Sunday, September 23, 2012

Victor Apple Farm Cyclocross

After my first cyclocross race in Ellison Park, I was hooked. So even though my cx buddy, Ari, was out of town last weekend, I decided to do the Victor Apple Farm 'cross race all by my lonesome. It was awesome because the race started at NOON and it was only 20 mins from my house. So I got to sleep in and chill out the morning of a race, which is UNHEARD of in triathlon! I also had to pack like a negative amount of gear - basically my helmet, sunglasses, gloves, shoes, bike, and then various layers of clothing (because I wasn't sure what the weather was going to be like at noon).

It turned out to be gorgeous and I even got sunburned!

I got to the race site at around 10, picked up my number, and then pre-rode the course. It was all grass, rolling hills, with a lot of serpentine turns, one steep run-up, one twisty downhill, and one barrier. Fairly non-technical and fast. I was racing the Cat4 race (men and women all started together) which was a 30 minute race, and I believe there were 7 women. I started way in the back to avoid all the men (and I am uncomfortable in a "group" riding situation) so it was a slow start. I passed a few women right in the beginning and soon found myself riding in 3rd. I passed #3 in the first loop and was sitting in 2nd for a while. I kept seeing the girl who I thought was in 1st not too far ahead of me (the course looped back on itself a lot) so I kept working the uphills as best as I could and I eventually passed her in what I think was the beginning of the 2nd loop. I then held that lead for the final 2 loops and ended up winning the race! I won a $25 gift card to a local bike shop, some Once Again Nut Butter, a jersey, and some other things!

I made Solveig take this!

Some interesting things: the run up was HARD.. it was so steep that it was hard to walk up! I found myself getting more comfortable with the course and the turning every loop I made - so that was good. And I did well on the barrier, which I thought was the hardest part, since you immediately had to go uphill after jumping the barrier, you had about 5 seconds to get on the bike and get going, otherwise you ended up running the bike up the long uphill section immediately after it. I managed to get on the bike and get up the hill 3 out of 4 times! Also, only 2 out of the 7 women (me and 2nd place) made it through 4 loops, everyone else was stopped after 3. The top guy did 5 loops! Craziness!

Dan laid down in the middle of the course
to try to force Josh to bunny-hop him!

A bunch of people came and watched - Dan and Solveig rode their bikes there, and Josh G. raced two races. I made some new friends, talked to some people that I met at the cross clinic and at Ellison Park. I ate lots of yummy "fair food" and just had a fantastic day overall!

Monday, September 10, 2012


So, a lot can happen in a week.

Last Saturday (Labor Day weekend), I went with Solveig to test ride a cyclocross bike at Geneva Bicycle Center. I had no expectations of buying this bike.. I just wanted to ride it, get a feel for that type of bike, and come away knowing what I was looking for in terms of size. Fast forward 3 hours later and I was driving home with an XS Women's Giant TCX in the back of my car. Part of that decision was the fact that I just really need a break from triathlon and I need something new to try. Part was also my dear friend Solveig (when forced with the decision of which one of us should buy it, because it fit us both and we both wanted it) telling me to take it, because I needed it more. And lastly, the owner of the shop, Jim Hogan, spent 3 hours with us making sure we were satisfied with test riding, making sure I liked the setup of the bike, got me a better saddle than the stock saddle, and sent me on my way with the best bike buying experience ever! All of those factors contributed to my spontaneous purchase of the bike. Mostly though.. I just need a change. All of the things that I have tried to change recently have not worked out so well. But the timing worked out with this bike so I bought it.

Sometimes money can buy happiness I think.

Meet: Dobby!

Anyways, a new bike brings new possibilities. I rode the bike on the Lehigh Valley Trail. I rode it at Dryer Road Park (mountain bike trails) with a few friends. I took it to a cyclocross clinic put on by a professional cyclocross racer where I learned flying mounts and dismounts and how to jump barriers. Then, I deemed myself ready to try to race.. 1 week after purchasing the bike.

My friend Ari (who has had her 'cross bike for a while but has never raced 'cross either) and I decided to register for the Ellison Park Cyclocross Race that was on Saturday. We showed up at 8 am Saturday morning (the Cat 4 Women's race was at 10:01) in order to register and pre-ride the course. We were both nervous for sure. (However, I was channeling my inner-Jennie Hansen and wearing my sparkly black eyeliner for intimidation purposes - I am not one to wear makeup while racing but I thought it was appropriate for this type of racing!). Riding the course calmed the nerves and pointed out the parts of the course that were going to be difficult (one section that you had to carry the bike up because it was too steep to ride) and then most of the 2nd half of the course was in the grass, uphill, and had switchback turns. There were also 3 barriers in total that I would have to get off my bike and jump over while carrying my bike. This is totally a new type of riding for me so I was scared and nervous, but excited to be getting out of my comfort zone (which is riding in an endurance heart rate zone in my aerobars in a straight line for like 3 hours). It was also a bit rainy, so we got wet during our warmup and the course was a little slick, but luckily it didn't rain hard until after our race was over.

I had a few friends there cheering which was nice (thanks to John for taking photos!), and I was racing with Ari so it was good to have a familiar face out there on the course with me! There's not much to say about the race - it was a hard, 38 minute effort, I crashed twice (both of them were minor) and I sprained my ankle when I tried to get back on my bike and fell off into a bush. I found that I can climb better than I thought, I actually made it through the uphill switchbacks all 3 times (except the very last one on the 3rd loop), nailed the barriers, and I ended up getting 4th out of 8 women in the race which I was totally happy with! I was even able to actually race a bit and make some passes (both men and women). Ari ended up coming in 5th (the announcer just LOVED it when I passed her because he must have seen that we were friends) but then she went back the next day and raced again and WON! It's hard, but it's REALLY fun, and I think I will see major improvement in my cycling just from switching things up a bit!

Ari! (I am also in the background here!)

me in my Ride Brooklyn jersey and unicorn socks
Ari and I after the race in the beer tent!
(she will hate me for posting this photo)
Amy, her baby, and me!

I actually raced the Finger Lakes Tri the next day (sprint distance), winning my age group and coming in 5th OA women. So not too shabby considering I hadn't swam in 3 weeks, my legs were toasted from the cyclocross race, and I just didn't care. I need to stop taking my athletic abilities for granted for sure, especially when going in with such a blase attitude and getting such a good result regardless of that. I think that may be part of the trouble I'm having with triathlon - I have plateaued and while I am still relatively competitive, I haven't figured out how to challenge myself and take that step up to play with the big girls. Yet I am not content running a few minutes behind them either. However, that is a problem to deal with next year. It was fun to see everyone at this race (which is a season-ender for many) and get cheered on by Mary and Rich who were both on microphones! Rich made sure to announce to the crowd that I have a habit of naming all of my bicycles (I now have Hedwig and Dobby, both in tribute of deceased Harry Potter characters) and Mary announced that I just raced my first cyclocross race the day before and that I was a 3x Ironman finisher! (It pays to know the race putter-onners)!!!

Anyways, I am glad that tri season is over and that cross season has begun. I have already registered for race #2 (this Sunday) and have plans to do several more in the area, and maybe even roadtrip to Staten Island to race with my brother! (I know he's excited that I am now racing cross because he does it too!).