CompEdge Cross at Blunt Park

Sunday I decided to head up to Springfield Mass for my first cyclocross race of the year.  I’m not sure how I feel about doing an official cross race in August, but I did it anyway.  Luckily it has been unseasonably cool, so the temps were perfect for me.

To spare you from reading the full report I’ll give you the quick and dirt course details. The course was supper flat. I only had 36 feet of elevation gain for the entire race. There were a couple of wet spots on the course, but they where hard packed and not really muddy. Everywhere else the course was very dry and dusty. The majority of the course was on trails though the woods with lots of roots. There was an interesting collection of stuff in the woods. I saw a toilet seat and a metal couch frame. There were four spots I had to dismount. I think if you had good mt biking skills there would only be one or two spots you had to dismount. After you got off the trails you went into some grassier sections of the park. This course also has some unique stone barriers (scroll down for a pic.)

The women’s races were the last races of the day with a 2:15 PM start.  My boyfriend got in some mountain biking and we left to head up.  I knew that there is some epic road work going on in Springfield, so I left a lot of extra time.  We got there around 1pm.  I checked in and was pleased to find cloth race numbers.  Ellen Noble was also hanging out by the stone barriers.  I think she raced with the fast men. I got one lap in right before the Junior’s/Master’s race started.  I probably should have gone back and re-ridden some of the more technical parts of the course.  I’m still paranoid and feel like I’m in everyone’s way when I do a course preview, so I kind of rush though everything.  I know that’s stupid and I should do what I need to do.

After the course preview I realized my rear tire was flat and of course the only extra tube I had with me was a patched tube.   I prayed that it would work out and cursed myself for not packing the extra tubes.   I had plenty of time and my boyfriend fixed it while I went to find the bathrooms.

The race start was a bit awkward.  The official was going over the rules and at the end just said go.  The official probably mentioned how the start would work, but my hearing kind of sucks.  At any rate I was expecting a 30 second warning at the end of his speech, not going straight into a start.  They also started all the women at once instead of giving the 1/2/3s a small head start.  I wasn’t really ready, but I powered down the pavement at the start and then got caught up in the bottle neck at the first turn.  Then I got pissed that I wasted so much energy at the start just to get caught up in the very predictable bottle neck.  There is a small dirt table top after the first turn that I had to run up for the first lap since everyone was moving so slowly.

Once we got into the woods I could see everyone’s helmets popping up and down and knew we must be close to a log across the trail that most people chose to run rather then ride.   There was a small downhill into the log, so I decided to try and be smart and dismount before the hill and run over the log and past the rooty section (one of many)  before remounting.  I managed to pass another woman in this attempt, and held her off for the rest of the lap.   I cursed myself for not having the gopro on my bike to capture that move.

After the log there were a lot of roots.   Since I was mostly by myself with the one woman behind me I had my choice of lines and could avoid the worst of it.  After the roots there was a big tree across the course, so another spot to dismount and run.  I think that was probably rideable for people with good mt bike skills.  That lead into a power section followed by some twisties and the stone barriers.

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These things were a little weird.  I have no idea what purpose they served in the park, or if they live in that location year round.  A lot of people were bunny hopping at least the first barrier.

DSC_1975 There was a set of three wooden barriers too.  The third one was after the curve. DSC_1976

This little up down up thing screwed with my head. You can’t see the first up, and the down is steeper then it looks with a nice rut at the bottom where you turn and go back up again. The first time though during the race I was in a bad gear, and did some bad things to my rear derailleur trying to shift down. I’m sorry Mr Derailleur.

That lead back to the finish straight. This is also where the woman I passed flew by me never to be seen again. I tried to keep my speed up, but I really killed myself trying to keep the other woman behind me. I knew once she was gone I’d be alone and pushing myself would get harder. With one lap to go some of the fastest ladies started to lap me. At that point I started really pushing again and made it my goal to get lapped by as few people as possible. I think only five people lapped me? That’s pretty good for my comparatively slow self.

My takeaways. The flat course suits me, but I need to learn how to carry momentum though the course better. I am not very good at remounting, so I lose a fair bit of speed there. I still need to gain confidence on the corners. I lose a lot of speed slowing down more then I need to into corners.

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Ellington Sprint Triathlon

This weekend I did the Ellington Sprint Triathlon. I haven’t really been running so I knew this would be a sufferfest for me. Its a put on by the local parks and rec, and isn’t a sanctioned race, so i wasn’t sure what to expect. The short version is this is an extreamly well organized local race with fun swag.

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I screwed up and didn’t set my alarm properly, so I got a later start then indented. I reheated my oatmeal and jumped into my pre-packed car. They had registration & body marking set up at a picnic table without much of a line. There wasn’t much of a line for either. I got my transition area set up and pondered weather or not to wear a wetsuit. I ultimately decided to go with “not”. I have a pretty good body position so the wetsuit doesn’t help me as much as it helps others, and for a 1/4 mile swim I’m not sure it’s worth it.

The water was really warm, and pretty shallow. I dolphin dove for the first 25 yards or so and then beelined out to the bouy. Unfortunately after I turned back towards shore I couldn’t actually see where the swim out was. I was towards the front and there weren’t many people to follow. Sadly this led to me taking an awful line and swimming a lot of extra yards.

Transition 1 was uneventful. I was pretty dizzy so I took things slower then I would have liked. Without a wetsuit I was still pretty quick.

The bike started with a slight uphill and then a downhill/flat stretch. I kept waiting for the infamous “Hill” every time I started up a hill I’d question weather or not “the hill” was coming or not. I finally hit it almost at the end of the course. It was way steeper then expected and a lot of people walked up it. After “the hill” it was a pretty easy cruise into the finish.

T2 was OK, I had issues with the back of my shoe getting rolled in so that took more time then I would have liked

I knew the run would be bad since I really haven’t been running much. I planned on walking a lot of it which did happen. There was also a guy behind me who was slowly making ground on me which did cause me to walk fast and run more often then I wanted to. He finally caught me before the big uphill and we chatted a bit.

Post race fun. This race only does awards for overall winners, which I don’t mind. They also had a ton of raffle prizes which was pretty awesome. The food was also good. They had a bunch of sweet stuff which is what I crave after a hard workout. They also had chocolate milk donated from a local dairy.

Overall I’d say this is a great local race that everyone should try and hit up eventually.

Muddy Onion

I had thought about doing the Muddy Onion over the winter, but I got scared off by the 3,324 feet of elevation gain over 35 miles.   Then last week the GRVL-XX Project still had some codes left for the ride, so I decided to do it anyway.  I took a half day and headed up Friday afternoon.  Packet pickup was fast and easy.    I stayed at Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast.  I’m not a huge bed and breakfast fan, but it was walking distance to Onion River Sports, and we could ride to the start without thinking about parking.   There was a nice big porch to relax on, and the bed was comfortable.  Best of all the orange pancakes they had for breakfast were fantastic.    There was also a resident cat and dog, and an adorable tuxedo cat mooching attention outside.  Outside cat was hard to photograph because they where too interested in rubbing against my legs and bike.

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This was my first non-race/non-shop ride bike event.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  The first thing I noticed was the huge variety of bike’s and body shapes present.  I also noticed by the way everyone racked their bikes that there weren’t many triathletes in the crowd.  (Top tip… you can fit more bikes on a rack of you alternate which way the bikes face.  The racks got much fuller as people started showing up, and again after the ride.

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I had started the morning out with arm warmers and clear lenses in my glasses.  Of course being spring in New England the sun promptly came out and I got too warm, so I rode back up to the B&B and ditched the arm warmers and went to darker glasses.  Coincidentally the hill was on E. State Street along the route.  I actually felt slightly less anxious after riding up it once because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

I seeded myself at the back of the starting area and anxiously awaited the start.  I’m not sure if there was any pre-race talk because I couldn’t hear it back in my spot.

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The ride starts uphill.  Going uphill with 400 of your closest friends is an interesting experience.  People where generally well behaved, and I didn’t see anything too sketchy.    Things started to break up more slowly then I expected, probably because there were just so many people around.  After a short stint on pavement we got into the dirt roads.   The roads where in really great shape.  I’m definitely glad I went with the Vittoria Cross XN Pro II file treads vs my knobby Challenge Griffos.  There were a couple of rougher loser freshly graveled section, but mostly well packed smooth surfaced dirt. There where some  rollers along the road( like mini pump tracks?), one or two ruts, and a couple of muddy spots.   I was pretty cautious defending since I didn’t know the roads, and things were pretty steep.  My hands got tired on a couple of the longer descents from riding my breaks.  The organizers did a good job putting up reminders to stay on the right side of the road, and caution signs if the road conditions warranted it.   The course was marked with little orange signs with arrows on sticks.  I was never really alone and I’m not sure I payed much attention to the signs.  The only place where things could have been improved was a downhill leading in to a left hand turn.  I would have missed the turn if I didn’t see people turning up ahead of me, and some folks behind me did miss the turn.  Their friends had to yell to try and get them back.  Looking on the route map I think it was the turn from Marshfield Rd to E. Hill Rd.

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I didn’t have any real goals for this ride, but I was kind of hoping to do the whole thing without walking up the hills.  I didn’t succeed at this goal.  The first hill I walked was a silly mistake.  I didn’t realize I was in the big ring.  I walked a couple others because my hips and back where not too happy with life.  I had packed my Ridley Crossbow, which I love, but I’m staring to realize its not too comfy on long rides.  I probably should have gone with my heavy Surly Cross Trek.  It would have been more comfortable, and it has a triple.   I haven’t been riding the Surly much, so I was hesitant to take it.    Another fun fact, I recently played with my saddle position on the cross bow.  A couple of rides ago I wound up with a hole in my bibs after a ride.  (I fell in my last race of the season and knocked the saddle out of whack and never fixed it satisfactorily.) I thought it was from my saddle bag and I fixed the problem.  Turns out it was actually from my seat post clamp and I put another hole in another very expensive pair of bike shorts on this ride.

IMG_1584 The aid stations had the promised bacon and maple syrup shots. Plus there where pickles, cliff bars, and vermont meat sticks… think high quality slim jim. I had bacon and maple syrup at the first stop. I should have also eatten one of the rice cakes in my jersey pocket. My stomach wasn’t supper happy with me for a little bit after this stop. Not really GI issues, just not happy.

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I went back and forth with Oscar and the Cookie monster for much of the ride.

The second aid station actually had grilled PBJ sandwiches along with most of the items from the first station.   I was pretty beat by this aid station.  I sat down for a longer then I intended and had a bit of a rest while I enjoyed my PBJ and pickles.  Everyone said there was really only one more hill after this aid station, but I knew they where lying.

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There were a few impromptu rest stops in the last 10 miles. Some water and snacks in the back of a pickup truck. Probably leftovers from the first aid station. After two more steep hills and a few less step hills I finally hit the long downhill into town. I didnt’ stick around for two much of the post race fun. I had some food. I think I had some chips, coleslaw and a veggie burger. I already took and topped up a bun before I realized the options were veggie burger or grilled chicken thighs and legs. I had a can of generic coke too. I didn’t notice any deserts, which is often the case at these things. I was also quite slow, so it could be any sweets were gone by the time I finished. Luckily there was a donut cart near by.

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I’m glad I went up. Before the event I was worried about doing the entire ride by myself because I’m not very fast. I was actually with people the entire time. I went back and forth with about 10 people for most of the time.  I was not well trained for this event.  The distance would have been no problem, but the 3K+ of elevation killed me.  I wish I had done some more hill work and some much longer rides to get a better base for the event.

Studying Up

I’m sitting on my enclosed porch soaking up the last bits of warmth for the day with my fuzzy friend.  Tomorrow we go back to cold and snow, but it remains clear that spring is almost here.   With the added pressure of day light savings time arriving I’m doing something I should have started months ago…. reading up on training plans.  The past two seasons I really faked my way though the triathlon season and it showed.   I did use a plan to build up to Rev3 Quassy but then I kind of burnt myself out and fumbled about.  Luckily regularly attending group rides kept me in OK shape.    Given that I can’t afford a coach right now I headed to amazon and ebay to pick up some used books.

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I’m probably going to stick with The Cyclist’s Training Bible, but The Time-Crunched Cyclist does have a cyclocross specific plan.   It’ll probably take me another week or two to get though everything and come up with my plan for the season.  I have to be honest reading these books geared at the really talented cyclists kills me a little.  I have very little natural athletic talent, and I feel like the “real” athletes would make fun of me with my little training plan.   I do want to get better and this is the only way I know how to do it so I will soldier on.

 

All this reading about training means I have to make some decisions about the up coming season.  I’m planning on doing a short triathlon season early in the summer and then shift my focus on doing whatever I have to do to have an awesome cyclocross season.  I’m not quite ready to give up on triathlon.  At the same time I had so much fun racing cross last year that I want to see what I can do if I really focus this year.

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I was had a sore throat/cold thing for a week leading up to this race.  I knew it was going to be muddy, and I really wanted to play in the mud.   I decided that if I could breath at 11 AM on Saturday I’d go ahead and register.   Lucky for me I woke up Saturday feeling much better.

We had to get to the venue very easy since my other half was in the first race of the day.  His race was almost all snow with no traction.  My race was at 1 pm, so I had a lot of time to kill.  I managed to fall twice when I was pre-riding. I have a lovely scrape up my shin from one of them.  Note: crashing into snow doesn’t really hurt, but hitting the pavement does. The downside to the venue/snow combo, was a lack of warmup space.  The park is really in the middle of a city, and I didn’t feel comfortable on the streets.  If I do this one again next year I will definitely bring my trainer to warm up on.  I joined some other women in the slow circles on a paved path while we waited for call ups.

The race was a muddy mess and everything I hoped for.  As usual I didn’t do well with the uphills, and the snow and mud  sketched me out for the one steep downhill after I crashed in warmup.  (I also notice looking at the pictures now I managed to screw up the level of my saddle in one of my warmup crashes.)

 

First Cross Race

I bought a used cross bike back in July which meant I had to actually had to follow though on my plan to do a cyclocross race this year.

 

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I did some research on local cross races and decided on Riverfront Cross since it had a really small women’s field last year.  My plan backfired and the field was much larger this year.  I suspect that may be due to Cross Nationals being held at the same venue this year.

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I got lucky, and they decided to hold a free clinic the day before the race.  I’m not sure what I would have done without the tips on the long off camber section.  It also gave me the chance to pre-ride the course when it was almost empty.  Aside from the off camber, and a fun little hill around a tower the course wasn’t terribly technical.  A couple sets of barriers (full UCI height barriers at that).   The off camber section pretty much terrified me.  You run up the side of a dyke and then ride across the top, drop down and ride back across the hill in the opposite direction, drop down and ride back one more time.  Then shoot down a hill.  The downhill also terrified me.  I’m fine bombing down hills on the road, but a downhill ending in woods freaks me out.   I felt slightly better after practicing.   The park was pretty close to home, so I got to sleep in.  It was also pretty hot which meant I didn’t have to think too hard about what to wear.  I checked in and got my number, and a disposable timing chip to stick on my helmet (YAY lap times!)  We watched for a little while.   I got on to pre-ride the second half of the course.  I knew if I went back to the off camber section with all the faster riders around I would probably bail on the whole thing.   I got to the sand pit and tried to ride in an existing groove and went right over my handlebars.   Someone on the side was laughing and said “I’m glad I’m not the only one who did that.”   DSC_0011

After that I went back to the car and had a snack.  I warmed up on the road and headed to the start.  A few of the women from my shop where there.  I think we were all hiding on the back trying to stay out of the way.  They started all the women’s fields a minute apart.  Which ment that the masters women where catching up and passing me right at the off camber section.  I managed to focus on what I needed to do and tried not to get nervous about the women flying by.   I did wimp out and run the downhill on the first two laps and then road it for the second two.   Everything went by really fast, and I have waited too long to do a race report.   One of the girls from my shop flatted out on the first lap.  There was a section on the pavement, then you had a choice of running up some stairs, or hopping up a sharp stone curb and running up the grass and over a barrier.   A lot of people flatted when they hit their wheel on the curb whilst carrying their bikes.   I also forgot I had a big ring until the last lap.  (Further proof that I should go for a 1x setup?)

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Rev3 Quassy Olympic Race Report

Short version: Awesome race company, super hard corse, fun swag.

I hemmed and hawed on signing up for this race.  Its known for its hills, I am not a small person and even when I was a skinny little thing in college I wasn’t great at hills.  I road the course and said “That’s it I’m not going to do it this year.”  That really didn’t last long.  I really liked racing with Rev3 in Maine, and I was really excited they where back this year.  There was also a lot of excitement in my tri club.  There was also something about a free trucker cap and a club porta-poty.  I signed up with 9 weeks to train.  My swimming was in good shape since it was shortly after our big swim meet of the year where I got a best time by a pretty good margin in the 500 free (-00:21) and the 1650 free  (-1:48)  I was in OK shape from doing an indoor workout or two with Zwift every week and the mild winter meant I was also getting an outdoor ride in on the weekend.  I switched to tri training mode.  I road my bike up all the hills (including another training ride on the bike course followed by riding the run course too).  I tried all three dirty duathlon races  and even managed to finish one.  (Mountain biking on a cross bike is interesting).  I did cut back on swimming more then I intended to.   I increased my running distance, but neglected to seek out hills.  I think I did the best I could without a coach and with limited time to ramp up the training.

Friday I worked a half day then came home to get ready for bike checkin.  My boyfriend’s friend came over to stay with us rather then paying for a hotel room, so the three of us headed over.  We got stuck in the awful Waterbury traffic and worried about making it in time for the athlete meeting.  We picked up our packets and got in line for our chips.  We were lucky and the athlete meeting started late and we were able to listen to it while we waited in line.  Nothing too exciting, but they didn’t weigh me in for the athena division, which they had done in Maine.

Got up at o’dark thirty on Saturday.  I ate my oatmeal at home instead of in the car.  I wish I had eaten in the car so that breakfast would have been closer to race start.   We got there by 5:30 which means we got parking at Quassy.  The downside is I was in the last wave at 7:35 am.  It only takes me about 10 minutes to pump my tires and set up transition.  I also squirreled away my nutrition: two Generation Ucan gels in my bento box, one Gu in my jersey pocket for the run, and skratch half way up my areo bottle (I knew the potholes were coming) and in my water bottle on the bike.   Then I went down to the beach to try and relax.

IMG_7618 I sat on a damp lounge chair and waited for the fog to lift.  I was pretty convinced it would burn off quickly.  It didn’t…there wound up being a half hour delay which pushed my start time out to 8:05. IMG_7624

I probably didn’t do enough of a warm up.  I swam out to the first buoy and back before the first wave started.  I like to actually see the buoys and get a feel for where the sun will hit on the course.  I have to give Rev3 credit.  Thoes waves went off exactly 5 minutes apart.  I did get back in the water a couple of times to make sure I didn’t overheat in my wetsuit.

The swim was pretty good.  Its my best event, but this is a big race that draws people from farther away then my normal races. That means stiffer competition.  I managed to hang with most of my group.  I found someone to draft off of for the second half of the first leg.  I lost her at the turn.  I started passing yellow caps (wave before mine) before the first turn.    Just before the second turn I passed my first green cap.  I managed to find someone to draft behind for a little bit of the last leg of the swim, but then lost them.  I think I went too far to the left on that last leg.  I get tired and my sighting suffers.

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I cheesed it up for the triclub spectators.  Mostly because our president aquired a megaphone just in time for the race.   I was actually thinking deep thoughts about the bike and the hills to come.

My transition was OK.  I haven’t been practicing so I’m sure it could have been faster.

On the stick part of the lolly pop course the pros were headed back as I was going out.  I actually passed a lot of people on the downhills.  I’m heavy and possibly more confident on the bike?  I’m sure if I was in an earlier wave this might have been a different story.  Not as many people passed me on the uphills as I thought.   Plenty of people still passed, but it wasn’t a steady flow of people flying by like I was expecting.  On one of the first really steep sections (I think it was on Platt Road) I spent a while contemplating what exactly I had gotten myself into.  On the first really steep uphill kick I am ashamed to admit I briefly thought about how nice it would be to get off and walk. Then I saw someone actually get off their bike and start walking.  I decided to switch to a more positive line of thinking after that.  I did go back and forth with a couple of people along most of the course.  After that first uphill I felt tired but OK for the loop part of the course. The stick is mostly uphill back towards the park.  I was watching the clock at that point trying to make it in under 1:50.  I just made it.

I did drop my first Ucan gel which was a bummer.  My hands where soft from the swim and it just slipped out while I was trying to unscrew the top with my teeth. Next time I’ll unscrew the cap while its still in my bento box so I don’t have to fumble as much.  I pushed eatting my other one out until I hit the halfway point on the bike.  My original plan was one at the start and one at the end.   In retrospect I should have eaten my second one then and gone for my caffeinated Gu right before the run start.

T2 was interesting.  Someone took my spot on the rack which had me flustered and I took too long deciding what to do.  I got my shoes on and then tried to run out the bike in.  A volunteer stopped me before I made it too far.

IMG_7924 I greatly underestimated the run.  The hills where long.  The downhills hurt almost as much as the up, and my knee started bothering me from the bad roads.  I should have eaten something in transition or at one of the first aid stations.  Instead I pounded flat cokes and hoped the sugar and caffeine would work their rocket fuel magic.  Someone from the swim team was out on their bike along the course, and another was manning the aid station at the bottom of the steepest uphill.   I walked a lot more of the course then I wanted to, but its my fault for under training the run.  When I got to the last uphill I knew the tri-club president would be there with his megaphone, so I ran past him.  He caught me walking when I thought I was out of his line of sight.

 

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I was very happy to be finished and I felt pretty awful.  I really need to work on my nutrition, especially making sure I have enough in my tank for the run.  For whatever reason I don’t do a good job of fueling once I get off the bike, and with my slow run times, thats not a good plan.