Monday, September 22, 2008

Suckerbrook Cross

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This was my third year racing at Suckerbrook, and I like the course a lot, since it suits me well (I don’t have to get off the bike too often, which at this point in the season is a good thing ;)). The week prior to the race, Mike took me out to practice riding in the sand, and I was ECSTATIC to be able to nail the sand section every time through during the race, making up time on the racers ahead. Unfortunately, I seemed to lose that time shortly thereafter trying to make the hard 180 degree right turn onto the embankment…

The positives for me at this race included a great start up the pavement, nailing the corners and the sand section, and being able to quickly take the turn from the singletrack, through the loose sand in the woods without washing out. I still need to work on my barrier technique – I kind of look like a duck trying to get over them. That means one night of nothing but barrier work for me!

My good start put me onto the gravel and grass in a good position, but I was soon passed by Alex J (IBC – one of my major cross nemisis’) and Michele K (Joe’s Garage – she had beat me the previous day as well). Going into the stair run-up, I had to pass Anna M. who couldn’t get unclipped from her pedal. She passed me back on the grass, and then yard sailed in the downhill left turn – I never saw her after that. I kept Alex, Michele and Callie M. in my sights for a couple of laps, and tried to hop on Meg B’s wheel as she went by, but she had the jet fuel packs going, and there wasn’t a chance. Each lap, I would inch closer to the 3 ahead, especially in the sand section. In the 5th lap, I finally caught and passed Callie, and then in the final lap, saw Alex just ahead as she had trouble getting over the barriers. “You can catch her,” I thought, but there just wasn’t enough room, and Alex is terrific in the sand as well. I was happy with my result, although I finished just one place out of the money…

Velodrome Cross

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Well, after much prodding by Mark B. for the past two years, I finally made it up to the track ;). Of course, it took a ‘cross race to get me there …

We heard a lot of pre-race speculation calling the course “jungle-cross”, but the crew did a FANTASTIC job creating a very fun and interesting course in a small space. We started out with a half lap on the velodrome, and then up a small dirt kicker that took us into a bigger run-up (some of the men were able to ride this section, but most/all of the women chose to run). Then onto some really nice, SMOOTH singletrack in the woods that brought you to a steep downhill with a sharp, round-a-tree-and-back-uphill off-camber turn. This section was entirely rideable, but I saw a lot of racers opting to run here (some running only after crashing in the bottom of the corner ;)). More twists and turns in the woods, and then up into a higher speed grass section with some awesome corners. Another dirt run-up brought us back onto the velodrome and down into the infield for some more turns and two sets of barriers. There was literally something for everyone on this course, and it may just have become one of my favorites.

Despite a TERRIBLE start on the track (I somehow managed to be unclipped from both pedals and watched the field ride away from me…), I actually felt generally good about my performance at this race. My fitness helped me through all of the power sections of the course, but my challenge came in the skills area – every time I had to dismount, I lost time. In fact, on at least two laps, I ended up dismounting on the wrong side of my bike as I came into the first run-up. I quickly recognized that this was costing me, and managed the final laps with clean dismounts at least in that section.

I was also really happy with my cornering in the race. Looking through and not at the corners let me carry a lot of speed. I also practiced what I preach, and sprinted out of each corner on the course. I did manage at one point to pass Michelle K. after she got a stick in her wheel, but my poor technique on the barriers allowed her to catch and make up time on me. I would then make up a bit of time on her as I rode the downhill into the sharp uphill turn section, while Michelle chose to run (the MTB skills came in handy here!). In the end, she managed to best me, but I was making up some time.

After the race, one of the officials came over and told Michelle she was being relegated! On one of the laps, as we crested the run-up back onto the velodrome, Michelle somehow managed to get herself outside of the cones, and the official cited her for cutting the course. I didn’t think it was fair (she did it right in front of me – it wasn’t intentional and she didn’t advance because of it), and was glad to later find out that the decision was reversed. The lesson everyone should take away, however, is to be very aware of the course.

I certainly hope that this race becomes a regular! I loved the course, and had a blast.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

End of the Season(s)

After a full season of road racing, and a full season of TT racing, it was time two weeks ago for the final MTB race of the season as well. I decided not to race at Domnarski Farm after feeling like I was going to die the week before, but Mike wanted to go and finish out the Root 66 series, so we headed to Ware, MA for the series final.

It was really fun for me to spectate and cheer on Mike and all of our friends. I had a blast hanging out, chatting with Chris and Jill (who deserve huge kudos for the work they did on the series this year), and watching as everyone finished up one last muddy race.

Mike had an AWESOME race, winning his field and setting the 4th fastest time of the day on the course. He surprised me coming through the feed zone so early after the first lap, but I was ready to send him on his way. With this final win for the season, he also ended up second in the Expert Men 40-49 field overall - a huge accomplishment, and well deserved. We are both looking forward to an even more successful season next year, both for ourselves and for the great team that NEBC has been fielding all year (besides, we want those BATTs - big a$$ team trophies next year!).

Race winner; Second in the overall series

Last week was also the final Tuesday Night Women's Ride for the season. With it getting dark early these days, we all did the short loop to make sure that we were back on Lexington Green in time to head to Bertuccis for a celebratory pizza dinner. It was fun to go out for a last ride with the women, and to celebrate a great season of riding over pizza and beers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Amesbury Cross

Photo by Geoff M.

First cross race of the season.

I finished L-A-S-T.

The end.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ouch - That Hurt!

Last weekend, despite the remnants of Hurricane Hanna, Mike and I headed down to race at Wompatuck. Since we had received almost 6 inches of rain overnight, Mike decided we should do the race on our single speeds given that the course would be pretty muddy, and I agreed since I didn’t want to have to do the maintenance on my good bike afterwards ;).

There were four of us in my field, and two of us were on SS. Susan L has done every one of the Root 66 races, and I knew she would have another good race. Rachael B from IBC was also in my field, and it was great to see a friend from the past on the line as well - Jane H was the other SS racer! I got a good start behind Rachel and Jane, passed Jane, and then was passed by Susan. Less than a mile in, however, I lost a place when I stopped for a bridge that was really slippery putting me DFL in my field. As Jane passed, she asked if something had spooked me, and I had to admit that the bridge had been my undoing.

After that, the women were all ahead of me, and it was 3.5 hours of non-stop pounding on some of the most technical MTB trails I have ever ridden – rock gardens from h*ll, roots, bridges, puddles. OOPH. I did end up passing Jane at about mile 8 or 9, where she was changing a flat. Sadly, I never saw her after that, but was worried that she would catch me for the remainder of the race (only after the race did I learn that she didn’t finish due to a second flat and only one tube – she was the lucky one!).

Several times during the race I had company - passing Sport men, some of whom were friends, offered encouragement and support seemingly just when I needed it most. Chris M and George B both gave me a needed boost as they went on to pass, and have great finishes.

I ended up going through every emotion you can possibly imagine in the race. When I was passed by the leading Sport women around mile 18, I told myself I sucked and didn’t belong. When I saw the mile marker for mile 24, I told myself I did a good job for hanging in there so long, and only had one more mile. Between mile 24 and 25, I used every curse word I know, and some that would have made a sailor blush. This was the MOST technical section of the race, and I was BEYOND tired. I ended up crashing in the skull & cross bones section – the only place on the course where that happened and it was at mile 24.5! At mile 25, the curse words doubled – this was advertised as a 25 mile race, and I still wasn’t done!!!! I ended up finishing 3rd, and the only female SS’er, 30 mins behind the two other women in my field. I was so tired and discouraged, I couldn't even stop to talk to friends and teammates.

On most of the courses we have raced this year a SS wasn’t a handicap, and in some cases was an advantage. Not this course, though. Every part of my body hurt afterward. And I am NEVER racing my SS again! ;). Almost a week later, I still can’t pinpoint any part of the race that was fun …

BTW – getting on a plane at 6 am the following morning was also painful, especially as my back and legs started to tighten up. This is a good week to be off the bike ;).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Weekend in Vermont

Last year on Labor Day weekend, a group of us went up to the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT for a weekend of riding and camping. This year, we repeated that adventure, but went with some new friends too. And yes, this was the first time I camped since this time last year ;).

We had terrific weather the whole weekend, and did some AWESOME riding. I spent Saturday riding with Susan and Jean. Jean hadn't been on a mountain bike in years, and was riding a brand new Specialized Epic for the first time. Despite being covered in bruises, she did an awesome job on the trails, and never complained!

Sunday I went out for my first ever solo mountain bike ride. The guys were heading out, but I wanted to go and ride some of the trails I had ridden the day before, as well as some I had missed (like Sidewinder!). I had a great time on the trails, and covered a few more trails than the previous day, repeating both Webs and Sidewinder.

After two days of riding roots and climbs, however, my legs were pretty totaled! I ended up with over 50 miles in two days, and on Saturday, with a total of 4160 ft of climbing (Sunday, I'm sure, was similar, but I didn't have my GPS). Definitely a fun way to spend the last weekend of the summer - great riding and great friends!