Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cupcake Handup

Thanks to Luke Seemann for the photos!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Photo by John Wrycza.

Last year, Woodstock was a good race for me. I had second place tied up until I slid out in the last off-camber turn before the finishing stretch and ended up third - my best placing.

Pre-riding the almost identical course this year though, I felt really leaden. Totally low-energy. I couldn't muster the will to run the run-up or do more than step slowly over the barriers. Still, I rode it four times before the masters went off. Then I took a nap in my car.

I lined up after a lackluster warm-up - got a good spot thanks to my call-up - and didn't have a terrible start. Not a great start - I didn't get the hole shot or anything - but I didn't get trapped behind a whole bunch of slower riders either. And once I was out there, I didn't feel too bad at all.

By the last lap, I had caught and passed a number of riders, and had my two teammates, Natalie and Courtney, in sight. I haven't been close to Courtney since Jackson Park. In the maze, Kathy from Project 5 and a junior crashed and the three of us xXxers got in front of her. I worked hard to catch and pass Natalie, but she's SO much better at the barriers than I, I kept falling back. After the run-up, I could see she was faltering - and I should have sprinted around her then - but once we got into the finishing turns, there was no opportunity to pass and she out-sprinted me. We finished third, fourth and fifth - so I finally broke into the top five!

Photo by John Wrycza

I was so buzzed after that, I was excited to race the men's 4bs. I'm not much for beer, so I brought a leftover bottle of Canadian Club [aren't all bottle of Canadian Club sort of left over?] and disposable shot glasses. I like whiskey, I like handups, this seemed like a great combination.

There were two other women in the men's race this week, my teammate Courtney and Katie from Spidermonkey. We got called up to the front of the line along with the Turin guy in the Turkey suit. Heh. I got a pretty good start again, but did get held up behind the Turin turkey for a third of the lap. But once around, I made up some ground. A bunch of guys passed me, but I also passed a few of them back. It was a fast, fun race.

The hecklers were all stationed at the run-up after the second barrier. Dozens of people taunting racers with SPAM, pixie sticks, beer, twizzlers, cupcakes, candy orange slices, cheeto's and, yes, whiskey. On my second lap I got a red velvet mini cupcake - yum. Except for the frosting all over my brake levers. Third lap I spotted the whiskey and grabbed a shot glass, downed the contents and tossed the glass over my head. Went down easy. And then rapidly made me downright tipsy and a bit dizzy. Whisky has quite an effect with your heart rate at 90%. Seriously, its a BAD idea.

I grappled with that for a while - until I realized Courtney was just ahead of me. I managed to pass her in the start/finish stretch, but she got right on my wheel and stayed there to the barriers, where she got right around me and back on her bike while I was still stepping over the second barrier. I chased hard and got close again - but we hit the barrier at heckle hill, and again she proved way more adept than I and opened up a little gap. I again attempted to close before we crossed the road into the off-camber turns, but just couldn't quite make it. She passed another rider and he got in my way a bit - and then he too put in a big final effort and finished ahead of me.

I ended up 38 out of 75 - which I was mighty pleased with. No more whiskey handups, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

photo by Alan T.

I raced cross at Indian Lakes on Sunday. Damn, cross is SO MUCH FUN!!!

The South Chicago Wheelmen managed to put on an even better race than last year, somehow convincing a golf resort to let us race on their course. So mostly flat with a couple sand traps, a bit of mud and a number of long straights. A good course for a road rider with iffy cross skills like me.

First, I raced the women's cat 4 category. The woman leading the series upgraded this week, so I was bumped up to 7th in the overall series standings. I had an OK start for me, ended up knocking elbows all through the first chicane, going over the first barriers haphazardly and not being able to remount in the crush. I ran the hill instead and the crowd thinned out by the time I hit the sand traps. I was able to ride 2/3s of the first sand pit, but the exit lip was too steep and I had to dismount [with varying degrees of grace] each lap, then run to the next sand pit. I started picking off women one by one - there was always someone in sight. When one of the older juniors came by, I grabbed his wheel and drafted through the headwind. I was able to use the paved stretch to pass quite a few people. On my last lap, I had someone in sight - but she could see me gaining on her and pushed hard. I finished 10 seconds behind her in 6th place - getting closer to the top five!

AND I finished in the money! There was actual payout for the cat 4 women - THANK YOU, South Chicago Wheelmen!

photo by Liz Farina Markel

Then I raced the men's 4B race for the first time. SUCH fun. Of the 75 racers, 8 of us were women - so everybody knew our names. Along the whole course, 'Tamara! Go, Tamara! Tamara! Wheeeee!

My start wasn't fantastic, but I was aggressive. Coming to the second barrier in my first lap, I slid out, stepped onto the side of my ankle and bit it hard. I heard the ankle crack and was momentarily worried I'd actually really hurt myself. But I jumped up and nothing seemed seriously awry, so I got over the barrier, ran up the hill and forgot about the whole thing until I saw my bloody knee after the race.

Cuttin' Crew carried their couches to the top of the hill and taunted me with MGD on every lap [next week I'm going to bring Canadian Club and hand up shots. WHISKEY!] But the real action was at the sand pits - an ever narrowing alley of fans brandishing twizzlers and cupcakes and dollar bills and golf balls and cans of Fat Tire. One lap I got a cupcake - the bite I got was delicious. I grabbed a dollar bill from a woman who seemed pretty surprised - and another that was dangling in front of my face. I took a couple beers and then handed them back up the line.

And all the while I was going all out. On the last lap, I started closing in on Katie from Spidermonkey. We'd joked earlier about which one of us would win a one up sprint - I figured it would be her since she always starts better than I do. I passed her on the paved stretch and held her off through the series of chicanes. I hit the last bit of pavement and gunned it as hard as I could. I actually sprinted in the drops all the way to the line - and finished in front her. Woooo! 46th out of 75 - not terrible. And I'm definitely doing it again next week!

photo by Luke Seeman

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am so tired today - really dragging. I'm on the cusp of getting sick. Somehow, I have to find the energy to jog this evening.

I'm waiting for the bank to call me back. I've called twice and both times was promised a return call within 15 minutes. I'm going to have to call again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

St. Charles cross was yesterday - the day after Halloween, so costumes were mandatory. I lucked into a skirted ice skating costume, so of course I went as Tanya Harding.

Bicycle Heaven put on a great race - the course was 90% the same as last year [and last year's course ROCKED] with the addition of buckets of mud. Half a lap in, you were completely filthy. And once you went through the two ditches, each with a foot or so of watery mud, you were covered. I don't think I've ever been so muddy - certainly my bike never has.

I got a good spot on the front line and was determined to be aggressive. I never get a very good start and it hurts me. At the whistle, I jumped - but the women on either side of me jumped faster. The start was pretty narrow, both women near me, wobbled inward towards me, I had nowhere to go but too much velocity . . . I went down. Five feet from the starting line. By the time I was up and out, I was last. So my race turned into 'catch and pass.'

We only had three laps. The first took me past 15 or so racers. I finally had my HED stingers set up for cross and they just floated uphill and over grass. By the second lap I had Katie from Spidermonkey and Jamie from Cuttin' Crew in sight. I got around Katie, but Jamie is just better at the skills than I am. But each lap, I rode the mud better and faster. I chased Jamie up the hill on lap three, trailed her over the barrier and into the field - and finally managed to ride past as we crested. I concentrated on putting space between us. Unfortunately, no one else was in sight.

When the race ended, I still felt fresh. 30 minutes is just not enough. But there was nothing to do but wipe the mud off my teeth and congratulate the winners. I managed to come in 11th out of 29 - not bad considering, but still a bit of a disappointment.

I am very much looking forward to next week at Northbrook. I HOPE the stairs are part of the course again!