Preparing for CX Race Number Two

I must admit that these past two days of 65 degree weather in November has definitely given me a more positive outlook on life after struggling with “what should I be doing with my life?” for the past couple weeks. I spent the past two days outside as long as I could–soaking up the sun which seems to lack in my nocturnal life–the dwindling sunlight does not help, either. Not that the lack of sunlight ever stopped me from running outside, but to spend time outside off the trainer in the fresh air (which I definitely do not get enough off–as my doctor said, I had a critical vitamin D deficiency. Well, duh, I work night shifts, run in the dark, and do most everything in the dark.)

Becker Hill, off of Turkey Hill Road

But these couple of days off have been incredible my rides have been awesome, and being in the fresh air definitely helped whatever bug I caught. Not only that, I realized that time spend on my bike whether it be my Giant CX bike, mountain bike, or beloved road bike, always puts me in a good mood. I might start the ride in not-the-best spirits (I know, me, in a bad mood? I think work is doing that to me) but then after climbing which I tend to do a  lot of, and long rides up through Columbia and Dutchess counties on county roads where you rarely pass cars, I can’t help but feel a grin across my face. Whether it be that, or the fact I am not freezing, or am getting my vitamin D…I simply don’t know. I do know, however, that I love biking. And that is something which (I hope) won’t change. There is no better feeling than finishing up a 55-60mile ride in 65 degree weather in the sun! I know those days won’t be here for very long, but I’ve been taking advantage of them as much as possible.

Who ever guesses where this is will get a free prize from me or, a free hug

On River Road, looking at the Catskills

So, my last cx race was cancelled a couple of weeks ago because of the odd snow storm that we got (which was slightly annoying, because I was very excited to attempt my cross skills again.) But, since I took a holiday this Sunday, I’ll be able to take part in the 21st West Hill Shop Cyclocross Race in Putney, VT. It will be more difficult than the last one I did in Saratoga Springs– this course has a “run up” –I’ve never done a run up or practiced a run up before in my life. But, hey, that’s what makes the sport fun!

courtesy of West Hill Shop Race Page

I’m not sure if I should be worried, terrified, excited, or all three about this race– I keep needing to remind myself: this is FUN. And you’ll never know how to do it until you actually do it! (that’s my motto at least). Below is a video from the race last year, and, I must admit, min 5:34 of the video slightly worries me…

After the race, which I hope to have all limbs attached by the end of it (bruises and scratches are okay as I always seem to have some sort of bruise or scratch on my legs anyhow),  I’ll be heading to New Hampshire to do some hiking! Ahh, to spend a weekend doing activities with I love is the best… (Get ready, J. N. for a fun-filled day with yours truly, if I am still alive….)

So get ready, Vermont (and I suppose New Hampshire). Molly G. and her not-the-best-cyclocross-skills-in-the-Northeast, will be coming to visit you shortly for some mud, run ups, obstacles, and all around fun, rockin’ her Overlook Jersey.

Thanks to Billy D. and everyone at the shop for making my cyclocross dreams come true.

And to leave you with a song that was stuck in my head on a recent mountain bike ride (you get another free hug if you can tell me which movie this is from):

She Survived!

I am not sure what I was getting myself into signing up for a cyclocross race after having had very little time to practice, or attempt to practice, as in my prior post about the sport. The race was in Saratoga, very close to the famous race tracks, which I realized after 1. passing a sign indicating it was home of the Saratoga Springs race track and 2. why there were so many horses everywhere. The experience, as a whole was fun, and I cannot remember the last time I raced just for fun. Really, all races should just be fun anyways, right?

First Bike Race Number!Thankfully my new friends told me i put it on the wrong way

My innate poor sense of direction made it slightly difficult finding the race as normal– perhaps if I had a navigation system things would have been slightly easier. But even with a printed out mapquest directions, I still got lost a couple of times (okay, a few illegal U Turns were made as I was passing the bridge going into Massachusetts, which is definitely not where I wanted to be.) And, it gave me directions which made no sense to me. Then again, it really wouldn’t be a true racing experience if I did not get lost trying to find the place.

I did make it in time to get my number and meet a couple new friends and did a couple of practice loops on the course which consisted of a run up, a couple little hurdle/obstacles, and a long sand pit, which the really good racers could just plow through on their bikes. I, on the other hand, attempted to ride through which was unsuccessful, and probably wasted more time, hence simply carried the bike and ran through the sand. (Hey, people carried their bikes in the YouTube videos I studied).

waiting to see the men go through the sand pit

One of the hurdles--those are what they are called, right? And no, I was able to stop before and jump over with my bike and not fall into it.

I was with the cat 4 women and it was the first time I’ve ever actually been in a group of cyclists all starting at once, which was a little nerve wrecking being so close to other cyclists.But, a quick “good luck and have fun!” from Billy D. as I was waiting at the start definitely helped ease the nerves a bit. Throughout the race, you are in close proximity to the other racers for the first lap or so (depending on category determines how many loops you do in the allocated time.) Falls can occur, and often do, with a course that has sharp turns, or areas where you have to ride through thick mud, and if you cannot brake in time to avoid collision with the cyclist in front of you.

Course

Cat 3/4 men on the course--they are good.

Basically, it’s a sprint from the very start. You start fast, run up the hills fast, bike down hills fast, carry your bike fast, run over the hurdles fast, if your shoe falls off, put that on really fast too(no judging, I’m still getting used to my pedals).The course zig zags and marked by tape.  Your lungs are on fire the whole time and your thighs burn. Like running a 5k or short sprint race.

Shimano tape!

This guy knows what he's doing

Compared to running races/ multisport racing (as I cannot really compare it to a road race, but from what I heard from a female road racer yesterday, a lot of female road racers can be non-friendly and “bitchy”), the pre-race atmosphere is quite similar– instead of you asking someone to zip up your wetsuit for you, or ask if they have ever run the particular race before, you talk about other cx races which you have participated in, who won the last race, where the next one is (of course, all I could say was, ‘no I wasn’t at the last race,’ and ‘ um, no, I don’t know anything about this course, or cyclocross.)

Bike handling skills, like in mountain bike racing, are of vital importance in a cyclocross race. You need to be able to control, or attempt to have control over your bike, because the course has sharp turns and “obstacles” and people cycling past you. My mountain bike handling skills are better–my best is road skills, probably because you rarely have sharp turns except for when riding in a town.

Like other races, lots of cheering is going on by spectators, and it helps you going esp when you think you can’t do something. Cause you can. Like ride through thick mud which might be just as hard as riding through sand, or harder. Other women racers, who are not in the race with you (obviously, when you are in a race, you want to win and don’t give a crap about the other riders around you) cheer you on, saying “you can do it!” which really does help. And, cheering goes on for all racers. For me, it was fun knowing people who were racing, so I knew names of the people who bikes on Overlook Mountain Bike’s team. If I didn’t know them, I just called out, “Go Overlook!”

Mixed with cheering is the sound of cowbells. I think I heard a cowbell once when I ran the Boston marathon. Perhaps there have been cowbells in other races too and I just don’t remember them. And, apparently, there is heckling which can go on during these types of races. I didn’t hear any. I thought that was just a mountain bike thing you do. But, apparently it isn’t.

All in all, it was so much fun, and I am excited to be able to do the wicked Creepy cx race next weekend (I love when I have weekends off and can race, even though, yes, I haven’t quite switched back to normal sleep patterns yet). And, despite how quite and shy I can be, at races, it is totally different. I have no problem talking to the other racers and, am actually outgoing (which you need to be if you don’t know too many people who are there earlier enough to watch you race). Otherwise, just being at a race by yourself and not talking to anyone else, just isn’t fun. (And yes, imagine me being outgoing!)

To sum up the first cyclocross race, I must say it was wicked fun, and tough. And to show that I raced, I noticed after getting home before taking a shower that I have nasty bruises ALL over my thighs and inner thigh (from the “mounting”  and a nasty one on my right shoulder from flinging my bike over my shoulder when running through the sand…) .And that is the reason why I didn’t go to the pool today, in fear of someone saying, “what happened to you?” I think I just bruise easily.

My new Mavics broken in!

Pre race shot

Thank you, NYCROSS for putting it on, and for the words of encouragement from others, and Overlook Mountain Bikes for getting me a sweet cyclocross bike to use. And the quick words of encouragement!

Video courtesy of Mississippi Queen, has some shots of some of the Overlook team cat 3/4 men!And, the cow bells!

Ohh, and I didn’t get lost going home!Sweet!

Getting Ready for My First CX race

” It’s better to pin a number on and finish last than to never pin on a number at all all,” K.H. An aquainence of mine, and cyclocross racer himself, sent me a text with that message a couple minutes ago.

Mountain bike/cyclocross shoes are quite different than road shoes

Yes, I am preparing for my first cyclocross race. Actually, it is my first bicycle

different than pedals I'm used to

race, ever. Triathlon bike racing are a completely different type of cycling, and cyclocross is different than road racing (how is it that I know the difference between different types of cycling racing?) I may have used the TIME ROC ATAC pedals for the first time Thursday afternoon, after going down to my favorite bicycle shop and picking up my new Mavic shoes, attempted to teach myself how to clip-unclip quickly from the pedals, which is quite different than the road pedals that I am used to.     My first race will be the Saratoga Spa Cyclocross Race, one of the NYcross.comseries.

Courtesy of Saratoga Spa CX

I’ve spent numerous hours–okay, more like minutes– teaching myself how to mount/dismount my bike quickly, which is needed in cyclocross racing. And, even set up a small obstacle course in my back yard in order to become somewhat prepared. I know I’ve spent a fair amount of time “attempting” to mount the bike as pro cyclocross racers do as evidenced by the large, tender bruise on the inside of my right inner thigh– man, that hurts. So does falling off your bike when attempting to dismount quickly before a pre-made barrier in your backyard. Actually, so does running into the barrier and falling over it with your bike because you were unable to clip out quick enough.

My mini-practice barrier in the back yard--notice how it is on an incline

Pro cyclocross racers, or racers who are somewhat good at the sport, make the dismount/ mount look so graceful and easy. I, on the other hand, have found instead of making the mount/dismount look graceful, I tend to fall (and swear words have the tendency to come out of my mouth) and make it look like a painful, horrible, and embarrassing process. Then again, if this girl can fall over when her bike is mounted on the trainer–and no, not rollers–then the potential of my falling off anything that moves is tripled. (The secret is out, my friends, I fall off my trainer. Perhaps I should put training wheels back on my bikes.)

The newest addition, and weapon of attack, a Giant Cyclocross bike--which glitters in the sun

I’m not sure if I am excited, terrified, or both, about this race. I would even comment on what I plan on bringing (clothing/gear wise) so that if you decide to become a cyclocross racer yourself, you will know how to prepare. Honestly, I have no idea what I need to bring, except for my bike, shoes, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, and perhaps change of clothes since I’ll be waiting around to watch friends who will be racing later in the day. But come tomorrow at 10:00am when my race is finished, I’ll let you know what you should bring to a race. And everything else that goes along with the sport.

“Perhaps the single most important element in mastering the techniques and tactics of racing is experience. But once you have the fundamentals, acquiring the experience is a matter of time.” Greg LeMond

Chapter Number Three

I think it was about a year ago when I added a new chapter to my ever changing life story: the beginning of training for a triathlon. Which I believe started after getting my first road bike. On and off throughout the winter last year I kept tabs of my training through this blog. And, random posts would creep up here and there. Then, come spring, after countless rides on either my nemesis or bundled up like an insane person outside riding in frigid weather, it was time to add a new addition to the family, and take up mountain biking as cross-training for triathlons, which I would consider the second chapter of the “cycling” portion of my life. And, at the time I figured, you can’t use a road/TT bike with X-Terra racing. I must admit, the mountain biking was considered the second priority after road riding. Even though on the rare occassion I did spend trying to stay on the mountain bike riding over roots, through mud, ramming into trees, I did (and still do) find it to be a breath of fresh air and far more challenging than road biking–again, as mentioned in prior posts. However, mountain biking is still somewhat intimidating to me– I think I need to spend more time doing it (which will come early next week when I’ll be heading back to VT for some quality time with family, and my Contessa Spark, before Kingdom Trails closes for the winter. I am praying the person I’ll be riding with will not break any bones– i.e. clavicles–which he is known to break when mountain biking. Actually, I hope I don’t break anything either.

I am looking forward to the break after what seems non-stop insanity working in a place which I’ve come to realize is starting to wear on me, more physically than mentally (as pointed out by someone the other day who I had not seen in months stating, “Wow, are you okay? You really look like crap.” But, he worded it differently). And, it did dawn on me the other day on my 55 mile ride before heading into work the reason for my feeling like I was running on an empty tank was, infact, because I was literally running on an empty tank. Yes, it took 50 miles for me to realize the reason that the ride seemed like the longest ride of my life was due to the fact I had not slept for more than four hours or eaten anything for a couple of days. Ahh, yes, despite the fact I work as a nurse and know more about the importance of fueling your body for physical activities, I failed to acknowledge how stress has been taking its toll on my own body (which, for an athlete to lose their appetite isn’t the best thing in the world). You would think I would have realized something was up when I did not touch, nor could stomach, two of my favorite types of food: sushi, and a-m-a-z-i-n-g guacamole (on that note, if you live in Dutchess County, you need to check out Santa Fe restaurant in Tivoli. Food there is wicked good, and, even better, accomodating to vegetarians).

So what do I do in order to deal with stress? (Okay, other than baking). If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you probably already know.

Buy another bike and decide it’s time to pick up Cyclocross.

Welcome to the family, my gorgeous, glittering (yes, it glitters in the sun), blue, Giant TCX-W Cyclocross bike.

It was bound to happen eventually. Some people knew it before I did. And, it is kind of funny the bike I’ve been secretly, or not so secretly, admiring for a couple months was ordered when I wasn’t even present in the store. “B., how did you know that is the bike I’ve wanted when you ordered it?” Were the first words out of my mouth when I went to order a new pair of shoes for the bike the other day, with, perhaps the biggest grin on my face.

I admit it, I have a weakness when it comes to really pretty bicycles.

That are blue. And glitter in the sun.

Now, before you think, “Man, this girl is really insane,” I do have a theory behind my bicycle purchasing madness.

Not only is this type of bicycle preferred in cyclocross racing (which, after watching videos on how to swiftly mount/dismount still terrifies me–it might be easier for me simply to fall off),  it is something I can use in winter months to ride, when I want to ride outside. Road bike tires have no traction.

Cyclocross tires, on the other hand, are like mountain bike tires and have more traction.

Hence, I’ll have a bike to ride and not need to worry about my road bike getting dirty nor need to worry about slipping and sliding everywhere on the road–even though I already know is bound to happen to me anyway.

traction traction traction

AND, the shoes used I can use with my mountain bike.

Now, with work I’ve only been on this bike once which was yesterday (well that, and, it is hard to ride a bike when it has no pedals), and I’m proud to say I think I have the Sram “double-tap” shifting under my belt. Kind of.

The mounting/dismounting is a whole different story.

And to end, with a song that was stuck in my head on my run this morning….

When was the last crazy post written?

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