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 the  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 feel 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.

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.