Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random ramblings...

It is good to be home after 2 1/2 weeks on the road. I think Tim really appreciates it too, but he is kind of sicky, so I try to stay away from him. Being home and on a mandated 'rest' for a few days, I have had time to catch up on our house. For those that don't know, we are in the final months of building our house. No stress here. Really.

Upon my return, I had some fun gifts in the mail! Check them out:

Pearl Izumi is my shoe sponsor and Tony Torrance is the man. I have tested their winter shoe in the past and they rock! And I really like these sexy Octane SL's. This is my second pair. Good thing I have sample mens size feet.

He also gave me these 'podium shoes' prior to my trip, but unfortunately since I got them I haven't seen the darn podium. Wait, it was too hot in Ohio (85 degrees and black goretex shoes.. Sorry Tony) I am working on future podium appearances for my shoes! But the purple even matches my kit! Not to mention, lightweight and I even ran in them in Europe. They felt great.

And now another favorite: Gore shorts.
Another great sponsor of the Monavie Cannondale team is Gore. Not only do their Gore Ride-On cables rock, but their gear is amazing. I have their pants, jacket, gloves, etc. from last year, but this is my latest gift. I am soooo excited to wear them. PERFECT for warming up for muddy cx races and keeping your skinsuit dry and clean and not overheating. And if you live in Portland, this is the time of year you start living in Gore!

Another luxury of some time off the bike is some extra time on the computer and returning e-mails, phonecalls, etc. I have had a lot of people comment and let me know that I am leading the CX standings right now. That is great, but realistically, it won't last long since I am not going to Boulder, so I can enjoy it for this week. It was fun wearing #1 in Louisville, but rankings are not a true indication of your speed. I have battled with this whole number game for the past 2 years, but now I seem to have 'won' it, or at least outsmarted it. Doing an early season world cup and having a decent performance has solidified my uci points to keep me on that front line for the year. It definitely was easier than running around to every UCI race possible picking up a few points here and there, and a heck of a lot more fun. I love racing world cups!!! The national rankings, however. That surprised me. I have not done that many races this year. Seattle & Tacoma got me off to a good start, then I went to Ohio and did the USGP. That's it. And somehow it was enough to sneak me up to that number one spot for a week. Now I am home for 2 weekends. Coach K may not let me race this weekend, but we shall see. If not racing, I will have my cowbell!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Belgium to Kentucky: USGP Derby City Cup, October 25-26, 2008

Aside from one day of pouring rain, I can't complain about being in KY. The fall colors are spectacular, jet lag was much better coming this way, I have a delightful host and it appeared I would be wearing #1 for the weekend. Kind of a scary thought. But that is what doing an early world cup does for you. Lots of UCI points. So, because of this number, I had to be present at the number presentation on Friday night. A new experience for me. I expected no one to be there, but I walked into a room that had upwards of 100 people. Hmmmm. I guess having number pick up at the same location helps attendance. So, I received my #1. Yep, I would line up front row and center. I hoped I could do the number a bit of justice, even if it wasn't #1.
My number presenters. On the right (my left) is Edie Webb, cyclocross' future.

USGP#1: Saturday
Although it poured rain for hours on Friday, the course was definitely not muddy. It was fast and dry. Damn. I went early and made the quick decision on tires (as if I had a lot of choice with me), got my bike dialed at the Cannondale booth (thank you!!!) and then on the course for warm up. Riding prior to the masters race, I ended up going full speed, face first into the sand pit. There was a huge hole and I was avoiding the girl on my right and BAM! I was down. My bike stopped, I went forward face first into the sand and the saddle came down right on my butt, leaving a very tender spot. Someone asked me if I was o.k. I said, "I don't know, you tell me". My face hurt, I was spitting out sand, blood came out of my nose, but I was fine. A bit sore, shaken up and now scared of that damn hole! Wearing #1 apparently also carries certain expectations from organizers. I guess in reality, I was a podium contender, because someone from the race organization came and told me about the podium presentation and where it would be directly after the race. I was flattered.
Call ups were like none other I have experienced. I had first choice. Oh, what to do??? Front and center, I positioned myself for a good start, but oops, that didn't happen. I was slow off the line, not even close to getting the hole shot and worked my way through the first few corners aggressively enough to make that front selection. I knew Georgia and Katerina would be joining the front soon, so I figured I had better get myself positioned. By the barriers, it was a group of 5. Not too long after that, it was a group of 4, then the attacking started in earnest and then there was a group of 3 and I was not in it. I couldn't respond again, and I got popped. In the wind, by myself, trying to hold on and push through the pain. I felt myself slowing on the last laps, but I did maintain a comfortable 4th. My best USGP finish ever, but it left me wanting more.
Day one in the pain cave.

No warm up crashes today. It was a bit warmer, the course was even dryer and just changed slightly from the day before. I almost had a great start, attempting to get the hole shot when I just about bit it after I came out of my right pedal. Note to self: tighten right pedal. I recovered nicely, didn't take anyone out and didn't take myself out. WHEW. And I made the initial selection toward the front and then we got to the barriers, and down went Amy D. I swung to avoid her and almost took myself out in the process. Catastrophe #2 avoided. Devon Haskell had gotten out front and led for a while and then at the first opportunity, it was the same four off the front. I sat in, mostly in 4th, just trying to do as little work as possible, but that meant getting yo-yo'd on every corner. I stayed with it, but then it happened. Popped again. It was on the green monster, I think, or maybe not. I really don't remember, but I do know that there I was again for over 2 laps by myself, in the wind. I kept telling myself, 'anything can happen' and tried to push even harder, but it was in vain. I would finish exactly where I was the day before. Yes, a comfortable gap on 5th, but in no mans land by myself in 4th. It is great to be riding in that front group and I stayed a little longer today. Perhaps I will sometime be able to stay the entire race. One can only hope!
Day 2 before the real pain started.

My gracious pit crew: Drew! Thanks!

The super fan was there! They have one in Louisville.

These guys were an awesome cheering section for me! Great Halloween spirit too!!!

And my gracious host, Kiet! Thanks Kiet. You can tell from the look on his face that hosting me was quite a task!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quick trip over the pond: World Cup #1: Kalmthout, Belgium

A quick departure after Ohio out of Louisville led me to the holy land of 'cross. It was strange, yet oh so familiar, to arrive in Belgium again this year, packed with my cyclocross bikes. Now a 'seasoned' world cup racer (& I say that in jest), I at least had an idea of what I was getting myself into. I did not know, however, how horrible I would feel for most of the week after 3 days of racing in Ohio and the long flight across the pond the day after.
I can not tell you the feeling I had when I got on the course on Saturday for 'course inspection.' There was a certain sense of giddiness, a perma-grin on my face, a lift in my spirits. The familiar signs that lined the course, the banner that hung over the start finish and then a really fun 'parcours' to boot. Heck, even if my legs didn't feel good, my head was in the game and I was excited to race on Sunday. Luckily my legs felt pretty good and Kendra's advise to go easy on Friday instead of actual 'training' had paid off.
Chills through my body when I went through for the first time. I just love it!First set of stairs of 4. Yes, 4.

Second sandpit. They both rode like a super highway.

You have to love the decor.

Sunday I arrived to the mass chaos. The detour they had you take off the freeway made you really wonder if you were going the right way, but that many cars can not be wrong. And I was getting there early. Before 11 for a race at 1:30. Katie & Mark's host family was gracious enough to adopt me for the race as well, setting me up with a sweet spot to make base camp, cleaning and working on my bikes and being my mechanic for the race. I have been so lucky with the great people I have met in this sport. It is really what makes cyclocross so much fun.
I warmed up on the course, then headed out to the main road for some 'openers', feeling the nervousness one feels before the first world cup of the season. This year was different than last year at Christmas. Now I had goals, I knew what to expect and I was not just over here for the experience. I had the experience. I was here to race my guts out and hopefully meet my goal of a top 10 finish. Well, that didn't happen, but here is what did:
The starts here are CRAZY! There is no regard for anyone's personal safety, their line, their space, nothing. It is like 35+ rabid females all trying to get to the same place first. How can it be that different than any other race? I ask myself what it is, but it is simply frenetic. And some really bad bike handling and people who aren't fast wanting to be fast for a half a lap. At any rate, my line up was not the last row this year, but the third. Somehow there were not that many people behind me, but I am not sure the third row is that much different from the back. I took what I thought would be a good lane, but I was wrong. I was aggressive, but not aggressive enough. And when the gun didn't really go off, I waited for a bang, the rest went on the click without hesitation. She who hesitates loses. I caught on that we were starting, but it was too late. It was game on, and I was behind the game. After the first hard left onto the grass, I found myself on the 'wrong' side and had a hard time getting to the outside before someone was crashing or eating shit on the next little turn with some loose dirt. You would be amazed. And then there was a little downhill with an up following it. You would think that some of these people hadn't pre-ridden the course. WHAT IS SO HARD, PEOPLE??? I guess it is everyone trying to do it at the same time. I managed to stay on my bike and go around a few that were off running, but by then, the front row is gone and then some. I got 'stuck' a few more times, but tried to relax and just work on moving up. There was nothing I could do at this point. And the group was shattered. There was no one behind my group, but no one ahead either. I found myself with a couple of gals, but they were not moving fast enough. I worked hard to bridge to the next group of 5. I found that they were just 'sitting in' and finally I worked my way around them and pulled them around for 2 laps, only to be pipped at the line by one of the gals. Not too bad, but 14th and a long way down from 10th. Not exactly what I hoped for, but gee whiz, it is only my 4th world cup cyclocross race ever. And my time down from the leaders was less than before, so I won't beat myself up too badly. I enjoyed this suffering so much, and was so pumped up after the race, despite not accomplishing my goal. Partly, because I know I can do better and know that I will. I got pulled for anti-doping for the first time, although once in the 'secret room', I drew the 'reserve' tag out of the hat and was released without peeing, although after the 5+ waters I drank in preparation, I certainly had to pee. An additional surprise was that I was ranked high enough to received 150 Euro start money in addition to my huge 60 euro winnings for 14th place. Watch out, I am in the money now. Or should I say I am not as much in the hole!
I have one more day here before I head back to Louisville. Thought I would eat a little dark chocolate and drink some dark, Belgian beer before I leave. It really would be a sin to not drink a beer while I am here. See you again soon...
A disappointed, but still smiling Katie while watching the mens race.

The familiar sight (and smell) of a Belgian cx race.
45 minutes of going this fast to get to the freeway...
CX racing is bad for my driving. Once on the freeway, get out of my way.

My home for the week! 3rd floor suite. Thank you Katrien & Tom for hosting me!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Midwest Madness: Cyclocross & 85 degrees in Ohio.

In retrospect, perhaps Gloucester would have been the saner choice, but when have I made choices based on sanity? It was more about simplicity of logistics and affordability, and who wouldn't want to race against Katie Compton and Georgia Gould for 3 days in a row? Defending my NACT title (or at least attempting to) would have just been paled in comparison to the great tan lines I acquired in October! It was mid 80's. Way too hot for CX. And I like mud. There was no mud here, that is for sure!So, I flew into Louisville, KY on late Thursday and spent the night. Woke up 6 a.m. Portland time (a late 9 a.m. here) and put together my bikes and then the first disaster occurred. I went to put on some riding clothes to take a spin, only to discover I had NO shorts. I forgot to pack them. Did I mention I was going to be gone for 2.5 weeks??? without shorts? Just 4 skinsuits? I love my husband, I love my husband, I love my husband. He left work, rode home, got my stuff and overnight fed ex'd it, Saturday deliver so I didn't have to be the dork riding around in skinsuits!As if that wasn't a bad enough start to my trip, my host, Kiet, wasn't even here and I took a shower and then flushed the toilet (#1, mind you) and the toilet began to overflow. Not just a little, but a lot. I was so shocked, b/c pee should not clog a toilet. And I had a race at 4 p.m. and had to drive an hour and a half and it was almost time to load the car. Stress, no plunger, stress, whole bathroom is flooded, stress, basement doesn't look so hot either, stress, Kiet is going to kill me. Still no idea, but I did go to whole foods to go to the bathroom on my way to Ohio!
Racing in the heat is hard. Racing on a rough course with no shade at 4 p.m. in the 80+ degree heat after flooding a toilet, not having shorts and driving 1.5 hours is hard. But, racing CX is fun, so off we went to the line. I had a great start. Perhaps the best of my career thus far. I got the hole shot. Did I mention that Katie & Georgia were on the line with me. For the first quarter lap, I was pretty stressed being out on the front. I knew they were just sitting there, letting me set a nice easy pace for them. Yep, I did get passed, and yes, I did get dropped, but I did it well. And when I knew there was no getting back up, and when I knew there was no one even close behind me, I started to focus on the fun factor, working on better lines each time. Working on trying to swallow. I was parched. I finished 3rd.

Saturday there was no relief from the heat in sight. A "normal" 2 p.m. start, which was delayed, but a super fun course. I am still amazed by how long the course is at such a small venue. And it is anything but easy. The evil sand section with one long section, a quick 180 degree turn an another section. Needless to say, without the momentum, I ended up walking the second half. I had a horrible start and made a few mistakes, but in the end, luck was on my side and not on Georgia's. I passed her like she was standing still. Oh, she had a rear flat. I never let up, however, b/c I knew I was being chased down. I could feel it and although I carried water and had a few sips during the race, it was really hot. I survived, had fun, kept a good attitude and finished 3rd.

Sunday was another warm day in Ohio, 2 races in my legs and feeling better than the day before, so I was going to hope for the best. I carried water again, because I figured it couldn't hurt. The course would hurt, but water could only be a nice relief if it was needed. It was. But what was more needed was just a little more gas. I had another great start, taking the hole shot, but let Katie around right away to lead the off camber section and Georgia and Rachel were right there too. I found myself in 4th through the sand and dabbed at the very end of it (a good reason to not go into sand last) and they got away a bit. I got Rachel back at the barrier and then sat on her for the lap. I overcooked a turn in a big way, landing on the grass and the gap was formed. I was on my own in fourth. I wanted deep within me to be able to chase back and I tried every lap, the gap bigger and smaller at times. I was afraid to blow up b/c of the heat, but I was working hard as I could, although a bit cautious on the turns now after my blow out. Rachel is not cautious on turns. I was losing ground and then getting it back where I could. I made the gap smaller on the last lap, but there was too much time between to close it down and I knew she would never let me even close. I was off the podium and in 4th. Respectable, of course. Racing against the fastest girls in the country is never easy. And since this weekend wasn't hard enough, I figured I would jump across the pond and race against the fastest in the world next weekend. That sanity thing again.

Thank you to my wonderful host family in Ohio: Jeni & Geoff. They were great.

Geoff's family bike store. Nice to have a mechanic as a host.

Compton may have a street in Ohio named after her...
But I have a county.

One week after my spill on the apron at Alpenrose, the bruise is still pretty ugly. 80+ degrees means wearing tank tops and everyone stared. I just told them my husband beats me. And speaking of beating, Tim continued his winning streak this past weekend at home, winning his second Cross Crusade race ever! Nice work honey! Wish I could have been there to cheer you on!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Now it is time for cyclocross!!! Rainy & muddy, just the way we like it!

A big weekend for the Butlers! Tim and I just took our first ever Cross Crusade wins today! But of course, I have no pictures. It was too wet and muddy to be taking pictures. I barely pulled off the win, whereas Tim killed it! He was off the front from the gun and never looked back. It was beautiful. And it was definitely cyclocross weather. But for some odd reason, we thought it was still mountain bike season too! We couldn't resist a quick overnight to the cabin on Friday night with fall colors, rain and some soggy singletrack! We ventured to 15-mile creek, b/c it is seldom as rainy over there. Well, it may have not been as rainy, but it was wet, cold and returning to the car, it said 46 degrees. Yikes! Realistically, that may have been our last ride of the season. At least for me, b/c I will be off and traveling for the next 3 weekends, moving us into November. But it was worth it. Check it out.

Fall colors off the deck at the cabin.

It's raining so hard, I can't see.

Small pockets of sunshine.

They were short lived, and it was windy & cold!

But it was gorgeous!

Lot's of standing water to get you really wet & cold!