Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CX Race #5--Ack! I Can't See! Or...

...Hal, let go of my foot!

Since I am down in Eugene for the week, I thought I'd see if there were any cross races in the area. Sure enough, there was the final race in a series of twilight races at Detering Orchards between Coburg and Harrisburg, about 21 miles outside of Eugene.

My oldest son, grandson, and third son went with me. Detering Orchards is one of those places that has lots of entertainment in the Fall. There are pumpkins, tractor rides, and of course, lots of apples. In fact, next weekend is their big Apple Days Festival. But, I digress...

I have never done an OBRA (Oregon Bicycle Racing Association--I think) race. They don't use the numerical category system--it's alphabetical, but only A, B, C. There's no fourth category. So, what's a Cat 4 gal to do? Since Cat B and C would be scored together, I opted to race Masters Women in the hopes there wouldn't be too many super fast 35 year olds (that's what they consider Masters). There appeared to be a couple of gals near my age. But, I really don't know how many of us Masters there were.

I registered at 5:00, and wasn't racing until 6:00. This gave me some time to pre-ride the course. This was a very good thing because on my first pre-ride lap, I ended up going backwards on the course twice! On the second lap, I managed to go the correct way. There is no yellow tape, just red and yellow cones. Apparently, if you are going the correct direction, the red cones will always be on the right. Good to know! The course was mostly flat, with some little funky off-camber "humps". There were three barriers. Two not far into the course, and one just after the finish line. There was also a shallow section of water to ride through (seemed like it might have been part of a creek). The course went through it twice. I managed to completely soak my feet. At least it seemed fairly clear--not some kind of cow manure runoff. There were also a couple of long straight stretches. These were somewhat boring, but good opportunities to pass.

The race started promptly at 6:00 (there was another race at 6:30, and they wanted to make sure there would be enough daylight for them). The C men went first, followed by the Women and the Masters Men and Women. The Beginners were last.

I got my usual less-than-speedy start, but I caught up to one of the gals and passed her before the first barriers. Then, as I went to dismount for the barriers, my left foot did not come out of the pedal. Hal went down right in front of the barrier (effectively blocking most of it), and I did a few stumbling steps before going down to the ground (I almost managed to stay on my feet). I picked up Hal and got him out of the way and continued over the barriers, remarking to the gal I had just passed, how the bike did not want to release my foot. 

The course wasn't too bad going out, but once it turned back, the sun was directly in my eyes. It was a beautiful sunny day, so there was nothing to block the sun. There was one off-camber part where I was completely blinded. I just hoped for the best. On the second long straight stretch coming into the sun, most people seemed to be taking a line that looked potentially smoother, but it was all in the sun. The line to the left was, at least, partially shaded, so I could see where I was going.

On the second lap, I passed the same gal again. This time I made it out of the pedal, and over the barriers without incident. I did happen to turn a little soon later on, and ended up going down a different "lane" in the orchard part. In the third lap, I finally got by this guy on a mountain bike for good. It was because he went the wrong way, and had to turn around (I actually saw a number of people go the wrong way--I didn't feel so bad about doing it myself). 

I finished with three laps. I was down a lap, which I fully expected. I don't know where I placed. Apparently, they will post the results in a couple of days online. The hardest part of the race was the sun, and trying to stay on the course and not go the wrong way. It was tough to get used to cones. It was, however, fun. I especially enjoyed the fresh cider that we bought!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cycle the Wave--Burley Girl, It's How We Roll!

Due to questionable weather, it was a small crew for Cycle the Wave this year. What is Cycle the Wave, you ask? It's a women only benefit ride against domestic violence (WAVE stands for Women Against Violence Everywhere). This year it was just Kim, Michelle, and me. Overall, the ride had registered 1000 women. There were four routes--Little Sister, Girlie Girl, Middle Sister, and Burley Girl. We, of course did Burley Girl. This route is the longest at 62 miles. It also has the most climbing--somewhere around 4000 ft. We started at Bellevue College.

Those doing Burley Girl left at 7:00. While we didn't get off right at 7:00, we were pretty close. The three of us stayed together. Although it was cloudy, and threatened to rain, it didn't, and the temperature was in the 60s. All in all, pleasant weather for cycling.

The route wound around, sometimes seeming to choose the hilliest options, other times making us feel relieved that we didn't have to go up the hill ahead, only to climb another one. The hills were fairly relentless. One long climb cooked Kim, and she had to walk.
Fortunately, you can't really tell, but I think Kim was giving me the "one finger salute".

We hit all the rest stops, and I once again stuffed my pockets with mini Luna bars. The food was okay. The best one was the first rest stop. There was a bakery who brought muffins and chocolate croissants. There was also fruit and bagels. The rest stop at Beaver Lake was better last year with Subway sandwiches. This year there were red potatoes, but only grated Parmesan--no salt or other seasoning. There was some delicious chocolate at the final rest stop (along with Red Hots handed out by the firefighters).

When we got to where Burley Girl again left the other routes to climb another hill, Kim tried to convince us her legs were "toast", and she should continue on Middle Sister. Michelle and I both told her she was no way going to wimp out and do Middle Sister! She signed up to do Burley Girl, and she was going to finish it! Besides, there was only 11 more miles (okay, so a few of those were uphill but...whatever!) She agreed to do it, if only to shut us up!
This sign was for Kim!

Of course, what goes up, must come down, so we did have some nice downhill. We also finally got to experience a nice tailwind. It had to happen sometime as we had dealt with headwinds and crosswinds most of the day. Once we reached Factoria, we had just one more hill to climb before returning to Bellevue College. Michelle and I waited at the top for Kim, and we rode the remaining bit together.
Almost there!
Woo Hoo! Made it!

We parked the bikes, and went in search of the food. It was the same as last year. Although, it was quite gourmet and tasty, there really wasn't enough (there was plenty of food, but you were only allowed a small amount). There were a couple of salads, and pulled pork sliders. I think the sliders had, at most, a tablespoon of pork. And, you could only have one. The dessert was a choice of either, a cookie, a chocolate, or a couple of tablespoons of froyo. 

We finished by taking this photo.
Arriba Arribas!!!

Kim did great! She had to dig deep into the very bottom of her reserves! She wanted to quit, but didn't! She is a BURLEY GIRL!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

CX Race #4--Arrrrgggg Matey!

I almost didn't get to do today's Crosstoberfest cyclocross race. Then Bryan, our Team CX Rep, offered to give me a ride. Thanks again Bryan! 

According to the calendar, today was "Talk Like a Pirate Day". So, of course, I wore my red and white striped socks with the skull and crossbones! We were back at St. Edwards State Park in Kenmore. This was where I did the Women of Cross beginner clinic and race. Except, today, the course was much different. It was longer, and far more technical. 

On my first preview lap, I came to a section of single track. Now, single track itself doesn't scare me too much, but when it goes off what looks like the precipice of death, then goes steeply downhill, yeah...that's a little scary. I came to a screeching halt at the top. In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, "Arrrgggg! What is this???" It took me a moment to get up my gumption and go. Okay, scary, but doable. As for other obstacles, there were two sand pits, some stairs, a couple of steep uphills, some short barriers, and many hairpin turns with a few being off-camber. 

Since Bryan raced at 12:00, and I didn't race until 1:00, I had a couple more opportunities to ride the course. Each time I got a better feel for the best lines. I even managed to go down the single track without stopping at the top. Well, one other time I stopped because someone was going past me. It was scary enough going alone. Wasn't going to try it with someone else.

Then, it was time for us gals to line up. Today, OOA was represented by Katie, Jean, and me. Katie raced in the Cat 4s, and Jean and I raced in the 50+ Masters. The reason we raced masters is because they seldom have a 50+. The only downside is that 50+ Masters is all categories. That means we could be racing against Cat 1 women who happen to be over 50. Although I don't think there were any Cat 1 gals, there might have been a Cat 2, and there were definitely a number of Cat 3s. But, there were a few of us Cat 4s too. I just didn't want to be last.

We got the whistle to go (we were the last wave of the women). I was able to pass a couple of gals right away. Whew! I knew I wouldn't be last! The first obstacle was the steep hill by the stairs. I made it almost to the top, but ran out of oomph to get up the last bit of a lip. I was close enough that I didn't need to get off. Next was the sand. The first pit was easy. There was a good line through it. Around a couple of turns, and into the second pit. This one was a little trickier. Jean was right in front of me and her rear wheel slid over just in front of my front wheel. I had to put my foot down. Again, close enough to the end to not have to get off. Around the corner and we were to the barriers. These were short, so I was actually able to run over them (probably not totally gazelle-like, but better than usual). Jean and I were together, but I was able to get back on a bit faster, and got ahead of her. Next up was a tight off-camber hairpin. We had watched the others negotiate this. I had a plan, and that plan was...go slow! What do you know? It worked! 

The next part was a fairly fast grass section with some more turns. Here I was able to pass another gal. After a tight "S" turn, we came to about 4 stairs. Off the bike, run up the stairs, get back on, keep going! Then there were a couple of short roller coaster hills, more open grass areas, a tight corner over roots at the base of a tree, and around to the top of the precipice-of-death single track part. Right at the top, the gal in front of me tipped over. Amazingly, I managed to go around her and dive down the trail. The trail went down, around a couple of corners, and then climbed back up. In the pre-ride laps, I'd been unable to ride all the way up. This first lap was no different. I tried, but my back wheel spun out on a root, so I had to get off. I ran the remaining short section to the logs that we had to step over and finish running up to the top before getting back on. The remaining section back to where we would finish was not terribly difficult, and provided good spots to pass. 

The highlights of the remaining laps (4 total...I think...I lose track) were being able to ride up the steep part by the stairs without putting a foot down, and riding through both sand pits. I also managed to ride up the single track part to the logs every lap after the first one. On one of the laps, there was a gal right behind me going up that part. She was telling me, "You got this! Keep going!" Although I thought that was pretty sweet of her, I know she really didn't want me to stop because she would have had to stop too. But, this is cyclocross, and everyone is very nice and encouraging.

I ended up finishing 8th out of 12. Curiously, I looked at the Cat 4 results. Ratio-wise (there were more than twice as many in the Cat 4 race), I think I would have finished about the same position. Meaning, I probably would have finished somewhere around 19th or 20th. I know I passed some Cat 4s. So, I will race Masters 50+ again, if the opportunity arises. 

It was fun today. A little scary at first, but the more I rode, the more confident I became. That's a good thing! ARRRRGGGG!!!! (does a pirate say anything else???)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

CX Race #3--No Really, I Finished!

Today was the first race of the MFG Series of six races (of which I can do four). There are so many more cyclocross races than road races (there are also a whole lot more racers). This race was at Sammamish State Park.

For only about the second time in my whole racing career, I raced in the afternoon. Great thing about that is not having to get up so early. Not so great thing about that is a more chewed up course. At least it wasn't muddy. Karen, Cindy and I picked up our bib numbers and timing chips (little tube thingies that you attach to your helmet with zip ties. Karen pinned my number on my back, and I did hers. Also, I had won a 6 pack of Deschutes beer in a random drawing of the pre-registered people. Sadly, I'm not fond of beer. I took my beer back to Karen's car to be doled out later to my teammates.

The most notable characteristic of this course was the amount of sand. Although there was a lot more course that wasn't sand, it didn't seem that way. The rest of the course just seemed like a means to get from one sand section to the other. Before the race, Karen, Katie, Cindy and I rode over to watch the Cat 3 Men negotiate the first sand section. Based on our observations, our plan was to try to ride the first bit to get to the packed sand "path", then get off at the end of the path and run through the deep bit. As for the other sand section, there was no question; get off and shoulder the bike for the entire section (it was at least a couple of miles). 

It was time to head for the staging. There were a lot of women! At least more than 100. In Cat 4 alone there were 43 (we were the largest group)! They did call-ups mostly by what brand of helmet you were wearing. I was stuck at the back in the Giro Ghetto. While I had been careful to line up at the front, I ended up starting at the very back. So much for that strategy! We were racing in the same start time as the 1/2 Women, Cat 3, Masters 35+, and Masters 40+ Women. The 1/2s went first. Basically, what that meant was us lowly Cat 4s would be lapped by the 1/2s (and several of the 3s too) and, therefore, have a shorter race. Not necessarily a bad thing in my book!

We were finally sent off. As I approached the first sand, all plans went out the window as there were too many people to even consider trying to ride through. Most notably, all my dismount practice also went out the window as I came to a stop, unclipped my left foot first, then swung my right leg over (not the correct way to dismount in CX). This would be my method of dismounting for this section every time. At least I did it correctly at the other sand, and the barriers. 

At the second sand section (after a turny section that included a very soft, off camber, hairpin, and some nasty roots), I dismounted (correctly) and shouldered Hal. Now was the never ending "run" across the entire beach. Although, it may have looked as if I was actually running, it was really just for show. I think I could have walked as fast as I was "running"! I just kept my head down (not really an option for anything else as my saddle was doing a great job pushing my helmet), and tried to see how much sand I could kick into my shoes (at least a pound in each shoe). There was a stair at the end, then we were supposed to remount quickly and continue on. Well, I wouldn't say I remounted quickly. Let's just say, I managed to get back on the bike.

One lap of this probably would have been enough, if I had any say, but we continued for another 2 (or was it 3??). We were lapped by the 1/2s, thus shortening our race. On the last lap, I was grateful to be done with the sand after the second section. I still had the barriers to go over (which I did dismount the correct way, and attempted a reasonably decent remount). After the barriers, it was a mad dash for the finish. Okay, maybe not a mad dash, but I did go as fast as I could in case there was someone behind me. 

I met up with my teammates, where we were given refreshing cold drinks called Goleta (or something like that). It was delicious. Of course, at that point, I would have thought anything would have been refreshing!

Karen needed to get going ASAP, so we hit the road before results were posted. No big deal, because they post them online very quickly. We looked them up as we were heading home. Karen and Cindy's results were there, but mine was listed as DNF (did not finish), and Katie was nowhere to be found. As I distinctly recall crossing the finish line, I was perplexed. When I got home and went to unpack my bag, and toss my kit in the wash, I noticed my bib number was on upside down. Hmmm...that may explain the DNF (instead of 866 finishing, it looked like 998). I emailed the organizer. We'll see what happens. As it was, I think I finished somewhere in the mid-20s.

So, another race under my belt annnnnnndddddd...a new crop of bruises on my shoulder! This is so much fun!!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

CX Race #2--Count Them, There Are 6!!!

Labor Day Cross, surprisingly, on Labor Day! Go figure... My transportation to and from today's race was generously provided by Geraldine, with Andy as driver, and Annie and Juliann as backseat partners. Thanks for the ride and entertainment!

The race took place just outside of the JBLM gate onto North Fort. So, a relatively short distance to get there. Today I was doing the Big Girl Race. Yes, that's right, Cat 4 Women. Would have liked to do Masters Cat 4 Women, but there was no such category. After two laps around the course as a pre-ride to get the lay of the land, we headed to the start. The coolest part of the whole day was the fact that there were SIX of us OOA chicks racing Cat 4 (that's in addition to my Junior buddies, Juliann and Annie who are RAD Racers)! It was me, Maria, Jean, Karen, Chris, and Cindy. It was so awesome to have all of us lined up together at the start (there was a whole pack of Group Health gals behind us, but, who cares--there were 6 of us)!!!

Of course, we didn't stay together in the race. Maria and Karen took off quite quickly, with Jean and Cindy right on their heels (make that, wheels). Chris was close to me...I think. But, since I had my SSS (Super Sucky Start), I'm sure she was ahead of me too. Part of the start was this little popper of a hill. I managed to pass a couple of gals going up that--only because there was no one right in front of me. Once on the course, I just tried to catch up to as many as possible. I had no visual on Maria or Karen, but I could see Cindy and Jean ahead. Annie passed me, but then I passed her on the second straight stretch. I couldn't catch Cindy or Jean in that first lap (we did three). At the barrier and run-up, I managed a half run/half walk up the hill. I remounted not at a run, but at least an almost walk, and found the pedals quickly.

In lap 2, I caught up to Cindy and passed her on the same straightaway I had passed Annie. She yelled ahead to Jean, who was not far ahead of her, "She's coming for you!" So, then I had to pass Jean too (would have been fine just riding along behind her for awhile)! As I came around one, somewhat off-camber corner, the gal in front of me wiped out. I made it around her. Around the other turns, down the hill, around more turns, back to the barrier, up the run-up, back on the bike, pedal, pedal, pedal. I could hear people yelling my name. I didn't realize there were so many people watching that knew me! 

Into the final lap, I could see I was slowly catching up to a guy (the Cat 4 guys started 10 seconds before us). I passed him, and was catching another guy. But, I couldn't pass him. As I came to the last time over the barrier, a Cat 3(?) gal, Emily, yelled, "Why are you still smiling?" Clearly, she is unable to distinguish between my smile and my grimace! Another guy yelled, "Go Pippi Longstocking!" I had red and white striped knee highs on...with skull and crossbones on the back (me thinks Pippi did not have that). 

Across the finish line, and I was DONE! I finished 18th out of 35--smack dab in the middle! Now, if I could only do better than my SSS, perhaps I wouldn't have to pass so many people! Oh, and young Miss Juliann (all of 13 years old) took first. She also went on to take first in the Junior Race. Such a speedster!

Can't wait to do it again!!!