21 October 2014

Homecoming '14 aka DCCX

Normally I ramble on here about bicycles and adventures and life seems pretty exciting - but admittedly, I've been struggling adjusting to life on the west coast. Don't get me wrong - the weather and the riding is amazing, and all the people I've met are incredibly nice, but at the end of the day, I've got a bit of a Dorothy complex, and there's no place like home, and I miss my friends and teammates with an ache that won't go away. So, for 36 hours this past weekend, I clicked my heels, and went over the rainbow and back to the DMV to catch up, laugh, and pretend to race my bicycle.

Fresh off a redeye Saturday morning, I popped on a fresh shirt, stopped by Buzz for a Pumpkin Latte (omg I miss those!!) and went to cheer on my teammates at DCCX Day 1. Mel was racing the Women's Elite race at 12pm and the boys would be racing the Men's 3/4 later on. I almost cried when I strolled up to the team tent - it felt like I was home again for the first time in a long time. Everyone was there - full of smiles and hugs. Mel had even made cupcakes to pair perfectly with beer on a perfect fall day.

From the team tent, we had a good view of some barriers and the "W' turn section (a couple 180s up and down a small hill), which made for an awesome place to cowbell and cheer. The course would go the opposite direction on Sunday, but in between races, I threw on some shorts and spun around with Dawn to get a feel for the course, as well as the awesome Trek Boone that she was letting me borrow for the weekend. And not only was Dawn letting me borrow her sweet ride -- she had put pink bar tape and cable housing on the matte black frame - making it look ladylike and badass at the same time. Perfection in a bicycle :-)

The course was fun and fast, and I was excited to attempt to tear it up on Sunday. We rolled back to the tent to prepare to cheer on the guys - and fuel up with some pizza and cupcakes of course. Something's gotta soak up the beer...
Matt crushing them Men's 3/4

Matt had a solid race - and I was excited to see Rachel and Dave out cheering as well. Everyone was at DCCX it seemed! We watched bit of the men's pro race before packing it up and heading over to Mel's for a team barbecue. So good just to sit and catch up - watch Griffin and Bryce play -- and the excitement got even bigger when Coach Brian and Amy stopped by for a bit! Great to see them.

The evening flew by way too fast, and before I knew it, it was bedtime for little racers.

Up and early Sunday ... and when I say "early" it's early by the fact that I was still on west coast time. I may have gotten 8 hours of sleep, but 7am still feels like 4am and is painful. My Mom made pancakes, which was awesome pre-race fuel. Then it was time to head back to DC to not only cheer, but race myself today! Time to get stoked!

It was freezing (again - by west coast standards) so I did my pre-riding wearing fleece pants and an assortment of jackets. I guess my blood has thinned a little out on the west coast... The "reverse" direction ..which is actually the "normal" direction from the past few years, had a few tricky spots in it - but again, more than anything - I was just stoked I could corner with traction and without fear of sliding out on crazy loose dirt.

Start of the Women's Elite Race
With my Bicycle Outfitters Family, and my parents smiling and cheering, and a pre-race peanut butter cup since my stomach was a bit funky this morning - I took to the start line, smiling to be back with some of the "usual suspects." I had a 3rd row start - but I almost didn't care, and pre-race nerves were almost replaced with a feeling of sheer joy as I felt like I was back where I belonged.

The whistle blew and I completely botched my start -- awesome. But seeing friends and family smiling and cheering I decided I might as well see what I could do, shifted down and sprinted to bridge up to the lead group. Gigidy. I wasn't going to win - but I could at least have fun for a few laps - right?

What brought a HUGE smile to my face, more so than any place I might be fighting for - were the people cheering for me. When you're in the pain cafe and can only focus on the taped off stretch of grass in front of you - most of the sidelines can be a blur - but you DO hear and sometimes you DO see the folks that are there supporting you. What I heard - was my name, my old race nickname, and tons of cheers. It felt like home, because, well it was home.

Coming up on the W-turn, I did about fall off my bicycle laughing a few times because the BORT family was there in rare form. Mel was cheering and laughing, and well, munchkin had brought a little bit of SF to throw in to the wild mix and Hot Cookie was waving as the ladies passed by. Nothing gets you riding faster than a pair of bright red undies ....


While my legs started to poop out, my smile didn't - I grinned at my parents as I climbed up the finishing stretch one final time and finished around 15th or so with a huge grin on my face. At the end of the day - this was one of the first races, where a less than stellar performance didn't annoy me - and while maybe it should have, what really mattered this weekend, were the family and friends I was reconnecting with and the sense of home and happiness.

Thanks as always to the amazing Doug Graham for the photos, HUGE thanks to the ENTIRE Bicycle Outfitters Race Team for a fantastic weekend, DCMTB for a fantastic race as always, and all my MABRA friends who I got to catch up with  - I miss you all so much -- anytime you want to visit California - you've got a place to stay!

Up next? Rest weekend and then back to NorCalCX up in Novato November 2nd!

14 October 2014

NCCX #2 - Lion of Fairfax

My wish for cooler temperatures didn't quite come true as I headed up to Marin on Sunday for the second race in the NCCX series in Fairfax. Funny to be going to Fairfax, California, since I'm so used to being in Fairfax, Virginia. Slight difference, but even seeing signs that said "Fairfax" made me feel a little at home, which is something I really need these days.

This race was held at a local elementary school, which definitely made for an interesting course, parking and warm-up. But, in a fantastic twist of fate, as I was doing some laps  up and down the road, I heard someone say "Emily" and as I looked over with a slightly be-puzzled look on my face since I'm more or less a lone wolf on the CX scene here. And much to my happy surprise, I saw my friend Laurel, who also used to race in MABRA-land smiling and ready to race CX! I was so excited to have a familiar face to warm-up, laugh and then line up to get my butt kicked with. It's the little things - but they can be the difference between night and day.

With the heat raging again, Laurel and checked out the dusty, technical course and then waited in the shade for our time to take the line. As I'm quickly discovering that NorCal is a mecca for fast, fast cyclists, I wasn't completely shocked when two world-cup racers ... Rachel Lloyd and Katerina Nash rolled up to the start line. Names I usually read about in Velonews were now on the same starting grid as me. Pinch.

The typically chaotic start funneled us across a blacktop and almost immediately onto some narrow, loose single-trackish terrain, before popping us back out onto a wide gravel path. I felt almost as if I was riding on snow as traction was virtually non-existent due to the gravel and loose dirt. The first lap was a bit chaotic, but with a nice power section and .... drum-roll please ... a barrier! the field soon started to string out. My HR felt a little high so I dialed it back a bit - noting that the lap count gave us 7 (!!?!?) laps to go. While I think I lost about two spots, I was actually thankful to have some space the 2nd lap to ride some sections I had to run previously due to traffic. Slow and steady ... right? There was a section of the course that wound through a weird dirt field - it was almost like riding in dirt the consistency of baby powder and at least an inch deep in a few spots. I still haven't figured out quite how to corner smoothly in this stuff - if that is even possible. Sigh. I was a little proud of myself though as I was able to ride a root little kick up. Yeah mountain bike skills!

I have to say a HUGE thank you to Cisco  and the guys from Team Roaring Mouse for cheering me on along the course. Again - when you're the new kid in town - it means the world to have someone know you and cheer for you.

Few more laps to go and I noticed they dropped the count by two instead of one ... and then shortly after I realized that that was because I was getting lapped by the leaders. Wheee. But hey - still pretty cool to see world cup racers for another split second. And soon started to realize that my gamble to dial it back earlier might just be paying off, as I was able to catch up to and pass a few of the girls who had gotten ahead of me earlier.  Finally on the bell lap, I made a push to try and bridge up - but my tank was about spent.

When the dust settled - I was able to find Laurel and we cooled down, laughing about the ridiculousness of the race ... the course, the speed, the heat! Yay California! Laurel had to split, so I wandered over to see how I had ended up overall and was pleasantly surprised to find a 9th place finish! ...and no it was not out of 9 either! I had managed to hold my own in a crazy fast field. Not bad for the MABRA girl racing the NorCal circuit :-)

Up next ... special delivery back to MABRA land to race DCCX with my Bicycle Outfitters Family. Can't wait :-D

06 October 2014

Cross No Barriers? Vallejo Cougar NCCX ...

Apparently seasons don't follow the "norm" out here in Northern California as this past weekend temperatures were hovering in the low 80s near the coast and even higher inland. This does not feel like October...this feels like mid-July in the desert. Hot and dry. And I have to race CX? Giddy up ...

One thing I do enjoy about CX races and being a 'Cat 2 on paper' is that the ladies' races usually don't go off until midday, which enables me to sleep in more than for your average race and thankfully the NorCalCX series was no exception. So after a decent night sleep, I packed up the TDI and headed north to Vallejo to take another crack at CX in California. This was the first race in a 5-race series I signed up for -- the NCCX Series put on by SuperPro racing. They named all the races after wildcats so I figured they had to be fun :-)

New races bring an additional bit of anxiety to your normal pre-race nerves. Here I was, on my own, 2500 miles from MABRA CX, and trying to navigate my way around a new CX landscape. Luckily, most folks are friendly and I got my nerve up to randomly ride up to some other ladies, say hi and see what the skinny was on pre-riding, racing and whatnot.

Rolling down the mulch pile "obstacle"
We were able to get on the course and do a little recon -- it was definitely a different type of course with some stairs, run-ups, a whoop-de-do over a mulch pile, a ride-under (yes!) but NO BARRIERS!! Isn't cyclocross supposed to have barriers? Little disappointed for sure :-/ but new state, new series, let's see how this goes!

There were about 13 women in the A field -- not quite as big as the other weekend, but a decent sized field I figured. We had a wide open start up the road and onto a grassy hill. With fewer women, I was able to power to a fairly decent start as we began to wind through the course. But that was probably as good as it was going to get, as in one of what you'd probably call a "power" section of the course, another girl made a pass. I tried to stick on her wheel, but the 90+ degree heat started to get to me.

Thanks to the guys from Ornotbike for taking shots
of the Women's A race :-)
With 2 steep run-ups, and a mulch-covered hill that after a few laps became a run-up for me at least, I was starting to overheat and get a little dizzy. I had to slow my pace to slow my heart rated down so the race wasn't a complete loss. I would have given anything for a bottle, but sadly, as I saw support and bottles of water waiting for the other girls in my field, I was here solo, so there were no hand-ups, no spray-downs for me. Ugh. Note to self ... whine more to get support next time...ha.


Admittedly I lost cont of laps, but finally when I heard that bell going, I knew I could drag myself through one more. I could see a few girls coming behind me, but tried to at least keep it steady and hold whatever position I had finally slipped to...which when all the dust settled, turned out to be 8th. I'll take it...:-)

After the race I soft-pedaled back to the TDI and dumped an entire water-bottle over my head hoping to get my HR down to something near-human. Later when I uploaded my data for Coach B my average HR turned out to be 184 for the race. Ouch.

So live and learn, and maybe one day I'll figure out how to ride in hot, dry, dusty CX races ...

Up next?
NCCX #2 up in Fairfax and here's to hoping for a few more barriers and cooler temperatures!

30 September 2014

Singletrack and Saguaro

Cholla look fuzzy - but they are evil!
A little bit on a whim this past weekend, we hopped a short flight down to Phoenix to see Mike's parents. I'd forgotten how long it'd been since I was last there (over a year!) so it was good to visit, and also a nice break from the seemingly constant hustle and bustle of life in the Bay Area. Not that anything's wrong with the Bay Area -- it's perhaps, as my friend noted the other day, I've got adventure A-D-D - no matter how much I love an area, after a certain amount of time, I get the itch in my feet to see the sun rise over a new horizon.

So this weekend's horizon would be Scottsdale, and as soon as I stepped out of the airport, felt the warm breeze, saw the jagged mountains and a landscape dotted with cactus, I felt a calm start to encroach on my anxious soul.

Sleeping "in" Saturday until about 8am, we had a leisurely breakfast by the pool (yay!)and then rounded up the mountain bikes to go check out the trails near McDowell Mountain Regional Park. With the temperatures soaring to past 90-degrees - this was going to be one hot mountain bike ride!! Lucky for me I had my "summer" Bicycle Outfitters jersey in hand :-)  So once we figured out where to park and how to swap pedals on Mike's Mom's sweet 29er, it was time to explore the desert on 2 wheels. I smiled from ear to ear as we headed off down the sandy trail.

Arizona is strangely one of the places that my mountain biking roots come from! Many, many moons ago - you know before the internets and when we had to walk uphill both ways to school in the snow - when I was first learning to ride a mountain bike, we took a mini-family vacation to Phoenix over Christmas, rented bikes and I followed Matt up and down the trails of South Mountain Park. I fell over into a cactus and was about to cry when Matt looked at me and promptly said "Emily! There's NO CRYING in mountain biking!!" I sniffled a bit, wiped some pre-tear snot off my nose and got back up and clipped back in. After that - there was no looking back and no crying in mountain biking, just getting up, brushing off the dust and moving forward.

Back to reality - it was hot and not being used to riding in weather much above 75-degrees after a bit the heat started to take its toll. But that didn't stop me of course from riding back and forth by a giant Saguaro just because I have always been minorly obsessed with them. Cacti are cool.
Riding by a Saguaro!

Don't mind me - I'm just chillin' out of the sun...
We came to a trail intersection with a little shelter -- well a roughly covered picinic table and a tree(!!) at least, had a snack and decided to head back to more shade and air conditioning since the temperatures were soaring well into the high 90s. (Late September -- whaaat?!) So you know how I like cacti? Apparently they don't like me too much. I didn't even realize it until we wrapped up our ride - but I guess it's not officially an Arizona mountain bike ride unless you get at least one or two cactus spines in you!



Regardless of the short ride - getting out to explore new trails was fantastic and a perfect breath of fresh (albeit hot..) air that I needed to get ready to forge ahead into the craziness about to come with the rest of fall!

Up next?

More CX in California!!!!!

23 September 2014

Welcome to CA CX ... BASP #1 Grand Prix Natwick

Women's A Field at Natwick GP
Despite the lack of fall weather, rain and changing leaves, it is still September and thus - CX season is swinging into full gear. Not one to want to miss out on the shenanigans, beer, frites, hand-ups, run-ups, barriers and general badassery / ridiculousness that is CX, I broke out the skinsuit and ventured across the Bay to take on my first CX race in California.

One thing I'm learning about the Bay Area - is that there are parks everywhere! Today was no exception as the race took place on the shores of the Bay, across from none other than Candlestick Park. (as a kid growing up watching Joe Montana and Jerry Rice -- Candlestick Park has a bit of a mythical stigma to it). As we pulled up to the race venue, my eyes started to turn into saucers, as this looked like no CX race I had ever been to before! Between the village of pop-up tents, massive blow-up arches along the course and the huge run-up-stairs, roll-down flyover - I felt incredibly out of my league. What had I walked into? 

Running up the fly-over
Okay - time to stop being a weenie and put my big-girl skinsuit on. It is after all,  just a bike race ... or so I tell myself. As one of the Men's Masters fields finished up, I popped on the course to do a quick pre-ride and see what I was up against. The twisty-turny course didn't have much elevation gain (save a few what I like to call "whoop-de-do's" but the terrain was a mix of gravel, hard-pack, pavement and super-fine dirt that was about as easy as sand to ride through ... this was going to be interesting, but super fun at the same time! I always love a good new challenge. There was a set of barriers on a small "uphill" and then a neat 3-barrier turn at about the half-way point of the course, but "la Pièce de résistance" of course was the massive fly-over bridge into the finishing chute. After coming through a 180-degree turn, you had to dismount, run up a flight of stairs, jump on your bike and scream down a ramp on the other side. Here's to hoping I don't fall up the stairs in typical Emily fashion.

The Women's A race set off at 1:30, with the Women's B race, so all in all, I lined up with over 75 of my new closest friends. I was terrified. I missed having familiar faces in the crowd to laugh and smile with, knowing who's wheel to follow and who'd ride me off their wheel in no time flat. Oh ladies of MABRA CX - I miss you!!!

I ended up with a 3rd row start - not terribly awful, especially considering there were at least two world-cup caliber racers in the front row (gulp!). As Matt would say -- I was a guppy in the ocean today! But you're never going to get faster racing against people slower than you, so when the whistle blew, I tried to put my self-doubt on the shelf and move forward with the mass of ladies. Admittedly I'm not used to mass-starting a CX race with 70+ racers. I know this is the "norm" for the guys - but it was a little scary when I'm used to starting with a field of typically 20-40 girls. I initially fell back in the pack but as things started to string out, I started to make my way back up through the field. I had no clue where I was - definitely not at the front, but not at the back either - so that was pretty good. 

It's a little brown in CA right now -- dry, dirty and dusty CX
Things started to string out a bit after the first lap, and I was stoked to make up a few spots by being able to ride a punchy little up-hill and ride through the sand/dirt pits that caused a few other racers to run. While my speed may have been a little timid, at least my bike handling was starting to come back...or so I thought ... on the 3rd lap (of 6!) I took a 180-degree gravel turn a bit too fast and sharp and went down hard on my left side. Of course. It'd be ridiculous if I ever fell on my right side. The initial casualty check was minor - a dropped chain and a bloody and bruised knee, but as I raced to right my chain, a train of 6-7 girls flew by. Here we go again ...

Back on the bike and chasing, my knee was not really happy with me, but hey, it's CX, it's supposed to hurt in almost every way imaginable. I slowly caught back up to a few of the girls who had flow past and tried to hang with them for the last few laps. The Canadian and Munchkin had come out to cheer - and trust me - when you know virtually no one in the "scene" having your two best friends there to cheer for you - makes all the difference in the world :-) 

video

...the "slo-mo" on the iPhone6 came just in time for CX!


By the final lap, I was somehow feeling decent and made a pass in a straight-away coming in toward the fly-over. Then I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I ended up on my butt right in front of the fly-over, with several girls breathing down my neck. Angry Emily really kicked in, as I hauled myself and my bike up amid laughs and cheers, flew up the stairs and on the other end, somehow managed to out-sprint another girl ... for what I later learned to be 19th place. Hello cx racin' in California :-)
About to fly down the fly-over!

Now I ponder what's next (Levi's Gran Fondo or some NorCal CX in Concord??) as I play couch-potato convinced that I can't move because of a bruised knee and quad....more wine please?