Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Team Race Report: FORD Duathlon, 2016

I registered way back when for the Fredericksburg Off-road duathlon (FORD).  I am a sucker for a discount and with plenty of time it seemed doable.  Fast forward a few months and a lot of cold wet weather.  Did I mention I hate the cold?  Seriously.  Ask my teammate Patricia Kinser.   I had done this race last year and I knew what to expect.  But last year I also trained a little.  This year with one week out and the race date suddenly approaching, that didn’t happen.  

With race day getting closer and seeing that the forecast was getting worse, I realized that not only was I going to be unprepared, but freezing my tail off.  Since I don’t bike in the cold I’m not good at knowing what to wear when I do.  So add to that that I had to run and bike wearing the same clothes.
I was not speaking highly about the event that week. It wasn’t helping when my husband kept offering (being helpful, I’m sure) “if you aren’t going to have fun, why don’t you just not do it?”!  Knowing I couldn’t bail, I considered dropping down to the beginner distance to get it over and done.   But I couldn’t convince myself (this will resurface).  So morning of, I threw in capris, tights, long socks, short socks, 2 hats, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 jerseys and a vest and we headed to Fredericksburg.

They really know how to put on a great event there.  It’s laid back but yet has all the right attention to detail.  The race director was giving us our briefing and I heard the dreaded words…that we were in fact going to have to run through the tunnel.  That means at mile 1 of both runs, you run through a decent distance (under I95) of standing water.  Let’s remember that it’s in the 30’s.   Sigh.  Off we go.

Run leg 1- I start to warm up after running straight up a steep hill, so steep that you can hardly consider it running. But my hands stayed cold. I tried to pull my fingers inside my bike gloves while running and not tripping (as a side note I have a solid history of tripping while trail running).  But by the end of the run and the unpleasantly steep hill up to the transition, I felt warmer.  Run leg 1- done.

Bike leg – well, 0.5 miles into the hilly twisty, turny trail it’s evident that I did not train. I just couldn’t get much oomph.  I rode and kept moving (aside from a few trickier logs and creeks), but just didn’t not get into a groove.  It’s a beautiful course, but one that would benefit from a pre-ride (and again…training).

It’s a small race so on the upside you aren’t fighting passing people, but on the downside you are riding alone for a while. So while peaceful, it wasn’t helpful for pacing myself. But the great part is that once you get through the first third, you get some fun, flowy trail and then finish up with some welcome flat scenic lowlands along the river filled with Virginia Bluebells.  Add in that last climb back to the transition and bike leg – done.

Run leg 2 – Well, let’s just say that I seriously contemplated quitting at that point.  I thought, you know – I only know 1 or 2 people here, I could just fade off and pack up.  By this point the beginners were done and drinking beer so they probably wouldn’t have noticed.  But again…I just did not want to quit.  Slow and finishing was better than the alternative.  Onward.  Through most of the run all I thought about was the hill at the end.  Aside from when I tripped, and other thoughts came to mind.  I told myself there was just no way on earth I could run that last part (and again, probably no one would notice). Note to self, should have signed up for beginner course.  Then I get to where the trail dumps out on the fire road and there’s my husband.  I said (I’m sure with some more colorful language), “I can’t do it”.  And he said “just keep putting one foot forward”.  So I did.  I didn’t look at the top; I just looked a few feet ahead and barely, painfully kept running all the way to the top.

Who’s in for next year?

-Kendell Ryan

Monday, April 11, 2016

Team Race Report: Monster Cross, 2016

Every year Monster Cross rolls around and every year I talk myself out of it. A 25 or 50 mile race on technical and steep fire roads in February? Where do I hide? I'd managed to avoid it in past years but this year I was out of excuses and in the midst of Great Blizzard of '16 cabin fever I signed up for the 25 mile option.

Then I did nothing. I did not go scout the course. I did not train. I did not really think much about it. I did get in one long ride a week and a few trainer classes but I mostly just pretended like it wasn't happening. The weekend before race weekend when I should've done a course pre-ride, the high was in the 20s and I was like, nope. Not going to ride my bike.

Thankfully, race weekend was unseasonably warm so I didn't have to worry about layering misery upon misery. It didn't matter much, though. I'd been having a rough week - doctor appointments, canceled plans, some personal angst that I hadn't worked out yet. February is generally a very low month for me and the idea that I'd have to spend my Sunday morning racing my bike was incredibly unappealing.

But, I did it. Saturday I had a fun, easy mountain bike ride with Lisa. I ate a healthy dinner, packed up my bike stuff, oiled my chain and went to bed early. Race morning found me lined up with nearly 600 other people, most of us in glorious short sleeves and bare legs.

Monster Cross is enormously popular because there's really not much else going on in February and racers want something to do. I mostly wanted to be eating breakfast in bed, but okay. I'm here and so are all of my cycling friends. I started to perk up.

I am generally pretty set on my race prep but at the last minute I threaded my ear buds under my jersey and clipped my ipod shuffle on. I never, ever listen to music on my bike but this was a long race for me and I thought it might help me keep my pace up. It was a solid decision.

The 50 miler pros started. The 50 miler non-pros started. Then the 25 mile "mini" Monster started. I was near the front and got a good start but I hadn't really warmed up, figuring that would be what I'd use the first 3-4 miles for. It wasn't a bad plan exactly, but it's hard when you get passed by the nine year old boy, by the guy on the fat bike, by the older dude with his t-shirt tucked into his spandex shorts. I wasn't racing any of those people, but it still stung a little.

For a while I paced a couple of the other women. I'd pass them, then they'd pass me. Back and forth. Eventually I dropped them and was pretty much on my own for a good 10-15 miles. I passed some guys, a few guys passed me. It was peaceful in the woods and my music was motivating and I felt...good. I felt good! I love this! I love my bike and I don't really mind climbing this long-ass paved hill. I just settled in. I listened to my music. All was good. Then out of nowhere the two women I'd passed miles back shot past me like I was standing still. Ugh. I knew I wasn't in contention for any kind of podium spot but I definitely picked up the pace a bit after that.

For a good portion of the second half I traded spots with the leader in the unicycle category. Yes, there is a unicycle category. It's masterful and terrifying watching them fly downhill on a single, giant wheel with a fixed gear. No way, man. I'd chosen to ride my mountain bike instead of my cyclocross bike which was definitely the right choice for me. Some of the descents were quite technical and the creek crossings were deeper and muddier than I was expecting. I'm much more confident on fat tires. (But I prefer two of them. Those unicycle peeps are crazy.)

The best part was mile 5-15. I was feeling pretty solid overall and pacing myself decently. The race organizer Mark had warned us that most of the climbing was in the last nine miles and I was waiting for it. The course eventually looped behind the main parking lot and through a field that lead to the bridge that would take us to the other side of the park and the final grueling five miles. As I headed to the bridge my Shuffle started playing London Bridge:

Oh shit (oh shit)
Oh shit (oh shit)
Oh shit (oh shit)
Oh shit (oh shit)
Are you ready for this?
Oh shit (oh shit)

I cracked up. If ever there was an appropriate time for that ridiculous song it was at that exact moment. I crossed the field laughing my ass off and I'm sure the people watching thought I'd lost my mind. I crossed the bridge and headed for... the hardest part. I had my Garmin on so I could see the mileage and man, that last five miles took FOR. EVER. My quads were cramping so I was terrified if I stopped pedaling I wouldn't be able to start again. My saddle, which I'd never loved, was now enemy #1. In short: my ass hurt. My legs hurt. I was ready for it to be over. 

Somewhere in there I found my friend Russ who'd been sidelined with a flat. He got on my wheel and we trudged out the last few grueling miles together. Finally, finally, I was back across the bridge and heading up the steep paved hill towards the finish. Final time: 2:10 and I came in 13th out of 29 women. I was pretty happy with that considering I didn't train for it. (That's not to say I didn't race it - I pushed hard but I definitely wasn't as fit as I could've been.) It set a baseline for me, though, so next year I can hopefully beat that time and place higher. We'll see. 

Favorite moments: 

  • Singing along to Salt n Pepa's Shoop while climbing the long paved road. It helped.
  • Seeing how well my teammates did. For one this was her first race and she placed 11th!  My teammate Amy came in 3rd, which was well-deserved. 
  • Being called "baby girl" by the parks employee who was directing riders across the road. She made my day.
  • Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken's excellent post-race meal. Lee's is a supporter of my cycling team and I was SO happy to have that chicken and mac 'n cheese. And there was beer. That didn't hurt either. 

Eventually the warm, overcast weather gave into rain and it was time to pack up and go home. A really good day, and just what I needed to get my head on straight again.

by Adrien

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Monster Cross, 2015

Monster CX 2015 is in the bag! As you know, the weather was amazing and hundreds of weather weary cyclists hatched from their pods to take on the challenge.  The race began up in the parking lot this year alongside the team tents. It finished  in the grassy field with the beer, food, music and expo tent. RCWR had a lovely home base set up and attended by Chip, Josh and Lora who provided bacon hand-ups to anyone weird enough to take them and cold cokes and delicious vegetable soup at the finish. There was further representation around the start /finish and beer tent by Lisa, styling in her team winter vest.

The warm, sunny sky was a stark contrast to the brownish grey sticky icky ground. Paula, Anna, Sonya and Caroline took off with the main race pack and I followed 2 minutes later with the short course group. I met Anna at about mile 4. She had been nursing a back injury flare up all week and I could see from her posture and speed that she was not enjoying her ride! She confirmed that she was not doing well but planned to complete the first lap. Kudos to her for sticking with it for the next 16 miles as the horse trail course this year was unusually energy zapping due to the relentless deep peanut buttery mud. And navigating the entire race course was a whole body effort.

I had a great race this year and came in 4th among the women's open field which was about 20-25 deep (?). This was an improvement from last year's 9th place and I plan to be on the podium next year. I would add that everyone's times were considerably longer than last year' s due to the course conditions.

As I was headed back to the team tent, I saw Paula blasting through to start her second lap and there was visible foam frothing from the bit. Look out women's 40+ - its on! The next time I saw her, she was coming across the finish line. She was not her usual jubilant self and  reported severe cramping at the bottom the creek crossing hill and had no idea as to where she had finished but had not seen anyone pass her. About an hour later, she learned she had won the race! Again! WOOT!

Next came Caroline across the line - clearly relieved to not be pedaling anymore and making plans for the beer tent. Then came Sonya who stopped just after the line to accept a celebratory swig of beer from Lester Brown!

I'm looking forward to our next opportunity to be together and represent.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Conquer the Hill at Miller School

Paula Smith on the Expert/Pro podium at Conquer the Hill:

Way to go, ladies! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monster Cross 2014.

Wow! What a wonderful day at the races! RCWR had 2 podium finishes at Monster Cross -Sonya Richeson took bronze in the women's mini monster cross and Paula Smith took gold in the Women's 40+ full distance.

The rest of our racers all finished -Emily Helmboldt and Ann Hardy in the mini and Monica Glavé, Malissa Hundley and Lisa Lambrecht the full distance.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Richmond Festival of Cross.

What a great weekend! Impressive results by Julie, Paula and Sonya! Congrats, ladies.

Turkey Run Cross.

A couple of great photos from the Turkey Run Cross, where Paula Smith and Sonya Richeson both did well!