No-Race Weekend

If you’ve been around for a while, you may (or may not) notice that I skipped the 4th Annual Southern Cross Race. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it the last 3 years, but with CX Worlds extending my CX training so far into the winter, I wasn’t feeling the race weekend. Looks like it was cold and damp as usual, and the women’s podium ended up with the same ladies on it as last year.

Could I have podium-ed? With my current level of fitness, probably so, but speculation is pretty useless in bike racing.

Am I sad I missed it? Nope. I spent the weekend training. Saturday, the guys from 901 Racing invited me out for their (chilly) team ride. It was a mostly steady ride, which was good since my legs were pretty trashed feeling from the previous days of training. On the hard efforts, I could tell that the power was in there, I just had to work past the “quads fresh out of the meat grinder” feeling to get to it. Saturday afternoon, Matt and I visited No Regrets. This time, however, I wasn’t the one getting the ink:

IMG_0502

IMG_0510

Sunday, Ryan completed his shortest homebrew session ever when he started a 3-gallon batch of cider. Hopefully, it turns out to be a viable option for gluten-free homebrewing (his last attempts resulted in a mead that tastes like olive brine and a sorghum beer that’s super bitter with an aftertaste of more bitter). Luckily, this seems like the simplest of the three, and, if the finished recipe is any indication, it’s going to be incredibly tasty.

IMG_0537
After that, Ryan, Matt, and I rode most of the Wolf River Trails. We attempted to go to Grey’s Creek (a less-used, slightly more adventurous trail), but one of the creek crossings a couple of miles in was way washed out, and continuing on would have meant either searching upstream for a better crossing or getting our legs wet/cleats clogged w/mud in the washed out one (neither of which was a desirable option for the guys). So, we turned around and dodged runners on the more traveled trails.

Because of the incoming rain, I’m skipping yoga this morning and going out for my ride instead. Ryan and Matt are both traveling for their jobs this week. I’m excited to have the house to myself so I can go to late yoga class then lay around in my underwear with a bottle of wine and a cheesy movie that includes explosions and sweaty men with no shirts. Bachelorette mode: engage.

Weekend at Syllamo & Industry 9 Trail 24 initial review

First- the riding.

It was awesome, as always. I’ve visited a lot of trails in my short-ish time as a mountain biker, but the Syllamo trails are still some of the most beautiful and challenging I’ve encountered. I did my usual Friday afternoon warmup on the green & orange trails- it’s a good start to a weekend there because you can knock out the loops in ~1.5 hours, and they leave from the closest trailhead, which means the drive there is easy. Those particular trails also give you a nice sampling of what Syllamo has to offer- climbs, descents, flowy stuff, overlooks, and, of course, what’re probably the two “best” rock gardens of the entire system.

Somewhere, in the midst of cyclocross training, I improved my ability to negotiate rock gardens. I’m not 100% sure how (improvement in my equipment is a contributing factor for sure, but more on that in a minute), because I was generally glued to a ‘cross bike since Christmas. Friday afternoon, I managed to clean the rock gardens on both the green and orange trails, first time through- something that, until Friday afternoon, I’ve never managed to pull off, even individually. There’s always been at least one dab or do-over every time I’ve ridden them. I went back to the cabin basking in the awesomeness of rock garden domination and enjoyed the sunset with a glass of wine on the back porch.

IMG_0444

Saturday morning, I met up with some people for a quick trailwork party. We cut a corridor through a logged-off section (essentially, that means that if you can stand in the trail with your arms out, you cut anything between your fingertips that’s not a grown-up tree). In the logged areas like this one, it’s lots of lopper and line trimmer work. It’ll pay off big time once spring hits by keeping the angry plants off the trail for an extra month or two before mother nature takes over completely for the summer.

 

IMG_0456

After that, we got on our bikes and went tree hunting. First, to a downed one on the yellow trail. Then, we split up, and Wes and I went to the blue and orange trails. Before splitting, we stopped back at the cars, which were parked at a campsite down a logging road. While we were there, the campers occupying the site drove up. They were two college students who were researching stress hormones in wood frogs. Apparently, that was the Southern end of the frogs’ territory, and they were hoping that the incoming rain (which ended my trip a day early) would bring about successful trapping. We also encountered a group of guys in ATVs who were looking for an ATV-legal path to the yellow trail overlook. They were camping elsewhere for one guy’s bachelor party (too bad all guys can’t be classy enough to go enjoy beer and nature for their bachelor parties).

 

IMG_0457

We removed 3 more trees from the blue and orange trails before finishing up the orange loop and riding back up the forest road to our cars. The trail is nice and clear for now, but the hog damage is getting out of control in some areas. They root along the side of the trail and turn over dirt, rocks, and leaves. The fluffy leaves hide the rocks, making for a dangerous riding condition in some sections where you can’t see what’s hiding under the leaves. Other than a bounty or hunting season, I’m not sure what we can do before they tear everything up.

Enough about the battle with hogs. On to the good stuff…

It’s not often that I’m wrong, but, I have to admit, here and now, that, for the last 3 years, I’ve led many people down the wrong path when it comes to hubs. Before this weekend, if you asked me, “should I get a hub with uber-fast engagement?” I would have answered you with something along the lines of, “you won’t notice a fast-engaging hub as much as you’ll notice if your hub engages slowly.”

Well, I was mistaken.

I didn’t think that a fraction of a second of faster engagement could make a difference in clearing a spot or not clearing it. Actually, it makes a huge difference. Granted, my fitness is great right now, and that helps with the tech-riding success I had this weekend. However, I can’t discount the impact that my new wheels had on my ability to put the fitness to good use. I was amazed over and over again at how much of a blast I had riding them.

Also, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the I9 stiffness vs. the carbon ENVE wheels I rode last season. No, they’re not as stiff. But, if I put everything I’ve owned on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being American Classic Race wheels and 10 being ENVE carbon, I’d give the Trail 24s about an 8.5 (for further reference, a Stan’s Crest/DT Swiss aerolite/hope would be a “5” in my head).

My totally subjective judgement on stiffness is based on a couple of things- one being how much the wheels make you notice “other” stuff about your bike setup- i.e. you have to pay much more attention to things like suspension and tire pressure adjustments when your wheels are super-stiff. The ENVE wheels beat the hell out of me the first time I rode them in Arkansas because I needed to make major changes in my front fork setup (lighter weight oil in the damper/less air pressure). The I9s made me realize that I needed less air pressure in my tires as well (previously not a problem with the ENVEs since the rim was sooooo narrow; previously not a problem on the AMClassics because they were superflexy). My other (totally subjective, possibly untrue) measure is more of a feeling of flex under load. I’ve noticed that some wheels (both mountain and road) seem to have a weird vibration (almost like a groan) that resonates through the drivetrain when I’m putting down a good bit of power. On a mountain bike, it’s just annoying. On a road bike, it will make me think I have a flat tire.

So, initial reports for the I9 trail 24 wheels- Wow. Just, wow. Sure, it’s just been one weekend, but Syllamo is not a place that suffers lesser equipment lightly. I’m absolutely itching to get some more time on these as the season continues.

Rest Week

Saturday morning, Ryan was tired from his Friday race, and I was tired of being cold and muddy (the Power Washers were frozen/broken on Friday, so I spent the duration of his race scraping and chipping mud-ice off/out of his bikes 2x every lap). So, in lieu of sticking around to watch Saturday’s Elite races, Ryan and I packed up and headed back to Memphis.

Another driving factor was Sunday’s festivities- our roommate Matt’s birthday ride,  AKA “Poolboy Matt’s Birthday Death March.” We rode a couple of hours with a big group, drank some beer and whiskey, and a good time was had by all. Unlike 100 mile MTB races, a 40 minute CX race will leave you tired, kinda sore, but not fully destroyed. So, a rest week after a hard race is more of a mental break than a physical one.

Actually, I’m still feeling pretty tapered and awesome right now, so my plan for today is to go out to Herb Parson’s Lake and ride a couple of laps on my new Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels. I’d tell you all about them myself, but it just so happens that someone else just posted a really good rundown on them this morning. So, chances are, you’ve read it already. Unlike his, which are straight up pink, I tortured a wheelbuilder with my color scheme. I decided on a combination of purple, gold, and black spokes with a purple hub. The purple & gold are just bright enough to be flashy, and the black ties everything together to keep it classy. Win-win:

(excuse the sloppy chain tension)
Close-up of front hub

 

I’m very stoked to get wheels this nice. I’m even MORE stoked that, in the 18 hours that they’ve been in my possession, I’ve seen a tremendous response from local people who want to get a set. It makes me feel warm/fuzzy/happy inside when my sponsors get a return on their investment. If you enjoy reading my adventures in bike racing, click those links on the right and tell them you saw it here. I swear it makes a difference… the more you buy their stuff, the more I get to show their stuff off to the “world” via bike racing/blogging. It’s a beautiful feedback cycle.

This weekend, I’ll really get to put the wheels through their paces at Syllamo. The guys are going to their team camp somewhere in Middle Tennessee, so I’m going on a solo mountain bike retreat to the cabin for a few days. While I’m there, I’m going to get a little more focused on what exactly I’d like to do this summer for a race season. Amanda Carey summed up my feelings very well in her recent interview with MTBRacenews. I’ve got a basic framework started with Whiskey Off-road, TSE, some SS National Championship racing, and Breck Epic, but now it’s time to fill in the gaps.

 

One more week

Suddenly, it’s just a few days until we leave for Louisville. Not only am I tired of preparing physically for the race, I’m also a little tired of typing about it. I’m stronger than last year, the competition will be deeper than last year. All I have to do now is race outside myself in 6 days. Let’s just leave it at that.

In more exciting news, I sold the Air9 Carbon!!! I’m extra happy because a woman bought it. Not to sound “reverse sexist,” or anything, but it always makes me super excited to see other women on really nice bikes. The replacement for that frame is another Air9 Carbon CYA frame, but in moondust. I am going to make it a little more sexy than before with the Niner RDO bar, stem, and Ti Cog (I got a 20t in case I’m riding someplace where the Endless 21t kickass cog isn’t appropriate) as well as an MRP Bling Ring. Now all I need is for my Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels to show up, and I’ll be worthy of a spot on the Sick Whips page of Dirtwire.tv.

Hopefully it’ll all arrive while I’m in Kentucky next week, and I can do some building on Monday and/or Tuesday. That won’t be the only thing I’ll have to build- my warranty replacement Cannondale Super6 EVO frame should be here next week as well. I realized soon after I built it that the drag I was feeling on the crank wasn’t “new bearing” drag. Turns out, the bottom bracket shell was out of spec, and when Cannondale tried to fix the problem by sending me a new bottom bracket, the replacement got stuck inside my frame. Not just like “hard to get out” stuck, more like, “large men laid it on the ground and hammered on a stuck driveside bearing and it’s still in there” stuck. So, the replacement frame ships out on the 28th. I’m excited to have my road bike back.

Here are some random pictures from the last week:

IMG_0198

IMG_0199

IMG_0215

IMG_0223

IMG_0228

Move on…

I wasn’t going to post anything because I’ve tried to avoid the whole Lance/Oprah thing as much as possible. I’m not really going to talk about it. I just wanted to rant a little (surprise surprise) about the whole “sensation” stirred up on news and social media.

I don’t want to watch anyone’s downfall. I can’t relish in it. No matter how “bad” a person is, I’m not happy to see anyone fail, get thrown under a bus, be executed (figuratively or literally- talking all levels of bad here), or fall from any sort of grace. It doesn’t make me happy to see Lance Armstrong get any sort of comeuppance for actions or lies of his past. I feel uncomfortable when I see/hear people celebrating societal and/or physical revenge on someone.

Right now, I’m more concerned with the war on little black ants in my kitchen that’s now spilling over to my computer desk (before you say anything, yes, I feel bad when ants die, too, but I feel worse when I find one crawling on my arm while I’m typing). I’m more concerned with finding a suitable partner for PMBAR and Double Dare so I can enter the series for a chance to vie for the title of Queen of Pisgah. I am concerned with the two more days of hard training I need to complete before my WCCX taper starts- both a relief, because I’m exhausted, and a stress, because after Sunday, I’ve built what I can, and I can’t build any more. I have way too many things to keep me busy to mess with celebrating a confession that was pointlessly obvious in the first place.

Hey, everyone, I’m real sorry to have to tell you this, but I have a mohawk and more than one tattoo. I tried to cover it up forever, but I’m ready to come clean and admit my propensity towards bad hairstyles and permanent body art.

If you want to quit re-hashing the past and talk about something current, follow @lauren1717 on Twitter. She’s posted a lot of great links to articles about the current plight of women’s pro cycling.

Bike for Sale/Training in the Rain

First off, I’ve posted it on Facebook, but I’ll put it here, too. I’m selling my Air9 Carbon CYA frame and RDO rigid fork. It’s out of total vanity- I want a Moondust color frame.

Air9 Carbon CYA Frame- I got this particular frame back in September of 2011, and I’ve had it set up singlespeed since then. The frame is a small, and includes headset bearings, eccentric bottom bracket, a PF90 insert (new in box), and shift upgrade kit. I included a pic of a scuff on the top tube where my brake lever hit it. Other than that, any other scratches are very minor.
Carbon RDO Fork- The fork is very lightly used. I trained on it a little over last winter (not much since I was getting ready for Worlds 2012 and mostly riding my CX bike), used it at Cohutta 100, then took it off. It probably has less than 200 miles on it (104 of those being Cohutta). The RDO fork has a tapered steertube and 15mm thru-axle.

Asking price $1100 for the set. If you’re just interested in one or the other, you’re welcome to make an offer, but I’m not quite as keen to make such a sweet deal on one as I am for both. How sweet is this deal? Well, retail on all of these things new is $2650 (frame/frame parts/fork). If you’re local, I’ll even drive it over to your house. Not local? We’ll work something out on the shipping…

DSC_5861 DSC_5860 DSC_5859 DSC_5858 DSC_5857

 

 

Over the weekend, the weather turned foul again, with more rain moving in and temperatures plummeting overnight Saturday. I found myself doing “hour of power” workouts in a downpour both days (in addition to some extra trainer time Sunday morning). The 40/raining ride wasn’t as bad as you’d think. It was a combination of not being out for an incredibly long time (1.5 hours) as well as having a good rain jacket and fenders. It was also the maiden voyage on my kickass Industry Nine tubeless road wheels, which automatically made everything at least 5% more awesome.

IMG_0116

The wheels really do kick ass. With tubeless valves and rim strips, they are exactly 1500g. If you’re looking for a reference, my Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels were 1490g with valves. The most noticeable difference between the two? The I9 rim is HUGE. They make my CX tires ride more like a MTB tire, which is great for sliding around in the mud. I can’t wait to put them on my road bike once ‘cross season is over.

Sunday’s training in and of itself wasn’t the most fatiguing workout possible. However, the accumulation of all of the training I’ve been doing up until Sunday made me feel pretty exhausted. My legs were on fire inside my compression tights, and when I tried to use the foam roller, I felt almost nauseous. So, in lieu of rolling, I emptied everything ice-related from the freezer into my tub and took a 15 minute ice bath.

IMG_0122

The first 3 minutes is the worst. After that, it’s actually pretty relieving.

Today, the recovery efforts continue. I’m going to yoga in a little bit, going for a short, easy ride, then follow it up with food, rest, and another attempt at rolling the muscles out. If all goes as planned, tomorrow is another hard two-a-day. This week will be the hardest before training backs off into tapering the following two. I’m eager to get it done and get to racing.

A whole bag of awesome

Suddenly, a bunch of cool stuff just happened on the sponsor front.

Monday evening, I received an email from Gu Energy. I’d sent the application for sponsorship off a while ago and hadn’t heard back, so I’d started to wonder. What they have to offer is more generous than I ever would have imagined, so I’m incredibly stoked to be a part of the team.

Then, Tuesday morning, I got an email from Industry Nine. My road wheels are ready, and they’re gonna be here on Thursday! Riding along in the box with my wheels will be a shiny new Endless Bikes Kickass Cog- a gold 21t. Not that I’m not already lighting off fireworks in the kitchen out of excitement over my road wheels, but the thing I’m most excited about from I9 is the new mountain wheels that will be here in another month or so. Purple hubs, purple/black/gold spokes… yeah. It will be a dream come true if those get here before my post-worlds Syllamo trip.

To polish off the “great sponsors” trifecta, the UPS man dropped off a ProGold care package, courtesy of Bruce Dickman:

IMG_0082

The bike wash is magical:

IMG_0085

IMG_0089

In other, totally random happenings, I woke up yesterday morning and found that I had a kitchen drawer full of little black ants. After 5 minutes worth of research on the internet, I ran to Lowes for some Terro ant bait. What happened next, I can only describe as the “ant rave of doom.”  They congregated by the hundreds in the drawer and gorged themselves on poisoned sugar syrup.

IMG_0078

This picture is from early on. It got way more intense as the day continued. Hopefully, this is the final battle in my ant war.

Kit!

Sometime near the end of the week, this will be here from Nimblewear:

741123_578415245506017_628708432_o

 

(Huge thanks to Micheal at S2N Design for the design)

Just in time for delightful onslaught of purple accessories to hit the market:

smithpivlock

SweepPlumbSparkerF34_3

XProject2_0_Womens
That last one is the X-project shoe from Pearl Izumi. It would be perfect for racing CX, but it doesn’t exist in stores yet. According to the regional rep, I’m going to have to wait ’til March. All I’m missing now is a fresh pair of black Swiftwick Pursuit 4s (best sock, EVER) to tie it all together.

Since posting the proof on my Facebook wall, I’ve had a few people make mention of wanting a Brickhouse kit for themselves. Once I get it in and see the colors/fit in person, I’ll have a better idea of when/how I’ll do a run for people who would like to buy one. It would be a slightly modified graphic (I’m guessing no one will care if theirs doesn’t say “Wilson” on the collar), and I’d take a deposit for whatever items you wanted. Kits would get here 4-6 weeks after you order, and I’d send them out once I had all of your money.

Even if I’m not the fastest woman at Worlds, I’ll surely be the best dressed.

Speaking of fastest, my training this weekend went well. After a frigid morning ride on Saturday, I lounged on the couch until later in the afternoon, when I did some 20 minute intervals on the trainer. I know a lot of people detest the trainer, but I’m finding it to be a comforting pain cave. Versus riding outside, it’s easier to maintain a steady power output, and, when I’m done with my last interval, I can sit up and pedal at 50 watts to cool down while looking at Facebook on my sweet new iPhone versus taking the energy to ride home from the roads that I typically use for intervals. It’s also a lot easier to dress. Winter laundry = hamper full in two days.
Yesterday, I did ride outside. I did the “hammer time” interval workout, where I warmup for 15 minutes, ride hard for an hour, then cool down for 15 minutes. I was getting a little tired in the last 15 minutes… thankfully, my Worlds race is only 40 min long.

“The Rules,” a gentle reminder

The trails are pretty soaked in a lot of areas of the country right now, so a lot of you are taking to the road for your training. Or, maybe (like me) you always employ a good deal of road riding in your training. Or, possibly, you are a road-only person who just likes to read my blog. Whatever it is, you should realize that there are some “unspoken” rules to road riding- especially when it comes to group rides. I figured now is a good time to cover a few that I’ve seen severely violated in the past few weeks.

Follow these simple steps to avoid looking like a douchebag:
-Safety: this is pretty easy. Obey traffic laws. Be predictable. Look way ahead and avoid obstacles so that you never need to make a sudden maneuver. This also makes the entire ride more “elegant” because you aren’t constantly yelling and pointing at crap in the road. You just follow the person in front of you, and everyone avoids everything without excess chatter.
– Nothing says, “I’m insecure with my ability to handle wind” like bringing your TT bike to a group ride. The group ride is not for time trial bikes. You don’t ride time trials with a group, so save it for your solo rides. (exception- that’s your only bike, in which case, your elbows never touch the elbow pads unless you’re leading the group or off the back of the group.)
– Nothing says, “I’m insecure with my ability to not get dropped” like riding carbon wheels during a group ride. In fact, the heavier your wheels are, the faster you look (bonus “panache” points for 32+ spokes and/or 25c tires).
– Bring your own flat repair stuff. Know how to change a flat without flatting your new tube. Women- this especially applies to you.
– Shave your legs.
-If the temperature is <50 and you’re not wearing anything on your legs other than shorts and/or you wear summer gloves, you don’t look tough. You look dumb.
– The only form of (slightly) acceptable sleeveless jersey is a previous year’s team kit with the sleeves cut off. It may only be worn if you are at least a cat 3 road racer or cat 1 MTB racer, and only when the temperature is >90 deg F.
– Nothing says I DGAF about anyone like wearing headphones on a group ride. Yes, even one headphone.
-Know when to retire your shorts. Just because they don’t have holes in them doesn’t mean the person behind you can’t see the hairs of your asscrack once you start to sweat.
– There will be one or more “senior,” well-respected, “been around forever” members of the group ride who will tell you if you’re riding in an unpredictable or otherwise incorrect manner. Whether you like what that person says or not, shut up and do what he or she says. The only time you talk back to this person is to thank them for the help/advice. I can’t stress how terrible you look when you mouth off to someone who has been racing bikes since before you were chasing cheerleader tail in high school. You know how bad kids look when they talk back to their parents and act like brats? It’s like that, except that you’re a grown man. Respect your elders. Some day, if you’re lucky, you might earn that status. ‘Til then, shut up.

Addendum: I know a lot of riders who put in big miles. That’s great if that’s your thing, but if your goal is to win road races, and you’re a cat 4 or 5, your races are nowhere near as long as the century rides you like to brag about on facebook every weekend, and they’re a helluva lot faster, too. Nothing wrong with just enjoying a full day of riding a bike at all, just don’t tell yourself (and everyone else) that’s it’s getting you prepared for the first 35 mile road race of the season.

Now, go out, ride hard, and get fast.

Feed the Ego, Starve the Soul

I’m not entirely compelled to write a “New Year’s” or “I rode 6500 miles last year, blah blah blah” post here, seeing as I don’t really celebrate any holidays (it’s not just Christmas- I’m an equal opportunity grinch). I just don’t see the point in getting really drunk and staying up late in the name of “celebrating” the fact that, for at least the next 3 weeks, I’ll be writing the wrong date on any and everything. I’m just really glad that the holiday crap is all over now, people are going back to work, and thus, fewer crowds will be in the roads and stores that I need to use in order to successfully navigate my day.

party

Since I last posted, things have been quiet around the house. I managed to ride outside some, though the weather has stayed pretty terrible. The thermometer is chronically stuck at 40 degrees, and I think I’ve seen the sun about twice in the last week. Luckily, one of the trails near my house is very sandy, so it drains well, and can usually be ridden after about 48 hours of drying (yeah- “drains well” is pretty relative. 48 hours is fast for Memphis winter trail drying time).

Yesterday, Ryan and I went out for a 3 hour road bike death march. No matter how fit you are, if all of your most recent rides are filled with intervals and <1.5 hours, riding steady for 3 hours at a more aerobic pace will make you ache all over. During the course of the ride, I swore off all future attempts to try and ride with anyone male unless I’m planning on riding at a pace that’s n+10% harder than what I’m planning on implementing (attempts to road ride with other women are sworn off by proxy since I found out that all Memphis women who are fit/competitive apparently dislike me). I digress.

It seems like every time I go for a ride with one or more other people (Poolboy Matt excluded), someone feels compelled to break Rule #86. Instead of just chilling the eff out and enjoying the simple fact that he’s riding a bike, this person needs to prove to everyone else that he’s faster. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, it’s not impressive. It’s obnoxious (especially since the situations I’m thinking about right now involve guys who I’ve raced against/beaten within the last year).

I’m not swearing off group rides by any means, I’m just changing my expectations from, “let’s go out and enjoy riding bikes,” to something more along the lines of, “if I ride with someone else, it is because I’m looking for a pissing contest.”

Enough ranting for now. Worlds training is chugging along, and the next 4 weeks and 1 day should prove to be some of the most challenging. Every day seems to take forever, but the weeks seem to fly.