Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Canton Cup

Canton Cross 07 027, originally uploaded by Jasonwg.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Inevitable Precipitates

Down comes the cold rain and gusts of wind ripping dead leaves from the shaking trees. Down comes the news that I will be laid off from Providence Bicycle in a week (every bike shop slows down in the winter, but it would have been nice if instead of assuring me that I'd have work all winter, they'd given me time to find another job). Regardless of unpleasant weather and unpleasant news, the weekend arrives, and I race.

More rain. It's spattering gently wakes me on Saturday. My first thought is, "good weather for 'cross." The rain lets up. I'm racing today, but not cyclocross; instead I head downtown for an alleycat--an opportunity to support hometown bike culture and win some schwag. And win I do! First girl, and second overall. (Pardon my bragging.) Fun. I take home a huge ugly bag--just what I need for grocery shopping and long race weekends away from home--and some gift certificates to the bookstore. The rain starts again; I go home to eat leftover lasagna and sip hot cider.

Sunday. I get to sleep in late and then take the commuter rail less that an hour to a really fun race, and the sunshine feels warm even though the air is chilly and blustery. So why am I grumpy and ambivalent about racing today?

I drag my heals all the way to the starting line, but once I'm racing I feel good. My technique is getting better and smoother. I'm riding fast, but not really an all-out race effort. Coming around the fourth time, I think I have one lap to go, until someone sprints past me to the line! That's what I get for being unfocused, but darn, the sprint is my favorite part and I missed it!

Props to Bobby and friends (and sponsors) for putting on a nice event on Saturday! Thanks Cambridge Bicycle pals for always being friendly. See everyone next weekend!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Like Cider

Every race in Connecticut farmland should have free hot cider. Mansfield Hollow did.

I won gloves. That's great--I needed them.

I spent Friday night moping around at home with the onset of a cold irritating me. It was pouring rain outside. I was so grumpy I nearly bailed on racing this weekend.

But I didn't bail. I showed up and gave it the effort I considered due for a low priority race. And then enjoyed some cider.

(I'll add pictures and links to this post later)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Two Days Racing at Gloucester

LAST YEARMy first 'cross race. From Kerry Combs/IF chicks


Warming up. From JasonWG's flickr.

Setting the Scene
Nostalgia tinted my perception the moment I stepped off the train and rode through downtown Gloucester. A year ago, this was my first ever cross race. Details of that weekend I recall with poignant specificity: whisps of steam rising from hot cider I sipped outside the coffee shop on Main St., the sidewalk where we sat eating with Molly, Dan's well-worn sweatshirt I borrowed that was the same color as the old-school Alan I'd pieced together to race, sailboats I watched from the park's glorious view of Boston Harbor, the registration area where I met Julie Lockheart and Kerri Combs as we stood in line to see if we would make it off the waiting list (and feeling so nervous that I half-hoped I wouldn't). This year I returned with one season of racing and training under my belt, a new bike, and the ambition to compete in the Elite field.

At his family home just seconds away from the races, Casey Buckles genrously hosted our Cirlcle A and Hub team and some folks from Cambridge Bicycle. What convenience! To get to Gloucester on Friday night I took the commuter rail from Providence to Boston's South Station, then rode to North station to meet Dan and the Cambridge folks to catch another commuter rail. I made the train with Eric, but Dan and the others dilly-dallyed too long and arrived at the platform just as the train pulled away. Suckers!

Saturday morning arrived clear and cool; we rolled out of bed and across to the course. Sun glistened almost too sharply on the harbor, the verdant grassy park, and the barrier tape shimmering in the breeze. From 9am until I raced at 2:30 in the afternoon, I enjoyed cheering for friends and an acquaintances as they suffered enthusiastically.

My Saturday Race
When it was my turn to line up, seeing familiar faces around me assuaged my nervousness--even though many were faces of women I expected to finish far ahead of me. Battling the course and my racing peers, I vacillated between disillusionment and childlike glee: suffering into the wind as lactic acid slowed my legs to a sluggish crawl I questioned why I even bother to do this sport, but taking a corner more smoothly or a descent more confidently than I ever had before, I felt giddy and eager to do it again. I took a bad line and crashed in the sand, losing four places, and fell again when I didn't unclip in time for the barriers. Frustration! Racing with the Elite women, I get schooled: I don't get the ego-boost of finishing high up, but I learn--when I keep a girl's wheel for a while and see the good lines she chooses--and am reminded that if I want to compete at that level I need to step it up and stay focused!

Photo from Paul Weiss

I thought Dan did quite well, finishing in the top half of the Elite men, but he was unsatisfied.

The Real Fun
The real fun started at the Harborside bike shop party Saturday. They served up homemade miso soup and chai, more cookies than several dozen hungry cyclists could devour, and plenty of libations. Folks came and went, and a few of us stayed chatting and joking late into the night. It felt like 2am by the time we rolled back to Casey's home for some shut-eye--it was not quite 10pm.

The Sunday Races
The morning: ditto Saturday, except I had some new friends to cheer for (see "the real fun"). The racing: much better! I started with heavy legs high hopes. Out of 43 contenders, I stayed in a bunch with Kim and Erin and Alex--girls I know I can keep up with on the road, and want to compete with in cross--and a few others.

With three laps to go, Kim and I got away, and I got really excited! We could work together to finish strong! Too excited: I choose a terrible line through a 180 corner that sent Kim flying over the tape into a tuck-and-roll on the grass. While I took off to grab a wheel, Kim recovered her position with the others. So then it was me and the blue-and-orange girl: I dropped her with one to go, kept the gap, and to my surprise, caught up to the Spin Arts woman just before the final sprint, and then I out sprinted her--for 24th place.

So I was way back, but I felt like I was really racing! And I know in another year I could be faster--if I train right. I can still hardly ride anything technical, and with more (than 2) years of riding, my endurance and economy should improve.

People I'm Grateful to.
The highlight of Sunday for me was that my dad brought my 88-year old grandfather to the race. (Dad was out from Seattle for the weekend to visit his family). My grandfather was mostly interested in the dogs, and impressed that no one was littering, and had some questions about gearing and wheel design (he was the engineer who invented the first radar to see through fog--he takes an interest in technical things). My dad was all over the course cheering and ringing his cowbell!

Christine Vardaros was in town for her only US race this season besides Nationals. I had the pleasure of meeting her and some friends for lunch on Friday in Providence, and getting to hang out a bit at the races. She had nothing but kind words of encouragement for me--that helped me feel optimistic about choosing to move up to the Elites. She commended me for upgrading, "Look where you want to go," she said, making a cycling analogy, "if you look at a tree, that's where you'll go, if you look at the dirt, that's where you'll go....look where you want to go."

Full results for Saturday are here, and Sunday here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Long Climbs, Autumn Leaves, Maple Candy

Enticed by the promise of long hilly rides, I went to Vermont with my friend Kim to visit her family last weekend. We rode so much that we hardly saw her family--we even missed turkey dinner because we miscalculated how long a loop would take. With cool sunny days and glorious scenery, it was a pleasure to pedal all weekend.