Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Adventures in Cross...

After Kona I wanted to continue to use all my hard earned fitness.  I signed up for the now annual tradition of the Annapolis 1/2 Marathon and had thoughts of running a full marathon 2 weeks after.  Other small detail, I bought a used Cyclocross bike about a month before Kona.  I went over to Erin's backyard a couple times and practiced riding around in the grass, jumping over things and jumping on and off my bike.  Ready, set, CX!

Silly me, I thought I would pick a few races and test this sport out to see if I liked it.  **News Flash** you can race a couple times every weekend!  I went all in and signed up for 2 races the first weekend after I returned from Kona (2 weeks post IMWC).  When you're used to training for 40 weeks for just one race it's kind of like being a kid in a candy store when you can race 2 times in just one weekend.  I'll admit I wasn't coming into cyclocross completely clueless - I'd been working my ass off on my bike for the past 6 years and went into Kona holding the highest power #s I ever had - so let's just say the fitness base was strong.  Erin saw the posting the my CX bike and Pete made the connection to actually get it which certainly helped all this fall into place.  Erin had been filling me in on tips and tricks each weekend she would race and even coached me through the basics in her backyard (don't ever ask me to dismount while holding the top tube).

Off I went, rolling up to the start line.  It had been a long time since I'd put myself on a line as a total newbie, feeling clueless, excited and terrified all at the same time.  I was literally shaking.  The whistle blew and starting off fast was lost on me.  When I get on the bike at Ironman no one cares how strong that first pedal stroke is and if I can get out to the front off the line (heck there is no line haha).  I can't wait to go back to that course because at the time I found it terrifying.  Steep descents and off camber turns that had me squeezing the brakes and just hoping to stay upright.  Thankfully I did and in the end I had a blast.

The learning curve in this sport for me was steep but I put myself back on the line the next day (on a slightly less terrifying course) and actually felt like I was racing.  I was able to slightly improve my start off the line, carry some speed through some turns and actually race enough to land on the podium.  One of the most fun things throughout the (short) season was my own skills and confidence developing.  With more than enough fitness to race for for 30-40 minutes the great potential improvements for me were in skills and learning to read and pick better lines.  Once I had 5 races under my belt I was able to upgrade to and race in 2 separate fields, if I so desired.  I had so much fun the few times I got to race twice on a course.  I rode faster and more confident in the 2nd race of the day each time.

One of the best parts of this whole adventure into cyclocross was getting to race with friends.  Erin and I haven't raced together since some weird swimming thing way back in the day and though we ride and train together all the time we go our separate ways to race.  Off she goes to kill it at road races and I go on my merry way to triathlon.  We had just a couple races where we got to actually race together and many more to come next year!  The last couple weekends of the CX season we got some more triathletes to test out dirt and wider tires.  Turns out they loved it and hence started #tricross.  We even got SuperSherpa, Pete, to get out a race a couple times!  Don't let him fool you, he's pretty talented on 2 wheels.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the new faces and wonderful ladies I met who were at almost every single race with a smile and words of encouragement.  It was a total breath of fresh air after a very long triathlon season.

Below is a short race report on each CX race that I did this year as there's no way I'd ever get around to writing individual entries for each.

Staging at Biketoberfest

Biketoberfest CX W4/5 (8/18) - This was my first CX race so I will fully admit it probably wasn't as terrible as I remember.  Technical off cambers, steep descents, and a small wooded section.  All I remember from this race is being terrified and pulling the brakes on all the descents and being disappointed that I didn't come to any barriers other than a big log in the woods.  I was literally shaking standing at the start line.  Once the whistle blew the nerves subsided and I just focused on staying upright.  It was a beautiful day and we had a ton of fun hanging out and watching the other races.

Tacchino CX W4/5 (4/12) - This was a fun course with some technical turns and a wooded section.  I was more confident at this race and super excited to actually get to hop barriers.  Had nightmares for days of 'PEDAL JENNY' as she wasn't far behind me and I was getting overly frustrated trying to clip in to my mud laden pedals.  Learned that a lot of bike races for 5 deep on the podium and had a ton of fun at this race.

W4/5 Podium at the Ed Sanders Mud Fest
Ed Sanders W4/5(2/19) - This was fun - albeit a SERIOUS mud pit.  There was nothing too  crazy about this course except it turned to complete mud and we were running tons of it!  Lots of tracks around little lily ponds and what I can only assume are fun off cambers when you aren't running them.  I just focused on moving forward as quickly as possibly (on foot or bike).  I was super surprised to hear I was in 2nd as I was midway through my 2nd lap.  Had an awesome remount fail and I basically flew over the bike, but the mud was soft and I entertained a spectator or two! 

Germantown W4/5 (1/20) - Really really great race for us triathletes - lots of areas to just go fast.  The small up/down section was fun and the woods were great.  I wasn't a huge fan of the log coming out of the woods.  Started learning how to ride those after this race but just ran that section every time.  Took the lead within the first couple minutes and just kept after it.  Rory, Kara and Pete were all there to cheer and we headed out for cider and donuts after.  Best day ever.
W4/5 Podium at Germantown

Rockburn CX W4/5 (1/11)  - This may have been one of the most fun courses of my mini CX season.  A little bit of everything, including a sandpit (the only one I encountered this year), a fun up/down W thing, a couple wooded sections and some screaming descents.  Not too mention meeting some super awesome youngins' from BYC that I'd see at a few other races.

Winchester Applecross W4/5 (1/4) W3/4 (3/10) - HOLY TECHNICAL.  Fun course and event with apple cider, apple butter, fireplace etc.  I just don't even know where to begin other than thank god this wasn't super wet/muddy.  Lots of steap little hills that were run ups, 2 Belgian walls and this weird off camber thing between 2 run ups that turned out to just be faster to run unless you could mount your bike from the right side.   It's one of the further away races from DC so the 8am races didn't draw a huge crowd.  First time racing in the 3/4s and learning some lessons in pedaling despite not being clipped in.

Coming over the barriers in Taneytown

Taneytown (MABRA CX Champs) W4/5 (1/8) W3/4 (2/9) - Another fun course with some fun up/down thing, long grass/gravel sections to really push, and a bit of technical stuff around trees.  Pete, Mom, Rory and Kara all came out as well as Erin and Brian (Erin raced the 3/4).  Racing the 3/4s and just trying to stick with her seemed to work out all right!

Capital Cross W4/5 (2/41) W4 (1/20) - They did a huge push to bring beginners out to this race, which worked!   Tons of Cat 5 men and women came out which was awesome.  Unfortunately, with the size of the men's field starting in front of us it made things a bit more difficult.  Decided to not burn too many matches and not even worry about chasing down 1st since I had another race later in the day.  Way more open space and room to race in the W4 race, which was nice.  A fun course with the chutes, stairs and climbs through the woods.   Super happy to get Pete, Katie, Beckie and Shannon out before the end of CX season at this one!

Bike Doctor CX
Bike Doctor CX @ Red Shedman  W3/4 (2/8) - I warmed up at 7:45am and the course was fun and fast.  Then snow started to fall around 9am.  By the time noon came around for my race it was slick and I knew it would be a race of who could manage it better.  Well managing mud, snow and slick conditions don't seem to be my strong point.  I took a turn too hard warming up
and hit the ground pretty hard.  I know this made me a bit skidish going into the race.  Enough open space and climbing in this race to let me use my fitness to chase down some others.  Cool location at a brewery and probably really fun it it isn't freezing and snowing all day!

Bikenetic CX W3/4 (5/17) - Super fun course and last race of the local season.  This year it turned to a snowy muddy mess yet somehow still managed to be fun.  As I stated above managing mud and slick conditions are not my strong point.  Started out well but fell back in the field as we hit some of the muddier areas of the course. I Was surprised to see that I held on for a podium spot.

Welcome to Prime Time ;)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

A classic - everything about it.  Classic Eagleman temps, winds, humidity, etc.  My training came along well after White Lake and I was feeling pretty good going into Eagleman.

Pre-Race - Friday
Heather and I headed out to Cambridge Friday afternoon and took care of all the pre-race jazz.  We opted to book a local hotel rather than stick to our original plan of camping, which I'm super glad that we did.  I think everyone involved was much more comfortable in the hotel rather than the alternative.  We hit up a local hot spot, Jimmy and Sooks, for dinner before calling it a night.

Pre-Race Saturday
A short ride/run with Heather on the course and BIG breakfast at Cambridge Diner were really the highlights here.  More pre-race shenanigans - like Heather fashioning the longest straw I've ever seen out of some rubber hose she got at the expo and a sing along party.  Super Sherpa, Pete, had arrived Friday night and was along for much of the fun Saturday.  Once bikes were racked and we were settled in we ate dinner in the hotel room and fell asleep to Titanic.  The laughs and fun I had with these 2 kept the feeling light and the stress at bay, which was so nice!

The Swim - 37:42 - 1.2 Miles
Wetsuit legal and I felt pretty good about my swimming going into this.  I knew I didn't need a fantastic swim just a decent swim.  I got into a rhythm rather quickly and was sighting well.  On the
2nd leg of the swim (After the first turn buoy) we were swimming directly into the sun.  It wasn't too bad, except you couldn't really tell what colors the buoys were until you were right at them.  I kid you not, more than 1/2 the field turned a buoy early on this leg.  I continued swimming to the proper turn buoy in hopes the course cutters would be sent back (which it doesn't seem they were).  I came out of the water with Ellen and zipped into T1.

T1 - 3:21
Nothing special here - wetsuit off, helmet/sunglasses and shoes on.  Go time.

The Bike - 2:30:16 - 56 Miles
Felt really good and temps were fair for the first 90 minutes.  Got into a strong rhythm and was loving riding one of my favorite courses.  Being a younger female the heat can hit us hard on the bike since we are one of the last waves to start the swim.  And oh did the heat hit us hard.  A bit past the 1/2 point I started to tell that I was cooking but went with my gut and kept my effort steady and strong.  I made quite a few passes and knew that I was on pace to go sub 2:30.  Well, not when there's a no passing zone and messy bike traffic a few miles from transition.  I had to let sub 2:30 go in order to not burn anymore matches.

T2 - 3:03
Quickly in and out.

The Run - 1:56:50
Felt good heading out to run.  Was told I was in 1st off the bike - my reaction a laugh and ha let's see if I can hold it.  I've never raced exceptionally well in the heat, 60s and rainy tends to be more my jam.  I kept the fluids coming in and stuck to my nutrition plan.  The inevitable started happening on
mile 3 - ladies seemingly flying past me from my AG.  The heat was melting me and all I could do was hold on the best I could.  I tried to get the pace back and it took until about mile 11 to bring it down again.  I ran a bit with another woman headed to Kona and she fired me up to finish strong.  I was able to get to the line just in time to hold onto a podium finish.

I have a love-hate relationship with this course.  I love the town, I love the course itself and that I can train on it but it's oh so much better when the temps are at least bearable.  It's pretty much a home-town race for DC Tri and there is tons of support in the crowds and amongst fellow racers, which you don't get at many other M-dot events.  The swim here is never fast, but it's not fast for anyone so it's fine.  I'll probably find myself at this race again at some point...not sure how soon.  It's hard to subject yourself to conditions you know your body doesn't thrive in year after year.