Race Recap: Cap City State Championships

The weekend after Derby City Cup was the Ohio Cyclocross State Championships, hosted by the amazing Cap City Cross. I had attended a few Cap City races in previous years as a spectator and not a racer, but I remembered them being a pretty laid back and welcoming atmosphere so I was excited to see what theĀ  was in store.

I could have opted to make it another two day weekend but since my ‘actual’ championship race was on Sunday, I decided to skip out on Saturday to make sure I wasn’t too gassed for the actual race and to avoid the extra costs associated with double race weekends.

My race, of course, was the first race at 10am. It was billed as the women’s Category 3/4 race and I had been told it would be scored as such as well. I was disappointed to be racing for the state title against Cat3 women but wanted to race my best anyways. None of my OVCX frivals (friendly rivals) were signed up, much to my surprise.

One of my friends who had raced on Saturday told me that the course was one that would suit my strengths – nothing terribly technical or unridable, and plenty of long stretches for me to put some watts into. My pre-ride confirmed this.

I arrived early and felt surprisingly good. After a few laps around the course, I had identified the challenges (some sharp up-and-down, hilly “s” curves that required precise gearing and steering to successfully ride) and opportunities (a few long stretches near the front of the course and the long, uphill stretch on the back of the course) and felt pretty confident, even if I wasn’t counting on beating the several Cat3 women signed up to race the 3/4 race.

Upon arriving at the starting line, the official announced that there seemed to have been a slight miscommunication. The Women’s 3/4 race was only a championship race for the Cat4 women. The Category 3 riders who had signed up could wait until the 2:00PM race that day to ride their championship race or race non-championship. Understandably, the Category 3’s were a little miffed but all of them were good sports about it. Most of them chose to wait until 2:00 to ride in the official championship race but a few were unable to stay around that late and so they chose to stay in the 3/4 race.

The field was probably the smallest I’d seen all season and with the last-minute clarification that I was in fact riding for the state champ jersey, I felt a new surge of excitement. I took my spot in the front row and waited for the starting whistle.

Per usual, my start was total crap. The starting group was small but I still ended up near the back. One of the other Cat4’s had a great start but took a hard fall on the first right-hand turn. I managed to avoid collision and tried to work my way past the ladies ahead of me. I passed one on the barriers and managed to pass several more on the first straightaway. I made it through the S curves without issue (always a gamble for me, since sometimes my chain ring will decide it is in the big ring and it will stay in the big ring thank you very much) and came into the paved uphill section strong. I flew past two of four women remaining ahead of me and managed to stretch that distance.

I was able to see the second place woman ahead of me and one of the people cheering me on (no idea who the guy was, which just proves how awesome and friendly the Cap City community is!) was giving me updates of how far ahead of me she was. It went from twelve seconds to ten seconds throughout the next lap until finally on the second lap’s uphill straightaway I was able to pull past her and put some distance between us, although she was never far off me for the remainder of the race. (Note: I am writing this entry over a month after this race took place and honestly can’t quite recall if I made this pass on the second or third lap. Forgive my editorializing.)

Cat 3/4 Overall Podium
Cat 3/4 Overall Podium

The woman in first was a strong Cat3 rider and I knew unless she was having a terrible day, I just wouldn’t be able to catch her, especially because while I felt decent, I didn’t feelĀ great. My focus shifted to staying ahead of everyone else. I let myself think about winning the state champ jersey for a moment and then turned my attention back to the course. My third time through the S curves I didn’t shift properly and lost a few precious seconds when I had to dismount, run a few steps up, and run around my bike to re-mount.

The final half-lap was me looking over my shoulder to judge the amount of time Ohio Cyclocross cat 4 podiummy opponent had gained and trying to not make any foolhardy fumbles that would cost me second place in the wave or potentially the state champ title.

I successfully crossed the line as the first Category 4 woman, earning me the title of Cyclocross State Champion. While the title may not mean much in terms of actual real-life rankings, it was still really cool to be able to stand on the top step for once and hey, free jersey!

cap city cxMostly, I would like to emphasize how cool Cap City races are. Everyone is friendly and it seems like a really awesome community. Their motto is “PMA, no jerks” (PMA = positive mental attitude). My kind of ‘cross. I’ll definitely be adding a few more of their races to my 2016 race schedule.

Race Recap: Buckingham Financial John Bryan CX

So, I’ve procrastinated writing this entry for about a week and a half. My race at John Bryan was my worst so far in the season and kind of a mess from beginning to tenth place finish.

  • It was cold out. During warm up, I couldn’t feel my toes and my fingers were freezing in my Pearl Izumi “cool weather” gloves.
  • The start was a mess. I had second call up, so I strategically positioned myself. Another girl came and wedged herself between me and the other girl in the grid, which while I was a little miffed at, wasn’t a big deal. Then, a girl with a second row call-up quietly eased herself into the first row, making nine people wedged elbow-to-elbow in an eight person row.
  • This meant that my abysmal reaction time was even more of a hindrance, because the extra close quarters made maneuvering and avoiding everyone else’s wheels even more difficult.
  • So, I’m a few people back. No big! I’ve come back from worse.
  • A few minutes later, on the first small, steep descent, the girl immediately in front of me crashed.
  • Because I was so close to her and because my brakes were once again only-kind-of working, I had to make an emergency dismount or plow right into her.
  • However, this was on a part of the course that was a few tight, up-and-down “S” curves. So not only did I have to dismount, but I had to wait for people to pass me (since I couldn’t just interject myself into a row of moving cyclists), run up the small incline, and remount.
  • So, I quickly remounted and started down the next small hill. Because I had done an “emergency dismount”, however, my pedals were not in my usual remounting position and I couldn’t find them with my feet in time to maneuver around the hairpin turn. A spectator heard me literally yell “Where are my pedals?!” as I coasted down the hill and was forced to completely stop, run up the next incline, and remount (this time, thankfully, I was able to find my stupid pedals).
  • Of course, at this point, I’m almost in the back of the pack. I was able to fly by a decent number of people but the course was full of turns and technical features which made it nearly impossible to pass anyone on large portions of it. At least for me. I’m sure experienced riders had no problem.
  • So, I sit on someone’s wheel until the next straightaway. By this point, I’m sure the leaders are way far gone, but maybe I can at least pull close.
  • Whoops – caught behind someone else for another quarter of a lap!
  • I finally had a straightaway to myself at the beginning of the second lap. I put my head down and made a charge for it… and my chain promptly dropped. Cursing to myself, I dismounted and tried to quickly put it back on the chain ring where it belonged but of course, it kept getting tangled and stuck in the derailleur/other chain ring/etc. So it took me a solid 45 seconds to get it back on, which is kind of a big deal. Of course, all those people I had worked so hard to pass flew right by me, some even hollering to ask if I was okay.
  • Once I got the chain ring back on, the rest of the race was pretty much just being stuck behind people, passing them, and then getting stuck behind someone else.

I ended coming in 10th of 21 in my wave, and 5th of 9 in my category.

Below is some technical jargon no one else will really care about but that I feel like recording for posterity’s sake:

I record my heart rate data on Training Peaks and it gives you a number called “TSS Score”. I forget what it means, but it’s basically a score of your exertion during an activity. 100 TSS is basically as hard as you can go for an hour (meaning you can’t go faster but you can still make the hour at that level of effort).

My previous two races had TSS scores of 59.7 (for a 30 minute effort, average HR of 180, max 190) and 61.1 (for a 36 minute effort, average HR 177, max 192). This race was about 30 minutes and I ended with a TSS score of 44.4 and an average heart rate of 173, max 182.

 

 

Race Report – Caesar’s Creek Triathlon

My second race of the season was on July 12. I have a feeling I shouldn’t be as disappointed as I am with it, but for some reason it lacked the pre-race excitement and post-race jubilation of the Mojo Running triathlon. Even my pre-race openers on the Saturday before lacked the “pop” of the previous race. I remember worrying about how “heavy” my legs felt and then brushing it off as pre-race jitters/self-doubt.

This race started us out three at a time, so no big group start to the swim, which was fine with me (honestly, though, I was usually pretty good at getting to the front and pulling away from the pack so I didn’t have to deal with all of the start-of-race chaos of kicking and pulling and whatever else people do). I chatted with a few very pleasant women before the beginning, and I appreciated how friendly triathletes are compared to the athletes at certain other sporting events.

Post-race selfies are a lot harder to take when you're all by yourself!
Post-race selfies are a lot harder to take when you’re all by yourself!

My swim time was a commendable 12:51 (as opposed to the 9:41 of my last race, which further cemented in my mind that the first course was a bit short). Again, I tried not to go out too strong because “no one wins the race during the swim, but you can lose the race during the swim”. I didn’t want to spike my heart rate and try to “recover” during the bike or completely blow up during the run. Regardless, it was still the 3rd fastest split of the 91 women in the race.

My first transition, like my last race, was too slow. 2:19. I tried to speed it up from my previous race, but obviously that wasn’t exactly successful.

The bike leg wasn’t nearly as fun as my first race of the season. My time wasn’t that far off, but it felt like I was working harder and it was just less enjoyable – I didn’t spend the whole time with a grin plastered to my face, even though I did try to consciously remind myself to enjoy it. It was fun watching dudes fly by me on their expensive tri bikes only to chug past them on the uphills on my aluminum road bike. Compared to the rest of the field, though, I was disappointed. 15th of 91 women with a final time of 40:49 (18.2 mph).

The run wasn’t comfortable but it was less uncomfortable than my previous run. There was a lot of gravel and dirt running, which I wasn’t expecting. Given my proclivity to toppling over, I wasn’t thrilled about it but it was all okay. I actually did better compared to the rest of the field in the run vs. the bike leg (26:26, 9th of 91 women).

Post-race swag
Post-race swag

Overall, I can’t complain too much about it. It wasn’t quite as fun as the first, but I wasn’t feeling as good going into race day as I was with the last race. My total time was 1:23:47, which was only slightly off of my previous time once you take the time difference for the swim leg into account, and I was 7th of 91 women and won the Female 25-29 category.

Sometimes I forget I have a cyclocross blog…

The past few weeks have been getting busier and busier. The winter blues are finally starting to let up and it’s getting sunny outside, which means I need to learn how to apply my trainer skills to the road! The cx bike is in the shop and next week it’ll be the GT’s turn.

My friend designed me a special training plan about three weeks ago, which I’ve been trying to follow to the best of my ability. It’s pretty cycling-specific, so sometimes I swap out tempo rides for runs, since I want to keep up my running fitness for my 10k and triathlons this summer.

Speaking of running fitness, on March 7th I did the Bockfest 5k. I ran the same race last year when my friend asked me to run with her. I was pretty out of shape and I remember working really hard but being pleased that I finished at under 10:00/mi pace.

My goal for this year was to go as close to 9:00/mi pace as possible. On a few of my training runs I had been going around 9:05 pace, but the presence of snow and my increased focus on biking meant I was only averaging one run per week (for a few weeks it was actually 0 runs per week, because if it’s icy and under 30 degrees, I’d honestly rather just ride the trainer). I thought 9:00 pace would be challenging but do-able.

I wore my Garmin but only glanced at it a few times to check the distance – I figured if I looked down and saw a slow pace I’d be upset and if I looked down and saw a fast pace I’d freak out and convince myself to slow down.

Well, acccyclocross blog resultsording to the official results I finished at an 8:18 pace!! Also, check out that division place… 5th of 95! Like, no way, ya know? I was/am absolutely thrilled. And also very surprised. I’ve been out on a few runs since then and haven’t felt great but have still hovered at around 9:00 pace (including the run where I forgot to bring a sports bra to work…). I’m getting a little excited for my 10k and my triathlons coming up this summer. I want to try some “brick” workouts within the next few weekends, but I’ll have to look into those a little more to decide how/what I want to do.

I’ll have to make another post soon detailing my training plan I’ve been doing for a few weeks, but the fifteen (20…25…) minutes I’ve allotted myself to write in this blog is up, and I have a metric ton of work that needs to be done ASAP.

Oh, I think one of my new goals is going to be to beat my fastest ever mile time of 7:35, which I ran in the 7th grade. I’ll have to do a little bit of speed work on the local high school track… I actually think it could be do-able!