Master’s Worlds CX Race Report

Friday night, I was wired- a mix of nervous, excited, happy, anxious, and just about anything else I could throw in there to keep from feeling like I should go to sleep. I managed a few hours, though, and was awake before the alarm Saturday morning. As I mentioned in my previous post, it was stupidly cold- 18 when we went down to breakfast. After some hot cereal and coffee, I tried to relax and make final preparations back at the room.

I’d decided that I wanted to ride the mile or so down to the race course in order to get a solid start on a non-trainer warmup. Once I was at the course, I rode a lap and a half before swinging back by the car for a final shot of redbull and Gu Roctane. The ground was still rutted and frozen solid, so some parts of the course rode like a trenched & rutted hockey rink. Luckily, Saturday morning racers had the luxury of several course re-routes and tape moves to allow for less treacherous conditions than the races on Friday. However, there were still several sections of tape-to-tape ice ruts that would prove to be painful for most of us.

Once I was fueled up, I headed up to the start area. We were called up one at a time to have our tire width checked and go to our spot in the start grid. I knew from my pre-ride that most people like the smooth line to the right off of the pavement at the beginning of the race, but that I’d found a killer line to the left that was way faster as long as you could navigate one section of ice ruts right against the course tape.

When the race started, two women jumped out ahead of me. I took to their wheels on the straightaway until we reached the left turn onto the grass, where they predictably took the far line to the right. I stayed to the left and went flying down the first hill off of the pavement. I used my skatepark skills and thought “manual” as I crossed the patch of ruts that everyone else had gone right to avoid then pumped over the dirt hump at the bottom of the hill. My strategy put me ahead of the hole-shotters going into the first chicane and elbow to elbow as we navigated the frozen sand pit.

The next uphill section was a tape-to-tape ice-rut section that, if you could pedal as hard as possible and unweight your front wheel, you had a little bit of a chance of making it through without wrecking or being forced to run. It was there that the three of us in front made a gap on the other racers. However, as we rounded the next right turn to a downhill left to turn back to a set of barriers, I felt something loose in the rear end of my bike. When I picked it up to go over the barriers, my rear wheel started to come out of the dropouts.

FUCK.

I always hated the skewers in the Reynolds wheels. The rear one, which had been tight in the start grid, had rattled loose over the extremely rough terrain. I was forced to stop and re-tighten it while trying not to panic. I re-mounted my bike in last place. Ass-hauling ensued, and I’d ridden back into 4th by the time I reached the pit. I swapped bikes and yelled at Ryan to check the skewers. Soon after, as I was trying to claw back 3rd, I wrecked hard on the ice and dropped my chain (most common malady of the race, I think). Un-Jamming that allowed 3rd to escape again, and let the two leaders get further from my grasp. I was momentarily heartbroken, but pulled myself together and started reeling the podium spot back.

Once I was back on my Scott (thank you, Ryan, for being an awesome pit-man), I kept the hammer down and finally overtook her in the last half of the 2nd lap. I never looked back, but I know that she fought hard to try and stay with me. When I came through the wall-to-wall uphill ruts at the beginning of my 4th and final lap, I saw her laying on the ground with paramedics around her. I tried not be distracted, but hardly 10 meters later, a rut grabbed my front wheel and slammed me into the ground. I did my best to jump up quickly and told the paramedic who’d left the other racer to check on me that I was OK. I re-mounted and realized quickly that I was, in fact, NOT ok. My right thigh had taken the brunt of the impact, and every pedal stroke was torturous.

On the final runup, I noticed that my trusty Garmin 500 was gone. Even though the announcer called for whoever found it to bring it back, it never turned up. My guess is that it landed in someone’s pocket. Boooooooo.

I finished the race solo, in 3rd place.

Looking back at lap times, the fight for 2nd could have been epic if it weren’t for the two mechanicals. I’m happy, though. I haven’t raced that hard all season. I felt awesome. I took a lot of chances. Most of them worked out. Some of them hurt like hell.

It was a fun journey, but damn am I glad it’s over.

 

 

Master’s Worlds Pre-race Report

Today hasn’t been the best day-before-a-race day.

The weather has been foul. Yesterday, I made the trip from Memphis in blowing snow and heavy clouds. The weather system soaked the ground at the Louisville CX course, creating a thick, sticky layer of mud. Ryan, who had been in St. Louis for business since Monday, was there ahead of me and pre-rode in horrible conditions (remember that part)

His heat race was at 10:20 this morning. As he was getting ready to pre-ride, I put his “A” bike in the stand to lube the chain, which was dried out from the previous day’s ride/pressure wash. I quickly realized that his bottom bracket was toasted. I quickly borrowed a BB tool (yeah, I suck at packing the tool box) and put my bike’s FSA bottom bracket into his bike. Parking lot wrench/repair extraordinaire.

His heat race ended up sucking a little. What had been deep, saturated mud was now frozen into solid, icy ruts from tape to tape.

Riding was treacherous (possibly understatement of the year, and it’s only January).

My original plan had been to pre-ride during the official noon to 12:45 open course time. However, with our quiver of bikes being one bottom bracket short, I had to deal with that first. I started by visiting the Black Spring bike shop across from the hotel. Luckily, the guy there let me make myself at home in his shop, and I was able to rehab the “A” bike bottom bracket and re-install the BB into my bike. By then there was no way to get to the open course time.

I ended up riding down to the course and watching the tail end of the men’s 30-34 race. Not long after, I was about to leave when I noticed that random people were riding on the course. I figured I’d have at it as well.

What followed was a crash course in how to ride on solid, rutted ice. I did my best to float the front wheel and maintain speed. It worked about 90% of the time. The other 5% of the time, my front wheel would grab in a deep, sideways rut and slam me onto the ice. OW.

I was discouraged. I’ve trained incredibly hard, and to have my race boil down to who can crash the least on the ice would be somewhat disappointing. Luckily, the Powers that Be have decided to re-route and re-stake some of the worst parts of the course. So, now I should only crash once per lap instead of 5 times per lap, and be able to get my heart rate over 120 bpm.

Here goes nothing…

Special Weather

After what seems like months of unseasonable luck in the winter weather forecast, it looks as if normal January weather patterns will be taking over just in time for my drive to Louisville…

 

The “Special Weather Statement” at the top basically says that Louisville will see rain most of the day tomorrow, and that it’s transitioning to snow in the afternoon. After that, it’s going to be cold and cloudy. Cyclocross weather? Yes. Weather that I like? Not particularly.

Luckily, I’ve got some bitchin’ mud tires, warm clothes, and a strong desire to just get this race over with. It’s been a long road, and I’m ready to race until my eyeballs sweat then just live life as a normal person for a little bit before returning to life as an endurance mountain bike racer.

WTF @ People

Yesterday, Ryan and I went to Shelby Farms for a quick taper workout on the CX bikes (I have a slightly sketchy short loop in/around the Spookycross course that I’ve been using for this type of practice). While we were warming up, we noticed three people in a grassy/wooded area holding a large cage with a little white bunny in it. We warmed up a little more, and the people took the bunny out of the cage and put it on the ground. We were almost done warming up, and they were walking away from the woods with an empty cage.

I realized what had just happened and confronted them about it.

Me: Did you just dump your pet rabbit in the woods?!?
Woman (smiling proudly): Yes, we let him loose back there.
Me: You know it’s going to die out here.
Woman (still smiling): Oh, No! Don’t say that!
Me: Yeah, he’s white, something will eat him. Probably today. Or he’ll starve.
Woman (still smiling like this is funny): No… that can’t happen, He’ll be fine!
Me: (ride towards the woods while they drive off)

I retrieved a tiny white & brown bunny from where it was trying to hunker down in a pile of leaves. By this time, Ryan was riding over. We searched the nearby information board for the number to the Ranger Station but couldn’t find one. I started cussing and wondering WTF I was going to do with the poor, cute little bunny.

 

BTW- For whatever reason, we didn’t take a photo of poor, cute little bunny, but it looked similar to this:

 

We racked our bikes and drove down to the Visitor’s Center. I expected the worst- I was fully expecting to walk in and the staff tell me they’d have to make a few phone calls, we’d end up having to take the rabbit to the humane society ourselves, and the whole thing would turn into a good-Samaritan-flavored pain in the neck.
Fortunately, when we walked in, the woman behind the desk melted as soon as she laid eyes on cute, poor, little abandoned bunny. I told her what happened and she immediately took it and hugged it up to her chest. She vowed to help it out or keep it herself in place of that cat she’d been thinking about adopting.

We GTFO back to the car before she changed her mind.

After that, my ride was good. Ryan’s ride wasn’t so good. Back at my sketchy course, we did a few hot laps. The final turn of my course is a left on some sketchy gravel. I was practicing riding like a jerk and making Ryan take undesirable lines around some of the turns & mudholes. We were head to head at the run-up stairs when he stumbled on a step. I took that as a cue to go faster. I heard him catching up to me a few seconds later, so I made myself large in an attempt to make him take the worst line possible through the sketchy gravel.

He wrecked really hard.

I looked over my shoulder and saw him sitting up, so I finished out my interval before riding back over to him. He was pretty beat up- I hosed the gravel and dirt off of his leg with a water bottle, and we finished out our workout. Luckily, he attributes his wreck mostly to excessive speed and poor course design.

Once we were home, I told him to think of cute, sweet little bunnies while I scrubbed the remaining dirt and rocks out of his leg and dressed it with gauze and tape. Cyclist luuuuv.

X.0 Crank Project

I’ve been through a couple of different cranks on the singlespeed-

First was an E.13 crank. It was cool since it wasn’t incredibly expensive, was lighter than other aluminum cranks, and had a super-stiff 30mm spindle. I had some issues with adjustment, though- you have to install it, test for play, then use any number of tiny plastic spacer rings to get rid of the play. Use too many, and the crank will load the bearings up when you install it. Don’t use enough, and the crank will have play in it. My issue came when the plastic spacers started to wear. The crank started to wiggle… during the Fool’s Gold 100 last year. I repeatedly stopped to re-tighten, but every time, I was having to tighten it to the point of squeezing the bearings and causing a lot of drag, eventually killing the BB bearings. This sucks ass when you’re trying to race 100 miles.

Next, I broke out my old Truvativ Noir crank. It was once a triple on the old Jet9 (my first mountain bike):

I’d converted it to a single ring and used it for a while on the One9, and it basically did fine as a singlespeed crank until Kenny and I discovered the removable spiders on most of SRAM’s new cranks.

this is where you need to start paying attention…

He bought an AKA Singlespeed crank (nice, aluminum replacement for their previous Stylo offering). It has a 104mm BCD removable spider. He took the spider off and ordered a spiderless ring from Homebrewed Components. This left Kenny with a spare SRAM 104mm BCD Spider.
Very cool, I thought. Then, I noticed the screaming deal on an X.0 2×10 crank through the SRAM employee purchase program. It has a proprietary 120mm BCD spider/chainring. I bought one with two intentions- 1)remove the chainrings/spider and have a spare for my geared bikes and 2)contact Homebrewed Components and get a spiderless chainring for the pimpass carbon X.0 crank. Homebrewed Components is a one-man operation that gets a lot of business, so orders tend to take a while. I don’t mind, but I am impatient.

Then, Kenny gave me his 104mm spider. This meant that I could use whatever singlespeed chainring I wanted while waiting for the spiderless ring to manifest itself. Turns out, the carbon X.0 crankarm is a lot fatter than an AKA crankarm. The “key” pattern of the spider was correct, but the shape of the rest of the spider prevented it from seating properly on the arm.

Enter the bench grinder.

I ground off a good deal of the spider, but was having trouble getting it totally flush on the crank arm. I went to Lowe’s for some Dremel grinders, and when I arrived back, Kenny had gone medieval on the spider with the bench grinder. Eleven¬† grams of removed aluminum later, it fit. BAM!

 

While I was in the weight weenie mood, I went ahead & ground off the granny gear nubs on the backside of the spider:

 

 

Mounted to the crank:

 

Bling!

 

What did I achieve other than good looks? The total weight savings is about 50 grams over the Noir crank (plus a bit more when I get the spiderless ring). Not a ton, but the custom “badass” factor is reason enough to rock this one for a while.

You’ll shoot yer eye out, Ch.2

So, since the last time I mentioned going to the skatepark and busting my knee & elbow, I’ve been a few more times (without incident). Turns out, the skatepark is a lot of fun. I’m slowly learning fun stuff like dropping in over the coping, pumping around in the bowl, and hopping out.
My next goal is to clear the flat area at the top of the shallow bowl- I’ve watched Matt do it at least 50 times, and I started trying last time I was there. I think I jumped about 6 inches off the ground and cleared about the first foot of concrete before chickening out when I started to get that “floaty” feeling of being more than 6 inches off the ground.

I’m shelving that one until after Worlds.

I’ve decided that since positive reinforcement is a great learning tool, that each time I learn something new & awesome, I’ll pimp my bike out just a little bit. I’m thinking Euro style dirt jumper… so I purchased a Hope headset yesterday to replace the janky stock Ritchey one. Other future upgrades include anything else that Hope makes, as well as a new chainwheel. Here’s the starting point:

Other than the occasional recovery days at the park, my rides are generally easy commutes to/from work & errands or short, all-out, race-type efforts on the CX bike. Today is one of those days, and I’m eager to see how the power numbers will look since they’ve been steadily creeping upwards at a comforting rate. Someone commented on a previous post and asked what my power numbers were. Since that’d be like advertising my hand in a game of poker, I’ll just say that I can maintain between 200 and 300 watts for my 20 minute intervals.

(if you’re not well versed in wattage, that lands me somewhere between a beginner and Katie Compton)

Finally, on a “self marketing” note, my “webmaster” (AKA Ryan) has put some nice little links over in the right sidebar. You can follow Brickhouse Racing on Facebook and Twitter (@BrickhouseMTB) to make sure you don’t miss anything new and exciting.

 

Rocky Wishes & Syllamo Dreams

Yesterday, I had a recovery ride on my schedule. I’d planned to meet co-worker Kenny at Herb’s for a couple of laps, but he never showed up… I think he had the New Year’s Eve Flu. I rode my geared A9C for the first time in as long as I can remember and generally enjoyed an easy, flowy lap of trail.

It seems like everyone with a mountain bike has been or is at Syllamo right now. I miss it. For the last two years, I’ve spent large chunks of winter training time at the cabin. Thanksgiving aside, this year, with Worlds training, I’ve been staying close to home for training and cross racing.

I swear I’m not complaining… it’s been great, and my fitness is better than ever. However, I have a strong desire to retreat to the trails for a few days of soul-searching on the side of the mountain. It’s looking like the last half of January is fair game for kicking off some serious long ride endurance training.

Stay tuned.

Closing In

The turn of the new year marks two weeks out from what could be the biggest small race I’ve ever been to. Worlds, small?¬† Well, yeah… apparently only 5 women in the world aged 30-34 really want to try and win a world championship. This means two things to me- 1) I’ll be in familiar territory as far as “small group” racing style, and 2) It’s time to up my game. Since if you’re my age and reasonably fast, you’re racing in the elite ranks.

Small field aside, the taper begins this week, and I’m ready to race as if my life depends on it. Thursday morning, my power numbers were stout. The cycle of insane efforts on the bike followed by laying around doing not much of anything are paying off, and I’m excited to see what happens once I’m all the way rested.
I also started taking a B12 supplement. I’m skeptical about supplements, but B12 isn’t very expensive, and, as a water soluble vitamin, if I were to overdose (very unlikely given the small amount actually absorbed by the body when consumed orally), the excess is excreted in the urine. So far, the only difference I’ve noticed is that I’ve felt “good” at times of the day when I’d normally feel tired. The nice power numbers? I still mainly attribute those to hard work and rest. The B12 doesn’t hurt, though.

Neither do the beets.

Along with the hard work and rest, I’ve also avoided alcohol since Christmas. The avoidance of empty alcohol calories leaves the door open for consumption of holiday snacks with less guilt. It also means that I’ll have some catching up to do after Worlds. Lucky for me, we have some customers who know how to leave a beer tip:

 

 

Product Review: ProGold Stuff

If you’ve been reading much at all since October, you may have noticed an occasional mention of Bruce Dickman. He’s a rep for ProGold, and, way back at Crush and Run, he gave me an armload of their products to try out. Somewhat to his chagrin, I haven’t made mention of the stuff on my blog since then, and I haven’t brought in much extra stock to my shop, either.

Why not? Was it not awesome?

Well, rather than writing a glowing review the 2nd time I applied Xtreme Lube to my chain, I wanted to give it time to piss me off by not working. Good news is, since October, I’ve been using the lube (though I’ve always been a fan of their Prolink), Bike Wash, EPX Grease, and Pro Towels both in the shop and at home, and it all works great.

The Bike Wash (also known as “Dick Wash” since Dickman loves it so much)¬†deserves special mention since, if sprayed on to a dingy frame and left for 5 or 6 minutes, will make your bike clean just with a rinse from the hose (no scrubbing required). If you’re washing a few bikes in series as I often do when we get home from cyclocross races, it means that you can line them up, spray the chunks of mud off, spray each one with Bike Wash, then go back through with the hose and have 3 sparkling bikes with no sponges or brushes. The Pro Towels are equally as convenient for indoor cleaning- even on the white parts of my matte finish CX bike. They’re also very good for getting your hands clean, and don’t dry them out nearly as much as the gritty orange stuff. My only complaint? They can screw up your nail polish.

Not sure why the product testers never noticed that…

The EPX Grease (also known as “Dick Grease”, for obvious reasons) took a little warming up to. Not because I found the consistency or performance to be off, but because the smell reminded me of the odor put off by a 5 gallon bucket of tractor axle grease. After complaining to Bruce about it a few times, I decided that it at least deserved a try, and I put it into a couple of pairs of brand new Crank Brothers pedals (which, apparently, are now manufactured with fairy dust instead of grease. That’s a whole ‘nother review though). The consistency of it is nice- thicker than Park grease but not as sticky as Triflow grease. I’ve since switched both the house and the shop over to it. Now, if they could just get it to smell like Phil Wood, it’d be perfect.

So, ProGold products get my blessing. Try for yourself.