Friday, August 29, 2008

Tandem 'Cross

Many of our friends have suggested we try doing cyclocross on the tandem. Clearly, these are not married couples who have done competitive tandem races in the past ;). My response has always been that when Mike can dismount, shoulder the bike with me still on it, hop the barriers and then remount, THEN we can do 'cross on the tandem.

This week, however, we are on vacation, and on Tuesday, we did do some tandem 'cross. There were no barriers or run-ups, but we did manage a good portion of our 45 mile ride on the dirt, along with 2900' of climbing. Took the trusty Cannondale, threw some cross tires on, and away we went. It was kind of neat to be riding our bike on the trails we snowmobile in the winter, although we typically ride the rail trail at about 60 mph on the sleds, compared to the 14mph uphill headwind tandem ride... We also explored a couple of new [dirt/paved] roads on this adventure - Valley Rd and Pinkham B Rd.

Note the snowmobile trail sign!

Front of tandem; Back of tandem ;)

We rode up Pinkham to Great Glen - awesome views of Mt. Washington today

Although the old railroad bed seemed flat, it had some elevation to it as well. The profile doesn't look like we did ANY flat riding. No wonder my legs were tired when we were done!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Return of the BADA$$

No, the BADA$$ is not a person. It's a ride - the Bedford Area Daring All-terrain Sixty Something ride. Mike came up with this a number of years ago, and we had multiple versions of it back in the late 90s (we also did a version of this called the O-SH*T - Offroad Specific Hiatus Involving Tandems). This year we dusted it off and brought it back, introducing it to some new riders as well as welcoming back seasoned vets.

Photo by PK (l to r: The Mayor, Anthony, Scott, DT, Jaime, Bill, Keith, Michael, Edzo, PK, AA, me, Mike)

Whatever made me think that I should go out with 12 men, half of them on single-speeds, to ride sixty-something miles in the woods is beyond me. I was in over my head from the outset, despite bringing my full suspension geared bike to the gunfight ;).

We started the ride in the PR (also known as the Landlocked Forest). The pace was brisk, but I managed to outlast the first casualty of the ride. I was doubly excited to clean a hard corner I have never been able to make (on the Mangler trail, it is a hard right around a boulder), and to go on to clean that entire trail for the first time ever! We looped up all of the PR trails and headed to Lexington, where we lost our second rider (which was actually my fault - I looked and saw him, but he didn't see where we turned).

I knew that from here, I would be OK for the next parts of the ride - Willards Woods in Lexington, and then out to the Minuteman National Historic Park. By now, we were down to 10 riders, and I was feeling pretty good. Once we hit Estabrook Woods in Concord, however, I started to slow some, but did my best to hang on. After all, the trails in Estabrook led directly to lunch!

Four hours into the ride, we stopped at Fern's in Carlisle for delicious sandwiches and cold drinks. We were under strict orders, however - the stop needed to be as short as possible. I really wanted to turn tail and head home at this point (I should have followed Anthony), but was convinced to hang in at least until we got to Great Brook Farm. Reluctantly, I agreed, and we saddled back up to hit the trails behind Carlisle town hall, and out the Canal trail to the Cranberry bogs on Curve St.

I knew when Keith felt the need to help push me up the hill on Curve St that I was done. I did manage to ride the Acorn Loop, put my foot down on doing Fern Loop (that's the loop that made me cry the last time I did this ride), and met the boys on their return to the rest area at Great Brook. At that point, I was 46 miles and almost 6 hours into the ride, and I called "uncle". From here it was going to get somewhat more technical, and I just couldn't manage. I put my tail between my legs, and rode out through Great Brook to the Llama trail, and home on 225. I still ended with 55 miles and just over 6.5 hours of riding. WHEW!

As I was prepping for the feast that was to follow, I got a call from the group. Unfortunately, our friend The Mayor took a pretty bad digger about 3 miles from the house, and they needed some help. I borrowed Mary's van and drove over to the trail, following the EMTs who were en route. The consensus from the group is that Dave was riding along, and broke his bars, stopping him and sending him head first into the ground, looking like a scorpion, with his legs coming up to meet his head. Dave is tough though (we still talk about a ride he finished in which he broke his arm in 5 places, and then went to have steak and beer before going to the ER), and refused transport to the hospital. We did get some pictures of the police 4-wheeling him off the trail though ;).

Map provided by Keith

In the end, the original group of 13 whittled down to a finishing group of eight. They did the entire planned loop, and ended up with 70 miles in just over 7 hours of riding. Was it epic? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

High Speed in Saco

When we left for Saco, ME on Saturday morning, we had no idea that we would not only be part of high-speed bike racing for the day, but also witness to a high-speed car chase a la the most recent episode of Cops!

After Mike and I were done racing for the day, we were about to head back to the car with all of our gear when a police cruiser came barreling the wrong way down the race course. Shortly thereafter, the race announcers/organizers ordered everyone OFF the road (they shutdown the last race of the day in the safety of the school parking lot), due to a car chase that was in progress. We watched in absolute amazement as a woman came screaming up the race course in a rental car on two flat front tires (the police had gotten spike strips under her at some point, but that didn't stop her immediately). Then came about 5 police cars in full on pursuit. A few turns later, the cops penned her in and crashed into the car, hauling the woman, who was vacationing from France, off for a psychiatric evaluation. We were stunned! You can read the news story here and here.

As for the bike racing? It was also reasonably high-speed. The Saco crit scares me somewhat, given that the corners are really tight and technical. Last year there was a bad crash on the second to last corner of the last lap of my race, and I still had those images in my head. I wanted to try and have a better race here this year, and to work with Susanne to see how we could do working together.

I had another pedal incident at the start of the race, but nothing as bad as last week, quickly moving to the front of our group. There were 8 women who started in the 1/2/3 race, and 4 in the Cat 4 race, so the organizers set us all off together, despite the Cat 4s doing 5 less laps. Susanne managed to take the mid-race prime, and the group came back together. As the Cat 4s went into their final lap (two of them still in the 1/2/3 field), they started attacking, with our field beginning to respond. I yelled to let them go as they were finishing, and we sat up to let them go through their sprint - Katherine took 2nd place, and was excited about her finish!

With 5 laps left to go, Susanne got stuck on the front of the field, really pulling everyone around, with no one willing to come around. Watching what was happening from the back of the group, and figuring that I wouldn't probably be able to contest the finish, I launched an attack with 2 laps to go, digging in and burying myself to try to keep a high pace for the final laps, and to set Susanne up for the finish. I managed to hang onto the lead inito the final lap when Julie from IBC came around to set up Stephanie. I did catch back onto the group, but had burnt all of my matches at that point, and hoped that Susanne had rested enough to sprint it out for the win. In the end, she took second, which was her best finish of the season - YIPPEE! I rolled across the line in 7th (we had one DNF in the race), but was happy to have helped Susanne.

In hindsight, I think I should have waited to attack until the final lap, and that I MAY have had a better chance of finishing with the front of the group if I had. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and I will look at this as a lesson learned moving forward.

Mike also raced at Saco, both in the Master's 35+ McCormack-filled race, and in the Cat 3 race later in the afternoon. He looked strong in both races. In the Cat 3 race, teammate Dave C. got into the lead breakaway, and Mike did an awesome job of ensuring that no one chased down the break. Manny G from MRC ended up winning, with Dave having his best finish of the season as well, finishing in 5th place.

I thought that Saco would be my final road race/crit of the season, but I just may get talked into racing Portsmouth...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Breaking News

USA Cycling Response from Diane Fortini:
I have approved your upgrade to category 2. Please send me a COPY of your license and a self addressed stamped envelope and I will send you a cat 2 sticker for your license. You may print out this approval notice or your USA Cycling account page as confirmation of the upgrade until you receive your sticker.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Racing for Dollars

Some people reading this blog will remember a TV show in Ontario called Bowling for Dollars. It used to be on Saturday evenings, and was filmed locally in Kitchener. I don't know if it still airs, but I do remember seeing lots of episodes (and for those of you not from Ontario, this was 5 pin bowling).

The past few weekends I have been participating in my own "Racing for Dollars" program. My own, because no one else knows about it ;).

Gate City Cyclone Crit (8/9)

Photo by Dave M.

The Gate City Crit was an awesome race for me. I felt good through the whole race, and moved easily in the pack - much more confidently than the previous week in Concord. NEBC was the dominant team (there were eight of us in a 16 rider field!), and we really controlled it from the start.

After an initial failed breakaway attempt by Eve M. of Sunapee (which I attempted to latch onto, but when she scraped her pedal going through the chicane, it caught me off guard, and I went too wide, barely missing a curb and hay bale), we ended up with a break off the front of the group that included four of my teammates. Those of us left in the chase worked to block, much to the frustration of the other racers with us. In the end, all but two of the original breakaway (both teammates) ended up getting caught, so it came down to a field sprint for 3rd. We sort of messed up the lead out, and I ended up about 5th or 6th wheel, crossing the line in 9th (but still in the money!!!). NEBC took first, second, fifth and ninth, all through some great team work.

I felt great about my performance afterwards, and thanked the team for their support and encouragement. Natalie, especially, provided tips and some blunt advice (I seem to recall the words "Cut it out!" coming from her at one point ;)) during and after the race.

Hodges Village Dam (8/10)

The day after Gate City, I was really excited to be back on the dirt after what seemed like a long time. I had been having some great results on the road, and was hoping to translate those into more success in the woods. When we arrived, only Cris and I were registered for the Women’s Expert 35+ race – sweet – that meant I was guaranteed 2nd! ;) (Cris went on to finish second in the race, and second in the state championship).

On the pre-ride, Cris and I were motoring through the first third of the lap, and having fun with the banked turns and off-camber sections of trail around the mud puddles. Yeah – great fun until I rode one of those off-camber-round-the-puddle sections, slid on a root, and went down INTO the mud puddle! Two miles in and my spiffy kit was full of mud, and my bike was, too. Oh, and I was a little sore, but shook that off to keep going, but a little more cautiously than I had been.

We lined up at the start, and I realized that now there were four of us in our field. And on the whistle, they all took off up the hill like they were on fire. On the first uphill into the woods, I got caught over-geared, and was dropped. Sigh. I put in a big effort, but wasn’t able to chase the leaders down. I did have another racer still behind me, so that motivated me through the first two laps of the race.

On lap three, things started to go downhill. First, I started getting lapped by the Pro/Semi-pro men, and not always in the best places. Mike passed me shouting encouragement as he went by, and then many more racers started to go by. One put me off the trail and another put me into a tree. Those incidents, and the fast pace from the start, wore me down. My head wasn’t in it, and the negative self-talk really started in earnest. As I crossed the line to start my fourth lap, Mike was there, finished with his race (he won, and was named MA State Champion!), encouraging me to go on. I really wanted to quit, but couldn’t.

You see, last week, I told Michele A. that there are only ever 2 valid reasons to DNF – one is a mechanical that can’t be fixed, and the other is a crash or severe medical emergency where you physically cannot go on. Checking that list, neither applied. I was eating my own words, and continued on. Everything hurt. I ran out of water. I had no food. Halfway through my final lap, I started thinking about food and water. At one point, I thought about stopping and sitting beside the trail. Not a good sign.

I rolled across the finish after 2:25 (the official results have my time and the other racer’s time reversed). I couldn’t talk, I was tired, and I needed water. But, I finished the race, and was third overall, and third in the MA state championships! And Michele – I hate me too, but I don’t think I suck ;).

Blount Seafood Crit (8/17)

I had won a free entry into the 3/4 race at the Attleboro crit (in a prime), and pre-reg'd for both the Masters race and the 1/2/3 race as well, figuring I would end up doing two of the total three options for the women. The decision about which two was made a bit easier for me when the promoter canceled the 1/2/3 race due to only 3 women being pre-reg'd for that race. That's how we can tell it is late in the season.

My 3/4 race, unfortunately, was disappointing. On the line, I knew that Cody H. and Cheryl W. would be my main competition. On go, Cody attacked, with Cheryl quickly jumping on her wheel. As they established their winning break, I was fumbling and bumbling my way into my pedal... Sigh. I worked really hard for the next two laps to chase them down, but with a headwind on the uphill and finishing straight, and not a lot of help from the group that was with me, I ended up having to settle in, and reset my expectations; I was racing for 3rd. With that in mind, I sat in a group of about 6, and tried to conserve for the final sprint. Rounding the final corner, I was sitting third wheel. As the first two started to wind up, I came around and sprinted with everything I had to cross the line. Disappointed, but still on the podium, and managing to capture ONE lowly upgrade point.

The Masters race immediately followed the 3/4 race, and with the exception of two who were too young, the field was the same. I vowed NOT to have the same thing happen to me in this race, and I was partly out for vengeance. I got clipped in right away, and directly onto the wheel of Cheryl and Cody, where I stayed for most of the race. After a couple of laps of riding in circles at 18 mph, I decided it was time for us to do some racing. With the pack all still together, and teammates Katherine and Michele doing a good job of protecting me from the wind, I came from the back of the pack on the hill, and attacked, hoping to get a small group to split from the pack. The move worked, and a group of 5 was quickly established - Cody, Cheryl, Inette R. and Carol D. Cheryl and Cody did most of the work in the race (which was fine by me). When they tried to come off the front, I slipped even further back in the group. Going into the final turn, I was on Cheryl's wheel. She started the sprint a little earlier than I really wanted, but I moved with her. Then she moved left, and I missed it - stuck in the wind still with a long way to go. I decided that I had to go for broke at that point, and put my head down. Unfortunately, Cody had gotten Cheryl's wheel when she moved, and was able to come up the middle and beat me by half a bike length. I did, however, feel MUCH better about the second race, and finished in the money for both.

3rd Womens' 3/4; 2nd Women's Masters

And in between all the racing? Believe it or not I actually did go bowling - in Houston! I was there for work, and we had a team outing. This was 10 pin bowling, but my team still won ;).

This coming weekend will see my final road race of the season - the Saco crit. It's almost time for 'cross here in New England, and I can't wait!