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!