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 . . .