Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Finding my way

I think, relatively, that I haven't moved around all that much. But I have had four significant moves in the last 10 years, so I've had a little practice with the process. Mostly, I don't like it. Packing everything up, sorting through the stuff you naturally accumulate from living in a place for a few years, getting frustrated with packing and giving a bunch away or throwing it out or just leaving it behind, then regretting it a few months later when you inevitably need that exact thing . . . finding a new place to live, and setting it up so it feels like home and not some stranger's house . . . making new friends and connections, finding a doctor, a dentist, a piano tuner . . . figuring out which grocery store is going to be your grocery store . . . in general, I do not like moving and would be quite happy never to do it again.

Still, something about moving that I enjoy, something that I've just picked up on this time: finding my way around on a bike. At first, I went on a few group rides and had no clue where I was; I couldn't get dropped because I wouldn't know where I was (there's still plenty of that, actually)! And I've already written about getting turned around on a bike ride. But on a ride last week, I suddenly realized that I knew exactly where I was, and knew what was coming up next. It's strange how quickly, and without really noticing it, these landmarks and . . . how should I say, the feel of a place sticks in your brain. Without trying, I've acquired a certain sense of where I am, and how to get around.

I'm sure there will still be plenty getting lost--after all, the Bay Area is huge, and there are major parts of it I haven't even considered exploring yet! But it's starting to feel like my area, like I belong here and know a little bit about how to get around.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Getting Lost

When I was a little girl, my dad told me a story about how he got to know Wichita when he first moved there. He had grown up near Ohio, but moved to Wichita when he entered the Air Force. During his first week or two there, he drove around in his Le Mans and got himself really lost. Then he found his way home again. And that's how he got to know his way around Wichita.

On Tuesday, I got lost.

I planned a long ride using a combination of Strava heatmaps, local knowledge, and the few rides I've done with Alto Velo Racing Club. I loaded it to my phone, and hoped that would be enough.

First off, I don't know enough about the area to know high-traffic roads. Sometimes Strava heatmaps show a road that's popular for riding, but all of the rides are recorded on Saturdays and Sundays when the traffic's light, or it's all from weekday commuters who ride on the sidewalks. So I ended up on a long, steady uphill that was pretty high-traffic, and included lots of semi-trucks. That was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was missing my turn and going about 5 miles beyond it, mostly uphill. I figured it out and turned around straight into a headwind. Ergh. I checked my phone at the turn to make sure I knew the next few turns, then did a loooooong descent down a narrow road. I made my next turn, but had to stop and check my phone there.

Which brings me to mistake number three: not bringing a phone charger. My phone got too cold and froze. Have you ever had your iPhone literally freeze? The battery drains to nothing in a second and you can't turn it back on until you plug it in. So now I was about 15 miles from home with no idea where I was or how to get back.

So I tried to use the bread crumbs feature of my Garmin to guide me back. It didn't work. And the satellite dropped out. I was completely without technology, and had to use my wits to get me back home!

I'd just come down from the mountains, and I know those are west of where I live. And I'd seen the south bay from the top of the mountain, so I started heading north and east. I saw a sign for a familiar road, but couldn't remember if I should turn left or right. I guessed left, and followed the road hoping that I wasn't going to end up in San Jose.

After a few miles, I saw a familiar jersey up ahead--a Sunpower racer was within view! I went a little harder to catch up to him, and asked if he could point me in the right direction. He showed me where to turn, and I was back in a familiar area! I was able to get myself home from there.

Tl;dr: I got lost, and now I know my way around my new home a little bit better! But getting lost is worth it when it comes with these views:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting stronger

I'm coming back from a true off-season, which coincided with the winter holidays, three subsequent trips (skiing in Pennsylvania, visiting family in Ontario, driving cross-country), and a coast-to-coast move. My training log from that time looks like this:
Those "walks" are actually skiing. So I taught a spin class, did yoga, went skiing . . . that was it for that month! It felt good to take time off; I burned myself out with racing last year. I did 18 road races between April and August and 15 'cross races between September 10 and December 10. The experience of burning out towards the end of the season has given me a better sense of how much I can race, and I'll apply that this year and in future seasons.

Right now, though, I'm having to re-build my fitness from a much lower place. With the beautiful weather and places to cycle here in Northern California, I'm having to hold myself back from doing more volume and intensity than my body can handle right now. It's also harder to make myself stick to any kind of structure, since the outdoor environment isn't chasing me onto the trainer. I finally broke down and bought a power meter--a Saris PowerTap that is attached to some sick carbon wheels. I'm hoping that will help me structure my training outdoors, and will give me a better way to monitor my training stress so I don't overdo.

The bike fitness was a planned loss, though, and relatively short-term; I knew I would need to slow down, let some fitness go, and build back up for the next season. There's something else that I've lost over the past two years that I didn't plan: strength.

My legs are still strong, of course. One of the guys on a group ride I did last weekend said, "I can see by your legs that you don't like climbing, either," and then we suffered at the back of the bunch together on every uphill. My legs are still strong and powerful, like a frog's! But the upper body strength that I built up over years of strength training in the gym has slowly faded away, as I neglected the weights for the bike. Because who wants to be inside lifting weights when you could be outside riding a bike?!
I would still win this cycling competition, boys.
Chris Froome's arms aside, cyclists still need upper-body strength, especially if they're planning to do off-road events like cyclocross or the Dirty Kanza. Shoulder and core stability are especially important for me, because of my bad shoulder. All of that hasn't been enough to motivate me to get into the weight room, or the yoga studio, or even to do a few corrective exercises at home in the evenings. Over the past 6 months, I've started getting incapacitating headaches, usually the day after hard races or long rides; I think I've lost so much strength and flexibility that my spinal erectors are putting pressure on the base of my skull and causing mind-numbing tension headaches. I've had to stay home from work a couple of times, they've been so bad!

Even excruciating pain hasn't been enough to get me to strength train, though. You know what's made me get back to strength training? Dirty Kanza. Because 200 miles of gravel on a bike with no suspension will demand a lot of my arms and core, and I don't think I have that right now. I don't want to pull out of DK200 before the last checkpoint because I have an unmanageable headache, and I don't want to crash because I lack the endurance in my core to handle my bike well after 12 hours in the saddle.

Ultimately, being strong all over will serve me in my whole life. But I can't seem to motivate myself to train for it except as a means to be a better cyclist.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Things that are happening

There's been plenty of action in my neck of the woods this winter!

I live in the Bay Area now. The weather and cycling are awesome, the housing prices not so much. Actively looking for a racing team, and they all seem friendly and terrific!

I'm applying for doctorate of physical therapy programs to begin this fall. Other than that, not working yet. Lots of free time for exploring the local cycling scene.

I won a lottery entry to Dirty Kanza 200! So I guess I need to put some water bottle cages on my 'cross bike.

If I were a better blogger I'd write more about this stuff, but for right now I'm too busy riding outside in the awesome California weather!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Race Report: BikenetiCX

In which: I get last place, but have a move named after me!

Sometimes, there are no words that will communicate the pain and ecstasy of cyclocross racing. I give you, instead, my race in pictures:
The one in the rainbow stripes comes by them honestly; she's a masters world champion! Photo credit: Dominion Cycling Photography
Having a fine time in the first lap! Photo credit: Dominion Cycling Photography
Still in the first lap, I'm sitting second wheel to the race leader. Photo credit: Dominion Cycling Photography
And now I give you my crowning glory: The Morton!

 And in sequence:
Now let's see it from another angle:

That giant playing card is for a prize, by the way. I don't normally ride with playing cards in my mouth.
And one more, so you really get the idea:
The Morton, that's what the cool kids are calling it! Photo credit: Darrell Parks
You'll probably want a GIF of that.

And that's pretty much all you need to know about my BikenetiCX race!

(Although, if you're interested, I got last place in the women's 1/2/3 and lost the Sportif Cup by 3 points because I raced the 1/2/3 instead of the 3/4. Even so, I feel this was a fitting end to my MABRA cyclocross career. I mean I have a move named after me. That's better than any trophy!)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Big Changes Coming

I have an announcement to make:

Emily got a job in Northern California. We are moving to the Bay Area after the first of the year!

I will really miss the community I've come to know and love her in the D.C. metro. I'll miss my team, Veloworks-Spokes, Etc.; I'll miss my MABRA women's racing community; I'll miss my Team-Not-Team cyclocross group; I'll miss my workplace, Sport & Health, and all of the wonderful clients I've been privileged to train over the past three years; and I'll miss the beautiful terrain, the dedicated cycling paths, the ability to get so many places in this area by bike.

I'm going into a new environment sight unseen. I'll need to find a new team, a new gym, a new community. I'll need to get to know a new area with new and different terrain. I'll have to explore new bike paths and routes to get around my new home. And I'll have to find a good and trust-worthy bike shop.

I don't know anything about what the racing is like in Northern California. I've heard it's hilly; will I be too fat to do well? I just upgraded to cat. 3 at the end of the road season, and I'm about to upgrade to a cat. 2 in 'cross. Will I be able to keep up with that level in a new and more competitive region? Will I find a team that balances social and competitive well? Will the community welcome me?

I was very apprehensive about moving across the country when Emily was interviewing for jobs. But now that I know for sure that we're moving, I'm very excited! I'm going to explore a part of the country I've never visited extensively (the only time I went to NorCal while attending USC was for the Berkeley Bearathlon, the hardest sprint triathlon I've ever done). I'll get to ride my bike by the ocean and in the mountains. We'll be close to surfing and close to skiing. And I'm already getting back in touch with people I knew in college.

Also, I fully intend to buy a mountain bike once we get out there to fully enjoy what West Coast cycling has to offer!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Race Report: S'Ville Bikes CX & Winchester Apple CX

In which: I do not win

This was my first weekend in the 1/2/3 fields. I haven't yet upgraded to cat. 2; I'll still do Taneytown as a cat. 3. But after that, it will be time to upgrade, and I will have to race with the elites. These races gave me a preview of what that might be like.

S'Ville Bikes CX
Looking at the pre-registration before Saturday, I wasn't overly nervous. All the women registered were people I'd beaten before--which isn't to say that I always beat them or expected to beat them, but I felt like I was in a field that matched my abilities. Then, in line for the port-a-potties, I spotted a familiar face behind me. It was Julie Kuliecza, professional road cyclist and woman who is much faster than I. Besides being a little intimidated, I was also excited to see how hard a professional can go, and how hard I would need to work as a result.

Rain began to fall as we rolled over to staging, and the temperature had plummeted since I'd arrived two hours before. The course was mostly grass, a little uneventful, with a few long, steady uphills and one short single-track section in the woods. With rain falling steadily, I figured everyone now had way too much air in their tires, but at least we'd all have about the same disadvantage. Five of us rolled off in the 1/2/3 field. Julie took the hole shot, and for a while I was on her wheel! She almost slid out going too fast through a corner, which let us all know to be more careful. For a second, I thought I might be able to ride with her. Then she looked back, saw all of us still in touch, and turned on the gas. She rolled right away from the four of us and we didn't see her again until the podium. "Don't go too fast, Julie!" we yelled after her, because we didn't want to have to do five laps.

Teammate Beth was on my wheel throughout the first lap. Going into the woods, I tried to ride hard and take good lines so I wouldn't slow her down or mess her up (Beth is better than I am, technically). Instead, I hit a sharp rock and gashed a huge cut in my rear tubular's sidewall. We were close to the end of the first lap, and a short distance from the pit. I rolled on my flat tire to the pit and switched out for my pit bike. In the meantime, second (Beth) and third flew past me, along with several of the cat. 3/4 women. I came out of the pit still within sight of them, and tried to catch back on. But second and third always stayed out of my reach. The course was so wide open that I could see them dueling back and forth. Lisa would gain on the power sections and Beth would gain on the technical sections. Eventually, Lisa put the hammer down on a hill and dropped Beth. I rode the last lap trying to maintain my gap. I didn't want to catch Beth--both because she is my teammate and I didn't want to knock her off of the podium and because I wasn't sure that I could. But then Lisa dropped her chain and Beth and I both rode past her for second and third place. So we got to share the podium with a pro!
And Beth and I both have the leaders jerseys in the series: her for the 1/2/3 and me for the 3/4!

Winchester Apple CX
Apple CX may be the toughest non-UCI race on the circuit. It has several interesting features, so the course is long and hard, but it doesn't seem long and hard because you're always coming up on another technical section. There's a steep run-up (The Belgian Wall) into an off-camber and another run-up; there are a couple of super-fast single-track descents; there are lots of swoopy turns sections; everything flows together nicely and makes a really cohesive, challenging course!

I had a front-row start with some of the toughest women in the region. My nerves were so bad I was babbling. My hope was to mess up the start so I wouldn't have the pressure of having to hang with MABRA's best. Ever have a morning where you're not exactly tired but you don't feel like enduring the kind of pain necessary to perform well in a competitive race? That's how I felt. I didn't want to subject myself to the sort of hurt those women can dish out.

I really needn't have worried myself about feeling pressured to hang with them; I was off the back after the first three turns. I was so far out of my league, it was hilarious. There was one woman I could have out-ridden; she would put in big efforts on every power section (and I didn't care enough to try to match them) and then I would catch her wheel again in anything technical. But she really wanted it more than I did, and I was content to let her ride off with second-to-last place while I brought up the rear.

With all the 1/2/3s out of sight ahead of me and in no danger of being caught by the 3s and 4s behind me, I set about riding the cleanest race I could. The course was amazing, and it was so much fun to be riding without trying to win. I got DFL at Winchester Apple CX, and no one can take that away from me!

I have had a really good season, and it is nearly at its end. I have Taneytown this weekend, Capital CX the weekend after that, and BikenetiCX to finish everything off. I've seen the podium a few times and even won a few races! I've upgraded from cat. 3 to cat. 2. I'm content with what I've accomplished, and I'll probably take it easy and enjoy riding in the 1/2/3 field for those last few races (even if I'm DFL every time). I imagine next season I'll get frustrated with being at the back, and it will light my fire to improve. Until then, I'm content to bring up the rear!