Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Today is a day of Thanksgiving. Here is a list of those things for which I am thankful:
  • Mike. He is my best friend, fellow adventurer, coach, supporter, mechanic and enabler. My world would not be the same without him.
  • I am thankful to my brother for leaving us with his beautiful daughter, my niece. She is a treasure beyond imagination.
  • I am thankful to still have my parents, who are both in good health, and are best friends. They have been guideposts throughout my life, and this year we have all leaned on one another for strength and comfort.
  • I am thankful to still have my furry friend Oreo. Her health is rapidly declining, but I am truly thankful we made it through last weekend's crisis.
  • For my extended family - grandma, inlaws, aunts, uncles and cousins with whom I have reunited this year.
  • I am also thankful for all of my friends, far and wide. I am blessed to have so many good people in my life who share the good and the bad with me.
  • And, lastly, I am thankful for my bikes. They give me a chance to escape, fly free, and to truly test myself.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Friday!

Perfect autumn weather (clearly NOT a race day!)

Yummy treats from a good friend (thanks, Marc!)

The queen of our castle

Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Cross is a Spectator Sport

With my ankle recovering, and no racing for me, I did the next best thing last weekend - went to the races to watch and support Mike!

Saturday - Casco Bay

This was the first race put on by the good folks at Bikeman. The venue was beautiful - right on the Bay in Portland, ME. The course looked like a lot of fun, but with all of the running sections, I was glad that I made the call to be on the sidelines. As it was, I probably ended up walking the course twice between managing in the pits, and taking photos of Mike's races.

Michele and I were pit crew and cheering squad

Mike lined up for the Master's 35+ race, along with Todd and Alexis. The initial pace was pretty fast, and Wheels initiated a gap early, with Mike running in second place. He was soon joined by Al and Ryan from Bikeman though, and was gapped. A technical challenge forced Al to pit, Mike got by him, and Al, unfortunately, had a flat on his pit bike, ending his race. With a solid effort, Mike maintained a third place finish!

All along, Mike had planned on doubling up - racing the Master's race and then the Elite 1/2/3 race later in the day. After the effort of the first race, he wasn't so sure about doing a second. He did end up registering and pinning on his number though, and lined up for another go at the course. This time, he managed a great start, and maintained a gap over fifth place (after an impressive pass on a run-up) to finish fourth (although with another lap, he MAY have managed to catch Colin M.).

Oreo was less impressed by the second race...

Mike and Pete S coming up the run up

Todd; Mike over the barriers

The pass

The weather was stellar throughout the day, and I had a blast watching all the races, and cheering on friends. Maybe I could get used to this ;).

Sunday - MRC Wrentham

As nice as the weather was on Saturday, it was the diabolic OPPOSITE on Sunday. Cold, wet, windy... But, I still suited up and trudged out to Wrentham to cheer on Mike and the Master's racers (sorry to everyone else, but it was WAY too nasty to be out for more than one race!). Given all the walking I had done the previous day, I took my chair, my rain gear and my umbrella, and planted myself under the only tree in the field. It was still cold and wet!

Yes, that's me under that girlie umbrella! (Photo: MRC)

With the weather, and the muddy conditions, Mike opted to race his new SSCX bike - a Felt. And then he convinced Thom P to race his SS (although it was his MTB) instead of his brandy-new geared 'cross bike ;). Mike had a great start, and came by me leading the pack. He later said, though, that he was over-geared on his bike - and I could see it on the long straights in the mud - he struggled to turn the pedals over. He ended up doing well, and finishing 4th overall again.

We didn't wait around for results - too wet and cold. And I'm glad we didn't wait any longer than necessary - we ended up driving home in a snowstorm! ACK!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Avulsion Fracture

So, after Providence, I decided to actually go and have a picture taken of my ankle, based on Kathy's advice. As it turns out, I have an avulsion fracture on the tip of my lateral malleolus.

English please?

When I rolled my ankle at Providence, the tendon pulled so hard that it separated a piece of bone from the tip of my left ankle with it. It's a small piece, and won't reattach. After seeing an orthopedic specialist, I am in a small air cast for stability, and have been advised against racing (actually running, but for 'cross, that means racing) for four weeks. Guess this is as good a time as any for a "break" ;).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ouch - Providence Hurt!

As always, I'm playing catch up with my blogging. This week, I'm catching up from last week's Verge Series races in Providence, RI.


I raced at Roger William’s Park for the first time in 2006 – for ‘Cross Nationals. I remember the course being difficult, with lots of power sections and some technical handling skills required. I was happy to see that hadn’t changed ;). I had a reasonable start into the grassy section, but managed to let myself get “squeezed out” by a couple more aggressive racers entering the first turns. At one point, entering "the bowl", I had a terrific uphill line to the right around several stalled riders. Unfortunately, one of them moved into my line forcing me to dismount, and nearly kick Michele H in the head!

Knowing I was still sitting in the top 10, I pushed as hard as I could, having to yell at a Quad Cycles racer at one point as she ran a hill I was riding – she kept cutting into my line! I ended up giving up a few places in the final lap of the race – just didn’t have the legs to go any harder. I know I raced well, and I was happy with the day.

After changing up and grabbing some food, it was time for me to cheer Mike on in his race. He told me that I didn't need to be in the pits - his bike was there if he needed it. So, I found my friends Susan and ML, and we watched the race from the barriers. As the Master's men came by for the first lap, I was concerned - Mike wasn't where he should have been. After LOTS of racing, you get to know where someone should be in a race - Mike was too far back, and I knew something had happened. Sure enough, as he came through, I could see from the dirt on his leg that he had gone down.

I continued to watch from the same spot. Lots of people will tell you that I can be a little, well, loud when I'm cheering. As Mike made his way through the "spaghetti bowl" and the "whoopdy-doos", I yelled again. He heard me, and yelled that he needed a bike. Uh-oh. I literally dropped my camera, my bag and my partially eaten bologna sandwich right then, and proceeded to SPRINT across the venue to the pit - in my clogs. As I was running, I thought about ditching the shoes, but changed my mind. Later, friends would tell me that don't think they had ever seen me move so fast - guess I need to practice that WHILE RACING!

I made it to the pit, but Mike wasn't expecting it, so went another half a lap before coming in for a bike change. In his haste, he literally threw his race bike into my shin (ouch) and took off, telling me only that it was "all messed up". I did a cursory look and saw that it wasn't shifting, and that the rear shifter had bent. Many, many thanks to the neutral support from Mavic - he had the shifter repositioned and the shifting fixed in time for Mike to change up the next time through. Another change of bikes, and Mike was on his way to try and pick off more racers.

In the end, I learned that he had gone down on the pavement just before the concrete stairs, costing him a number of places. His leg looked like raw hamburger, so we wandered to the medical tent for a clean up before watching the Elite races. He ended up 20th, still in the points despite the crash and two bike changes - pretty good racing, I'd say!


The change in course was going to require more technical handling skills on Sunday. Before the race, world champion Kathy S came by and told me to ride smart, leave space, and take advantage when people make mistakes. We talked about specific lines in certain places, and then went on to our individual warm-ups.

On the whistle, I wanted to get a better start than the previous day when I got boxed out slowing for the first corner in the pavement/grass transition. I sprinted up the hill and hit the hole shot second wheel behind Natalia G - sweet! Kathy proceeded to pass me on the straight grass section and then crash in the second corner. I took her advice and took advantage, got by her and continued chasing Natalia ;). (Photo by Geoff M.)

Unfortunately, I bobbled in the “spaghetti bowl” the first time through. I was forced to dismount on the first uphill and then couldn’t get clipped in fast enough going through the whoopdy-doos. That cost me about 5 places, and I was angry at myself for letting it happen. Heading into the same section on the next lap, I was behind Leah going up the hill. I didn’t quite make it, put my downhill foot out, and crashed, rolling to the bottom of the hill. Being the not-so-smart racer that I am, I jumped up only to crash right back down when I put weight on my left foot. I literally sat for 3-5 minutes before I was able to get up, get back on the bike and finish the race. The pedaling was ok, but anytime I had to dismount to run over or up anything, the pain was pretty brutal. I just don’t know when to stop ;).

Pain Face - captured by Geoff M.

Sadly, as I was crashing, Michele H was behind me, looked up and simultaneously hit a divot, sending her over the bars and onto her already injured shoulder - on the same hill from the previous day! That hill was jinxed for us.

Again, I changed up, and then went into the pits to support Mike in his race. He did really well the second day, and managed to finish on the same bike he started on, and to stay upright ;). He also did well, with a 15th place finish. He's been riding really strong this season.

Now, it was my turn to head to the medical tent. I was positive I had just sprained the ankle - after all, I had done the same thing, on the same ankle earlier in the year. So, I went in search of an ace bandage and some ice. Tom Stevens' wife, Kathy, was the attending, and advised that I should likely have an x-ray, just to rule out anything worse than a sprain, especially given where I was/wasn't feeling the pain. She treated both of us over the course of the two day event...

Then it was time for beer. Beer and cheering cures just about anything ;). Despite the crash-filled weekend, and the suffering, it was still a lot of fun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gran Prix of Gloucester - LATE!

Freezing on the start (photo: Patrick K.)

I heard the rain hitting the skylight in the night, and inwardly groaned – ANOTHER race in the rain, cold and mud. After a season of 7 MTB races in the same conditions, my motivation for the first day of Gloucester – a race I look forward to all year, was gone. A pre-ride of the course confirmed that the race would be slick and VERY muddy. I retreated to the trainer, and actually managed to get warmed up – until we went to stage. The wind off the ocean, the sideways rain, and the cool temps negated everything I had just done. I shivered with teeth chattering until it was time for us to start.

The one heartening thing pre-race? I was FAR from alone. Seventy-five women took the line in monsoon-like conditions. Guess we were all a bit crazy. It is really incredible, though, to see that many women racing. Where were they all during the road and MTB seasons????

Up the mud hill of doom(photo: Patrick K.)

I did have a good start to the race, leading the pack about halfway up the hill. Most of the rest of the race is a blur to me – a lot of sideways sliding, more running than I care for, and a lot of thinking about being finished. I did actually pit my bike after a lap and a half – that was good practice for me, and also illustrated how differently my two bikes handled in the conditions. After finishing up, I changed into dry clothes, proceeded to work the pits for Mike’s race, and was soaked through again. It wasn’t until much later in the evening that I felt warm, and dry!

Mike had an AWESOME day on the bike! Watching from the pits, I couldn't see how he was managing in the technical sections of the course, but he finished the day in 10th place in the Masters 1/2/3 35+ field, so he CLEARLY was riding those sections, and everything else, well!

My motivation came back on Sunday. The weather was improving, temps were rising, and the slippery, muddy conditions were tacking up and improving. The big challenge was figuring out the course – most of us couldn’t make heads or tails of which way it went!

I chose NOT to pre-ride the course, but instead, to sit on the trainer to get warmed up. I knew that once the race started, as long as I followed tape, I would find the course and be ok ;). Sunday was more about power, but there were also a lot of turns, which I have been practicing. Got another good start, but was worried when I heard that a rider had gone down. Couldn’t look back to see if everyone was ok though – head was down sprinting for the hole shot. I ended up onto the grass about 3rd wheel, and rode a reasonably clean race. Mike’s advice on not shouldering the bike in the chicanes was good, and let me use the bike as a pivot point to get around those tight corners while running. I was able to ride into the barrier section pretty well, also, and not lose any time there. I felt much better on Sunday, and was slightly upset at losing 3 places in the final turns of the course – and losing the final sprint to my nemesis, Karen T.

The great news for me? I had a better second day at Gloucester than the first, which hasn’t happened since I started racing at that venue! I also didn’t crash at Gloucester this year – another first and a bit of a surprise given the conditions.

Mike had another good day on the bike, and released me from pit duty so I could go out and capture some photos of his race too:

We ended up spending most of the day after we were both done racing, hanging with friends and partaking in the beer tent. It was a great way to celebrate another "epic" weekend of racing!