Race Recap: Commonwealth Eye Surgery Promotion Cross

Not related to my race, but this was taken during one of my rides last week on my mini-vacation.
Not related to my race, but this was taken during one of my rides last week on my mini-vacation.

So, this past weekend was my second OVCX race of the season – Commonwealth Eye Surgery Promotion Cross, in Lexington, KY. It was an enjoyable race and I surprised myself with how well I handled some of the course features because I know they’d normally be something I’d be hesitant to ride at fast speeds but apparently once I get a little racing adrenaline in my system, all bets are off/my regard for personal safety goes out the window. Not to say I didn’t scrub way too much speed going into corners and generally abuse my brakes but I handled the off-cambers and super bumpy course better than I would have expected to.

Speaking off off-cambers, half of the course was on a hillside. Just… on a hillside. Not a super steep hillside, but a hillside nonetheless. Right out of the start there was a flat straightaway that quickly turned into several s-curves and very, very short but steep inclines. I was actually worried I wouldn’t be able to ride the second incline (it was one of those situations where mentally I knew it had to be possible but I just couldn’t figure out how to power myself up) but luckily one of my friends pulled me off to the side and told me the trick was going into the hill with enough momentum to get you most of the way up and then being in the right gear to clear the rest in just a few pedal strokes. I had fallen on it no less than three times but after hearing the ‘trick’ I was able to clear it pretty handily. Amie, you’re the best.

The rest of the course was a mix of off-camber and short straightaways with a few other technical aspects thrown in, like some 180 hairpin turns and barriers.

I was lucky enough to get the last front row call-up but my start still definitely left quite a bit of room for improvement. After barreling down the straightaway, we reached the s-curves and small inclines. One of the leaders completely crashed on the first turn. Unfortunately, I got caught behind some riders that couldn’t get up the first incline so, along with almost the entire field of riders, I had to dismount and run.

After re-mounting I immediately focused on picking up speed to get up the second longer, steeper incline but to my dismay I saw that my line of choice was bottle-necked by riders choosing to run it instead of ride it. I tried to take a wider line and go up the outside edge of the hill but instead ended up on the ground halfway up with a girl on top of me. I quickly apologized, helped untangle our bikes and dismounted to a straightaway with just enough of an incline to be pretty painful. I spent the majority of the first lap chasing riders and trying to find my way up to two of the leading women (the leader was a junior with quite a gap on the rest of the field thanks to her ability to avoid the chaos at the start).

The three of us spent the next lap and a half pushing each other and trying to figure out how to pass on the twisty, off-camber course. One of these women was a Cat4 35+ rider so I was focusing on staying as close as possible to the other rider, who was my direct competition for a Cat4 victory.

On the second full lap, as I was battling to stay on the wheel of/pass the woman in front of me, somehow, somehow, managed to drop my god damn chain on an uphill section. I literally cried out “Why?!” in frustration and tried to gather my wits as quickly as possible and put my chain back on the front chain ring where it belonged. It probably took me less than 30 seconds but by that time, the other two women I was with were depressingly far in front of me and I was passed by at least one other rider in the meantime. 

cyclocross blog podium lexingtonI spent the final lap and a half chasing down the lead three women. The junior who had gone out strong had dropped back considerably. I battled past her on the final thirty seconds or so of the course, including the two steep mini-hills. I actually finished only two seconds behind the second finisher in the wave (the Cat4 35+ woman) but was 29 seconds off of the first place finisher. 29 seconds! 29 seconds! Why, why, why did I have to drop my chain?! I’m not trying to say I definitely could have beaten her if my chain hadn’t dropped, but I think it would have come down to an interesting head-to-head battle between the two of us because our lap splits were almost identical for the rest of the race.

Overall, I’m pleased with how I did and how quickly I was able to recover from both my crash and mechanical. I’m anxiously awaiting the race this weekend – two of the three women that have beaten me in the past two races will be there as well as one of my friends who is a pretty solid rider and a skilled bike handler. It’ll definitely be a good race, and getting on the podium will be no easy feat.

I’m trying to focus on doing more ‘right’ this week in preparation. The past two races I definitely could have done a better job getting sleep both the night before and the night before the night before, and my pre-race nutrition in the days leading up to the race left a little to be desired. I have to work six hours on my feet the night before but I’m hoping if I work on resting and stretching, and wear my new shoes that aren’t completely shitty, I’ll be able to minimize the negative effects.

 

Race Recap: Harbin Park Cyclocross

Well, I have several half-written posts in my draft box but I’m going to go ahead and ignore them to write my first cyclocross race recap blog!

Today was the OVCX Series Opener at Harbin Park. Last year, this race was part of the Cincy Three series on the last weekend of October. I signed up to race and arrived at the venue way earlier than I needed to (I got the start time wrong by an hour and a half) and after hours of anticipation, I crashed in the first half lap and couldn’t continue due to bent brake cables or something. So I was a little anxious but ready to actually ride a full course at the venue.

Today I got my start time correct, so I had an appropriate amount of time to get ready for the race. There was one off camber downhill I was a little worried about, since my brakes are both embarrassingly loud as well as not very effective (I often have to drag myself to a complete stop with my shoes. It’s bad.). I was lucky that it was a power-intensive course as opposed to a technical one, since my bike handling skills are still pretty lacking.

I was lucky enough to have a first row call up and lucky to be racing with a group of really cool ladies.

My start was better than last week’s at the pre-season race at Kingswood Park, but definitely not great. Fast starts are one of the many skills I need to work on.

I spent the first half of the race chasing a group of three to four ladies ahead of me (there were actually five women ahead of me but one was so far ahead I literally didn’t know she existed). There were a few times when I sat comfortably on the third or fourth place girl’s wheel to try and lower my heart rate, since I could tell I was quickly “burning my matches”. I’m not sure if this was a mistake or not.

A photo of me in the sandpit last weekend. This is a far less efficient way to get through sand than actually being able to ride it.
A photo of me in the sandpit last weekend. This is a far less efficient way to get through sand than actually being able to ride it.

About mid-way through the second or third lap I managed to pull ahead of the group and start to make a tiny gap, which was promptly closed when I ran through the sandpit while everyone else rode it. I’ve never successfully ridden a sandpit longer than five feet or so, and I haven’t had time to practice “emergency sand dismounts” (aka getting off my bike quickly enough to not end up rubber-side up and still clipped in to my pedals) so I hadn’t even really considered riding it, which in retrospect was a mistake and cost me precious seconds that could have had me in a closer battle for second.

I spent another half lap chasing/passing the women who had handily sped by me in the sand but managed to pull away towards the end of the third lap. It was me and one junior girl battling it out until I was passed by someone I hadn’t seen the whole race. She was definitely faster than me but I managed to stay within range of her until the stupid sandpit again, when I lost just enough distance to make the rest of my chase attempts meaningless. Of course, I still battled it out the best I could, trying to keep an eye on the people behind me.

The finish was a long stretch that had just enough of an incline to make it really hurt. I finished strong but was definitely spent by the time I reached the end of the course.

Also we got medals, which is unusual for cyclocross but I'm always a sucker for hardware.
Also we got medals, which is unusual for cyclocross but I’m always a sucker for hardware.

I ended up coming in fourth in my wave and third overall, which I’m actually really excited about. I’ve been training for a solid year specifically for cyclocross (with some triathlon training thrown in mid-summer for ‘a fun change of pace’) and it was really awesome to actually see my hard work come together. One of my season goals was to podium and I managed to do it on my first race! My next goal is to stand on the top of the podium. I don’t think I have any chance of catching the woman who came in first today but I think with a little training I can at least be a challenge to the second place finisher, especially if I actually prepare for my races properly, instead of spending multiple 7-8 hour shifts on my feet, taking the three days prior to the race completely off the bike, focus on fueling my body, and getting more than four hours of sleep the night before.

I have this Sunday off (since this weekend’s race is three hours away and I just don’t want to drive three hours each way by myself for a thirty minute race, ya know?) and time trials the next two Wednesdays so hopefully over the next two weeks I’ll take some time to get rest, bump up my fitness, and work on my bike handling skills.

Race highlights:

  • Passing men who were clearly pissed that a woman was passing them
  • Having a spectator yell “You’re so much better than last year!” enthusiastically at the barriers. If I had been physically able, I would have laughed. Instead, I just shouted “thanks!” as I remounted my bike.
  • Talking to really awesome women who like bikes! Yes!
  • Standing on the podium, obviously.

Edit: Apparently, the woman who came in first was only about a minute and a half ahead of me, and not over six minutes ahead, as I initially read the results!

Take Your Bike to Work Day

cyclocross bike blog cx blog

 

 

 

 

I am very lucky that I work where I work.

Both of my bikes have been spring-tuned. I took them to a new local bike shop that is totally rad… but I think I’m just going to stick with the trusty guys I usually go to, since New Shop told me I needed a new drive train (chainrings, cassette, chain) for my GT road bike that would run me about $150. I went back to my Trusted Shop just to double-check, and both of the guys there said “Wait, why are you replacing all that? New chain, yes, but the other parts look just fine?”. Cue a giant sigh of relief and gratitude upon hearing that.

I was also told I might want to look into new shifters for the cx bike. New Shop said I could make them last another season, but the shifting is all sorts of wonky (also currently stuck in the large chainring and I’m not sure what happened). According to the Very Professional Research I’ve done (googling bike forum answers), Ultegra shifters do sometimes wear out, but difficulty shifting can also be due to buildup of grime within the shifters themselves. I’m not about to take apart a pair of expensive Shimano shifters, but I might see what the guys at Trusted Shop think. New Shop quoted me between $260-280 to repair/replace, but honestly, why didn’t I just buy a new bike if I was gonna throw down $500 on a used bike that needs $300 worth of work done to it, ya know?

Other than that, I finished my first “training cycle” last week, making this week a rest week, aka the perfect time to get sick and feel like I have cotton balls stuffed in my head. I’ve only gone on one easy one hour cross ride this week and between that and the cold/allergies I’ve got going on, I’m really not feeling so hot. I’m hoping to get out twice this weekend for some easy rides and then start my new training cycle on Monday or Tuesday. I’m crossing my fingers for good weather and improving health.

Oh, also, I ran ten miles last Sunday and I was pretty shocked and amazed that I could do that (especially at a 9:25 average pace). Now it’s time to decide what races I’m going to do this summer (do I try for a half-marathon in May? Which triathlons should I do? Should I try one of the beginner mtb time trials at a local park?) and get crackin’ on my absolutely abysmal bike handling skills in preparation for cyclocross season.

Goals

One of the things I’ve been brainstorming about is my goals for the upcoming season, and I should probably get them written down so I can more easily remind myself of them and review them. Actually, that’s the whole purpose of this cyclocross blog. To keep track of my progress and educate myself on whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.

February is just beginning, which means…

  • 1 month until Bockfest 5k – (goal: under 9:30/mile)
  • 3 months until FPM 10k – (goal: under 9:30/mile, under 9:00 mile would be awesome) (I’ve also toyed with the idea of training for a half-marathon on this weekend. I just can’t decide!)
  • 4 months until first triathlon (TDB)
  • 5.5 months until Cincinnati Tri (After further research it looks like this event may be no more, which I find VERY upsetting. I’ve been looking forward to doing that bike route again for quite a while.)
  • 7 months until cyclocross season begins!

General goals:

Cyclocross:

  • Podium in a women’s Cat4 race
  • Upgrade
  • Learn how to do one cool thing (barrier hop, ride sandpit, etc.)
  • Be able to ride the Kings CX camel humps

    This photo makes it look less intimidating than it seemed at the time, especially when it was slippery and wet.
    This photo makes it look less intimidating than it seemed at the time, especially when it was slippery and wet.

Running:

  • Run 10k <9:00/mile pace
  • Run 5k <8:45/mile pace (Accomplished 3/7/15 at Bockfest 5k! 8:18/pace)
  • Half-marathon?

Triathlon:

  • 20 mph bike time
  • Finish 5k run <9:00/mile
  • Olympic length?

For the past month or so, I’ve been focusing more on running than biking, largely because I can run outside vs. sitting in my basement watching Ironman coverage from the 1990s. But, since when it all comes down to it, cycling/cyclocross is my focus I should really be riding just as much (ideally more) than I’m running. My tentative goals for the next few weeks include –

40 minutes on the trainer, 3-4xweek

core work, 2xweek

running, 2-3xweek

I’ll re-evaluate in a few weeks to see how much I think I can reasonably up the amount of time I put in. I’ll also need to figure out when/how often to incorporate intervals, etc. Do you do that when you’re building a base? Building base on a trainer sucks – can I wait til its warm? When do other people build their bases? How does all of this work?

I need a heart rate monitor yesterday.

The core of the matter…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of core strength in cycling lately. Part of me just accepted it on face value, like “Oh, of course you need a strong core” but the other part of me (the lazy part that really doesn’t feel like doing core work right now, okay?) wondered “Why? What’s so important about your core muscles in cycling?”.

How Does Core Strength Affect Cycling?

Basically, a strong core provides improved body control and a solid power foundation. Even if you have rock-hard quads and calves to die for, a weak core will affect your overall cycling effectiveness. The muscles in your core keep your body stable in the saddle (aiding efficiency) and will provide a solid foundation for your hips, thighs, and knees to draw their power from. For example, if your pelvis rocks side-to-side with each pedal stroke, you’re wasting a lot of power and energy on the lateral motion of your hips that should instead be used to maintaining a smooth, steady, and strong pedaling motion. When your core is stable, everything below your core is stable too.

Core strength can be especially important in cyclocross, as many of the movements such as quick accelerations, barriers, riding in mud, tight turns etc. demand a lot of core strength (especially lower back) and body control. Cyclocross also demands a bit more upper body strength than regular cycling and having a strong core linking your upper and lower body is essential for powerful, fluid motions.

Okay, now what?

So, apparently core strength does matter. Guess it’s time to pull out a yoga mat and get to work.

Videos:

CORE sequence for cyclists from Kathryn Slater on Vimeo.

I hate yoga but this video is so effective I can’t NOT do it.  I’ve done core work but this is one of the few things that has left me noticeably sore for a few days after.

If, like me, you’re not into yoga vids, Cassey Ho of Blogilates has a MILLION ab-specific workouts that are super tough. Plus, Cassey is just sweet and perky enough to make you feel bad for swearing at her under your breath.

Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to spend a solid 15 minutes grunting and sweating on the floor? A five minute alternative is a great way to reasonably guilt yourself into getting your core work in!

Dynamic movement core work. Too bad I don’t have a medicine ball. Or a partner.

A lot of the videos I’ve found online focus a lot on abs. The key to overall strength, though, is balance, which is why I try to occasionally target my back muscles. Plus, anyone who’s ever ridden in a bumpy cross race knows how painful it can be for your lower back.

Articles:

Training Peaks

Bicycling.com

So, now that I’ve reasoned myself into doing core work, I’ll just have to make weekly goals about how many core sessions I do per week. For right now I think two seems reasonable and eventually I’ll up that to doing three to four per week. God knows I need as much help with “body control” as I can get.

Maybe if I blog about bikes…

Maybe if I blog about bikes, I’ll talk about them less. This would probably be a welcomed relief for some (most) of my friends and family members. Also, maybe then I’ll actually sit down and come up with a training plan!

Okay, so, Pretend Audience. I had a rough summer this year. Family stuff, job stuff, life stuff, boyfriend moved to a different state, boyfriend broke up with me, boyfriend was like “let’s get back together”, I was like “wait a sec”, my new job was absolutely awful, what was I doing with my life, etc.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I was about to absolutely lose my mind. Luckily, ex-bf had gifted me a bicycle before he split and that beautiful machine is what kept me from going completely insane during that time (and honestly probably still does).parks and rec bicycle

Sometime around August or September, I decided I wanted to actually try a cyclocross race. I had driven my boyfriend to approximately one million of his races last year and cross just looked really fun and way less intimidating than road races (seriously, roadies. What gives? Is there like, a rule against not being an asshole?).

So, I took my mountain bike that I got for my 12th birthday to the park and started riding around. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew it was fun.

Also putting arty shots of your bike on Instagram distracts people from the fact you have no friends and just makes you look like I wanna-be hipster asshole!
Also putting arty shots of your bike on Instagram distracts people from the fact you have no friends and just makes you look like a wanna-be hipster asshole!

Long story short, I ended up doing a few races. I had a great time (except for the race where I crashed and messed up my brakes and had to drop out less than halfway through the first lap) and didn’t do that well but also didn’t totally suck which considering I was riding a $250, 13 year old children’s MTB and wearing goddamn Vans that I used to waitress in still seems like a miracle.

Seriously try doing a muddy run-up carrying a fucking mountain bike in these shoes.
Seriously try doing a muddy run-up carrying a fucking mountain bike in these shoes.

Anyways, obviously, now I want to become cyclocross world champion and whatever. Just kidding. But it’d be sweet if I could find a way to upgrade tcyclocross bike shoes cincinnatio a Cat 3 in the next year or two. Basically, I want to be able to kind of keep up with the lead pack in my races (I have no idea if this is gonna happen, but it sounds good, right?). I really need to spend time and set up a training plan (especially since I’ll be doing a few triathlons this summer too) besides just “Well, I guess I’ll sit on a trainer for 40 minutes”.  Also, I’m going to need to learn how to clip/unclip pretty proficiently since I’ll probably want to be able to use my *new shoes* on my *new bike* this upcoming season

Well, it is almost 10:00PM on a Friday and I’m sitting in my office blogging about bikes. I should probably at least go home. Maybe I’ll even find the motivation to sit on my trainer (self: seriously, get it together) for half an hour. Hopefully I’ll kind of attempt to actually create a blog and learn stuff and record my training and things like that. We’ll see.