Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Almond Flour Pancakes


I've made protein/paleo pancakes before (back in the years when I was eating mostly paleo). They didn't come out well. They were basically a scoop of protein powder and an egg. That's a protein powder omelette. They tasted of chocolate and chalk (chalk-a-late?), and they had the texture of used coffee filters with bits of coffee grounds mixed in.

So when I was craving pancakes after cycle class this morning (IHOP advertises on CNN, yo, and CNN is always on at the gym), I didn't go back to those bad, bad pancakes. Instead, I used the magic of Pinterest to look for a recipe that wouldn't suck. And I found one!

I made a few modifications, which are included below, but this recipe was adapted from one by The Roasted Root. They are surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much, but these are tasty and have a pleasant texture.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup of almond flour
2 tbsp flax seed meal
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure to mix everything together well; it's especially important that the baking powder is evenly distributed. Whisk eggs and vanilla into milk. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Heat a pan or a griddle to medium-low. Use less heat than you think you need. These are better when they're not burnt.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix into the pan and gently tilt the pan to create a thin, even pancake. It takes 3-4 minutes on the first side. You should see brown, crispy edges peaking out from the sides, and there should be a few bubbles on the surface of the pancake.
  4. Flip the pancake over very gently. They're fragile. Cook for another minute or two on the other side, just until the bottom looks golden brown.
  5. Repeat until you've used all the batter.
Tips
  • The batter is pretty thick. I used a spoon to scrape out the inside of my 1/4 cup scoop. It doesn't pour well, and half of it will stick to whatever vessel you're using to transfer mix from bowl to pan.
  • I used a crepe pan that I have for some reason (who has a crepe pan?), which has a non-stick, non-Teflon coating. I used about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil to grease the pan, but it wasn't really necessary. These didn't stick to my pan, really, and the coconut oil that wasn't soaked up by the first pancake burned and smoked.
  • These are gluten free, so they don't have the protein structure to hold together as well. That makes them fragile. Use the biggest spatula/flipper that you have and turn them over slowly. I didn't have any break, but go carefully. Think of it more as flipping an omelette than flipping a pancake.
  • Cooking takes longer than regular pancakes. Prepare to do a lot of standing around. If you have a griddle and can do a whole batch at once, lucky you. If you're doing them one at a time, prepare to devote 40 minutes to the cooking process.
  • Try them with apple butter. Om nom nom.
  • This recipe made 8 pancakes using 1/4 cup at a time. Nutrition info:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kit Review: Shebeest Petunia Bibs and Divine Jersey

My kit collection has gotten sad over the past couple of years. There are multiple pairs of bike shorts about which I've said, "I should really get rid of these." This year, I finally had to (because no one wants to see my bum in spin class or on team rides). My beloved Specs Racing cycling kit--which I've had since '08 or '09--has gotten a little too much use. I finally threw out my Specs bibs this year when the seams that held the pad in ripped out, leaving tiny windows into my crotch from front and back. The non-bib Specs shorts are still in the spin class/TrainerRoad session rotation, but they won't hold out much longer. Most of the jerseys have held out much better, but I lost one to a broken zipper this year. I have some nice, new Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. kits for racing, but the Mt. Borah padding doesn't play well with my privates during 3+ hour rides.

All of which means I've needed for a long time to invest in new cycling clothing. In spite of the fact that I have more money now and therefore shouldn't have so much trouble buying new stuff, I find that my tastes in cycling clothing have also gotten way more expensive. I finally learned while training for Ironman Mallorca that bibs in the $50-$60 range are not good enough for my bottom. I budget $100-$120 for a pair of bib shorts now, and look for sales to get the best value. I can't quite bring myself to pay $200-$300 for a pair of fancy boutique bibs, though. Sorry, but you probably won't be reading any reviews of Rapha or Velocio kit from me!

That brings me to the kit I finally bought from Shebeest: the Petunia bibs and Divine jersey in black and houndstooth.

I got a pair of shorts (not bibs) from Shebeest a couple of years ago for Ironman training. They were marked way down on Nashbar, which is how I initially found them. The ones I bought, which have since been discontinued, were labeled specifically for 5+ hours in the saddle. Even marked down, they were the most expensive shorts I'd ever bought, excluding team kit buys, at $99. But I loved them so much that I ended up wearing them for the cycling leg of my Ironman, even though they weren't bibs. They had the most comfortable pad I'd ever ridden, and that's including my Castelli tri suit.

So I went directly to Shebeest for this purchase. I don't love many of their colors and patterns; too girly for my taste. But I found these in black and houndstooth, which looks stealthy but still has a pop of flair.

My first ride in them was a TrainerRoad workout, because they were the only shorts that were clean at the time. But my second ride in them has a two-hour jaunt on my 'cross bike. I still ride the stock saddle that came on my Specialized, even though the faux-leather doesn't allow me to slide on when re-mounting, because I am cheap and I am lazy and I don't want to try out a bunch of saddles to find one that works with my pelvis (which is not at all shaped for perching on a bike seat). It is not a comfortable saddle for me. If I sit on it for more than an hour or so, my butt (and other things) start complaining.

The Shebeest shorts made that a little better. I don't know if I'm ready to ride that stock saddle all the way to Cumberland in the Shebeest shorts, but they made a noticeable difference in my comfort level riding.

The real breakthrough moment with these shorts came when I had to stop to use the toilet on my ride. It was about 40ยบ out that day, so I was fully kitted out with tights and a jacket. As I pulled over next to the port-a-loo, I was dreading the imminent disrobing--take off the jacket, take off the jersey, pull off the bib straps, pull down the tights, find a place to hand the jacket and jersey that isn't on the floor of the john . . . Then I remembered that these shorts don't have standard bib straps; they have a halter. So I unzipped my jersey and jacket about halfway, pulled the halter over my head, and dropped trou. It was a revelation! No more removing all clothing in order to pee!

My first pair of Shebeest shorts were mediums, and they were a little too big. This time, I went with the smalls, which are a little tight. They're not so tight that I can't wear them, but they are noticeably compressive. The bib part is a polka-dot fabric that comes over the head in a halter, and it's attached by fishnet-type webbing. The fishnet part isn't very stretchy, but the halter is so stretchy that it doesn't seem to matter (at least for me). I have some concern that the halter will put pressure on my neck and shoulders during a ride, which may cause trouble on longer rides in the form of extra stress in my neck and tension headaches. The grippers on the legs are silicone woven in with elastic, like Castelli uses on their grippers. I like the feel of it very much, although I do still get some sausage-leg effect on these size small shorts.

The Divine jersey is a summer jersey, so I feel like I can't evaluate all of its benefits yet. I really like the cut and fit, especially around the hips. These jerseys are designed to be more generous for women's bodies, so the hemline isn't as stretchy. Instead, the rear panel below the jersey pockets has a silicone/elastic hybrid fabric that has lots of stretch but still holds the jersey in place. I didn't have any problems with the rear of the jersey riding up. The cut is a little tight through my arms, but the fabric is stretchy enough that it's not uncomfortable. It just makes me look even more muscular.

The fabric of the jersey is shinier, more sateen than I'm used to. I wasn't sure about its breathability at first, but it seemed to do fine, and the feel of the fabric is growing on me. It's very stretchy, though, so I'm not sure how durable it will be.

All things considered, I really like this new kit. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces on longer rides, and seeing how the bib pad meshes with my road bike saddle.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lesson Learned: Failure is Better than Success

I had a very rough ride on Sunday. It was the first time in a while I had been able to get out with a large group of my (female) teammates. The plan was to ride a very hilly 50 miles together in Potomac, Maryland. I was looking forward to riding with a group again, although I was apprehensive about things like holding my line and keeping a gap to the next wheel after a season of 'cross and not a lot of team rides.

The first 45 minutes or so felt tense, but then my body seemed to remember how to ride in a pack and it started to get easier. I took a gel about an hour in, and then a Clif bar after another 30 minutes or so. My Garmin told me we were about halfway through; my body told me that I was going to need to slow way down if I wanted to do the second half of the ride.

I communicated with my team that I would need to slow down, and somebody gave me some food (since I'd already eaten all of mine). For the rest of the ride, the team tried to keep me sandwiched so I wouldn't get dropped. I could smell a really strong scent of ammonia coming off of me. If you don't know much about exercise physiology, it's a bad sign when your body smells like cleaning products.

I was able to slow down enough to finish the ride, but the last several miles were really tough. We had brunch afterwards, I took a nap later that day, and I was totally back to normal by the end of the day! Here's what I think (I'm pretty sure) happened: I did a hard TrainerRoad workout on Saturday night. I had a protein shake with half a banana after that workout, but I don't think that was enough carbohydrate to replenish my glycogen stores. Our ride started at 8:30 the next morning, just over 12 hours. My glycogen stores were already pretty depleted, and I blew through any remaining stored sugar in the first hour of our ride by going too hard too soon. I couldn't eat enough sugar to keep up with the demands of that effort level, and the intensity was too high for me to rely on fat for fuel (I'm also pretty sugar adapted right now, compared to my post-Ironman metabolism). The ammonia smell was from my body desperately chewing through muscle and protein (amino acids metabolize into ammonia--not terrific for your liver, but something that your body can process) to meet the energy demands. The only option for my body was to slow down enough to allow for fat metabolism, which is why I had to finish the ride at a dawdle.

Two things, though:

One: in spite of how hard the ride was (mentally, physically, emotionally), it was one of my favorite rides ever. I have never felt so much part of a team--not in football, not on previous cycling teams, not in rugby. Everyone was there to help me through the ride, willing to slow down so that I could keep up. And our team communication felt pretty good, which was so cool! It's hard to communicate and talk when you're all strung out in a paceline! I drove home after our brunch practically floating, because I'm so excited to be on this team this year.

Two, and this gets to the crux of my post: nothing is more motivating to me than my own failure. Today, I taught my normal Monday morning spin class (took it very easy) and lifted weights after, and I have had to hold myself back from doing more training all day long. I can barely stand to sit still, I'm so excited to train more. I know Sunday's ride took a lot out of me, and I need to recover, but I want to go out and get stronger so that I can do better next time! I've experienced the same thing in racing; the races that motivate me the most aren't the ones in which I do well, but the ones where I don't--the pinch flats, the stupid mistakes, the poor fitness, those are the ones that leave me chomping at the bit for the next weekend.

That's how I feel after yesterday's ride. So yes, lesson learned on timing workouts and nutrients; recovering properly and bringing enough food on long, hard rides; properly pacing myself for the effort ahead . . . But my biggest takeaway from this weekend is that failures, big or small, drive me forward. I can't wait to get out and kill this week's training.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Race Report: BikenetiCX

Redemption!

After two DNF's in a row, it was great to have a successful race! This was my first full race as a 3 (the first race that I actually finished as a 3, anyway), and I managed to land myself on the podium still. Great end to the season!

I got a great start from the first row. Went through the prologue (about 2/3 of a lap in third wheel). Laid down some power in the one flat stretch to pass Ella (the tiny pre-teen on the second step of the podium) for second wheel. On the first full lap, Jenna (third step on the podium) was leading but totally ate it on the run-up. I passed her for the lead. I was nervous, because I didn't want to be responsible for pace-setting. At that point, there were four of us together in a group, with a good gap back to fifth place.

I tried to discipline myself to slow down and not waste energy, but it's hard to ride steady when you can hear heavy breathing behind you. My plan was to attack on the final lap and try to get a gap, rather than letting it come down to a final sprint. I was working really hard, too. I was on the limit, and couldn't have gone  much faster.

Lisa passed me in the second-to-last lap, but I passed her on the inside on a technical corner to retake the lead. On the final lap, she accelerated around me, and I dug to catch up. After a few turns, though, it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to hold her pace. I lost contact on a pair of corners, and was never able to accelerate back up to her. But I could hear Jenna breathing heavily, and I was pretty sure I could hold Ella off (because I've ridden away from her on other courses).

Jenna managed to get around me somehow coming into the barriers for the last time, and I lost my rhythm going over the planks. I messed up my remount, ran my handlebars into the tape, and lost just a few seconds disentangling myself. But that was enough time for Ella and Jenna to get away from me. They had maybe 5 or 6 seconds on me through the rest of the race, and I never got them back. So I hung with the winning group through the whole race and lost it in the final lap.

Logically, I know that I didn't actually lose. I'm standing on the podium up there! But I can't help but think of the ways that I could have maybe stood a step or two higher on that podium, and there are no races next week for me to move up further! Still, it's a pretty great way to start my career as a cat 3 (Capital Cross Classic last weekend notwithstanding).

Now it's time to build some base for the road season!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Race Report (kind of): Capital Cross Classic

This will be a short one.

We went to Canada for American Thanksgiving. I got terribly, terribly sick on the day we drove back and I've been sick ever since. I think I might have had the flu. I had a slight fever, my throat was sore, my joints and muscles ached, and my skin felt really sensitive. I was completely wiped out until last Thursday. I felt a little better on Friday, so I tried to catch up on a few chores--did the dishes, vacuumed. By Friday night, I was totally miserable again. Missed the team ride on Saturday because I was so sick. I knew I wasn't in any kind of condition to race on Sunday, but I'd already signed up and paid for my entry, so I went anyway.

I arrived at 8, even though I wasn't racing with the women's 4s--this was my first race as a cat 3! I wanted to cheer my friends on, though. I warmed up on the course, and felt okay. In fact, my legs felt really good, and the course felt like a good one for me! I thought I could probably get a podium, even. But then as soon as I stopped pre-riding and sat in my chair, I felt like baby elephants were sitting on top of me. I was totally wiped out again.

I lined up, anyway. Got a pretty good start, and went into the first section in the top 10. I had my eye on a few ladies that I knew I should be able to track throughout the race (if I were healthy). I managed to stay with them through the first few sections, still in touch with the front. My first indication that my body was not going to cooperate was on the run-up. I willed my body to go faster, but it wouldn't. I barely managed a jog, but that was enough to pass a few women who were walking their bikes. I should have been able to ride the second hill, but accidentally unclipped my right foot and had to run the rest of the way up. A girl tried to run past me there, and I was able to put in a surge to get away from her with a sprint, a good re-mount, and a little dig up the hill.

But at the top of the hill, my body told me, "Nope! You're sick!" I couldn't catch my breath. I got chills all over--you know that feeling when you've run out of glycogen towards the end of a hard interval workout and you feel like you've been dipped in ice water? I got that. I had to soft-pedal, and everyone I'd passed came around me. I recovered through the next several sections and had a good ride down The Chute (a long, swoopy descent courtesy of the Lake Fairfax mountain bike trails). I made an awesome attack on the punchy hill going up to the team tent area, passed on the outside, and cut in to take a great line through the off-camber switch back. It was beautiful.

And then my body sent me another message: "Nope! Still sick!" Same thing. Ice water, couldn't catch my breath. Since the first signals, I'd been debating in my head whether or not to pull out after the first lap. I knew I could make it through the race okay, if I would just soft pedal around the course--that is, if I would just ride the race "for fun." But every time someone would pass me, something in my head said, "No way! I am faster than you!" And I would put in a surge and try to get that place back and then my body would remind me that sick people don't get to do that.

So at the last second--literally, right before I crossed the finish line for the first lap--I pulled off the course and told the officials that I was pulling myself. Went back to the tent and changed and stewed over how well I could have done in the Super 8 finale if only I hadn't gotten sick . . . but that's cross! There's always next year. And I did make Emily's day by coming home and telling her, "You were right. I shouldn't have tried to race." She loves being right.

I'm afraid I may be one of those bike racers who takes herself too seriously, who's incapable of doing the race for fun. It may be that the part of racing that I like is proving that I'm better--stronger, faster, better at cornering, whatever--than other people; I don't ride bikes just because I like it, but because it's a way of proving my superiority. Does that make me a jerk? It might make me a little bit of a jerk. I do make a conscious effort of riding with the mantra, "Don't be a jerk," so maybe it balances out.

I hope I get over this cold/flu/sickness soon, though. I'm ready to start base-building for the road season! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Race Report: Winchester AppleCX

The good news is that I was on the podium!
Just three of us because Sarah and I dawdled for too long in the nice, warm rec center. Casey was kind enough to step in to make it look a little less silly for this picture. Sorry to third and fifth place for not being there for the full picture!
The bad news is that I flatted . . . again . . .

Winchester is about an hour and fifteen minutes away by car. A friend from my local cross group stayed the night (it's hard to get around the city without a car at 4:30 in the morning), and she and one of my teammates rode up with Emily (who gave up her Sunday sleep-in) and me. As I was putting the bikes on the rack, I noticed that my rear tire was flat. What? I rode on Thursday, and it was fine then!

So after I got my race number, I set to work changing my rear tube. Got that squared away and it held air just fine. Pinned my number, put on every scrap of clothing that I had (it finally feels like winter here, and the wind was brutal--although not this brutal), and got to pre-riding the course.

It was a real monster--the hardest course I've ever raced. Its primary feature was the Belgian Wall, a steep, completely un-ride-able uphill straight into a steep off camber straight into another steep uphill. The Belgian Wall was a running feature, no question, and the dirt was loose and soft like sand. The off-camber was so steep that it was difficult to remount, but I found the secret to that--drive-side dismount! If you could remount from the drive side, you could swing your leg over on the downhill side instead of the uphill side and avoid having to run the off-camber. The second uphill was ride-able, but only if you hit it just right, which I only did once. There were, in total, four run-ups, two of them pretty long. There were off-camber turns that got very dusty and loose throughout the day. There was steep, loose descending (a boon for all the mountain bikers!) and lots of roots, even in grassy sections.

It was also a long course, and I only got around it once before it was time to stage for the women's 4 race. We lined up behind the cat 5 men, and there were more of us than them! Win for women's cyclocross in the DC metro! I muffed my start pretty badly; I couldn't get my right foot clipped in, I think because my toe cover was in the way. By the time I got clipped in, I was third or fourth wheel. I moved up a few wheels in the first few turns, then had the lead going into the first off-camber section. I could hear riders behind me, so I put in a couple of hard digs. By the time we got to the first run-up, I had a lead of maybe 10 seconds. I steadily grew the lead over the first lap. And by the start of the second lap, I couldn't see anyone behind me!

Boy did I get heckled, though! Seemed like everyone out there was telling me to slow down and wait for everyone; or speed up, because my lead had shrunk to less than a mile. I do finally have enough points to upgrade, and I think I will submit my application for cat 3. I'm still in the voluntary upgrade range (2 more points and it's mandatory), so I don't have to. And I have already registered for one more cat 4 race, so . . . But at this point, I feel like I'm sandbagging a little bit (or a lot). And that's not a nice thing to do.

I've started a little bit of road season base training, getting out for longer rides during the week and riding more hills. By my third and final lap of the first race, my legs felt heavy. I really didn't feel like racing again. I was intent (as I always am) on soft-pedaling the second race. My legs hurt and I was tired and it was potentially my last chance to make the 3/4 my B-priority race. I lined up in the second row with the intention of taking it easy. Relatively easy.

But then I got a pretty good start and came into the first section with the front group. I made up a few positions in the first half of the course. I had my first and only fall doing my drive-side dismount before the Belgian Wall, but was able to pick off a few more positions on the second half of the course. I figured I was sitting top 10 or so, and planned to maintain that position as well as I could without trying too hard to move up.

Then my teammate, Sean, who was watching from the sidelines, yelled that I was in seventh place and I could ride my way onto the podium . . . so I made the decision to go as hard as I could and see if I could get on the podium for the second time today. I managed to pass seventh, who later had to pull out with a flat (there was some suspicion that someone dropped tacks on the course). I managed to pass a pre-teen girl (one of many who tears up the women's 3/4 field every week) and put some distance on her on the power sections and, surprisingly, the climbs. Her technique is on-point, though, so I didn't make up any ground in the corners and descents. She was breathing down my neck, so I couldn't let up enough to catch my breath.

I managed to get through my drive-side mount on the second lap, but knocked my chain off in the rough ground of the Belgian Wall; I'm fully aware that bouncy ground doesn't matter if you shoulder the bike; I need to work on that. When I went to remount, I didn't go anywhere and I was in the red enough that I couldn't figure out why. So instead I just fell over, slid about three feet down the hill, and did this:
That is my right hip, not my butt. I'm going to tell people I got mauled by a baby bear.
I managed to get the chain back on, remount, and run the hill. I can't remember if Ella (the pre-teen) passed me or not . . . I don't think she did. But if she did, I re-passed her pretty quickly and went into my third lap in fifth place, just barely on the podium.

Sean was not satisfied. Fourth place was within reach. He yelled at me to catch her. I was on my limit already, and was concerned that I would have a repeat of last week and explode spectacularly before I could finish. Fourth place was strong, but I was clawing back one second at a time. I drilled the uphills and flats and recovered as much as I could in the downhills. I was closing in on her at the end of the third lap and figured I could catch and pass her on the power section at the start of the fourth.

Then my bike started feeling a little squirrely. It's happened enough at this point that I recognized the sensation. My rear tire was flat. I had enough control that I could still ride it, so I finished my third lap (I was less than 30 seconds from the finish line) and withdrew. I rode myself onto the podium, but lost it on . . . I don't, maybe a root? I haven't checked the tube yet, but I'm pretty sure that I pinch flatted on a root. I bottomed out the tires multiple times; I was surprised that I hadn't flatted sooner. Should have run a little more pressure, especially as the temperatures rose. Could have had better line choice, and it wouldn't have mattered. But that's cross.

So for the second week in a row, I felt like I could be competitive in the 3/4 race, even if my results say DNF instead of podium.

In other news, my teammate, Sarah, got second place in the 4 race this morning; it was her second-ever cross race, and her first was yesterday! She also signed up day-of for the 3/4 race, because she loves pain. My other teammate, Beth, finished on the podium in third in the 3/4 race. Sean got tenth in the masters' 35+ 3/4/5, and Eric got second in the masters' 45+ 1/2/3. Eric currently leads the Super 8 Series in masters' 45+ 1/2/3, and I don't think he can be caught, with only one race left. A very solid day for Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. at Winchester AppleCX!

Next race for me is in two weekends, at Capital Cross. I'm going to convert my wheels to tubeless between now and then. The wheels are tubeless-ready, but I've been putting off the conversion because I haven't done it before and it's one more thing to learn. I think my pinch flat today was poor line-choice, because I was so fatigued, but the one at Rockburn was bad luck. Either way, I won't have to worry about it anymore after I go tubeless!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Race Report: Rockburn CX

In which: they can't all be winners.

Rockburn CX wasn't what I wanted, results-wise, especially on such a cool course. But hey! that's cross.
This is the podium! I am not on it, but it's still a very cool podium!
I woke up late. I was supposed to pick up a friend in Silver Springs (about a 20-minute drive from me) at 6:30. I woke up at 6:25. Good thing I pack for races the night before! I flew into my clothes, loaded everything into the car as quickly as possible, and hit the road! We ended up arriving at the race venue only 25 minutes later than I'd planned. We had plenty of time to pick up our numbers before registration closed, but were a bit tight on time to pre-ride the course. I managed to get my number pinned and preview the sand pit on the course, which I thought would be crucial (it wasn't), and a little bit of the single-track through the woods.

I had a first-row call-up for the women's 4 race and got a terrific start. After last week, I committed to hanging onto wheels for the first lap, rather than taking the lead from the start (especially since I hadn't seen 90% of the course). I sat third wheel through most of the first quarter of the course, including the sand pit. We took the first turn into the wooded single-track fast. I hit a rock on the left-hander and heard a sickening "PSSSSSSS." Pinch flat. Game over.

I walked/jogged half the course to the pit while the entire field passed me. But I don't have disc-equipped pit wheels (Emily, are you reading this? I think I need new wheels), so that was it. I withdrew. DNF for me.

I went back to the car to fix my flat and get ready for the 3/4 race at noon. I was able to get a proper pre-ride and warm-up after the junior races at 10. The course was terrific! It reminded me of the kind of courses I rode in Kansas City, way back when. There was a good mix of flowing, grassy turns, wooded single-track, off-camber Ws, steep turns and drop-offs . . . oh, it was a great course. Probably my favorite of the season.

I lined up second-row for the 3/4 start. Got into the first turn in the top 10, and worked my way up to third wheel through the first few turns. I felt so strong and fresh and fast. I felt like a contender, as I slipped past the top-ranked 3/4s (who are normally well ahead of me) and entered the woods in the top 5. Coming into the only sustained climb, I was sitting second wheel, but the pace felt slow. So I took the lead, drilled the hill, and increased my lead through the downhill. I held my lead through the first lap with solid lines through the off-camber turns. As I bombed down a drop-off and absorbed the bump at the bottom, I heard some yell, "Whoa, yeah! Katie Compton!"

I took a solid lead going into the second lap. Carried more speed than I knew I could through the early turns. Then I clipped my pedal on the first downhill turn; I guess I took it too fast and leaned into it a little too much. Lost 3 or 4 places, but got back on and began the process of trying to catch up again. I was still in the top 5, I think. I was doing well until I carried too much speed into another turn and went through the tape. I was starting to make silly mistakes. I was still in the top 10, but had big gaps to make up.

I was gaining on the girls in front of me, but was not feeling good by the third lap. My stomach and hips and back and rib cage were getting really tight. I was cramping hard. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't sit up all the way. Going over the barriers, I could barely stand up enough to lift my bike over the barriers. I had to back off. I soft-pedaled and watched a huge chunk of the field go past me. I hurt, and considered pulling out at the end of the lap.

But I got the bell on that lap (because I'd dropped under 80% of the previous lap time), so I decided to carry on. A little ways into that final lap, the cramps eased off, and I was able to work hard again. I was able to pull back two riders before the end of the race. Finished 15th out of 29, which is consistent with my performance in previous 3/4 races.

However, this race felt TOTALLY different; the results don't tell the whole story. For the first time, I felt like I could contend for a win in the 3/4 field. I haven't been anywhere close to that feeling so far this season (or ever . . . just check my results from my racing in the KC CX scene). I wasn't expecting to feel so good, and as a result I made a few silly mistakes.

Sure, I clipped my pedal on a turn, and took a turn too fast and ended up in the tape, but my biggest mistake was taking control of the race on the first lap. Sure, I was sitting pretty going into lap 2, but could I have sustained that control for 4 more laps, or would I have blown up and ended up 15th anyway? Instead, I should have stayed second or third wheel and waited to follow moves. Tactics haven't come into my racing in the women's 4 field, but it's something I need to keep in mind when I upgrade.

My other big mistake was related to oversleeping: I completely forgot to bring water. I sat around for 4 hours before the race drinking nothing but coffee. I was really thirsty going into an unusually warm November day, and I paid the price for my mistake in pain and a result that was much less than what I could have done on the day. Also, as my friend Anna pointed out, I was thrown off my mental game with the disruption of my routine. That probably played a part, too.

But that's cross! Some days you get flats. You cramp. You crash. You come back and do better the next weekend. The positive side is that I don't have any more upgrade points than I had last week, which means I can still race the cat 4 races I've already paid for! Hopefully, I'll have good result these next two weeks and will be able to upgrade. Then I'll be ready to start making in-roads on the 3/4 field. And I had a couple of gals thank me for flatting . . . because they got to stand on the podium! So cool! Congratulations on a a great race, ladies!

Two races, two results that I'm not happy with. But that just gives me more fire for AppleCX this weekend and Cap CX the weekend after that. If I win the next one, I'll have more than enough points to upgrade (14/15), but not so many that I'll have to upgrade (so I can still race the Cap CX race, which I've already paid for). Does that make me a sandbagger?