Race Recap: Valley View CX

I’m not sure how to start this entry, so I’ll just dive right in.

Valley View CX was awesome. I was really nervous going into the race, as I knew there were going to be quite a few awesome girls in my category and I really wanted to podium. Two of the girls there had beaten me previously, one had come close, and another girl won a 6 hour mountain bike race a month or two ago, so I knew it would be stiff competition to get onto one of those three steps.

This thing is amazing.
This thing is amazing.

My anxiety caused my to take extra care with my recovery and prep. I discovered that the massage chair in my living room will actually give customized massages, so I spent time working the knots out of my back and having my calves rubbed after my eight hour shifts on my feet (and I really think it did make a difference). I didn’t get in all the time I wanted to in the saddle but I did schlep my bike down to the basement to do a few rides on the trainer instead of skipping training days just because it was rainy or dark outside (God knows getting up to ride before work is a whole other challenge). I also tried to get an adequate amount of sleep and eat to ‘fuel’ myself (the potato chips that seem to perpetually live on the counter are my worst enemy atm).

cyclocross training blogMy intervals for the week definitely didn’t inspire confidence. I had trouble getting my heart rate to where I wanted it to be and holding it there but I tried to shrug it off and just consider it ‘one of those days’. ‘Those days’, in my opinion, play an integral role in making you a better athlete. For example, one run that I went on last winter was terrible. I started off and immediately got a very painful stitch in my side. I decided to run through it, figuring they usually go away after a few minutes or once I really focus on my breathing pattern. This time, though, the sharp pain stayed in my side for the whole four miles and the entire experience was just generally unpleasant. However, I know now that if I can run through that, there’s a million other minor annoyances that I can run through without another thought. It’s really easy for me to freak out on race days thinking “x doesn’t feel right” or “what if…” or “Why didn’t I do x???” etc. and remembering that I can manage through less than ideal conditions is comforting. Mostly, I just wanted to write this paragraph so I have a place to showcase the pretty sunset photo I took on that ride.

cyclocross trainer
How I spend my Saturday nights

The night before the race, I did some openers on my trainer in the basement after I got off work. Even though it was 11:00PM before I was finished, I really think it was a good idea to do these after work rather than before. After standing for 6-8 hours, my legs tend to feel a little ‘dead’ when I first get on the bike and while the openers were definitely not easy or fun, the next morning when I got on my bike to get ready to race, my legs definitely felt better than they would have otherwise.

Going into the race, I had been advised to be more aggressive on the finish and to not hold back on the first lap. I have a hard time ‘getting out of the gate’ so to speak but I knew that getting a good start could really make a difference. In my previous races, holding back and just ‘staying on the wheel’ of my competitors hadn’t really worked out in my favor so I decided to just go for it this time.

The start was a fifty yard straightaway on pavement that then banked right into the ‘bowl’ portion of the course, which was a small ‘valley’ area of sorts that was filled with off-camber turns and several consecutive 180-degree uphill/downhill turns, which are not my strength, and uphill barriers (ugh). After that, though, there was a long portion of straightaway where I felt I could really use my power to my advantage. I was pleased to discover my front shifting seemed to be cooperating so I made the decision to gear up into the big ring for the power portions of the course.

valley view 2014
The run-up in 2014. Do you see what I mean? It was ridiculous! Click through for source.

After the power section was the same loose dirt run-up from last year’s course. Last year it had been at the very beginning, so on the first lap as soon as you started you basically had to stop and wait in line to walk up because it was so bottlenecked with people trying to get through. Putting it halfway through the course seemed to eliminate this problem.

After that was a ride through a barn, some mud, and another ‘power’ section.

I was pleased with my start. I lined up on the left so I would be able to go to the outside on the first turn and I think I managed to get caught behind fewer people than normal. The power section was my JAM. Seriously. I geared up into the big ring on the first straightaway and was able to blow by some people. I didn’t hesitate or see people I wanted to beat and decide to ‘hold back and get them at the end’. I just went for it, and it felt great. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, but it was great. I did have a bit of a scare on the second lap where my bike decided it “didn’t really feel like” shifting back down into the small chain ring but it did eventually cooperate just before it became a major, dismount-inducing problem.

On the first run up, one girl behind me totally blew past me so the next two times I did it I made sure to hold my bike on my shoulder in a way that let me take up as much room as possible (these tactics are actually acceptable in cyclocross, though I had my doubts about actually using them until I realized it was one way to avoid having to chase down and spent time and energy trying to re-pass people).

On my first two runs through the barn, I was neck and neck with someone else (different people) and narrowly avoided crashing as they went to make the right-hand turn as I was barreling right into their path. I muttered a choice obscenity and continued on my way. The second time through I actually almost took out this really sweet junior girl named Emma. I apologized and she told me to just go ahead of her because she “wasn’t feeling well”. I hollered that she looked strong as ever and took off as fast as my legs would carry me, being careful not to wipe out in the sticky mud sections.

At one point I was also passed by someone because I crashed into a wooden stake, which I’m sure was very graceful. My ‘mentor’ of sorts (an awesome woman that rides the Elite 35+ category) was right by where I tangled myself in the stake and she shouted encouragement and reminders to just stay calm and get back on the bike.

On the third lap, I knew I wasn’t first (I could hear the announcer talking about the girl in first but I had hardly had a glimpse of her the whole race) but I figured (hoped, really) I was in the running for the podium. The girl who beat me at Harbin Park by a minute and a half was on my tail and I knew any bobbles or mistakes on my part would let her blow past me and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to catch her again if she gained enough ground. I kept glancing over my shoulder but wasn’t able to really shake her.

As we neared the finish line, I heard the announcer comment on how we’d be having an exciting sprint finish. As I neared the pavement straightaway, I shifted one gear up, put my head down, and sprinted. I had no idea how strong of a sprinter the other girl was but I wasn’t going to take any chances. It’s never over til it’s over!cyclocross podium Valley View

As the official results show, I came in second by less than a second, but dammit, I came in second!

I beat both of the girls who had beaten me previously, and the girl that won had a phenomenal race. I’ve beaten her previously, but not by much. As she said, it was the perfect kind of course for her – a little muddy, a little slippery, and a little technical. She then offered to have her bike shop order in toe spikes for me because I hadn’t had any luck finding them myself because she really is just a super human being.

I have this Sunday off work and was thinking about driving up to Indianapolis for the race this weekend, but there’s only two people pre-registered in my category and honestly, I don’t want to risk getting too many upgrade points (the ‘points’ system in cyclocross is really weird. Basically, you get points based on where you finish in your ‘wave’ and once you get fifteen you’re automatically upgraded to the next category. A win is worth 5 and the next few places get points based on how many people are in the wave, etc. I currently have 7 points) and not being able to ride the Kings CX race as a Cat4  because I’ve been looking forward to it for an entire year and I just don’t feel the need to get my ass handed to me by the women who race Category 1/2/3 races just yet. Let me live a little, will ya?

Guess that means I can take a week to get a little training in, work on my bike handling skills, and mentally prep for the John Bryant race on October 18!

 

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!

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.

Triathlon Race Report – Mojo Running MetroParks Triathlon

So, for no good reason whatsoever, I’ve found my motivation waning over the past two weeks or so. My few weeks of hitting (or at least nearly hitting) my goal of 100+ miles a week have given way to gratuitous “taper weeks” followed by “recovery weeks” and so on. So, I figured it’s time to re-hash what I’ve done in the past month or so and try to get excited about the cyclocross season I’ve been dreaming about since last year.

I did my first triathlon since 2013 on June 21. It was fantastic!

Mojo Metro Parks triathlon blog
Pre-race prep!

We had a staggered start, with athletes starting about 5 seconds apart. I was #108 so I started near the back of the pack.

I started out going easy on the swim. On the first triathlon I ever did, I went out way too hard on the swim and pretty much blew myself up for the entire bike leg. Since the bike leg was my focus this time, I wanted to make sure my heart rate didn’t skyrocket right out of the gate. Unfortunately, I believe they incorrectly measured the distance of the swim course so my finish time was spectacular but also unrealistic (9:41 with only a handful of training swims under my belt).

The bike race was so fun. I think I was grinning the entire time. In my previous races,  I got my ass handed to me in the bike but this time it was my turn to blow past people. I thought the course was pretty flat but several people after the race mentioned how “hilly” it was for a triathlon course. With only 300-something feet of elevation over the 12.1 mile course, it was flatter than most of my training rides of similar length, even when I don’t do any larger hills. Either way, I was thrilled with my time and average mph (39:25, 19.1 mph).

The run was a little rough. My first split was way faster than it should have been (8:08) and some gastrointestinal issues had me worried for the remaining two miles (8:30 and 8:27, respectively, with the last .2 at an 8:03 pace). Overall though, with a 26:16 run split and a 1:19.06 finish time, I can’t complain.

mojo metro parks triathlon results
“Mom, take a picture of me.”

I was the fourth woman overall (in a field of around 50) and won my age group. I was actually only 2 minutes off the first place woman, which was amazing. If I only had faster transitions!

You know, two race reports and cyclocross blogging seems a little excessive for one post, so I’ll get the Caesar’s Creek Tri report up separately.

 

I Promise I’m Not Trying to Be An Asshole

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks. I had been tossing it around in my mind and after seeing photographer Ally Newbold’s terrible bike crash (feel free to donate to her medical fund here) I began writing it bit by bit in my mind during my rides.

Then, as luck would have it, I had my very own bike crash that resulted in an ER visit to make sure I didn’t have a broken face or bleeding in my brain. I was riding on a road near my house, doing the second workout in my new weekly training plan, and I was crushin’ it. I felt great, I was going fast, and I felt confident. I went over some railroad tracks that I had crossed at least a dozen times before… and that’s the last thing I remember. According to my Garmin, I was going approximately 18.1 MPH when I crashed, so I hit the pavement pretty hard. All I remember after that is a man asking me for my phone number and a woman hovering over me until my mother arrived to take me to the Emergency Room.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThis was the beauty shot I posted on social media to remind my friends to wear their helmet and to drive carefully around cyclists.

These photos are a more accurate representation of what happened:

cyclocross blog crash 3 collageAbrasions, swelling, bruising. My helmet also has a nice crack in the side where I broke my fall with the side of my head.

All in all, I got very lucky. One of the things I am most thankful for is that everyone on the road was being a courteous driver. If someone had been riding my ass, or even trying to pass too closely (“It’ll take me like five seconds to get past this chick, it’ll be fine”) I could have ended up much, much worse.

Which brings me to my main point… Drivers, I promise I’m not trying to be an asshole when I’m riding my bike. We just see the road differently.

I know a lot of drivers get annoyed when they’re caught behind a cyclist. We’re slower than you. As much as I like to flex and admire my legs in the mirror, I am humble enough to know my gams don’t boast the 100+ horsepower of your spectacular vehicle.

But hear me out.

I try to stay pretty far to the side of the lane. There aren’t a ton of bike lanes where I live, so I am going to be in the road. However, I can’t and won’t hug the white line like I’m trying to bike a tight rope. Why not?

When you’re on a bicycle, you need to be approximately a million times more aware of what’s on the road. When you’re in a vehicle, a small (or even large) pot hole in the road is something you may or may not swerve to avoid, and something that may or may not cause your hot coffee to spill all over your cupholder (the latter happens to me daily, because I’ve lost every single coffee cup lid I’ve ever owned). When I’m on my bike, the same pot hole could easily result in a flat tire or a total crash.

When you’re driving, do you ever think about sticks in the road (post-storm oak branches aside)? If I run over that same stick that you have the luxury of crunching over thoughtlessly, again, I could very easily end up rubber-side-up in the road.

Also, road shoulders are not nearly as well maintained as the roads themselves and are often filled with debris that has been swept off the main route. And people leave their mailboxes open and I’m not actually that keen to find out what happens if I hit one (does the door rip off, or do I come to an abrupt and unpleasant stop?). If I’m not riding in the shoulder, it’s not for the explicit purpose of pissing you off. It’s for my safety.

I need room to swerve a little bit. I need room to make a quick decision to not end up splattered on the side of the road. I want to avoid that branch, I want to avoid the pot hole, I want to avoid the post-winter cracks and crevasses created by frozen water and snow plow shovels. If I don’t, I could very easily end up crashing face-first into the pavement or sliding along the blacktop and ending up right underneath your tires.

Even things I don’t think of as hazards (for example… railroad ties I’ve ridden over plenty of times before) could put me belly-up in the middle of the road. If you’re tailing me, or trying to “sneak around” me, you’re not going to be able to stop as fast as me. It’s really, really possible that you injure or kill me in a split second.

“But I’m in a hurry!”

I hear you, I really do. As someone who is perpetually accidentally late, I get it. Or maybe you’ve just had a long, terrible day at the office and all you want is to go home, microwave a Hot Pocket, kick back, and watch some TV.

But let me break it down for you.

My average speed on most rides is 15mph. Most of the roads I ride on are 25-35mph roads.

If you’re caught behind a cyclist for 30 seconds and you’re slowed from 35mph to 15mph for the whole 30 seconds, you are adding an additional 17.2 seconds to your commute.

If you’re caught behind a cyclist for 30 seconds and you’re slowed from 35mph to 10mph (uphill, perhaps) for the whole 30 seconds, you’re adding an additional 22.5 seconds to your commute.

That’s less time than it takes to microwave your Hot Pocket. Wanna know what takes more time? Running into a downed cyclist and having to fill out an accident report.

I know there’s a whole host of issues drivers have with cyclists – some are fair, some are a little dubious. But all I’m saying is if you happen to see me on the roads, give me a little extra room. It’ll cost you less than 30 seconds (and let’s face it, being caught for a whole 30 seconds doesn’t happen that often – it’s usually much less) and it helps me get home alive.

And the next time you see me taking up an extra 12 inches in the lane, remember, I’m really not trying to be an asshole. I just don’t want to crash again.

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.

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!

 

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.