Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heading to CX Nationals! (and also, Win!)

In less than 2 days, I'll be in Oregon, getting ready to race at CX Nationals with Pat, Charlie, and Matt. The ECCC season just ended in a great way: I won the B Women field, got 2nd in the A Women field (since I couldn't do UCI races, I had to race A and B depending on the race.)

I also managed to get third on the second day of NBX, an insanely great race for me. It was a big and really strong field, as the New England women's fields tend to be, so that was a huge victory for me, and a great way to be going into Nationals. I'll post from Bend when I get there, I can't wait!

3rd place at NBX!

Winning the ECCC CX Conference 5 years in a row!
Post-race hangouts in the team van. <3

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear Blog-o-sphere

Again, I've gone off the grid.  I know that at this point, there aren't many people out there who are checking this regularly, and it's my own fault for being such a bad poster in the past couple of months.  This has been what can be referred to as a "transitional time" in my life, and also one of the most hectic semesters that I have ever had.  I've had a million huge projects to do for my classes, races every weekend, and next week, I head to Oregon for Cyclocross Nationals.  I can't believe it's only 8 days away!

I've been making a lot of big life decisions lately.  First, I thought about just finishing the teaching certification program.  Then, I wanted to do Teach for America.  Then, I decided to forget the certification and just get my Masters this Spring.  But...

I decided the most rational course of action: I'm going to take the one class I need to take in the Spring to start my student teaching in the Fall, but rather than starting in the Fall with student teaching, I'm going to defer for a year, and try to find a full time job in journalism, or at least focus on freelancing, working to save money, and of course, focus on my racing.  I'll move back to my parent's house, unless I find a full time job in NYC.  This way, I'll save money, be able to race and really see how far I can go with that, and really explore my options for that year.  If I don't find a full time job I love after that year, I'll start at Rutgers again and finish student teaching and get my certification and Masters.

I'm feeling pretty good about this plan, it definitely seems like the most realistic plan, and the most rational, since it gives me time to figure out what it is that I want to do, since lately I've been kind of freaking out about all of my options.  It's been a rough couple of months, personally.

Race-wise, it's been pretty awesome and fun.  A few pictures to make this post much less of a bummer:

Super sexy, I know!
I love Pat's face in this picture, watching me take the barrier soooo bad.

At the start at Staten Island!

I look sooooo fast!

Finish at West Point- I got to race with the A/B Men!

Post Race with my fellow racers!

Podium- 1st and 2nd A Men, 1st and 2nd B Men, and 1st and only A woman!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bad Blogger Award

So I know I'm in serious contention for the worst blooger ever award.  And I know that I was planning on updating more when I got back to school and back into routine. What I didn't anticipate was just how crazy busy I was going to be.  Between classes, work, and now, cyclocross every weekend through mid-December including a trip to freaking OREGON to race at Nats, it's been sort of... insane?

This weekend was awesome.  We went up to Massachusetts for Cycle-Smart International, a weekend put on by the team's biggest collective crush, Adam Meyerson.  It was a super-good time, I had some decent but definitely "needs improvement" results in the biggest field I've ever raced in, and had a blast doing so.  It was the first super-cold weekend, which lent itself nicely to lots of hot apple cider and lots of free oatmeal.  And a whole lot of awesome team antics.  We got amazing seitan burritos at a place in Northampton, which is the cutest town ever, and then got really good beer at a great bar nearby.  In general, it was a fantastic time.  The only downside is coming home and remembering that I'm not a bike racer full-time.  There's work to do!

But there's also a lot to do bike racing.  The whole vegan thing is coming along very nicely, I dropped a couple of pounds this week and honestly, I am feeling really really good!  I always forget just how good I feel when I'm vegan because, come on, ice cream is delicious.  But so far it hasn't been too hard- it also helps that I spend weekends not eating pizza as per usual, but traveling with a lot of vegan teammates.  It is weird how easily I've fallen back into the habit of checking labels and paying attention to stuff like that, and I'm eating a whole lot more whole foods- a lot of fruit for snacking!  The only problem is that sometimes I get hungry when I'm working a full day- like today- and I can't really hit a vending machine for snacks (this is a good and bad thing, I think).  I would pack stuff like trail mix, but nuts and me don't agree in a lot of ways.  I could pack pita chips or crackers, easily, but I never think about it.

In addition to the vegan thing, I also need to work on my pitting skills.  At Nats, I'll be pitting for three of my teammates at the same time, and my knowledge of mechanics is not great.  Nor is my ability to hand off a bike effectively.  On the flip side, I need to learn how to take a pit bike and not lose time.  So my teammates and I need to start working on things like that.  Additionally, I need to work on going HARD for 45 min, my starts, and riding WITH people, including things like bumping, and just cornering with people in front of me- I brake too much as it is.  So we're going to start really focusing on those things, and instead of our usual Wednesday night team dinners, we're going to combine dinner with some serious mechanic lessons so I can hopefully be a teensy bit competent in the pit.

I did get new compression tights today, which I'm very excited about!  I did a run this morning to drop off some forms, and it was probably a bad idea.  I've never been one for recovery, but it's clear I need to start, judging by how much going down stairs is hurting now.  I need to do things like stretch, wear compression stuff, and actually recover.  And I need to avoid getting sick!  I keep forgetting to take vitamins and use my Neti pot on a regular basis, despite really needing to, since I'm outside in the cold every weekend.  Also, I keep underpacking for races and end up freezing and/or stealing teammates clothing (I had Matt's legwarmers for the past month, and I warmed up in Charlie's jacket all weekend). 

The next few weeks are going to be super fun though- we have a lot of my favorite races, Thanksgiving weekend off, a couple of local weekends and a couple of travel weekends to places I love, and then Nationals!  I'm super excited but also really nervous about stuff like getting our bikes there, our flights working out, getting to sit together on the plane, not losing our luggage, car rental, stuff like that.  Details are nerve-wracking, but flying doesn't bug me too much.  Just the part leading up to getting on the plane and taking off.  We still have 5 weeks until we leave, but it's hard to believe that it's already November and most of my classes are starting to wind down somewhat and final projects are starting to be due.  This means I'll be keeping my Bad Blogger Award for a while, but I'll try to post more, for my sanity more than anything else!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan Til Nats

I recently came to a realization: my nutrition sucks.

I realized this when, in one day, and not as a substitute for any meals, I finished 8 Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  That's over 1000 extra calories, in addition to the regular 3 meals (including 3 sodas) that I was having over the course of the day.  Not OK!

So, I basically decided to take the most stringent anti-Reeses approach possible: until Nats, I'm going vegan.  As some of you may know, I used to be vegan, and I've tossed around the idea of going vegan again.  The next 6 weeks will be sort of my testing ground, so to speak, to see if it's a feasibility.  This will also make me cut the junk out of my diet, eat more fruit and vegetables, and hopefully shed those few pounds that have not wanted to come off since Ironman.  I have faith!  It's been a couple of days and I feel better, maybe from a psychological standpoint, but I think in general, I feel healthier.  I felt better as a vegan before, but I enjoy being vegetarian more, and it works better in Robbie and my lifestyle.  At the moment though, I spend my weekends with the team instead of at Robbie's parents, an half of the team is vegan, so weekends aren't an issue during the season.  So it's a tossup, really.  Happier with how I feel or happier with what I get to eat?  We'll see.  I'm expecting to see some major changes in my training because of it though.  I'm going to start watching my weight- literally- and weighing myself every day or two on my good body fat composition scale, just to see what happens on a vegan diet.  Of course, it's not just a vegan diet, I'm trying to make sure that it's a healthy one: little/no vegan junkfood for me!  Of course, I'm still drinking 2-3 soft drinks per day (can't give that up just yet) and eating junk food on occasion, but the focus is on being a healthy vegan, not just substituting the bad vegetarian stuff for bad vegan stuff.  That would be what we call counter-intuitive. 

To catch everyone up to speed, this weekend was a 12th place at Beacon CX and a 13th place at HPCX.  I'm getting better, and I'm beating more women who used to easily beat me, so I'm happy about that. 

More later, but right now I'm busy reading a sports nutrition guidebook from 1990 that advocates, when at restaurants and dealing with pasta, to, quote, "PILE IT ON."  Also, order extra rice with Chinese food.  This author is my hero!  She's also really into muffins.  I could live with this diet.

Oh yeah- the title of this post!  It looks like Pat, Charlie, Matt and I will be representing Rutgers out in Bend, Oregon this December at Cyclocross Nationals.  We still have to get final approval and book everything, but it's looking good!  I'm beyond excited, we're going to have a blast!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Long Long Long Weekend.

Some weekends just don't turn out the way you plan.  For instance, this one. 

For starters, RedCross 2.0 was a cyclocross race on a motocross course.  All mud, all technical.  Still, I finished 5th in an open field and won the Collegiate A race.

I got 2 hours of sleep on Saturday night, woke up sick from walking in the cold rain, and drove 3 hours to Saratoga Spa CX.  My race there defied description: it was cold, rainy, and miserable, and I was sick and tired, so I was off to a bad start, despite the course being great for me.  My back shifter wasn't working, then I tipped over in a corner and managed to jam my brake into my wheel, so I rode a full lap with a brake on.  Then, Charlie gave me his bike in the pit.  His bike is the same frame, but very very very different setup.  Wow.  Then, my bike came back to me a lap later, and immediately the chain jammed.  Then, the front shifter wouldn't work.  I finished last in a field of 11.  I may have finished better if I hadn't had mechanical issues, but frankly, I wasn't in the race.  On the bright side, I won collegiate A's, since I chose to race the open women's field.  It was a pretty legit field too!
The one shining moment both days was when I was taking the barriers and doing remounts.  The guys said on Saturday that mine were the best out of the field, and on Sunday, a guy pointed me out as a great example of how you should take barriers.

Finally, we were heading home, and my mom called to tell me that my great uncle, who I was really close with growing up, just passed away on Saturday.  So, sick, sad, and very tired, I finally got home.  Hearing about Uncle Steve made me realize how trivial one race really is.  He was awesome, a minor league baseball player back in the 50s, and he and my aunt owned an amazing ice cream place where I had my first job.  I'm going to miss him very much.

I'll end on a happier note though, because there are still plenty of things to make me smile:
Charlie and I with the 2 cutest puppies on the planet, right after my race on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Westwood Pictures and general notions...

It's been a hectic couple of weeks.  Not because anything has gone wrong, more because nothing has!  (Knock on wood.)  What I mean is, no reasons (like getting a car door to the face) have prevented me from doing my full load of tutoring, classes, and work.  Plus, I've been racing both days every weekend, except this past Sunday, when I was at a wedding all day, so it wasn't really a day off. 

My poor new apartment!  I'm there for a couple hours during the day but mainly to sleep, and it seriously needs some TLC.  Doing dishes is hard enough, much less cleaning the kitchen and bathroom and keeping my stuff neat.  It's making me crazy!  I was hoping to have a chance tonight, but after tutoring- after fieldwork with the 7th graders all morning- I have 'cross practice, then talking to the professor for a class that I tutor, then I have to meet my mom for dinner because she has my long-armed stapler, which I need for the aforementioned 7th graders.  Then, home to get homework done.  This weekend is no better, I'm racing both Saturday and Sunday in upstate NY, thanks to collegiate cross finally kicking off.  They're really tiny races, so it should be fun, and hopefully the weather will cooperate. 

My real reason for making this entry though, is to show off these amazing pictures I finally found from Westwood Velo (Day 1, 2nd place; Day 2, 1st place)!
The weird part is that I had no idea anyone was taking a picture, I was just looking that way.

And up the hill... again.

And over the barriers... also, again.

It's blurry because I'm going so fast, right?

Is it over yet?

I really like them, and there are more here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/groovylab/sets/72157625007828831/with/5071429648/

Back to work!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Photogenic Weekend

12th place in a 50+ field at Granogue, which some of you may remember as my first ever CX race last year.  Very exciting to see how far I've come in a year, and how different the course felt this time around. 
pre-race hangout!

all of our new bikes, in a row!

charlie, one of my all-time favorite people and teammates!

the course- how neat is that tower?

off camber, no problem!

post-race, still stoked!

an image to leave you with- yeah, we ride for raleigh!

Then, Sunday was my best friend from childhood's wedding!  I was his first fiance, I'm proud to say.  We were 3 at the time, but still!  It was a lovely wedding, and I'm putting up a bunch of pictures because come on, how often am I in a dress?  And wearing makeup?

we clean up nice.

i don't like this picture but colleen and robbie did!

only time colleen is taller, because her heels were higher!

my crew.

picture hijnks.

More later, but for now, it's a long work-week ahead!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finally, A Good Weekend!!

So, as the title reads, I finally had a successful weekend!  (Now, if only I could be as successful at figuring out how the new formatting works on this blog.  The image upload is driving me nuts!)

Anyway, we raced at Westwood Velo, up in Harriman State Park (I've done tri's there before, it's beautiful) and the weather couldn't have been better.  By "we raced," I mean Matt and I on Saturday and just me on Sunday.  Of course, I also had Andy, Konrad, Emily, Chris, Liz, Blake, et cetera... mostly kids I met at the track over the summer, with the exception of Blake, but you all know him as the guy who got me into this craziness years ago!

The weekend started off great- Matt and I drove up early in amazing fall weather, got to see some great leaf-changing scenery, and got to the race, which was small, but stellar.  My race was at 11, so I was there and getting ready to go.  We spun around a bit, and I flatted my rear wheel (somehow, this is entirely Matt's fault) but we replaced it with the pit wheel Matt had brought.  We just got our amazing new bikes, so we have the same wheels now, which makes pitting super easy. 

My race was 15 women, which is about half the size of a normal race, but I was happy about that.  Much less stress!  I managed to finagle my way into a good starting position, and when the whistle blew, I went hard, putting all the start practice I've been doing to good use.  I was sitting fourth or fifth wheel as we hit the grass, and managed to move up pretty fast to third.  I sat in third for the first half, then found myself in second, only a few seconds off of the winner.  The course was tough- 2 sets of barriers, a hill run up, a stair run up, some mud, and lots and lots of technical cornering.  Still, it was fun!  I couldn't close the gap between myself and first, which I believe was primarily a psychological issue as opposed to a real race issue.  So, I got my first ever second place CX finish, which included a medal, some oatmeal (!) and arm-warmers.  Stoked!!

Very excited about my first 'cross medal!  2nd place, heck yeah!
After that, I stayed and watched Matt and Blake- Blake did awesome and ended up third in B's- and watched all my track buddies race before heading home.

Blake, the one who got me into bike racing, taking a barrier.  He also took me to my first cross race 6 years ago!

Matt about to flawlessly go over the barriers!
Matt chasing down the competition.
Sunday was just me driving up to Harriman, but I was ok with it.  It was another great day and the drive was gorgeous.  I got there, got myself somewhat warmed up (Matt on Saturday: "Rutgers Cycling doesn't do warmups!") and race-ready.  The pressure was on!

Got to the line and ready to go, feeling a little nervous about the newly-reversed course with even more mud than Saturday.  55+ men went out before us, and the announcer didn't give us a 30 second warning, just blew the whistle.  That threw me off, but I managed to sprint out and get up in the top 4 as they broke off from the main pack.  About a quarter mile in, we hit the hill run-up and I passed two women to get into second place.  I followed the first place woman closely until she missed a turn and hit the tape, then sprinted out hard, trying to separate from 3rd and 4th.  It worked, and I held first place from midway through lap one until the end of the race, beating 2nd place by almost 2 minutes.  It was HARD!  I just kept pushing and trying to extend my lead, worried that if I crashed, I would lose it.  Luckily, that didn't happen. 

Despite no teammates being at the race, Blake and my track friends were there cheering.  At one point, I saw Blake and he yelled "go faster!" and I yelled back, "I'm in first, what more do you want!?"

After the race, the second place woman came up, hugged me, told me my barriers and remounts were amazing, and yelled at me for beating her by 2 minutes.  It was great!  So many of the women came up to congratulate me and (I think it's a good thing) claim that I was "an animal" on the course.  Hooray!

So, finally, it seems like I don't totally suck at cyclocross.  I'm really happy to finally have a few good results under my belt- the first win of the season on the team!  I'm feeling really good now, totally stoked for Granogue next weekend.

And, of course, with "great power comes great responsibility," and now I have to really go all out in training now.  Not like I wasn't before, but I feel like the pressure is on.  I was talking to Joe, a Team Somerset guy, and I said I was glad I was getting competent at CX, and he said, "not just competent... confident."  And he's right.  I feel much better about racing, and I think that's going to make a huge difference in the way I race.  At least, I hope so.

New favorite CX advice from Adam Myerson, cross guru and collective team crush: "If you're not sprinting out of every corner for 60 minutes [or 40 minutes, ed.] like it's the last lap of a crit, you're doing it wrong." 

One final picture, and my personal favorite:

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Endless Cycle

This week has been... interesting.  Tutoring has really picked up, as have my classes, and I'm finding myself in a serious time deficit.  It's led me to really start thinking about my training and how I'm structuring CX training.  Originally, I was following my Ironman mentality to training of More is More, and cramming 3 hours a day of training in.  This is neither smart nor realistic for my current situation, which is working 30-35 hours a week, taking 12 hours of classes, doing a solid 10 hours of homework/reading, 3 or so hours of "career development" in the form of independent research/filling out applications, and 6 hours of observations in a 7th grade class, which also involved prep time, since I'm teaching some lessons.  Plus, racing on the weekend.  Needless to say, I'm a busy girl.  Add in trying to have some semblance of a life, and that frantic pace is increased.  This breakneck speed is only good for a semester, thankfully, and come December, it'll calm down, but for right now, this is my life.  I'm not unhappy with it, just tired. 

I started really thinking the other day: between work, school, training, racing, and having friends, it's hard to find enough time to sleep.  The question then becomes: when is training helping or harming you when it means cutting out hours of sleep to get it in?  I think at this point, my body needs that 7-8 hours of sleep rather than 6, even if it means only training 2 hours instead of 3.  Since Nationals are 2 months away, and I have a serious desire to race in them, I need to focus on my training and racing, but at the same time, I have to be doing so with the intention of peaking in December, not crashing and burning long before then.  So things like sleeping, staying healthy and taking vitamins and eating well are equally as important as training.  And in CX, training isn't just about riding, it's about intervals, riding hard, and also equally about technical skills, and being able to ride with people: all things that I didn't exactly focus heavily on while training for Ironman.  And by didn't focus heavily, I mean didn't focus on at all.

This leads me to my switch in training values... I was talking to my new friend from Charm City (a lovely gentleman who, when I finished my race and had my only water bottle locked in a teammates car, offered me a drink.  He's also last year's collegiate cyclocross national champion, so I'm very glad I met him!) and asked him what his training schedule looked like.  He gave me a basic outline, and I almost yelled out a hallelujah chorus when I realized I could cut back on the hours and just focus on intensity a lot more.  So, I'm toning down how much I train, and ramping up how hard I train.  It's been going well!

Wednesday CX practice went extremely well (for me, anyway).  It was the last time I'll ever ride my old Surly, since it's being returned to the team I borrowed it from last year.  I cannot express enough gratitude to them for letting me experiment with cyclocross, it honestly changed my life.  Anyway, more on that later.  I managed to actually keep up with a couple of guys who had been eluding me in previous practices, actually remounted and dismounted correctly, though I still need practice, and really gave it my all.  We do 2 sets of 4 laps, and usually no one finishes the second set, since it gets dark, and normally I stop after 1-2 laps of the second set.  Assuming I make it through the first at all.  This time, I finished 3 of the final laps, and only stopped because it was getting dangerously dark on course.  I was incredibly proud!  Practice is tough because it's primarily very talented guys racing each other, which does nothing to prep me for races, since I'm lucky if I have a "race" with 2 or 3 guys.  I need more practice at racing against people and taking corners together and whatnot, so I may have to start begging some of my teammates to spend the last lap riding at my pace and trying to beat me up. 

After a good practice, to make things even better, our lovely new Raleighs arrived!  I could not be more excited about it, honestly.  Having this bike is going to be incredible.  Mom and Colleen came over for dinner and we had a girl's night of pizza, then it was on to margarita and bike building night with the team.  I came home late but with a new bike, and I was ecstatic.  Pictures of my beautiful new bike will be coming shortly.

Thursday morning, Matt and I tried out our new rides on the Towpath.  At first, I had some trouble remounting, and as I told him when I dismounted to get around a truck blocking the path, "I keep forgetting that I know how to ride a bike."  I know one of my big limiters with CX is that I psyche myself out, and I need to stop doing that and just ride.  Next week, he and I are talking about practicing running with the bikes, instead of just running, so that should be interesting.  After he left, I went and practiced remounts and actually got them quickly once I just told myself I could handle it. 

I'm stoked for this weekend's races in Westwood.  Plus, since the races are relatively close to home, I can have some semblance of a normal weekend and actually do things like laundry.  In the meantime, it's on to other projects and other work...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Forced Rest Week

In some ways, this is a very good thing. Going from Ironman to Cyclocross with what could barely be considered a rest week was a tough transition, and while I'm having a great time with 'cross, it's been pretty tiring. So, fractured cheek and pain aside, being on the sidelines for a few days was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Don't get me started on all the health insurance hoops I have to jump through now though. Talk about a hassle! (Especially since I didn't need an ambulance in the first place, but the doctors insisted.)

But my cheek is healing and my body is resting, though while taking a week off (with the exception of a couple teensy tiny bike rides and an hour of running), I've been feeling pretty gross. It's amazing how much time I have when I'm not training, but it's also shocking how out of shape I feel after a couple of days. I know it's in my head, but still!!

Classes and tutoring and work are going... insane. I think my head is about 1 step away from explosion/implosion with the amount of stuff I have on my plate, and to make things nuttier, I'm suddenly re-evaluating my whole 4 year plan in terms of what I want to do. The end goals are still the same, but I've had to start thinking about alternative (money-saving) ways to get to those ends. Regardless of what I do after the semester, I still have to finish this semester, so I'm trying to not think about it too much, but not ignore it either. Some of it is scary because I know that choosing certain routes will leave me out of school for the moment, and it scares me, not being a student anymore. It was inevitable, I know, but I define myself so much as a student that I think I've already made certain decisions based on wanting to stay in school, versus what's better in the long term. Still, I have no regrets. Right now, I love my classes, I feel like I'm doing well in them and I have them well under control. Ditto tutoring. If this keeps up, I see a potential 4.0 in my future. I hope.

In other news, cyclocross is on hold for the weekend because of a work thing, but Sunday will be a solid training ride and skills session with Dad, who raced his first race at Whirlybird CX this weekend, sporting bib shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. I love him. He did awesome, and everyone went nuts cheering for him, since he was so far back but was just having a blast. I was exhausted from being nervous about him (after witnessing him topple 4 or 5 times on our practice lap), and during his race, I was sprinting all over the course to cheer for him.

My race started really well, since I actually had a callup to the second row thanks to racing the weekend before. I started great, got clipped in immediately, and felt comfortable. Maybe too comfortable, since I skidded out HARD on gravel and went down. Two of my other teammates did the same thing- the gravel was super loose and slippery and if you didn't know that, you probably ate $@%#. My leg and elbow and hand were bleeding a lot and gravel covered, but I kept racing. However, during the crash, I got passed by a lot of girls, and because of the discomfort from crashing, I never caught back on.

However, I did FINALLY LEARN TO REMOUNT!! It was very exciting during the race, being able to pass girls after barriers because I was able to hop on my bike. This was a huge coup for me last week at CX practice. Thanks to Mark and Pat's excellent coaching, I somehow managed to go from dismounting on the wrong side and not being able to mount at all to being able to dismount and remount easily. It was amazing. I felt like a little kid, demanding that Charlie and Matt watch me dismount, and I was so proud of myself when Charlie was yelling that I did it perfectly. They said they thought I had known how to do it the whole time and had just been messing with them by dismounting and remounting terribly.

I love my teammates.

So basically, it's been a very long week, and though I should be stoked that it's Friday, I'm more looking forward to Sunday, which for me is going to mean the re-start of my training.

Aside from a shift in training from endurance to a schedule made to emphasize CX training and to minimize time training, I also really need a serious re-vamp of my eating habits. Robbie and I have been super busy lately and I feel like because of it, we're way more willing to eat like total crap. Also, I should never ever ever buy Reeses and candy corn. They're like my Kryptonite. So I need to put some serious focus on eating right. Basically, I need to get good really really fast, since Nationals are coming up, and pretty soon decisions about who gets to go to Nats are going to be made, and I want to at least be in serious contention to go. I think it would be a blast, and I really think that I can improve. I already managed to learn remounts, and they were my "white whale" of cx, so who knows?

Monday, September 27, 2010

And some days just suck.

Don't I look badass? Got door-ed today riding home, got this lovely cut as my cheek took the entire impact of the corner of the car door. Slightly fractured cheek bone, no stitches, and a whole lot of swelling and pain.

Like I don't get beat up enough during cyclocross. (Seriously, after this weekend I have virtually no skin on one elbow and a whole lotta scratches on my leg. Went down hard on gravel...) Though, thank god for CX, since when I got doored, rather than falling, I swayed left, pushed off a car as it was passing by me, unclipped, and got a foot down. I have no idea how I pulled that off, but if I hadn't, I may have ended up under that car that was passing by, so I'm very thankful. And as always, the RU health center was not surprised to see me bleeding and walking my bike, and took very good care of me.

On the bright side, Robbie and Adam came and hunted me down in the hospital while I waited for a CT scan, and Charlie and Pat were both ready to go beat up the kid who did the door-ing, so it just serves as a reminder as to why I love all of my friends- and of course, how much I really love my wonderful boyfriend! So there is a silver lining, I guess.

Now, I'm off to get a milkshake and watch cartoons. Because my face hurts!

Monday, September 20, 2010

charming race in the charm city

Can you tell how much fun I'm having? (Note the eyes rolling skyward wondering when the heck this lap is going to be over. Hey, when you just ran up stairs with a bike, it's a reasonable thing to wonder!)

Seriously though, I'm so stoked to be back racing with my all-time favorite teammates again! We had a full weekend in Charm City (Baltimore) at this fabulous park- Druid Hill- where I had actually been before with a great old friend of mine years ago. We played frisbee and rode our bikes then, but it was a little different this weekend. For one thing, I wore way more spandex this weekend.

We got to Baltimore super late on Friday night, but luckily we had a lovely apartment to stay at (thank you Don!!) We all passed out pretty soon after getting there, despite the fact that we all had wanted to stay up and watch Top Gun, thanks to listening to Pat's CX2010 mix on the way down, which heavily featured songs from the movie.

The next morning, David and I left before everyone else, since he raced at 9 and I raced at 11, while the other guys weren't starting until noon. We managed somehow to get our stuff set up and together, and David had a great 2nd race ever. I was getting a little nervous, since it was my first race of the season and I had no idea how it would go.

The race was heavy on cornering, had a regular set of barriers, a set of stairs, and a huge barrier made out of the wooden barrier surrounding a giant tree in the park. It was fine for the guys with long legs to jump over but us short folk needed to hop up and over:

(My right leg has a crazy intense quad muscle showing here, I think it's hilarious.)

Anyway, I didn't have an amazing start, but I had fun and didn't embarrass myself too much. I won't go into a big race report, mainly because it all happened very very fast so it's mostly a blur at this point, but I managed to pass a few people and finished 27th out of 42 or so Cat3/4 women. I'm a cat3 in road, but definitely a cat4 in cyclocross!

Here's the crazy off camber turn- it doesn't look like much but the course was so dry it was falling out from under you as you rode. I take serious pride in the fact that I didn't have to put a foot down at any point during it though!

Going into a corner, looking over at Pat, who was busy yelling at me to go faster!

Sunday was day 2, and it was a lot more fun! For one thing, my good friends from Philly were racing, so got to hang with Dan, Brendan, and Gerry (who all totally killed it in their races.)

My race started out even worse than Saturday's race, I didn't get clipped in until we hit the grass, so I was way behind. Fortunately, that just made me want to work harder to make up the ground I lost, so I started really pushing it and taking more risks than I normally would have. So it all worked out to some extent.

However, at the end it became very very clear that I am, in fact, a road racer as opposed to a cross one. The final bit was a stretch of road, and there were three girls ahead of me when I hit it. In a sprint finish, I managed to pass all of the girls, one of them literally on the line by less than a saddle length, so I finished in 22nd in a field of 45 or so.

Not great results, but a little better than most of last year, and I'm super-focused on improvement. My major limiter is clearly my lack of ability to remount, and it costs me a lot of time. My handling can use some work as well, and I definitely need to work on starts and accelerations, but the remounting is top priority.

I'm getting serious about CX, despite my prior assertions that this was my fun season, since a trip to Nationals is potentially in the works if I actually perform well enough over the next few weeks. The bright side of that is that a full training schedule for a CX pro is under 15 hours a week, so that's pretty awesome. It just means that I'll do a couple shorter runs, and maybe one swim just for recovery purposes, but mainly focus on riding and on skills. I need the time off from a serious triathlete schedule, and this fits the bill pretty perfectly. Plus it'll get me ready to switch back to short course, since it's a lot of focus on high intensity and I've been in low for quite some time now. I'm excited about how this season is shaping up, and very nervous since I have some real goals for the season now that I may not have had before. But above all, having fun is still ranked #1!

Friday, September 17, 2010

And so it begins.

Heading to Baltimore for my first cyclocross race of the season, and I'm pretty stoked. Also actually went to cyclocross practice on Wednesday night (with my CX bike, as opposed to the week before when I ran to it and didn't ride at all). I'm sure by the end of the weekend I'll have tons of pictures, whacky stories, and of course, plenty of bruises. I'm really looking forward to seeing a lot of friends from last season again, and talking to one of the women of the ECCC about doing Ironman.

In the meantime though, it's been a long week. We finally went grocery shopping, bought the last of the furniture and stuff that we really needed, and basically finished moving into our new place. I've gotten my tutoring assignments, my field placement, and all of my class books and assignments. Starting next week, my life pretty much belongs to Rutgers (not that it already didn't, but with the addition of tutoring and fieldwork, it's going to be insane.) I'm still recovering from a combination of Ironman, the frenetic moving (and all the heavy lifting that went with it) and shopping, the classes and riding to and from them, racing this past weekend, and getting back into training. Sometimes it's hard to tell myself to back off, since I'm used to never wanting to skip a workout. I have a training plan that runs about 15-17 hours per week if I do it all, but for the next couple weeks while I finish recovering and get used to my routine, I'm trying to just do what I feel like doing, and when I feel tired, taking a rest. It's hard to do! I know it's for the best though, especially since I don't want to be burned out for racing every weekend.

My classes are pretty neat. I definitely feel like thinking critically about teaching has already started making me a better tutor, especially now with the student athletes. It's cool when I catch myself teaching and thinking about something I read about literacy. I'm also really starting to get along with people in my class, and man, we are total nerds. Seriously. We had a 25 minute argument about comic books between classes yesterday, and it was amazing. Then, during class, there was a huge thunderstorm and the lights blinked, and one kid suggested we all tell ghost stories. We cracked up. I mean, hysterical laughter. Why? Because one of our readings talks about a teacher learning to relate to her students during a storm when the power went out and she did just that. I'm also finding myself getting excited about lesson planning.

It's funny, I always assumed I wanted to teach high school English, once I made the decision to be a teacher, but more and more, I'm intrigued by the prospect of teaching 6-8th grade classes instead. I'm doing fieldwork in a high school this semester though, so I'll get a taste of that, and maybe in the Spring I'll try for a middle school so I can see what it's like. There are obvious pros and cons to both levels, but I have time to make that kind of decision, and in all honesty, though I may prefer one over the other, I wouldn't be too picky about the grade level, as long as it was sixth through twelfth.

Right now, athletics-wise, I'm trying to get through 'cross season and have a blast, totally recover and recharge, and I need to put a lot of thought into what I'm doing next summer (there might be something travel-wise happening that will impact my tri life, but we'll see), plus I need to figure out the whole college thing, since next year is student teaching and I have to figure out how I'm supposed to manage to teach full time for free and still manage to make rent and eat... I have a couple thoughts but I need to meet with an adviser about it. The long and short of my triathlon plans though, is that I'm planning on really buckling down and focusing on short course next year. I think with the right training and the right race, I can go sub 2:05 on an Olympic, and that's what I plan on attempting to do. I know it's a super-lofty goal, but gotta aim high!

In any event, back to the piles and piles of homework and reading I have to do... I admit, I do love college!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Last Triathlon of the Season... Check!

Sunday was my last triathlon of the season. I knew going into it that it may not go so great, since it was 2 weeks out from Ironman, and in that 2 weeks, I had been moving, starting classes, working and just starting to do light training again. Add that to the fact that it was a sprint, and I haven't gone short and fast in ages, and it was definitely pretty uncertain how the race would pan out. But, I've done this race for the past 2 years, and I wanted to keep it on my schedule because I like having yearly comparisons of the same course to look at. Plus, the Skylands Tri is literally 5 minutes from my house on roads I know and in a park I grew up in, and it's one of the first races that my dad ever did, back in his tri days. So, it's sort of an obligation, and I love it. Also, it's one of the only races I know of where the winner of each age group and the top 3 actually get cash prizes. When you spend $85 to race, it's nice to be able to potentially win $100 at the end! (And for someone who just had to put down a security deposit, pay rent, buy house stuff, buy books, and deal with IM, that's a very good thing.)

I woke up Sunday to cloudy skies and rain. It was in the low 60s, which is chilly for a race you're doing in a bikini. I hadn't really gotten my stuff together the night before, but the race started at 9, so we didn't have to leave til 8. What a welcome change from the norm! I got to sleep til 7 and still shower, eat and pack.

It was hard getting my stuff in transition- first I needed to find a bike pump, then I realized my towel was going to get soaked, then I was wondering why on earth I was racing at all. I told myself to suck it up though, and pulled on my already wet wetsuit. Not pleasant. The race started a little late, and they had 5 min between swim waves, which is sort of weird to me. The women were the third wave, and a couple of them took off like a thing that swims really fast... a fish, maybe?... either way, they were long gone. I was doing reasonably well, though my arms were killing me. I had done a weight set a few days before and I was seriously feeling the aftereffects. I didn't realize just how much I still needed to recover until then. Still, made it out of the water in 14 min, almost a minute off last year's time. Last year though, I was 4th out of the water, this time I was closer to tenth. There were some FAST swimmers out there!

Got through transition a little slow just because of the rain and everything being soaked. I opted against putting on a jersey, since I knew it would be soaked in seconds. Instead, I decided to brave the cold in just the bikini. Brrrrr!

From Cat Marlson, thank you thank you for taking awesome pictures!

The course was as it always is, but very very wet. We haven't had rain in quite some time, so it was pretty slick from all the accumulated oil. The hill that always kills everyone was particularly brutal, and the super fast downhill was more nerve-wracking than usual, despite the fact that I managed to stay in aero the entire descent. I passed a lot of men and women, so I was feeling better about how I was doing, though I knew that there were a few women ahead of me still.

Finished the bike about a minute faster than last year, which is actually pretty big, given the terrible weather. Came into transition, threw on the shoes and headed out. There was a woman right next to me and at first we were in a passing war, but after exchanging a few pleasant comments, we realized we weren't in the same age group and she asked if I wanted to work together. Yes. So, for the 5k, we each took turns in the lead, we passed a ton of guys and a couple of women, and generally had a good time. When we hit the final part- running up a long driveway and then back down it into the finishing chute, I sped up, and she didn't. Dad was yelling at me to watch my back, and I was pretty much giving it all I had to get to that finish line.
Again, thanks to Cat Marlson for posting some awesome race pics!

Crossed the line as the 5th woman overall (the first two were the 6th and 9th in the entire race. Whoa.) and had a 21:20 5k, a solid minute and a half better than last year. My final time was 1:26:05, almsot 3 minutes faster than last year, despite the longer transitions and other issues due to the rain. I won my AG, and was feeling pretty satisfied. Beating my time from last year by a pretty decent amount given the circumstances surrounding it felt pretty great, and definitely reminded me that I love a good short course race!

More from the grad school files later, but at the moment I have to head out to get tested for TB before I can start observing at schools next week. Then, 7 hours of class. And a couple of homework. And today is my easy day!

This weekend, heading to Baltimore for Charm City CX. Should be a blast!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Obligatory Grad School Post

I'm back in school.

I say back in school because last year I only took 1 class a semester. And they were easy. So it didn't count.

Now, I'm seriously in school. Fieldwork, tons of research, papers, projects, presentations, group work... It's a heavy, heavy workload. Seeing the syllabi for my classes has made me super nervous about handling all of it while juggling 3 different tutoring gigs as well as my role as Communications Organizer at the union one day a week (plus online a few hours during the week), cyclocross and training, finding time to work on writing and career stuff like that, and having a social life and getting to spend time with Robbie. It's a daunting task.

Still, I was born to plan. So my agenda is already labeled with due dates and reading assignments, my books are bought or ordered, and every single page of reading that was available online for my classes (and it was a lot) has all been printed, stapled, labeled with due dates, and filed away to be read at the appropriate time. I'm armed with a new desk, a pile of post its, packs of new highlighters and red pens, plans for tutoring each session to the best of my abilities- including a lesson plan outline for the class I tutor- so I should be feeling pretty prepared, right?

To some extent I do. Don't get me wrong. It's just that it's already way harder than I expected. I didn't expect this amount of work from all of my classes, so to be faced with it has been tough. More tough though has been the cost of books. Between Ironman, vacation, being away from tutoring and nannying for a month, paying a security deposit and a month's rent, buying furniture and a ton of household stuff, a frickin' cyclocross bike (the parts for it, anyway. but more on that later), registration for Skylands (the last sprint triathlon of the season), and then having to buy a TON of books, I'm pretty tapped out. I'm not worried, because tutoring starts this coming week and I'll be making more then, but it's still never fun to see money vanish like that, and in such a short period of time.

I'll survive.

On the bright side, my classes are actually pretty neat. For three of them, I'm with essentially the same exact people, so already we're becoming really well acquainted with each other. To the point, in fact, where when the teacher was demonstrating a point and used a picture of a cyclist, and asked what he was doing (a literacy lesson, don't ask), half of the students shouted out "Ironman" and looked at me. I just pointed out how poorly he was cornering. And then yelled at the people who said Tour De France instead of just bike race. Come on, people! There is more to cycling than the Tour! At least no one assumed it was Lance Armstrong in the picture...

Point being, I've made some friends. Including someone who watches the same cartoons like the Justice League and Batman, and can actually quote The Question ("the plastic on the end of shoelaces is called the aglet. It's true purpose is sinister") and actually doesn't think a Booster Gold action figure collection is lame. (He hasn't seen our essentially superhero themed apartment though, so he doesn't quite grasp the extent of our nerdiness.)

In the meantime, before everything gets insane, I've been recovering. I took last week totally off, though "off" is relative, since we were moving, and Robbie and Adam had work and class all day, so I was loading my truck, carrying heavy things, putting furniture together, putting stuff away, and generally getting the place together myself. Mom helped, and Robbie and Adam did a lot once they had time, but a lot of it was me solo. Then, Robbie and I went on a spending spree for furniture and living stuff- I'll post pictures of the place later, now that it finally looks like a real home. It's super nice! Only one of my bikes is living there at the moment, but we'll fix that soon enough.

This week, I rode the Skylands triathlon course. I was 4th female last year, and I'm hoping to do well this year, though who knows, since I'm still technically in recovery. Still, riding the course on my tri bike felt good, and since then I've been swimming and running a little too. Just an hour and a half to two hours a day, and today I'm off because of work and our first date night in I don't know how long! Regardless, I'm feeling good. I ran to the field where we have cyclocross practice on Wednesday to hang out, despite not having a bike just yet, and I can't wait for the season to get underway! After this weekend, it's CX until December, hooray!

I've also been trying to maintain a GoodReads account, though I don't know how successful that'll be with classes and work. But if anyone has it, my account name is MollyHurford, so look me up!

I'm sure posts from now on will be focused on CX and grad school, though of course triathlon is still my #1 love. Starting to plan my season for next year out though, so stay tuned for that...

Friday, September 10, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

While I don't have much to report on my vacation, it was an awesome few days at the beach, some great time spent with Colleen, Mom and Dad, and just a lot of having fun on my taper, despite not being able to run on the beach or surf.

The Family!

It starts with just one dog...
And somehow they multiply!!

Faith, my dog, had a series of interesting encounters with the Jack Russells, Hazel, Buster, and Lucky:

(They meet)

(Faith attempts to show Lucky who's the boss.)(Touche, Lucky!)

Colleen and I, looking very freckle-y

Dad and I, post-mountain bike ride right after a rain storm.
...and back.

About to head down to the boardwalk to do some souvenir shopping!

An awesome waterslide on the beach...
And me after going down said waterslide.
(Our Aunt's beach house that we stay in is in the residential area of VA Beach, but we're only a couple of miles from the boardwalk and the crowded beaches, which are great for things like waterslides, though I prefer our nice quiet spot!)

Speaking of our nice spot, here's the dunes and the family again!

Me complaining my stomach hurt.

...and me jumping off the dune.

And my personal favorite picture, the beach right before a storm.