Mud between the toes feels good for a change! Nowhere near the epic mud-a-thon of last year, but just enough to make things a lot more interesting than last week at Steilacoom.
I was so excited by the mud that I decided to race my new disc brake equipped 'cross bike (Specalized Carbon Crux). The confidence it gave me on the descent and through the corners was worth the slight weight penalty. Mud was definitely not going to slow me down!
With double points on the line for the final race of the series, placing was going to be doubly important for the overall standings. My goal was to hang on to my 3rd overall and not have a repeat of the last couple of weeks.
To cut a long muddy slog short, I quickly settled into 3rd place and kind of just got stuck there until the end of the race. No moving up, no moving back. So, not 2nd (yay!) then again not 1st (humph!), but 3rd. Hmm, you'd think I might be a bit disappointed, but no, I was far from it. Although fairly and squarely beaten by a couple of very fast ladies, I achieved my mission AND kept my 3rd overall in the series.
Thanks Jodi - my photographer has been slacking!
And to top that off, a very fine day was had by the team, with these impressive overalls in the series-
Kristy Kelsey - 2nd elite women
Sean Kelsey - 1st 45+ elite men
Jason Jablonski 1st 35+ elite men
A very happy day on the bike!
Christening the New Bike in Mud - where is my mechanic anyway?
So here's the funny thing about 'cross - you just never know how things will pan out in the race, let alone by the end of the season. Woodland Park was the last race of the MFG series and through this series I've run the gauntlet of finishes from 3rd being my best finish to 11th being a race I'd rather forget. Overall I was sitting in 4th and looking at the competition and doing the math before the race that was likely where I'd stay. If I had a good race, maybe I'd scrape a 3rd overall.
I had a good start off the line, sitting in 3rd, but goofed early by being in too high of a gear coming out of the first corner, and allowed a gap to form from the lead 2 gals. Fortunately no one came around me to capitalize on this, but it left me chasing hard with a couple of gals on my tail. What felt good was that I was actually capable of this hard chase (probably the first time this season I've felt this strong). There was a little back and forth between me and the 2 gals that were with me, but we weren't exactly closing in on the lead 2 gals. But all of a sudden I'm in the lead. Not exactly sure what happened, but it turns out one of the leaders pulls out after crashing hard and the other has an untimely flat and has to pit.
So now I'm not fighting for 3rd place, but for 1st place. Game on! The 2 gals with me fight hard too, each of us taking the lead at various times. On the last lap one has dropped off the pace a bit, so it's down to the 2 of us. Each lap I lose time on the run-up, so I'm dreading this section on the last lap. I know if she gaps me here that'll be it. I visualize gazelles and springing up over the barriers and logs on the run-up, but it is to no avail, the inner heffalump in me comes out and I thud my way up the slope. She gaps me, puts in an extra effort on the next climb and I have to be content with 2nd place. She earned it, fairly and squarely.
Even though I had a great race, I couldn't help but be deflated at the end, especially knowing that a win would have really shaken up the overall placings. However, it turns out it was enough to push me up to 2nd overall, so I am pretty happy with that. As for the gal who flatted, well she fought back and took 4th place, good enough to take the overall series win. So the moral of this story? Well in 'cross, you do really never know how things are going to turn out, but you should never give up, and even bad luck in a race won't slow you down if you are that strong! Congrats Kari on your overall win :)
Mud is good, it makes racing fun. Enumclaw (SCX#5) was fun! Not quite the mud swamp of last year, but enough to make things interesting. The slick, peanut buttery twisty corners claimed a fair number of victims and favored those who could maintain speed and stay upright.
I like this course so much in fact that I can forgive it for the 'wall of doom'. This is a run-up that seems to go vertically straight up and for me becomes a 'stagger-up' by the 6th lap. It's truly not a pretty site to behold and the beer garder hecklers at the top have plenty of time to comment on your progress! They show no pity and don't offer ropes to tow you up. Maybe we need a climbing sponsor rather than a beer sponsor next year??
Kristy just ahead of me on the 'Wall of Doom'
The 'wall of doom' was really where the 1st split in the pack came in the race. I got through around 6th place, but soon pulled into 5th place after narrowly missing a gal who crashed on the descent (she was ok). The leaders were pulling away though and as hard as I tried I could never match their speed. I knew if I had a 'clean' race (technically, not literally!) and kept focused I'd keep my 5th place though. It was hard not to be demoralized each lap by the 'wall of doom' but my endorphines kicked in on the descent and I used the guys as carrots to keep me going as I worked my way through them.
I was pleased with my solid race for 5th place, and even happier for team mate Kristy who held her 4th place ahead of me and even made some ground on 3rd place.
Despite not having the mud of yesterday's race, things were going pretty well.
I even quite enjoyed the sandy section. That was until a competitor (I could think of other descriptors right now) decided to re-mount her bike, crashing into me whilst severely miss-judging a pass. My problem might have been in not falling off, because my front wheel took the full force and out ripped 2 spokes.
Carbon tubular wheels just don't respond well to pedal interactions. I think I would have rather had some body damage that would have healed than this that will need to be replaced!
The only lucky break I had was that the pits weren't too far away. A short run and a new bike had me going again. Riding angry helps for a while, but it wasn't enough to catch back up with the main field. I wasn't last though....
It's taken 3 weeks of rain, but finally the ground can take no more and has started oozing mud. The dust bowl of the first Marymoor race was completely transformed into a slick, gooey, mudfest. No more high speed drag-racing - 'proper' CX battling with an emphasis on staying upright rather than going fast.
Much slippery fun was had, and plenty of mud ingested. After the first lap I was in a strong 4th position behind my team mate Kristy and wasn't feeling too much pressure from behind. By the last lap I had a little more juice in the engine and pulled into 3rd spot. Luckily, no response from Kristy because she was saving herself for another lap - oops!
Finally, a 'real' 'cross course! More ups and downs than a Catholic mass and more dancing around than a Gospel choir, Silver Lake is definitely one to praise! With the weather taking a turn for the worse/better, a few days of rain was also a gift from the heavens.
I was pretty psyched going in. Until that is my pre-ride and warm-up, which left me winded and wanting to lie down and rest. But hey, better than last week when I couldn't even manage a warm-up. I would stay positive!
With that positive attitude, and not fearing the sandy section, I had a good start and 1st couple of laps, maintaining 3rd place, but on a climb on the back of the course, I lost me time every go-around. So frustrating to enjoy a course, but be let down by my cardio capacity, which seemed to be stuck in 2nd gear. I revved the engine but it sputtered and failed.
In the end I had to be content to stay upright on my bike and settled for 6th place. Better than last week's placing, but with a smaller field, closer to the back than I would have liked.
There was one silver lining to today though - team mate Kristy had a well deserved 2nd place, showing her prowess over the 'roadies' as the courses get more technical. Nice job Kristy!
Another flat non-technical course today. And although I'm not complaining about the glorious weather we've been having, ENOUGH already with the dry, fast courses!
I had to pull out all the tricks in my bag today - caffeinated energy gel pre-race, wet washcloth around my neck and carrying a water bottle. I also decided that the only way of surviving the straight-a-ways on the course was to make sure I was on someones wheel each time to pull me along. I succeeded in this, and felt like I was in a great position on the last lap to pull ahead and grab a 3rd spot. Unfortunately, the gals behind me had their own plans and one surged ahead in the middle of the lap on the final straight-a-way, the other passed just before the final stretch to the finish and got the sprint ahead of me and the gal I had been on the wheel of. I ended up an out-smarted and out-powered 6th place.
There's definitely a lot of young and upcoming talent in the field this year. It's great to see. The only negative side to this is that I'm seeing more and more 'sketchy' moves and unnecessarily aggressive moves to get ahead or maintain position. One of these moves took my team mate Kristy down early on in the race and I was almost taken out at the end of the race after the sprint finish by a gal who just swerved across my line and ended up taking herself out.
I think it's time we all did a little rain dance and started racing 'cross rather than crits!
So what do you get when you cross caffeine with someone who has been free of it for 9 months? 2nd place (well that along with some notable names missing from the start line!) I guess that the only reason caffeine isn't regulated by the USDA is that most racers are so habituated to it that they don't get much of a boost from it. Now give it to a naive user (me) and bingo, it's unofficially a performance enhancing drug! I won't be sleeping much tonight, but hey, I guess at least it gives me time to write this blog.
Intense effort in 80degree heat usually leaves me with a headache. Caffeine (in the form of an energy gel) was my antidote to this. Not really giving me extra power or speed, just the capacity to keep pushing through without my head exploding.
Staying cool was also necessary to prevent the dreaded headache. I employed a couple of tactics for this - a wet wash cloth on my neck for cooling and (big gulp) a water bottle on my bike. This is almost taboo in CX, but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do right?
I had a chance to work with my team mate Kristy for a few laps during this race. She powered away for the hole shot and pulled me for the best part of 2 laps - thank you Kristy!! I tried to re-pay the favor, but alas the hill climb took its toll on Kristy and our team work came to an end as she dropped back into 3rd.
I couldn't shake the gal who made it into 2nd place though. I knew she was climbing better than me, but hoped to keep her off. Alas, no such luck. She came powered around me on the final lap's climb and I never managed to bridge back up to her. Nicely played! Still, I was happy with 2nd. But even happier that I managed to put in place some coping mechanisms for racing in hotter weather.
Wow, it's that time of year again! We kicked off the 2012 CX season with MFG at Big Finn Hill in Juanita. I've got to confess I wasn't physically or mentally prepared for today. Taking the summer 'off' to play in the mountains on my mountain bike was good for the soul, but meant that I hadn't raced in over 3 months. That long out of the race saddle and I had begun to question whether I had it in me for another season of CX. Added to that, I wasn't particularly excited by the course, which was even less technical and faster than last year.
Low motivation and self doubt is not a good way to start a race, but the only way to find out where I was at was to get out there and do it! A good start put me in 3rd, just where I wanted, but it didn't last long as a side nudge through a corner had me on the ground and my team mate Kristy (who was perfectly placed behind me on my wheel) on top of me. Deep breath and chain back on, I then spent the rest of the race chasing to catch back up.
Took a while for me to work my way back up to 6th place, and then I chased up to 5th and made my way around, only to have her get a second wind and pass me again. Then I realized that as hard and painful as the race was, I really was back in 'competition' mode and I had a rabbit to chase! There was just no way I could give up and let her go. I had to play it smart though. Catching back up was one thing, but we were obviously pretty evenly matched, so I couldn't just blow past her. I rested a while on her wheel and it gave me just enough to pass when I felt good and I gave it everything to stay ahead in the last 1/4 of the final lap. She was close enough for it to come down to a sprint finish, but she wasn't on my wheel, so didn't have a drafting advantage. It was simply a matter of keeping it going to the end. It worked. I held 5th. Phew.
Much more importantly though, I found my motivation to race hasn't deserted me and my form doesn't suck too terribly for early in the season! I'll always have some self doubt, but that's a constant work in progress......