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.