Friday, November 30, 2007

let it snow, let it snow, let it . . . snow?

Tomorrow is the first day of December and evidently mother nature is not going to let us forget that up here in the Midwest. So we anticipate our first snowstorm of the year with accumulations of 3-5 inches. Now really this isn't anything that should concern the majority of us - not enough to really muck up the roads and it shouldn't be too much trouble to shovel. Of course in certain areas of the country this amount of snow would cause massive school closings and citizens would stock up on food in anticipation of being stuck in their homes. But here in Wisconsin we are hardy folk and we embrace the snow . . . well some of us do anyway.

Normally I don't mind a little snow, actually look forward to the crunch of it beneath your feet, the hushed quiet sound outside in the middle of a storm, and I've been known to slap a pair of skiis on my feet and hit the local golf course or park for some cross training. But I've decided to extend my cyclocross season this year and this means I'd prefer if winter decided to hit on December 18 - after I'm safely home from Cross Nats in Kansas City. Looks like I won't be that lucky.

This Sunday's State Championship in the Milwaukee area is sure to be an interesting one. Sure I like a muddy cross race as much as the next person.
photo by scott

But a cold, wet, snowy, muddy cross race? That's a whole different thing. And after just getting over another cold I'm not sure how well I'll respond to such a fine race experience. But I'll go with it - start psyching myself up now. "Yeah! Racing in the wet snow and mud is fun - I love it when I can't get any traction and my brakes don't work, and my hands and feet are so numb I can't even feel them! What better way is there to spend a Sunday afternoon!"

Check out Tom Held from the Wisconsin State Journal and his preview of the State Race . He even included a nice shot of me from the Badger Prairie race in October.

Here is a shot of Holly from IL in their State Champ race from last year. That's coming up next weekend - I would bet that the white stuff may still be on the ground by then. I'll be there - rain or shine, snow or sleet.

Seriously, it WILL be fun. I do embrace the nasty conditions, everyone has to deal with them and if you don't let it get to you too much it gives you an edge. So I say bring it on! And, well, if the weathermen and ladies happen to be wrong then I'll happily forgive them. Anybody wanna clean my bike!?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jingle Cross

So I had a lovely time in Iowa City for Jingle Cross and my first UCI cross racing experience. I took 5th place both days and all in all was happy with how the races played out. A rather long winded weekend recap follows but first and foremost some shout outs:

My teammate Tammy and her husband John do a fantastic job putting on this race and the new UCI designation this year is due to all the hard work they (and their awesome crew of volunteers!) put in - so thanks to them for making it happen. Jingle Cross is an amazing regional event and it is so much fun to get together with so many cool crossers.

photo by paul forsythe

Team Kenda Tire was going to have racers in several events all weekend plus our manager Paul and mechanic Mike were in attendance so it was sure to be a good time. Mike is a total life saver and he had a tent with the sides all down to block the wind plus a propane heater! Not to mention Oreos and frosted animal crackers post race! He is incredible and I cannot thank him (and his wonderful wife Mary!) enough for all of the help throughout the weekend. I was feeling quite pampered with him in the pit and washing our bikes after the race, Mary taking my coat at the line, our teammate Brooke helping however she could, Paul helping and taking photos, and so many others (JP and Michelle, Renee and Dave, Gordy and Diane, Heidi and Greg, just to name a few) out on the course cheering my name. I am constantly in awe of all the selfless acts and support that people provide and it motivates me to give my all in the races. Huge thanks to everyone!!

Mo and I got to the course early on Saturday to preride and cheer on our teammate Deb in the Beginner race. Thankfully the sun was out because the temps were in the low 30s. I can handle the cold but I really would rather not have to deal with any precip or cloudy skies plus the cold. Long course with lap times to be about 8 minutes. Lots of flat straightaways, a slippery steep muddy hill run up, a sand pit through a barn, some muddy ditches, and a very long winding climb with a screaming fast descent. All in all a course that suits me pretty well. Mo had a great race and took a solid 3rd place in the Masters Womens event. We watched Mike switch into racer mode and our amazing mechanic led a field of over 100 Cat3/4 riders into the first set of barriers - nice job Mike! He finished a very respectable 68th.
photo by paul forsythe

After warming up on the roads I lined up with 15 other women for the race. Some heavy hitters in the mix. It was great to have teammates on the line too with Andrea, Catherine, and Debbie all making the trip. Off we go and almost immediately some girls tangle bars to my right and go down, I get around and move up before the barriers when there is another crash. Luckily I avoid that too and continue to hold my top 5 position over the slippery muddy run up. I have a heck of a time with my footing and take little baby steps up the hill with my bike shouldered (believe it or not the first time I've shouldered the bike in a race - look at my horrible form!)
photo by paul forsythe

One of the River City girls takes off and I'm in the chase group of about 4. We get to the hill and I get past more riders and over the top am actually in second position. I am tentative on the downhill though and lose some time. By the start of the next lap the other River City girl sneaks past and then I dab in the sand and let Linda get through. I am now sitting in fourth and am riding all alone for the rest of the lap. I can see Sydney coming up strong behind me and she passes me. I keep her in my sights and on the next lap she has some difficulty in the muddy ditch section and I am almost on her wheel at the top of the climb. She is powerful though and she puts some time on me. There is one woman behind me who seems to be making up time so on the bell lap I focus on trying to keep my position. That plan is almost ruined as I slip on the hill and nearly go down. Luckily I make it through and push on to finish fifth.
photo by paul forsythe

It was a fun race and I felt good but I know I am a chicken on the descent and was braking way too much. Later Catherine tells me she never touched her brakes and could take a clean line down. Um . . . yeah, I have to work on that :) She finishes 7th, Debbie 10th, and Andrea unfortunately crashed and was unable to finish.

A bunch of us went out for dinner that night and we even took a dip in the hot tub and a few trips down the waterslide at the host hotel. And then Monique provided us with a quality ab workout from laughing with this little incident. She's in the shower and Debbie and I are watching TV when I decide to go down to the lobby and get some tea. I get up to leave and see water flooding out from under the bathroom door. I knock on the door and tell her there is water everywhere and ask what's going on. We hear her scream and we just start laughing as we try to imagine how that much water has ended up on the floor.

All of a sudden we hear a scraping sound as she begins using the ice bucket to try to scoop water off the floor. I'm laughing my head off and Mo is in there cursing but we can tell she is also amused by the humor of it all. Turns out she put her swimsuit in the sink to rinse it before she hopped in the shower but then forgot to turn the faucet off. And ten minutes later . . . well, there were several gallons of water on the floor. And the carpet was still damp in the morning. Nice one Mo!

Next day we get to do it all over again except this time backwards and somehow the sand got left out. So that crazy descent turned into one long hill run up with a fast but not so scary descent. It was tough because the hill kept going up so you could try to jump on early or just keep running and get on further up. Deb had a strong showing in the Beginner race and had it not been for a few bad crashes probably would have made it on the podium. Mo moved up to take 2nd in her race and Mike rode hard and ended up 66th.

I didn't get clipped in as quickly as I would have liked and had to work to move myself up on the first lap.
photo by paul forsythe
Over the top of the hill I was in the top 5 and after a lap with the two River City girls and Sydney off the front it was myself, Megan, and Devon in a group. We worked fairly well together for maybe 3 laps. They were shouldering the bike up the climb while I decided to push today.
photo by renee callaway

I alternated between jumping on after the first steep section and running further - unable to really get a gap with either method. I was also riding the second muddy ditch but two to go I followed the lead of my chase partners and ran it and found I put a gap on them. I saw that Linda was gaining on us and by bell lap we were a group of 4. The last time up the hill everyone stalled at the top of the steep section so I just ran past them and hopped on further up. I had gotten a bit of a gap here and came flying down hoping to power through the rest of the course and hold my lead.
photo by renee callaway

I was managing to do that but then in the twisty sections through and around the barns Linda was able to make it up to my wheel. It was just the two of us and as we entered the final gravel straight to the finish I shifted down, got in my drops and began sprinting. As could be expected she came around me maybe 25m before the finish for 4th and I ended up 5th again. Still, I was satisfied with my race and the finish and was happy that it ended up so close.

All in all it was a really fun weekend and some good experience before I go to Nationals. The UCI points should be very helpful in getting a somewhat decent starting position too! I'm really looking forward to these last three races of my very long season - I'm at 61 race days for the year! - but a couple weeks off will definitely be nice too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble Gobble

Quick update before the busy holiday weekend comes. We're making the pilgrimage up to Green Bay tonight to gather with my family before coming back to Madison Friday. Then I'll hop in the cute green bug with Mo and we'll make our way to Iowa for Jingle Cross. It will be a bit hectic but all in all should be a fun few days.

Last weekend was the Angell Park Cross race which has always been a favorite of mine. JP always does a great job with the course and the spectators are always out in full force. This year's edition included a section on the dirt track, some fun swoopy hills, a long hill run up, and of course the beer pavilion. I've been trying to work on my starts a bit so I went to the front right away. After a lap it was just Sam and I and we took turns on the front. About 15 minutes into the race my chain was bouncing all over the place, changing gears on me and otherwise being annoying. I wasn't sure what was happening but I was nervous about getting my pit bike so I decided to just deal with it. I couldn't get into my big ring without things seizing up so I just tried to stick with a gear and hope for the best. Sam and I were pretty evenly matched and it was kind of fun to ride with her. Here we are on the run up.

Thanks Jon for the photo!

The last lap I tried to push the pace and get a gap on her but it was not my day. She sprinted past me on the track and kept the small gap to the finish. Considering my bicycle woes I was happy to finish second. I felt good on the bike and am feeling more comfortable with the handling. Maybe I am slowly but surely becoming a somewhat proficient technical rider? We'll see how the rest of the season goes :)

So after the race I check out my chain and see it is off the pulley on my rear derailleur and is in between the cage and the wheel. Not good! I get it back on, jump into the men's 30+ race and after one lap it is back off again. So I decide I've had enough cross racing for one day. Dave checked it out later that night and luckily we think/hope it's fixed and there was just some gunk in there that caused the wheel to be off center. We'll see how it does this weekend in Iowa!

I'm super excited to race at Jingle Cross. The event is UCI this year and the Meehans always do a great job putting on this race. It will hands down be the fiercest competition I've faced this year with lots of talented riders coming out in hopes of grabbing some UCI points and maybe some $$. I'm hoping I can be on my A game! Team Kenda Tire will have at least 4 riders in the Elite race and several more in masters womens race. It will be fun to see so many of my teammates! Should be a great weekend!

But first some down time with my family and some "carbo-loading"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Catch Up

Being an expert procrastinator I knew weekly updates wouldn't last for long. I'm amazed how quickly time flies and that Thanksgiving is already next week. Lots to look forward to in the coming weeks and months so I say bring it on.

There were a few cross races since I last updated. Double header weekend in Milwaukee left me with a win at Kletsch Park and a fourth at Estabrook. Both really fun races with nice weather. I picked up Dave's cold which had me feeling not so great on Sunday but those three girls that got off the front were darn fast. Here's a shot of me in no man's land trying to stay in front of a chase group that you can see in the background.

photo by madcross

This past weekend Renee and JP put on a great cross race in Stoughton as there were no WCA races. It was an awesome course with lots of twisty stuff and a HUGE sand pit that you looped back on and went through twice per lap. It was another mild weather day and a fun race. I ended up taking the win with Elicia hot on my heels and my teammate Mo taking third. Big thanks to everyone who made that race possible - Renee does such an incredible job at putting together races and I have to say I'm extremely excited to see what she has up her sleeve for next season ;)

photo by djonnymac

Speaking of Renee, this week I was invited to attend her team's annual dinner. Capitol Velo Club is a really great group of women from the area and I was happy to teach a sprint clinic for them earlier in the year. It was fun to chat with lots of folks and eat some tasty food, plus I even walked away with a cool SRAM t-shirt - everyone was a winner in the raffle!

I've been substitute teaching a lot which has been great. Mostly middle school and high school but I've gotten a few elementary school assignments which have been a fun change of pace. I taught kindergarten last week and that was a first. A lot more tears than I'm used to - those little kids are fragile, some pretty innocent teasing can really get to them. And one little boy threw up after lunch - luckily a janitor took care of that one. But the kids were really cute (and tiny! - finally I'm taller than my students) - and it was fun to sit and read books to them.

So I'm certainly deep into the cross season and I'm extending it even longer this year. In the past I've stopped racing after Thanksgiving weekend but this year with Nationals and the later State Championships I'll be racing until almost Christmas. But despite all of this I must admit I am REALLY looking forward to 2008 and the upcoming road season.

Team Kenda Tire is undergoing some changes and the team and its structure will be different than in years past. We've got a great group of 12 women on the Elite team in addition to our impressive 8 Developmental riders and numerous Regional riders. It's going to be a really fun year. I'm currently organizing our team camp to be held just north of San Diego in January. We've got a pretty swank looking place blocks from the beach and the roads and weather should be great.

Another thing that's got me dreaming of the road season is the release of the 2008 NRC calendar. It's way different than the past few years with fewer races and no longer the inclusion of Nationals races. They've included a few women's only races and several UCI sanctioned events so I think it shows the sport is progressing in the States. Of course there is lots of room for improvement as there are still some major men's races in the states that don't have any womens event associated with them - Tour of Cali, Georgia, Utah, Missouri. These events aren't NRC this year (rather they're ProTour - which is a whole different international series of races of which women are not included) and hopefully some of the organizers start taking some initiative to include women into these races. There are plenty of great stage races - Redlands, Joe Martin, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Tour de Toona - that manage to run both womens and mens events so there's no reason why these more "prestigious" races can't do the same. Anyway, off my pulpit.

So this weekend brings the Sun Prairie cross race - Brazen always does a nice job with this race and the superfans are sure to be spectating in the beer pavillion. Here are a few of them from the Kletsch Park race - boombox and all - they rock!
photo by madcross