The Saturday morning Polar Bear Metric Century started out, like so often is the case in North Carolina in January, crisp, still, and sunny. Temps around freezing at or around the 10AM start in the first week of the year are the norm in the Piedmont, so we all figured that: 1) it would warm up, at least a little; 2)the cold weather bibs, tights, booties and jackets would be enough for the early part of the 100K ride, but that we’d be able to take at least something off when it warmed up later into the ride; and 3) that–even in early January–the 62 miles would be…in the words of one of my erstwhile 36Street Racing teammates…a few good base miles.
As you might guess, not so well. The first 20+ miles were easy enough–hangin’ with the boyz from 36SR and the host Rocky River Road Club (and girlz, a couple of whom can blow past me like rice through a goose) at a healthy 17-18 mph pace into the wind, and in echelon, no less, when the breeze really kicked up. It was fun for me, since the last time I’d echelon-ed and really took a healthy pull at the front of a fast group was, oh, maybe the summer after my freshman year in college. (That was in the summer of 1984; jez’ sayin’…)
That’s about when the wheels came off. Sometime around when we’d hit–or passed–the Rowan County line, someone remarked that there was some “stuff” coming down out of the pine trees that were now blowing pretty close to the road. Turns out, it wasn’t pine pollen…it was the first snow flurries of a black cloud that we had been looking at for a while. About then, heavy snow started falling in earnest, and it got hard to see, hard to pedal in the wind that was blowing the snow sideways; and, well, hard to want to keep going. By that point, I’d gotten dropped by the group on a hill. (That’s not hard to have happen…I’m one of the world’s worst climbers. That is to say, I can do it, but once I get to the top my aerobic ability to continue is nil, so I’d rather spin at a slow speed going up than die once I get to the top.) I caught up to a couple folks–kids, really–after the snow squall stopped, and who were also crawling along, and we made it in to the 2nd rest stop at a little country church where we could warm up,
rest up, fuel up and rehydrate.
The second half of the ride was “interesting;” on the one hand, it wasn’t snowing any more. But on the other, the wind REALLY kicked into high gear, and we–by ‘we’ I’m talking about a couple groups of riders that I hooked up with–really struggled with the wind and the cold. (Oh…and did I mention that there are a LOT of hills in the piedmont??? Well, there are.) But as we got closer to more familiar roads, and passed the last rest stop without more than regrouping, I knew I had at least finished.
Coming into Davidson was nice…it was sunny, maybe a degree or two warmer, and I knew where I was, since we had to pass my neighborhood to get back to the start/finish. So let me just say this: 62 miles isn’t that far. I’ve done more, plenty of times. But the conditions were, in truth, about as brutal as I’ve done on a bike. I’ve been colder. I’ve commuted in snow. I’ve used up all my reserves of energy in a triathlon or five. But those 62 miles were about as difficult as I’ve done in a loooooooong time. I wasn’t in the best of condition; and since it’s been so cold, wet, busy lately, I hadn’t been much on the road bike in a while. (On top of that, I did a saddle adjustment at the check-in…dummy.)
But hey, I finished; as did most of the 325 or so riders who started. Check out DavidsonNews.Net for a brief story on it, and some photos. I’d say that even though it wasn’t as temperature-cold as last year’s PBMC, it was every bit as hard as last year’s, and probably harder given the wind and snow. It was a mental game–as much as the mental game of finishing that last lap of a Cat 4 CX race is when you’re about to get lapped, or as much as the last few miles of a triathlon are when you’ve hit the wall and
there’s no one out there on the course to cheer you on. And, by finishing it, you get to bank the mental strength you’ll need later in the year to successfully compete in or overcome some other challenge.
Grueling, it was. But I, for one, can’t wait till next year.
Photo Credit : @dwuori
This past Sunday I dragged myself out of bed at o’dark 30 to prep myself and brain for my first cyclocross “clinic”. At around 7 o’clock teammate and all around awesome guy, George Berger, picked me up in his little Prius and we were off into the sunrise. The goal was to get to mountains of Boone North Carolina and the Pirate Race Products Cyclocross Clinics.
Walking into a cyclocross clinic I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have participated in cyclocross practices, and various other road/mtb clinics before but never dedicated for cyclocross.
Here are the things I did know:
The clinic was segregated for women and men. There ended up being roughly 12 women that showed up which seemed to be a decent group for learning and trying new things with two instructors.
It would be a long day. The clinic was scheduled from 10 to 4, and I knew from cyclocross practices that I would be completely worn out doing these quick burst of anaerobic effort.
There would be good food. Burrito’s from Black Cat in Boone, if you haven’t been there – go visit soon.
I had no goals. There were things I want to improve on in cyclocross this year, but a specific skill other than not hurting myself, I didn’t have one dead set in mind. Oh wait, that is a lie.I want to be able to do the “flying squirrel” remount by the end of the season. You know that one were you “hop” off the ground and gracefully slide over your saddle like a cowboy on a bareback horse? Yes that is what I want to be able to do.
For 6 hours I was taken back to high school. All the drills and random technique forming (brain numbing) things you would do, and hate, wanting to just PLAY the game you were practicing for. You didn’t want to practice sprints, side to side, crazy legs, etc.
Quickly these feelings went away and I was left really enjoying myself and fellow company. I hope to have video’s of all the things below later this week. Video editing is just not in the time early this week.
Crazy 8′s - You basically take two objects, maybe 20-50 feet apart, with a partner you circle the objects/cones/trees/phone poles in a crazy 8 fashion. Learning how to take the corners properly at speed, while at the same time making sure your partner doesn’t catch or pass you (especially in the corners.)
Hill Climbs – This is the one I avoid, I did it twice and stopped. Find a hill and run up it with your bike. At the top either walk down or hop on your bike to ride back down. We started off slowly, simply picking up our bike and walking up the hill to learn where to place the bike on our shoulders and how to use our free arm to propel ourselves up. After a few times in slow, we then would ride into the hill, dismount and “scurry” up the hill.
Dismounts – A great thing for someone getting used to hopping off the CX bikes, especially with clipless pedals. With some momentum unclip your right foot and swing it over the saddle to be behind your left foot. Simply glide in that position. Once you feel comfortable doing this, repeat but this time swing your right leg back over to and clip back in. Next step is to complete the dismount. There were two schools of thought for this, sliding your right leg between your left leg and bike, or swinging your right leg behind your left and allowing the momentum to unclick you. I don’t feel comfortable the first way, and I’m much faster with the second.
Mounting – At a walking pace work on hip rotation and in motion of your walking stride take your right leg and slide it over the saddle so you “catch” yourself on your inner thigh right below your groin. Work on getting faster and “pushing off” your left leg so you get more speed into the sliding onto the saddle. (This is the one I need to work more on.)
Starts- Try out different gearing for your start, where should you be on your seat, do you do better with your hands on the shifters or in the drops, learn your limits so that you can push them but also land in the top positions in the start of the race. It is always better to allow people to pass you than to pick off people through out the race.
The drills were awesome. Having 12 women to talk about womens CX and learn their ways of doing things, was awesome. Having “hot laps” at the end, was awesome. More than anything I believe the best part was meeting 12 semi-local women that will be on the courses beside me. Having people to talk with, making new friends and hopefully helping grow the sport.
Testing out George’s new Kuat rack was also very informative, if only they came out for a hitch for my new car!
I feel more motivated and able for the season. All I need to work on is my motor and I have over a month to work on that one. Here’s to NC Cyclocross! You can find all the photos over yonder.
While I have raced several cross races this year, they all have been prep work (fun) for the grand event of the North Carolina Cyclocross series. This series kicked off this past weekend, I didn’t make the Saturday race so Sunday was the official kick off to the next 3 months of cyclocross racing!
In order to give you a full scope of the race let’s begin at 5:15am when I woke up. Why? Because I had to leave by 6:15am for the 2.5-3 hour drive to Raleigh. Thank goodness for in car entertainment of Natalie Moore (friend, cheerleeder and cyclocross virgin)! In the car, rocking towards Lion’s Roar I know my body was feeling sore. There’s no reason a 2.5 hour drive should bother me, but something in my hamstring and lower back just didn’t feel right.
Get to race, teammate/friend/brother from another mother, George Berger, had set up his tent already and we had staked out a place for the team to hang out. Another tent went up near the course for race heckling and photo taking.
Get dressed in awesome new Birdsong Brewery team skinsuit. Long sleeve jersey and Foundry parka overtop. 45 degrees and on the road warm up.
Warm up for 45 minutes on the road. Openers. My hamstring wasn’t feeling right. I couldn’t spin through it. It was tight like a fiddle.
Pre-race lap. Course was fast, felt short and super fun.
The field of women (and single speed guys) was the biggest I had ever seen at a NC CX event. 26 women in the CX 4 race, and close to the same in the Pro, 1,2,3 race. Due to warming up and not having points from the day before for call ups – I was 2nd row. That wasn’t good. I normally have a good start and like to rail into the first lap to find my footing.
Strategically I had figured out how I was going to get around the girl in front of me after the line. That was as long as she didn’t fall over in front of me.
Start was on pavement. Slight up hill with a 80 degree turn to the left. Cut to her inside and hit the corner hard. Success. Went into the first wooded section about 10 back.
Bump through the woods, through pine straw and roots. Hard left turn. Girly in 3rd place takes out about 6 girls. Utilizing my mtb skills I stay high inside and sitting pretty in 3rd after that pile up.
Short section of pavement into some taped off turns. If you rode the tape properly you could really keep your steam going. Downhill, 180 degree turn back uphill to the right, 90 degree turn to the left, gravel, miss the huge hole on the right.
Hit gravel road section. Big gear, hitting it hard. Felt good, felt like I could actually attack the wheels I was sitting on if I wanted.
Gear down, left turn into grass, uphill, gravel thrown in for fun. Around some taped turns. Barriers.
This is when I went from 3rd to 6th.
Dismount… that went pretty. Hop. run.. Hop.
Remount. Crap, hamstring and hip won’t open up enough. Stop. Lean bike over. Mount.
SPRINT. Run up huge hill. Pin it in the taped field. Oh shit moment on the steep downhill. Big ring on the pavement to start the lap all over again.
I sat in 5th for most the race. Last lap 6th caught me at that barrier again. We played cat and mouse the rest of the lap. I sat on her wheel, hitting it hard right before the pavement section. Thought I was going to have a sprint finish but had a bike or two lead at the line.
Awesomely happy with myself. Having not ridden much over the past 3 weeks (hell month and a half) I am happy to say I was sitting in 3rd and finished 6th out of 26! The season is long and I should be hitting the podium soon enough. Confidence isn’t huge, but passion is fueled.
Did you race this weekend? How did it go?
photo credit: Natalie and George
I have a very humbled and sad feeling inside when I type this. If it doesn’t come across well, if my grammar stinks and spelling is horrid I am sorry. This type of message is one I never want to relay, it is one that pains me before I even begin.
Last Thursday morning I woke to an email from Benjamin Wilson. Ben is not only a club member, but is a main sponsor of em:pwr with his company Delivery Path. The email went something along the lines that he was hit the evening before in downtown (Uptown) Charlotte. He was fine, just was released from the ER but very shaken up and freaked out. He then asked me to call him ASAP.
I called Ben as soon as I could to talk through his worries and fear. His bike was totaled. He had a police and witness report. He was okay. He was scared. He was freaked out. Everything he explained was exactly how I felt 6 months earlier. I did my best, explaining that it is all needed and what I did to get through it..
Over the past week I’ve been trying to keep tabs on Ben. Keeping his spirits high, or as best as I can. Hoping that talking to someone that has been there and is back on the road would help!
Fast forward to today… A little after lunch I get a call from George Berger. He has been added to the list of Charlotte based bike accidents. I haven’t gotten a full story but he’s fine. He somehow “dismounted” his bike during the accident and now the frame and rear wheel are the only thrashed parts, not him.
Somber. Sad. Feeling for my two friends as I know exactly how they are feeling. George sounded like he was in better spirits than Ben. We’ll get through this guys and hopefully em:pwr others to fix this!
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