Monday, December 19, 2011

Mud, 2nd trashed derailleur of season & rides

(Photo credit: Melissa Kelly)

Saturday was the Afterglow CX race. It was odd to go to a Chicago CX race & not be doing registration. I had the luxury of sleeping in until after 7:30, when I was woken up by Christopher. = )

I did not get to do this race last year. I had gotten the doc's okay to be on the bike but not race CX yet; so, I rode at Palos. The course was great. Some climbs but sand, cornering, mud and fun.

I lined up and started like crap, which has been a trend this year. I was then starting to do quite good for me and was going back and forth with some ladies but kept making stupid falls in front of Kristina Young. After the second dumb crash/fall in the sand, Kristina ran into the back of me. Soon after, I realized that my rear derailleur was screwed up. If I tried going into easier gears, it started acting not happy and I knew I was in danger of a major mechanical. I kept contemplating switching to my pit bike but opted to mash the harder gears. A.) I figured the disc brakes had an advantage on the course. B.) My pit bike has bad toe overlap which would definitely be a disadvantage on that course. And, C.) Last time I rode the Trek, the brakes were barely working. Tom had adjusted them but I had not had a chance to ride it since then -- meaning, the brakes could be working perfectly OR the brakes could not be working at all.

I soon lost a few spots and finished 16th out of 20. Could I have beat a few other ladies? Possibly but not swapping was a good decision. After the race, I noticed that my bike had a lot less mud build up than ones without disc brakes. I also rode the Trek after the race -- the brakes still definitely needed tweaking so that would not have been good.

It was depressing to get the mechanical but great to start to feel like I was racing well again -- even if it was only for part of the race.

On a good note, Tom found a shop on the way home -- Kozy's -- that had the derailleur hanger. I was able to buy 2 so I have a spare. On a bad note, this is the second race this year that has killed a derailleur hanger on my bikes, with the other being the USGP when I had to run my bike for more than half a lap to come in at 40th place.

I didn't stick around to cheer so I could get to Kozy's. On Sunday, I had the prospect of not having to get up early to go to a CX race. I thought briefly about sleeping in but the chance to ride my mountain bike won out. I set the alarm for 7 a.m. (which was not terribly early, at least) so I could get in a ride at Palos before the trails thawed. It had been way too long since I was on my 29er. It was a mellow ride but a lot of fun. I also had perfect timing. On my last bit of single track, some mud was just beginning to stick to my tires.

The decision of the day is whether to sign up for Worlds. I found out this morning that the registration fees go up tonight.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cold, CX & my Crux

This weekend were the Badger CX races in Verona. Saturday was brutally cold. When I got there it felt like 12 degrees. It felt like 8 degrees at the time of my race. The course was bumpy, bumpy, bumpy. My hand was not happy and the bumps made some of the turns very difficult.

The course has been described elsewhere, such as The Bonebell, in greater detail so I won't give a big description here. There were quite a few aspects that did not make it particularly suited for me -- namely there were two climbs, a run-up and a couple paved power sections. However, there was also some tight turns, dirt and/or rutted downhills & a sand pit. I prerode and warmed up with multiple layers including gloves with mittens over them. My fingers were numb for a bit of the race but, otherwise, I was okay temperature-wise. There were 10 of us at the line. It wasn't a great race for me. I managed to get ahead of some girls and then they would power past me or run past me on the climb. I was 9th, with Melissa unfortunately dropping out after a crash in the sand drew blood.

Sunday, I was hoping for a better performance from myself. The course was mostly the same. A few of the corners had been tweaked. The big change was a longer sand pit with a turn. I was psyched about the longer sand pit. My start was not horrible but definitely not good either. Again, I would get past a girl, only to be passed on a climb, run-up or power section. I ended up 8th out of 9. I had been hoping to reel in the 7th place girl and then almost ate it on the run-up. I avoided going face-first into the stairs but lost time. Still, I felt faster/stronger out there and managed to beat a woman who I have never beaten before, which was a personal victory.

I still don't feel like I'm at my A game and can hopefully still gain some more fitness by nationals. I keep going back and forth on Louisville from "definitely not doing it" to "possibly."

While I may not be at my A game, the bike is. The disc brakes were not essential but great to have. And, with the new PSIMET tubulars, it was not that noticeable of a weight penalty. I know I have said this before, but the geometry of the bike is great for me. In particular, I noticed it during the run-up this weekend. I can actually shoulder the bike and run. With the Trek, I could not grab the handlebars while shouldering and the seat would usually smack me in the head. The bike fit is in good form; now, I just need the motor to get there. I still have to experiment a bit with the tire pressure as well. I think I had it a little too soft on Saturday & I may have had it a twinge too high on Sunday.

Saturday is the Afterglow. I'm psyched. Last year, I had just gotten the okay to ride outside but not the okay to race CX yet. So, instead of going to the Afterglow, I rode at Palos -- still a great way to spend a day on the bike. = )

Monday, December 5, 2011


(Photo courtesy of Amy Dykema.)

Sunday was the last CX race in the Chicago series. It is always awesome. I was bummed to not be able to race last year and so excited that I could do the last race in the series. So excited that I decided to race four times. I preregistered for the 30+, Women's 123 and 4B races. When I started volunteering at registration, I started a 4A wait list with my name on it and snagged the first DNS spot.

It was actually above 50 degrees in the morning, which was incredible and wonderful for a December race. I squeezed in one lap but was, otherwise, at registration until lining up for the 30+ race. The course had a gazillion sand pits, tight turns, a short muddy hike-up and climbing up the sled hill. It was mainly a good course for me -- except the sled hill climb and short run up. My hand was not happy with the bumpiness of the course but is very close to 100%.

The 30+ was really just a warm-up for the women's race. I definitely warmed up and wasn't last. I ended up 16th out of 21 (with 1 DNF) in the women's race. I think I could have snagged 15th if we had another lap. It wasn't an awesome performance but definitely good considering my time away with my broken hand.

After the first two races, I was back at registration until I lined up for the 4A race. The temperature had dropped 15-20 degrees. I decided to race with my heavy jersey underneath my PSIMET jersey and definitely was too warm. It's easy to forget how much body heat you generate doing a CX race.

I had decided beforehand to use the 30+ as a warm-up/pre-ride, race my butt off in the women's race & then have fun for the 4A & 4B. So, I did race. But, I also did stop several times for $ hand-ups. With my gloves I quickly found out that it is really hard to grab money while riding. So, I stopped and, at times, backed up to collect $. I ended up with $4 from the 4A & $8 from the 4B. Since I volunteered, I only had to pay $5 to race which meant I ended up $7 ahead. For the 4B race, I actually ended up in 52nd place.

(Photo courtesy of Amy Dykema.)
I felt fine afterwards but was exhausted by the time I got home. My body is definitely sore today.

The new bike & the new tires/wheels are totally awesome. I had several people tell me how hot my bike is. = )

Next on tap is Badger CX, which I had preregistered for before I broke my hand. I'll likely do the Afterglow as well. Nationals reg rates go up at the end of the week so I'll have to try to figure out what I plan to do. I'll likely reg for the age group race, which is Friday afternoon. The B race is early Wednesday morning and I'd likely have to drive up that day so I'm still going back and forth. I'm at 27 CX races for the year. I love, love, love CX.

(Thanks to Ronit Bezalel for making me appear fast.)