brickhouseracing

April 8, 2014

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 10:48 am

I went in to this race without any real expectations of myself other than doing what I could to have a good first “long” race of the season (now that I think about it, it was my longest ride of 2014 as well). So, while my base is strong and top-end fitness is still building, I really wanted to focus on pacing, fueling, and paying attention to keeping my head up and bike handling fast/accurate as fatigue started to set in. I knew that this race tends to draw some regional horsepower (lots of familiar names on previous years’ results), but, being in the mindset of “just go and have a good race and let the results happen,” I didn’t even look for a list of registered riders. I did, however, see Carey Lowery (always one to chase) post (on facebook) an “enlightening” photo of her bike and herself on the scales the day before the race.

Eh, whatevs.

I’d never ridden the Warrior Creek course before, but I heard that it was a lot of fun. A Friday afternoon preride would reveal that I would not be disappointed. Berms. Berms everywhere. Most of them amazing.
(side note- When you put 598 berms into almost 14 miles of trail, not all of them are gonna be winners)

I was stoked to race. Saturday morning, the race started at 10:00am (love that… racing the NUE series for 2 years in a row left me with soooooo much hate for early morning starts). It made a “parade loop” of sorts around the park before diving in to the last piece of singletrack before the start of the official first piece of singletrack. I thought I’d noticed one or two women ahead of me at that point, but figured that if I successfully carried out my plan that they’d come back at some point in the next 6 hours (I’d later figure out that both were in the duo competition). I hadn’t noticed Carey ahead of me and figured that the speed of the start loop had put her (riding a singlespeed) into the singletrack a little further back in the group.

Somewhere as I settled in to the first lap, Matt caught up to me and said he was having a bad time riding singlespeed. He stuck with me for the remainder of the lap. When I stopped at the pit, I said something to a nearby support person about waiting for Carey to come by me, and she informed me that Carey was racing as a duo. Interesting…

I grabbed bottles, ate some Gu Chomps, and got back on my bike. At the start of the second lap, I had a frustrating/satisfying run-in with a guy on a Krampus. The story is a Just Riding Along exclusive, though. So, you’ll have to listen to the show on Mountain Bike Radio to hear it.

On the second lap, I mostly followed a guy who had a great pace and seemed to know the trail well. It was very helpful to follow his lines and he wasn’t going either too slow or too fast up any of the climbs. Carey also caught up to me somewhere along there. She confirmed that she was, indeed riding in the duo competition, and, when I asked what solo women were ahead of me, she replied, “Just you!”

Oh… Damn.

I felt pretty good and was already well on my way to executing my plan of 5 laps in the allotted amount of time. The thing about following your race plan to the letter is that other than saying you did it, there’s not a lot to write about. Fueling boiled down to downing 1.5 bottles of weakly-mixed Gu Roctane per lap (I’d scouted “drinking spots” during my preride and always watched for other opportunities), taking a large hit from my gel flask (filled with Roctane gel) at a non-wooded, straight piece of trail about halfway through each lap, and eating at least half a pack of Gu Chomps and sometimes another gel (Gu Salted Caramel) as I rolled through the timing/pit area.

I did have a little back and fourth with the two women’s teams that finished behind Carey and her teammate. Not that I was necessarily racing the duo ladies, but one of them caught up to me early on the last lap, and I didn’t recognize her as a duo woman, though I was 99% sure she said she was (she definitely looked like she was) when she asked to get around me. I caught back up to her in the last couple of miles, and asked her a couple of times, explaining (as well as you can when you’re riding behind someone) that I believed her, but that I was very wary of being burned by someone not being honest about their race category. She laughed it off and let me by at the final pavement as we exited the woods to the finish line.

Yee-ha!

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I definitely felt like it was the longest/hardest ride of the year. Luckily, I’d had the wherewithal to make the hotel reservation through Saturday night, allowing us to go back, shower, and lay around with our feet up rather than checking out before the race and getting on the road immediately after. If you do it right, the “run over by a truck” feeling is there whether you win or lose.

March 31, 2014

Bad News/Good News

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:14 am

This weekend was pretty laid back… I went out on a group ride with the 901 Racing guys again on Saturday, but, being kinda cold and rainy, everyone was having a good time riding just hard enough to not be cold. We rode through some of the more “scenic” areas of North Memphis, which I always find to be interesting. The air outside of Madea’s Soul Food Cafe smelled like my grandmother’s house. I think it was turnip greens.

On the way back, Matt and I decided to take another “scenic route,” and rode about a mile on the unfinished part of the Shelby Farms greenline- a former rail bed with no tracks and a little overgrowth. It’s pretty mundane on a mountain bike, but the road bikes added a small level of difficulty. We tried taking a different neighborhood route home from the greenline, but ended up somehow bailing on that plan and grinding it out down Macon Road. It’s a lower speed-limit road (35mph), but it’s mostly narrow, and there was a good bit of traffic. Even though we didn’t have and run-ins or close calls with ignorant drivers, for whatever reason, it induced a panic attack. I yelled at Matt to pull over in a neighborhood, and I spent several minutes gasping, shaking, and crying on my handlebars.

It’s been more than a year now, and I still get caught off guard. We made it home, though, and I engaged in retail therapy for the remainder of the afternoon.

Enough about that- in much more awesome, exciting, and inspirational news:

LAUREN FREAKING HALL…

Gent - Wevelgem 2014 women

…WINNING GHENT-WEVELGEM.

Here’s a quick summary from the bowels of Velonews… where if you click on the link for “Results: Ghent-Wevelgem,”  you only get a listing of the men’s race. It took a little digging, but here’s the rundown.

If you don’t know who Lauren is, we used to race against each other back around 2008-ish, when I was on Kenda, and she had just joined the local ProBike team with infamous local hammer Debbie Milne.

A random from back in the day… Lauren is in the blue shorts:

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I bet not many of you have a photo of results where you beat the winner of any of this year’s Euro classics ;)

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By the end of that season, she and Debbie were prettymuch unstoppable…

Podium

That photo is from the last race of that season- a crit in Birmingham where she and Debbie double-teamed the field until they escaped sometime in the last few laps. I’d done a ton of chasing, so I had nothing left for a pack sprint and decided my best bet was to attack into no-man’s land with 2 to go. I got away and landed the 3rd place spot behind the dynamic duo.

P.S. Floyd Landis was really drunk.

Lauren moved out to Colorado and started working her way up the pro cycling ladder, and now she’s a freaking rockstar with honest World Championship and Olympic potential. It was the highlight of my weekend to see that race result.

In other “amazing/inspiring” news, the Barkley 100 Ultramarathon is happening right now. It started at 6:45 on Saturday. Out of 35 starters (including local Memphis Badass, Billy Simpson), only one man remains on course (Jared Campbell), looking as if he’s going to finish. I don’t know if “brutal” is really a descriptive enough term for that “race.”

In other training news, I decided to call off my quest to further lose weight. I hit the mid 140′s last week, but that coincided with feeling like hell on the bike. I’m guessing there’s a reason why my body has really insisted on staying at 142 pounds, so I’m going to quit arguing with it and just maintain 141-142. With the muscle I’ve put on from lifting/MMAing, I’m definitely a leaner/meaner 142 than I was this time last year. I’ll take it.

March 17, 2014

Spa City 6 Hour- Pit Crew Time

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:54 am

Because the Spa City 6 hour fell right into the end of my “take it easy in order to avoid secondary injury” time following my cortisone injection, I did not race over the weekend. However, as, as I mentioned in on of the previous posts, I owed Matt some crew work, so I went with him to do whatever I could to give him a hand.

It started Friday morning, after another round of anesthetic injections into my hamstring (the first round was cortisone in the ischial bursa and anesthetic in the hamstring). It sucked, but not nearly as badly as the first time.

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Once I was finished at the doctor’s office, I ran home, ate breakfast, and started in on weekend preparations. It’s been my goal so far this season to make short road trips without having to eat out at all, so I made some chicken/veggie rice for dinner and bacon/egg rice bars for breakfast. I also made a cookie cake… more on that in a minute. It’s a little bit of an arduous process to make/pack all the food, but it pays off hugely in predictable digestive processes and time saved trying to look for a restaurant with decent food.

Once I was done cooking, I packed most things into the car and waited for Matt to get home from a half day of work. We loaded up quickly and headed out to Hot Springs. Once we were there, we got my “monument to car camping” tent pitched and I finished uploading/setup while he went out for a little preride. All the timing worked out just right to warm up dinner just as the sun was setting…

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I’m pretty sure we were asleep by 9:00.

Saturday morning, the arrival of people setting up pits at 6am woke us up before the alarm clocks. Since we’d camped in our usual prime pit spot, it was a matter of rolling out of bed and lighting the camp stove to heat up water for coffee. Everything went smoothly, though I quickly figured out that I was a bigger bundle of nerves as a crew person than I’ve ever been for a bike race. I did my best to hide it and went to the LeMans start area to make sure that Matt’s garmin didn’t shut off while he was staging for the start, and, once it didn’t and they were on course, I trekked down to the staging area to get Matt’s jacket and leg warmers he’d tossed beforehand.

I spent the next hour or so pacing around and being a bundle of nervous energy (ok, possibly the next 6 hours). When Matt finally arrived at the end of lap 1, he told me he’d wrecked into a tree and that we should pack up and go home. I had some stern words and ibuprofen for him and he headed back out. Nervous energy x1000.

Somewhere in my pacing and fidgeting, I remembered the cookie cake. Last year at post-race Slobberknocker, local racer Scott Penrod was telling me about how he felt better climbing when he weighed less, and that he wanted to lose weight prior to Leadville because he really wanted the sub-9hr buckle. I then gave him a pretty hard time about the handful of cookies he’d grabbed off the finish line snack table, and he ended up looking really sad then putting them back in favor of a banana. I felt a little bad, so I promised him that if he brought back the buckle, I’d make him a cookie cake.

He finished a handful of seconds under 9 hours- attributing at least a couple of those seconds to leaving the cookies on the table earlier in the year.

So, I left this on his crew table after the first lap:

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He waited ’til after the race to consume it, because, according to him, “I’ll puke if I eat it now!”

Back in my pit area, Matt was doing progressively better with each lap. the gap between him and the handful of racers I was marking to know that he’d be in soon was growing smaller with each pass. Somewhere on lap 5 of his eventual 6, he passed most of them… with a couple wondering where the hell he’d come from because he’d gone by them like a scalded cat. When he crossed the finish line, ahead of even more people than he’d been after his 5th, I was so giddy I almost hugged him off his bike. I’ve never been so relieved to see the end of a race.

His ultra-consistent laps (all of them were within a minute of each other and within 11 watts average power) were fast enough to land him in 17th place overall and 2nd in the 29 & under age group…
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After his podium, we packed up and got on the road just as the rain was starting.

It makes me very proud- I’ve been doing my best to teach him how to be a good bike racer, and Saturday, I got to watch it happen. It’s quite a rewarding feeling. Next up? Warrior Creek 6 hour. I’m back on track with training to be back in form just in time for it.

 

March 5, 2014

It’s not all Rainbows and Unicorns

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 4:35 pm

Well, several bike fits, shoes, three doctors, one EMG/nerve study, three MRIs, an arterial doppler, and 5 ultrasound/e-stim sessions later, the cause of  my left hamstring ache and toe exploding-off-the-end-of-my-foot feeling on longer rides has been narrowed down to “something in the area between your ischial tuberosity and the middle of your hamstring gets inflamed and puts pressure on your sciatic nerve.”

Along the way, I’ve tried (and still use) a lot of alternative therapies (chiropractor, massage, yoga, acupuncture, and structural integration). While all of them have proved beneficial to me physically, none of them have affected the sciatic pain. So, now that I’m under the care of one of the only doctors I’ve ever really trusted, we’re about to get more aggressive with it.  Friday morning, I’m going in to get multiple injections in the area. One will be cortisone in the area of the sciatic/ischial tuberosity/bursa area. Others, going into the hamstring in the area of pain, are non-cortisone, and are given in a series once a week for three weeks.

I know it sounds weird coming from someone with multiple tattoos and piercings, but I’m incredibly shot-phobic. One of my earliest memories from when I was a kid was being forcibly pinned down on a pediatrician’s table like an animal at the vet and being given booster shots in my backside… all while fighting as hard as I could to try and not get booster shots, which only made the entire process that much more painful. Ever since then, my heart races even when I get a mostly painless B12 shot. I went without a tetanus vaccination for waaaaay longer than I should have, too.

To say this procedure is gonna be rough would be a gross understatement.

It’s difficult to swallow what I’m willing to put myself through to deal with this.I love what I’m doing, but between the mental and physical pain of being hit by a car a year ago, an irritable degenerative lumbar disc, and now the choice to get a painful series of treatments to deal with an ongoing overuse-related problem, the health impacts of repeatedly pushing my body past its normal limits are becoming more obvious.

But, I still love what I’m doing. I still love to ask myself, “How far?” and “How fast?”
For now, I’m willing to keep suffering to keep answering.

The prognosis? Still somewhat unknown. Because of the effects of the cortisone injection, I’ll have to take a week and a half off of strenuous training. Luckily, I’m still allowed to ride during that time, but the intensity will have to stay low to reduce the risk of injury to the soft tissue in the area of the injection. It means I’m going to miss out on the Spa City 6 Hour race, which will also effectively take me out of the running for the Arkansas Marathon Series, since they use your top 3 race finishes to calculate points, and my three were going to be Iron Mountain, Spa City, and Syllamo’s Revenge (Slobberknocker, usually in April, was pushed back to the weekend prior to Dirty Kanza, and a 70 mile race is a little much for my taper).

I’m likely to show up at the six hour race, anyway. Not to participate, but to act as pit crew for Matt. He all but wiped my backside during the Breck Epic race last year, so I owe him a solid. Six hours of refilling bottles and unwrapping rice bars is pretty simple compared that.

Hopefully this is going to knock out the pain and let me find a new level of awesome, because the whole “can’t do long rides without stopping multiple times to rest my left leg” thing is really cramping my style.

February 24, 2014

Season Opener

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:41 am

While I’m still somewhat early in my spring training, I decided that the Iron Mountain MTB Marathon would make a nice season opener. At 42 miles, it wasn’t crazy long, and, from what I’d heard, the course was a lot of fun (as opposed to something like Ouachita or Syllamo, where the course is billed as “challenging” and/or “soul crushing”). It also helps that it was “only” a 3.5 hour drive from Memphis.

Matt and I left Saturday morning (Ryan was at a Homebrewer’s competition and ended up winning the “oak aged” category with his Turbo Porter). During the drive over, I noticed that my throat was pretty sore, but I totally ignored it, hoping that I’d just been breathing funny or something. As is customary for driving through Arkansas to a bike race, there was rapping.

The nice people at Holiday Inn Express let us check in early, and we unloaded some stuff out of the car, had a snack, then made the short drive to the race course. The course wasn’t too hard to follow based on the website map/instructions, so we were able to ride the “start loop” and part of the first lap. The course was exciting- lots of flowy/bermy stuff, and some rocks mixed in for fun. It really keeps you on your toes, because some of the berms end a little earlier than you expect, and some of the blind corners lead you into loose over hard rocky turns. Definitely a good one to pre-ride before going race-pace.

As the day/night progressed, my throat got more sore, and my nose started getting stuffy. Luckily, Sunday morning, my cold seemed to still be isolated to my nose/throat, and, unlike my previous illness, I wasn’t getting a fever. We checked out of the hotel and went to the race course.

After about half an hour of warming up, I lined up and tried to eyeball the ladies in the group of around 170 people. I didn’t really know anyone except for Laureen Coffelt, who I’ve raced many times in the past. She’s a 24 hour racer, and, historically, a little slower than me, but incredibly steady- always someone to look out for.

Being somewhat early in the year, I knew I couldn’t go balls-out from the start (the course began with a 2 mile, double-roller climb on pavement before turning on to singletrack). So, I paced myself a little more than usual. Once I arrived at singletrack, I wasn’t sure how far behind the next woman was. From there, the course turned downhill for a while. It was a fast, flowy/rocky decent where you could definitely carry enough speed to end yourself if you weren’t on your toes. At the bottom, I backed off of my pace a little at a time in order to find a comfortable yet not-too-slow race speed as I passed through the start/finish area at the end of the start loop and started up a long-ish climb to begin the first of two laps.

I may have been a little too comfortable, because a few miles later, Laureen caught up to me (we were about 16 miles in to 42). She asked in her cheery Canadian-nice voice if she could get by, and I was happy to oblige. She’s so smooth everywhere, I knew that, even if she was riding a little faster than the pace I wanted, that I’d likely be able to stick with it. So, that’s exactly what I did.

For the remainder of the first lap, and up the first climb of the second lap, everything was pretty chill. There was a dude behind us the whole time who seemed to be happy to sit back and spectate (we asked a couple of times if he wanted to get by, and he said no, he liked the pace). It was very comfortable- Laureen would sit up and spin a bit up the hills then let it fly going downhill. I started to formulate a plan… initially, I thought, “I’ll just stay here and sprint the final 2-300 meters.” I paid very close attention to our trip though the start/finish at the transition from lap 1 to lap 2 in order to scope out where to start and what line looked smoothest.

Then, we got to the top of the first climb of the second lap, where there were a bunch of embedded rocks without a clear line through them. She, on her full suspension, started to pick up the pace a bit. I had to fight a little and mmuscle my way through to stay on her wheel. There was a brief respite as we crossed a road and started on the next section of trail. However, soon enough, she began turning the screws again. It was very subtle, because, without looking like she was working any harder, would pedal about one gear harder on all of the flats/false flats, and stay off the brakes a tiny bit more going downhill. The guy who’d been cruising with us was gone within minutes. I held on hard and concentrated on staying off the brakes and getting calories every time I could- I typically keep a very concentrated bottle of Roctane drink on my bike when I race just in case the terrain or competition doesn’t allow for me to get to my gel flask. It definitely came in handy on the 2nd lap.

The attacks left me dangling a few times- enough to make me re-evaluate my race-finish strategy since she could potentially open a gap in the last mile that would make me work so hard, I wouldn’t have a good sprint for the finish. The only place I felt like I was really stronger was on the climbs. So, my new plan was to keep on being a bulldog until the final 1/4 mile-ish section of road before the final 1.5-ish mile section of trail… which included a climb that started as a false flat, crossed a creek, then got steep and turned up a piece of wide doubletrack with one good line. Being in front going in to that climb was ideal, because there was one good line, and anyone wanting to pass would need to take the chunky/loose line on either side of it.

Implementing this strategy wasn’t without risk- it was very close to the finish, and there was a straightforward, yet significant downhill immediately following the climb where I wanted to get away. She’d been killing it on the descents (making me uncomfortable more than a couple of times), so if I didn’t create a large enough gap, it was possible she’d close it back if I didn’t also go all-out down the hill.
When we reached the road, I sat on her wheel a second before going full-roadie-apeshit and sprinting off towards the last section of singletrack. Once I was in, I backed off and caught my breath. She caught up to me during that time, but I wasn’t worried since I was in control of the trail/pace. We made it though the false flat to the creek crossing where the climb really started. The crossing was super sketch, and, if I hadn’t kept cool, I definitely could have screwed up and put a foot down, leaving the door open to get passed back.

I made it, though, and let loose again with the ground & pound- hammering up and over the final climb and down the hill after it. As I exited the trail, I looked back and saw that my strategy had worked. I was alone with only a hammer to the finish ahead of me.

It was a nice change of pace (literally & figuratively) to race head-to-head with Laureen. I don’t think that I’ve ever had to use strategy during a mountain bike race- either I’m ahead and alone or my competition is ahead of me, and I’m alone. It took all of my patience and self control to not pass any of the times she offered to let me by on a climb earlier in the race. With my springtime fitness still in “build mode,” I knew that if I was setting the pace that I may not be able to shake her, or that I’d possibly go too hard in my attacks without the legs to back them up, leaving her with time to catch back. Waiting ’til the end really was my best chance…

podium

February 21, 2014

Spring Fever

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:01 am

I have to say… since I arrived home from Florida, it feels like Spring training has been turned up to 11. That week ended up being a 17 hour training week, punctuated by a power test on Sunday. That went well, and, after a single recovery day, was followed up with some 10 minute intervals that were way better than anything I’d done this year and a 4 hour mountain bike ride the following day, during which my best hour was the last.

I know I said not long ago that I felt out of shape… I think I was just cold.

The one lingering issue I’ve got is the ongoing hamstring pain/foot numbness on my left side. If you remember from my last post about it, the doctor ordered an MRI of my back to check for a disc issue that could be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. That wasn’t the case, so he wanted to try physical therapy to the hamstring at the origin of the pain. Therapy included electrical stimulation, ultrasound, nerve glides, and, at first, seemed as though it may have worked.

Unfortunately, in Florida, the pain came back. So, the doctor ordered another round of diagnostics, including an arterial Doppler and another MRI- this time of the pelvis. (He actually requested pelvis and hamstring, but my insurance will only approve one area at a time… you know, because they obviously know more about this problem than my doctor does. Maybe I need to be seeing the “expert” at my insurance company instead.)

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It’s a little discouraging, especially since I feel pretty strong right now. However, I trust the expertise of Dr. Martinez and Kevin the PT, and I think they’re both highly motivated to help me succeed.

Health issues aside, I’m super excited for the first race of the season this weekend- Iron Mountain. It’s “only” 42 miles, so I don’t foresee having too much of a problem with my leg/foot. Matt and I plan on driving down to Arkadelphia tomorrow morning in order to leave plenty of time for a little pre-riding and settling in (Ryan is staying in town to attend a Homebrew Competition).

Today is bike checkover and recovery day. Technically, yesterday was a recovery day as well, though I ended up starting and ending the day at UFK with their weight training class followed by MMA class in the evening, and staying really busy in between. My schedule today is much more laid back. I’ll basically tinker with my bike a little, run to the grocery store, go for an easy ride, do some laundry, and generally relax and build excitement to get the season kicked off on Sunday.

January 3, 2014

Rouge Roubaix XV, the rest of it

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:12 am

If you haven’t been around long enough to know that I was hit by a car during the Rouge Roubaix road race back in March, then go read this post now: Rouge Roubaix XV

The insurance case with the driver is settled and closed now. So, I feel that I can tell the rest of the story without some skeezy insurance lawyer questioning my actions following some dumb b**** plowing into me from behind.

In the post about the accident, I left off at a girl hitting me, us gathering her information, and me going to the hospital. All of that happened. However, between getting her information and the trip to the hospital, there was a brief moment where I was laying on the ground, then on my feet, and being incredibly verbally abusive to the woman who’d hit me. I’m one of the least mean-spirited people you’ll ever meet, but I called her all sorts of names, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

Then, I decided I wanted to try and finish the race. There were 40 something miles and two hard gravel sections left. Louise had passed Amy and I just before I decided to try and continue. I got back on my bike and got on Amy’s wheel, but realized in a couple of minutes that I needed to straighten my handlebars out. Amy stopped with me, but when I realized that I needed to use my multi tool in order to fix them, I told her to go on after Louise (I didn’t know if I could finish, anyway, and I didn’t want to jeopardize Amy’s race).

I rode alone, into the wind, for what seemed like an hour. I could see Amy in the distance until the turn into the next gravel section. It’d been 8 miles since the car had hit me, and, it was then when I hit the potholes and bumps of the gravel that I couldn’t bear the pain in my pelvis any longer and had to withdraw from the race. At that point, I thought that it was broken at my right sacroiliac joint, because the pain was not only radiating from there, it also felt as if my pubic symphysis was unstable.

You know the remainder of the story from there.

My recovery is still not 100%. Physically, my right SI joint still hurts, and the scarring of the muscle seems to be permanent… so my right butt cheek has a flat spot. When I sit wrong or go on long car rides, it takes a few steps to not limp because of it. Psychologically, I still have rare but persistent breakdowns when I’m frightened by drivers. I’m still angry at drivers who have no care for another human’s life. The insurance company took those things into account when paying “pain and injury” money to me, but that doesn’t make it go away.

The CAAD10 that I was riding at the time of the wreck has been revitalized as a weird bastard of spare parts I had around the house. The rear triangle was knocked out of alignment, so it’s off of “work” duty and now is a testament to riding bikes long enough to have a hodgepodge of parts in storage. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever ride it, but it goes a little like this…

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So, now you know the entire story. Here’s to not getting hit by a car again in 2014…

November 26, 2013

Cedarglades CX and beyond

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:29 am

Last I posted (at least, the last serious post), I mentioned that I thought I was suffering from a little burnout. Turns out, I was right. It only took a cold, windy, mud slog of a cyclocross race to make me admit it.

Ryan and I planned to race both the cyclocross race on Saturday afternoon, then the cross country race Sunday morning. The weather looked like it was going to be terrible- wet and cold on Saturday, then frigid overnight, with temps dropping into the mid twenties. However, the forecast was the same for Memphis, and, with my being somewhat bored with training, I figured that racing in bad weather beat the hell out of staying home and training in it.

Saturday morning, we Poolboy Matt and Ryan crammed 7 bikes into and onto the Element (4 CX bikes and 3 MTBs… I didn’t know if I’d want to race SS or FS), then piled luggage into the remaining room in the back, and we headed off to Hot Springs. It was intermittently misty with temps in the low 40s, and I fought Element-tossing gusts of cross wind for most of the trip across Arkansas.

We were at Cearglades Park pretty early, so I ate a sandwich and hid inside the car until it was time to get moving. Ryan went out and checked the course, which was a wide, vast expanse of lots of heavy-grass power sections punctuated with technical, off-camber turns- it had all the elements of a great CX course, including one set of fast barriers, a steep, off-camber, slightly intimidating downhill, as well as a steep, slightly loose run-up with a log at the top. With all the rain the past 24 hours, it was also totally saturated. I’d normally thrive in that sort of thing, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I kitted up and went out to pre-ride, and, like Ryan had reported, it was tough. The ground was like pudding under a mat of grass. Luckily, I was in the first race of the day, so we had the benefit of being on course before the grass was totally churned into the underlying mud.

I didn’t warm up very well, so when the race started, I didn’t exactly go for the holeshot. Only one other woman was racing (Heather Ladd) and she wasn’t gunning for it, either. I ramped up to my usual hammer pace within the first couple of minutes and started working my way away from her and through the field of cat 4 and Master’s guys as they bogged down and blew up in the mud. In the first couple of laps, I was as far up as 2nd place overall with first in sight, but I was not enjoying any of it. I wanted to stop the entire time, and, literally, the only thing that kept me from DNFing was the thought of a decent payout check at the end.

Photos stolen directly from the Arkansas Outside folks:

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Side note- as tiny as the women’s fields are in Arkansas, their CX series as a whole has done a great job of making the races equal payout for top 3 women’s places. I really appreciate them sticking with it, and, though it’s slow going, it’s a great, respectful step towards encouraging more women to race cyclocross.

I was having a bad time. On cold, wet, muddy, hard courses, it’s impossible to fake it. Time to bail on the remainder of the 2013 season so I’ll be ready to train my ass off for 2014. I know it’s time because I’m totally OK with NOT competing in the state championship CX race in order to take said break.

After I changed and unthawed my toes, I swapped the Limus/Reynolds wheels onto Ryan’s bike and found some hot chocolate to mix my whiskey into before going to the pit to watch/heckle Ryan during the open race.

hot

 

 

With our cross-country plans dashed by my implosion, we met some Memphis friends at a Hot Springs local brewery for dinner and drinks. Hot Springs is weird and beautiful, in a brewery-in-a-bathhouse sort of way.

russian

 

What’s next? Lots of doing activities that aren’t cycling for a hot minute. What am I doing? That’ll be my next blog entry. I guarantee it’ll be more interesting than the XC Skiing photos that all the Colorado pros are posting right now.

November 21, 2013

I got beef, too.

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 12:00 pm

I’m low on blog material right now, so I thought I’d piggyback off of what Dicky posted this morning. (you should definitely read that first)

I’ve got problems with downhill racing.

Let me start by saying, I really like downhill racing. I mean, once I did a Super D on a ski hill, and I did pretty OK at the TransSylvania Enduro race-within-a-race. If I didn’t live in Memphis, I’d totally try a REAL downhill race. I wouldn’t get too serious about it, though, because who wants to ride a bike ONLY going downhill? I like to pedal uphill at least a few times on all of my bike rides. Only riding down the hill is kinda a waste of my time.

Unfortunately, downhill has a history of being a super “bro” sport. It attracts a bunch of off-season snowboarder bros along with guys who are more interested in monster energy drinks and scoring with snowbunnies. Because it’s a totally different attitude than what I’m comfortable with, it’s evolved the sport into something that isn’t attractive to a toned cross-country/endurance racer like myself. Come on- smoking a bowl on the lift before your run is a natural part of the sport. Ugh.

This is what I’d rather see:
Hard core XC and Endurance racers don’t need lift service. That’s for people who don’t train. Get on your downhill bike and pedal up that hill. Also, lose all those pads. That stuff is heavy, and it’ll make you overheat when you’re climbing.

But what about how hard those bikes are to pedal? I mean, they bob up and down and have all that travel, and ski hills are really big. I don’t want to break every bone in my body when I crash, either, so I NEED those pads.

So? Man up, BRO.

If this sport had been started by the type of bike racer I like, it would be soooo much better because it would have evolved with equipment and people that could handle pedaling their big hit bike up a hill. In fact, the bikes would have been better built for that purpose in the first place. They’d have less travel and steeper headtube angles so they would be better going up and down. They would have never been overbuilt and kitted out with giant rotors and other silly stuff that just slows you down. They’d be a lot like those “enduro” bikes that are flooding the market right now.

Look, if you made the courses more like a cross country course and less like a downhill course, then a full on downhill bike wouldn’t be necessary, and you could ride a “normal” bike that doesn’t bob around so much when you pedal. Take out those huge drops and all that man-made stuff. What’s the point of that stuff, anyway? With less of that, you won’t need as much body armor, either.

Sure, I’ve never REALLY done a downhill race except for once in Arkansas, but it’s because of that whole “bro” mentality that’s caused the sport to be something I don’t really have an interest in but feel like complaining about anyway. Those guys should take a hint from me and start training harder so they can do something other than coast down some berms wearing all that stupid gear.

Riding downhill in a competitive manner is super fun, but if I’m going to do it, it needs to be totally different.

 

If you’re totally confused right now, go back & read the first link like I told you. If you’re pissed off, then relax. It’s just a joke.

November 12, 2013

Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross Race

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:28 am

After my exciting start to the weekend in Arkansas, I drove back to Memphis Saturday afternoon so I could race Sunday morning. As usual, the weather for the Outdoors CX race was amazing (I’m sure it’s seen some bad weather in the past, but it hasn’t at least as long as I’ve been racing it). It was upper 50s and sunny, with a little north wind.

With the UCI-level race in Louisville the same weekend, the Outdoors race has taken a hit on people coming from Nashville to Memphis. However, we still get a few TBRA points chasers as well as a lot of locals and some people from Arkansas. Two other women lined up with me at the start. In the past, the ladies have started behind all of the B race- including the “B” masters men, who are generally on the slow side. While no one has ever given me a hard time about passing, it’s still a good number of people to work through. This year, Joe Royer (Outdoors, Inc. owner/Race Director) was kind enough to slot us in behind the Cat 4/5  and Singlespeed men and ahead of the Beginner Masters men (makes sense- our race is a TBRA points race, and the masters group isn’t). He also gave us the benefit of a mass start instead of leaving time gaps.

When the race started, it was a hammerfest. Guys who know they’ve got no chance in holding their ridiculous initial pace go all out like it’s a single lap race. I hammered my way through the scrum and took to picking them off as they blew up. I ended up catching a guy who I didn’t know. He was on a slightly dated bike and wearing an orange Trek jersey (seen in both photos, below). He stuck on my wheel for a lap, then I backed off a tiny bit and stuck on his wheel a lap. With the wind out of the north, the headwind was worst in the heaviest of the grass. So, after resting on his wheel for a lap, I attacked soon after we went back through that section.

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I got away well, but could tell he was trying to fight back, so I had to keep the hammer down as best I could for the last couple of laps. It worked out, and I finished first woman and somewhere around 5th or 6th overall. If I’d wanted a better overall finish, it would have taken a much better warmup and start than what I did (my only self-criticism for the day).

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Joe has always been a big supporter of women’s racing, and, along those lines, no matter the size of the women’s field, it’s always an equal payout race. In addition to that, I won a slick Deuter hydration pack:

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(All photos stolen directly from the Outdoors, Inc. Facebook Page)

As strong as I’m feeling, I can tell I might be on a little bit of a plateau. It’s working for me right now, but my post-season break after the State Championship in December is looking like a good time to kick back and let myself get slower for a minute before I start prepping hard for next season.

 

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