Friday, November 16, 2012

Playing in the Mud

Yes, that's Plymouth Rock in the background
 With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's always a good time to visit Plymouth. OK - so typically all we get to see is the race venue, but it's still fun to go and visit!

The Mayflower II
To this point in the season, Mike had already done 10 weekends of double races (I skipped Providence, so had 9), and we were getting a bit race weary. Thus, we decided on just one day of racing at Plymouth this year.

Due to construction, the race course was starting from the Middle School instead of the usual high school. I liked the new venue - it afforded better viewing opportunities for spectators, and easier access to the course. I was also excited about the weather - it was sunny, not too warm or cold, and dry. Or was it? When we arrived, we got the lowdown on the race from some friends, including a warning about the "ankle deep" mud run. "How bad could it be?", I wondered... BAD is the answer!

Ankle deep, shoe sucking mud
I went out for a pre-ride and LOVED the course. Complete sections were redesigned from years past, and the course was more of a technical challenge with lots of off camber ups and downs, a nerve-wracking downhill into a VERY sharp, sandy corner and lots of power sections sprinkled throughout. And of course, the mud. I opted not to pre-ride that section of the course, but did get a look at the entry - just not a close enough look at the actual run up.

I had another infamously BAD start. I think there are two reasons for this: 1 - I have two pairs of shoes and I believe the cleats need repositioning on the mud pair; 2 - I am afraid. Yup - fear. The start at Plymouth was a long straight into a reasonably tight and fast corner, into another straight before a dog leg off the pavement to the left, and the entire thing was lined on both sides with metal fencing. I do not want to crash, and I have determined that I let this fear get the best of me...

Once we were onto the more challenging part of the course, however, I started to move ahead, first avoiding the pile up on the first uphill. Unlike some of the women in the field, I was able to cleanly ride all of the off camber up and downs (some were actually running these sections). Going into the mud section for the first time, I managed to enter with some pretty good speed, and carry my momentum all the way to the bottom of the hill - where it was a soup bowl. Literally ankle deep mud at the bottom, and every step up the hill had me worried about losing a shoe. It was definitely a slog.

I managed to progress pretty well through the race by keeping steady power. In the fourth lap, I caught and passed Melissa L - one of my main nemeses this season. I was pretty psyched about this, and given the gap I could see, knew that just riding clean would keep me ahead for the final lap of the race.

Once in the final lap, I also started catching Jessie D. She went into the mud pit, and I followed right on her wheel, but keeping the same line I had used the entire race - all the way to the right, where the branches were smacking me in the face. Suddenly, I heard the sound no one EVER wants to hear - a stick - in my bike. I stopped immediately, not wanting to rip my derailleur off. I quickly got off the bike and pulled the stick, and nothing. Then the panic set in - Jessie was going clear, and here came Melissa. Thankfully, I heard Gewilli calling out instructions, "Stay calm", "Get it clear, you have time." "Good. Now pick up the bike and RUN!". I am so grateful to him for keeping me calm in what was a pretty panicked situation!

Unfortunately, I was now chasing Melissa again, and given the gap, was unable to catch her before the finish. Still happy with the race though - except for the start and that darned stick :). I later told Bill S (the promoter) that this was the hardest Plymouth course I had raced - and we've been racing Plymouth for seven years now.

Sunday was a fun day of riding with the boys and eating WAY too much lasagna! It was nice not to have to pack up, get in the car, and travel somewhere to ride the bikes. At this point in the season though, a 3+ hour road ride just about killed me!

Looking forward to some more solid racing this weekend. Back to two days of fun on two wheels.

Cowboy Beans and Rice

Before adding the rice
This picture I posted on Facebook yesterday generated a lot of comments! Since the end result was delicious (proven out by the fact that there aren't any left overs), I thought I would share the recipe - both the original, and the changes I made to it.

The original version of this is good for vegetarians, but I wanted to add meat to it.

Prep: 15 minutes. Cook: 5 to 6 hours (low) or 2.5 to 3 hours (high), plus 30 minutes (high)

2 15 oz cans chili beans in chili gravy
     - subbed 1 21 oz can Bush's Texas Ranchero Grillin'Beans
1 15 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained - omitted
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained - used 2 15 oz cans
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped green pepper (1 medium)
3/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
1 medium fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
     - subbed one 7.75 oz can Chi Chi's jalapenos, chopped
1 18 oz bottle barbecue sauce
     -  used one 18 oz bottle Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 cup vegetable broth - subbed 1 15 oz can beef broth
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice - used 3 cups uncooked instant white rice
Added: 3 lbs kielbasa sausage, sliced

  1. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine all beans, onion, peppers, and jalapeno. Stir in BBQ sauce and broth. Also add the kielbasa.
  2. Cover and cook on low setting for 5-6 hours or on high for 2.5 to 3 hours.
  3. If using low heat setting, turn to high. Stir in uncooked rice. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
This recipe (with my modifications) fed 8 adults after a mountain bike ride :) Definitely something that I will make again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Good to be True :)

So, once again I find myself behind on reporting on my races, but I have a good excuse this time - I was worried about jinxing myself! You see, unlike some people at my house, my results this season have been up and down. Having two good races in a weekend had been eluding me - I was often good on Saturday, and posting p*ss poor results on Sunday.

Happily, I have now had TWO good weekends of racing, with good races BOTH days! Hooray! What changed and made the difference? My recovery routine on Saturday was a big key change (I believe), and I also took another rest week (yes, Sara, that makes TWO!).

Canton Women's 1/2/3

Mike and I both really like the Canton race - it's close to home and the course definitely suits me well. Last year I raced in the 3/4 race in the morning, after having done a few years of racing in the 1/2/3 field. I had a tough season last year, and needed a good result to boost my confidence, and I got that in the Canton race. This year, I looked at both fields and opted to race in the 1/2/3 field instead, since many of my peers were racing there as well.

I had a front row start, along with 12 other women! The tight grid lines and the fact that the right side (where I was lined up) narrowed to the left soon after take off made me pretty nervous. There is pictorial evidence of what a BAD start I had, but I'm too embarrassed for anyone to see them! Thankfully, by the top of the pavement, I had moved myself back up into the top 10 or so, and settled into the paceline. This was a good course for me - fairly flat, lots of power and pedaling, smooth corners. the removall of the uphill barriers and the chicanes before the "run up" meant that the dismounts were down to just two per lap, both for barriers.

I moved up in the first lap, and quickly found myself well inside the top 10. A bobble by a rider in front of me on a small incline put me off the bike, letting two other racers pass me by. I quickly caught back onto one, and had my good friend Michele with me as well. Now it was a game of tactics - drafting and resting where possible, making good attacks. Of course, wanting to drive, I pulled just a bit too long such that when Michele went around me on the last lap, I didn't have the snap I needed to jump right back onto her wheel. She bested me in the end by just 2 seconds, but I was pretty pumped to finish 8th in a 1/2/3 race!

Orchard CX SS

As sunny and nice as the weather was on Saturday, we had the complete opposite on Sunday with Hurricane Sandy starting a bit earlier than predicted. We drove up to NH through mist, then rain, and back to mist on a cool, miserable day. I love the Orchard Cross race though - this is the third year of the race (it was canceled last year because of a freak snowstorm - guess the hurricane was slightly better), and the orchard welcomes us with open arms. It's really family friendly with a petting zoo, face painting, delicious apples, butternut squash bisque (I wait all year just for this soup!), and a costume race.

Jenn and Kristen
Teri aka Cupcake

We arrived early enough to watch the costume race, socialize, check out the course and partake in some yummy bisque. The SSCX race was the last of the day (note to promoters - can we mix this up a bit next year? It's no fun ALWAYS being the last race.) and I was trying to be careful about the amount of walking and standing I was doing. You see, I knew that I needed to get a recovery in between Saturday and Sunday if I was going to have a good performance - I had done the right things on Saturday, getting in a recovery drink right after the race, eating some food, spinning out the legs, and then resting. I was hoping this would pay off for me on Sunday.

By 3:30, the drizzle was still steady (not rain so much as a constant mist) and the course had some slick corners to it, but it wasn't terrible. I was excited to see about 7 women on the line for our race! I didn't get a good start (again), but was able to quickly move forward and sit about 4th wheel. Not too far into the first lap, Kerry went down in front of me. I managed to get around her, she passed me back, and then fell again later. I got around her a second time, and buried myself to try and stay ahead. I was able to put down some power on the flat sections, and could gap Allison who was sitting in 4th, but she could close the gap slightly in the tighter, twistier sections of the course. Thankfully, I managed to stay ahead, and finish on the podium in a strong group of women!

I was excited about the weekend's performances, but wasn't yet ready to go shouting from the rooftops. I wanted to see if I could get another good weekend in the books...

NoHo/CSI 1
Photo: Pete Banach
What the heck am I doing on the pointy end of the bike race?!?!?!?
I admit it - I've never been a huge fan of the Northampton races. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but it's just never been one of my favorite courses/weekends. But, after a second REAL rest week, I was actually feeling pretty good on Saturday morning. I pre-rode the course and was excited to know that the practicing we have been doing was paying dividends as I managed to rail the corners with little to no brakes. Much of the course was flat and fast, playing to my strengths. I was anxious to see how this would play out.

As we were standing waiting to be staged, I suddenly realized that for the first time in 7 years of CX racing, I had my number pinned on the wrong side! What a rookie move! Thankfully Don S. was on hand to re-pin me as we staged. Many thanks to him for that!

I somehow found myself staged in the front row. Remember that embarrassing start at Canton? I do! And I was really nervous about completely blowing it. Instead of letting any butterflies get off the ground though, I focused - I envisioned a smooth, fast start, finding my pedal and just going. And it worked! Before I knew it, I was sitting second, and then third wheel on the pavement! I was at the head of the bike race! Wait - what?!?!?!? Yup - before I knew what was happening, I was LEADING the race. I couldn't believe it! But I felt great.

Ahead of teammate Roni - for now.
As we came down off the top section of the course and over the railroad tracks, I found myself suddenly flying, weightlessly, no wheels touching the ground. I somehow managed to land that one and heard Christin exclaim, "That was AWESOME!" to which I wanted to reply, "I think I pooped my pants!" I continued in the lead to the barriers, where Mike admonished me for pulling in the wind. So, I settled in behind Christin who was soon admonished by Colin not to pull in the wind :). She looked at me and I replied, "I just got the same advice, girlfriend!". Eventually, I made my way to the back of our small group of about seven racers, and settled on Kathy's wheel. Unfortunately, in one of the corners Kathy had to brake check, I hit her rear wheel and proceeded to hit the deck. I quickly got back up and on the bike, but enough of a gap had opened that I had to chase HARD for the next two laps of the race.

I did manage to catch back onto the lead group finally, but by the time I did, I was pretty much done. I hung on to a tight finish - between first and eighth (where I ended up) was a mere 22 second gap. Now that's racing!

I followed my new post-race routine on Saturday to ensure that I wouldn't have a bad performance on Sunday, and cheered Mike on to a solid second place finish in his race.

NoHo/CSI 2

The course had some changes on day 2, some I thought were good, and others, not as much. I didn't care, for instance, for the hard right hand turn into a half spiral at the start. I knew that this was where the selection for the race would be made, and that for others, it would be a giant cluster.

I fretted more over my start on Sunday than I had on Saturday. It was going to be super important to have a good start, but I was lined up in the third row. That was going to make things harder. I can't put a finger on what else I had going on, but I was overly emotional at the start too, holding back tears a couple of times. This was going to be a harder day for me, I knew, before the whistle even blew.

I got quickly clipped into my pedals and had a decent start. I tried to move up on the far left, but most of the field had gone right (it was marginally shorter), and a number of people got by me. My line turned out to be a blessing, however, as I managed to avoid whoever had crashed on the right hand turn, quickly avoid the next crash on the left, jostle with other racers trying to stay upright, and focused only on finding a hole in the giant cluster of racers. Finally free, I put my head down and buried myself to try to minimize the spots I had lost. Looking ahead, however, I could see that my prediction was right - the leaders of the race had separated in the first section of mayhem, and the likelihood of catching was pretty minimal.

I chased up to and through a group of women, and this turned out to be my race - trading places with this group as we made our way around the course. In the end, a couple of them finished ahead of me, and I managed to stay ahead of some others. I was holding off a charging Abigail I. for much of the race only to be pipped at the line as the cub junior winner sat up in a victory salute in my sprint line, causing me to sit up. That's racing... Although I was disappointed that I hadn't made the initial selection, in the end I was happy with my race - I finished 14th overall and had a very smooth race. Most importantly, I was on par with my Saturday performance!

I have to say I am super proud of Mike as well. I was chasing his race around the course taking photos, and unlike the previous day when he and Paul had a significant gap on the field, there was a relatively large group on the front of his race. He drove to the front to push the pace, and to my surprise, the next thing I knew he was on the side of the course rolling his tire back onto the rim as several in his group passed him. I sprinted to the pit to get him his spare bike, and he HAMMERED the remainder of the race to still finish 7th. Not an easy task.

We had a blast hanging out with good friends and teammates all weekend as well. It was especially fun to catch up with Marc and Vicki, who we haven't gotten to see much of this season. It was at this very race in 2008 that I met Vicki and reconnected with Marc after not seeing him since our days together at UW.

In between all of the excellent racing, we got to celebrate my favorite holiday as well - Halloween! Now if I could just stop eating the leftover candy, I might be able to continue with some decent performances in the coming weeks.