November MH&F

It’s November, which, if you live in Memphis, means two things… 1) the weather will, at some point, cease to be unseasonably warm and start to be unseasonably cold (usually within a span of 24 hours); and 2) Outdoors, Inc’s annual  Cyclocross Race headlines Memphis Health and Fitness magazine. I could tell you all about the race here, but then you wouldn’t have a reason to either click that link or read the article in Memphis Health and Fitness.

Last year, I was photographed and included in a sidebar along with the article… sort of a “meet a real life cyclocross racer” thing. This year will be similar, except for the cover photo. Instead of using a photo of racers taken during a previous cyclocross race, they realized that during cyclocross races, people generally scowl, drool, and have a gelatinous mixture of sweat and boogers hanging from the end of their noses. Instead, it made sense to take a photo of someone doing cyclocross things outside of the whole race situation.

So, a few weeks ago, I met a photographer & publisher at Mud Island park. They took a lot of photos- standing, running (up stairs and on the ground), riding, etc. The fun part was doing everything in slow motion while smiling, looking at the camera and trying to look like I was not doing whatever it was in slow motion. Everyone’s favorite one? Shoulder my bike and freeze in place while running up the stairs…

Hopefully, next time I run up those stairs, I’ll be going much faster and be dragging the souls of my competition along with me. The race is November 13th. Come out, watch, and heckle. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to drink a beer and yell at people on a Sunday morning- perfectly acceptable behavior for any cyclocross race.

 

And, on a totally random note, here’s a video that made me smile:

 

 

 

Spookycross #1 & 2

A pair of somewhat uneventful races rolled into one post. I was the only 1/2/3 woman racing on both days, so the biggest battle was with the course itself, which had several very challenging sections to negotiate.

I raced the “A” race along with the Masters men and 1/2/3 men. The officials had each category start separately, meaning I started alone, 1 minute back from the 1/2/3 men and 30 seconds behind the masters men. I managed to catch the back of the masters within the first lap, and kept reeling them in, one at a time, over the next 55 minutes. It seemed like half the time I ended up catching people in one of the two singletrack sections and having to force a pass or wait until we exited. The other half of the catches happened to be at the barriers- one huge set of three was at the top of a steep hill coming out of the woods (they were so tall and the ground was so steep I had to get off of my bike early to get a better running start at them) , and the other was a set of three logs that were  insanely fast since they were a little downhill. I caught up to the back end of the 1/2/3 field on the final lap.

Sunday, the course was reversed, and the rotten log pile/barriers that had previously been part of a singletrack runup were removed to create a tight, hair-raising decent with a couple of small drops off of roots and water bars. The huge set of barriers was moved slightly- they were still on a steep uphill, but on uneven ground that fell away from the middle of the barrier, making them a few inches taller. Jeebus.
This time, all of the categories started together. I got a little jammed up in traffic at the start and ended up behind some people who were not very fast on singletrack. Most of the 1/2/3 men got away from me, and I had to make some almost dirty singletrack passes to get through traffic. I reeled a lot of the same people in, including someone who usually kicks my butt- Larry Yancey (seen here in the Walmart kit leading Quadzilla around the tree):

When I passed Larry, he yelled at me only that he’d broken his right shifter off. My initial thought was “HTF did that happen?” I couldn’t think for long, though, because he started to bulldog me for an entire lap before backing off slightly near where I’d caught him in the first place. Later, I found out that just before I passed him, he’d rolled a tubular and endoed, which broke both his frame AND right shifter… honeybadger-style racing from someone who has celebrated his 60th birthday this season:

 

So, again, I finished somewhere around the front of the Master’s category and the end of the mens’ 1/2/3 category. I was somewhat disappointed that no other 1/2/3 women showed, but raced hard against the men nonetheless. I really appreciate that, even though the women were sparse (there were only two Cat4 women), the promoters still paid equally to mens’ & womens’ categories. The 55 minute format was a painful change from the <40min races that kicked off the season. Also, the new bike is performing fabulously, and looks wonderful with the new parts:

(another great photo by Perry Barker)

Future plans? Another double weekend coming up- McEwen (Hoss of Cross) is Saturday and Sunday (another equal pay race! Woohoo!) However, we may venture to Jonesboro, AR on Sunday instead for a big payout CX event up there. After that, the Outdoors, Inc race on Mud Island followed by a few days at Syllamo the week of Thanksgiving. The fitness is falling in place for the leadup to Worlds in January…

 

Outside of Racing

Another slice of the racing life outside of racing…

Last week, my newest buddy from the “bike industry,” Bruce Dickman, stopped through Memphis on his way to Texas. He handed out some ProGold samples (I’m diggin the bike wash and the shop wipes), had a few beers, and tried on a compression shirt that someone gave him (thank gawd he didn’t test the tights as well)

When I awoke the Thursday after Cyclocrunk, I was a little discouraged that it was 50, windy, and damp/halfass raining outside. I needed to squeeze in at least two hours of riding before work, so I suited up and headed out on my Arlington loop. Somewhere about 45 minutes in, I was grinding my way straight into a north wind that would occasionally gust clouds of cold rain and road water into my face. I was immediately struck with the thought of how differently some of us live life compared to the “normal” population that doesn’t ride a bike when it’s cold, wet, and windy outside.

I still wonder about which of us are really the ones that are abnormal.

Once I was safe and warm at work, I received most of the last of the parts needed to finish off the new CX bike- SRAM Red shifters and a rear derailleur. Also on the upgrade list- new brake pads (yes, last weekend’s racing wore the stock ones out), new brake cables (yes, it also rusted the stock cables), Gore sealed housing (in white), a lighter, short/compact Profile Design handlebar, and fresh Lizard Skins white tape. The only thing I lack now is a saddle/seatpost (still using the one off of my road bike). I should get some action shots of it today at Spookycross.

Speaking of, it’ll be a tough race. Women 1/2/3s race with the 1/2/3 men, so that means 55 minutes of ass-hauling. Seeing as all other promoters this season have seen it fit to keep my races under 40 minutes, the extra 15-20 is going to be painful.

Recover well…

Cyclocrunk #3

The weather/timing finally worked to where I was able to ride to Tobey Park for the 3rd and final installation of the Cyclocrunk series. The course was short in multiple ways- a couple of sections used previous nights were removed, the barriers were cut down 2cm (due to a protest to TBRA from one of last week’s competitors), and, it was announced on the start line that the race would only be 30 minutes long.

I have lately been feeling riled up over the usual excuses for shorting female racers in race payouts. I channeled that into determination to rip the legs off of as many male racers as possible. I had an excellent start, and, unlike previous Crunk races, I didn’t sit back and let the race thin out a little before really laying into it.
Before the end of the first lap, I was hot on local triathlete Daniel Schaffer’s heels, fighting for 4th place behind Hart Robinson, John King, and Ryan. As we finished the first lap, we got “4 to go” from the race promoter. Knowing how short that would be, I decided I wouldn’t let up from the already eyeball-bleeding first-lap pace I was maintaining.

Sometime on the next lap, I caught up to Daniel, only to have him make an attack I wasn’t able to follow. He got a gap away from me that I never managed to cover in the remaining 15 minutes of racing. According to him after the race: “I kept looking back and was like, DAMNIT, SHE’S STILL THERE!”

The last two laps were grueling. My internal dialogue was a clutter of curse words and yelling. Later at home I looked at the Garmin file for the race and saw that my heart rate average for 22 minutes was 190bpm- equal to about 95% of my (true) maximum heart rate.

I crossed the finish line still in overall 5th, hoping I’d broken a few hearts and legs.

I get another shot at the guys this weekend at Spookycross.

(courtesy of Perry Barker, who not only takes great photos, but also does a lion’s share of trail work around Memphis)

CX Tire Swap

I’m currently in search of UCI-legal (33mm wide or less) CX tires that will set up tubeless on either my Dura Ace or Stan’s Alpha 240 wheels. I currently use Hutchinson Bulldogs, but they’re too wide to take to Master’s Worlds in January. I’ve tried both the Ritchey Speedmax and the Kenda Kommando- neither of which would hold air.

So, instead of going through the expensive process of purchasing and trying tires that may or may not work, I was hoping that some of you, my new/loyal readers, would have some tires you’d be willing to trade for a set of new Speedmax or very lightly used Kenda Small Block 8 tires. I have a bunch of other random tires around the garage as well- I’ll just have to dig around and make a list.

What I’m looking for is anything 33mm wide or smaller that doesn’t appear on the “never works” section of THIS article from CX Magazine. Lightly used is fine (lightly being the operative word here). I’ll pay to ship tires to you, you pay to ship tires to me, and we both save on getting to try out new cross tires without the expense of actually purchasing new cross tires.

If you’re interested, email me- andrea @ brickhouseracing.com or comment below.

Reservoir Cross

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, an unexpected batch of rain passed through the Little Rock area. The course, which Heather had told me would be fast and technical, turned a little slower, slippery, and technical. Unlike the previous night’s course, it was a vast expanse across a large city park area, and was much more of a traditional CX course (though it was definitely more technical than any other CX course I’ve ever ridden).

Once again, the women raced on the same course as the CX4 and masters 40+ men. The start went straight up a large hill, and each group of racers started after the previous had cleared the top of it. This meant that the CX4 men got about a minute lead on the start of the women with the masters somewhere in the middle. Once again, there were only 3 of us:

 

I took off up the hill from the start and none of the other women matched me. So, I again took to chasing down men, and had caught a couple by the time I made it through the first section of tape and onto the pavement.

The course was an absolute blast! The constant mud/turns/elevation change made the time race time fly by, and, in the next 30 minutes, I managed to catch all of the men, and lead the last two or three laps from the front.

Back at the car after my race, I found out that my friend (aka “little brother”) Jonathan’s bike had been stolen out of his car the night before. So, I offered to let him use my new bike for the A race.

After a fast start, he would go on to be sitting a solid 4th. I was taking photos of Ryan and the other racers, and I happened to be at a spot where the course passed around/over a small rock ledge. As he rounded the corner, I yelled, “DO THE ROCK DROP!” I heard him upshift, and the rest was photo history…

 

Ryan ended up 3rd in the A race. During & after, I took a bunch of action/artsy photos. Here are a few of my favorites, but you can see the rest on Ryan’s blog:

While I was milling around waiting for photo opportunities, someone asked me, “what’s your secret to being so fast?” Lots of hard work, son. I’m not fast yet.

 

 

 

Little Rock Cyclocross

As I mentioned previously, there were races in both Nashville and Little Rock over the weekend. Even though the cross scene is more established in Nashville (i.e. tendency for a better course, better organization, and more competition over a “budding” scene), the women’s top 3 payout was arbitrarily lower than the men’s top 3 at the Nashville races, so we went to Little Rock. Saturday around lunchtime, Ryan and I headed west to Little Rock for the Kanis Park night race.

When we arrived, it was clear that the park was a little sketchy. We registered, and I suited up to pre-ride the course before it got totally dark (something I learned from Cyclocrunk over the last two years). The course itself was sketchy- ditches, random holes, buckled pavement, sandy, pine-needle covered turns… all breeds of sketch! Definitely my type of course.

I soon learned that Heather Ladd would be competing. She and I have toed the line together many times- last year, she kicked my tail at the Outdoors, Inc. race, then this year, I eeked out wins over her at the Spa City 6hr and Ouachita Challenge races. So, I knew it’d be a horserace. Lucky for me, she was competing in the Halloween costume contest and was dressed like an M&M…

 

BTW- she wasn’t the only one. Other entries included a gorilla, a bumblebee, and (the winner) KISS…

 

When the race started, I took it somewhat easy over the buckled asphalt and into the first turn. After that, it was all turn and burn. I didn’t see the other women again until I was lapping them, and took to catching as many of the men as possible (they’d let the cat 4 men go about a minute ahead of us). I don’t know how many I caught, but apparently, it was most of them.

 

Afterward, Ryan raced the men’s race. After a bad start, he pushed his way up to 4th place. We both felt like our Cyclocrunk experience helped with the course, which, even though it was short and filled with hazards, was a lot of fun.  We decided to skip the post-race after party, and in lieu of hanging out at a bar and listening to live music, went to ElChicos and split large margarita before crashing at the hotel.

 

Cyclocrunk #2

Once again, no women showed for Cyclocrunk. Also, once again, the wild and varied crowd that once was the Cyclocrunk “peloton” did not show, either. However, unlike past Cyclocrunks, Gerry Pflug was there. He was in town for his “real job,” and he contacted me via Facebook about going for a ride Wednesday afternoon. I figured a nighttime, sketchy-ass cross race would be perfect.

Side note: Gerry Pflug is sincerely nice. Though, after hanging out with him for an evening, you get a feeling that he is fully aware of his level of ability to kill/destroy.

Once again, the race was somewhat un-eventful for me. I passed some guys. A few of them tried to pass me back, but were unsuccessful. I felt slightly better than the previous Crunk, though I’m not sure if it’s fitness, better pacing, or a combination of both. I’m hoping that this weekend I’ll find some better competition in Little Rock.

Speaking of Little Rock, I’ll be on a new bike. The replacement for my slightly too small BH Carbon Cross is a slightly too big Scott Addict CX. I wanted it a little on the larger side because of the taller headtube. Photos will be posted once it’s finished (it came with Ultegra, and I’m waiting on some SRAM Red parts to arrive for a little upgrade). Current weight sits at 16.8 pounds.

And, for totally random badass-ness, check out Zoe, who kills small animals with her bare hands: PowSlayer

Enjoy.

Never a Dull Moment

Even on recovery days, life in a house full of bikes and guys is interesting.

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually make dinner. Even though I’m vegetarian, I’ll usually make special requests:

 

Matt and Ryan always do the dishes:

 

They also decorate with their own personal works of art:

 

Ryan keeps the yard clear of sticks:

 

Sometimes, we just re-arrange the bikes for fun:

6 Hours of Herb

Seeing as I began this year’s endurance racing season with a 6 hour race (Spa City), I think it’s only fitting that I finish in the same manner. The timing of lap races is always important- this year, all laps had to begin by 6 hours and end by 6:30. I wanted 9 laps, and knew that if I could make 8 by 5:45, I could just squeeze the last one in before the cutoff.

Conditions for this year’s race couldn’t have been better- mild temps, and it rained Wednesday night, which provided just enough moisture to keep the dust down and make the turns fast. The race began with a Le Mans start. A lot of people hate them, but I’ve generally got them figured out. I landed exactly where I needed to be- just behind the hammerheads, and just in front of everyone else (including all of the other women). My first lap felt great, albeit, with the adrenaline of the start, was a little faster than I’d planned- just under 42 minutes. Kenny caught up to me along the way and stuck around until I told him I’d be running the narrow, wobbly bridge.

Side note- Yes, I’m perfectly capable of riding the bridge, and I have ridden it as many times as I’ve run it. However, I’ve got a thing about riding my bike and heights. The bridge is about 3 bike-lengths long, 8 feet off the ground, and supported in the middle by large timbers that stick out several feet on each side. It looks like broken ribs waiting to happen. If I ride it, it’s slow and stresses me out. If I dismount and run it cyclocross-style, it’s the same speed and doesn’t stress me out.

Somewhere around laps 2 & 3, my legs felt a little tired from the fast start. I pulled myself together and made a conscious effort to flow the trail to preserve energy. I started to feel better and gradually increased my pace back to “normal.” At the end of lap 4, I had to stop at the pit to swap camelbacks. Even though it was quick, the combination of my slow lap and a pause gave Pam and Lucia (women’s relay team) the chance to catch up to me.  I started lap 5 on Lucia’s wheel and managed to pass her early in the lap. I used them as motivation to stay on the gas for the remainder of the race.

When I rolled in at the end of lap 7, time on the clock was 5:05. I wasn’t going to make it back in time to start a 9th. Maybe that was a good thing, because as I started lap 8, I ran out of water in my camelback. I didn’t feel like carrying an empty pack around, so I winged it into the trees right next to the road. The lack of food and water on the last lap made me a little slower, but I held it together and made it around to finish my 8th lap at 5 hours and 48 minutes.

My finish was good enough for the overall women’s 1st place. Lap #1 was the fastest lap for the women, and, even though it wasn’t announced, I would have placed 2nd in the singlespeed division behind coworker Kenny, who’d successfully completed 9 laps in just under the 6:30 time limit. What a way to finish a season, right?