A whole lot of pain for a little bit of redemption.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Race to the Outlets

Often cyclocross races bring great bargaining power. I persuaded Paul to join me at my race on Saturday, October 4 in Hagerstown, so long as we went to the Hagerstown Outlets afterwards. It was much a motivator for me as it was for him. 

Another afternoon race afforded us time to sleep in and enjoy some coffee and donuts before leaving the house. 

As we drove, I tried to recall the course from last year and my memory proved fuzzy with the details, until I remembered that it had been this race last year that I had shown up with a raging hangover, spent watching the Red Sox play in the american league playoffs. Like last year, the Sox had won the night before but happily the hangover didn't accompany it. 

I benefited from my solid finish last week by enjoying a call up at the start of the 3/4 race. The race had minor changes, but overall it was fun and fast. A shorter course with not many obstacles. However it was full of sharp right-hand turns that proved to be mentally and physically taxing. 

Paul cheered me on from his spot near the VB tent and finish line. It was nice to see his smiling face. Even though he remains mystified by the strange sport, he is very supportive and enthusiastic. 

On the second lap as I approached the barriers, my back tire caught the barrier and sent me flying forward. I caught myself before hitting the second barrier, but I must have crashed my leg into my pedal, as after the race, a large growth emerged from my right leg. It seemed to be growing rapidly, throbbing and clotting. 

Determined to make it to the outlets where my fabulous new fall coat awaited me, I threw on my cycling skirt to keep the area free from constraining clothing. Paul and I made it to the outlets and sought relief via Orange Julius. Properly rejuvenated with sugar and fruit, we managed our way through stores in search of our new fall wardrobe. My plight resulted in a new pair of corduroys, a skirt and the aforementioned fall coat. 

Ultimately the day proved successful, I finished 18 out of 23. 

All Four Seasons in One Day

Leave to cross season to bring on all kinds of weather. Windy, hot, humid, sunny and rainy all in a four hour time span. 

Teammate, Nicole and I carpooled to Buckeystown, MD for the first MABRA race of the season. Ed Sanders Cross is always a very popular event and this year proved to be no different. After registering, we had lots of time to rest, warm up and seek refuge at the Velo Bella-Kona tent set up by our favorite cross family, the Styers. Hilary, Morgan and the Bella kids all welcomed us and helped tune up our bikes before we got really muddy. 

Also joining the VB ranks were Dee Dee Winfield and Melanie Swartz, our rad elites. Starting mere minutes behind them at the start, I was anxious to navigate my way around the long and tricky course. It was hot and humid, but we were graced with a brief rain shower on the starting line, which cooled us down a bit. 

The course proved to be fast at first and I positioned myself in the middle so that I didn't get hung up and flung into the mud pit that we had to muddle through precariously. I tried to ride to the side on the first lap and managed to avoid running in the mud for the first half. However I am proud to report that for the next four or five laps (who can keep track), I rode through successfully every time, even to the amazement of the elite racers to ran through next to me (despite the fact that they were lapping me). 

On the back stretch of the course, it was full of all sorts of activity. Run ups, downhills, long winding hills, surrounded by announcers, spectators and the sweet smell of beer. On my second or third lap, there seemed to be a lot of commotion as I came upon the long uphill that I dismounted and hiked up. They seemed to be cheering for me, to my surprise. However, as Dee Dee came up behind me, I realized to my relief that no one was clamoring for me, just her. 

As the course snaked its way infront of the Bella tent, I was encouraged by Morgan and Hilary, as well as some former teammates from PVC. It helped and I began to catch racers in front of me. The course played well to my strong legs, as it provided me with long stretches to make up time lost in technical sections. I felt good and was encouraged by my ability to surge when needed. 

The race proved to be successful for all the Bellas racing. Dee Dee won and Melanie placed 3rd in the elite race, while Nicole placed 6th and I finished 13th out of 20.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again!

So begins another cyclocross season. 

On September 21 I arrived in Baltimore. Barely. As is par for the course, I got lost. 

Yet, I arrived with enough time to pick up my registration, prepare my bike and pre-ride the course, as well as acclimate my boyfriend, Paul to the ins and outs of cyclocross – a strange, new subculture to which he had not been previously exposed. 

The course was just as I remembered it. Fast and windy with LOTS of barriers. I anxiously lined up with the other Cat 3/4 women. There were a lot of them. 40 to be exact. 

I took it all in stride. This was my first cycling in race in months, and though I'd been running to train for a marathon in October, I didn't want to risk blowing up too fast. I battled with some women and my legs felt strong but tired. I just needed to keep at it, which i did. It wasn't a perfect race but a good way to start the season. A fresh start with a new perspective on things. I am 29 and looking forward to an enjoyable but challenging season. 

Here's to cross. 

Result: 34/40

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hurts So Good

Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

After a very relaxing and fun Thanksgiving break, filled with good food, good company, black Friday shenanigans and movies, I found myself at MABRA Championships in Taneytown, MD on Sunday morning.

With a few, but productive hours of sleep I headed out to Maryland, a bit weary of any Thanksgiving traffic that might be. There wasn't any, and so I arrived with plenty of time to register and huddle for warmth in my car, before preparing to layer up and pre-ride. I shouldn't complain about the cold, since our season thus far has been fairly warm, but I will anyway. It was COLD. I decided I would race in knickers layered underneath my skin suit, with arm warmers. For my warm up though, I slid tights on over and another layer on top.

Just as I was to ride off to pre-ride, I saw Nicole, headed over to registration. I told her I'd catch up with her on the course.

Last year, this course was nothing but mud, so we were fortunate to have a not-so-sloppy course this year. As fun as mud is, it can be treacherous. The course had been modified a bit, but was still full of sharp corners and some tricky off-cambor. The course was fun AND tricky. This, I quickly learned as I approached a patch of dried mud. I took it much too fast and didn't notice the rolling nature of the earth. My bike hit a rut at a weird angle and I went head over handlebars. I landed HARD on my right side: quad, hip and shoulder (the same shoulder I separated last year). My bike landed on top of me, right foot still clipped in. I took a brief inventory of my body and though I knew there would be a huge bruise branded on me, I was fine. But Surly was not.

Her handlebar had bent, thus making the front brake inoperable. I quickly ushered ourselves off the course and back to my car. Fortunately, I had enough time to inspect and repair her, with help from the guy parked beside me. Though I had the front brake working, my front wheel wasn't moving. I fixed it enough so that although the brakes we rubbing, I could still ride. I did another lap of the course just so I could make it all the way around. I returned to the car and poked and prodded more with my front break. With help from Nicole and the same guy, we got it so that the brake wasn't rubbing. My bike probably wasn't the safest to ride, but I didn't care.

Off to the start line where Nicole and I, along with the other woman, chatted, stripped down to our base layers, ready to line up. I knew that it could be a fast course, but that I have to ride it smart, or I'd risk crashing. Oddly, most of the women had also indicated that they had crashed during warm up but on a completely different part of the course--a part that I had no problems battling.

With a blow of the whistle and two minutes behind the CAT 4 men, we were off. It wasn't an incredibly fast start, so I held with the pack for much of the first half of the lap. We were all being cautious. Nicole passed me as we rode the wheel of the gal in front of us. She passed her as well, which left me to trail the gal in front for the rest of that lap and the next one. I then passed her, and tried to gain on the HVC rider in front. She was the same girl that I battled with at Race Pace. She was a bit more spry this week, so I let her go. I had the girl behind to worry about. She wasn't that far behind so I needed not to get lazy or tired.

I was still leading her on the third lap, when I slid on a steep off-cambor section. I got distracted for a nano-second and found myself lose traction and just slid. I was able to quickly get up and run with my bike a little before remounting. I put a little extra momentum for fear that she'd catch me. As I made my way through the slalom of trees, barriers and sand, I was enough ahead of her, that with 2 laps to go, I focused on me.

From my fall on the pre-ride, I felt my hip muscles tighten uncomfortable, so I worked on keeping them loose and relaxed so they wouldn't spasm. I also worked on keeping a steady and high candence. With two laps to go I felt very strong and felt like I was mastering the course better and better. I lapped another gal on the course, as well. My last lap was the best, as I was able to hold off the women's race leader from catching me, although I didn't know she was chasing me at the time. I crossed the finish line moments before she did. Though I finished 10th overall and didn't get lapped, I wasn't able to bust into the top ten in the overall rankings. I did move up from 13th though to finish 12th.

I am very happy with my MABRA season. I had more fun this season than I've had in a long time, which I am learning helps me become a better racer!

This morning, as I write this, I am heavily bruised and sore. All seems to be working, though so I should be fine by tomorrow. See you all next week at Captiol Cross in Reston!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life at the Middle of the Pack

Today was great! Which was good because there were so many reasons for it go poorly.

I was on duty at school this weekend, which means midnight curfews for the girls, which means midnight bedtime for me. When there's a 9 am race an hour or so north the next morning, going to bed late isn't always the best.

I woke up and was on the road by 630. I actually had to scrape frost off my windshields and hoped that racing weather wouldn't be too chilly, as I hadn't really packed accordingly. Sure I had arm warmers, but no knee or leg warmers; in addition, my skin suit was pulled from the dryer on my way out of my apartment the night before without having the chance to dry completely.

When I arrived at the race, I felt tired. and hungry. and cold. I registered and saw my teammate Nicole in the parking lot. She waited for me to change and I tried to maintain composure as I donned my cold, damp skinsuit. I layered up as best I could: sports bra, undershirt, arm warmers and another layer to warm up in. I was certainly the only one pre-riding without knee or leg warmers, but I felt fine.

The course had changed from last year, which if you remember was when I crashed and separatd my shoulder. Driving up to Freedom Park, I swear my shoulder was having sympathy pains. The course was short and full of technical sections, that with the melting frost, made for wet, slippery conditions. Everything was definitely rideable, but just tricky.

I felt good on the warm up lap with Nicole and we pointed out ideas on how best to maneuver through sections. There were a lot of speedy downhills that led to not-so-speedy uphills, so I tried to perfect my shifting before I approached the downhill so I'd be in the right gear to help me climb best.

At the start of the race, there was a gaggle of gals, some who I'd seen and knew how good they were and some I'd not seen before and had no clue. I stayed with Nicole who followed the pack as we left the line. The course was fast and two packs formed: the lead pack and the pack I was in, with Nicole and me battling back and forth and a few other riders behind us. My legs felt really good, no doubt they benefited from a 2 hour bike ride the day before. My body and mind felt really good as well. I was alert and feeling competitive, but not anxious.

Nicole and I led each other around on a lap or two, on our third lap she pulled ahead of me and I chased her. At 3 laps into it, there was still not a lap count, which made me a little nervous; sure, I felt good, but for how long? I decided not to worry about that and just stayed focused on the current lap.

On the fourth lap, a Hunt Valley Cycling gal and I began to battle. I am not sure if I caught her or she caught me at first, but we battled. I stayed on her wheel very closely for much of the fourth lap. On the fifth lap or so, I pulled ahead and led her around. On the final lap, I was leading but a few technicalities kept me from beating her. There was this great section of pavement right after a tricky off-cambor part. The pavement was long enough that I could put into a hard gear, get into my drops and put the hammer down to make up time. However, on the last lap, I couldn't clip in successfully and she passed me. I caught her, luckily and thought it was mine, except as we both bunny hopped over the final log, I got caught up in the snow fencing and had to untangle myself, while she pedaled to the finish.

Despite her success over me, this was by far the most fun I've had racing all season. I felt strong and focused and I fought. I was competitive without being anxious, which usually forces me to question myself. I don't know the official results yet, but I am hopeful that I broke into the top 10. I was able to lap a few of the riders, too, even though I ultimately was lapped by the leader. It's fun to chart my progress over the years and life feels good at the middle of the pack.

This was the last MABRA race before MABRA championships on Sunday, November 25 in Taneytown, MD. I'm currently 19th out of 40 women, so today's points will bump me up a little, I hope. :) (Update: Going into Championships, I am 13th on out of 45)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tacchino Cross Turkey

A nice morning drive on Rt 7 east at 6 am was very welcome. An extra hour of sleep was nice too!

I made my way to Leesburg for today's race. I missed yesterday's since it would have forced me out of bed at 5am to get to Fairhill, MD for a 9 am race. What is it with these early races. They just keep getting earlier and earlier. Which I guess is nice considering MABRA gave Women 3/4 our own race today. No C men to maneuver around.

The course was similar to last year's except there was a prologue. A very grassy course, I added more air to my front tire after my ride through of the course. I love grassy courses--I think they are an advantage for my strong, sexy legs, but this grassy course had parts that would suck the soul from your legs, leaving you gasping. And it wasn't just me.

On the line, I shut down the new girl in town. There's a very nice newbie who has done many of the races this season. This race was going to be her 3rd or 4th. Each time on the line she talks incessantly about how challenging the course is, how slow she is, blah blah blah. This would be fine, except that the minute the whistle blows she is a ruthless mother fucker and wins or comes in top 3. Yeah, you suck!

So today she spotted me and was about to tell me how awful the course was, and I just said "I'm not going to listen to you anymore." She thought I was joking, but whatever. Today she battled for 3rd. Ugh.

Anyway, my race was ragged. Despite two good rides through on the course, my legs didn't feel warmed up, but I was happy to hear the whistle. I kept with the lead group for a lap or so and managed to keep with two women in front of me for a ways. A girl behind me caught me and I chased her for awhile. There was a gal in yellow who was on me the entire time. At one point, I let her overtake me but she declined. She said I was too good on the technical parts that she worried she'd get in my way.

Whoa?! Say what? Me? a technical goddess?! Who? Where? My ego had been sufficiently boosted and I stayed in front of her the rest of the race. :)

The course was tiresome. And after 2 laps, we still had 4 more to go. GROAN! However, the more I rode, trying to keep yellow girl a safe distance behind me, my legs felt stronger and stronger. On the bell lap of the leaders, I dreaded the thought of having to do another lap, until 3/4 of a lap down, I felt the breath of the leaders behind me (okay, so I heard the announcer...). I glady let them pass me so that I could end this misery that I love so much.

I finished mid pack, I believe. Confirmed: I finished 11 out of 17. Same as last week. The top ten is so close I can taste it!

DCCX: Cross in the District

Until last weekend, the only cross in the District was in National Cathedral. DCCX made its debut on Sunday, October 28 on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The venue that proved to be amazing.

Since it was also the Marine Corps Marathon that morning and I was driving in from Old Town, I was paranoid about closed streets, so I arrived early to ensure that I had plenty of time to get lost or turned around. But like a pro, I arrived without any issues.

Registration didn't open until about an hour after I arrived, so I prerode the course numerous times. Boy was it fun! Lots of great off cambor sections and great tracks. It was a long course--nearly 2 miles long! There were about 18 cat 3/4 women registered. I can't believe that is was only 3 or 4 years ago when a Women B race would only get 5 or 6 racers. It's very fun to see it grow.

Even better was that I had two bellas to race with. Nicole Shue and Kim Wendell, both new to the cross circuit, but dominant forces in mtb and triathlons. They definitely proved through mettle, for all of us took off like mad cats at the start. I was confidently in a pack for a bit and had a bella in front of me and behind me, until Kim pulled ahead of me. But we managed to stay together, while we bounced another racer between us and then finally behind us! I could hear Nicole cheering for us the entire way.

However the highlight of the race had to have been when from out of nowhere on the back stretch, I hear a voice from the streets call out my name. I had purposely not advertised my racing because I didn't want to force people to deal with Marathon traffic, so imagine my surprise when I look up and see my best friend Gretchen on Scooty, stopped at the intersection. She is the type of girl to stop for a bike race, but the odds of her spotting me like she did is crazy. She cheered me on and then followed me on her scooter, honking the entire time. It was so much fun, I only wishI hadn't been in the middle of the race so I could have stopped and talked!

Anyway, the Bellas finished strong 9, 10, 11 respectively our of 18 women. Interestingly, I hung around to see the results. So when they called the women's podium together, I meandered over to the registration tent to take a peek. I then heard Nicole's name announced for the podium. How cool! She must of pulled ahead or others may have had mechanicals! Then I heard my name called--for 2nd place! That's so not true, but I went anyway. Soon enough the realized their errors, but for awhile it was nice to stand high in 2nd place.

Iron Cross My Heart

Despite the 2 hour drive each way, I enjoy my trek to Michaux State Forest each year. The foliage is usually at it's peak and the weather insires wool hats and mittens. This year it would be a little sweeter because my trusty companion is a Red Sox fan and first time cross spectator (and possible sweetheart...).

Brian and I, sleepy-eyed over having staying up late to watch the Sox crush the Indians in the first game of that series, but arrived with enough time to get me registered and ready. A few pre-ride warm ups of the course proved efficient and I enjoyed this year's modifications. The change at the start was the most noticeable; it was very nice not to have to tackle a mountain each time around. Instead they left the climbing for the barriers, again placed strategically uphill. As always, the death spiral didn't disappoint.

I felt strong, excited and anxious. I had a strong start but couldn't hold it for long. I fought for a bit, but just tried to maintain a good cadence and enjoy the day. Not hard to do with a 6' cutie cheering you on!

In the end I was 7 out of 9. Not bad. Too bad though this race is no longer apart of the MABRA series, as points would have been nice. But I guess it's just an honor to race!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

For the Love of the Game

It's hard to share cross season with Major League Baseball. While I will always admit my love for cross, when it comes to October and the Red Sox are in the playoffs, my attention and heart are split. On Friday night, I took myself down to O'Connells bar in Old Town to watch the Sox-Angels game. I set myself up at the end of the bar, Sam Adams in hand. The Yankees-Indians game had gone into extra innings, so I sat perched, anxiously awaiting the outcome of this tied game. Eventually the Yanks lost (yay!) and the Sox game came on. As I watched, and my Sam Adams turned into another and another, the Sox were tied 3-3 and it was only the 5th inning and it was 1130 p.m. I paid my tab, hopped off of my stool and took myself back home. I crawled into bed, dehydrated and exhausted. My alarm would go off at 6am, so I could get myself to Hagerstown for AVC Cross (the 3rd MABRA race).

Since last weekend I found myself in a similar situation, hung over from the previous night's wedding (not mine), I was very determined to make it to the next day's race than I had been the week before. However, even though I was showered, dressed and all packed, every time my eyes opened the world couldn't help by spin past me. After a 20 minute deliberation/cat nap face down on the couch, I finally picked my sorry self up and sat myself behind of the wheel of the car, cross bike perched on top. Together, with the wind whipping through the car, we sped off for Hagerstown.

This is the part, I admit that I can't stand about being a B racer again. Sure, racing Women's A meant a longer race and harder competition, but racing at 1p.m. is so much nicer! Trying to get to a 10 a.m race that is 2 hours away with enough time to register and warm up can be painful.

Regardless, I arrived in good time to the race fairgrounds and I immediately recalled the course from last year. In my hung over fog, I walked to register, head in hand and sun glasses firmly in place over my eyes, despite the fact it was foggy and over cast. It was still too bright. (The fog was definitely a reason I got to the race in the first place as I hoped that it would rain; I love rainy cross races--the muddier, colder the better...).

I couldn't eat anything all morning without fear of disrupting my nauseous tummy, so I just hydrated the best I could. My warm up laps went remarkably well; it was when I was off the bike that the world continued to spin. I returned to my car to scrape up two asprin from my first aid pack and then rode to the start line. They were impressively ahead of time this year, as opposed to last when they had been woefully behind.

The women 3/4 started 2 minutes behind the cat 4 men. There were only 10 or 11 of us, and most talked down their cross skills at the start. Over the years, I've learned to disregard anything anyone says at the start race. I don't believe anything that comes out of anyone's mouth, no matter how convincing they sound. Truth is no one is as ever as bad as they say they are. Chances are they are much much better. And this race was no different. I don't understand why women are so afraid to boast. Hell, if I was as good as they were that's all I'd ever talk about. I'd pin my race resume to my back for all to see.

I know I don't sound like a stellar racer today: partially drunk and hung over; barely hydrated and unfed, but there was a smile on my face when the whistle blew. I am obviously dedicated to this sport to be racing in such a condition. Who cares if these gals beat me off the line, I knew none of them would be out here in such a state. In fact for the brief time we were in a pack together, all anyone did was bitch. This course is too bumpy, too this, too that. Oh shut up. It's cross, it's supposed to be bumpy and hard.

The one girl I battled against, quit (or so I thought) after the first lap and so I was left by my lonesome, but I didn't mind. I loved this fast course; I even felt fast, and that aspirin was kicking in so I felt new again. They didn't race us for a full 40 minutes; we could have probably raced another 1 or 2 laps, but they finished up right after the lead men's riders lapped us.

I finished 9th overall, out of 11. I know next week I'll be back out. Hopefully it will be rainier and colder.

Best of all, the Sox won their game against the Angels.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Oh the bruises. Oh the soreness in the odd and uncomfortable places. Can it be? Oh yes it can—the beginning of cross season has begun.

It began in Baltimore's Druid Hill Park for Charm City Cross (which I can't help but say with a Boston accent). The first race of the MABRA series got off with success. A pack of wild women Bs (or Cat ¾ women to which they are now referred) gathered at the start and hauled ass through the course prologue into the hilly, grassy and blazingly sun-soaked trail.

I traveled to Maryland with my trusty companion, Kate and her beloved dog, Baxter. Having them along for the ride kept me relaxed and well-fed. I was able to ride almost 3 laps of the course as a warm up and I felt decent. I lined up with the friendly females (way friendlier than I remember them ever being).

The course was grassy, which I see as an advantage for my strong quads, yet was peppered by awkward obstacles which were hindered by my awkward remounts (despite the several practices in the week prior). I felt that I was dismounting better than usual, though.

After 2 laps, I was tired and hot, but considering it was only a 40 minute race, 2 laps down meant only 2 laps to go. My pace definitely slowed but I was most likely sure I wasn't last. My spirits remained high as I was encouraged by the random cheers of people who somehow knew my name. Some I recognized, some I didn't, but I was happy to hear from all of them—Kate, especially, since her cheers promised me cocktails upon finishing. If there had been a feed zone, I would have made her feed me an apple martini.

With about three quarters of a lap to go, I was passed by the race leader. With about a quarter of a lap to go, I was passed by second place.

Kate, Baxter and I needed to leave soon after my race, so I was unable to watch Melanie or Alicia race; nor was I able to see my results. It was only until late last night that they were posted online, but alas they only listed the top 20 placers. With over 30 women starting, I am hopeful that I stayed within the top 25. I am a bit disappointed with results, but it just motivates me more for next week at Ed Sanders.

See you then!