Back for Redemption

I raced Derby City Cup this past weekend. It might have been the most challenging cross course I’ve ever been on– or I’m really out of shape–maybe a little of both. I can tell you this whole Law School thing really cramps on my training (and blog writing- if you haven’t noticed).

I only planned to race on Saturday, because law school and was hoping for a decent result. I raced in Boulder over Fall Break and did okay and was hoping to get a good enough result here to at least get a decent starting position at nationals. Saturday started as a bit of a mess, I forgot to pre-register so did day of. This is the only race that this has happened in but there were 4 categories starting at once and instead of dividing us into those categories or some division it seemed that they called us based off of when we registered, where did homegirl end up? Second to last called! Which isn’t a big deal when only 10 women show up but fortunately more women are racing so that means I was about 6 rows back from the front. Yikes!

I took off with the group and quickly found myself passing people, I mean when you start in the back that’s the only viable optionAlright! After about 50 yards it’s a little incline and left turn to get onto the grassy, slicky course. I wasn’t too worried about it but soon found myself getting bumped at less than optimal timing and my bike getting hooked around a pole. I went down and my bike created a barrier so nobody ran over me, just my bike. After getting untangled I got up and found myself quickly in the position I had started. Dead last.

Derby City Hill Climb
Photo by: Meg McMahon 

I jumped back on my bike which made a few cantankerous noises and gingerly pedal through the remaining mud. Back on course I slowly caught people going into the stair flyover. There was one girl that I felt really bad for, I think she had crashed or just wasn’t feeling it- either way she was crying (we’ve all been there) fortunately for me, her name was Kate too so it seemed like a lot of people were cheering for me.

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Photo by Meg McMahon 

The middle part of the course was the toughest with the course dipping in and out of a bowl.  After going by the pits the first time, it’s a long off-camber descent followed by a short punchy climb into an off-camber slope that loops around a tree and then followed by stone stairs. Some relief is granted with a descent that was filled with muddy ruts and really poor line choices. The kicker was then a slope steep enough that everyone was running followed by a slow-grind up a patch of pavement then back down into the bowl and another hill to climb out and back by the pits. After the pits there were two barriers on the back section and then back through the start. Enough of a space to recover and see the lap counter that said 3 to go. Oh this is going to be fun.

I started lap two being mindful of the pavement to grass spot where I went down. Having ridden one lap I knew where my strengths would be (descending) and where my weaknesses were (climbing) but I also knew that I could ride smoother through some areas. Lap two remained uneventful, minus the dry heaving after the stone stairs. I’ve also come to realize that I am most terrible at getting back on my bike on a slight incline–like embarrassingly terrible. 

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Photo by: Meg McMahon

Through the finish line of lap two I saw two to go. Uhhh I can’t believe I have to do this course two more times. I don’t have a powermeter on my cross bike (I know, slumming it up) only heart rate and I was maxed out; between the hoping off, running the stairs, descending, and sustained climbs I was doing all I could to hold on. The third lap was better, smoother, more consistent. Still I dry heaved after the stone steps–man, is it possible I had too much bacon this morning (the answer is always no-even if you are dry heaving).

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Photo by: Meg McMahon

By mid-way the third lap I had caught up to a few women and figured I would be able to work on passing them the rest of the race. I settled into a pace with them and held on. Over the barriers and around to the finish. One lap to go…oh nope- they are pulling us–which occasionally happens when you’re not fast enough or they miscalculated and need to stay on schedule. I rode past the finish with a girl that I know from racing and we talked about how challenging the course was. Disclaimer: Only three women in my category didn’t get pulled (which made me feel slightly better…)

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Photo by: Meg McMahon

Well shoot, I wasn’t planning on racing on Sunday because of law school but after a lackluster start I wanted to do better. At dinner on Friday night I had been talking about how law school has really changed my priorities for racing, it went from focusing on trying to win, or at least top five, to okay maybe just finish and have fun–one girl chimed in, and maybe don’t get pulled, and I was like welp, even then it’s not a problem. It’s also tough because after Saturday’s race it felt like I wasn’t able to give my best, I would have been fine with my result otherwise but with the poor start it just left me wanting more. If you haven’t picked up by now law school, at least for me personally, makes me feel like I’m terrible at a lot of things; law school, bike racing, personal relationship (like if I don’t wish you Happy Birthday, it might be because my mom hasn’t reminded me- that’s where I’m at right now- and I’m sure most of you reading this have been on the receiving end of a text reply at least a few days old). I labored over lining up on Sunday morning: Well it’s only 30 minutes instead of 40; it starts at 8 and we have the time change; but I’m on call in class on Monday; how much am I giving up vs. how much am I gaining. It wasn’t until Sunday morning at 6:20 am that I decided to race.

Round 2:

The nice thing about Cyclocross is that it usually is a Saturday/Sunday event which allows for redemption if you have a bad race on Saturday.

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The gaps were pretty big 

They didn’t do call ups on Sunday either but they at least put us in our respective categories. I took the outside line (as opposed to the inside from the day before). It still looked a wee bit slicky and thought it would at least give me more room to maneuver if I needed to. We were off! I was assuming that they hadn’t changed the course from the day before so still opted for some of my old lines but the mud was a little bit thicker so alternated with hitting the grass patches when I needed too.

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I always forget to not wear white for CX races…

My legs were a little tired from the day before but not as bad as I thought they would feel. I also knew going into the race we would only be doing 3 laps today and knew I could survive that. The top of the flyover is a little short and each time would only get one pedal clicked in before descending and praying that I wouldn’t manage to crash. I’m not sure if it’s the course design but gaps opened up rather quickly and they were big- I felt for the most part that I was riding alone.

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Running up stairs: something I’m not the worst at! 

I had talked to one of my friends (who has lots of experience bike racing) the day before about my dry heaving, she asked if I was panic breathing. I didn’t think so but maybe unconsciously after crashing and trying to chase back I was. On Sunday, I tried to be conscious of my breathing and focus more on yoga breath. That didn’t work and I ended up dry heaving more times than the day before– I actually thought I was going to vomit on course and then everyone would know I’m terribly out of shape! Fortunately that didn’t happen. The race went smooth, and I felt content with my day on the bike. I moved up 3 positions from my finish the day before from 9th to 6th. Last year at Derby City, I won both days in my category but that’s okay–I knew this season would be a little rough.

I also think the dry heaving has to do with the humidity more so than my fitness. It didn’t happen to me during my race in Boulder, just places where it’s humid. Unless someone else has a different theory or we can just go with me being out of shape…

The next race before nationals that I’ve thought about doing is in Indianapolis next Sunday for our conference championships. That will really be a game time decision if I go based on how much work I can get done this week.

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And always, thanks for the support- I don’t know how Sully manages it all 

*Also please forgive all typos- I’m out of time to proof read and must get back to studying.

Jingle Cross

I bet you thought this post would be about the Leadville 100–me too but it turns out that writing about a 40 minute race while in law school is a lot easier than an 11:30 race – stayed tune though.

I moved up categories at the end of last season in order to get to nationals which was great at the time but some what regrettable going into Jingle Cross. Primarily because it put me in a faster category with less training. It was hot in Iowa City, which meant deciding if I should ride with a bottle or not. After doing a lap preview I decided against it so I could more easily carry the bike. I knew either way I would probably regretting having it or not having it.

All women started together (cat 1-4) which was good and bad. Good because I wouldn’t necessarily know who was in my category, bad if I got last out of everyone not just my category.

The race started on a flat paved straight away before funneling in the dirt/grass section. The gun went, everyone lurched forward and started sprinting, my heart rate spiked and I immediately questioned why I was doing this. Hitting the dirt I settled into my pace and the group quickly got strung out. At this point I might have lost sight of the leaders but early on it became a game of survival. The course went through some curves up over a flyover and then into Mt. Krumpit. Sidenote: Mt. Krumpit is the premier feature at the race with two small logs at the bottom of a steep hill. Perfect location for spectators.

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Okay, so maybe the logs are rideable?

Going into it I knew that I wanted to be off the bike before the logs to run up. Run up? I meant walk up. Thank goodness my category all took the quick, brisk walk up instead of running up the incline (is that the mentality I should have for racing?).

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This is why cyclocross is so hard to explain.

Getting back on the bike at the top was never a smooth transition, there is something about still being on an incline that really just throws me off. At the top it shoots down into the sandpit which after entering I would take about three pedal turns, hop off and run the rest of the 20 yards or so. I was able to make up a few spots here each time but it would seem almost just as quickly relinquish them.

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It’s like choose your own adventure

The next feature on the course were two barriers, of all the cyclocross features this is the one that I’m the least worst at. I think it stems from my brief, uninspiring career as a track hurdler. In this moment I also realized why people where bibs/skinsuits to race as my jersey had pulled up exposing my blinding white stomach. Which then I spent most of the race wrangling to pull it back down. out of the barnThe course is on the county fair grounds so we actually weaved our way through two different barns with another little sandpit that fed into a staircase. The last little technical section was an off camber climb up which meant I had another disjointed hop back on the bike to descend and loop around to the finish. One lap done. Three to go.

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I have no idea what I’m doing

As the race wore on I regretted not having a bottle more and more. Each time up Mt. Krumpit was like getting sucker-punched, getting off the bike and climbing straight up the heat was all encompassing and leeched out any last resources that I had in my system. The breeze on the descents did little to offer reprieve because of how hot and dry it was. IMG_0161I finished the race in a sprint finish with a girl who I later found out was not in my category but it still counts…? I was 14 out of 22 for my category. I was hoping to get top-10 but given how little riding I did leading up to the race and the heat factor I was just happy I didn’t pass out.

I was able to get off the bike and lay in the grass and roll over just in time to dry-heave. While the heat was a factor, probably not a direct correlation to wanting to throw up. I was also in much better shape than a girl in front of me who was suffering from heat stroke and had to get a ride in the ambulance.

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Best mechanic in the business (I’m slightly biased)

The race served as a good motivator to actually start getting back into training and work to get faster and smoother on the technical aspects. Next up I’ll be racing in Boulder over fall break.