Race Report: Valley View CX

Valley View was probably the hardest race I did last year. Not from a technical standpoint, really, but from a “oh my god I just want this to be over everything hurts” standpoint, but I came in second and loved it.

On Saturday, Leon and I went to go pre-ride the course (one of the huge benefits of having a race close

Hello, mud tires.
Hello, mud tires.

to home). It was very similar to last year, but the rain in the days prior had left a very muddy patch on the course. I was grateful to have someone there to follow their line, since Leon generally knows how to go around corners pretty well, while I’m still learning (enter wide, cut is close, exit wide!). There were few curbs that made me nervous I’d hit them dead on and crash, but after a few tries, I was able to ride them. Leon had switched my dry weather file treads to Clement PDX mud tires before we went to ride, and I was immensely grateful, given some of the exceptionally sloppy portions of the course.

I had a second row call up this time, but once again, I had an actually decent start and didn’t end up piled up behind 20 other women. There were several juniors ahead of me, and one girl that had beaten me the week before. It’s her first season riding and apparently she’s a strong rider, so I wanted to stay as close as possible and not miss any opportunities to pass.

 As with the past few races, having solid brakes and not having to worry about shifting was awesome, especially on the off-camber downhills, and especially on the flat power sections, where I was able to shift into my big ring and make up some ground, which is what I did.

The run up

On the first trip through the mud, I went through neck and neck with the girl ahead of me. She either chose or was forced to dismount, while I was able to ride, and once we went around the muddy corner and I hoofed it up the standard Valley View run-up, I put my head down and tried to put as much distance between us as possible.

It worked. I established a lead, and thanks to some very considerate Cat 5 men (one guy literally hit his brakes and told me to take whatever line I wanted!!!!! You’re the best!!!!) I worked my way through the field and started chasing one of the three juniors ahead of me. I focused on keeping my effort up without getting sloppy, and sticking to the lines Leon and I had practiced the day before.

valley view cx podiumI crossed the line as the first Cat 4 woman, and subsequently got to stand top step on the podium. Another really rad thing about the Valley View race is that the podium prizes are super awesome. I got a $50 Infinit gift card, a pair of De Feet socks, a pair of Pearl Izumi gloves, a $10 gift card to Bishops Bicycles, as well as a few other trinkets. Seriously? That’s awesome!

After the race, I got back to my car and saw some texts from my dad telling me he and my mom hadn’t been able to make it to the race, although they had intended to come. I hung out for a few hours, and thought about how cool it would have been to have my parents come to a race, especially one that I won.

That’s when it occurred to me that I was going to be catting up by next weekend anyways, so… what if I upgraded to Category 3 and raced the 1:30 Category 1-2-3 women’s race? I doubted it was possible, but I couldn’t shake the thought. An extra race on a course I liked, a discounted race fee, and my parents could still come see me ride! Okay, I’ll ask Julie.

I asked Julie if it was possible, she sent a text and talked to an official, and I got the thumbs up at like, 12:45. I texted my mom, and she said she and my dad would come watch. Awesome!

I registered for the race, pinned my new number, and tried to sit down for a few minutes to give my legs a break. Soon enough, my parents were there and it was time to take my spot at the very back of the field.

My start was sloppy because, like a fool, I was messing with my bike computer when the whistle went off (who does that?). As to be expected, I was immediately at the back, but wanted to pass at least one person because like, people were watching.

valley view cx barriersMy mom was busy taking photos, and my dad was busy heckling me (“You have plenty of time to make move!”) but I managed to reel in a few ladies. I was catching up to my friend Kari who beat me in almost every race last season, but my first or second time through the mud I crashed and with her mountain biking chops, I didn’t see her for the rest of the race. I tried to reel in a few more women in the field, but I didn’t have quite the same “snap” in my legs as the last race, and they’re all strong racers, so I didn’t make any progress. Plus, I was way sloppier, having to dismount (or “dismount”) in the mud twice, and not handling the curbs as well as I should have.

So, my 30 minute race was three laps, and this 45 minute race was six. Explain that to me.

Of course, as I expected, I was pulled a lap early. The official told me at the beginning of the fifth lap that this would be my final lap and I replied (perhaps a little too enthusiastically) “Awesome! Thanks!” (the lady behind him laughed).

How I felt about my decision to race twice in one day
How I felt about my decision to race twice in one day

 However, I got lots of positive “feedback” about being a badass for doing a second race, and had plenty of people cheering me on as I proceeded to get “not last.” After reviewing the results, I feel mostly positive, since it was my second race of the day and first race in the 1-2-3 category, which includes women that race with the Elite category racers. And I only got actually lapped by four people, and the last two weren’t even by that much.

I came in 7th of 8 category three racers, and 24th of 28 in the start wave.

Overall, Valley View CX is awesome, and I’m looking forward to next year, and possibly grabbing another badass Bishops podium swag bag.

 

Race Report: Harbin Park CX

img_4694So, race #2 was at Harbin Park. I went up the evening before to pre-ride the course (one big, big bonus of local races). The course was mostly the same as last year — lots of power sections, nothing terribly technical — except for one giant hill in the back. Dubbed “The Sledding Hill” (not for this race, I’m assuming that’s just what it’s called because it’s long and steep and ends in a field and would be perfect for sledding), the downhill was some steep switchbacks that led into a very open 180 degree turn, straight back up into a switchback halfway up the hill, to finally end with a gut-wrenching fifteen foot climb. 

If it was paved, it would have been decently challenging probably, but for whatever reason Harbin Park just has this crazy grass that makes everything six times harder to ride. I pre-rode the hill a few times, but only bothered to actually ride up the hill twice, figuring like, it’s going to suck no matter what, I might as well not do hill repeats the day before a race.

I managed to get the switchbacks on the way down figured out pretty quickly, at least to my own degree of satisfaction. I saw other people practicing over and over and over again to find the smoothest and fastest way around the turns, but I figured if I had a line that let me get down to the bottom without crashing or putting a foot down, that was good enough for me.

Honestly, though, when Ellen texted me the morning of the race and said “we don’t have to do the hill!” I was pretty thrilled. The course was enough of a lung- and leg-burner anyway, I was definitely not looking forward to climbing that hill in the middle of the race.

Anyways, skip ahead to the race.

I had a better start than I expected, and took the hole shot with one other junior. Around the first corner I slowed up, which was a mistake. I let several girls get past me, and had to struggle to re-pass a few as the others got further and further away.

I spent most of the race by myself. Besides the two leading juniors, I knew there was at least one other Cat 4 ahead of me, and I caught glimpses of her as I rode. One spectator told me I was in fourth, and then the next lap corrected himself to tell me I was fifth, which meant I was sitting third instead of second. I soon confirmed this after seeing the two ahead of me locked neck-and-neck.

I thought the course was a power course, which would usually be my forte, but the terrain just sucked my strength, and after hearing someone describe it as a “climber’s course” I was like “oh, yeah, that’s probably right.”

I never successfully fully rode the sand, but came close within six inches the final time through, which was a highlight.

img_4710I told myself repeatedly I could catch the two women ahead of me, but by the time we hit the back half of the last lap and I saw that they were pushing each other to their limits and extending their lead, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t be able to catch them.

Well, I’ve waited too long to write this post, so all I really remember is the power-sucking course, and the pain in my legs and lungs as I struggled to catch the two leading ladies.

Takeaways include “learn how to ride sand,” “take the hole shot,” and “don’t slow up and let people around you or they’ll take off and you’ll have to watch them be ahead of you for the entire race.”

And so it begins… Cyclocross is here

So, it’s been a while since my last update, to say the least. Cyclocross season has already begun (believe it or not) and I’ve got my second race coming up this Sunday. Yikes, that was fast.

I didn’t get in any racing this summer like I had planned (triathlons, mostly), but I did just finish up the six race cyclocross time trial series put on by the OVCX every year, and I managed to catch a few road time trials in a local series, too, which are actually pretty fun. My original intent was to just use one to establish my threshold power (yes, I have a power meter now! Formerly owned by Chauncy, originally owned by Michael) but I wasn’t happy with my first attempt, so I went to a second, and now I really wanna break the 29 minute mark (my previous times were 29:40 and 29:14, respectively) for the 10.2 mile course, so I’ll be attending a third this Tuesday, which is sadly the last for the year. I’m also itching to try a time trial bike now.

I had a rough few weeks (well, closer to like, two months) this summer, where I was really burned out and not feeling confident AT ALL in my fitness or bike handling skills. Sitting in a chair all day at my new office job basically melted every bit of core muscle I’ve earned over the past year or so of sporadic core work, and honestly, sitting all day just in general makes you feel terrible. Add this on to my panic that I hadn’t done even a fractional amount of the off-road work I wanted to do this summer to prepare for cyclocross, and my total burn out on doing the same structured intervals basically every week for like three months, and I was seriously considering sitting the season out and just enjoying being a “recreational rider.”

Luckily, I talked to Chris (who is my coach) who told me to stop being pouty and overthinking everything, and to go ahead and just have fun and enjoy the process. Hate doing intervals? Fine, stop doing intervals. Do your races, have fun, get back to the training when you feel like it’s time to turn it back on. No pressure.

Oh. It’s that easy? Just… cut myself a break??

Anyways, now I feel great and love my bike and am having fun again, so, that works.

ovcx-cannondale-caadx-small
Oh, did I mention I got a brand new bike for this season????

My insecurities coming into the season led me to not request an upgrade to Category 3. I figured if I was in worse shape than last season, why would I want to race against even faster people? My first race, however, went better than expected, and if I can pull off a repeat performance (or at least just a race I’m proud of) this weekend, I think I’ll request an upgrade, and finish out the season as a Cat 3.

Speaking of the first race! The first race this season was Commonwealth Eye Surgery Promotion Cross, with the same course as last year and everything. This was the second OVCX race last year, and the first time I dropped my chain. I remembered liking the course (nothing overly technical, because God forbid I have to use my bike handling skills) and with my new “let the chips fall where they may!” attitude, I actually was pretty excited to race.

So, I get there, pre-ride, yada yada, talk to Ellen and Krystal (it was Krystal’s first cyclocross race. She did it in Chacos, which is hilarious and like, legit), line up. The women’s field was small, so I’m pretty sure I had a front row call up, despite registering after the two week cut off.

I think my start felt better than last season. I’ve done a few one minute sprints over the past few months, and just getting used to the quick acceleration made a huge difference. Or that’s what I’m telling myself, anyways.

We ended up doing four laps this year, as opposed to last year’s three. When I came around and saw the lap counter after the first lap and a half, I probably audibly groaned.

Like last year, the course was basically a bunch of twists and turns on the side of a hill by a bunch of cornfields. I’m not great at turns (actually, I’m terrible at them, which is kind of a major problem in cyclocross) but I will say that I managed to actually gain ground on a series of four 180-degree S-turns down by the pit. That was my real victory of the day.

Besides the turns, there were a few straightaways, and a few more interesting sections, like an almost wanna-be pump track section in the back, and a few swooping turns leading into small, steep descents that were actually really fun to ride.

The race was a lot of chasing people down, sitting on their wheel, and then making a pass during one of the wider straightaways. It was a strong field, but I managed to spot and chase down several riders ahead of me. There was one other woman I could see that I just couldn’t span the gap to, but she ended up being a Masters 40+ rider anyways, so, whatever.

commonwealth-cyclocross-cat-4-podiumI ended up coming in first (!!!!) for my first OVCX win (I did win the state champ race last year, but that wasn’t part of the OVCX series). I got to stand on a podium, and I got twelve beers for my trouble.

Also, the girl who came in third asked me if I had raced the 15-18 age group last year and I was like “…No, but thank you.”