Monday, December 12, 2016

Race Report: BikenetiCX


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?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Race Report: Ed Sander Memorial CX

Hey, look!
Top step!
Only one place to go after last week's second place, and I managed to pull it off in the women's 4 race today!

I was a little nervous, pre-riding the course, because the first half was pretty technical. There was a loose W--steep down, then steep up--which I tried to ride once and crashed out on. Then there was a really steep drop-off that took me a few tries to get over (but once I rode it, I realized it was fine). There were some S-curves that I had to hit just right, followed by a barrier at the bottom of a hill that required a dismount and a loooooong run-up before remounting. And there was sand, which I figured (after the first crash) was faster to run than to ride. The rest was flowing turns around the lily ponds with a few long, straight, flat stretches interspersed, and a paved, uphill start/finish. I was concerned about the technical stuff in the first half of the course, though, because I knew we would probably get jammed up behind the back of the men's cat 5 field.

For that reason, I didn't work too hard for the hole-shot at the start. I went into the first turn third wheel, and stayed within touch through the barriers. Going into the loose W, we could see the men backing up through the tricky stuff. The two women in front of me both tried to ride the W, while I dismounted at the top to run it. They both crashed, bottled up behind a man who couldn't quite make it up the hill and put a foot down. I tripped over them a little bit, but managed to get around. I called out a pass to the man in front of me, and he let me around him before the drop-off. I kept the lead all the way through the sand, then came around a blind corner to find a cat 5 guy sprawled across the trail. I tried to dodge him and end up crashing in some thorny bushes. A woman from Baltimore Bike Club made it around me while I was extracting myself from the thorns. It's like they say--if you live by the crash, you shall die by the crash!
Attacked by a thorn bush!
I was able to catch and pass the BBC woman to regain the lead by the end of the first lap (I think I passed her in the paved section going up to the finish line). I held my effort in check for the next two laps, focusing on riding clean lines. I couldn't see anyone else behind me when I checked. I felt pretty secure in my lead, so I concentrated on not making any unforced errors (the course had opened up a lot, so I didn't have to fight as much traffic) and let off the gas a little bit. I figured I could save something for the 3/4 race later. I rolled in after 4 laps for the win!

I'd managed to tweak my ankle a little when I crashed into the bushes, and I rolled it again when I stepped off my bike into tall grass and hit a hole. I was concerned how it would feel for my second race, but it ended up just fine. I have been starting from the third or fourth row on these cat 3/4 races, but I somehow ended up with a front row call-up. I have no idea how that happened, but that changed my strategy for the race. Where I have been sitting in and letting the race develop, it felt like it would be such a waste of a front-row start not to gun it from the word go!

So I gunned it at the whistle, trying to stay as close to the front as I could. I think I made the first turn around fifth wheel. I tried to use my course experience from the earlier race as much as possible (riding smarter, not harder). I got through the W without any trouble, still running it every time. I got passed by a rider or two somewhere around there, maybe just before the drop-off. I gained a spot or two through the next six laps . . . I don't remember much about the race, other than that I rode really, really hard. Erin, from Sticky Fingers, was right in front of me, and she's usually well ahead of me. I would have loved to catch her, but she put the hammer down on the last lap and totally gapped me. The 1/2/3 winner passed me within sight of the finish line; I was so close to not getting lapped this time. I ended up doing 6 laps total.

I did crash on the first lap, when I tried to ride through the sand pit. I was right about running being faster! I fully fell over off the course and into the ditch. At least I didn't go into one of the ponds, though; I heard that someone did that. Everything else was smooth and clean. I didn't drop my chain (I don't think).

I finished in 10th place--top ten in the 3/4 race! That's top 10 out of 30+ riders, too; it's not like I was 10th out of 11. I think I'm prouder of my performance in the 3/4 race than my win in the 4s. It was tougher, it was faster, it was longer; I rode hard and I rode smart, and I got my best result in a 3/4 field to date! I think it may have been my best race ever!

So to sum up, a first place and a top ten. I had a really good weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food: Turkey & Frank's Meatloaf

In my house, we put that sh*t on everything!

1 whole onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Cayenne pepper
Garlic powder

1 lb lean ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 egg
Salt & pepper

Saute veggies in olive oil until everything is tender and translucent. Season with salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Put in a bowl and cool. Once the veggies are cool enough that they won't scramble an egg, mix the rest of the ingredients in the bowl with your hands. I did a free-form meatloaf, but you can also use a loaf pan. Whichever you choose, shape your loaf and toss it in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 180* (165* is probably safe, but I cook it until 180*, just in case). It's okay to serve it hot.

I have a recipe for a Frank's-based glaze, but it just adds calories and the meatloaf is fine without it. I cut the meatloaf into 6 servings for 196 calories each. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Race Report: Tacchino CX

I've been working my way up the ranks, week by week. At Hyattsville, I only did 3 laps, didn't realize I was on my last lap (even though the lead woman said "lead woman passing" as she passed me AND I heard the bell for the final lap from halfway around the course), and came through the finish line ready to make some passes in the final lap . . . which was already over; I ended up 15 out of 24. I wised up and did the cat 4 race at Schooley Mill, finishing 6 of 28. At DCCX, I eked out a podium place on Sunday by landing 5th in a cat 4 women's field of 40. And at Tacchino, I managed to make my way all the way to the second-highest step--I placed 2 out of 20!
That green bag by my feet has podium beer!
The Tacchino course was wide and grassy, still damp for the first race of the day, with some slightly technical single-track. The course was narrow through the woods, with some roots and leaves limiting line choice, but there was plenty of room to pass everywhere else on the course. There were no really slow, hairpin corners, and very little off-camber. It was a fast, powerful course, which suited me well.

I got a great start from the whistle and took the hole shot . . . and kept it for a long time--through most of the first lap! I kept waiting for someone to come around me, but no one did, although I could hear people behind me. I got over the barriers cleanly, but there was an obstacle just past the barrier (rail ties on an uphill--too big and too slow to ride over) where I got too excited and dropped my chain. It was the same thing I did at Luray--set my bike down too hard, and the chain bounced right off. I lost first place while I was trying to get it back on.

First place was still within reach, though, and I could see that the place to beat her was in the technical sections and on the corners; she was plenty strong. I kept the gap consistent, weaving my way around cat 5 men as necessary (the men were all courteous except for one, and I think being grumpy was just his schtick). The gap was holding steady on our second lap, and I thought I could pull her back in the last two. Then on my third lap, I tried to pass one of the cat 5 men on an inside corner just before the rail tie obstacle and slid out. I hammed up my spectacular fall (I knew I had a good gap on third and fourth place), got back on after the rail ties, and continued. The gap to first place had increased, of course, but I brought it back to where it was by the start of the fourth and final lap.

I felt secure in second, because I was gaining time on third place, but I had to fight the urge to settle in and let first place keep her win. I dug in for one more hard lap. I think I was pulling her back, although I probably still wouldn't have caught her, but then I clipped my back wheel on the second barrier and dropped my chain again. Goodbye, first place. Finished in second place feeling pretty good about my performance.

Then I started my period, so I almost skipped the 3/4 race and went home. But I'd already paid the entry fee, so I stuck around. Took the 3/4 race as a training ride. Figured I'd get lapped by the leaders of the 1/2/3 race and finish early, anyway. I got a reasonably good start, and stayed with a large group for the first lap. I cooled my effort way down and deliberately let the main group get away; my legs were hurting from the first race (and from the volume I did last week while vacationing in the Virginia foothills). I focused instead on taking good, smooth lines through the corners, staying off my brakes, and keeping my chain on the chainrings. I messed up one sharp corner trying to pass wide, and lost a couple of places, but at least I didn't knock the other two women over or slow them down! I dropped my chain one more time at the rail ties; I think I kicked my chain with my heel while I was unclipping, but I managed to ride the chain back on by shifting up after I re-mounted, rather than getting the chain back on before getting on the bike. That saved me some time. On my last lap, I figured I was so close to getting lapped that I would be the last one let through, and I backed way off my intensity. About a quarter of the way through the course, I realized there were two women gaining on me, and I had to get back on the gas to avoid losing two places (actually just one place, because one of the women was in the masters 45+ field)! I finished my last lap with a comfortable gap, though, 15 out of 24 (2 out 10 cat 4s).

Lessons learned--I need to finesse my mounts and dismounts a little better, to avoid dropping my chain. After the first drop at the rail ties, I was extra careful every time I put my bike back down. Losing 2-3 seconds to a more graceful movement is way less than the 10-15 seconds to get my chain back on, especially when I'm all adrenalined. Each time I dropped my chain, it was in a different way, so I learned three new things to avoid. I also readjusted my chain catcher, and I'm going to replace the chain in a week or two; it's starting to stretch quite a bit, and 'cross is harder on chains than regular cycling.

If my pattern of improvement holds, I should be on the top step next week at Ed Sanders . . .

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Race Report: DCCX (Day 1 W 3/4)

Quick race report before I forget everything!

DCCX is a big deal around here. It's a UCI C2 race, so it draws bigger names, like Katie Compton! For that reason, I expected the racing to be extra tough. And I was not wrong.

I arrived at 8 to watch teammates race, even though I wasn't racing until noon. After the beginner races finished, I got on the course to check it out. And I had no brakes. I could slow down a little bit, but I definitely couldn't stop. I'm still new to disc brakes. I wasn't sure what was wrong or how to fix it. I managed to do most of one easy loop of the course without dying, then headed back to our team tent to see if anyone on my team would have a fix. On the ride back, it occurred to me that I washed all my bikes on Thursday, so I probably got lube or soap or degreaser or something on the rotors. I was veeeeeery nervous about racing with essentially no brakes. Ninety percent of the course was just fine; I could scrub enough speed to take all the corners well and not wash out or crash. But there were a few steep drops where I couldn't get enough braking power to slow myself for a turn. I was borderline on starting the race.

Fortunately, my teammate Sean (top 10 in his race) knew to take off the brake pads (I didn't know how to do that) and hold them over an open flame to burn off any contaminants. We did that for the front and back brake pads (he even put off making his coffee to do this for me over his camp stove). And that solved the problem! I could stop again!

I had a feeling the 3/4 field would be tough, so my goal was to push as hard as I could, focus on clean turns and good line choice, and not sweat my placement. I started in the fourth or fifth row, but rode up the inside to get a halfway-decent spot going into the first turn. The first part of the course was leg-smashing, but my cornering was on-point. I felt pretty good about the number of women I passed early on.

The course was bumpy, with lots of holes and exposed roots. It was also very windy today, which dried the course out from the rain we got last night. By the time I raced, the course was dusty, only damp in one or two places. It's also a pretty long course. But it's interesting; there are so many different features that it was very engaging.

I mostly did great! My cornering was much better this week, helped along by lower tire pressure. I pushed hard (probably too hard at places) and played to my strengths, I think. Unfortunately, the mistakes that I did make were kind of catastrophic. Not broken collarbone catastrophic, but I probably lost 5-6 places total in the last 2 laps because of mistakes I made. At one point, I was coming down a hill at a good clip, hit a root, went airborne, and did not come down on my wheels. I came down on a side. It took me out at a place where momentum is really beneficial, too--right before the stairs. I was so shaken up after the crash that I couldn't get my leg back over the bike, and it took me several seconds to get going again. On that same lap, I took the wrong line on a steep-but-ride-able hill and had to unclip, then couldn't get clipped back in. That was right before the barriers, and so my rhythm was all wonky going into the barriers.

The most costly error, though, was on the my last lap. I had just re-passed three women, and got over the barriers clean. But when I went to get back on my bike, I turned my wheel and ended up in the tape. I was so stressed and tired and amped-up that I could not get my foot clipped in. Lost the three places I'd just gained, and never got them back. I was red-lined after that, and it took me most of the rest of the lap to get to where I could put power down again. By that point, it was too late to re-catch anyone. Meh.

I ended up 24th with three big bruises (wrist, knee, and ankle) and a series of puncture wounds on the back of my leg from where I whacked my calf on my chain ring. I think that happened when I hit the root and crashed. I wish I had a picture of that crash. It was probably ridiculous.

I'm going to go back and do the cat 4 and 3/4 race tomorrow. I'll try hard in the 4 race, but I plan to cruise the 3/4.

Until then!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Race Report: Schooley Mill CX

For this stop in the Super 8 Series, I decided to do both the women's 4 and the 3/4 races. I'd originally planned to stick with the 3/4 series, since there are no cumulative points for the 4 races, but at Hyattsville I realized that there are pros and cons to each. There are downsides to racing 2 races separated by only 3 hours, too. But I liked racing both, so I think I'll stick with that method.
Broken Spoke Photography / Kelley Dentry Photography: Schooley Mill CX 2016 &emdash;
I carpooled with a couple of ladies from the local cyclocross scene, one of whom was doing her first 'cross race ever (on a single-speed, no less)! One of my favorite parts about 'cross is the community that grows up around it. I was excited to get to connect with a few more women in the scene. Hurray for new racing buddies!

Women's Cat 4
The women's 4 and men's 5 beginner fields share the course for the first races of the day. That affords plenty of time for warming up on the course and working on the technical bits. It also means the grass hasn't been tacked down, the best lines haven't been ground in, and the course is wet with dew. It makes for extra challenges; like I said before, there are pros and cons.

Anyway, the course had lots of turns and some off-camber stretches and a couple of really gnarly off-camber turns. There were two sustained climbs, neither of which was too brutal, and a horse jump on the opposite side of the course from the normal barriers (Schooley Mill Park is an equestrian center, FYI). It wasn't like a steeplechase hurdle, which is what I envisioned when I heard about it; it was like half a dozen railroad ties hammered together into a rectangular block about two feet high and two feet wide. It took a big step to get over; I had to hop down and land on both feet, because my legs were too short to step down off of it.

I got a front-row call-up in the start grid because I signed up early (I think), and dug hard in the start to get the hole shot. I kept the lead through the first several turns before losing a spot to the eventual winner of the race. She pedaled past me like I wasn't even trying. So strong. Then I washed out in a corner and lost another spot or two before I could get going again. There were a few stretches where I got caught behind some traffic. I washed out several more times, including one where I also took out my teammate, Kim, who was trying to encourage me.

I was sitting in 7th position, including to a teammate who was observing the race, with two laps to go, and I had 5th and 6th in my sights. I washed out in another corner, though, and bled a few spots. I clawed a few back shortly thereafter, and had no idea where I was placed going into the last lap. I had two women in front of me that I was pretty sure I could catch, but mistakes on corners cost me time. I managed to pass one of them on the fast descent coming into the final few corners and climbs. I drilled it to the finish line so that she wouldn't pass me back. And that was good enough for 6th place.

Kim got 6th at Hyattsville and won pie, but there was no pie at this race. Sad face. Kim ended up 9th on the day, so we had two VWS ladies in the top 10!

Women's 3/4
Broken Spoke Photography / Kelley Dentry Photography: Schooley Mill CX 2016 &emdash;

After working so hard in my first race, my goal for the 3/4 race was to try to keep a hard but sustainable pace, work on smoothing out my lines and cornering technique, and have fun. Most notably, I was intent on getting one of the beer tickets that were placed around the barriers. Nobody was giving out beer tickets at 8:15.

I did not get a front-row starting position in the 3/4 race. Starting positions there are given out based on points accumulated in the series, and I have not accumulated many points. I think I was in the 4th row. I passed a lot of people in the start, though. At least, I think I did. I haven't watched the video from that race yet, so I'm not sure. I was intent on riding my own race anyway, so I settled in at what I thought was a sustainable (but hard) pace and focused on improving my line choice. I got a beer ticket at the barriers and a Kit Kat hand-up to the enjoyment of the spectators hanging out in the infield. I retained enough presence of mind to keep an eye out for the women's leader and an ear open for the sound of the lap bell. So I was ready when the leader came around me, and I knew then that I was on my last lap. I ended up 18th out of something like 26 riders, and I felt okay about that. I got what I wanted out of the race, and it's good experience to race with the 1/2/3s.

Notable results from my teammates: Beth got 3rd in the women's 3/4; Sean frickin' won his Masters 35+ 3/4/5 race and has 3rd overall in the series; and Erik (a.k.a. Mr. Podium) took a decisive win the Masters 45+ race and is leading the series!

If you'd like to watch my fabulous start and epic wipe-outs, here's the video from the cat 4 race. I'll work on getting the 3/4 race up soon, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Race Report: Hyattsville CX

I need a haircut. And a diet.
Image courtesy of Ben at Dominion Cycling Photography.
I was starting my race report for today's race at Schooley Mill CX when I realized that I never reported on Hyattsville CX! I'm sure you've all been checking your feeds hourly in hopes that I would post something--anything--describing my experience. So let me rectify my oversight, so you can all sleep well tonight.

I only signed up for the 3/4 women's combined race for two reasons: 1) There are no series points recorded in the women's 4 field for the Super 8 series, and for some reason I thought that I would get some series points; after racing in the 3/4 combined field, I have realized that I probably won't. 2) I'd originally thought that I would be in Ohio or Pennsylvania until the morning of, and I was much more confident about getting back to the DC metro in time for a noon race than an 8:15 race. Turns out that I didn't go to my cousin's wedding in Ohio after all; instead, I had to go back for an uncle's funeral the weekend before. I could have signed up for the women's 4 race the day-of, but chose to sleep in instead.

Hyattsville CX came a day after the DC metro had been smashed with rain. The course was very muddy, the highlight being a chicane that had turned into a mud pit. The mud was 3-4" deep, much faster to run than to ride. Other highlights of the course were a curb hop and a log that was half-buried at the top of a steep (but ride-able) hill.

I was seeded third or fourth row back. The woman in front of me had trouble clipping in and I got a poor start. Then I got caught up behind some ladies who were taking the steep (but ride-able) hills through the woods slowly, leading to someone in front of me falling over after coming to a sudden stop. So we got bottle-necked in the woods and had to run up the steep (but ride-able) hill. After that was a section of loose, thick gravel on a steep decline. It was okay to ride, but kind of sketchy. Riding it on that first lap involved dodging runners, which precluded taking the best line and slowed it down. There were some good power sections on the lap, where I tried to make up time. But the gap that built early on was too much for me to catch anything, and I probably wasn't strong enough to pull the leaders back, anyway. My legs lacked snap.

Other highlights include:
  • Realizing that, while it may be faster to run through the mud than ride, it winded me so much that I chose to ride it instead. It wasn't faster during, but after I had more energy, and it became a place to attack.
  • Falling FOR NO REASON AT ALL immediately after the mud pit on my last lap. I think my wheel might have gotten stuck in a rut while I was trying to accelerate, but it was a really stupid place to fall.
  • Ignoring the hand-ups, in spite of the fact that I was sitting around 15th, because I wanted to take the race seriously. I totally regret that, now.
  • Being unable to clip-in on the last lap because I run SPD pedals and they got clogged with mud.
  • Falling into a guy who was standing just past the barriers when I tried to remount my bike and missed. Apparently, I was tired.
  • Failing to pay attention to the lap counter board or the lap bell which I totally heard from the other side of the course and thinking I had one lap to go when I was, in fact, finished. Additionally, the lead woman in the 1/2/3 field had passed me. There were three sources of information telling me that I was on my last lap and I missed all of them. So I came screaming through the finish line, ready to lay it all on the line on the last lap, and people were yelling at me to stop. I was so mad. I kept asking my teammates, "Why didn't they tell us? Why didn't they tell us?" After I had food in me and was no longer on the edge of puking, I realized that I had those three indicators that my race was over and didn't pay attention to any of them.
  • My teammate, Kim, got 6th in the women's 4 race and won a piece of pie! And my other teammate, Beth, got 6th in the women's 3/4 and also won a piece of pie! And my teammate, Eric (a.k.a. Mr. Podium) won his race and is the current series leader in the men's 45+.
So lessons learned. Starts in CX are super-important, duh. I should probably switch to something that sheds mud better, like Crank Brothers pedals or Speedplay Frog pedals. But I'll probably put it off, because I don't want to spend the money right now. And pay attention to what's going on in the races around you! You may be on your last lap!

Also, I'll do the beginner 4 fields as much as possible. I can be more competitive in those. I'll use the 3/4 races to practice my lines and technique. And to take hand-ups. Nobody gives hand-ups at 8:15 a.m.

I ended up 15 out of 24, and I didn't feel like I'd done my best. I was eager to redeem myself. And I think I did, this weekend. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Spinning Workout: Race Warm-up

Hey guys! I have a new free cycling workout for you! You can download it here.

This workout is a little over 30 minutes long, created it for use on a trainer to warm up before a race. I find that I feel better prepared when I warm up on a stationary trainer, rather than riding around the race venue (I'll also ride the course at a crit or cross race, if I have a chance, but I try not to use that as my main warm-up). And some race locations don't allow on-road warm-ups, due to lack of space or because they're in high-traffic areas. I based the programming off of USA Cycling's warm up protocol. This workout will help motivate you and give you something to concentrate on while you're on the trainer!

I'm trying something a little different with the music, this time. All of the songs on this workout are copyright-free, created by independent artists. Here's a track list with links to find out more about each artist:

Trihardist Race Warm-up
Start That Fire - EWN and Whogaux (98 BPM)
Get Lost - Jeris (105 BPM)
I Dunno - grapes (91 BPM)
Energy - Elektronomia (128 BPM)
Road - Chuki Hip Hop (92 BPM)
I do this - Abstract (82 BPM)
Surface [Monstercat Release] - Aero Chord (85 BPM)
Strings - Chuki Hip Hop (101 BPM)

If you would like your own personalized warm-up with music that you choose, I'll customize this workout for you for the low, low cost of $5. Just send me an email to request it!

Don't forget to spin & smile!

This is one of my many free cycling workouts. If you'd like to see the other workouts, or purchase one of my dozens of paid workouts, you can find them here!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The winner of a free month of TrainerRoad is . . .

Leslie Preston!

Determined by blind drawing from a cycling cap, made possible by the small-ish number of entries (DC Rainmaker would never be able to draw names from a cap on his giveaways); that's the personal touch the dedicated Trihardist reader can expect!

Leslie, I'll get in touch to get you your free month! Everyone else, I'm currently working on a new audio workout--a 30-minute workout to use as a warm-up at races. I'll try to have that up by next Friday!

Until then, spin & smile!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Re-imagining Trihardist

View from a recent ride in Page County, Virginia.
I started this blog mostly because I wanted some cool cycling workouts that I could download and use in workouts that didn't have crappy music and coked-out instructors and didn't cost an arm and a leg. I couldn't find any, so I started making my own. They've been pretty popular over the years, but the whole idea has started to feel dated to me. There are lots of other (and better) options when it comes to structured, guided training for indoor cycling: there's Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, Zwift, Peloton (which seems to have the coked-out instructor vibe going), and plenty of workouts available for free on YouTube. In this crowded marketplace, I feel like my workouts lack utility. There are more and better options now.

This post isn't meant to be a pity party, though. Rather, it's to get feedback from you, my readers and listeners and clients, on what will be edifying for you. I've thought of going in a few different directions:
  • I plan to make some free video workouts for distribution on YouTube, in the vein of what I've done before with my audio workouts. I'll also give the option of commissioning custom workouts with your choice of video, music, and programming. For example if you have race course footage that you'd really like to use to prepare, or need something to help motivate you through your toughest coach-assigned workouts, I could make a custom video for you.
  • I'd like to do some product reviews, especially of women's kit. There are a few websites, mostly online cycling magazines, in that space, but they mostly seem to cover boutique companies that sell kit in Australia, Europe, and the UK. I haven't found as much that covers cool women's kit in the US. The tough part about getting this going is the high start-up cost. Nice kit is expensive!
  • I will eventually use my yoga expertise to make some video classes for cyclists and runners. I think yoga is a great tool to improve performance for endurance athletes.
  • I've considered doing a Cycling Maven style vlog (love that guy), but I have a hard time believing anyone thinks I'm interesting enough to want to watch me live life. And I don't like talking about myself. And I have trouble making eye contact with the camera. I suppose these are all things I could overcome, if I get an overwhelming response that says, "Yes, Jamie! We really want to hear about all the mundanities of your life!" Otherwise, I would rather do something more . . . useful (and that's not a dig at the Maven; that guy is awesome, and he has some super useful videos with tips for criterium racing). Besides, every Tom, Dick, and Harry (for some reason, it's mostly men who think that the internet will be interested in what they have to say) is starting a YouTube cycling vlog right now.
Those are the ideas that I have so far. I'll still have my audio workouts available, both the free and paid ones, and will still do custom workouts for anyone who wants them. I'll still do my race reports and general life updates. And I'll still call myself the Trihardist, even though I'm not doing triathlons right now. It's my identity, at this point. Besides, I like the way it sounds.

Anyway, let me know what you think! How can I make myself useful to you?

You can contact me with ideas by leaving a comment on this post; by tweeting @trihardist;by leaving a comment on my Facebook page; by e-mailing me; or by sending a smoke signal, if you live in the DC Metro.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finally got my Ironman tattoo!

This past Sunday was the fourth edition of Ironman Mallorca, which makes it a full year since I did an Ironman. I always said that I would get a tattoo after doing an Ironman; it's the only thing I can think of that I would want on my body for the rest of my life. After hemming and hawing for a full year, I finally got some ink. Observe:

It hurt. Way more than I'd expected or planned. I shouldn't be surprised, considering a tattoo involves getting stabbed over and over again in the same basic area. But it was definitely more painful than doing an Ironman.

And the finished product:

What do you think? Am I badass, now?

Friday, September 16, 2016

TrainerRoad Review and Giveaway

In times gone by, I would routinely tell clients, "This is the perfect exercise to do while you're at home watching TV!" It always sounds like a great idea. I could be strengthening my core and building flexibility in my hips while I follow 10 home bakers as they compete around Britain (RIP Mel and Sue)!

But I don't do planks while I'm at home watching TV. I watch TV while I'm at home watching TV. Sometimes I eat potato chips or cookies (or both) while I'm at home watching TV. So I stopped extolling the benefits of planks and bird dogs and other multi-tasking exercises. Because if I can't make myself exercise while I watch TV, who else can?

Which brings me to TrainerRoad. I'm a personal trainer, and I have read and learned enough that I could probably write myself a decent training plan. But you know what? I don't want to. I want someone else to tell me what to do. And since I'd rather buy more bikes than hire a coach, I've gone with the semi-DIY option: TrainerRoad.

I became aware of TrainerRoad through their terrific podcast, Ask a Cycling Coach. The podcast gives me a little bit of a "drank the Kool-Aid" feeling, but I think it's because all of the coaches really believe in their product. And it's always full of useful information presented in an articulate package (which can be a little hit-and-miss with scientifically-based cycling podcasts). After listening in for a few months, I took the plunge and signed up.

So far, I enjoy it. I've noticed an increase in my power and performance on outdoor rides, and my FTP (main power metric used by TrainerRoad) has increased by 20 watts or so. I was using Zwift before, and I miss the gamification elements, but TrainerRoad's workout library is so much better, and it adds more structure to indoor training than you can get with Zwift. As the weather starts to head south (the good weather, that is, to the southern hemisphere), I may sign up for and use both. But right now I use a mix of indoor workouts on TrainerRoad and outdoor rides.

I'm going to need a new trainer soon, though; I'm starting to wear the metal off the drum on the one I've had for the past 8 years. Buy one of my cycling workouts if you want to help me get a new trainer!

Getting back to TrainerRoad, I like it. It's not the end-all-be-all to training, but it's a valuable tool, and it's helped me.

More importantly, once you've been a member for a certain duration, you get a referral month to give to a friend. And you guys are all my friends. So who wants a free month of TrainerRoad? Leave a comment beloooooooowwwww! Be sure you leave me a way to contact you, though, preferably by leaving a Twitter handle. Or you could leave a comment on my Facebook page. Just make sure I can reach you to let you know that you've won and get your e-mail address so TrainerRoad can send you the invitation. I'll choose a winner randomly on September 30, which is in two weeks.

Ready, go!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Race Report: Luray Caverns CX

Hooray for the first real cyclocross race of the season! My last cyclocross race was in 2009. 2009! That was 7 years ago! I have much more fitness now than I had then (it helps that I'm not running and swimming anymore), but the 'cross scene here is way more competitive than it was in Kansas. In Kansas, many race directors would completely waive the entry fee for cat 4 women to try to get more of us racing. I think the biggest field I ever raced in was 13.

Our cat 4 women's field had 17 racers. I think around half of them were doing their first cross race! The women's masters field went off 30 seconds before us, and there were another 9 in that field. There were another 15 entrants in the 1/2/3 and 3/4 fields that raced a couple of hours later. I'd considered doubling up for the 3/4 race, but it was hot as balls and I was pretty sure I would explode if I stayed out in that heat for another 45 minutes of racing.

I got a spot in the second row to start, but took a bad line in the gravel and fell to about 8th wheel. I managed to pass a woman or two in the first quarter of the course. I was sitting about 6th wheel coming into the barriers. Did fine on the dismount and cleared both barriers without eating turf, but I set my bike down with something less than what you might call grace and dropped my chain. Tears. The pit was right after the barriers, so I can in there to get my chain back on. It took all of 10 seconds, but I lost probably 5 or 6 places there. I got back on and started trying to claw my way back.

I went deep on the first 2 laps. Apparently, there was a crash right in front of me on a steep off-camber--I'd decided while pre-riding the course that I would take it as a run-up, after trying to ride it twice and sliding out both time--where a couple of women tried to ride it and failed. I guess I got off and ran around them, but I don't remember doing it. The only reason I remember the crash at all was because my teammates told me about it after the fact. That's how deep I went on the first 2 laps.
Which is why I decided to run this part. Picture courtesy of velogirl22 (follow her on Instagram!)
I picked up a few positions in that crash, picked off a couple more in the third lap, and passed one more (someone whom I've raced in road--Anna--who has ridden me into the ground plenty of times) at the end of that lap. I wasn't sure where I was in the field, at that point, but I figured top 10.

Somewhere in the third lap my psoas started spasming. I've had this happen before in cross races (although I can barely remember that far back) and even while teaching spin classes. It also used to happen sometimes when I was running. I'm not sure what causes it, but the pain is almost incapacitating. I've had to leave spin classes in the middle of of teaching before, it's been so bad. I didn't quit the race in the middle, but I did have to slow down a lot. Anna passed me back, and I could see two more women I'd passed earlier gaining some ground back on me. Standing breaks bought me about 20 seconds of relief, so I stood and coasted on the downhills as much as possible in the last 2 laps. I managed to hang on for the last lap without letting anyone else re-pass me. And that was the race!

I ended up finishing 5 out of 17 women. I was also the last rider who did a full 5 laps. I think I might have been able to finish in third if I hadn't dropped my chain. But who knows? It doesn't matter! First cross race of the season is in the bag, and I enjoyed it. I rode myself into the ground and had two beers afterwards. So I've already got a great start on my season goals.

Regarding the psoas, I think it's a combination of factors: the course was really bumpy, which puts extra stress on my psoas as it works to help my core stabilize against the movement of the bike on the ground; 'cross bikes have laid-back geometry to help with handling, which puts me into more anterior pelvic tilt and compresses my hip flexors; and I'm hammering super hard on the pedals. I need to resolve the issue so it doesn't hold me back in future races. One of my coworkers who specializes in athletic training (I specialize in functional training and stability for older adults, so my needs are a little outside of my wheelhouse) is helping me come up with a core stabilization routine. I'll also work on my pedaling technique to take some stress off of my hip flexors, and I'll make a point of standing and coasting more in races to vary the stress on my body. I suppose in some courses there will be more natural variation, too, which will reduce my time grinding out in a single position. And if it continues to bother me, I may adjust my bike for a more upright position.

Next race is Hyattsville CX on Oct. 2, which gives me 3 weeks to increase my fitness (and adjust my chain catcher)!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Finding my strengths

My quads look exactly like this.
I had three main goals for training this year: find a team, get back into racing, and figure out my strengths and weaknesses. I've achieved the first two, but the third has evaded me. I still don't feel like I have a good handle on what I'm good at in cycling.

In triathlon, I always told people that I was best at transitions, because I didn't think that I was very good at any of the three sports. Of the three, cycling was my strongest and the one that I enjoyed the most.

Because of my background with triathlon, I'm pretty good at time trials. But that time trial skill doesn't carry over into races; I can't hold high power for long duration in races, like in a breakaway. Or the power that I can sustain isn't high enough to keep me away from a pursuing group, anyway. So I'm decent at time trialing, but it doesn't carry over to actual races.

I've considered that I might be a good sprinter, because I'm kind of built like a sprinter--small frontal profile with massive thighs. I've also assumed that I'm not a very good climber, because I'm so heavy relative to my size. But when I think back to this season, I've done well in hilly races. I think I might be a good climber. Sprint-wise, I have an okay kick, but I'm never positioned well enough for it to really matter. So I'm good at climbing, but I lack the right build to be excellent at it; and I'm good at sprinting, but only during workouts (I haven't won any races out of sprints . . . or at all).

Then the other day I did a TrainerRoad workout that got me thinking. It was intervals of 30 seconds overgeared (slow and heavy) followed by a ramp from just below threshold power to just above. And I was really good at them. I could lay down 500+ watts for 30 seconds. In my highest gear and with the resistance cranked on my trainer, I couldn't slow my legs down below 80 RPM. I don't suppose it should be very surprising, considering the size of my quads, but I'm really strong. I think that's my strength, cycling-wise. Strength. I'm strong at . . . being strong. Yay!

Now if I can just figure out how to use that in racing . . .

Monday, August 29, 2016

Race Report: Dirty BikenetiCrit

That's me! Face full of dirt, with my teammate Tina on my wheel.
This was a new kind of race! It was a criterium, but on dirt. Road rules, cross vibe, and free beer after!

I signed up for this race about a month ago. I also signed up for an online chemistry class, and the first lab meeting was on Saturday. It was supposed to run from 8 to noon, and my race was at 11. I'd given up on the hope of getting to go do the race, and was prepared to eat the $30 entry fee.

But then, wonder of wonders, we got out of lab at 9:30! A glimmer of hope emerged. I raced home, threw everything in the car, and drove to Haymarket as quickly as possible. Checked in and got my number at 10:45, ready to roll with 9 minutes to spare!

So I got no warm-up, and I didn't pre-ride the course. I rolled off the line with no earthly idea what was coming next.

The women's fields raced combined. A few of the ladies took the pace out hot, and I managed to catch onto the back. I had a teammate ahead and a teammate behind. I hung in well enough, at the beginning, but wasn't taking the right lines through the gravel corners. In road racing, you get used to following the wheels in front of you, if you know them, but not all of the wheels were reliable on the loose stuff. There were a few times where I missed a corner and had to push hard to catch back on to the lead group. With about 5 laps to go (out of 9 or 10, I don't remember), I went wide in a corner and fell off the lead pack. Drilled it to bridge back on (with two other riders on my wheel), realized I could pull the pin and finish the race or keep going and blow up in the heat, and pulled off. The girl behind me didn't appreciate losing her free ride. She said something as she came around me, and it didn't sound nice. But I was more interested in finishing the race without throwing up.

So I let the lead pack go and treated the rest of the race as an interval workout. Ended up lapping a few stragglers and passing a few for higher placing (including the wheel-sucker with the witty remarks). Ended up 5th in a field of 19, and that was stone cold at the start without a pre-ride!

Great race. Well run. A terrific warm up for the cross season. I hope they do it again next year! I'd definitely do it again!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Product Review: Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil

This is a review of a product that was sent to me by the manufacturer, Skinny & Co. I'm not being paid for this product review, but I also didn't pay for the product. It's a freebie. You can view my unboxing of the product here. Now let's get started.

Skinny & Co. make fancy coconut oil products. Raw, pure, vegan, extra-virgin, wild-harvested, single-source . . . any other catch-words I can include? It's coconut oil, so it's also gluten-free. They also emphasize their charitable work in Vietnam, whence they source their coconuts, and the fact that they recycle a lot.

The packaging is pretty cool. They sent me five of these little jars that are quite pretty. My only complaint is that it's hard to tell which one is which. All the jars look the same, and the product name does not stand out very well. So far I haven't put facial oil in my oatmeal or anything, but I could see it being a problem with this packaging. In this box, I have the coconut oil, body butter, sugar scrub, oil pulling, and facial oil.

If you've read this blog for a long time, you know that I went through a raw foods phase. I'm over that now, and I'll tell you why: it's really hard to do, it didn't make me feel any better, and it's based on scientific quackery. That's part of why I'm skeptical when it comes to the health benefits of things like single-sourced and cold-pressed. But I also really like coconut oil, so I've tried all of the products (even the oil pulling) with an open mind.

All of the products except the sugar scrub look just like this
Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil
Surprisingly, I already had organic, extra virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil in my pantry (because that's the coconut oil that Trader Joe's sells). This coconut oil smells like the Trader Joe's kind, maybe slightly less coconutty. Tastes a little better on its own than the Trader Joe's brand, I think. I've put it in smoothies, and oatmeal. It adds a nice flavor. Seems like a good product.
And this is the sugar scrub.
Skinny & Co. Sugar Scrub
This is my favorite product of the five I've tried. It has a strong flavor of brown sugar, which makes me really want to eat it. The sugar is pleasantly abrasive and washes away easily in the shower. It's a nice alternative to exfoliating products with stupid microbeads, which I don't like to use because of the environmental concerns associated with them. Once the sugar is gone, the coconut oil in which it is suspended remains to leave my skin feeling very soft without feeling greasy. Love this stuff.

Skinny & Co. Body Butter
This is coconut oil with some essential oils so that it smells nicer (and maybe blah blah blah something about the health benefits of essential oils). Except that Emily and I both hate the smell. It smells strongly of black licorice, so I assume there's anise oil in there. It's a nice product, and I like it as a moisturizing product, but I do not like the smell. If you like black licorice or anise, though, you will probably like this.

Skinny & Co. Facial Oil
I was excited to try this product, too, because the skin of my face is frequently dry. It also has lavender and chamomile in it, so I thought it might be good as a natural sleep aid. Unfortunately, it has the same essential oil blend as the body butter, and that anise smell overwhelms everything else for me. I like the way it makes my face feel, though. I can't speak to how well it removes make-up, because I don't wear make-up.

Skinny & Co. Oil Pulling
Have you heard of oil pulling? I hadn't. I've done some research on it, though, and found that it's a traditional practice in Ayurveda (much of the empirical research that's been done on oil pulling is from India). I probably read about it in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika and didn't even realize it. In Ayurveda, it's traditionally performed with sesame oil, but Skinny & Co. sells coconut oil, so they advocate using coconut oil (preliminary research shows that coconut oil is also effective, though). I followed an online guide for how to oil-pull for the first time this morning. Coincidentally, I had a root canal on Wednesday, so my mouth hasn't been feeling awesome. I hoped that the oil pulling would help soothe my gums and make my breath better. It hasn't made any difference so far, but the studies I've read suggest it might not make a difference until after 5-8 days. It's kind of gross, though, and time-consuming. You're supposed to swish a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 5-20 minutes. Not seconds; minutes. That's a lot of time when you have appointments starting at 5 a.m. I wonder if it's equally effective if you do it before bed.

That's about all I have to say about Skinny & Co. I like the product well enough, although I probably wouldn't have gone out and purchased it on my own. Health and beauty products in fancy little tins aren't really my thing. I do like the sugar scrub, though. I may even keep using that.

For more info on Skinny & Co., you can visit their website here. If you have other questions you'd like to ask or are a raw foodist who wants to attack me as a heretic, please do so in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First ride on my Crux!

The dam at Lake Accotink Park
After a course of heavy-duty antibiotics and Vicodin, I'm completely over my root canal from a week and a half ago. I go back to the dentist tomorrow to close my crown up. Since the pain wore off, though, I was finally able to get out on my new bicycle!

One of the best parts of living in Northern Virginia is the terrain. Even in the developed, suburban area where I live, there are still parks full of greenery and quiet trails. I headed to one on Wednesday to remind myself how to ride off-road.

I took a few little spills, got mud and sand (and a little blood) all over my legs, and completely ruined a white jersey. It was a successful outing! You can see the highlights, which is mostly footage of me falling or nearly falling, below. I still haven't figured out how to record good footage with my action cam, so I didn't include the whole ride. If you'd like the full 45 minutes of footage (and I don't know why you would), please send me an e-mail; I'll gladly share it.
On Friday, I tried a trail that's closer to my home--the Pimmit Run Trail. I did many miles of run training there last year and the year before. The trail is too technical for me to ride, though; I only went a few miles before aborting the mission and coming home on surface streets. After that, I set up cones in my backyard and practiced flying mounts and dismounts. I'll post that video this weekend.

Until next time, spin & smile!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I promised last week that I had an announcement related to the upcoming cyclocross season. Well . . .
I got a new bike!

That's a 2017 Specialized Crux E5. The groupset is Shimano Tiagra, with stock wheels, cranks, bars, stems . . . it's not a high-end bike. But it has disc brakes! And mud clearance! And good gearing for cross! So it's enough that I can go out and have fun. I may have mentioned that my goal for the cyclocross season is to hurt a lot during races and drink a lot immediately after. I can do that just fine on aluminum and Tiagra.

I had an emergency root canal on Thursday (only two hours after I picked up my Crux at the shop), and I've been resting with the help of Vicodin ever since. So I haven't even gotten to ride it yet, other than hopping on to adjust the seat height and angle a little bit. The pain is subsiding a little, so I hope to be on it either this evening or tomorrow sometime.

Many, many thanks to Jack at Spokes, Etc. (VWS's sponsor shop), for getting me set up with a brand new bike! If you live in the greater DC area, I highly recommend stopping in at the Spokes on Quaker Lane (near Shirlington). The crew there is friendly and knowledgeable, and they can help you with whatever you need.

New bike! Yay!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skinny & Co. Unboxing

Got a box in the mail from Skinny & Co. last week. When I opened it up, here's what I found:

I'll be using the products this week. Look for my review next Friday!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

End of Road Season, 2016

"And with that, the road season ends with a whimper."

That's a comment from my teammate, Sean, regarding the cancellation of our last road race of the season. Not enough registrants, apparently. There wasn't a cat 4 race for the women, so I wouldn't have been racing anyway. Based on what I've heard from other athletes, though, this road season has been a departure from seasons past, in terms of schedule; there have been multiple races canceled or not scheduled, relative to previous years. It will be interesting to see what happens to the MABRA racing scene, going forward.

If I had known that Tysons Corner was going to be my last road race for 2016, I would have taken it a little more seriously. As it was, my season also ended with a whimper.

I had three well-defined goals for this season: find and join a team that I like, start training specifically and exclusively for bike racing, and figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are on the bike.
I have a white helmet on order.
I accomplished the first one. I've been riding and racing with Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. since February. I accomplished the second goal. I started off training using my own plan, as I have in years past. I discovered after a couple of months that I don't know as much about bike training as I do about triathlon training, and I was too lazy to do enough research to figure it out. I ended up switching over to TrainerRoad about two months ago, and have been satisfied with the results so far. My FTP has increased by 21 watts, about a 10% increase. Mostly, I appreciate having an assignment each day. When I write my own programs, I don't trust them; I end up changing them on the fly, which defeats the point of writing them in the first place.

As for the third goal, I still don't feel that I have a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses. I know that I need to continue working on my handling in the pack, especially when I'm tired. I need to improve my awareness and critical thinking when I'm fatigued (I had the same problem when I was playing rugby, which is why I eventually moved from scrumhalf to flanker). My sprinting power is pretty good, although I'm not yet confident enough to control that maximal power at the end of a hard race. I think I'm good at sitting on the front of a group and pushing the pace, either to catch a breakaway or to force a selection. I lack the ability to combine those two things, though; I have trouble putting in a big dig, like in an attack, and then maintaining a high power to stay away or bridge across. That also ties into my mental toughness, which needs a lot of work. I hope I can use some of that knowledge to define goals for next year, although I'm not mentally ready to dig into yet.

I have about a month before I start CX racing. Goals for that are to experience extreme pain and then drink extreme beer. I should have a big announcement related to CX soon. Stay tuned.