Sunday, December 12, 2010

US Cyclocross Nationals - Bend, OR

After the USGP in Portland I was able to hang out a bit before heading off to the next race. Got a nice non rainy ride in with Sue one day and then it was back at it as I made my way toward Bend, OR for US Cyclcoross Nationals.

The lead up to that race was VERY different than I am accustomed to travel wise. I kind of let the ball bounce where it wanted to and let go of the reins a bit. This was probably a real first for me in my whole career. I usually am super self sufficient and book hotels, cars and all the rest far in advance and will do so sometimes just as back up in case something doesn't work out. But not this time! This time I rolled with it, getting a ride to Bend, not knowing as I was making my way there where I was staying and even how I was going to get around once I was dropped off by my lonesome (the rest of the team was coming in on Thursday). It was an interesting experiment for me and everything turned out just fine as I lived to tell the tale. I can't believe now looking back at it all that I wasn't a little more concerned about where I was going to be sleeping that night in Bend as I was making my way there. But it was all fine!

Once in Bend Shannon, Kenny and I road to the TT course from their host housing then we road the (TT) course itself. It was a good ride but we had to get back ASAP because it was going to be dark soon!! So what did we do? We went the complete and toal wrong way home getting "lost" on our bikes in the dark, cold snowy and sometimes icy conditions. Ah heck yeah, that is certainly the way you want to prepare for nats! Hahaha. Our 45 min quick ride turned into hours. It was a mini epic ride. We almost called a cab but figured it was better to keep moving because the temp was dropping fast. It was actually pretty fun but just slightly chilly and perhaps a bit dangerous at times too!!!!

The reason I got to Bend early was that I thought I may do the Masters race on Thursday (Time Trial for call up purposes) and Friday (the actual race) along with the Elite race on Sunday but my body had other plans. By the time Wednesday came I still had no idea if I wanted to really do the TT and the Friday race and I was really struggling with the decision. Something was holding me back and that was that I was thinking I really wanted to put all my eggs in one basket and really go for it on Sunday in the Elite race. But I was already there, signed up for the races and blah blah blah so at bedtime the night before the required TT I asked for a sign if I should race or not.

And....I woke up with a soar throat that very next morning. Ask and you shall receive I suppose. Yikes.

So problem solved Masters race for me but new problem created....don't need a full blown head cold before Sunday now do I? Oh brother, now what?

Guess I just lay low. I had told myself adamantly that I will NOT get sick. I can't and I won't. I told myself that after the race I can get as sick as I wanted but not until then. I was really dead set on this too. I gave my body no option and went nowhere which really sucked since I wasn't full blown sick and there were plenty of parties going on. Instead, I took a day off then road the course the next day and because the course wasn't easy to spin I put out some effort to do so and woke up Saturday with even more of a sore throat (but not full blown one yet). Great. I nursed my body again the rest of that day still getting on the bike but not doing anything too crazy. I was treading the thin thin line of completely overdoing things and showing up on Sunday with a head cold now!!

Racing with a head cold is doable but so is racing with a fracture right? Its not something you really want to do if at all avoidable and I was doing everything I could to avoid it including downing my new favorite tea discovered at our host family's house, Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. Yep, they got everyone hooked to that. So much so that I couldn't even find it at the Newport Market (the best market ever - a must go!) anymore!!

But it all worked. I woke up Sunday not even thinking about how I had been feeling the last few days, got to the venue and started warming up. I was already in the zone. SWEET.

This was looking to be one of the nicest days yet this week for racing too. Temps were in the 40's and the course was still sloppy in areas (see pic)...

...wet boggy grass in others (see pic)

...and of course there was still the massive mud puddle (it was a lake earlier in the week) that we got to ride through just ensuring that you got totally wet during your race.

Some of the course was even tacky!

In addition to that there was a flyover that you got to ride up, over...

...and back down.

There was also a set of barriers (of course!) and that was followed by a "Get in your pedals now and go as hard as you can section" in order to get up and over the steep hill that immediately followed. That hill took everything to get up it each time. You HAD to be in the correct gear before you went through the barriers. Just one of those Little extra things you must think about in your race while pinned. Lovely!

Before the race, the women lined up on the line 8 across and well over 10 rows deep. I was the start of the third row as you are called up by your UCI ranking, which of course depends on how many races you did that year, how well you did or maybe how well you hit those races knowing that no one was going to be there and you could clean house. It's all about the points. This year I didn't go points crazy like I have in years past. I did what I wanted to do and kept it at that. If you are strong enough, you will prevail although it will take extra work and determination and maybe even some extra risk taking to get there.

I got my call up and took my calculated position on the line and I was ready. I got a great warm up in, and I was soooooo excited about the course that I could hardly wait to race. I was ready to rock.

Here is the 3min version video of the race where you can see all the conditions out there.

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The whistle blew and the mayhem of 100 plus women all wanting the best possible outcome at the end of the fast and furious 40minutes started their race. We all sprinted up the pavement and all rounded the corner hitting the downward muddy straightaway in mass.

I was able to start escaping at that point and was around 12th after the pits, halfway through the lap. I wasn't worried as I just pressed on. The confidence has been with me this whole season and it has been such a wonder!!! It is amazing how much more you relax when you know you are capable of something, your bike is working, your body is working and everything is just flowing at that moment. What a great feeling.

I continued to chomp away at the field making my way towards the front and eventually up to 3rd place! That was short lived though as, Meredith, who would eventually take 3rd that day had no intentions of letting me stay there. She is right behind me in this picture getting ready to make her move with a few laps to go.

Once she got through the fireworks really started happening as our team of 3 Hudz-Vista Subaru riders (me, Sue and Nicole) all came together.

This was a good thing because we are teammates but its also a bad thing. You do the math. 1st - 3rd were up ahead and then there was us three. ONE of our team members would not make the podium. Ugg.

It was time to be smart, be calculated and to not let anything hold you back. We all wanted the podium....and bad. You wouldn't believe how bad I wanted it. I was so determined that I told myself that it will happen and to just let it play out. I had no ultimate plan to attack here or to attack there...yet. I just went and watched for the moment. The 3 of us traded places leading, attacking each other, and just plane taking blows at each other for the remainder of the race. It was downright dare I say, fun as we were letting each other have it.

And with not even a minute or two left in the race, everything came apart. Nicole was first up and over the flyover with me behind her and then Sue. We were all slightly separated at that point but not by more than a few seconds. The race was coming to a close. We just needed to get over the flyover, through some boggy grass, a set a stairs, an off camber muddy rutted corner until we hit the pavement straight to the finish line. There wasn't much time!

And it was right after the flyover that Nicole hit the deck and that is when I knew it was "Go time". Pin it to win it. I am taking off here around the corner as Nicole tries to remount and Sue is closing in behind us both!

I get through the boggy section and up the stairs......barely.... and Sue is now right behind me seeing her opportunity to snag and pass me. She takes that opportunity right before the off camber mud section and is now in front of me. I bomb through that section, no brakes in order not to let her go. We were going to be in a perfect position to sprint each other now as we rounded that final corner to the straight when all of the sudden I see her look back and hesitate for 0.3 seconds. And I was faced with another pin it to win it moment. And I did, coming across the line in 4th!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sue then came across the line right behind me for 5th and Nicole 6th.

What a (good!!) day at the office for us all. That was one of the most exciting races that I have been involved with this year.

Sue giving me a big hug at the end of our race.

Post Race interview:

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The Elite Women's National Cyclocross Podium (me, Georgia Gould, Katie Compton, Meredith Miller, Sue Butler)

Afterwards before heading back to Portland and then finally home the next day our team got together and (Sue and I) had a big ole burger and beer at the Deschutes Brewery.

A GREAT job well done to all!!!

(Our team at Nationals, clockwise: Jake Wells-23rd Elite Men, Jon Baker-Masters 35-39 National Champion, Nicole Duke-Masters 35-39 National Champion , Matt Pacocha - Masters 30-34 National Champion and 21st Elite Men, Sue Butler -5th place Elite Women, Tom Hopper - our trusty team mechanic and me with the uh.....devil eyes)

What a downright fun season!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

USGPCX #8 - Portland, OR

It's funny how a mere 22 hours can change everything about your racing....thank heavens. Today I felt GREAT. It was such a better day than yesterday. Yesterday I had the mental fire but seemed to not have the legs to back it up and today I had both. Oh joy! That can make for some super fun racing when it all comes together like that. The confidence comes through and life is good!

It's amazing how strong everyone is right now. Everyone is getting ready for US nationals next week in Bend which means most people are trying to peak around now......and it shows. Suddenly there are 20 people in front of me in the first turn instead of around 10. That can be mind boggling 1 min into your race thinking that maybe you are going well but luckily I never had that thought! The confidence was there and I knew it so I just kept calm and steady and passed when appropriate.

Overall the course was the same, it had dried out a little bit and the wind was howling. The thick mud was now fudgey where you would ride thru it and the line would stay there. The back section of berms was getting pressed out and seemed to have more but deeper lines in them. They would throw your bike a little but that made it fun! There were still power boggy sections through grass and such but overall a dryer course and luckily my body was ready for it.

I simply stayed on the gas and was determined today. I even fell and slipped (see knee above) losing a few spots but I didn't let that affect anything as I chomped my way back thru the girls that took advantage of my fall. Kind of annoying that I did that but oh well. I decided early on I wasn't giving anything away today and that people would need to earn their spots so I kept on it.

I was super aggressive in the corners taking inside lines that were less traveled and more risky. But you gotta do what you gotta do to get up there and today I was confident enough and willing to really bank everything on my skills in those corners. And it worked. I gained seconds in each corner and made my way up to 6th in the end!!

This was the final USGPCX to be contested this season and my 6th place finish put me in 5th Overall for the USPGCX Series. Given that I had no idea how this season was going to turn out after having miss all of last season racing against the nations best, I am pretty darn happy!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

USGPCX #7 - Portland, OR

I got to Portland safe and sound and the weather was unseasonably shall we say.....nice. The course was pretty boggy thick with mud in sections. Half of the course was tacky and the other half not so much. But either way it was a blast because the mud made it so technical on that other side of the course. Mud ruts were forming (my favorite!!!!) and I was gonna have a blast on that techy side. Or so I thought......

Had my body not felt like it had shut down from not racing (GASP!!) a whole 2 weekends in a row I would have had extreme fun on that backside instead of just some fun. And actually I know what "shut down" feels like for me and really I wasn't quite in that particular pain cave but I was indeed in this one which was a step better:

The pain cave really speaking its mind

I honestly don't think I have worked that hard for 8th place in a while. OUCHEE - MAMA. This realization started to hit me about 2 laps in. I was like "Wow, I really am not feeling the love right now." Not something that you want to find yourself saying mid race either and usually I am really good and nipping those thoughts in the bud but this was hard to not truly realize! But that's when you REALLY do need to step in and mix those thoughts around to play mind games on yourself to get you thru.

And at that same moment of realization that I was hurting, I by accident got a look back and saw that only 4 bike lengths behind me there was a train of 6-7 girls sitting on each other. Where'd they come from!?And there I was in never never land all by my lonesome.

The thought then was "Catch or Be Caught and to go like hell". Had those women caught me I would have been effectively been in no better position than the last girl in that group which was around 15th and I was going to do everything it took, EVERYTHING to stay away by what small gap I had already formed on them. God that was painful and hard mentally too.

I also thought I was going to puke mid race and actually thought I might have to stop mid race to do so. I raced my heart out, somehow broke the group behind me, passed a few women and came in 8th at the end. And this is just what it felt like that whole 40 minutes. Eeeek gad.

And in proper fashion for this cyclocross season, I crossed the finish line and started barfing. This time though, it really didn't feel relieving as it always has, instead it felt pretty yucky. Just par for the course I guess.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Santa Barbara

Because I hadn't travelled every single weekend the last 5 weeks to WA, KY, CO, CA and back to CO, we decided to head to Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving. I mean really, do you have a house to live in? I think that may be over rated, plus we have super good friends, Kristin and Eric who live in SB and we love seeing them!!

As if the company, the weather and everything else wasn't already great in SB, on one of my training rides I saw a baby bobcat! I was cruising along on my cross bike on some trails when all of the sudden this what I thought was massive house cat started running down the trail in front of me. Then I figured out that is no massive house cat! That's a bobcat!

And upon acknowledging that fact, within a blink of an eye I had dismounted, turned the bike and heading away from the bobcat. I went the other way to the street and to my surprise when I looked back up at the trail he had been on, he was still on it, only further down now and stalking out his meal. It was amazing to see all that especially in a local Santa Barbara and very populated neighborhood!

The training over the week was great though and getting away allowing the body to recoup some was a nice benefit although during the car ride on the way out my legs thought differently. On the way out my legs were not happy campers. They were achy and fussy and it felt like I had restless leg syndrome while my hubby drove. I was a squirmy mess the whole way which I have never experienced. It was all the racing and travel I am sure of it. Luckily there is a GREAT massage therapist in Santa Barbara who has tons of experience working with Pro Cyclists and he got me in. That did wonders as I was a new person the next day.

Santa Barbara was a blast but immediately upon the close of our quick vacation I had a few days to turn it all around and head up to Portland and Bend, OR for the next 11 days for the final races of the series and year.

A view of the Pacific Ocean out of SB