passport punched, so he had to go back- giving me the few seconds I needed to get back in the lead.

At that point, it was all or nothing. I ran across a grassy field (in lieu of taking the slightly longer road). The ground there was literally like swiss cheese- some sort of burrowing animal colony had entrenched itself. I went for broke- I was thinking to myself, I’m either going to break an ankle or I’m going to win.

Luckily, option B occured. I won by about 30 seconds- 2 hours, 32 minutes & change.

Remember the guy I had talked to before the race? I talked to him later and asked if he’d thought I was joking. It was fun. I got a lot of questions after the race- where did I come from, was this really my first race, etc… it was kinda weird. The coolest thing, though, was actually getting to sit down & talk to Kurt (my “mark”) for a little while. I may actually team up with him and another guy to compete as a co-ed team at the Ouachita 12 Hour Adventure Race in October.

It was a good day.The only downside is that I got home too late to pack up and make it over to Mousetail Landing State Park in time to set up camp before dark. There’s a XC race in the morning that I had previously planned on entering, but I don’t want to wake up early and drive over, so I’m just going to do my usual 70 mile Sunday ride instead. I think my legs will be a little tired, anyway.

West Feliciana Stage Race: Day 2

After yesterday’s shennanigans, I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel today. Though with a 1:50 minute advantage in the General Classification, I wasn’t too worried. The race started out at a nice clip. A lot of the first 15 miles or so was downhill, and we rolled through it quickly with everyone taking a pull or two at the front.

Around mile 15, we turned onto Highway 421. At that point, there was an attack from one of three S3 riders up front. I was sitting at about 4th wheel and decided to let the others chase and just sit in. Ashley Leech (Tiger Cycling) took off. About halfway across the gap, she pulled through to let the next rider continue to close. However, the next rider was from S3. My inner monologue told me that she’d slow down and let her teammate open the gap back up. However, she seeed to be confused and kept slowly pulling the group back up towards her teammate!

Suddenly, I saw all of the stars in the Counter-Attack galaxy align. Two S3 riders hanging out in the wind, unsure of what to do… Ashley, who is normally capable of chasing me down, was gassed and trying to drop back into the group… the rest of the group was behind me and seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

So, I countered.

A few seconds of hard pedaling later, I looked over my shoulder. Gap. Time to go solo again. At least this time, it was at mile 15.5 instead of mile 14, Right?!? Well, it wasn’t any easier. I was slower than yesterday. My wattage was lower. Fatigue was ripping through my quads. I thought for sure I’d be caught.

But I wasn’t.

After the race, I talked to some of the other girls. Apparently, the group was unorganized and the chase prettymuch fell apart. Lucky for me, because if just one of the teams had decided to work hard to catch/counter, I probably would have been too tired to keep up, and they could have made some GC time back up.

That sealed the GC deal. I crossed the finish line absolutely exhausted, but very happy. Not bad for a first race back from the brink of wanting to feed my road bike to the catfish in the Mississippi River!

West Feliciana Classic Stage Race: Day 1

Time Trial
The course was 5 rolling miles. Luckily, most of the uphills were preceded by good downhills, which were helpful for creating some momentum. I ended up rolling an 11:58, which was awesome, because the next person back sat at 12:35 (I think?). Being a stage race (fastest cumulative time wins), this was exactly what I wanted.

Road Race
Our race started a few minutes late, in the rain. That’s OK. I like rain when it’s warm. The 36 mile course had one KOM spot near mile 14, and many more gentle, rolling hills. The race started slow. The Tiger Cycling girls and I took turns pulling for most of the way towards the KOM (King of the Mountain time bonus spot- good for 7 seconds off of your total time).

Oh yeah- and the instruction we received as to WHERE the KOM was went something like, “you make a couple of turns in the first 7 miles, then it’s about 3 or 4 miles up the road from there, and has either a sign or something painted on the road so you know where it is.”

So once we started getting close, everyone was a bit antsy. There were a couple of attacks up some non-KOM hills, one of which I countered on the hill just before the KOM hill. The counter softened everyone up a little for the real thing. We passed a “KOM 1K” mark on the road, and the pace quickened. However, the people up front started to blow up. I held steady and passed them. As I neared the line, I looked back and saw that I had ~20 yards on the group. Seeing my opportunity, I didn’t let off of the pace. I got the KOM bonus and hit the drops and began to hammer out my best effort. Did I mention that this was at mile 14 of 36? Yeah. I had a long row to hoe…

The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful. I just rode my butt off. I yelled at a grcoup of cat 5 men that didn’t seem to understand what “on your left” meant (sorry guys- I was in a hurry!) The rest of the time, I just watched the miles, looked over my shoulder occasionally, and tried to keep the wattage going as best I could. It was a good thing, too, because, though I crossed the finishline solo, by the time I rolled up the road a little and slowly coasted back, I saw my chasers sprinting for 2nd. They’d never given up- it’s a good thing I didn’t, either…

So I enter day 2 (another 36 mile road race) with a very comfortable time gap: 37 seconds from the TT, 7 seconds bonus for the KOM, 10 for winning the RR, and whatever gap I had on the group from the solo finish- I’m guessing somewhere around 40-60 more seconds. I really just have to finish with the leaders tomorrow to win the GC. It’s a good feeling for sure.

Pre-Race Rambling

This weekend will be my first road race (West Feliciana Classic) since I temporarily “quit“Â back in March. I’ll admit, I’m not in top form for road racing at the moment. However, I am feeling much better psychologically. I had no idea how crazy my situation had been making me. Looking back at training camp posts, I can see how the burnout started and eventually became bad enough that I decided to stay home and lose the $200something I’d spent on a plane ticket to California for the San Dimas race.

Now I finally want to race. So, I’m really just looking to go and have a fun time. Good results would be a plus. Since I sold my TT bike to help put Jens the Niner together, I’ve got clip-on aero bars in full effect!

I went for a short ride last night, and they felt pretty good. The TT will be important since it’s the first stage, and, if I do well, could make the remainder of the weekend a bit easier as far as strategy…

Monkey Grinder XC Race

PreRide

When I arrived at Montgomery Bell, I quickly set up camp (luckily, I was able to find a spot away from the multitude of screeching children that seemed to be inundating the campgrounds like an invasion of fire ants at a picnic for double arm amputees).

I changed and headed over to the trails for a preride. Luckily, the course was very well marked. I did my best to just spin in order to save my legs, which were a little stiff from riding my butt off earlier then sitting in the car for 3 hours. I have to admit, a sections of the course were intimidating. I don’t know who Tommy is or why he wants revenge, but I found that section (a rocky, switchbacked, steep section of trail labeled as “Tommy’s Revenge” by a well-placed tree sign) to be the worst. Even so, I felt alright about most of it. I especially loved the “Esses” and “Chain Reaction” portions. They were both perfectly cut and banked downhill switchback rollercoasters. Up until then, I’ve never spontaneously burst into laughter when riding, but those things were better than anything you’d find at the fair…

Afterward, I cleaned up and got in the car to scout out some dinner. Not far from the campground, I passed a place called Catfish Kitchen. A U-Turn was in order. It was awesome. I highly recommend the spicy fried catfish and plenty of hushpuppies. When I got back to the campground, some other racers had set up camp across from me. We hung out around the (sort-of) campfire for a couple of hours exchanging stories about DSG 2009 and meet Nick- the “creepy guy who comments on my blog sometimes.” (just kidding, Nick… I appreciate anyone who actually thinks what I write is interesting!)

The Race

Only two other women showed up to race the Cat 2 race this morning. Turns out, they were both in the >30 category, which meant that technically, I’d win no matter what. I still wanted to race, though. When the started gave the signal, I went after (and got) the holeshot. However, in my over-excitement, I soon overshot a turn and got behind one of the other racers. She was tough. I tailed her for a few miles. She schooled me through turns, but I found that I had the legs to overtake her on hills, so I sat behind her and learned how to ride the technical sections while I waited for the “Charlotte’s Ridge” climb- a pretty long one that came about mid-lap. I almost didn’t make it there with her when I wrecked on “Tommy’s Revenge,” but thankfully I caught back on and passed her about 1/4 of the way up.

From there, all I could do was ride as hard as possible. With the the combination of adrenaline and being chased, I took chances in turns that I have no idea I was capable of taking. When I passed thorough the end of the 1st lap, everyone cheered. I was too busy turning myself inside out to smile or acknowledge them. Not far down the trail, I could hear them yelling at my chaser. It was like a jockey bat to my ass. I continued to go as hard as possible…

It was very much like a hard criterium. With trees. And roots.

I never considered the race to be won until I actually saw the finish line, but it eventually came. I was incredibly exhausted. I cooled down and looped back to the finish area where the next woman had already finished. She was only a minute or so back… it’s a good thing I didn’t back off! We chatted a bit before she headed off to ride another loop and I went back to the car for food and a beer. Once prize money was given out, I said my goodbyes and hit the road.

The race was fun, even though it was like its own special type of hell. I think I’m more apt to go for the endurance-type events, but who doesn’t like to mix it up with something slightly more dangerous where your heartrate is pegged for a couple of hours?

Memphis in May Mountain Bike Triathlon Relay

Just before the semester wrapped up a few weeks ago, one of my students (a swimmer) told me that she and a firend needed someone to ride the bike leg with their relay team at the MIM MTB Tri. I thought it sounded like fun, so I went for it. In the morning, a downpour seemed immenent (see radar screenshot below), but it broke up as it neared Memphis and ended up just being a little damp and very windy.

The fun thing about this race was that the course was mainly through grass fields. There may have been 25 yards of singletrack total, but that could be pushing it. It was a total power course. When it was my turn to go, I ran full speed out of the transition area and did a perfect mid-stride mount when I hit the exit line (it was 50/50- I was either gonna do it perfectly or injure myself and look like a fool). For the next 7.3 miles, I put my head down and generally rode it like a time trial. The wind was relentless, the grass was deep, and the hills were long. I have no idea how many people I passed, but for the next ~33 minutes, it’s all I did. When I arrived back at the trasition area, there were only a few bikes there (turns out, my 33:27 was the 5th fastest bike time of the day- 4 guys rolled faster). Our runner headed out for the final leg and ended up finishing in 22 min & change.

Total time 1:09:18. Not only did we win for the mixed relay division, we beat the 4 male-only teams as well. Woohoo!

We waited around, recieved our awards, had our photos taken, then I jetted off back towards home so I could clean up and pack the car to head to Dickson/Montgomery Bell State Park…