I know. It’s been a while. But this afternoon, I raced in the East Atlanta Village crit (officially known as the Litespeed BMW Twilight Criterium) and it was fun.
I’m still in lousy shape, and I’ve had a lot of other things on my mind in the past few weeks, but I got lucky: the course was super short– something like 0.6 miles– and the pavement– especially at the turns– had some significant cracks. This meant that no one could accelerate too quickly, or for too long, without having to slow down shortly thereafter. And for me personally, since I’m a much better technical rider than I am– how do you say– in shape, it meant that I could make up most of the time that I’d lost on whatever short accelerations had taken place just by moving efficiently through the next turn.
It was a combined 3/4 race, and while there was a 3-person breakaway in one of the first few laps that managed to hold off the rest of the group through the finish, I stuck with the main group for nearly 2/3rds of the race. I got unlucky while following the wrong person up the (very short) uphill segment one time, and lost contact with the main group, but had that not happened, I feel like I could have stuck with the pack maybe to the end.
After I got dropped, I pedaled hard for a while, still hoping to catch up to the group. I was leading a group of about six riders, and no one else seemed to want to work. So when I reminded myself that I was racing for overall placement, not time, I slowed down so that I could think about how to position myself for what would likely be a mini-sprint for the finish.
I’m not a sprinter on a good day, and it’s the first thing to go when I haven’t been training, so I decided that the only move I could make was on the final descent, and around the last corner. The final lap came, I shifted into my top gear, and I was able to pull away from the group I was in. One person from the group hung onto my wheel, and sprinted around me at the finish. But I still ended up protecting my position to the extent of my abilities, so I was pretty pleased.
Racing again tomorrow. Will try to update.
1. That that’s a Thomas Carlyle reference up there.
2. That I decided I would do a Fartlek workout this evening, but then could not remember quiet exactly what a Fartlek was.
I’ve added a new category over there on the right: Work.
I will not dwell on the past several months of inactivity. I write today to say just that I’ve turned over a new leaf. After a series of disappointing gym trials, G. and I tried a kickboxing class last night. As it turns out, punching things is incredibly satisfying– and I say this as someone who has never had the impulse to punch anything ever in my life.
The gym itself is a little pricey, and it’s not a perfect– only a few classes, focused mostly around boxing and martial arts, and they require a year-long commitment– but it’s certainly the closest thing we’ve found so far…
Really at a low point, exercise-wise. While in NYC I vowed to find a gym to replace my beloved CP, so more for my reference than for anyone else, the current contenders:
More traveling in the weeks ahead, but I’m going to make a point of checking out one of these each week. It shouldn’t be that hard…
It was the second race in the Georgia Cross series this morning. I raced the first one too, but never got around to a writeup as a result of a CAVALCADE of more important things to do. So I’m writing this one up while it’s still fresh in my mind, and while I’m still optimistic about how much I’ll be able to accomplish before the stress of the week sets in.
The course was fast and flowy– mostly grassy bits, one long-ish descent on hardpack, more grassy bits, and then an unrideable sandy section. After that, just a few switchbacks and that was it. In contrast to last week’s race, which was deliberately choppy (lots of 180 degree turns, barriers placed before steep sections so you had to run up, etc.), this one allowed you to generate some speed. I’ve been racing in the Women’s As (Cat 1/2/3), which I’m not thrilled about– these women are all in super-great shape, and are coming off of the road season. I, on the other hand, am coming off of a dissertation and a cross-country move, which does not seem fair. (Your cyclocross category is determined by some combination of your mountain and your road category, and even though I’m a lowly Cat 4 on the road, I’m a Cat 1 in cross-country mountain bike, so for whatever reason that translates to a Cat 3 in CX. Also, in this particular series, the 4s are separate while the 1s, 2s, and 3s all race together, so that’s why I’m stuck in Women’s A in my first season of cross).
That being said, one of the nice things about a fast yet technical course is that it allows me to take advantage of what few strengths I have– which are the cornering and general bike handling skills ingrained from years of mountain biking. So while anyone who’s in shape is certainly more explosive, and just generally stronger than I am at this point, if nothing else, I’m at least efficient. In this race, I really tried to make the most of this– picking the shortest lines through soft turns, trying not to brake through hard turns, and descending as fast as I possibly could. As it turns out, I’m also pretty decent at the rolling dismount, but I’m pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to the remount on the other side. I also tried to use some of my triathlon knowledge on the sandy run bit, taking short quick steps instead of longer, slower ones, knowing that high cadence on the run is much less physically taxing.
The result was a much more satisfying race than last week’s. Even though I finished last week’s race mid-pack (something like 13/21, iirc), I found last week’s race really frustrating. I totally spaced out at the start, so I began the race in absolute last place, and spent the first lap having to pick off the slower riders one by one. Also, it was my first time racing on my new cross bike, which, while it was certainly a very good deal, is not– how do you say– a very good bike. It’s quite heavy (probably heavier even than my mountain bike), and it doesn’t fit me that well. I think I’m going to try to swap out the stem for a shorter one, since I’m very stretched out when I ride, and it’s throwing off my steering. Also, it has the little top-mounted cross brakes, which I thought would be helpful, but in truth I never use. And having two sets of brakes diminishes the stopping power of each set individually, which, as someone who likes her brakes calibrated very tightly, is taking some getting used to. But enough complaining. Instead, this race.
I was under no illusion that I could keep up with the women who had been racing all summer, so I had two moderate goals for this morning’s race: 1) to not blow the start again, and instead to try to start– and stay– in the middle; and 2) to not get lapped. (Last week, I was lapped by the first woman, which, while not unsurprising, still made me feel pretty lame). I was able to meet both of these goals. I started in the second row of riders, but was the first in my row to clip in to my pedals, and as a result, was able to catch the back of the riders in the first row. I’m not sure when I’ll feel confident enough to start in the first row– probably not this season– so that kind of start is the kind I’ll try to replicate at future races. And I didn’t get lapped! In fact, I even passed a few people towards the end. (One advantage of the A race vs. the B is that it’s 45 minutes vs. 30, which gives me some time to get into a groove (and allows other people to get tired). So complain as I might about having to race with the As, longer races are always better than shorter races for me).
I’m guessing that, like last week, I finished middle of the pack. Which all things considered, is just fine. I’ll miss the next few races as a result of some work (and life) travel that I have planned, but I’m hoping that this will give me the push to start training during the week again. (Last week was a total wash– I didn’t ride my bike once!)
Life in Atlanta is constantly evolving, and I’m really struggling to find (and keep up) a routine. But each week that I cross another work task off the list, or that I even just show up for a bike thing, it’s one step closer to normalcy– or so I tell myself.
1. It was something like 75 degrees this morning at 9am– the second or third day of what I would consider nice weather– and yet when I got to the parking lot, I realized that I was the only one not wearing some combination of arm and leg warmers, a windbreaker, and honest-to-goodness booties. Booties! On a 75 degree day! The mind boggles.
2. This ride is fast. I deliberately chose this one over the Tucker ride, since this one was described as Moderate/Strenuous with a mix of flat, rolling, and hilly terrain, while the Tucker ride was classified as Strenuous/Training, over hilly terrain, and described as “where the big boys and racers show up to play.” I can probably count on my hands the number of times I’ve been on my bike this summer– and none very fast– so I was under no illusion that I could hang with the “big boys.” But, I thought, the Six Flags Ride. Described as “really fun.” This is the ride for me!
2a. Well, the ride was in fact really fun, but it was also really fast– at least for me for right now. It begins over hills like we don’t have in New York: short and steep, where it makes more sense to stand and crank up them rather than to shift into an easier gear and spin. The hills lengthened out a little after the first few miles, which was a relief, since I’m much better at those long, steady climbs than I am at those that require short bursts of speed. I should note, though, that it was never, ever flat– not like the stretch that you get between Piermont and Nyack, or the last couple miles to the GW if you take 9W, that are such nice reprieves. Which leads me to
3. What actually happened: I clung to the main pack for the first 16 miles, averaging 20+ mph. I know this because the turnaround was at mile 21 or so, and at that point– riding 16 miles with the group and 5 without, my average speed was still 19.9. And presumably I slowed down considerably once I’d lost the big group. At the turnaround point, I stopped to chat with the person who’d been behind me, and his friend, who’d stayed with the main pack but had stopped to wait for us. We took a few minutes to regroup, then headed back the way we came. It was a nice pace– strong but doable– and even though I started to flag towards the end, we still finished up with a pace of 18.6mph overall (42 point something miles). Not bad, all things considered, which makes me think:
4. I could actually do this if I were in shape! It may take through the winter, and I suspect that I’ll have a rough time at the start of cross season, but I know I can get there. It’s nice to have a goal.
My new goal is to try out each of the group rides listed on this page at least once, however scary it may seem (more people-wise than fitness-wise, as I’ve been diligently riding the trainer once or twice a week, and starting to feel like I’m getting my legs back). I think my plan for Saturday is the “Beyond Six Flags” ride, which I’ve heard is fun. I wimped out on the Thursday night “Pizza Ride,” in spite of the name, because I couldn’t handle meeting any more new people. It’s so much more tiring than training!
And as it turns out, I’ve done some things. Reversely chronological:
And next weekend, a cyclocross clinic.
A lot more to say about each, but for now just taking note.
I’ve been running a little, but only in 30-40 minute increments– more than that is truly impossible. The first time I attempted to run outdoors, I’d puttered around the house until ten-ish, and 15 minutes into the run, somewhere along a shadeless bike path, I literally cried out loud, “What on earth have I done?!”
After that first run, it got a little better. I’ve start to wake up slightly earlier. (The die-hards say that if you finish before 6:30am, it’s truly nice out, but I’ve been settling for the 8-9am window. Before 10, it’s still very hot, but not excruciating). Also, I’ve rerouted myself from my initial route, north and east from my house (which I think I’ll have to return to if I ever again run further than 4 miles), to a route south and west towards the aforementioned Grant Park. Unlike the bike path, which, while it stretches nearly 20 miles, does not have a single tree along the way, Grant Park is slightly shaded, and reminds me a teensy bit of my beloved Prospect Park. The only perplexing thing about Grant Park is that there isn’t a loop road. You can either run around the perimeter of the park, on the sidewalk along the outside, or you can run inside the park along various intersecting and overlapping paths. (A veritable Konigsburg Bridge problem!) It’s really a shame, the lack of a loop road, because if there were, it would be a pretty great place to train…
In a major way! I’ve moved from Brooklyn to Atlanta, and with the change in venue will come a whole new routine. It’s not quite yet established, although I’ve dipped my toes in various waters– raced the Grant Park Crit last Saturday, may or may not do this 5K run tomorrow, and have signed up for a women-only training ride this Sunday through the Sorella cycling team.
That being said, the only thing I have to report so far is that it’s hot. Very hot. As I suppose I expected, and yet… !