Friday, December 23, 2011

Stella? Steelllaaa!

(Digging into the red zone at the IN State Championships race to try and hunt down 1st place... I came up short and finished 2nd on a really great muddy course)

II just think Stella may be getting her groove back! Slowly, but not as slow as I had expected really. I figured cross season would be lots of fun riding around in circles this year, but I didn't think I would stand a chance at any type of fitness to be honest.
But here I am!

Funny, how I went from that thought, to the thought of being upset for placing second instead of first. Amazing how the competitive juices get flowing once you get a taste of winning again. It's addictive!

So I may have mentioned it before here, but I'm a huge Seinfeld fan, and pretty much have wasted a small corner in my brain memorizing most of the episodes line for line. I'm sure this knowledge will help me someday... but for now I will just unleash one of my favorite lines from Elaine with the Stella comment. If you've seen the episode great, if not, you should go watch it. Every time I get a little out of whack or off balance I feel like my inner Stella has lost her groove. Stella is still missing a bit, but I'm definitely getting her back bit by bit!

I've pieced a lot of it back since June at break neck speed. However, I still found out that I lacked my starting hole shot groove that I once was so accustomed to. Last Sat I did my first double race weekend since the NDE. My coach and I were both curious how my body/ and myesthenia would handle this stress, so it was an important weekend for me. Saturday was the state championships in Bargersville. I was stoked to just be considering taking a win at this race. However, it was not to be. I had a terrible start and got caught behind some muddy traffic on the first lap. Not a good thing to do in muddy conditions. By the time I found a clear path, Sierra S. had laid down the law and was a good 40 seconds ahead of me. I fought my best to get back, buried myself really, got her lead down to about 6 seconds, until it was too late and I had to settle for a hard fought second place. Sierra rode a great, smart race and I was happy for her and she deserved to win.

(This would be how to NOT start a race. It even looks like I am somehow going backwards. All photos this post credit to

I was bummed at myself for not putting it all together and making the mistake at the start, but that's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes you make mistakes that cost you and when your competitor doesn't, they deserve the win that day. Overall though, I was happy with the rest of my race and I was pretty happy at the effort I was able to put in to narrow the gap. I hadn't put my mindset back in the mode to make myself suffer that much for a long time, maybe because fighting for my life required a enormous amount of suffering that I hadn't made the decision to do it freely again, but I pushed my envelope during this race and I was happy with that.

The next day we headed to Lebanon near NW Indy. This was at a fairgrounds and at first preview of the course I was a bit bummed at the easy profile they had laid out compared to the previous day. However, after the sun came out and muddied it up a bit, I was pretty stoked on it. I think the promoters did a great job on the layout to give it a good feel for the nationals like course in Madison, WI in a couple weeks.
I was still mad at myself from my race the day before and I had all the determination to improve my start. I did just that and took the lead on the first turn and never looked back. I felt pretty junky on the first lap, but after that I kept focusing on the master's men ahead of me and started picking those guys off one by one. The legs loosened up and I felt good after that. I got a little settle-in midway and kudos for Gerry S. and Liz C. for making me get back out of the saddle again since they fought hard to not hand me a free ride.

(Hole shot.... much better!)

I got back on the gas and savored the win on the last lap. It felt so good to take this win against some ladies I really respect. Plus, I was a bit giddy at doing so well in a race after such a power draining day previous. I didn't know what to expect with the 2 back to back races, but looks like Stella got this part of the groove back too!

It was a nice weekend of racing and it was good to be back on the road again doing the "race thing." I have to give another major thanks to Aaron Hawkins for helping me get to the races, pitting for me, and taking care of the bikes! I can't wait until the next race weekend rolls around.
Also check out the great freelance articles by Robert Annis on the weekend of racing:

(Pretty sure this is the raddest photo of me for the year so far. Barriers are my favorite single aspect of cx, so it's good to see my technique is spot on!)

(What cross race would be complete without a little heckling from Shamrock Cycles crew? Having a little chuckle to myself here. )

(AWWWW Yeahhhh!)

(Podium girls: Elizabeth Cobb, Me, and Gerry Schulze. Great job ladies!)

Thanks as always for reading everyone! It's been a wild year so far and the year will hold one more event until the calender turns to 2012. I can feel the chill in the air and the excitement growing in my heart for Cyclocross Nationals and Master's fracking World goodness Championships! Wow!

Merry Christmas to everyone!
Enjoy your loved ones, all you have been blessed with, and the REAL meaning of Christmas.
Jesus Christ, out Saviour.

I certainly know I will!
Because it can can change in The Blink of an Eye!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Uncharted Ground

(Finally frozen ground with some mud snuck in!! I LOVE CX!
Sweet photos and angles by Chris Jones in this post:

So it's now mid- December, and I'm racing bikes. Not only am I racing, I've got several races to go until having my short season come to a end in mid-January. This is a bit of uncharted ground for me... along with most of us cross racers. Now that the season has been extended (which I like btw) a month in length I am discovering new challenges to what that brings. Luckily for me, I have no lack of motivation or burnout since my season has been broken up by the NDE. However, I am finding that us Northerners may find ourselves in a interesting love hate relationship with having to train through the brutal weather of December in a quality way. I think my average real feel temps on my rides in the last 2 weeks have been about 25 degrees, and with a full work schedule... most of those come in the dark. Facing sub freezing temps and brutal wind conditions on daily training rides is the only motivation I find a bit challenging to overcome, and I am trying to trick my heart into thinking that will help my body be prepared for the frozen tundra in WI come nationals time in January. I guess we'll find out soon enough. I'm not complaining about it... just my observation.

(With temps in the teens, I'm not sure if I'm smiling or if my mouth is frozen that way)

So speaking of frozen tundra, I met up with it first hand last weekend. More on that later. The newly beefed up Indiana Cx Cup ( continued in my neck of Indiana last weekend at none other than a venue that is my local practice course. The bike Depot is about 1 hr down the road for me and is actually a place I had some say in the original course design. Needless to say, I know the course pretty good. It turns out I knew it a little too good. In all fairness to everyone the route was changed on race day. I loved the layout and it was good fun... but my mind was still in autopilot of the original layout. I had been on-call in OB world the night before the race and I just so happened to be making future mom's to be nice and comfy all night long leaving me not so fresh minded on a few hrs of sleep come race time. That's where knowing the original course would have been a bonus for me... but shutting that memory off in my mind and switching on a new one didn't go over so well on such little sleep. I took off and within 200 yards I goofed the turn and found myself playing catch up to Kiersta Tucker. Kiersta gets baller points for being the only brave elite wmone's sole to make the trip up north to race when I usually spend the entire season making 4+ hour drives to race other gals. So big thanks to having her come and keep me on top of my pedals all day.

Anyway, we went back and forth through the race and after she tested out the muddy corner on the ground, I gained a little advantage over her until I decided to test out a section of frozen ground myself. Turns out, the frozen ground doesn't give AT ALL. I hit pretty hard, and what I thought at the time was me knocking the wind out of me, turned into me later discovering blood in my urine and having a bruised kidney. BAM! That's all behind me now and I don't feel I need to test out the ground that is that hard anytime again soon.

Anyway, after I ripped my fav Bob's Red Mill skin suite, I got back up and fought back to 1st place again. I ended up grabbing a hard fought win over KT. Making that my 5th cx type win of the year.


I hope that isn't the last time I charter that ground (or podium step) this year.

(Parting shot: post wrecked jersey, staring down the barriers at the Fort Wayne Outfitters)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Encore Please!

(Focusing my sights on the next mud section last weekend at the final MTV ICX race. Big thanks to Chris Jones
for the excellent photos this post and for the blog header pic!)

The concert (cx) tour has started! At least for me.
I know the cycling world seems to be wrapping up the 2011 season and looking on to next year already, but I'm just getting my feet wet. So as a result, I feel like I'm coming to the show after the last song at a concert has been sung and all that is left is the encore. The OVCX series has come and gone and I am super bummed to have not been able to give the series overall my best effort (or any effort at all), but lucky for me the people at Planet Adventure and the efforts of some really great people in Indiana have got a legit December schedule lined up for me to get ready for the encore up in WI and down in L'ville come January.
That's right, I plan on putting a shot into Master's worlds and I've got a little bit of time to prep and see what happens come January.

I have to laugh a little when I think about getting pumped up to race a World Championship race on a bicycle, especially when I was doing a little grocery shopping the other day a memory from a few months ago hit me while I was waiting in line behind a person in a handicap cart. I thought back to my first trip outside of the house where my friend Anne took me to the grocery store. I had to ride the little cart because I was too weak to walk around still. Anne and her daughter Bethany helped me get a few supplies, we were there maybe 30 minutes and I was so exhausted I had to take a few hour nap after getting home.

And now I'm going to attempt to race in a World Championship. How's that for a encore to the season?

(Lining up with a strong field of up and comers, future stars, and proven experts. Indiana Cyclocross Series is growing quickly!)

So I've been getting back to racing lately. I started back working with my cycling coach Mark Fasczewski. I felt it was finally time to have a plan and felt like I could finally follow some direction instead of being so day to day on how I have felt. I'm happy to be back with Mark and I look forward to what progress we can make in the little time we have to prepare for the end of the cx season championships. It's a bit humbling and eye opening to see how my numbers have faded with all of this... but what could I have expected? People don't gain watts by laying in hospital beds and couches for 3+ months.

(I was thankful for a muddy race! Made me feel like a true cross racer again!)

Last weekend was the third race down at the Marion University Cyclocomplex. I really like the venue as it has a fair mix of techy, finesse, and power sections. A good variety of everything as I feel a cross course should be. The weather is turning into more challenging conditions and I tend to favor those sort of terrain challenges. Marion gals are no joke as anyone who follows cycling knows and anytime I can reach a podium there is great in my book. Mix together superstars of the future with some really strong regional riders and we have some great racing.
I was lucky enough to make the trip with my good friend Aaron Hawkins again. He played pro mechanic for me and that instantly takes a ton of stress off when the conditions are muddy! He was a huge help getting the bikes around, and even though I only had 1 bike change (for practice), he made it super easy for me to just ride my bike. I'm finally starting to get the pre race routine of cross back down and falling into a groove. I'm a big advocate of sticking with the same prep race after race, so it's nice to get that flow back!

My plan was just to try and ride as smoothly as possible and that slowly helped me work my way up to 3rd place after a bit of a slow 1st lap. The course had some changes from the other times and I had to run up one section. It was good to see that I handled this stress much better then several weeks ago since I really haven't had a run-up since. Before it just hammered me to to a run -up. Now it is coming much, much easier! By the end of the race I honestly didn't know where my placing was, but I was please to learn I ended up on the podium once again for the weekend. Now I just need to add some power to that smoothness and I should have a good mix like I once knew.

All in good time though. Some things can't be rushed.
Just like when the band hangs out backstage to let the crowd grow the excitement for the encore...
makes that last song seem even more sweet!