Sunday, December 21, 2008

You're How Old?

Old enough to know better, and young enough not to give a hoot!

The First Blizzard(s) of the Winter...

Shoveling, shoveling and more shoveling. That's what we have been doing here in Bedford since about noon on Friday. It hasn't stopped snowing since then, and today it is turning again into a major snowfall, or even a Nor'Easter! We've already had over 12", and are expecting another 12" today.

So yesterday, Mike, PK, Stig, Wick, Mikail and I set out from Lincoln for the first x-country adventure of the season. Man - I'd forgotten how different the muscles were from 'cross!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reindeer Games

It can't be the holiday season without a ride to celebrate ;-). This year, we were blessed with a snowfall the day prior to our reindeer games, making the bike path a rutted, bumpy, icy mess - even better!

We set off, me dressed of course in my reindeer antlers, flashing socks and a necklace of Christmas lights. We had a great time navigating the slippery path (with only a few minor crashes) and headed into Redbones for some dinner, and back again. A great way to celebrate the holidays with good friends! More pics by PK here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Race of the Year

Hard but oh so much fun! Thom and Colin (and all of their elves) did a fantastic job promoting and putting on one of the best races of the season! I know they were really stressed out, but they should be proud of their efforts. I don't think anyone left the Ice Weasels without a smile on their face. A great way to end a season of racing (and for some really cool photos, check out what PK put together).

The course was technically challenging - there were 22-180 degree corners (yes, Colin counted them all), three sets of barriers, a nasty down followed by a run-up, two passes through a mulch garden and a run after barriers that felt like running on concrete (and which further bruised my still healing foot - who put running in 'cross? ;-)). The laps were short, about 5 to 6 minutes.

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

Ready, but Not

Most of me is so ready for the 'cross season (or racing season in general) to be over. I've got 19 races under my belt already with one more coming this weekend. I am tired. It's time to start thinking about winter activities - skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing... Anything but racing my bike ;-).

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... ;-)

NBX - The End of the New England Verge Series

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

Of Turkeys, Shopping and Muddy 'Cross

Yes, this post, summarizing my Thanksgiving weekend is late. What the heck has happened to this year anyway? Today, I realized that it is the THIRD of DECEMBER already! ACK! I know it's not just me either - everyone I talk to says that time seems to be moving faster and faster (and yes, I do know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for time to move faster...). How on earth am I going to get everthing done before the holiday? And before I know it, that will be over, and we'll be well on our way into 2009. Yikes.

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!

With the large women's fields at the Verge races this year, and a reasonably technical start to the race, having a front row starting position was key for me. I was able (after getting rammed from a racer who believed that lining up on the far left, and cutting far right immediately), to get in behind Libby and the fast MRC women as we headed around the track. Another key to the start of my race – being able to cleanly ride the entrance to the run up, passing some more women who had trouble there, dabbing, dismounting and even "scootering" around the muddy corner. That quickly put me in about 5th position for the first lap! This was a good place for me, and I was psyched to be doing so well.

Knowing that at least one racer was directly behind me going into the second lap (I could hear her cheering section the whole way around the course ;-)), I took a risk heading off the track and into the tight turns to try to gain some advantage. Note to self: if you KNOW there is a good line on the course, don't, in the middle of a race, decide to change to an unknown line. The risk did NOT pay off, and I ended up going down in the mud reasonably hard, with my bike getting tangled in the tape. While I was getting myself untangled, 4 other racers passed, and that annoyed me.

I continued in the top ten for most of the next lap(s), and slipped again when my feet went out from under me on the slippery uphill in the lollipop section of the course. Two falls. Doesn’t usually happen to me, but the conditions were tough, and that is part of racing. I was disappointed with my final result, but had a great time regardless.

Only three more races left this season. Has it really gone by already?