Monday, May 23, 2011

Rocky Hill Roundup

I have been trying to garner the points necessary to cat up in collegiate, and Rocky Hill was the chance to complete my mission. This was the last TMBRA race of the season, and I wanted to do everything right, but...

We moved into Austin on Thursday. My plan had been to do the crit Thursday, rest Friday, pre-ride Saturday, race Sunday. Thursday I was too exhausted
from moving to do the crit. My brother Josh really wanted to experience the hill known as Ladera Norte so I figured I could go, and just do recovery pace except that hill. I accomplished that mission. And remembered why I love Austin. Next, we planned to pre-ride the race course at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville. I assumed, wrongly, that my Cat 2 course would be two laps of the Cat 3 course. By the time I realized it was one 17 mile lap, we were already at the back of the ranch and there was no turning back. Additionally, it was wet from recent rains, and the last half of the course was new, with clay exposed, and slippery. By the end of the ride I was exhausted. And I had lost my sunglasses the first 2 miles so I had to repeat those... We ended up doing about 20 miles, almost a half marathon.

I needed to get first in my age category to win, or rank in the top 3-5 of the category. I had scoped out the competition that pre-registered in my age group. One of the girls appeared, through previous races, to be on par with a racer who had to cat up to 1s. This latter racer had beat me by a long shot in my first Cat 2 race, by 15 minutes. I knew that I had no chance beating this new chick racing me. She was one race away from being forced to cat up to 1s. Let's call her TSA.

That, combined with my utter exhaustion, made me less than excited about my prospects for doing well. Luckily Josh was in good spirits, and Henri was going to be my soigneur, so I went despite my gloomy forecast.

The rains had stopped, and the course was the perfect amount of dry on Sunday - not too loose, but not muddy. I was stocked full of glycogen and well hydrated (I weighed myself the night before and I weighed SEVEN pounds more than usual... crazy). There were four women in my age group, and we started with the one Cat 2 age 15-18 (who had beaten me by a few minutes at Cedar Hill two weeks prior). Let's call her BSS. We were off, and the BSS and TSA sprinted ahead. My heart rate was near max after only 2 minutes. I passed the first hilly section and realized I had totally dropped the other two women in my age category. That didn't really matter; I still couldn't get upgrade points in 2nd place. But halfway through, I realized that still only 1 woman in the other age groups had passed me. By this point at the other races, there had been numerous. I thought to myself, maybe I can make top three overall for Cat 2? It was the perfect focus I needed for the last half.

At mile 10, there was the water feed. I threw my bottle and grabbed a new one. I tried to drink from it a few seconds later, and dropped it. The lid hadn't been screwed on tightly and ALL the water came out. I was a very sad, sad panda. I got desperately dehydrated about a mile later and just... picked up another rider's half empty bottle and rinsed off the tip. Gross! But I was soooo thirsty. And it was totally worth it. I haven't gotten any strange diseases yet, so hopefully I'm ok.

I had caught up to BSS which gave me more confidence in myself. She was keeping just ahead of me for a long time. I passed her once but then she passed me up a hill. I decided that I would just stay on her tail for a few miles so she had to go fast. Once I thought she was worn out, I sprinted past and went at max effort (ok, more than max effort because during a race I only have an "on" switch) until I was out of her sight.

Then I only had a few miles left. Coming up was "The Wall," and I hadn't ever made it up that hill, even on my pre-ride. There was an announcer at this point, and people had gathered to watch the carnage. Well, I just love a crowd, and I was excited/nervous. I hit the downhill as hard as possible, and had enough momentum to make it up The Wall with some hard cranking. The announcer said "Gig'em Ags!" and "That was smooth!" which was pretty much the best moment of my MTB racing life.
The downhill before the wall

Almost there!

Got it!

I had about 2 miles left to the finish. I felt good. I wanted as many seconds possible on the other Cat 2 riders. I gunned it and "chicked" a few more men (I'm still not sure if they were Cat 2 or Cat 3). It's always fun to see boys who really, really don't want to get passed by a girl. I stay behind them maybe a few seconds longer than I should before I pass them at full speed. ;)

I clocked in at 1 hour 49 minutes. I waited for the results, but I knew I had been beaten in my age group. I only got passed by one other Cat 2 woman though, and I had beat BSS, so I was hoping for the best. I waited by drinking my free cold tasty beverage... I love TMBRA.

I ended up in 3rd place! Which means I can cat up in collegiate, and maybe go to nationals this year. Happiness...


Smiling for the camera man

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cedar Hill MTB Race

The folks in Dallas put on a great MTB race this Saturday in the suburb of Cedar Hill. Tremendous downpours in Texas Wednesday and Thursday threatened the trails, but by Friday evening the parched Texas earth had soaked most of the rain up. Josh and I wanted to go preriding Friday, but with the rains we changed plans and would have to preride Saturday morning.Regarding my motivation for this race: I am trying to cat up to Women's As in collegiate for the fall so I can maybe go to nationals this semester. It's my 3rd year of vet school and the chances that I would have the time next year are slim, so I want to try to do it this year. To cat up in collegiate, basically I need to place 1st (because of the usually small field size) in two TMBRA races.

So, my brother and I wanted to hit the road Saturday morning at 6am to get there by 9 so we could pre-ride. Our perpetually late selves got in the car somehow by 6:10, but then I realized that 3 of my leaky car tires were almost flat. I got out the air compressor and put that on the worst tire, and Josh and I filled up the other two with bike pumps. By 6:30 we were actually on the road. With stops, we ended up in Cedar hill around 10 and were actually riding by 11. At that point I just realized it was me, not Josh starting at 2:30, so I didn't have as much of a break as I would have liked. Luckily it was still cool from all the rain. I had been doing a good job stocking up on carbohydrates and fluids in an effort to not bonk.

Pre-ride Overlook

The course was beautiful. There were tons of steep switchbacks, but they were pretty evenly spaced out, and fast downhills to compensate. There were technical sections but nothing too difficult. The trees were gorgeous and the recent rains had caused various blooms of wildflowers. I tried to take it easy on the preride but I was excited, and probably used a little too much energy than I should have. But it was nice to preride for the first time before a race. The 1 lap preride was 8 miles and I still had 2 laps to go for the race. I knew it would be a test of my energy. Luckily, I did gain a new skill during the preride. I had been reading about climbing skills and tried them out. It's all about getting out of the saddle on steep climbs to put your weight forward. This keeps your front wheel from popping up and gives you more power. Then to keep the back wheel from sliding out, you have to put more effort into your pedal upstroke, making sure to push down with your hand on the same side you're pulling up on with your feet. I was able to climb almost everything on the trail - a huge improvement from what I would have been able to do without learning this new skill.

I had about a 2 hour break between the preride and my race start. Then it was go time. I lined up early and started talking to a chick from team Bicycle Sport Shop that I had never met before. She informed me that the other woman from Cat 2 19-29 had catted up to 1s, and then I realized I was the only woman in Cat 2 19-29 for the race. Instant win! I was halfway to catting up to Collegiate As!

They started me with the two Cat 2 15-18s, and we were the first group in Cat 2 women. I could tell instantly that I was in the middle in terms of speed. After the first 5 minutes, I didn't saw the girl in front of or behind me for the rest of the race. They are incredibly strong for their age! It's heartwarming to see strong independent teenagers. There were 11 women that started after me in the other age categories. About 3 of them passed me on the first lap. I was going strong despite the instant win because I wanted to see how I fared against the other age categories.

I was feeling pretty good the first lap. Then the second lap started, and the Cat 3 men were right behind us. They only had 1 lap, and were sprinting it. I got passed by roughly 10 men in the first few miles of the 2nd lap. It was kind of annoying, especially since many of them were fast but not super experienced, so letting them pass wasn't as efficient, and I lost more time than I wanted to in the process. One guy did pass me efficiently - my brother of course. But then he asked me "Did you get a flat or something?" Be not afraid, honey badger paid him back later. ;)

On top of the Cat 3 men passing, halfway through the 2nd lap, my body was fading fast. The lumbar portion of my back was crying out in pain (I need to get fitted) and my muscles were starting to feel like jelly. I was losing my technical abilities. I had to walk up twice as many hills just because my legs were done. About 3 more Cat 2 women passed me, but this time not as quickly as on the first lap. After the enormous climb at the end, I was finally done!

It was definitely slower the second lap, but I ended up not bombing the second lap quite as badly as I did at Solavaca. I wasn't able to space out my effort as well as I wanted to at Cedar Hill because I forgot to put my HR monitor strap back on after the preride. But I think I did a much better job just based on effort. The first lap (8.5 mi) took 59 minutes and the second lap took 1:05. I'm sure I lost a few minutes on the second lap because I was stopping too much to let the Cat 3 men pass (I should have found a better place to let them pass so I could keep rolling). But I felt like it was an improvement from Solavaca, where I was bonked most of the second lap, and it took me 15 minutes longer than the first lap.

Out of all the Cat 2 women, I placed 8/14. Not bad for my 2nd Cat 2 race! (And I'm currently 4/13 for the season.)Photo courtesy of JWoo Photography

Out of my age division for Cedar Hill, I was 1st (and last) so I got an awesome piece of schwagg: a 900L trail light from trail LED! I have been wanting to do night rides recently so it was perfect timing. Now on to Rocky Hill Roundup next weekend in Smithville, TX!