Tuesday, November 15, 2011

evidence of participation, PIR/Pro Paddock

Erinne, extreme toughness personified (It's the socks. It has to be.), in classic black-and-white; and me later on at the same spot on the course, in shocking, contemporary color (my, that safety orange IS bright, isn't it?).
There was only one set of barriers at Sunday's race. What's happening to 'cross, people? Now that I've spent so much time working on barriers and they are so clearly a part of my cyclocross destiny, it's time to bring back the Six-Pack! (Are you listening, Brad Ross?)

Photos by teammate Klaus "the Punisher" Ochs. Thanks, Klaus!

Monday, November 14, 2011

racing cyclocross: what it looks like

For the benefit of my friends who don't race or ride off-road much, here's a video of the PIR Pro Paddock course, shot during the opening lap of the Mens' B race yesterday. Taken with a GoPro camera strapped to Matt Westermeyer's handlebar. Thanks, Matt!

Along the way you'll note a few uphill and downhill sections, and stretches where the mud gets deep and mucky. Towards the last third the course gets a bit twisty and turny and lots of fun. (One note: where the guys dismount and run their bikes up and through an opened chainlink gate, they are riding the rhythm section on the moto track, a especially muddy part of the course that was closed to the combined womens' classes because of the inclusion of junior women in our race. So the A's got to race it, and the Mens' B's got to race it, but not me. Waaaaaah!)

This is pretty much what it looks like when I race, except that Matt's twitchy fingers are shifting -- a lot, IMHO -- and when I ride there is only pedaling harder to go faster.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/PIR Pro Paddock

Today was my last race of the year. It was a very good way to end my season.

The rains of yesterday delivered the mud we'd waited for all season. It wasn'y especially wet or gloppy, and I didn't get a whole ton of it on me or my bike; but it was thick and deep enough in spots to slow everyone down and force many off their bikes on runups most could've ridden in dry weather and so it was good enough.

The course was a modified -- some said watered down -- version of the USGP courses I'd raced the last two seasons. Mercifully, the long opening/finishing straight was chopped into two shorter sections that each led racers back onto the grass and mud in between. I jogged up the run-ups. I suitcased over the one paltry set of barriers near the end of the lap. I managed to keep my bike upright the entire time without crashing -- though I came close a couple of times and actually had to manual my rear wheel onto another line in the mud to regain some traction through a tight corner. My bike handling feels like it has improved a bit each year and I've enjoyed growing with the process.

Bonus: I got the dollar hand-up on my final lap! Yup. Someone stole one of the course marker cones, stuck it in the middle of the course on a tight, muddy turn where everyone was forced to slow way down, and stuffed not one, but three dollar bills in the top. I was so slowed on that corner I nearly stopped, and grabbed the money as I did so. My first ever successful dollar handup. Yesssss!

I finished DFL -- a recurring theme in my season this year, as I never finished out of last place even once, in either discipline -- but I felt stronger and more able to ride up things I know I would've walked up last year. Between that and the number of racing friends who've commented on my weight loss, I know that my work in the weight room has paid off and I will go right back to it later this week. It felt good, exciting even, to feel stronger this year!

This was also Stompy's final cyclocross race. While I will probably race Stompy again next summer in short track -- it's an excellent bike, a nimble climber and great in corners -- for cyclocross it's a virutal boat anchor and I've decided to fiinally upgrade for 2012. I'll be transitioning to a 700c-wheeled bike, built around a Redline Conquest Singlespeed CX frameset. I am hoping the considerably lighter bike will make it easier for me to manage the roadie-centric 'cross courses next fall.

I finished strong, and managed to eke out four laps on a muddy course that confounded some of the roadies and made the mountain bikers grin with delight.

I enjoyed a post-race dinner with friends from Team Slow, Crank and other corners of the race scene. Mielle tried to guilt-trip me about skipping OBRA Champs but failed. Ed wants to get together with me in the early spring to scope out the new pump track that's going in out in mid-county; he wants more off-road time before short-track starts. I rode to and from the restaurant on tired but strong legs, reveling in the motion of the cranks turning and the cold, damp night air as I sped home.

Out of 14 races entered this year I had one DNF (due to asthma and fatigue). I am pleased to have seen some improvement -- maybe not perceptible to anyone watching me, since I still finished dead effing last -- but noticeable to me, and that will have to be good enough. I feel ready for a break, and not terribly sorry to be missing OBRA State CX championships or Kruger's next weekend. It has been a very good season.

Friday, November 11, 2011

hype of the week: 1982 crossmen

For my final pre-race hype of 2011, I decided to go big. Here's the 1982 Crossmen doing their closer, Russian Christmas Music. Not much to say other than this is good, solid, kick-ass drum corps at it's hair-parting, cement-cracking best. The gorgeous drill (movement) at 1:46 is worth the price of admission alone. Enjoy the hype, and thanks for watching.

Final race of the year for me will be this Sunday at PIR, on the Pro Paddock course used by previous years' USGP and US Cyclocross Championships. Women race at 2:15. If you're in town come check out what will likely be the muddiest race of the series, because it's actually going to rain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sunday's forecast

Forecast for Portland, Oregon - Sunday, November 13:

Showers throughout the day. High of 49F, Low of 41F.

We may finally have honest to goodness mud on the race course.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

repeat after me

repeat after me

(As seen at 21st Avenue Bicycles, Portland)

Monday, November 7, 2011

evidence of my participation: barton park

1 & 2. On the gravel turn:

3. The drop-down (whoopee!)

4. The main run-up (Teammate Erinne can be seen in the middle of the photo: blue helmet, red hair):

Photos courtesy of teammate Klaus (thank you!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

race report: cross crusade 2011/Barton Park

I skipped this race last year due to a scheduling conflict. I was bummed because it had poured all day and there was tons of beautiful, gloppy mud. Oregon Public Broadcasting had sent out a film crew and shot a video of the race for a story on Oregon Field Guide. It had been an epic day of Oregon cyclocross, and I had missed it. I was determined not to miss Barton again.

What went wrong:

1. The weather. It was -- say it with me, this is becoming a trend for the 2011 cyclocross season -- sunny and dry all day. It had rained the day before, which mean that several short sections of the course were muddy, and there were even a few bonafide muddy pddles here and there; but much of the course had turned tacky by 2:15 and became yet another cyclocross course that favored the roadies. A good chunk of the backside of the course was paved, which for me was a waste of time and energy. Why do cyclocross courses have so much pavement?

2. I did not warm up enough. Between trying to find folks who came to watch me race and make sure they knew where to go, and having to take a few too many bathroom stops in the last hour before my race (I know it's important to hydrate but I may have gone overboard), I had too short a warm-up time. Add to that no good place to go and do hot-laps without being out of earshot of the annoucer, and I was not sufficiently warmed up when we staged up. My fault, and I owned it, and I felt it during the race -- especially on the run-ups, which were steep and rocky. I could not even make a pretense of trying to jog up these things, it was all I could do to walk up them without tilting backwards and falling back down the hill again. Ugh.

3. This one is hard to understand, predict or gauge, but I was out of breath today and had to stop twice to take a huff from my inhaler. Remarklably, while I was stopped another woman saw me pull of the course and reach for my inhaler, then pulled up alongside me and did the same thing. We agreed that the makers of Albuterol should co-sponsor a cyclocross race, since apparently so many Oregonians suffer from allergy-induced asthma. We wished each other well and carried on. I wondered why today it was harder for me to catch my breath, when things had gome so easily at Hillsboro -- a day with similar weather, though several degrees warmer-- and I hadn't needed my inhaler at all.

What went right:

1. Even with the roadie-heavy conditions, the great equalizers -- the little whoopdee in the trees and the big drop-down in the mud -- were back, and I rejoiced. Both were simply too much fun to be so short, and I was very sorry I couldn't take another lap before I'd run out of time. They also distinguished the roadies from the mountain bikers. I was thrilled with the lime that racers before me had established -- right down the middle, with less of an off-camber and more steep -- and took it every time, feathering my rear brake at the bottom to avoid hitting the tape and crashing in the gravel. I love the drop-down and hope it remains a feature of this course forever. Nearly four hours after my race I am still smiling from the memory of the drop-down, it was that wonderful.

2. In spots where the mud got thick, I passed roadies at least three different times. I rejoiced, even as I remembered my manners and told them which side I would pass them on. I love my bike and I love my tires. (And yet, even as I write this, the boys from Crank (who were my ride today -- thank you!) were working on me, trying to convince me to switch to a 700c-wheeled singlespeed cross bike for next year. I admit that the prospect of racing on an aluminum frame (with -- gasp! -- a carbon fork!) would appeal to me for the weight savings. And yet, there are other concerns. I promised I'd at least think about it.)

3. I remembered to look farther ahead on the course in the turns and handled the thin lines through the gravel better than expected, faster and more confidently, and when I spun out because of my mud-centric, too-low-for-pavement gearing, I didn't lose my cool. I just tucked down, coasted for a bit, then resumed pedaling again until I could get to a short, punchy incline and floor it.

4. Sweetie, my Big Sister and my youngest niece all came out to watch me race. My niece hadn't seen a cyclocross race before and was duly impressed. Big Sister enjoyed watching me do crazy things and always likes visiting Barton Park because it's a lovely drive to a lovely locale. They both enjoyed watching me race and cheering me on. Sweetie screamed bloody murder ("Go Slow!") as I passed her at the top of the drop-in and again when I crested the main run-up every lap. I also heard a few cheers along the course from fellow racers who recognized either me, my team kit or my bike (Stompy is asking for his own Facebook page. I keep saying no). Believe me, when people are screaming for you and urging you on it really does make you race stronger. It was also nice that they could stick around and hang with me afterwards while I changed clothes and we watched some of the Mens' B/Singlespeed race together. They marveled (!!?) at the new, glam skinsuits the boys from Crank were wearing. (I hope there will be pictures soon.)

Teammate report: Erinne finished 16th out of a whole bunch of B Women, in spite of racing on a too-big borrowed bike and crashing badly enough to tear up her knees. She's a [bleep]ing goddess, so fast and insanely gutsy. Chris R. was scheduled to race in the Singlespeed race and I'd seen him early in the day with his racing bike, but I never saw him on the course. I didn't find his name in the posted results so I'm not sure what happened (I hope he's ok).

I finished 20th out of 20 racers, and managed three full laps. I finished only five seconds behind the next woman in my category and she was riding a geared bike. Does this make me want to ride a geared bike next year? No, it just makes me want to think about a lighter singlespeed bike. Certainly, bad warm-up and sucky run-ups aside, I have noticed that my legs are definitely stronger this year when I'm climbing those short, punchy inclines, more than enough proof that my weight work last winter and spring paid off. I'll be doing it again this year for sure.

Home now. Feeling sort of mellow, slow and happy, enjoying the post-embrocation tingle in my tired legs (my knees don't hurt this week! Yay!) and the overall feeling of that sweet, gentle, post-race fatigue. I expect to sleep well tonight. I didn't get too many photos, but they'll eventually show up at my Flickr page. If any pictures of me materialze I'll post them here.

My final race of the cyclocross season -- and the year -- is next Sunday. Cross Crusade returns to PIR for the second time this season, this time using the Pro Paddock course that has seen so much use for US Gran Prix (2007-2010) and even a National Championship (2003 or 4). It's not an ideal course for singlespeeders but racing the moto course will be fun, especially if it gets muddy. I am praying for rain.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

hype of the week: "F" drum line

Okay. So my life this week is jam-packed with stuff. Lots to do. Tons of meetings, teaching, music and more. So while I'm looking forward to racing this weekend, it's not the only thing on my plate and I sort of have to cram it into an otherwise action-packed life.

In honor of this reality, I've selected an interesting -- and short! -- drum line video. Nothing fancy or outrageous here, just some good, reasonably clean corps-style drumming. Drumline is unknown, (for some reason the "F" on the jackets is making me think i'ts a school or college line rather than an independent drum corps) but apparently appeared in a Keith Urban video last year and shot this little bit as preparation for that. Some nice visuals that really break down the parts of the battery (snares, tenors, basses, a few cymbal shots though they're not really doing anything special).
I just figured it would be a good idea to strip things down to the most basic this week, before posting the final Hype of the year next week. So today we're getting elemental. Nothing but good beats. Enjoy.