Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OBRA CHAMPS & JINGLE CROSS ROCK! Catching up on the past few weekends.

Somehow time got away once again. So I have to back up to the weekend of November 19-20th. Tim and I both became the OBRA CX Champs! It was non stop excitement. Actually, it was just an awesome course with slippy mud and some not as bad weather as we had expected. I was totally psyched when I crossed the line and they announced that it looked like 'the Butlers would be taking home matching medals.' And then he came across the line way ahead of his competition. I was absolutely ecstatic. It was the one that had eluded him in years past. And finally the gold was going home with him. Whew!

Half the fun of CX are the friends.

Butlers with their game faces on.

A quick week at home and then Thursday Tim was off to Kansas and I was off to Iowa. He was visiting family and eating some turkey and I was racing my bike. At least I had the company of Serena Bishop on this trip. It was 3 days of racing in what looked to be some challenging conditions. But our challenge started the minute we arrived and our bikes did not arrive. A direct flight and no bikes? Not a great way to start our adventure. With the promise of "your bikes may arrive on Saturday before noon", we decided an overnight in Chicago and picking our bikes up by ourselves if they made it in on the promised flight at 11 a.m. was a better way to go. Then at least we still had a chance to race on Friday evening. It worked out. They came. Not an ideal situation to drive 3.5 hours, quickly build bikes, change clothes and then go race, but it is all part of the adventure. Friday evening was dry and clear and almost balmy. Racing in the evening is always a bit challenging for me, but I mustered a podium in the 3rd spot.

Wish I could have stayed in this position.

Saturday was the rainy day. Lots of mud, super fun course. It was ideal for cyclocross. I just wasn't riding ideally. But I came back from a few mistakes and again, slotted into the 3rd spot.

Awesome conditions.

Freezing cold & muddy.

Sunday was frigid, but not raining. Still muddy and fun, but super cold. Thanks to the great support of MyWifeInc, we had a tent to warm up in over the weekend and a cx family to hang with. It was awesome. My race on Sunday, however, not so awesome. The cold air and the run up Mt. Krumpit put a fork in me. I was done. Although it was only four laps, I went backwards. I was having trouble breathing, pedaling, running, walking, riding, etc. It was one of those days. I hung on for 6th, but it was one of those body mechanicals that causes you to wonder if this is really worth it. Not breathing is not fun. But a few days pass and you send a few emails, talk to your coach, doctor, etc and then decide, yes, it is worth it. And if they told you you had to quit, you probably wouldn't listen anyhow. Already excited for the next race.

Before my race totally fell apart...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

USGP round 3: Louisville, KY, November 12-13, 2011

It struck me this past weekend when a fellow athlete said, "I don't love this enough to do it on my own", that I am different. I DO LOVE THIS ENOUGH TO DO IT ON MY OWN!!! After spending a week on the east coast, albeit with great hosts that are now friends, I am doing this alone, and somewhat on my own. All for the love of the pain and suffering of 'cross. I am not going to lie. It is hard. I am a one person team. I have no mechanic. I have no tent to warm up under that belongs to me. But I am lucky. I have a husband that is as passionate about racing his bike as I am, I have friends that help me out and I have great sponsors that get me through the year. I sometimes question my sanity for doing it, but for now, when people ask me why I do it. I just say, because I love it. And I am still having fun.
With that being said, this past weekend was fun, aside from the 2 40-minute sessions of pain. I don't think I have suffered more than I did this weekend. It was one of those weekends that I just didn't have it. No explanation. Perhaps Ohio took more out of me than I thought?!? Perhaps sleeping in a bed that wasn't mine? Perhaps something I ate? But what I do know is that both days, I fought with everything I had. Nothing was easy. Every pedal stroke hurt.
Tim arrived on Friday after the pre-ride and I was totally psyched about the course. I liked it a lot. I knew it was going to be hard, but I did not anticipate how hard. Saturday my start was fine. Nothing special. But I was mentally ready and ready to gut it out and have a good ride. One lap in, I was willing my legs to go faster. They didn't listen. I was hurting. I kept fighting. I blew through the course tape, having lost focus for just a minute. I ran back and got back on the bike, back to the fighting and suffering. Somehow I managed to drop my chain on the flyover, but I got it shifted back on. On the last lap of going backwards, I was still fighting in the top 10. And then with 1000 meters left, I dropped my chain again. This time it would not shift back on. Off the bike to fix it. Couple more places lost. I was so spent, I was just sloppy. I was so exhausted after the race, I just got in my car and drove 'home'. A hot shower and some calories helped a bit, but holy mackerel. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? My coach was surprised to find out how awful I felt. She would have thought I would have felt better.  I was more than surprised. More like shocked. But I knew tomorrow was a new day. I hoped a much different kind of day.

Warming up Sunday, I was starting to wonder if my body was protesting. I was hoping the day prior was a temporary period of horribleness and I would be back on track. Sunday I did feel better, but better is relative. I still suffered like a dog. I still did everything in my mental power to push harder. It was not coming naturally. My legs gave me a little bit more than Saturday and I didn't make mistakes like the day prior. I still faded, but this time only back to 8th. And when I crossed the finish line to my smiling husband, I told him, "I gave it everything I had. I just didn't have enough."

Yep, there will be days like those. Disappointing as they may be, it is part of the journey. Thankfully Tim had 2 great days. 2nd both days. And although great, he was so close to winning it was painful. I was so proud of him. I am already looking forward to the next race, so at least it didn't destroy me. I am ready for the next fight. Like I said, I DO LOVE IT THAT MUCH!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

UCI3 in Cincinnati! 3 days of pain. November 4-6, 2011

Some think 2 races in one weekend is a lot. Add another and it is more suffering. I have been participating in this weekend of suffering since its inception in 2007. The third race was added in 2008. Over the past five years, I have seen this event grow and the cycolcross scene in this area multiply tenfold. It has been a real treat. This year served up the deepest competition yet, and the hardest courses. But don't worry, I will still come back for more.

Day one is always hard after traveling from the west coast. 6 hours in the airplane, layovers, driving up from Louisville. Friday was no different, except the course was harder than ever before. It was steep climbing and very heavy, boggy grass. It was just brutal.  There was a pretty big selection made of 6 or so of us. And by the end, it had sorted out very differently than it had started. I ended up 5th. 

Day two's course amazes me. They are able to put together a really quality course in a very small park. It's a mega effort with course tape and fencing, but always done well. This year was no exception, except the sand was missing. I kind of liked the sand, but the boggy mud in the back sufficed for a small challenge. It was different than last year, but I found that I rode it better than the past. My cornering was spot on Saturday and I had a great race. I was fighting for second, but got gapped in the last half lap and couldn't close it down. A very close third. 

 Day three is the day of pain. No matter what. The third day of racing hurts, but this year, it hurt more than normal. The grass was like velcro. Making your legs burn. The uphill to the finish before the sand was more brutal than normal, sucking all your energy and then challenging you to make it through the sand. I think I was 50% on that. It was hard. It was challenging. And it was a mental fight. I came unglued from the leaders as the initial attacks and accelerations were made, but I kept fighting. I was willing myself to get back on. Anything can happen in cross. Never give up. I landed in between the barriers on lap 3. Didn't quite clear them and put myself down. Caitlyn got away, but her draft was pretty worthless anyhow. She is teeny tiny. But I got up, got my shoe fastened again and started chasing. It was relentless. And in the end, I stayed in 5th. A solid weekend of great racing. Pushing the limits and going in the pain cave. Deep in the pain cave. And from this, I will be stronger. Thanks UCI3! Job well done!