Sunday, December 21, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
On the first warmup lap, I quickly realized that I was over-geared on the SS. Mike had put a bigger gear on based on a posting by Thom (39x16), and it was too much for me coming out of all of the corners. He changed it back to a 39x18 before the race (yay!), which made a difference. They set the SS class (there were 3 women, and 15 men) and the 1/2/3 women off all at the same time - no gaps. Needless to say, the start was chaos as everyone fought for position going into the hole shot, and Rosey's chain exploded on the right side of the group (I later told him he need to fire his mechanic).
I felt good, but was pretty tired still from the NBX races last weekend. I wanted to have fun, but the competitive side of me kicked in on the line as well, and I pushed as hard as I could through the race. It's hard to take oneself too seriously when adorned in reindeer antlers, a jingle bell, and flashing candy cane socks, but I tried ;-).
After 3 laps, I looked and the lap cards said 5 to go. I almost quit right there - they were kidding, right? With 4 laps to go, I could see the SS leaders coming up behind me, including Mike. They came upon me as we started into the twistiest section of the course; I did my best to stay out of their way and let them by, but I had a racer on my tail, and couldn't let off too much. I was, however, VERY excited that I now had one less lap to race, despite being lapped by my husband ;).
Going into the final lap, I could see MegA, who was racing in the 1/2/3 women's race, closing the gap to me, and I really wanted to be sure to finish ahead of her (I don't usually beat her in a race, although she had already been drinking mimosas...). I put my head down into TT mode, and sprinted to get on top of my gear coming out of every corner and barrier remount. I managed to hold her off, finishing 14th of 18 in the SS category (second woman), and I would have been 5th in the 1/2/3 field. I think the course would have been better for me on a geared bike, but I'll have to wait until next year to find out.
Mike decided it would be a good idea to do a second race, and lined up for the combined Masters 1/2/3 and Elite Men's race. At least he brought his other bike, so didn't have to race on his SS again (unlike Cort). And our new friend Matt showed up for one more race of the season as well. I was excited to see him back on the bike after his crash in RI the weekend before (check his blog for a cool video of the SS/Women's race!).
The pace was fast and furious, but Mike and Matt were hanging onto the leaders of the race - at least until Matt decided it was time for beer handups instead ;-). Despite having raced earlier (and finishing 3rd in the SS category), Mike had an awesome race finishing 5th overall in the combined race, and winning the Master's category! A triumphant end to a stellar season for him.
So, the racing is done. We left the [most awesome] venue with promises to stay in touch with new friends over the off season, and hopefully do some riding together.
I'm sore, and I'm tired, and looking forward to some time off the bike, but will miss all of my friends!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But there's an almost equally big part of me that is not ready for the season to be over, and that was cemented last weekend at the NBX races - the finals in the New England Verge Series. I have written in previous posts about the fact that I race not just because I like racing my bike (that's almost the least of it), but because I like to hang out with cool people. With the end of the season, I won't see many of those people for several months, and that truly makes me sad.
You see, 'cross, and even road and MTB racers, are a community. As competitive as we are on the bikes, we have that in common, and we look out for each other. Mike and I have been very fortunate this season to get to know so many people so much better. We have cemented friendships with our nemesis' and others - too many to single out here. We have seen each other every weekend all season, sharing in triumph, wallowing in defeat, cheering madly and rehashing the entire experience over beers or as we watch the final race.
Sure, we have cyberspace to keep in touch over the winter, but it's not the same as seeing Gewilli's big orange suit, letting Matt/Mike know where the other is in a race, watching Mark or Jonny or Kevin win again, congratulating Nate on a win and retaking the series lead, heckling Colin (or being heckled BY Colin), lining up and chatting with National and World champions, capturing images of Paul W who is usually on the other side of the camera, or reconnecting with friends from college (university actually ;-)). Heck, the New England women even have thier own official "fan-boy"! There are so many others I haven't mentioned here who also made the season so memorable. As many racers as line up for a 'cross race, we really are a tight-knit community.
Yup - I'm definitely going to miss my extended 'cross family over the winter. It's going to make the start of the race season next year something special to look forward to! In the meantime, this tired body is headed for the couch... ;-)
Click here for full size photos
This weekend was tough - I think being late in the season and tougher weather conditions both contributed. I had "ok" races both days, but nothing stellar.
Saturday's course was fairly non-descript, in my opinion. The ground was frozen and the course was fairly flat, with only two notable sand sections. It was FAST out there, and required way more power than skills, which was ok for me, but not great. I ended up alone, between two groups of racers - never quite able to catch the group in front (although I heard I was gaining on them in the last lap), but able to hold off the group behind. Final result was 11th of 38 starters.
Mike raced before me on Saturday, and ended up with a flat early in the race. I ran over to the pit to let them know he was coming in and would need a change. They did it really quickly, but Mike had lost a number of places already, and was now chasing to make it back up. At one point, Matt asked where he was, and I told him he had flatted. Shortly thereafter, Matt also disappeared from the front of the race - I saw him at the end - he had crashed pretty hard, and had to go up to the medical tent for some attention. Not a great day for them either.
The course on Sunday was much more technical which I liked. What I didn't like? The snow/ice on the technical corners. I went down (not hard) on my pre-ride, and I think that got into my head A LOT. I was still recovering from my fall at Sterling, and going down on the ice, at speed, was not soundling like a lot of fun. I was overly-cautious, and I'll admit it, scared. Yup - a mountain biker afraid of a little ice and snow. Pretty bad, huh?
Sunday also featured longer sand runs than the previous day - oh boy! ;-). On the first lap, I got caught out getting into the first sand section, but was still with the front group going into the second half of the course - with the icy corners. I took this section WAY too conservatively - to the point of Teri passing me and asking if I was ok. Once I had that section figured out, I was ok, and managed to make up a few more places (partly by clocking Teri with my bike on the big run-up - sorry!), racing to hold off three chasers close behind. Finished 12th of 32 starters.
After the weekend, I was BEAT and pretty sore - the running was more than what I am used to, and I think that is what has hurt the most (including the bottom of my feet). My shoulder has the beginning of the season shoulder bruise, too - I don't normally shoulder in a way that puts the weight of the bike squarely on my shoulder, but had to this weekend.
Next weekend will be the last race for me, and I am doing it more for fun than anything else. I'm actually going to race my singlespeed in the open category, so expectations are fairly low ;-). I think I'm looking forward to that time off the bike!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Had a good Thanksgiving, albeit pretty busy. Mike and I went up to Maine for a few days, where we were joined by my parents. Then we had a trip to VT for a very delicious and filling turkey dinner with Mike's family, a trip to N. Conway for some Black Friday shopping, and then back down to MA so that we could hit the Sterling race on Saturday.
I've read reports from other racers on the Sterling course, and get the sense that people either love or hate this course. I, personally, fall into the former category. Tom Stevens does a great job with the course layout, and this year, added some tighter turns and more technical aspects, making it even better from my perspective. Of course, at Sterling, the weather always plays a factor as well, and this year was no different. Yes, the sun was out. But, it was cold, and the sun hadn't quite thawed the ground before racing started for the day. I watched people sliding and hitting the deck in corners, and, after failing to ride a steepish uphill after the barriers, dismount only to fall back down the hill on their feet!
I watched the mayhem of the early fields, including one racer in the 55+ race who didn't make it past the start line before knocking himslef unconcious! He had some sort of major equipment failure, putting him over the bars and onto the track. After a free ride to the hospital in the ambulance, he will be ok... Other fields with large numbers of starters (3/4 Masters and 1/2/3 Masters) bunched up coming off of the track, and headed up the steep, and frozen, run-up. This was going to be tough, and I was glad for my front line starting position!
After a muddy, and successful race, Mike found me and gave me some intel on the changing conditions of the course. I should note here that Mike got his first Verge point of the season at Sterling, finishing 15th! He has been so close all season, it was nice to finally see him in the points and the money after all his hard work! this means a coveted call up at the RI races for him! YAY!
Monday, November 24, 2008
So, what did we do with our time? No racing means time for - riding for FUN! Yes, I said the F-word ;). We've been racing/training since the spring, and at this time in the season, it was nice to get a group of like-minded, race-weary friends together to head out and ride for fun. Of course, some might say that riding for over 3 hours, in the woods, with temps in the 20s and wind gusting is anything BUT fun, but for us, it was a good time.
From the PR, we took to the road and bike path for a short and VERY cold section, before heading back into the woods on the rail trail extension heading out to Concord, and towards Estabrook Woods. There wasn't any mud - too cold! In fact, part of the trail was iced over. By the time we made it to Estabrook, the riding and cold had done us in - we did a short loop to say that we had made it, and then headed back for hot coffee, hot showers and hot food. We still ended with over 3 hours of ride time, and about 26.5 miles.
Teri - dressed for the weather; "You can do it - no brakes!"
Tami the tree-hugger; "That was easy"
The Old North Bridge in Concord
Yes it was cold, and yes, that is ice!
Friday, November 21, 2008
The promoters (IBC and crossresults.com) of a NEW race in December - The Ice Weasels Cometh - are giving the Cat 4 women's field THEIR OWN RACE! This is your chance to be the ONLY field on the course during your race - no juniors and no Cat 4 men.
Go here for more info and to register. Let's support these promoters who have listened to your suggestions.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
After a full day and night of heavy rain, we arrived in Lowell expecting a course with mud, and that's what we got. Lots and lots of mud! The day started with overcast skies and temps in the mid 50s, but the winds picked up and by the time the Elite races went off in the afternoon, temps were down into the low 40s under sunny skies. It was colder and windier than a lot of people were expecting, including me!
For the past two years, the Lowell course has been relatively unchanged, so we were surprised to see racers pre-riding out near the road into the park - clearly, the course was different this year. First, the staging and start were on the infield of the track. This set racers off on the grass before hitting about 3/4 of a loop of the track. The tight 180 uphill corner was still a factor (and a mess in some of the bigger fields), before coming down and heading up to the side hill, which was slick with mud. For some added adventure, the organizers ran us up "the hill" twice on the course this year, with the requisite off-camber corners in between the two sections.
After that came the mud-slicked downhill chicanes. Typically, these are frozen and rutted for the early races, and dry by the later races. This year - MUD and lots of it! This was a tricky section where many riders ended up going down. We went back through the main part of the park, and the course sent you into the woods and through the mud bog. Imagine about 80 yards of thick, gooey, shoe-sucking mud. What fun! Originally, there was a set of barriers in the middle of this mud-bog, but they were removed early since most people ended up running the entire length. This actually became less rideable as the day went on, but made a good spectator section. Out of the mud, we went back into some twists and turns in the woods, and out onto the track to come past the start/finish.
We arrived before the first races of the day, and I was able to watch Alexis in the Cat 4 men's race, the NEBC women in the 3/4 race, and Mike's Master's 1/2/3 race before I had to change and start getting ready myself. Warming up, I had on two pairs of leg warmers, my skin suit, team jacket and my rain coat - it was COLD!
I stood in the second row on the line, and had a TERRIBLE start. I don't even really know what happened. Before I knew it, I was DFL on the track, and going through the 180 uphill/downill turn. I tried in vain to get around Hannah before the first off-camber hill, but every time I zigged, it seemed that she zagged ;). I finally got around her, and onto Sue M's wheel. Sue is great at moving through traffic, so I stuck with her, and we moved up pretty well in the field. At one point, I ended up on Clara's wheel going into the second hill climb, and told her that I was going left and was going to ride. She moved, but I didn't make the hill. We went into the downhill chicanes together, and I coached her through some of the corners and back down to the main part of the park.
Going into the mud bog in the first lap was utter mayhem. By this point, Sue had moved ahead of me, and I went into the mud behind Clara. When she got bogged down and stopped, I literally ran into her - sorry Clara! We all ran through the rest of the bog, and were off.
I dropped a few more places, but was still in a decent position going into the third lap. With all of the beach practice we've been doing, I KNEW that I could ride the mud if I tried, and on this lap, I had a clear shot at it. In I went to the cheers of the many spectators lining both sides of the bog (including Mike). I kept the power on and tried not to steer the bike, but it was tough going. A short way into the bog, on the most rideable line, was a hole, followed closely by a big clump of roots. Hitting these at speed scrubbed the momentum you may have had... But, I kept on it and with a lot of cheering, managed to get all the way across and to the other side. THAT was the best part of my race (and MANY thanks to everyone for the encouragement, and Soups for the photo!).
Riding the mud gave me a gap on the racers behind me, and I tried to keep that gap. I managed to catch the two riders in front of me, but crashed at the bottom of a downhill, with both going ahead of me. After apologizing for the crash, I managed to get by both of them again in the downhill chicanes, but in attempting to ride the mud a second time, got passed by both of them again, and wasn't able to catch them for the remainder of the race.
I ended up finishing 11th of 16. While the results don't sound impressive, to me, I feel that I had a terrific race. Why? How can 11th place be looked at as a success? I later found out that on my third lap, I was the ONLY woman to have ridden the mud - success (although 2 others later did the same)! I managed to beat someone I have not beaten in a cross race this season, and finished ahead of two of my nemeses as well - success.
You see, success in racing doesn't ALWAYS come from winning or placing in the top 5 or 10 (although those are, of course, desired outcomes!). Success comes sometimes from races within the race, requiring us to change perspectives. Sure, I could cry in my soup about not keeping up to Sue, crashing when I did, or not finishing in the top 10, but instead, I choose to look at my wins, however small they may be.
I have additional photos of friends and teammates that I will post tomorrow.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Yup. Mike raked the leaves in the yard into a course full of corners, and we spent a lot of evenings, just practicing skills. Just goes to show that all you really need is a rake! Drilling the corners in the yard was awesome practice for the races - especially since nothing we encounter in a race is quite as tight as what we had to conquer in the yard...
Last year, the weather for this race was FRIGID! This year was definitely better - the temp was in the high 60s, and the air was humid. I had originally decided to sit out on this race, but was glad that we ended up going. As I've said before, racing is really about more than just the course and the bike - it's also about being with friends and hanging out (much more fun than racing ;)).
We pre-rode the course, and it was pretty much unchanged from the previous year. Uphill pavement start onto an uphill grass grind, downhill into some sweeping corners, a tight up/down chicane, more grass, a single barrier (I LOVE this!), into some [mucky] woods, back over a single barrier, down a singletrack section of woods, onto an uphill sidewalk, more uphill and then a run-up (well, the guys were riding it, but for me it was a run) and back again. Despite the warm temps, it was windy, and this was going to play a factor - a good draft was going to help, and going it solo was going to hurt.
Mike's race was first, and he had an AWESOME start, hitting the grass uphill third behind Curtis and Mark M. I watched proudly as he sat on Mark's wheel for the entire first lap - he looked great and was sitting between the McCormacks - not a bad place to be. As the leaders came through for the second lap, however, my heart sank some when I didn't see Mike. I waited, and waited. When I finally saw him, he yelled that he needed a wheel, and I took off for the pits. While I couldn't figure out what had happened, it turned out that he rolled his tubular at the bottom of the ride/run up, costing him his position in the race. Luckily, we had spare wheels in the pit, he changed it out, and was off to chase down the field as much as he could.
Off to a great start; Catching air chasing Mark
Mark's wheel, Dan Coady, Mike and Frank; Up and over
Chris leading a chase; Sam on the way to winning the 45+ race (with Bob B)
Wayne and Gewilli; Mike flying onto the bike
Wayne riding a great 45+ race; This guy finished well - on a Pugsley!
I was up next. I didn't spend any time on the trainer getting warmed up though - given Mike's trouble, I waited in the pit for a couple of laps to be sure that he was all set. I did have to sprint a few times to get there though, and did some "hot laps" in the parking lot before the race. I did one more pre-ride of the course before we were off, and that was my warmup. That was ok with me - I don't like the trainer anyway ;).
It was a good-sized field for the 1/2/3 women, and Kathy Sarvary was out for her first race since she broke her foot in September. I got to know Kathy last year, and spent some time with both she and Sue M before the race. I love both these women - they are great people and awesome racers (and Kathy is a current World Champion!). My goal for the race was to stick to the two of them - something I haven't been able to do in past races.
On the whistle, Mo Bruno took off after the hole shot prime (she ended up winning by a pretty big margin). I had another great start (I think this is 3 or 4 in a row!), and landed on Kathy's wheel going into the grass. As we headed uphill, most of the women chose to ride the pavement, but I made up time and places by riding the grass just to the left. I continued to move up in the first lap, passing Julie before the singletrack, and then saw that I had a gap behind and Sue and Kathy just ahead. I made a move to catch them at the run-up and called out that we had a gap and if we worked together, we could keep it. I moved to the front to take my pull, looked back, and none had moved with me! I later found out that it was too much of a move - I hadn't meant to drop them, but did.
Kathy bridged up to me, and we rode together for the next part of the lap. It was music to my ears when Kathy said to me, "We'll work together, ok?". Over the barriers we went, and in an effort to stay on Kathy's wheel (we had a growing gap behind us), I got too close going up a short uphill, and slipped. Not only did I slip, but I also lost my footing completely, and went down. Sh*t! Kathy made the right move and went ahead, and now I was chasing. And I chased, and I chased. I just couldn't close the gap.
With one lap to go, Kathy was still ahead, but Sue and Ilana B from MIT were working together to close the gap behind me. As they passed, I jumped to get on their wheels, but couldn't pull it off. I had burned too many matches on my own in the wind. Once again, I ended up finishing with Sue in sight just ahead, but as disappointed as I was with losing Kathy's wheel, I was pleased with how I raced overall - strong and determined, and this time (unlike in races past), I didn't mentally quit.
Into the run-up; Leading a world champion - for now...
Last year, this was my favorite race course of the whole 'cross season. I had been looking forward to returning this year for awhile, foregoing Porky Gulch this year in favor of this race. I had even told Mike Keough, the promoter, how much I loved this course. Poor Mike, though, found out on Monday that there was going to be a problem - the high school Superbowl was going to be played at the same location on the same day! He was in a panic, but he, his boys, and all of the folks who put on the race did a great job of moving the course, and still making it one of my favorites (although I have since heard words like "heinous" and "brutal" used as descriptors...).
When we arrived at the venue, Sam told us that he hoped we brought strong backs, small gears and good legs - the course was tough and there was a lot of climbing. We went out to see what the fuss was about, and sure enough, there were PLENTY of climbs on the course. Power climbs, but hills that took almost everything you had to get up and over. Add the wind on the upper fields, and this was going to be a very tough race. Despite that, I really liked the course - except for the barriers. It seemed they were in an awkward place (a slightly uphill approach into a vicious headwind left no ability to coast into them), and disrupted the flow of the course.
We watched the Cat 4 women's race, and I was so excited to see THREE NEBC women in the top ten - Shannon added a 4th place to Saturday's second place finish, MTB'er Janet ended up 9th, and Kathy M had a stellar race, finishing 10th! Katherine, Karin, Jean and Julie all looked great as well, and I KNOW they had a good time - a couple of them went out for their final lap after the official noted that they had already raced for their 30 mins, and could be finished and placed if they wanted - they chose to ride out their laps instead!
Once again, I decided not to sit on the trainer (I figured I had had good results the day prior without it, and wanted to see if I could carry that through today), and Teri and I did some laps on the upper soccer fields while Mike raced. The 35+ race split up quickly, and it looked like most of the guys who had raced on Saturday (perhaps with the exception of Mark who won both days) were tired and suffering on Sunday. On one lap, Mike had the added challenge of missing a turn on the course when the tape blew off the stake, causing him to have to dismount as he was chasing down Gray...
I spent time talking to Kathy and Sue before the race, and the three of us agreed to work together. It was windy, and working in a group was definitely going to be an advantage in this race. I confessed to Sue beforehand that my goal for the season, especially after Saturday, was to finish ahead of her in just one race ;).
My start wasn't as good on Sunday, but I did quickly end up on Kathy's wheel - right where I wanted to be! Sue was ahead of us, but we chased her down as well, and now we were together. After the climb behind the stadium, we went through the mud and into the next tight section with a short uphill. Today, it was Kathy's turn to slip - she dismounted, I rode and ended up ahead of her. With Karen and Hannah just ahead of me, I worked to try to bridge to them, and built a gap between myself and Kathy, with Sue behind as well. Karen was off and I couldn't seem to catch her, but I did manage to connect with Hannah. The two of us worked together through the windy fields on one lap, which was awesome.
As we came up the hill behind the stadium and into the mud, I saw Karen slide off of the line and off the course. I thought this would be a great place to take advantage, and to try to bridge and/or get by her. Unfortunately, I was so focused on Karen, that I did the EXACT same thing and slid off of the course. I yelled to Hannah to go, and got myself back on track.
Well, Hannah went, and I was never able to bridge back up to her. With two laps to go, I could see that Kathy and Sue were now working together, and that I had to work to stay ahead of them. I tried to focus on the race ahead of me instead of the race behind. With one to go I still had a gap. I wanted this BAD. The whole lap, I talked to myself, "Ride it like you mean it", "You need to clean this", "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!", "Fast, fast, fast", "Not today!", and the best one of all, "If you finish ahead of them you can retire!". With my HR pegged, and my back screaming from all of the climbing, I put my head down and drilled the last lap. It was full on TT mode - sprinting out of corners and off of the climbs, pedaling through all of the corners. I could see them behind me, but managed to stay ahead through the finish!
This climb hurt on the 4th and 5th time up; Another power climb
Who left all those wheels in the field? ;); Racing against myself...
I literally had to stop as quickly as possible after the race for fear of falling over and/or throwing up. I couldn't breathe, and everything hurt. Signs of a good race, right? I ended up finishing 7th, but felt like I had just won. I was really excited about my weekend of racing - maybe some time off the bike is a good thing?
Oh, and Sue and Kathy are urging me not to retire just yet ;). Kathy is looking to come back on form after lots of time off from 'cross, gearing up for Natz and maybe even Worlds again to defend her title, and told me to watch out.