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:

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?