brickhouseracing

November 6, 2013

Fall CX Tour- Day 2

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding,Training — Andrea @ 8:29 am

I’d like to say that the time change on Saturday night was a relief since it allowed me to sleep an extra hour before the 5am alarm I’d set so that I could make the 2 hour drive to Cullman, AL to race at 9am. However, I instead had time change-related nightmares all night and kept waking up thinking that I was doing something wrong.

Despite that, I was up in enough time to stop for gas and a large coffee and still make it to the park before registration was officially open.

I registered for both the Women’s A Race and the Singlespeed Race. Once the bikes were ready and the numbers were pinned, I went out for a couple of preride laps. After riding around on both my A bike (Cannondale SuperX) and B bike (Scott Addict CX), I decided I’d go with the B bike for the race. The course had a metric crap-ton of 180 degree turns, and the B bike has alloy rims, and the braking power is more predictable than on the carbon rims. I also like the slow-speed handling of the B-bike a little better. Even though it’s about 2 pounds heavier (between frame and wheels), the combination of brakes and handling felt faster for that particular course.

The women’s race started just behind the two groups of Master’s Men. I’ve always hated that, because it means that I’ll be passing the tail of the master’s group within the first half of the course. Usually, they’re very courteous, and, realizing that they’re not in contention for a podium spot in their own race, will give a little space for the women’s race to come through. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, though. I caught the last place guy during a series of about 10 turns up/down/back/forth on a hill early in the course. The other women were only  a turn or two back from me, and, even though I told him repeatedly that I needed to get by because of our race, he wouldn’t budge. So, I took an opportunity to pass when he swung extra wide/slow going into a 180. I dove inside, and, as I passed him, he accelerated and ran into me shoulder to shoulder (more like ribs to shoulder… he was a big man). He ran into the course tape, also, and yelled, “next time you do that, I’m going to knock you over.” I said something back to him along the lines of, “I’m leading my race, and you’re in LAST PLACE.” Then, I dropped him and didn’t look back.

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(After my race was over, I told the guys in change at the finish line about the incident, and let them know that if he put a finger on me, I was calling the police)

I went as fast as I could without totally draining my tank for the singlespeed race immediately after the first one. All the while, spectators were yelling at the men to not let me catch them. Sure, they make a nice carrot to motivate you to keep pace, but honestly, I’m not out there to catch guys who I’m not technically racing. I’m out there to win the women’s race, and I was happy to be successful in that.

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The singlespeed race lined up soon after the women’s race. It was the first time in a long time that I raced the newly-rebuilt CrossCheck. First lap impression? Id forgotten how much toe overlap that thing has. When we were given the signal to go, I could tell in the first few turns that I was going to get out-handled big time if I didn’t pull my head outta my backside and stay off the brakes a little more. Dealing with toe overlap is a combination of ratchet-pedaling, timing, and ignoring the noise your foot makes on your tire in less severe instances.

From the gun, two guys took off ahead of me. I let them go, and entered the techy 10-turn section with them a few seconds up, and a group of guys on my wheel. Somewhere on that lap, I think a couple passed me, but I ended up reeling them back in on the second lap. With two to go (we raced 4 laps), one of the guys who’d taken off initially looked like he imploded and was going backwards. I made the move to catch him, and was probably within about 15 seconds or so, but he composed himself and pulled away on the last lap.

Side note- unfortunately, during the SS race, I heard people using the “C” word*. STOP USING THAT WORD. IT’S DEMEANING AND DISRESPECTFUL TO WOMEN WHO WORK REALLY HARD TO BE REALLY FAST.

So, I stuck a solid 3rd place singlespeed. Looking back at the lap times, I went anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute faster per lap during that race. It boiled down to a combination of less braking, harder hammering, and being “in” the field of competitors rather than ahead of it.

The riding over the weekend has me re-visiting my thoughts on brakes. For wide-open, fast courses (like CrossVegas or the Outdoors, Inc. race this upcoming Sunday, a good set of cantilever brakes (like the Shorty Ultimates) on carbon rims feels totally fine. However, I definitely felt faster on the narrow/tech sections when using those same brakes on alloy rims. I’m not one to avoid changing my point of view on bike technology, and, I can now see the draw to using disc brakes with carbon rims as opposed to cantilevers. I am going to try a set of TRP CX 8.4 V-Brakes. They’ll be in today, and I’ve got an interval workout tomorrow, so I’ll report back soon.

The next few days should bring a little excitement- tomorrow after I interval and go to a Structural Integration session, I’m going to pack up and drive to Mountain View. Friday morning, I’ll be meeting up with some of the other Syllamo advocates as well as with an IMBA rep and a USFS rep. We’re going to talk about what can be done to A)keep the trail more clear of overgrowth and deadfall, and B)Stop the logging of the trail area (logging both damages the tread AND takes away the shade that prevents summer overgrowth). I’m sure I’ll get in a couple of nice rides on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning as well.

 

 

*chicked

November 4, 2013

Fall CX Tour- day 1

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:18 am

Over the last week, the planets aligned for me to leave town for the weekend and race cyclocross on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was Keep Calm and Race Cross- the race for which I’d built up the World Sickest Crosscheck. Then, on Sunday, there was a race in North Alabama where I was to meet up with someone from that area to sell Ryan’s Felt Solo mountain bike.

My plans were nearly foiled when I had a random bout of tendinitis in my left Pes anserinus. It literally started hurting when I stood up from my desk and walked across the house sometime Thursday afternoon. After a day of ibuprofen and kinesiotape on Friday, I decided I’d go race anyway since it wasn’t pedaling that’d made it hurt in the first place. So, Saturday morning, I left before Sunrise to head to Nashville.

Nashville racing is fun, because there’s a generous handful of fast women out there (8 of us in the W1/2/3 race- “large” by Tennessee standards). The course was very technical with only a couple of extended “power” sections. There was also a beer tent full of hecklers and a steep/off-camber spot with more hecklers and a doughnut hole/feather boa handup.

Tons of fun from the start- I got the holeshot and started up the switchbacked hill where the beer tent was. I didn’t get in the most thorough warm-up, so I didn’t go to plaid straight from the gun. At the top of the hill, a small group of us had strung everyone else out across the course. I zoomed down the sweeping turns on the other side and over to the steep/off-camber spot. Once I was clear of it and heading up the pavement/grass to the next techy section, I looked back, and everyone was gone.

I cleared the run-up and, as I was re-mounting, heard the run-up hecklers yelling for the next woman behind me. Still a close race- I was starting to get my legs going and kept the hammer down. Soon after that spot, there was a fast downhill section and a super tricky turn. I came into it way too hot and, as I grabbed my brakes a little too hard, I caused the front one to shudder, which made me lose front tire traction and bite the dirt HARD. I think my bike came out from under me almost endo-style, because even though it was a left-hand turn, I banged my right elbow and shin and twisted my right shifter around a little. Luckily, the bike and I were serviceable enough to keep racing. I wasn’t the only one to hit the dirt there- Jess Owings, who was nice enough to let me crash at her place that night- went down hard on her left shoulder, causing her to DNF the race.

The last part of the course allowed for a clear view of who was behind you. When I looked back at that point, there wasn’t anyone close. I put it in cruise control. I tend to not take chances as much once I’m out in front. I did, however, have a run-in with a thorn bush on the next to last lap- there was a small turtle flipped over near the apex of a fast right-hand sweeper. I looked down at it and made an effort to not run it over, and by the time I looked up, I was headed into the bushes. They were, by far, some of the most vicious thorn bushes I’ve ever encountered, and I ended up with blood and plant parts stuck over the entire left side of my body as well as in my chin. Wildly distracted, I dismounted at the steep part I’d been riding easily on every lap and ran up the hill, brushing thorns out of my arms, legs, and face.

It slowed me down enough that Kat Williams started to close down the gap on me. I got my isht together and picked the pace back up before the last lap, where I ended up with a beer handup, feather boa, and somehow managed to stay almost a minute ahead of her. FTW!

After the adrenaline and ibuprofen wore off, my sore knee was still tweaked-feeling, so I decided to bail on the singlespeed race. Instead, I headed to the beer tent to heckle. The guy who later won the singlespeed race (tragically hip, in the background of the photo) convinced me to do the 2 lap open race. Going from beer:30 back to racing isn’t really my thing, but it was a good time, nonetheless.

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By that time, the cops said we should leave the park…

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I followed Jess and her husband Mike to a killer burger joint, where I called-off the beer drinking for the afternoon/evening and had a delicious house-made mint soda instead. Then we headed back to their place to chill and watch some football. Perfect finish to a great day of racing and hanging out with friends…

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October 28, 2013

Crossroads Clash CX #2 and Something Much Bigger

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 7:58 am

Disclaimer- I don’t want to sound like I’m slamming on the guys who are sacrificing their Saturday morning to put on a race for the cycling community. This event was more of a culmination of my overall frustration at the general attitude of 90% of Memphis Cyclists that cyclocross is just some silly obstacle course that doesn’t really matter. There’s a USA Cycling rule book with course guidelines. There’s a USA Cycling official at the race. There are a few very experienced, very accomplished cyclocross racers in town who would be happy to help create a great cyclocross course. With the exception of the Outdoors Inc cyclocross race in a couple of weeks, none of those resources are being implemented by the people putting on any of the races in Memphis (not just the guys running this race).

Saturday’s course was frustrating because some parts of the course were just dangerous. The worst was a loose-over hard sharp gravel downhill sweeper into an amphitheater. It was badly washed out, bumpy, and edgy with deep grass hiding more piles of loose gravel and holes near the bottom. I was at a loss- there was also broken glass and other spots on course rooty enough that I would’t have been surprised to see at least one broken handlebar or cracked rim at any point during the races. Most of the guys I talked to gave me the, “you’re a pro mountain biker, why are you so worried?” line. Ya know, maybe that means I value the well-being of myself and my equipment more than others…

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Maybe I just want to see cyclocross- a sport which I love very much- taken a little more seriously.

Luckily for everyone, Matt showed up with a shovel and rake. He was able to at least knock the sharp edges off of the washouts and make one slightly less sketchy line through it. Despite my frustrations, I raced hard and got in some good training. I’ve been working hard on my pacing this season, and this time, I kept all of my lap times within 10 seconds of each other.

Moving on to something much better, and much more important…

I was considering the possibility of driving to Little Rock after the race on Saturday to race a night race and a Sunday morning race. However, I decided I wanted to stick around for something 100x more rewarding than any personal pursuit of training or racing- the Tennessee High School Cycling League mountain bike race at Herb Parson’s Lake.

A while back, Chad Terry (owner of Bike World, purveyor of Nimblewear USA, and coach of the Collierville HS MTB Team) contacted me about getting help with volunteer collecting for the upcoming race. I posted here and everywhere else on the internet and contacted Gu about getting some volunteer schwag to encourage locals to help out.

Matt and I drove out to the trail yesterday morning and worked as course marshals during the girls’ race.

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When I saw the girl leading the varsity race pass by, it made me teary-eyed.

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…as did watching many of the other racers. I can’t express how happy/warm/fuzzy it makes me to see young women racing their hearts out. It was just such a wonderful experience to help support people who are encouraging more kids to get out in the woods and compete. If you ever get a chance to even just watch a high school event in your area, I’d highly recommend it. Though, it’s even more fun if you get involved.

October 21, 2013

Cyclocross and Hard Labor

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 11:06 am

My weekend consisted of about 1.5 hours of riding, but left me sore and tired nonetheless.

Saturday morning, I packed up and drove to nearby Shelby Farms Park to race our newest local cyclocross series- Crossroads Clash. It was fun, though I don’t have much of a report for it- one other local gal showed up, and she’s pretty new to CX, so there wasn’t much of a “Clash” to speak of. She is, however, very enthusiastic and starting out on a steel singlespeed, very much like I did. I concentrated on pacing myself since I tend to go to plaid for the first 10 minutes and then fade. It worked well, and, despite an early washout/chain drop on a greasy turn, I ended up 3rd overall in the “B” race.

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After the race, I watched Ryan, who had a decent go despite his increase in work/decrease in training in the past few months. Matt showed up on his mountain bike with a noise-maker and some dollar bills, and a good time was had by all…

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Afterward, we cleaned up, ate some lunch, and packed up to do a little trail work. Matt and I ended up pruning privet off of the Wolf River Trail for about 3 hours before hiking back to the car. We decided that that the hiking in/out thing was the only bad part about trail work, so Matt devised a solution for our “long haul” on Sunday:

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My original plan for the weekend was to drive to Land Between the Lakes, KY after the CX race for Sunday morning’s Race to the Canal. Unfortunately, a bunch of asshole, sleazebag politicians with only their own self interests in mind screwed that up for everyone. So, Matt had the idea to do hours of trail work equal to the number of hours we would have raced/driven. Ryan, unfortunately, had to leave for a 2-3 week work venture, so he was unable to attend the trail party.

Sunday morning, after large quantities of coffee, eggs, and uncured-organic bacon, Matt and I loaded shovels, bikes, a rake, saw, and loppers then drove out to the Greenline trailhead to ride in and tackle some of the worst mudholes on the Yellow Trail of the Wolf River Trail System. Since the yellow trail is the sandiest and fastest-draining of all the trails nearby, it sees the most abuse in the winter time (when we tend to see more rain & less trail-drying warmth). The places that do hold water have turned in to 10-15ft wide mud pits as trail traffic rides around the outsides of them, continually eroding the edges and making them larger. Trails in many other areas of the U.S. have been shut down for less…

…but here, it’s considered “the usual spots,” and people ride anyway. My stance isn’t popular with a large portion of the MTB community, but it’s one I stand by, given the eyesore that mudholes create and the amount of effort it takes to fix them.

Matt and I used our previously successful “divide and conquer” strategy. We scouted out the high side of the holes then set off into the woods to find an appropriately sized piece of wood to create an “edge” for our dirt. The other side of the hole gets filled with privet clippings and branches in order to close it off and allow the woods to grow back in to the area. We then fill the high size with enough dirt to bring it up to the level of the surrounding trail. The two spots we fixed yesterday took about 5 hours worth of shoveling…

Sorry ahead of time for the lack of before shots, but if you just look for the piles of privet in the shots below, you can see the extent of the holes we filled in.

This one was the deepest, and will require the most upkeep because the hill on one side of the trail drains straight into it. We sunk in a couple of large limbs on that side to act as a water bar and diffuse some of the runoff. If you look at the 1st photo, you’ll see that the hole spans from the left side of the frame to the large tree on the right:

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This second one was as big as the edge of our dirt to the other side of the pile of privet you can see in most of the photos. Our work also included the cleaning off of a conveniently-placed roller on one side…

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Of course, neither one of these fixes is a perfect 12″ wide ribbon of singletrack, but, given the expanse of the existing holes, they’re a step in the right direction. Our prolific spring/summer growing season will take them both in a few inches every year. There are several more almost as bad holes/wide spots very close to those, and each one will likely take a couple hours’ worth of digging and engineering. However, it was a huge step towards getting the yellow trail fortified for the upcoming winter.

 

October 14, 2013

Tennessee Adventure Challenge

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:17 am

I made the “quick” (by my road trip standards) 5.5 hour drive to Knoxville on Friday afternoon. Observation of the drive? Driving in and around Nashville is quickly becoming like driving around Atlanta, except more pretentious and with no good rap music to listen to on the local radio.  I still made pretty good time, though, and I tracked down the race HQ location (literally, tracked it down, because the TNAC website just listed it as “Outdoor Knoxville” and gave this link: http://www.outdoorknoxville.com/) I figured out that it was the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center by looking at the information for the bigger 30-hour Adventure Race Championship that was being held concurrently with the smaller “Challenge” race.

After confirming that it was, indeed where the race would start, I headed over to the Urban Wilderness trails to spin my legs and get a lay of the land. I rode some trails around the Mead’s Quarry area (if you’re inclined to look at the map). It’s a pretty sweet trail system- a good variety of rocky, flowy, and well-built trails. Once I was finished, I found my way over to FullFace Kenny’s parents’ house. They were nice enough to let me stay in their basement (and, by “basement,” I mean, “lowest floor of the house that’s actually the same size as the main floor of my house, but with a lakeside porch/view on the downhill side”). They’re super sweet people, and their dog is adorable.

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Saturday morning, I woke up, packed, and went downtown to get breakfast and hang around ’til start time. When check-in opened, we were given n Urban Wilderness trail map and instructions (which turned out to only show half of the checkpoints, so we received full-sized maps about 10 minutes before the race start).  Map (terrier added for scale… checkpoints- red for land/blue for paddling, start, and finish- green & yellow, approximated with MSPaint):

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Then, we were off! The fun thing about adventure racing is that you can gather checkpoints in almost any order you want (for this one, the river paddling section was  last, because one of the paddling checkpoints was listed on the instructions as the “final” one). So, sticking with what I knew best, I decided to go to the easternmost area where I’d ridden the day before. It looked like a couple of other teams had the same idea (all of the other entries were either teams or male solo. I was the only solo female).

I quickly found the first two, but overshot the third one by at least half a mile. Once I backtracked and found it, I navigated my way to the forth, then the road, and hammered to the nearby quarry for the standup paddle board and running checkpoints. One of the two teams that had gone in my direction seemed to be a little ahead of me, and the other was generally moving at about the same speed (I may have been physically faster, but they knew the area much better, so they didn’t need to stop and study their map to figure out where to go next). Once I paddled and ran, it was off into unfamiliar territory to look for the next 3 at Fort Dickerson park and the final 2 that looked like a bluff and an overlook along the river.

Luckily, the route I took to Ft. Dickerson led me directly to an overlook where I collected the first of those checkpoints. Then, I rode up the park road to try and find the trail with the next checkpoint. It was a dead end (and the team I was back & forth with was trying to figure it out, too), but I noticed on the map where I’d gone wrong, and saw that there should be a gas line field that’d lead me straight down (steep! Woohoo!) to the other 2 points. Luckily, it’d been recently cut, and I balled down it, Enduro™ style to the quarry-lake at the bottom, where there was a guy with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch on his belt. He said that all I had to do to get the checkpoint was to jump in the water.

P.S. The water is about 30 feet below where the guy is standing. Here’s a link to a video of the area… I think where we jumped is the first “main” one that he shows at about 1:20 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0k-90L5KU

I took my shoes, socks, helmet, and backpack off then hurled myself, flailing my arms & legs like a chicken, off the cliff. Once I climbed out, I re-dressed, and set out to find the final Ft. Dickerson checkpoint (slightly hidden in a bend in the trail) before going to the last, westernmost 2. I had a good lead on the guys I’d been around for most of the day (they’d overshot the trail checkpoint), but they caught up to me when I was trying to figure out how to get to the spot that looked like it was right along the river that the instructions simply called “cave.” The three of us wound up riding circles in a parking lot for an apartment complex when I noticed that there were tire tracks straight into the kudzu on the west side. I pointed it out, and we eventually found a trail that took us to a riverside cave entrance, where there was another person with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch. She said to go in the cave, find the pumpkin, and bring back a piece of candy to get the checkpoint.

The three of us went into the cave at the same time, but I realized very quickly that I needed a light. Apparently, that was added last-minute to the mandatory equipment list, but I wasn’t getting pre-race emails, so I didn’t know. Luckily, one of the guys let me use his, and I used my roadie negotiating skills- if I use your light and ride with you guys to the paddling transition area (local knowledge of roads would make it a lot faster), I’ll shimmy through the ~12″ wide, 8ft long gap in the cave walls and bring out enough candy for both of us. Boom!

Once we left the cave, there was a quick climb to the nearby overlook for the final checkpoint before we went back across the river to finish with the paddling portion of the race. We arrived to the put-in spot to find one other team already there, looking flustered. There were several canoes and PFDs by the water, but no kayaks (for solo racers) and, the bigger problem… no paddles. The 5 of us just stood around with the lady who was in charge of that area, who was also at a loss. Eventually, one of the head race guys showed up, cursing into his phone, and trying to figure out if he could get some paddles to that spot.

He couldn’t, and he ended up cancelling the paddling section and calling the race as we’d arrived at that point. We rode up to the finish line and collected our finishers awards, and I booked it back to Memphis. Disappointing? Yeah, a little. However, the rest of the race was a ton of fun. The cliff jumping and caving was really exciting, and the whole “choose your own adventure” format of collecting checkpoints is really fun. The people who put the race on are planning on doing more of them next year, and the shorter, less-competitive, less gear-requiring, less orienteering-based, “challenge” race is an excellent way to get into the fun of adventure racing without the money spent and sleep deprivation.
My only criticism for the whole thing is that running any sort of event concurrently with a 30-hour adventure race seems like waaaaay too much for the race crew to handle. They were obviously sleep-deprived (the 30-hour race had started early the previous morning) and stressed from issues that’d occurred within that race. Totally understandable, given the race format. If they had a whole extra set of volunteers/director for the extra event, it’d likely work out fine, but asking the same people who’ve been awake for >24hrs to run a separate event at the same time as the bigger one seems like biting off more than they can chew.

Hopefully it works out well for them next year- they made mention of the series expanding and even coming to Memphis, which would be a fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would definitely make it an off-season habit if more of that type of low-stress event were offered in my general vicinity.

October 3, 2013

Simmer Down

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

Since returning from Interbike, I’ve given myself a little bit of leeway to act more like a normal person who rides bikes than a full-time bike racer. In the past couple of years, I’ve gone to either extreme- either taking a full-on break from the bike for a week-ish, or, in the last year, since I did a good job of pacing my schedule, didn’t feel the need to take much of a break at all. Though I am “training” for the Tennessee Adventure Challenge race, it’s basically a fun thing that gives me a laid-back, low-expectation “goal” to keep me from going nuts while I take a rest from being hyper-focused on my usual races.

How’s that different? Well, Sunday, I had a 4.5 hour tempo ride on my training schedule. I wanted to do a specific ride on my mountain bike, but then it rained. So, instead of doing the ride on my road bike, in the rain, I just blew it off and went for a run/yoga class. I’m also doing other fun stuff, like stopping to take photos:

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Wearing baggy shorts:

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And meeting up with the Ladies Only ride last weekend:

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Part of my aversion to the 4 hours of road riding last Sunday was my lack of a road bike. I finally sent all of the defective Cannondale frames back and asked for a refund of my money. The final tally? 5 frames in the last year- every single one of them with the same defective bottom bracket shell. Number 5 was actually promised to be a 2014 bike from the new mold (the only reason why I rode a defective one with an adapter for months), but all that waiting, and they just sent me another one of the 2013 defective ones. They’ve got the bikes, and I’m still waiting for them to get their shit together and give me my money back so I can buy something else.

In the meantime, I’ve got my Scott CX bike overhauled and set back up as a road bike:

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In non-bike goings-on, I decided to try an Aerial Yoga class. It’s a ton of fun:

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Also, here’s a random photo of Indy, getting a bath:

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I know that my “less serious riding” time is serving its purpose, because I’m already starting to look at early season races to get on the schedule so my fall/winter training has a tangible goal. For now, I’m excited about trying some new-ish stuff and relaxing a little.

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September 22, 2013

Interbike #1- Crossvegas

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 9:31 am

Earlier in the Summer, Chad from Nimblewear asked if I’d be interested in the “Wheelers and Dealers” race at Interbike. I wasn’t sure if I was going to Interbike, and was less sure that I wanted to race, so I told him I’d get back to him.  Fast forward to August-ish, and I decided that I was game for both. However, when I went to register, I saw that the Wheelers and Dealers race registration was full. So, I entered the Elite Race. Nevermind that it’d be my first CX race of the season, my first Elite-level race since 2009, and that I’d never flown with my bike anywhere.

Wednesday morning, I paid the $150 one-way ticket for my bike and headed off to Vegas. Thankfully, my flight was a direct one, and, with the hop across two time zones, I landed with plenty of time to find a shuttle, get checked in (side note- when you check in “early” at a Vegas hotel, they charge you out the ass), and put my bike together. Turns out, I’d have one more chore… when the plane landed and I touched base with the person who was supposed to give me a ride from the strip to the course, he informed me that he’d decided not to go, and that his car was full of stuff from the previous day’s outdoors demo event…

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So, while I was in the process of shuttling, getting my bike together, etc, I mentally prepared myself to ride to the course from the hotel (not a huge deal, but not what I really wanted to do, given my lack of planning for that sort of thing). However, I enlisted the powers of social media and found a ride with a friend of pro racer Adam Myerson.

Hotel room workstand:

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After finding lunch and settling in, I needed to find the expo center and touch base with the Nimblewear guys, who’d made a special Interbike-edition pink houndstooth skinsuit for me (see right edge of photo)

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(Side note- Haven’t found any action shots… Even though I raced head to head with both Amanda Carey and Judy Freeman throughout the race, all of the photographers managed to keep me out of those ladies’ photos.)

Nimblewear’s got a new long sleeve skinsuit cut that I’m gonna have to get my hands on soon. IT’S GOT THUMBHOLES!!!!

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I only got lost 3 times while trying to get through the 2 casinos that separated the lobby of the Luxor from the convention center in the Mandalay.

After hanging out for a few minutes, I headed back to the room too put my feet up and roll my legs before meeting up with Chad (the Twitter connection) to get out to the race venue. As I was walking in, I saw Bob Roll:

bobke

Then, I found the guys from Swiftwick, who had their van set up right next to the course. They were nice enough to let me camp out there a little (ok, a lot), change in their van, and help me pin my numbers. If you’ve never owned a pair of Swiftwick socks, comment below, tell me why, and I’ll email you back with a code for 40% off a pair from their website. Your only regret will be figuring out what  to do with all of your other socks.

I made sure to start rolling around a little earlier than usual to warm my legs up slowly after flying/walking all day. They were  little argumentative at first, but eventually the power started to creep back. As soon as the course was open, I headed out for a pre-ride. The course gets a bum rep for being a “grass crit” and lacking in technical features. True, it’s a super power-course, but, as I’d find out later, being able to ride “crit” speed on wide open grass turns is a technical skill in and of itself.

As bib number 51 of 54, I had the honor of a back-row spot in staging. I didn’t stress it, though, and it actually turned out to be beneficial to NOT being caught in the pileup that happened just before the first left-hander off the start line. As soon as we were into the first turns of the course, I was starting to get into a good rhythm. I also noticed that most of the women around me were going slower around the turns than I wanted to. Once I was around them, I started trying to pace myself and use the momentum of “grass crit” turning to my advantage. It was working great until one of the last turns of the lap, when I came out of my coasting a little early and drove my left pedal into the ground at 500 watts. My mistake lifted my rear wheel and bounced it diagonally into the ground hard enough to burp air from the rear tire and stack me into the grass.

When I got up and remounted, my rear tire squirmed and the rim threatened to bump the ground, ending my “turn faster than everyone else” strategy. Oops. The remainder of the race had me head-to-head with Rebecca Gross (master’s worlds 2012 winner), Judy Freeman (from the Crank Brothers team), and Amanda Carey (among others). The crowds were amazing, and, around the run-up area, the sound was nearly deafening.

The last two laps, I was fading hard, and, as the last lap started, a small group came around me. Amanda was in the back of it, so I hopped on her wheel. The rest of the group started to pull away, but I didn’t want to blow myself up harder by trying to stay with them. So, I stayed where I was and caught my breath enough so that, as we approached the last long, heavy-grass power hill of the course, I went around with everything I had left. I didn’t want to look behind me, but on the last set of stairs, I could hear the crowd yelling for Amanda. I dug harder and finished a few seconds ahead of her and just behind the group that’d passed a few minutes earlier… 32nd place.

The dust and the effort on course absolutely destroyed me. I cooled down and got a ride back to the hotel just as the men’s race was staging. Great race? Hell yeah- it’s awesome to have a rowdy crowd and a lot of really amazing women to race against. Back at the hotel, I cleaned up and struck out on a dinner mission, finding a fancy burger place just before the kitchen closed. In bed by midnight on my first night in Vegas… hell yeah again.

 

September 10, 2013

Interbike Cometh

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:40 am

One week from now, I’m going to be packing up to fly to Vegas for Interbike. This year, I’m taking my cyclocross bike and participating in the circus that is CrossVegas. I’m somewhat under-prepared to race any sort of cyclocross one week from tomorrow, much less the only elite-level race I’ve entered since going to a USGP event in Louisville back in 2009, but what intervals and drills I have done are feeling good, so hopefully I’ll be better than DFL. Trial by fire is my favorite.

The biggest concern I’ve got about the race is not actually the race itself, but getting from my hotel to the CX venue several miles away. Riding there isn’t an option- the roads are terrible with traffic, and I’ll only have my tubulars on my bike, so the risk of flatting and being stranded in a Vegas ghetto is far too great. So, I’m asking everybody I know who will be there if they know of anyone who can give me a ride (fallback plan is to get in with the Nimblewear guys, but they’re gonna be running their booth at the indoor show until it closes, which puts me on a ridiculously tight schedule). There’s also the question of space in the rental car for such an endeavor.

Other than that, Thursday and Friday will be straight hustle from morning ’til whenever the hell I can get to sleep. It seems like once you’re in the black hole of Vegas, it’s suddenly 1am when you thought it as just 10. This trip, I’m lining things up ahead of time. More on the sponsor hunt after the show, though. For now, I’ll leave it all a mystery.

Short post today… I’ve gotta get some breakfast and get on my bike. As a household, we’ve taken to seeing who can net the best time for the route down the wolf river trail to stanky creek and back. Right now, it’s anyone’s game, as Ryan and Matt rolled a time that was faster than mine in rolling numbers, but longer than mine in total elapsed time (Matt made several adjustments to his new bike during the trip). So, today, I’m planning to set the record straight.

September 5, 2013

Off-Season Shenanigans

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:31 am

It’s been a few years since a dabbled in adventure racing (2009… a Solo Sprint and a longer CoEd Team race). I enjoyed it, though, as I’ve become more focused on mountain biking, my adventure race interest slowly dwindled. I haven’t done any running (other than the few seconds of running in CX races), and I definitely don’t perform orienteering/pace counting very accurately. I did, however, start feeling a little antsy the first time I saw a FB friend post a link to this:

2013 Knoxville Tennessee Adventure Challenge

flyer

It’s basically a 6-hour time limit adventure race that takes out two of the biggest things that keeps people from wanting to try adventure racing- the orienteering (navigation with a compass, topo map, and pace counting) and the laundry list of required equipment (to participate, you only need running shoes, hydration pack, mountain bike, and helmet). All of the paddling equipment you’ll need is included with your race entry, and, while the course isn’t marked, you follow a pre-marked map to get to the checkpoints.

Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to take cyclocross quite as seriously this winter, I decided it’d be the perfect thing to make for some fun off-season training. Tuesday afternoon, I went for my first “run”- 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking. Hey… you gotta start somewhere! My strategy is to build up to at least a 10 mile trail run by the first week of October. Easy peasy. Last time I decided I wanted to do something related to running, I went from super bike-fit to running the Ouachita 50k in exactly 1 month’s time. Of course, I could barely walk for 5 days following that race, but I figure there’s no way the adventure race course will include 32 miles of running, so I should be safe.

It’ll be a really fun change of pace before I get bundled up and back into my winter adventures.

September 3, 2013

Hard Nox 50 Race Report

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

It was a hot weekend.

Like, Dirty South, 96 degree w/65% humidity hot. In an effort to avoid the heat as much as possible, Matt and I waited until Saturday afternoon to make the 3 hour trip down to Ackerman, MS to set up camp the night before the Hard Nox race. We arrived just in time to get the tent & hammock up and change for a quick spin of the course start with Frank Webber before it was totally dark. I’m pretty happy that we did, because it was beneficial to know that the initial miles of singletrack were pretty tight and twisty (a lot like the Stanky Creek trails in Memphis). We made it up the first “climb” before hightailing it back to camp. My legs felt great, so I was looking forward to some serious pedal smashing the next day.

After a luxurious ham sandwich dinner, the darkness of the great outdoors activated the magic of human physiology and had us yawning and sleepy by 9pm. Somewhere around midnight, I had my only injury of the weekend when I managed to sprain my left thumb in my sleep. I don’t know why or how, but I can only assume I jammed it into the ground at a high rate of speed and folded it backwards. It woke me up and proceeded to give me nightmares about spraining all of my other fingers, which meant that I’d wake up every hour or two wiggling all of my fingers to make sure that I hadn’t hurt more than just my thumb. Luckily, by morning, it was just a dull, annoying ache accompanied by constant popping.

Sunday morning, race prep went well. I had my coffee and yogurt and changed in time to roll around for about 20 minutes before the race started. As 7:52 hit, someone told me that the 8am race start was pushed back to 8:30. So, I went back to camp, had some water, a Roctane gel, and tried to stay cool. Eventually it was time to roll down to the lake and get set up for the LeMans start. Strategy- set my bike up on the left edge of the road just behind a local guy who I knew would be smooth in his run/mount.

That strategy has never failed me, and I ended up very well placed (first woman, just behind the lead pack of men) as we rounded the turns out of the lake area and towards the trails. I was feeling great, and, once I had a good pack “spot” established, I backed off of “starting” pace and into “maintenance” pace. The trail to the mid-lap aid station was very roller-y and rooty, with lots of trees in the exits of blind turns. It kept you working. Luckily, a lot of the trail after the aid station was less complicated, and made it easier to take a slight mental break and just pedal.

I rolled into the pit area at 2 hours, 11 minutes and stopped briefly at my cooler to get fresh bottles and an extra pack of Gu Chomps. As I headed back out for lap two (a slightly modified version of lap 1), I could tell that, despite my pacing and hydration, the heat was really starting to get to me. I felt the deathmarch looming over me as my quads writhed inside my skin, threatening to cramp. About halfway to the mid-lap aid station, my left toes started to hurt like hell (same issue I’ve had in the past and haven’t sorted out yet), and I was forced to stop for several minutes to get them to quit feeling like they were being clamped with vice grips. I figured at that point that Laureen Coffelt, who tends to motor along at a slower, steady pace, was catching up to me.

I eventually made it to the aid station, had some electrolytes, and dumped several cups of ice water over myself. I focused on staying steady for the last 12 miles, taking some comfort in the thought that the course was “easier” on that end. However, I hadn’t realized that the 2nd half of the 2nd lap was different than the 2nd half of the 1st lap- meaning the trail following the aid station was just as roll-y and rooty as the 1st half instead of smoother and easier. I was majorly overheating, my left toes were trying to fall off of my foot, and it was all I could do to not think about anything other than pedaling and keeping my shit together long enough to get to the finish (I was mostly thinking of Laureen bearing down upon me any time I wasn’t going as hard as I could, which, looking at the power file, was at an intensity that’d normally be “recovery ride” speed).

I finally made it in 4 hours, 37 minutes.

podium

In conjunction with plenty of electrolytes from various sources, I drank somewhere between 4.5 and 5 liters of liquid during the race. Afterwards, I ate a lunch, snacked all the way home, and drank a lot more. When I arrived home, I was still 5 pounds under my normal weight. There’s no telling how dehydrated I was. It was too hot to keep up with the water loss.

As is customary for winning a race with a decent cash purse, I took the guys out for sushi dinner, where we inhaled several highly Americanized, gigantic sushi rolls, topped with glorified mayonnaise and soy sauce.  I’m done with racing in the heat for this year.

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