Saturday, February 27, 2016

Get Your Motor Runnin' (okay motors allowed)

Aaaaaannnnnnddddd...we're back to the track--The Ridge Motorsports Raceway, that is! Except, no motors allowed (not even hidden in the seat tube). Today was the second weekend of Time Trialing and Circuit Racing at The Ridge. I wasn't able to do last weekend because of Team Camp (which was just fine, as the weather was horrid). First up...wait, before I get to the TT, I want to mention that Cycle U did a beginner clinic. Two of my teammates, Kim and Julie (new Cat 4 racers this year), did the clinic.
The beginner clinic was open to both men and women. It was great to see a nice turnout. Julie is in the white jacket and white helmet. Kim is in the hi-vis jacket. They both felt that it was useful.
Now, onto...

The Time Trial
This year, like last year, I was last to go of the 40+ Cat 4 Women. Jean went two minutes before me, and Beth (Starbucks) went just before me. There were only 7 total. I figured I had a good chance at 2nd place, since Beth was the only one on a TT bike, and none of the other gals had aero bars. Although, as far as TT courses go, this one is not well suited for a full-on TT bike (too many uphills, and corners). I do believe the aero bars and helmet do help though. 

The TT was 4 laps (almost 10 miles). We had to keep track of our own laps (although, that only effects your time if you think you are done, but you're not. No penalty for doing an extra lap--except indignation). Jean told me I wasn't allowed to lap her in the first lap (she needn't have worried). 

The first lap, going up the steep hill, was...not fun. Okay, going up the steep hill was never fun, but that first time...especially not fun! The wind was kind of out of the northwest-ish. After the steep hill, there is a bit of downhill, but then the track gradually continues up...into the wind. I found myself having to shift up...and up. Finally, at the top, the course turned, and I had a bit of a respite from the wind, and also a downhill. Then, back into the wind, and up another steep little popper (off the aero bars, out of the saddle, but no need to shift off the big ring). A couple more sections of in the wind, out of the wind, and then, the Precipice of Death. Okay, not really death, but what has gone up, must now come down. And, let's make it more interesting by throwing in a hairpin turn at the top, and a sweeping "S" curve on the down. Actually, I love this part! I have to brake for the hairpin, but otherwise it's down in the drops, no brakes, and counter-steering the heck out of the curves! The lap finishes with a long, flat straightaway, and an awesome tailwind.

In the second lap, I passed Jean (she didn't say I couldn't). I had passed one other gal in the first lap. I set my sights on Beth, but, at this point, I couldn't see her. In the later part of the third lap, I could see Beth ahead of me. I tried to judge if she was still a minute ahead of me. I didn't think so, but after the straightaway she had put more distance between us, so I wasn't so sure. In the final lap, I caught sight of her again. It was the same place as the third lap, so I figured I wouldn't be able to make up enough time to win. But, as I came into the finishing straightaway, I could tell that there was no way she was a full minute ahead of me. I put my head down and went as fast as I could. What is this? Beth was slowing down! I passed her and crossed the line first. Something must have been wrong. I do not beat Beth in a TT! Well, remember how I said this course is not the best for a TT bike? Beth had crashed on the hairpin into the downhill. To her credit, she managed to get back on her bike before I even saw her! At the end, her rear wheel (a disc) would not even roll. I told her that wasn't how I wanted to beat her! So, I won. I've never won a TT before. Sadly, by the time we got around to doing the podium, everyone was gone except me. Eric, the race promoter (and fellow teammate) joined me on the podium.
Thanks for the photo, Julie!
Yay, 1st! Notice my average speed was 21mph! I'll take it!
Thanks for the podium company, Erik!

After little more than an hour, it was time for...

The Circuit Race
There were 8 of us who lined up for the Circuit Race. Jean and I were the only two who had also done the TT. Julie joined us, so there were three of us OOA gals, 4 Starbucks, and 1 other gal from a team I didn't recognize. The 4/5 Men went just before us. There was a whole bunch of them. We would race for 60 minutes.

Off we went. Going up the steep hill, the first lap, I could have used a fire extinguisher. My thighs were on fire (even though I had spun them out on the trainer between races)! The 4 Starbucks gals were in the lead. I just tucked in behind them. They were taking turns pulling. I stayed behind (they weren't really letting me get in between them anyway. That was okay by me! I was happy to draft). 

Somewhere in the second lap, we lost one of the Starbucks gals. The remaining three, and me, had also dropped the others. Coming into the straightaway, I was in the lead. Emily said, "Let her pull for awhile." I was happy to do that as it was flat, and a tailwind. I could just cruise at the speed I wanted. That allows me to recover. Up the hill the third time, they went by me. I struggled a bit to catch back on, but managed it. Same thing happened coming into the straightaway again. 

Coming into the last lap, I was not in the lead. I was drafting. Going up the steep hill for the final time, I pulled ahead. I heard Emily say, "Let her set the pace up this hill." (The gradual hill into the wind) My mistake was letting them do that because, on the little popper, they all three pulled ahead of me. I could not stay with them. CRAP! I had just blown any chance of being able to sprint at the end! Then, to make matters worse, the 4/5 guys came by me just as I was starting down the Precipice of Death. Oh, and it had started to rain, no...pour!!! Well, that was a little nerve wracking! Then, out onto the final straightaway, another guy nearly cut me off! I yelled, "Hey, DUDE!" He apologized. In hindsight, I suppose it was better to not be caught in their sprint at the end...

I finished 4th. Oh well...not too bad considering the none of the Starbucks gals did the TT. 
23 seconds off. The gal who DNFd crashed on the downhill.
Could have been me...maybe. Emily won.
You can't tell, but Julie and I were completely soaked!
The Three Racekateers post race (in warm dry clothing). Ah yes, and the sun decided to return!

So, my first two races for the season are done. Not bad, but also not many racers. That will all change next week...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Triple Mountain Views on the Joy Ride Gravel Ride O' Fun

What a beautiful day for a gravel ride! Although, it wasn't sunny at first, it got sunny not long into today's adventure.

We took off from Skep and Skein with 16 of us (but picked up another on the way). There were some new faces amongst the usual crew. We even had a new gal, Lilly, join us. One of the most notable additions was a young man named Sean (or is it Shaun?). He was notable in that the bike he was riding had a large basket on the front. Thus, Sean is now forever known as "Basket Sean". If you think with that big ol' basket that Basket Sean was slow, you'd be thinking wrong. No, the boy had some serious strength and bike handling abilities. Plus, he was a nice kid with a great laugh. A nice addition to our motley crew.
Not the best shot, but you can see some of Basket Sean's basket.

This time, we went down Black Lake Blvd to access the Sub-Black Hills gravel roads. The area we were riding is owned by a timber company that is happy to have cyclists riding their roads and trails. The cyclists are the eyes of the company, letting them know if there are people camping or doing stuff they shouldn't be doing. The first bit was a climb up with some good sized rocks. It required picking my way through, but I managed to pedal all the way (I'm getting more confident at remaining on the bike, even when the back wheel is spinning out). 

Once we made it to the top, we had some pretty steep downhill with more rocks. Some of it reminded me of Idaho Hot Springs last summer. Only this time I'm not on Mama Cass. It was still really fun though. After some more ups and downs, we came out to Delphi Rd. Then we headed up into Capital Forest via Cedar Flats and Maple Valley. At the turn to Maple Valley, we stopped to talk about getting past the area where the guy keeps putting more and more obstacles, trying to keep us out. Jean and I mentioned that we had found a better way than trying to cross the creek, so we went that way. Everyone seemed to think it was okay. 

I made the climb up B-8400. When I got to the top, there was no one coming behind me.
The third hump of the B-8400 climb--no one coming.

Pretty soon, I could hear Jean and Karen. One of the guys had a flat. Before long, Brian and Jeff came along. We moved up into the sun.
For the first time in a long time, we could see Mt. St. Helens. 

Once we were all together again we continued on to B-8000. Curiously, the gate was closed. Of course we just went around and under it. After the gate, instead of going toward Rock Candy parking, we continued up on B-8000. This was the third time I've been this way, but the last time was over a year ago. 

After awhile, we regrouped at an intersection. We were turning right. Right was up.
See the road going up?

Here we are climbing the hill (photo by Brian). Notice Mt. Rainier.

The payoff for the climb was this spectacular view of three Cascade peaks--Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens. I had to stop and take a photo!
Rainier to the left, St. Helens to the right, and just the top of Adams a bit left of St. Helens.

Of course, what goes up must come down. The downhill was a blast! At one point, the road went up, but I had so much speed I was able to coast up! How much fun is that??? 

We came to the end of the road. Hmmm...never fear ( very afraid), Cam had a plan. See, the road may have ended, but there was a trail! Thus began the hike-a-bike section. Here's a couple of photos that will give a clear picture of the trickiest part of this section.
I took this one of hiking down to the creek crossing.
Andy took this one from the other side. When necessary, the guys are great about helping us gals.

We came out to, I think, C-9000. Then we turned onto more singletrack. As I was going along, I thought it looked very familiar. Karen noticed it too. It was the singletrack that Karen, Geraldine, Juliann, and I did in December. That meant another stream crossing. It wasn't too bad. There was a little less water than in December. When we came out to the road, I told Karen I thought I rode more of that than I did last time--okay, not a lot more, but some...maybe. Here's some photos coming out of the singletrack.
Derik (notice the log up behind--Derik rode over it).


Jean, Bill, Brian, and ???

We rode the road to Delphi, then back to where we had come out of the Sub-Blacks. Now we had to go back up those steep rocky roads we had come down. Although it wasn't easy, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I fully expected to be walking long before I actually did. In fact, I made it up everything except the last part where the rocks were too big and too many of them. Most everyone had to walk at least part of that section. 

At the top, Cam said he would take those who wanted to go on the gravel road. Those who wanted to do another singletrack section would go with Kahlil. I wanted to take the road so I would remember it better if I came there by myself. A bunch did the singletrack (Bill said he should have come with us). We met up with them a short time later, and headed down the last bit to Kaiser Rd, and back to the beginning.

Today's ride was great! We managed to finish with everyone who started. No one got lost, and everyone had a good time. A bunch of us finished up with food and drinks at Skep and Skein. Then I rode home (with a full stomach).

This is likely my last gravel ride for awhile. I'll be gone next week, and Team Camp is the following weekend. After that, race season starts. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some gravel in April when there aren't road races every weekend. I figured out I have four cycling seasons--Gravel, Road Racing, Touring, and Cyclocross Racing (yeah, I don't need no stinkin' Off season).