Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross Race Report

I decided to try my hand at a little non-Kisscross cross racing on Sunday at the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross. I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive in the days leading up to the race. Due to our late start, however, I didn't have much time to fret about it once we got there. My first rude awakening came when I went to register. Since I forgot to pre-register, the cost was $30, plus another $10 for a one-day USAC license. Ouch!

By the time I finished registering, Chris had gotten my bike ready for me. I got out on the course to begin my warm up. My initial impression was that it wasn't that bad. It seemed quite a bit longer than a Kisscross course, but not significantly harder, other than a few uphill sections, one of which I ended up walking on my practice lap because I waited too long to start shifting.
Then came rude awakening #2. We lined up for the race. Since there wasn't a C class for women, I had to race with B women, who left in a second wave 30 seconds after the C men. The two under 14 competitors, including Billy the phenom, left 30 seconds behind us. After listening to the instructions, I asked how many laps we would be doing. I got a funny look for my effort, followed by an explanation.

It seems that this race would be based solely on time. In a Kisscross race, Rick estimates how many laps he thinks the average C racer can do in 30 minutes and sets that number of laps for the race. Apparently in other cross races, the actual time determines when the race ends. Not only that, everyone finishes the race on the same lap. Once the leaders started their last lap, whether I was on the same lap number as them or not, that would be my last lap, too. I think this was probably started so as not to have to wait for the really slow people to finish all the laps, like what happens at Kisscross.

What this little wrinkle meant was that I needed to try to hold out as long as I could without getting lapped. That would enable me to ride as many laps as possible. If I could only fit one lap in, it was going to end up being one really expensive lap.

The other thing that was new to me was something called a prime" (pronounced "preem"). When the race began, everyone sprinted up to a line. The first person crossing the line received a special bonus prize after the race. This race was serious. There was even a pit area where riders stored extra wheels, and sometimes even spare bikes, in case of a mishap.

The other women got ahead of me fairly quickly. Billy caught up with me and passed me. I just kept my head down and tried to ride hard. My goal was to hold off the leaders as long as I could without being lapped. (It happened about midway through the second lap.) I also wanted to keep from getting lapped by any of the other women, which I managed to accomplish.

Now you would think with Anne standing near the steps cheering me on, that I would manage to put some of my dismounting practice to good use so she wouldn't feel like she wasted her time on me. Unfortunately, once I got in the race I just couldn't seem to do it. I'm hoping to get out for more practice tomorrow night. I think I just need to get used to it so it becomes normal. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it this weekend at Kisscross.

I ended up racing three laps for the leaders' four laps. Then we watched Anne crush the competition in the Elite Women's race and Frank putting in a good performance in the Single Speed category.

We hung around for awards and raffled prizes. I ended up leaving with a Vetta computer and a Twin Six t-shirt, which more than made up for the $40 I spent. Plus I had a great time. If we are still around next fall, this race will definitely be on my schedule.

Thanks to Dennis Pace for taking the serious-looking picture of me at the top

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Weekend?

Wow! This weekend went by more quickly than any I can remember in recent history. We took advantage of the last of our semi-free weekends for the next month to head to our cabin. We hadn't been there since Labor Day weekend, and between racing and hockey, we won't be able to get there again until almost the end of October.

I bailed out of a work about a half an hour early and rushed home to get our stuff loaded. We got on the road about 5:15 and promptly got stuck in a construction slowdown at Ithaca. It took us 45 minutes to get from Ithaca to Mt. Pleasant. It was not a good start to the weekend.

By the time went to our cabin and unloaded and found a seat at the bar of our favorite up North watering hole, it was after 9. We hung out until about 12:30, which is well past my bedtime.

We had planned to run some errands in the morning before the football game at noon, but I fell back to sleep after waking up before 8. When I woke up the second time, it was 12:15! I must have really needed the sleep, because I don't remember the last time I slept in until anywhere close to noon, much less past it.

After watching our sad little college football team get beat yet again, we went to run our errands, which included a trip to the Amish bulk food store. We made it an early night, knowing I had to get up early in the morning to go race in Ithaca.

Today I got up at 6, intending to get on the road by 6:30. Unfortunately, we didn't get moving until about 7:10. The race at Ithaca was definitely a learning experience. Chris took a bunch of pictures, but since they are on the good camera, I have to wait for them to be processed. I'll try to post a race report sometime tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Anne the Awesome and I met at Burchfield last night to ride our cross bikes. Anne took me around her personal cross loop, which contains at least a few sections of trail I was afraid to ride on my mountain bike not too long ago. It felt pretty good, though. I'm starting to get more comfortable on the cross bike again after riding only a mountain bike this summer and I really think I might get past my ridiculous "I can't ride that on my cross bike, it's too much like a road bike" fear. (There's a certain race I'll never get out of my head. It's that one when I was actually hanging in pretty well with the pack until I hit that downhill that I just couldn't make myself ride. I ended up walking down and losing tons of time.)
After we rode, we worked on technique for dismounting and remounting. My normal dismounting technique goes something like this: Come to a complete stop. Dismount bike like I would in the parking lot. Anne attempted to teach me the correct way to do it and some of it actually sunk in. By the time I left I was not looking like a complete idiot. (Like I did when I dismounted the bike and left my shoe attached. See top photo.)

Proper technique for dismounting and remounting in cross is really important because of all those pesky barriers. If you don't use proper technique, how will you ever get those super cool looking pictures of yourself flying through the air onto your bike? Seriously, Anne said you can help make up for not being as fast as your competitors by being adept at technique. I know I'm losing a lot of time in these sections, and if I could master this I'd certainly make it through the course faster.

I attempted to take some pictures of Anne to show what it's supposed to look like, but I kept missing her. I guess I need some help with my picture-taking skills, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Badger's Inaugural Ride

On Sunday, I took the Badger out on its first outing (in its current form, anyway). Technically, it's still not completely finished. There are a few parts on it that are temporary, but it's certainly rideable. And man, is it one sweet ride.
I wanted to do a pre-ride of Addison Oaks before the race in October. Marty and Kristi offered to show me around the trail. I seem to have this thing with getting lost on trails lately, so I thought it would be a good idea. Besides, having company is always good. Marty and Kristi decided they wanted to get some extra miles in, so we met in Rochester and rode the Paint Creek Pathway to Addison Oaks.

On the way out, we got flat #1. Well, actually, Marty got flat #1, but she changed her tube out pretty quickly and we went on our merry way. The Badger felt pretty good. The saddle was a bit uncomfortable, but Chris is going to swap it out for the saddle from my Haro, so it's all good. It was a great day and the trail was a really nice way to get across town.

I really liked the Addison Oaks trail, and I love the Badger. I feel so much more confident on the Badger than I did on my Haro. It's really amazing that a bike could make that much of a difference, but things like rock piles and logs that would have completely intimidated me on my Haro seemed like they weren't even obstacles. I was invincible!!!!!!
Marty also gave me some tips on riding downhill and that also helped a lot. It was the most competent I've felt on a trail ever. I can't wait to do the 6 hour race there.

When we were about half way through the trail, Kristi got a flat, too. Unfortunately, she didn't have a pump or CO2, so she went to the parking lot to find some air.

Luckily, there was a rider in the parking lot who was able to help. When it was fixed, we headed back with me wondering if I was going to be next. Luckily, we made it back without a third flat, since I had no supplies whatsoever to fix one.
After the ride, we stopped at Rochester Mills Beer Co. for food. All in all, it was a great day with good company, fantastic weather and about 34 miles.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's Up With Me

I had hoped to write a blog post about my delightful outing with the Badger yesterday, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I don't really have time to do it justice. However, I don't want to leave those (2) of you expectantly hoping for something empty handed, so I thought I'd at least give a quick update of what I've been doing for the past several days.

Friday night, we went out with some friends (Dirk, Jan, Bob and Barry) to El Azteco, a local Mexican restaurant, where we indulged in good conversation, awesome cheese dip and chips, dinner and some of the best margaritas in the free world.

Saturday, I manned a booth for my company at Community Resource Day. It was an event put on by a local church. The goal was to provide resources and information to people who were down on their luck due to the economy. It was work, but it wasn't bad at all. It was outside and it was beautiful, so I got to sit in the sun, talk to people and raffle off a few Captain Curby toys. I even got a complimentary chair massage from a massage therapist down the aisle. I made it home just in time to watch another disappointing football game in which we lost (again) in the final minutes.

Saturday evening, we went to a bonfire with some friends we hadn't seen in a while. There were cocktails and a spectacular show courtesy of Christmas lights. Seriously, if you've never put a string of Christmas lights in a fire and watched the colors, you have to do it. It's very cool.

Sunday, I went on my outing with the Badger, which I'll save for another post.

Today it was back to the grind. Then it was errands after work and another fabulous dinner cooked by my husband. Finally, after listening to Maddy itching and a biting at herself all evening and through the night, last night, I have spent the evening de-fleaing the girls and our house. The fun never ends!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Training Dilemma

Now that the obvious fact that I need to train has been established, I'm still having trouble actually getting out there and doing it. The week is nearly over and I've done nothing whatsoever in terms of training. Part of this has to do with more laziness and lethargy, but there's something else that's been holding me back. I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out what to do. Chad says to just get out there and ride every opportunity I get. My husband told me I need to do intervals. I think they're both right, but I also think it's more complicated than that.

The issue is that I basically have three separate things to train for:
  • Kisscross—I've already talked about this a lot and why it's important to me to do well. I need to be able to go out hard and fast and maintain it for at least a half hour. I think the intervals will be useful for this, but I also need to spend some time on the cross bike doing cross-like things. I'm planning to get out to Burchfield next week with Anne for a little cross practice.
  • 6 Hours of Addison Oaks—The make up race for the one that got cancelled this spring is Oct. 10. That's less than a month away, so I am running out of time to train for it. Surprisingly enough, I'm sitting at 3rd place in women for the Michigan Endurance Cup right now. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'd like to keep from getting completely blown out of contention in the last race. I'm going to Addison on Sunday with Marty, who has agreed to ride with me and keep me from getting lost. Since I have never ridden this trail, I thought it would help. But I do need to make sure I get some long mountain bike rides in for training. I think that's what will help most with this race.
  • Iceman—I'm kind of at a loss for how to train for this race. Everyone says it's not technical, but it's physically demanding. I've heard that it can be sandy and has a lot of big hills. One of my pharmacist friends from back in the day who rides and lives in Traverse City says she will show me the course if I come up early for the race, so that will help. (Although it could also cause me to freak out and get more nervous.) My husband's suggestion is to go out and ride two or three laps at Yankee as many times as I can.

So, it looks like what I have to do is intervals, cross practice outside, ride lots of laps at Yankee and ride really long rides. What that won't leave me time to do is sit around watching reruns of Law & Order SVU. I guess I'd better get moving.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This is the Year!

I spent two whole posts last year explaining my complicated relationship with Iceman, so I won't go into it here. (If you're really dying to read about it again or for the first time, you can go here and here.) It's been at the back of my mind during every race season, and this year it even made it to my schedule, albeit with a question mark after it.

But I have another goal now that's more important than all of the rest of them. In case you missed it, I want to move to Crested Butte. (I talk about it here, if you really did miss it.) I don't know if it's feasible, but I would like this move to take place next year. That means this is potentially my last chance to do Iceman while I'm living here. (Unless you believe, like many people in my life, that my goal of moving to CB is pie in the sky.)

There are other reasons that I think this is the year to do Iceman:
  • Even though I've lost a lot of my fitness since the beginning of the year, this is still probably the best shape I've been in for several years. I started out with a better base and I did a lot of racing. I did three endurance races, and in all of those I rode around as many miles as Iceman, if not more. Now provided I don't sit around doing nothing until November and actually get out there and ride, I should be go to go.
  • I have a super cool new (to me) bike. I'll be unveiling it in its full glory on this blog soon. Some of you may have already seen a sneak peek of it (almost finished) on FB.
  • I need as many goals to keep me on track as possible, particularly since all I seem to want to do lately is sit around and daydream about moving to Crested Butte.

So, I have found someone who has graciously agreed to transfer her Iceman entry to me. I even have the money to pay for it. Now all I have to do is hope I can still find a room available somewhere in the vicinity and then get on my super cool new bike and pedal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cool Video

I am actually in this. You can see me if you look very closely. I'm wearing the black Fat Cyclist jersey with pink accents. In the opening scenes, I'm standing on the bridge talking to Frank, who's wearing a blue and black jersey. I'm also at the back of the race start—the last person to go past the camera. See if you can find me.

Billy the awesome also features prominently. Thanks to mattmtb1 for posting this.

BTW, anyone notice the typo? :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kisscross Double Header

Alternate Titles: 10 Laps of Agony-Filled Ecstacy or I Can Beat People Who Have Mechanicals

Call me crazy, but I love Kisscross. Cannonsburg was full of people on Friday night when we arrived for the race—not just racers, but lots of spectators, too. The C race alone had 38 riders. I've never seen that many people racing before.

I went out to pre-ride the course. As anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows, I always struggle with the warming up issue, especially with cross. I hate to go into a race cold because my legs feel like lead and I struggle to pedal up even the smallest of inclines. Even so, I'm always afraid of warming up. It's like I only have so much energy, and if I warm up too much I won't have anything left for the race. But I was feeling pretty good and the course wasn't very long, so I ended up doing two warm up laps. Then I lined up for the race and took my usual spot in the back of the pack.

As I looked around, I noticed the field was about the same mix of people it usually is. There were people in full team kits and serious-looking bikes who clearly didn't belong in the C race, several first timers on mountain bikes who probably should have been in the B race but didn't know what to expect, some people riding commuter bikes with tennis shoes and athletic shorts. I looked around and wondered whether I would be able to beat any of them. I wasn't feeling particularly confident due to my recent lack of training.

The first lap felt great. I was actually passing people going uphill and although I wasn't at the front of the pack, I wasn't at the end, either. But somewhere near the middle of the second lap, I just fell apart. I definitely lack the conditioning I need to sustain any kind of hard effort for more than a few minutes. Even though I've made it through a lot of races this year, most of them have been exercises in plugging along until the finish. I just wasn't ready for an all out sprint.

We did five laps and I ended up beating two people. One guy was just slightly behind me the for the entire race. I kept thinking he was going to catch up with me and beat me, but every time he got closer, I was able to hold him off. This was his first cross race, and he was on a mountain bike and he had a lot of trouble with a big sandy section that was quite squirrelly. I think he lost a lot of time in that sand. Normally, I am not great in the sand, but I psyched myself up for it each time, tried to pedal through it as hard as I could and keep my butt back and it worked.

The other guy I beat was admittedly out of shape. He had raced before but had a broken fork which he had trouble with throughout the race. He never really got close to any of the rest of us. I finished 36 out of 38 people, which was not great, but I added to my no DNF streak.
We stuck around to watch the B and A races and it was a lot of fun. It started getting dark and they turned the lights on the ski hill on. As usual, the course got worn in enough and wet enough to get slippery around the corners. We saw some pretty spectacular crashes, but luckily no one was seriously injured.

I drove back the next morning to race again. (I don't have any photos since Chris didn't go with me.) There was a considerably smaller crowd, both in spectators and racers. The C group consisted of 22 racers. I got ready, did one warm up lap and scoped out the course. It was quite similar to Friday's night's course. Rick had reversed the direction, moved one of the barriers slightly and bypassed the big sandy section. He also added the traditional stream crossing, along with a bypass. I didn't do the stream crossing during my warm up, but I planned to do it during the race, especially when I saw how long the bypass was. I've have never been afraid to get wet during a race. I was, however, a little nervous about the temperature. It was quite foggy and chilly and I thought it might be cold to get wet.

By the time the race started, the sun had come out and it was considerably warmer. I had no trouble with feeling too cold once the race started, and the stream crossing actually felt quite refreshing. I didn't think it helped me out with my time since every time I crossed it, I still entered the course just behind the rider who had been in front of me before the crossing (and had bypassed it).
I quickly fell to the back of the pack, but I passed one rider when she dropped her chain and stopped to fix it. She was riding a Huffy mountain bike and it was her first race, but she was clearly in pretty good shape. She also had a great attitude. Every time I passed her on a switchback section she would cheer for me.

Just like in Friday's race, I kept looking back to see if she was going to catch up. I really thought she would, but I was able to hold on to second to the last place. After the race she said "you jumped the creek on me on the last lap." She didn't realize I had done it on every lap. I guess doing the stream crossing really did help me a bit after all.

(By the way, Billy the rockstar was there racing, too. He finished 19th out of 38 on Friday and 12th out of 22 on Saturday. He is awesome!)

The next Kisscross race is Oct. 3. I'm going to train hard until then and hope for a better outcome. I'm also thinking about doing this race. I guess I'm just a masochist.

Friday, September 11, 2009

History Repeating Itself

Caution: This post is going to be a little whiny due to the subject matter. I apologize to readers in advance since I know the beginning of my last post was annoyingly self-pitying. However, I feel the need to purge myself of this garbage and lay bare my shame for everyone to see so I can move forward.

Cyclocross is my favorite kind of racing. That should be no secret to anyone who reads this blog fairly regularly. Cross was the first type of bike racing I ever accomplished, and even though I was not good at it, it was the thing that finally gave me the courage to enter my first mountain bike after years of talking about it. I thought if I could race cross, I could do anything.

If all this is true, tell me why, for the second year in a row, I have lost much of my fitness by the time cross season rolls around. My first year of racing cross I was just sort of messing around and I actually did much better than last year. Now I find myself ready to race cross starting tonight and once again, not ready. Despite all the plans I made for myself at the end of last year, I am not where I want to be for cross.

Last mountain bike season started out okay, but I had virtually stopped riding by the time cross started. For most of cross season, literally the only time I was riding was during the races. My finishes reflected that, obviously. I still had fun, but I definitely questioned my strategy. This mountain bike season started out phenomenally. I had gained tons of fitness over the winter and I was pumped—so much so that I took 20 minutes off my time at Yankee. Still, here I am beginning cross season in far worse shape than I began mountain bike racing season.

My goal for this cross season was to finish every race in the top half of the C class. I don't know if that's possible now or not. Still, I can't do anything about what I did (or didn't do) in the past several weeks. All I can do is get my butt on that bike in between races this year. And for tonight, I can get out there and ride hard and hope for the best. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Plan

Though I'm certain no one reads my blog anymore (as evidenced by the fact that I have hardly any comments ever), I feel compelled to keep updating it, at least occasionally. Since I dropped my bombshell (Which no one felt compelled to comment on, really? I thought it was big news!) earlier this week, I've been thinking a lot about the plan to move to Crested Butte. After all, one doesn't pick up and move across the country with no plan, particularly if said person has two hungry puppies and a beer-needy husband to think about.

I haven't gotten very far with my planning, though. I've run all kinds of scenarios through my head, any of which could either succeed or fail. So far, I've figured out a lot of what will absolutely not work. (I have, however, accomplished one very, very important thing—getting my mom on board with the idea. This will make my life much, much easier in the long-term.)

Here's what I do know, though. I need to accomplish a few things in order to make the move:
  • Sell the house. This is huge. Not only is the housing market in the crapper (although it is starting to rebound a bit and a few houses in our neighborhood have sold recently), there is a lot that needs to happen before this house will be market-worthy. I see a 40-yard dumpster, a few thousand dollars and a lot of blood, sweat and tears in my near future. I'm also going to minimize, because I am not going to move a bunch of crap like 20-year-old French class notes to Colorado.
  • Save some money and pay down/off some debt. I have a couple of pesky credit card balances that need to be wiped clean. They're not huge, but I'd feel better if they were gone before we left. I have less than two years left on my car loan, so I'd like to speed up that process. Anything we can do to pay off debt and accumulate savings before we go into something as uncertain as this is going to help.
  • Figure out some way to get income after we are out there. We have talked about everything from starting our own business to living off 401ks to freelance work to waiting tables to consulting to winning the Mega Millions to borrowing money from my dad. In my ideal scenario, Chris is offered a cushy consulting job following his success at setting up a Sharepoint environment for the State. He would get to work from home and occasionally travel. I would run the day-to-day operations of our B&B and enlist his help when necessary, picking up freelance writing jobs for extra income on the side. (By the way, if anyone has a cushy consulting job to offer my husband, he just got an award for setting up a Sharepoint environment for the State.)
  • Learn to live modestly and frugally. Obviously, we are not going to have the type of money to spend out there we do here. Our house payment would likely be tripled or quadrupled, not to mention what would happen to our other expenses. Needless to say, we will have to economize. This will be much more difficult for my husband than it will be for me.
For now, that's what I have for a plan. I will keep you updated as we make progress (if there are any of you actually out there, that is).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This is Serious

Ever since we came back from Crested Butte, pretty much all I think about is, well, Crested Butte. When I tell people that, they usually laugh. They think I'm joking or that I'm just one of those people who had a really good vacation and doesn't want to come back to reality. That's not it, though. Chris and I have been contemplating a move out of state for several months now and had yet to decide definitively where we wanted to go. Now we know.

And although knowing, in the immortal words of G.I. Joe, is half the battle, there's still a substantial chunk of battle ahead of us. I've never been much of a fly by the seat of my pants, risk taker. I'm naturally a bit more cautious. I don't tend to do things like pick up and move across the country when I've lived within 70 miles of where I grew up my entire life. However, only once or twice in my life have I ever wanted anything this much. And now, while my parents are still young and vital and don't need me to take care of them and I don't have any kids whose lives I'd be uprooting, seems like an ideal time to do it if I'm going to.

Even so, I'm still not the type of person who's going to leave right away without any kind of a plan. After all, I have two puppy girls to support and I will not have them living on the street. Besides, the only bums in Crested Butte are ski bums.

So I've got some work ahead of me. I need an exit strategy—one that doesn't leave me starving and destitute. And because I know this will not happen immediately, I also need to set some goals for the fall. There are still a few things I want to do before I go.