Sunday, November 23, 2008

Freezing cold CX (literally): NACT series finals: Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup, November 22-23,2008

NACT series podium. I had no idea I could even be in consideration after only half of the races.
Amy D. 2nd and Georgia 1st with her new sweet pink belt!
(And check out the podium shoes I finally got to wear. Thanks Tony & Pearl Izumi)


I thought I would make bookends on the NACT series and stay on the east coast and head to the Hamptons for some 'cross racing. I knew I would never get to the Hamptons any other way. So a week in New Jersey training in the extreme cold weather, a trip to see an old friend in NYC and an event appearance up at a cool bike shop in Teaneck, NJ with Tom Coleman & Wobblenaught, it was time to race.
Saturday it was a balmy 32 degrees with winds whipping. And to make it more fun, the clouds moved in right before our race. It was brutal. But a super fun course. Some killer hills, some singletrack, steep sidehill, barriers. A little bit of everything. Staying warm was the biggest challenge. My hands and feet froze. The rest was o.k., but it was hard to hold the bars and shift due to cold hands. I had made the initial selection, but Mo decided to lay down in front of me, so I lost Lyne and Natasha and spent the rest of the race chasing and having about a 5 second gap I could not close. Frustrating, but four seemed to be in the cards. I decided tomorrow would be a better day and I would wear warmer gloves and make my way to the podium.
Check out who is in front at the top of the climb! I actually led the first lap. Wine prime???
(Photo by Dave McElwaine)
Do I still have fingers? I can't feel them.
(photo by Dave McElwaine)

Sunday it was a balmy 35 degrees. The wind was a little less than Saturday and the sun stayed out, so it was better. I started my day with an early a.m. spin to the ocean, just because I couldn't go to the Hamptons and not see the ocean. I had seen the bay, but it's all about the ocean. I arrived at the course a bit later than the day prior, and pre rode, it was essentially the same course the opposite direction. Again, super fun! I decided on the thick, bulky gloves, despite the warmer weather, b/c even though it was warmer, it was still not warm. I had an o.k. start, but got behind Natasha and Mo on the singletrack on the first lap and Georgia got away with Amy in tow. It was fine until Natasha took me out on a corner by a tree. Down I went, hard, and there went the train. I got passed by what seemed like everyone, but back on the bike, I started to chase. The bummer was the wind and the group in front of me was 7 strong. And then I dangled out there in no mans land, chasing my little heart out. I was making progress, even with a few minor mistakes. Mo pitted, so I had a chance to get on a wheel and take a bit of a rest. But I knew I didn't want to be there long. I was for almost a lap, then on the last lap, I made my move and in 6th, I started closing down on 5th. I was making progress, but took a sandy turn section a bit rich and put myself into the ground. At least it was my fault. And that was it. I didn't have enough time to close the gap. A disappointing 6th, but a good race overall. And even though I only did 2 other NACT races, I somehow snagged a 3rd place in the series. Who would've thunk? I didn't even have series expectations. I just wanted to see how the rich and famous lived!
Parking at the beach. No cruisers here today?

Proof I was at the beach.

Host housing. OK, not really, but a small house I passed on the way to my house.

Thanks to our gracious hosts, Nella & Mike! Erik Tonkin & Sean Babcock were my 'roomies'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mud Runnin' in New Jersey: USGP #3 & #4, November 15-16, 20

As everyone knows, I really do LOVE mud. I don't mind adverse conditions. I can keep a good attitude, despite rain, snow, mud, etc. And all things considered, I kept a good attitude, I just didn't keep a good placing. I really think my running has improved, but when you are running as much as we did in Jersey, it makes it hard. I watched people sprint by me. Or it seemed like it. Here is how it went down from my saddle.

USGP #3: Saturday
It was tropical. It was in the high 60's by the time we raced, I think. I had #4 for this round of the USGP, so a great line up. I actually had a semi good start too, making it to the dirt in the top 5. And the first rideable section was not too bad, and then the separation began. The first run section, I felt like I was standing still. I really willed my legs to run faster, but even 5' Amy D was sprinting past me like I was standing still. Was I still sore from my running at Tabor on Wednesday? Maybe a bit, but that wasn't the problem. It was like I had suction cups on my feet. And somehow my bike didn't like the mud either, with the gears slipping. Probably shouldn't have put new cables on before this heavy, hard pushing on the pedals. But I really couldn't put full pressure on the pedals either. Does this sound like another excuse? Ok, enough. It was hard. I didn't do as well as I wanted to (9th place), but there was always tomorrow. I was going to dismiss this mucky mess and focus on the next day, it couldn't be worse, could it?
Meeting up with old friends. Beth Frye from Boone, NC. Met Beth during Trans Rockies in '06!

Did I say it was muddy? Not many bike tracks going through here.

The over under.

USGP #4: Sunday
I was wrong. It could be worse. It rained all night and then was dry, windy and cold all day, creating again, a peanut butter like mud that was oh so fun to run! But, to redeem my lack luster performance, I did get the hole shot and I did lead the first lap, right up until the run. I guess everyone was not too worried about getting around, b/c there was a lack of great lines. I think I ran better than on Saturday, but although the course was shorter, I think proportionally there was more running. Could it really be??? One of the sections had to have been 1/4 of a mile. Really. I don't think I am exaggerating. That is once around the track. But I kept focused on fast feet, felt strong and powerful when I could actually pedal, my A bike was working like a champ. I switched bikes every half lap again today. I improved my finish by one, but they did cut our race short. 1 lap and almost 10 minutes. I think it was a mistake, but oh well. It is what it is. I will have to settle for 8th. I have Portland to try to redeem my mud loving self.

I guess I had a good start. (photo by Dave McElwaine)

And kept the lead until the mud got to thick to pedal. (photo by Dave McElwaine)Run, run, run.

The mud definitely made an impression on me.

I would like to send out a special thanks to Bob & Gay Stefanowicz, my gracious host family, parents of Bob Stefanowicz who started CX this year in Portland and responded to my ad on OBRA. I love our bike community. And also to Jim Bernstein, my host from last year who still pitted for me this year, both days and Dan, the super fan from Kentucky who I recriuted to help on Sunday.
Dan the man, from Indiana
Bob & Gay, my gracious hosts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

SSCXWC "08 Part 2: THE TATTOO!

Well, I am no longer a tattoo virgin. I knew if I went across that finish line, first, part of the deal was a tattoo. I also knew that I wasn't going to procrastinate, otherwise I may pull a Barry Wicks. That's so not cool. So, today at 5:45, with the support of Wendy & Emily, I got some ink. Nothing exciting, nothing flashy, nothing you can see when I am in normal clothes and nothing somewhere it would hurt. Yep, I am a baby. Wanted it on my lower back/high butt, but Roll (the tattoo artist) said that hurts a lot more than the leg, so here it is:

Roll getting ready. Atomic Tattoo on Alberta.

The design. 16 tooth cog, which I used yesterday with my 36.

Concentrating and hard at work.

Almost half way done. OUCH!

Fake smile.

Whew, it's done. I opted out of the fill in of the cog. That meant more time on the table. No thanks!

Next time I am in cycling shorts, you can see it up close and personal.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

SSCXWC '08 & plain old good muddy fun!

Another weekend in Portland. That is two in a row, but this weekend I actually got to race. And not just once, but twice. Sure, no UCI points, but a heck of a lot more fun and very short travel time! The weather was typical Portland, but the rain was only really bad on Saturday a.m. Other than that, it was muddy, but mild. A perfect weekend for getting muddy and racing 'cross.
Saturday I rode over to Chris King for the SSCXWC (single speed cyclocross world championships) time trial qualifier event. It was definitely a fun, but wet and muddy event. A good part of our morning was spent avoiding the rain. In between signing up and when we actually raced, we found a nice warm spot to enjoy watching the rain. The non race event was on some well traveled trails in a big park in Portland. Enough said.
Staying dry at Grand Central; we weren't the only smart ones.

Sunday was the big event. It was not only our Cross Crusade race, but also the unofficial official SSCXWC. The crowds were out of control all day. It was really a scene. Very cool. It is so fun to race at home, because there are definitely a lot more cheers on the course that yell your name! And it is just a bit crazier. Lot's of cowbell. And a hard win with Wendy keeping the gas on the whole race. She was on my tail, maybe 10 seconds back for the first half of the race, and then a few passing mishaps. I rammed a girl full speed when she dismounted and I couldn't avoid her. I felt sooo bad. I stopped to see if she was o.k, but when Wendy went by, my competitive juices made me say, "I'm sorry" and then I kept on going. It was a passing nightmare. I then had to walk the mud and watch Wendy ride away. I caught back on and stuck on her wheel for a lap or so, not wasting any energy, and then got in front of her at a crucial point and sprinted in for the narrow victory.
Although I did not get to observe Tim's race, he also killed it, opening a gap early on and kept on the gas. Led wire to wire. Yep, Timmy is back! He has kicked the cold and is back on his game. I am so proud.
He opted out of the total craziness of the SS race, but I could not miss out on the fun. It was mass chaos. Would you expect anything different??? Half the women left with the men (cheaters) and the rest of us waited our 30 seconds and then fought for basically a very slow walk up behind all of the men up the barriers and through the foaming bubble machine and then through the windmill. (Thanks Yakima Bike Vigilantes) It was a pretty slow start. Kind of fun, because it was as though you weren't even racing. Just chilling, b/c you really couldn't do anything else. The crowds got thinner and I just kept a smile on my face, pushed that one gear around the course and gradually worked my way to apparently the front of the women and by golly, I won. The last lap, I debated in my head if I should actually cross that line first, knowing a tattoo was mandatory, I would have to wear the gold bikini, but also knowing I would be the owner of a sweet custom Pereira frame. Was it worth it? You betchya!!!

Tim greeted us with beer at the finish! What a guy! (Note Wendy's gold bikini from last year!)

What does the new SSCXWorldChampion do after her race? Eat a Voodoo doughnut for the first time in her life. Why not? It was a day of firsts.

Not your typical podium shot. Yes, I was embarrassed, but I figured I had to post a picture. There will be plenty floating out there soon enough. Another first. I have NEVER stood around in a bikini in 50 degree weather in front of a bunch of people before. Why would you???

Tony Pereira and I. Yep, I will have a sweet single speed to defend my title next year.

More photos to follow. This is all Tim took tonight. Tattoo happens tomorrow. I will be sure to post pictures!

Monday, November 3, 2008

In search of the burn.

This weekend was all about a different kind of 'burn'. Not the familiar burn you get cross racing, but a ride to see the aftermath of this summer/falls tragic gnarl ridge fire. I had just had 4 days of mandated rest after my travel/race craziness and Tim had been sick, so we were told "no racing". I had to get some endurance in my legs & Tim was going to play it by ear. Yes, the temptation to race is so great that we had to remove ourselves from the situation totally, so off to the cabin we went with Kendra and Melissa joining us. The weather in the forecast was not optimal, but I had good gear. On Saturday, the rain was relentless, so finally we geared up and headed out. While the other 3 took a shorter ride, I headed out on a three hour tour that luckily saw a turn of weather and some 'almost' sunshine. It was a great route that kept me smiling, riding with the golden colors of fall surrounding me, and I kind of felt like I had cheated the weather gods, b/c it was actually quite pleasant. Sure, 75 degrees and sunny in Boulder may have been nice, but riding forest roads around Mt. Hood was not so bad. No camera on this day, but man, there were some gorgeous views.
Sundays plan was to go in search of the burn, with me taking an extra loop around Cooper Spur afterwards. This is something we had been wanting to do, and actually a ride we have done the past two years to 'transition into 'cross from mountain biking', but with the road closure and safety issues earlier in the fall, we hadn't had a chance. Sunday was perfect, aside from the pouring rain. Actually, it was quite opposite the day prior. We left when it wasn't raining, and it didn't take long for the rain and snow to eventually catch up to us. We were already in too far when the sideways snow started, so no choice but to continue. We took the back roads by the cabin that intersect Cloud Cap Road and then climbed up to Cloud Cap, back down Tilly Jane and home. It was somewhat of an epic ride. Check it out:
First signs of the fire, probably about 4-5 miles up Cloud Cap Road, but it would gradually get worse.Wow, we thought we were getting into the thick of it.

I stopped for some inspiration part way through.

It kept getting worse. We were in total shock of the mass devastation the fire had caused. No wonder the road had been closed.

The high point. Hurry up and take pictures. It is cold & the wind was picking up.

The path from Cloud Cap to Tilly Jane. Nothing but burnt trees.

They looked like they were still glowing.

We stopped at the Tilly Jane A frame to try to warm up for the steep descent down. A hiker had started a nice fire. Climbing up had gotten me nice and sweaty so I could freeze on the way down. Not the smartest ride for a cold, wet day.

Descending an unrecognizable Tilly Jane. Erosion & ash seemed to be what we saw the most of, not including the sideways snow.

One of our favorite trails, or what is left of it.

Hard to believe this was a lush forest with lots of fall colors last year at this time. I have never witnessed a burn this soon after, so I was just amazed by the total devastation and the soil changes. I guess it is all a part of nature's cycle, but 'not in my backyard'. It will be interesting to watch this trail regenerate over the next decade.