Sunday, November 22, 2015

CX Race #12--The Finale With Sunshine, and a Little Crash

MFG #6, the final race in the series, took place at Woodland Park in Seattle. We were missing two of our usual women, Sarah and Karen (both not feeling well), but Chris, Jean, Cindy, Monica, Jen, and I all showed up for what was rumored to be the most raucous party of all the MFG races. The rumors were not wrong. There were tons of spectators, making for lots of loud noise--bullhorns, cowbells, and even a gal dressed up as a cowbell yelling, "Ding Ding Ding"! There were hand-ups, everything from whiskey shots being handed up by a guy in a horse head, to dollar bills and donuts.
WHISKEY! GET YOUR WHISKEY! (Photo by Dave Molenaar)

There were several people riding in costume, with Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat making another appearance on their tandem. There was also a gal riding in a chicken costume.
Look at that calf muscle! That ain't no bony chicken leg! (Photo by Dave Molenaar)

This was one of the most fun courses. Since it was sunny, and had been for a couple of days, the course was not sloppy with mud. There was quite a bit of climbing (that's where those hill repeats come in handy), and a moderate amount of pavement. There were, sort of, 2 run-ups (for most of us anyway--some could ride them). The barriers were at the bottom of one of the run-ups. That one wouldn't have been a run-up if not for the fact that you had to get off to go over the barriers, and then  lost all momentum. Overall, the course was very fast. 

We managed to get in a lap and a half of pre-riding. At the appropriate time, we headed over to the staging area for our start. There were at least 46 starting in Cat 4 (there were 52 registered--44 finished, 8 DNFs). When it was our turn to go, we took off, and there was promptly a big pile up. I thought I was going to make it through, but at the last moment, someone took out my rear wheel. I already had one foot down, so I just kind of stumbled and landed with both hands on the log on the edge of the road. I quickly grabbed poor Hal, lying in the road, and got back on. I saw Jean was right in the middle of the pile-up, but was working to get back on her feet. Fortunately, she thinks she landed on someone, thus cushioning her fall, because she wasn't terribly injured. That's a good thing, because pavement is not a forgiving surface to land on! Anyway, I felt pretty lucky. 

Back on the bike, I passed a couple of gals pretty quickly on the first little incline. Passing is so much easier when it's not muddy! Up the run-up, over the barriers, up the other run-up, and then it was the two longer climbs on the gravel. This is where doing the hill repeats with Karen at Millersylvania State Park the last two Wednesdays has really paid off. I was able to pass people going up the hills! Back down, through a couple of tight turns, onto a stretch of pavement, and back to the dirt, I caught up to Cindy, and passed her. Then, on the second go up the long hills, I passed Chris. She was riding her new, most awesome, Threshold! The photo below was not taken where I passed her.
Isn't that a pretty bike??? She doesn't have a name yet... (Another by Dave Molenaar)

The third time through the finish, it said 2 laps to go. Fortunately, Monica (the lead 1/2 racer) caught me not long after. She passed me so fast it felt like I was standing still! Then I knew I only had one lap to go. 
And here comes Monica right behind me! (Photo by Tom Middleton)

I finished 23rd--my usual middle of the pack finish. And now, my cyclocross season is over. In fact, my entire race season is over for 2015. I did a total of 21 races this year (9 Road and 12 CX). Now I will convert Hal to a gravel bike, and head up into Capitol Forest for some gravel riding! The fun never ends!!!
Today's most awesome crew of OOA Women! Winner Winner Chicken Dinner Monica, Cindy, me, Chris, and Jean. By the way, despite her crashy start, Jean managed to work her way back up to a 27th place finish! Pretty impressive, if you ask me!

Thanks again to Tom for all the great photos this season, and allowing me to post them here on my blog. Also, many many thanks to Chris and Tom, and Karen too, for hauling me to the races. I couldn't do this without you all giving me a ride!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

CX Race #11--Same Venue, Much Better Weather Karma!

Day 2 of the Suburu Cup, and the sun decided to come out! It was colder, temp-wise, but I'll take cold and sunny anyday over rain! Also, the course was different. They took out the horrid mud run-up. So, all in all, it was a better day. However, there was still a lot of mud; in places...more than yesterday. 

Today I rode up with Karen and Cindy. We got there in time to pre-ride the main new parts of the course, except the part at the base of the previous day's run-up. We still had the long climb, but to get there we went up a paved path. Plus, the sun had definitely dried some of the mud in the climb, and there was a fairly solid track. The "Orchard" section was more muddy than yesterday. The best line for me was to come down the right side, and at the turn, cut across the bad mud to go up on the left side where it was still very muddy, but there were some bits of grass for some occasional traction. Lots of people ran that part.

Back down to the field, the sand came first, then the barriers. Although more people were riding the sand, I still ran it. 

The Women's race was at 11:00, like yesterday. Once again, I got called up, but into the second line, instead of the front. At the whistle, I finally had the best start I've had all season! I clipped in right away, and was able to sprint to the first turn...where I promptly slowed down! I went to the left like I had yesterday, and out of the corner of my eye saw Jean go past me on the right. I tucked that bit of info away for the next lap. 

There was more mud, and then there was MORE MUD! Jean got off, but I rode through and passed her. Then, she passed me again after the MORE MUD ended. We came up to the base of the run-up from yesterday. It went up a little, then turned to the left. It was still so muddy, that I opted to get off and run that short bit. In the second lap, Geraldine and Andy were telling me to stay to the right, and ride it. I tried, but was not successful. Third lap, I just ran it again.

I went up the pavement right on Jean's wheel. There was another gal who got between Jean and I going up the climb. But she was slowing down. There was a spot where there were two decent tracks. I passed her, then caught up to Jean, and passed her, right at the top of the hill. I think I passed Chris in the Orchard mud section. The descent was less muddy and I came down faster than yesterday. 

Overall, in the bumpy field section, I felt like I was going faster than yesterday, but who knows? Since the course was a little different in that area, there were a few more bumps. 

When I came to the first turn of the second lap, I remembered how Jean had passed me. Instead of the left side, I rode the right side. Aha! Much better! In fact, in the third lap, I passed a gal who was going on the left (I feel your pain, left side rider).

In the third lap, I heard the announcer guy say "1 lap remaining" as I was returning to the field section. Now, I just had to be passed by the leader, then this would be my last lap. After the sand and barriers the leader passed me. She was kind enough to say, "This is it!" Then I knew for sure I was almost done. Emily (Starbucks) had passed me just after the barriers. I couldn't catch her. 

I ended up in 17th place. It seems like it was a much better finish than yesterday's 29th, but there were only 23 (21 who actually started). However, Emily, who just beat me today, finished 18th yesterday, and I finished ahead of a couple others that I had finished behind yesterday. So, I'm going to say I did better!

I don't have any photos for today. Just take away the rain from yesterday's photos, and you would have today (replace Katie with Karen).

Update: Here's a photo from today.
Cindy and me--Barriers!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

CX Race #10--No Crash, Not Last, and I Won a Jersey!

Day 1 of the Suburu Cup at Fort Steilacoom was very very wet...and muddy! Tom, Chris and I planned to get there in time to pre-ride the course twice. However, due to the fact that I led Tom astray on where to turn, we didn't get there in time to pre-ride after the juniors. We got in about 3/4 of the course after the next race. Then they made an announcement that there was no warming up on the course. At least I got to see the run-up (trudge-up was more of an apt description).
Here's a diagram of the course. I made it from the finish to just before the barriers before I had to get off for the next race.

While the next race was going, we checked out the vendor tents. There was Nuun (free sample of Nuun Plus), Tonik Cycle (women's jerseys), and, of course, Suburu (free water bottle). At the Tonik tent, we could enter a drawing for a free jersey. I did, and I WON! They announced after I had left, but Sarah and Jean texted me a photo of an orange and grey one. It looked good to me. I'll get it tomorrow.

We lined up for the race. Call-ups were based on registration, and I got called up. I got an okay start, but I discovered that when I don't start in the very back, I get passed by a lot of Cat 4s...A LOT! Oh, I passed a few, but not very many. Today there were 7 of us OOA women racing. Five of us raced Cat 4. Jen raced singlespeed, and Chris raced Masters. Jean, Katie, Cindy, Sarah, and I were the Cat 4s. 

It was raining, and the course was pretty muddy. There were also a few hills, one of which was rather long. But, by far, the worst part was the run-up. It was very steep, with very thick mud. There was no "running" up this thing for me! I just tried to find foot holds in places where others had stepped. Oh, and be careful of the roots...they're slippery!
Here's Sarah at the beginning of the "mud-up".

I had to go up the run-up three times (four counting the pre-ride). At the top, I couldn't even get back on doing a decent remount. I just had to get on. Shortly after, came the long climb. I found that going up the right side was more solid, but it was still a lung buster of a climb.

Of course, what goes up eventually has to come down. The decent was okay. I found it more solid if I stayed where the water was running down the path. Back down to the field, the hardest part was that it was so bumpy. The bumps really tire out your legs, and it's hard to get much speed up.
Chris riding her Cannondale for one of the last times (next week she should have her new Threshold!!!).

Cindy making one of the turns on the grass.
Jen on the singlespeed. I do not know how she does it!

The course wound around to a set of barriers. I still can't run over them, but I could at least do a decent remount afterward.
Here's Katie doing a much better job running over the barriers.
Jean goes over them more like me.
I wish I could do it like this!

Shortly after the barriers was the sand pit. The sand was really deep and impossible to ride (for most of us). Some tried, but ended up getting off.
Even Julianne, who won her race, had to get off. Valiant effort though!

There was more bumpy stuff, then back to the start/finish. When I rode by the finish after the second lap, the thing said 2 laps to go. Fortunately, the leaders from our time slot passed me on the third lap. That meant this was my last lap. Whew! 

I finished 29th out of 34--a little closer to last than usual. Jean finished 27th. I don't know where anyone else finished.
Katie, Jen, Jean, me, Chris, and Cindy (Sarah, where are you?)
Muddy butts! And, we get to do it again tomorrow!!!

Once again, thanks to Tom for the photos. These posts would be pretty boring without them!
Tom, and the best part--the propane heater!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

CX Race #9--Racing in the Real Frontier!

I didn't think I was going to get to race today, but Chris and Tom offered, once again, to give me a ride! This was at Frontier Park in Graham, and was one of the Cross Revolution races (another series like MFG). This was my first Cross Rev race, so I had to get a number. I was able to use my MFG timing chip. 

The pre-ride was the scariest of all pre-rides so far! There was mud, hills, and turns--all at once! It seemed like I spent more time off my bike than on! I couldn't seem to get up the hills without spinning out my rear tire, even in my easiest gear. I didn't get to finish the whole course before the next race started, but what I had done, had me very nervous.
This is in the pre-ride. The look on my face says it all. Perhaps I should have stayed home!

This wasn't so bad.

We lined up for the race. I was in my usual very back starting position; no call-up today. We took off (me, like a herd of speeding turtles). The first obstacle was 4 logs positioned in a bunch of mud. I'm sure it was to simulate the wild frontier (at least the pioneers had four wheels on their wagons).
Also kind of hard to run in mud. I tried to stay to the side.

We wove our way through the trees, up and down some small hills. I passed a couple of gals. It was muddy, but the worst part was the rocks. I was worried I was going to get a pinch flat. Then there were some steeper hills. I found the best line to be usually to the outside. There was more grass there. However, there was one little steep sucker, just after a corner. I had to put my foot down every time, and scoot the last couple of feet. Then there was another log--just one, but you still had to get off to get over it.

After that section, we came through the finish area and to some regular barriers. After the barriers was the dreaded off-camber beginning to the really hard part of the course. I almost made it without putting my foot down.
This was where I didn't take the best line. I should have been up higher.

I actually surprised myself on this section. Where I had had to get off so much in the pre-ride, I managed to ride all of it! I think it was partly due to remembering to shift into an easier gear. I have to be able to keep my weight back, and still pedal up the hill. Then there was the stairs. Bryan had told me to get off before going around the corner to go up the stairs. I did that, and actually passed a gal going up the stairs (made with logs...of course)! After the stairs there was a couple more steep up and downs before popping out of the woods and back to where we had started.

In the second lap, I caught up to a few more Cat 4s. I passed Chris as she was running with her bike. Unfortunately, she had a flat. She ran for a long time to get to the pit, only to find out they had no neutral wheels (this was after discovering her rear derailleur was bent, and borrowing a new one from the RAD Racing Team--an awesome Junior Racer organization). Jean was still a ways ahead of me.

When I went by the finish, it said there were two laps to go. I hadn't been passed by the 1/2s yet. Back into the woods. Again, I managed to ride most all of it. I passed another gal when she didn't make it up the last steep hill, and had to run it.

I was slowly catching up to Jean. I could see her just ahead. I was maybe 15 feet behind her coming up to the single log. Unfortunately, I had a horrible remount (caught my foot on the wheel), and Jean did a great job and took off. I thought I would be able to catch her in the next lap, but it turned out there was not to be a next lap. We were done when we got to the finish. It didn't really seem like we raced 40 minutes, but I wasn't disappointed that I didn't have to go around again! 

I ended up 18th out of 24. So, not last, and I didn't crash. Although this was definitely the hardest course so far, it wasn't so bad once I was racing (I use the term "racing" rather loosely). I need to keep telling myself that it's never as bad as it seems in the pre-ride. 
Today's squad. Chris, Jean, me and Sarah (who got four laps in and finished 10th!)

I'm getting pretty fast at giving Hal the "Roy Treatment". But, back to back racing days means the shoes don't quite get completely dry. Oh, and I get to do it again next weekend--the Suburu Cup. Two days, two different courses, same venue.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

CX Race #8--It Didn't Taste Like Peanutbutter!

You would think us OOA gals would have an advantage in today's race; this being the Deschutes CX Race and our "home court ". After all, we've been practicing for the last couple of months--albeit, dry months. Not only is it a whole different ball game when you add lots of rain, but we did a number of last minute course changes. On top of that, this was the WSBA State Championships. Although, since this was a WSBA race, I got to race in an actual Women's Masters 40+ Cat 4 group. This is the first time I've gotten to race in a Masters Cat 4. The other Masters races are all Cats. Anyway, the course was much different than what we've been practicing. It was a Mudfest of epic proportions!

Deschutes has a reputation for being a flat, bumpy course. However, when you throw gobs of mud, water, and a fair amount of sand, it does not mean it is easy. Nope, not even close! Since the course is just 4+ miles from my house, I rode to the race. It made for a good warmup, especially since I had my rain pants over my warmups, which were over my bib knickers. I was quite warm by the time I got to the park!

Today we had the use of 4 tents, and a bike rack! There's a home court advantage for you! I think they were all Joy Ride tents. Thanks, Joy Ride Bikes! I met up with Jean at Registration. We had to get new numbers (not our WSBA numbers) and timing chips (little square red thingies), and sign the waiver. 

As soon as the Cat 4/5s were done racing (congrats to Roy for winning his race), we hopped on the course at the finish. Right off the bat, we had a huge puddle to go through. I stayed to the left, and that was okay. My feet were instantly soaked as it was several inches deep (more like a foot deep in the middle). Then I came around to the sand. Because there was a u-turn in the middle of the sand pit, I had decided to run the whole thing. Although, it was quite rideable, I knew I wouldn't be able to make the turn, and the process of getting off the bike in the sand would have made me slower than just running it.
A couple of guys riding through the puddle.

The next spot of concern was the trail behind the restroom building. Eric and I had cleared this trail yesterday. The whole section was off-camber. It actually wasn't too bad; at least at the speed I travelled through it. The track behind the fence of the ball field was pretty slippery. Then, coming along the edge of the soccer field, it was quite muddy. I discovered if I stayed to the far right, it was pretty solid. 

Then...The Mud Pit. Since I started watching cyclocross, I've always thought it would be fun, except for this dreaded mud pit. Last year, there was a rut about 7 inches deep by the time the women raced. Yesterday, Eric and I laid down three more wood palates, and filled them in with a bunch of sand. We also added more sand to the drainage part of the pit, on top of the old palates. There were still two very sloppy mud parts before, after, and between the palates. YIKES! Brian had given me some tips for getting through it yesterday. It worked, and I came through remaining upright. 

The next part was muddier than usual, but not too bad. That led to the barriers that had been placed in the bumpy new second half of the "S" curve. No problems there. The new blazed trail through the trees was worse than the mud pit! This mud was very gooey and sticky, as if you mixed peanutbutter and honey. The trick was to keep pedaling. My rear wheel was, at times, spinning, but I made it through. I could feel big glops of mud plopping off my bike after I got out of it. 

Because of all the rain, the course had to be rerouted between two ponds. There was a spot where water ran from one pond to the other (the first one isn't usually a pond--more like overflow). The mud in that section looked horrible, but wasn't really that bad because there was a lot of water (thins the mud making it much easier to get through). 

Then it was the trail through the woods, and the gravel back to the finish. We got off the course, as the juniors had started their race. I felt pretty confident that I could at least do it--not necessarily fast, but that's okay.

At 10:30 we headed over to the start. Call-ups were based on earliest registrations. I actually got called up! For the first time, I was not starting at the very back!
However, I'm not sure it really helped me, because as we started, and came into the grassy mud part along the soccer field, I ended up going right through the middle. It was not the best line. It was very very slow. 

I made it through the mud pit, and started to catch up to some of the gals. I passed Chris, then later, Jean, and a couple other gals. In the third lap after the mud pit, a Cat 1, 2, or 3 gal passed me only to then promptly crash. I put my foot down, but made it around her (she just passed me again moments later--this time managing not to crash). 

Through the PB and Honey section, I managed to stay upright each time. I could see Beth (Starbucks) ahead of me. As we crossed the finish going into the last lap, I was closing in on her. We went through the big puddle, and around to the sand. She rode through, while I got off and ran. At the turn, she couldn't stay on, went wide, and I cut the corner and passed her. See? I knew I'd do better running (geez, I don't think I've ever said that before!!!).

The rest of the last lap I was pretty much by myself. I came across the finish in 8th place. As usual, a middle of the pack finish. 
Sorry it's sideways.

Coming into the big puddle.

Stepping oh so daintily over the barriers.

Am I done yet?

Our finished dirty selves--Jean, Sarah, me, and Chris (missing Karen). Thanks again to Tom for the great photos!

I think one of the most important things I learned from this race is that it is less scary when you are on the course, than when you are watching. Also, although it looks and feels as though you are riding through peanutbutter, it no way tastes like it!

Here's a parting shot of Hal's drivetrain.
And yet, he still shifted just fine! Good job, Hal!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

CX #7--Now For Some REAL Cyclocross Racing--Or...

...Geez, That's A Lot of Mud!

Today was the 5th MFG race--"North 40 CX". It was on the grounds of the LeMay Foundation in Spanaway. It was about a 45 minute drive, and Tom and Chris picked me up.

I have to say, I was a little nervous. It had rained solidly yesterday, and continued to rain this morning. What happens when you add a lot of water to grass and dirt paths, then mix well with churning bike tires? That's right! You get MUD! Lots of slippery, slimy MUD. Have I raced in mud? A little bit, but nothing like this! Supposedly, this is real cyclocross! Uh...okay...

We got our stuff on and headed out for a pre-ride lap before the next race started. SLOWLY, I made my way around the course. There were still some grassy spots that hadn't been turned to mud...yet. I took advantage of those. Then I came to the first "run-up" (the quotation marks are because I don't exactly run up the hill. I'm doing good if I can walk at a steady speed. Fortunately, I got toe spikes yesterday for my shoes. They made it a lot easier to walk up the muddy hillside).
See the dark part? That's the hill we had to "run" up. The riders in the photo have just come down from the ridge.

I came back down and worked my way over to the second run-up (or, walk-up, as was the case here too). This one was also mud, but with a number of fist-sized rocks thrown in. The descent for this one was a semi-steep bit of singletrack. There was the obligatory set of barriers back down on the flat.

We had to get off before finishing the whole course because the next race was starting. After that race finished, we got back on, and did another loop; this time covering the part we had missed. Afterward, Jean and Cindy hopped on their trainers. 
Notice the mud up Jean's back. That's just from the pre-ride.

I was still feeling a wee bit nervous, but not as much as before. While we were waiting to go to the staging area, Jean looked at me and said, "I'm just going to ride it." I said, "That's what I always do!"
Here we are, Cindy, me, Chris, and Jean, just before heading over to the staging. Sarah raced too, but didn't get in the "before" (aka "clean") photo.

We went to the staging area to line up. It was the usual order of Cat 1/2, Cat 3, Masters 35+, Masters 40+, and us Cat 4s. After the call-ups, I thought, great, I'm not at the very back! Then I turned around to find absolutely no one behind me. Okay, I'm at the very back...again. 

We got the 10 second warning, and were soon off. The first turns are always a little hairy as we are all still bunched up. The first run-up came quickly. I managed to pass one gal going up the hill (surprisingly, there is someone who trudges slower than me)! Later, as I was riding along, I thought, "This is going to be a hard course to pass people." Of course, those with better skills seemed to pass without any problems. However, I wasn't going to give up trying. I set my sights on the blue number in front of me. On a wider, slightly less muddy section, I was able to pass her. Okay, one down! On the second lap, I caught up to Cindy, and was able to pass, only to have her pass me again. But, I managed to get around her just before the singletrack section (you would think there would be zero chance of anyone passing on the singletrack descent, but a 1/2 gal zipped by me in the third lap). I think it was on the second lap, at the bottom of the singletrack (where there was a ton of mud...and a turn) where I came upon Jean putting her chain back on. I passed her there. 

At the barriers, I was able to unclip my left foot before unclipping the right, and swinging my right leg to dismount. I've been practicing unclipping the left foot first, so there is no chance of not getting it unclipped right when I need to (and repeating my graceful tumble into the dirt like I did in Eugene). I was also able to do that before the first run-up, but not the second. At the second one, there was just too much squishy mud.

Thanks, Tom, for the photo. I actually look like I'm having fun! Although a grimace can sometimes look like a smile!

In the third and fourth laps, I was getting much more comfortable riding through the mud. By then, however, it had not been raining for awhile, so parts of the course were actually starting to dry a little. There was still tons of mud, but on the flat sections up on the ridge (maybe they hadn't been quite as wet) it was getting easier. 

I was thrilled to finish the last run-up. Now I just had one more dismount over the barriers, and then the finish. On the last sharp corner (very muddy), I just about crashed. I slid quite a bit, but managed to keep it upright. A guy on the sidelines was cheering me on saying, "You got it! You got it!"

All of us OOA gals gathered at the finish for an "after" (aka "dirty") photo. The photo below doesn't do justice to our level of dirtiness. Perhaps we should have turned our backsides to the camera (Sarah would have taken the prize on that one as she had crashed, landing on her back...quite the mudslick)!
Chris, Cindy, Jean, me, and Sarah.

Here's a photo of dirty Hal.

And here's a close up of his drivetrain filthiness.
The dirtiest Hal's ever been!

So, I finished 20th out of 29. Not exactly middle of the pack, but that's okay. I'll take it!

I got home and gave Hal the "Roy Treatment". It was raining again, but the sun came out and offered up a nice rainbow.

Now Hal is good as new, and ready to race again next weekend.