brickhouseracing

May 23, 2012

WTF my mom smells like a horse

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:27 am

Ok, not really. My mom always smells like nice perfume. But, according to my wordpress stats, someone found my blog by Google-ing that phrase. Now that’s out of the way, on to less random ramblings.

I haven’t ridden since Saturday. Normally, I’d do some easy recovery rides, but Coach put me on a 4 day vacation that ends after today. Leading in to Mohican, I’m basically recovering. It’s not ideal. In my head (and, probably to a lesser degree ,in my legs), I’m losing fitness every day. That, coupled with the uncertainty of WHY DON’T I FEEL LIKE RACING?!? has basically turned me into an emotional basketcase.

There are theories… not many ways to figure out which is correct-
A) I’m just burnt out. I don’t feel like racing because I’m tired of racing these long-ass races. The mental malaise has carried over into physical malaise.
I don’t necessarily think that’s true… I don’t feel like I’ve met my goal of “kick lots of 100 mile ass,” so it’s still very interesting to me. Where do I go after this season? I don’t know. It may not be the NUE series. It may be XC or Marathon distance racing. It may be racing geared in the NUE. I don’t know, but right now, I am 99% sure I’m not burnt out on 100s.
B) Overtraining/lack of recovery
Plausible. Why? I don’t know. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. My training program seems solid. If anything, since ramping back into training in February, I’ve felt like I’ve wanted more. Up until Slobberknocker, I’ve felt like a sponge for training intensity- absorbing everything the bike throws at me and still feeling thirsty for more.
C)Physiological problem
Maybe I’m anemic. I started eating more high-iron foods, but maybe there’s a problem with absorption. I do experience some pretty interesting beeturia when I consume beets. This is the one thing that’s easier to figure out- I went to the Shot Nurse clinic yesterday and had blood drawn for a complete blood count. I should have preliminary results back later this morning, though, even if everything looks normal now, I wouldn’t totally drop all suspicions… blood is not a static thing. While it always consists of the same basic elements, fluctuations in hormones, electrolytes, hydration, etc. can occur and throw off the numbers.

Whatever it is, it’s frustrating. I identify as a bike racer. You take away my ability and desire to do so, and you take away a part of my being. Everything has gone so well up to this point… looking so promising… I just want this bad patch to be over so I can get back to honeybadger status…

 

May 21, 2012

Syllamo 125k

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:53 am

Syllamo is a wild, brutal trail. It’s hard on your equipment, your body, and your mind.

Since Wednesday this week, I’ve been out at the cabin riding a little and relaxing a lot. I spent a lot of time hanging with Amanda Carey and hoping that some of her pro fast-ness would rub off on me. She makes a mean bowl of food…

 

Aside from short pre-rides (during which, we discovered the trail was viciously overgrown in some areas), we spent most of our time watching hummingbirds

 

Petting Turbo

 

Or, just generally kicking back and enjoying the sunset

 

The last few weeks have been tough… for reasons still under speculation, I didn’t experience my usual speedy recovery following the Cohutta 100. I was feeling somewhat better last weekend, and I figured that I’d be 100% back on point with a few days at the cabin participating in the aforementioned activities.

However, yesterday morning, I felt as if I had a subconscious aversion to the race. First,  I forgot stuff at the cabin… extra water bottle, extra sports bra, and, oh yeah… MY SHOES. Luckily, Ryan (racing the 50 miler, which started an hour later), was able to bring them to me. It was as if a ghost didn’t want me to get on my bike, and could only barely grasp at me like that transparent ghost hand in the movies.

The race start was as it always is- a drag race up the 3/4 mile Blanchard Road  climb to the entrance of one of the more technical sections of singletrack. By not being on a granny gear up the climb, I was able to be with some slightly more technically-abled riders once we hit the yellow trail

The riders I was around were generally alright… however, I felt a strange malaise about my placing in the pack. A few miles in, Brenda passed me on a rare doubletrack climb. I felt indifferent. I sort of picked up my pace to follow, only to realize that I just didn’t feel like a battle. At that point, I figured I’d just go for a long ride and, based on my general good fitness and riding ability, it’d all turn out pretty good.

That worked alright until about 3 hours in when I reached the long climb from up the blue trail from the highway to Green Mountain road. Even though I was doing everything “right” as far as pacing and nutrition, I started to feel overly-fatigued as I hiked & ground my way up the hill. I ended up walking a good part of the climb that I’d normally ride. Not really sure what was wrong with me, or why I was feeling much more exhausted than what I’d normally expect at that point in a race, the urge to drop out started to creep into the back of my mind.

The hardest racing condition in the world is not a physical condition-  If your mind doesn’t want you to race, you’re dealing with something much worse than any bad weather, injury, or difficult terrain.

I crept my way up to the 3rd aid station to grab some fresh bottles and get onto the red trail. Up there, I was greeted by Steven from Texas (a.k.a. Dude Brah) who had broken his chainring early in the race and forced to drop out. He asked me how I was doing, and I just told him it wasn’t a good day. He gave me several cups of ice cold coconut water and a quick philosophical talk about how I could appreciate a bad day because it brings about self awareness. He was probably a little stoned, but it gave me something to think about for the first few minutes of red trail. It was getting hot- probably around 90 degrees.

Then, my brain started to go. I was spacing out and losing awareness of time and space- other than “red trail,” I didn’t really know where I was or how long I’d been riding. I recognized the feeling, and, coupled with how I’d felt up the blue trail, it all made sense- I was bonking my ass off. How? No idea… I was eating and drinking how I have successfully in the past. I wasn’t necessarily riding any harder than usual. My legs began to complain and feel pre-cramp-ish.

Somewhere along the trail, I made a deal with myself: if I started to get full-blown leg cramps before I started the 2nd lap, I’d drop out.

That didn’t happen. I passed the “drop out” point and started back onto the Yellow trail. I was the tiniest bit happy to see that my “50 mile” lap time was right at 5 hours and 30 minutes… not that bad, actually. I was bonkish and overheated, but I decided at that point that the only way I was leaving the trail before crossing the finish line was by paramedics and a stretcher.

There’s something really creepy about the second lap on the yellow trail during the 125k. You see lots of evidence of lots of riders, but hardly ever an actual, live person. The couple of guys I did see were in pretty rough shape (how someone could be worse off than I was and still out there, I have no idea, but they were). Every time I’d get a little anaerobic, I’d feel like puking, so I walked up a lot of the steep/rocky stuff. I tried to go back into the bonk cave in my head so that I would be less aware of how slow I was moving, but instead just hung in a limbo of altered overheated consciousness.

It took forever, but I finally made it to the last rock garden and climb out to the “easy” part of the yellow that looped back to the final lap of the red trail. I knew I was going to make it. At the aid station, I put fresh water in my bottles. The Roctane I’d been drinking wasn’t sitting well, and I was afraid that it could be turning sour in the afternoon heat and sun. A half mile into the trail, I found a pocket-sized bottle of Elete drops. I stopped and put it into my water. Later on in the trail, I shared it with some 50 mile guys who were sitting at a road crossing, trying to get the energy to continue on.

There’s a point about a mile from the end of the red trail where you pass through two pine trees. It’s a narrow spot- the only one like it on the trail. From there, you climb a tiny bit and you’re done. I wanted to stop and hug the trees when I saw them.

So, I finished. 8:50something on the clock- more than 30 minutes slower than last year. I still finished 5th.

 

I’m mentally and physically wrecked right now. Coach and I are trying to figure things out, starting with 4 days off. It’s not really clear if I’m suffering from a simple lack of recovery, a lack of recovery due to something physiologically wrong, or a simple need to HTFU and ride harder. It’s never immediately clear. I hate being here at this point in the season, but it’s where I am, and, when I eventually rise up and overcome, I’ll chock it up to a learning experience, and it won’t happen again.

 

 

May 14, 2012

Tiger Lane #4

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:28 am

I almost forgot… Last Wednesday, I raced the final installment of the Tiger Lane Criterium races. Once again, I lined up as the solo woman with the Cat4 men. As previously mentioned, my recovery from Slobberknocker/Cohutta was questionable, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel for the crit.

From the gun, the pace was very slightly more subdued than the previous race. My strategy was to stick near the first few wheels and only attack if it seemed like a good idea. I did just that until about 15 minutes in. A small group of riders had drifted off the front, and I’d decided it wasn’t my place to chase them down. As the teams chased them back, the planets of the counter-attack galaxy aligned: we sped up behind the caught riders just as we reached the long-side stretch of headwind. Almost instinctively and involuntarily, I slingshotted out of the draft and attacked full force into the wind. I had a gap and one other rider with me- Jon, a young Memphis Velo guy.

It was early in the race, and neither of us had a teammate in the field. I knew that we were doomed to be caught, but I was at least going to put on a show before it happened. I like racing aggressively. While it’s not always successful against a bunch of guys, I figured it’s good practice seeing as it’s been a good strategy for me during women’s races in the past.

We were out for a couple of laps before the announcer called a prime. The field was bearing down on us, and I told Jon to sit up and get ready to be caught. He took that a little too literally and nearly stopped while I tried to back off just enough that it’d be easy to absorb smoothly into the group. As a result, as they caught him, I was rounding the final turn before the start/finish, staring down the barrel of an obtainable prime. I sprinted for it. Keegen Knapp, a rider from Arkansas, jumped out of the group after me and took the prime by half a bike length (he later claimed that he thought I was on the attack again since the group had sat up). It’s ok… I didn’t really need a pair of men’s designer shorts from Oak Hall.

I re-absorbed successfully and maintained my safe spot in the front of the group. Eventually, the last few laps were called. Some BPC guys attacked and got away. Once again, I decided it wasn’t mine to chase. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by other BPC guys, and the guys who should chase were slow to react. I sat in and watched the scramble until, on the last lap, when we turned into the wide headwind section where I’d previously attacked. The guys were trying to imitate a pinball machine, and I decided I wasn’t in the mood to mix myself into the melee of cat 4 men. I pulled safely out of the group. Once the main field was clear, I solo-ed in ahead of the guys who had been previously dropped.

Training crit success.

The following day, I attempted a long ride. My legs argued with me, and I had to turn home early. I started getting worried that I was in an insurmountable hole of fatigue. I’ve eaten well and recovered well since then, but Coach and I are suspicious that I might have problems getting enough iron into my blood. Whether it’s diet-related or physiology related is yet to be decided, but, for now, I seem to be feeling well by eating iron-rich foods. Whatever it is, I’ve felt a lot better the past couple of days, and I had a great interval session yesterday. If things keep going like this, I’ll be ready to break cranks at Syllamo on Saturday.

May 7, 2012

In Limbo

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:20 am

So, if you listen to the latest XXC Mag Podcast, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of things having to do with both racing and the trafficking of cocaine via Amish horse & buggies. You’d also hear me talk about being intimidated by the workout I had on my schedule for Saturday- a 5 hour endurance ride that included an 8 minute ramp of intensity at the end of hours 1-4.

I thought that I was mostly recovered from the back to back race weekends. Turns out, I was wrong. My power numbers were well off of where they’d normally be for such a workout. By the last hour, my heart rate was staying elevated, no matter how much I backed off. After a brief respite under a tree (it was the first kinda hot/humid day of the year, too, so that wasn’t helping), it settled down, and I wrapped up the last interval and made my way home. For a second, I thought about heading home early. Then, I decided that the difference between pro and amateur was the last interval that seems nearly impossible.

Now, I’m staring down the barrel of Syllamo’s 125k and hoping that I can maintain some fitness while I recover from deep-rooted fatigue. It’s sort of a wait-and-see affair. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are recovery days, and I’ll try the legs out again on Wednesday in the last of the Tiger Lane criterium series. If I feel good, then I know that I’ve found the light at the end of the training tunnel. If not…

May 4, 2012

High Maintenence

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 6:17 am

Tuesday (my weekday off from work), I spent half the day taking care of myself. Not so much as in an, “oh, I raced hard, so now I’m going to pamper myself” sort of way, but more of an, “I need to do this stuff to function normally again” sort of way.
-First, the chiropractor. I’d originally started seeing a chiro when I had a neck crick problem. Now I go because he not only keeps my neck/back feeling good, but he also works out some of the knots in the muscles of my neck/shoulders. My chiropractor isn’t the type that thinks that chiropractic adjustments are the solution for World Peace or a cure for any diseases. He even laments to me on a regular basis that half of his clients don’t need him, they just need a diet and exercise. He does, however, agree that the weekly adjustments he makes are useful in keeping my rides pain-free.
-Next, massage. When you spend hours on a bike, stuff hurts. When stuff hurts, your muscles get tense. Then, you start using the muscle differently… either compensating with another muscle or not going through a full range of motion, you get little knots in the muscles, etc. A massage is huge in relieving that and helping you get back to normal function. It’s also very relaxing.
-Finally, physical therapy. On Tuesday, I graduated from PT for my fingers. The only one that’s still of much concern is the badly sprained middle one on my right hand. It’s still swollen, and it stiffens up when I don’t stretch it several times a day. PT consisted of heat, ultrasound, passive stretching, active stretching, and 15 minutes in the dry whirlpool (aka, the “corn machine”). He had originally planned to include strengthening exercises, but I tested out of those- even with a fracture/sprains, my grip strength measurements were above normal. Imagine that…
-After all of that, I ate some lunch and joined up for a chill ladies only ride.

It was a lot like overhauling a bike after dragging it thorough really nasty conditions.

Taking care of myself has been an ongoing process. When I began this endeavor, I didn’t realize how time consuming the act of maintaining one’s body could actually be… and I’m not even that good at it. Talking to the pros after races (when I’m still in kit and they’re cleaned and changed), I realized that even with as much as I do, I could still tune up my out-of-town diet, get a juicer (thanks to Jeremiah for that suggestion), address my tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet in the days following races (which sometimes spills over into a tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet following large training rides), spend more quality time with the foam roller on a daily basis, get more sleep, and do a better job of getting in recovery rides.

Like I said, cramming self-care into my schedule is an ongoing process of making time rather than finding it.

 

 

April 30, 2012

Cohutta 100 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing,Product Reviews — Andrea @ 6:54 am

Friday morning, I packed up and hit the road around 7:30 for the 6.5ish hour drive to Ducktown, TN. Along the way, Zandr (from XXCMag) joined in, and we had a brief Element Convoy down I-24.

We arrived mid-afternoon, checked in, and pre-rode the first climb and a little bit of the first singletrack. I attempted to show Zandr the “Thunder Rock Express” trail, but I’m not too familiar with the trail system, so we just ended up climbing out & back on FSR45. Back in the parking lot, I saw Thom Parsons from Cyclingdirt, and he asked me a few questions about my bike (Per your requests, I refrained from using a suspension fork).

I felt just OK during the pre-ride. Definitely not bad by any stretch, but not 100% crank-ripping/ready to kill, either. I don’t think I’d fully recovered from the previous weekend’s Slobberknocker race. Nothing I could do but relax, get some dinner, and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Brief side story- The “office” for the motel in Ducktown was the gas station in the motel parking lot.

Race morning was (thankfully) not as chilly as it was last year. I was doing final packing of my jersey pockets when I realized that I’d left my giant flask full of Roctane gel back at the motel. All I had in my car was an extra Powerbar, so, trying not to panic (it was about 20min ’til start time), I started asking everyone I knew if they had extra gel. Eventually, I found Gerry Pflug, who didn’t want to share his own stash of baby wolverine blood. However, Ernesto Marenchin, who was there with him, had a couple of extra flasks of partially diluted Hammer Gel. Perfect.

I rolled back to the starting area where Thom P. found me again and asked if I’d wear a Cyclingdirt helmet cam. I figured “anything for publicity,” and accepted his offer. He turned it on immediately in order to get some starting line footage, so I lined up and asked people random questions and handed out random tidbits of advice (like “Don’t isht yourself” to Amanda Carey).
This year, the start line was moved back into the parking lot about 1/4 of a mile. Unfortunately, that meant that the race no longer started at the base of a sizable road climb, so, when the gun went off, there was about 1 minute of big-ring time before the hill. I spun as fast as I could as what seemed like most of the field went by in their 39×11. As we started up the hill, I worked my way back through some of the crowd with a pack of other singlespeeders.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that a group of singlespeeders would be known as a “party” (you know… like a “gaggle” of geese or a “herd” of cats).

Over the crest of the hill and somewhere before the turn into the trail, Brenda and Lee Simril flew past me and made it in about 10 wheels ahead of me. Dually noted. The first section of singletrack was pretty uneventful (unlike last year, when I flatted). I settled in to a group that had a nice pace going until we hit the first hill, and they started shifting. I made my way around them and kept grinding my way through the remaining singletrack.

Once I was out on the gravel, it was business time. I started swapping places with a woman in a Specialized jersey (I’d pass on the climbs, she’d pass downhill). Then, her teammate, who I’d been doing the same thing with on the trail, blew past me, and she jumped on his wheel. I caught up to them, and she said something along the lines of “you’re killing it on these hills!” I replied back that I had a disadvantage on the downhills, and that she should enjoy it while it lasts. She obliged, and took off towards the next hill with her teammate.

Suddenly, from the bottom of the next hill, I looked up, and, in the low-hanging, early morning light, saw the silhouettes of  Brenda and Lee Simril at the top. I stood and cranked… it was on.

As I hammered up, I caught Specialized lady, and we split and passed Brenda. I don’t know if she saw me or if she was focused on the other woman passing on her left. The other woman and her teammate took off once again, and I knew that, at about 20 miles in, with Brenda behind and the other woman riding so aggressively in front, that the race was getting awesome.

Then, I hit Aid #2, the course turned briefly flat, and I was alone for a long time.

Mostly, anyway. I began the singlespeed shuffle with some other geared riders (some of which stayed around me until the infamous climb back up “potatopatch” several hours later). I was dying to get into my climbing rhythm again, and eventually, the forest road turned back up, and I was back in business. I caught back up to a lot of people, and hit aid #3 in what seemed like no time at all. Between there and the nasty descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was where I caught up to the Specialized gal on one of the steeper sections of road.

The descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was the only place where I feel like the rigid fork was a bad idea.

Brief Product Review Interlude: What was worse, though, was my brakes. I thought I was severely wearing through my brake pads. However, post race inspection revealed that there was plenty of pad left, but that the pads seem to not advance well, making the lever pull feel frighteningly long. SRAM XX Brakes = FAIL.

Aid #4 was located in a large switchback intersection of the road. It was leaving there that I saw Brenda rolling in towards the aid station behind me. I knew I was losing time to her on the descents (and probably holding/gaining on the climbs), so I decided that I’d ride the next loop of course (a little climbing followed by a singletrack descent on the Pinhoti trail) with my descending turned up to 11. In the flat-ish section after the Pinhoti, I kept waiting for her to catch me, but luckily, I made it through Aid#5 and back to the safety of a climb before she appeared.

The climb up Potatopatch was slightly wicked. The worst part was the horseflies. You can’t swat horseflies when you’re climbing singlespeed. That climb broke a lot of people. It was hard on the singlespeed, but the way I saw it, if you’re on your lowest gear behind me, every pedal stroke of mine is a nail in your coffin. After that, I knew that the hardest part was over, slammed some gel, and resolved myself to keep it at 11 the whole way back.

The remainder of the course was verymuch like the first part. Lots of gravel and hills, then a little singletrack.

I eventually caught up to Specialized Lady’s teammate, who exclaimed, “You just like to catch guys to make them feel like shit, don’t you?” I hate that attitude, so the nicest reply I could muster was “No, man, I’m just racing my bike. I don’t give a fuck what gender you are.”
Thom Parsons said it best in his report on the first blows of the women’s race:  “I chased AC (Amanda Carey) and CS (Cheryl Sorensen) for a bit, until a couple dudes tried to horn in. I was kinda hell bent on getting good footage of the ladies because, admittedly, they tend to get the shaft coverage-wise. These dudes, however were hell bent on not getting “girled.” Do you know how much that term pisses me off? A freakin’ lot, that’s how much. Buddy, you’re not getting “girled,” you’re getting “better athleted.” Now shut up about getting “girled” already you club-cut jersey wearing clown.”

Somewhere on the final throes of singletrack, my Garmin told me that I’d already ridden 100 miles. I cursed the course designer and eventually made it to the final run down Thunder Rock Express… which I took somewhat conservatively given the terrain and unknown degree of sketchiness of my brakes.

Final finish time- 9 hours, 28 minutes, and 7th behind 6 freakishly strong women (3 from Team CF, with Cheryl winning and the 2 others who racing their first 100 following in 3rd and 5th) who gave me an honest ass-kicking. Brenda was about 15 minutes behind me, followed closely by the Specialized lady (whose name I’ll stick in here as soon as the full results are up and I know who she is).

More post-race rundown to follow. I figure you’ve read enough already.

April 24, 2012

Audience Polling

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 10:59 am

I can’t make up my mind:

Cohutta 100- rigid w/an Ardent 2.4 front tire (lighter, a little faster uphill, makes me look like a badass) or SID WC suspension fork w/an Ignitor (~1.5 pounds heavier, but a little faster downhill)?

Comment here or on FB/Twitter. Whichever has the most votes is what I’ll do this weekend…

 

April 23, 2012

Recovery Day Shennanigans

Filed under: Bike Racing,non-bike — Andrea @ 6:00 am

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.

April 22, 2012

Slobberknocker Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:34 am

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.

 

April 19, 2012

Tiger Lane Crit

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 9:13 am

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!

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