Sunday, December 16, 2012

Race Report - Ed Sander CX

Final race of the season was the Ed Sander CX just south of Frederick in Maryland. I travelled solo as the weather didn't appear to be great and I didn't want the kids and Dave stuck outside on a damp chilly morning while I raced. Plus, there is a little cold going around our house, so this wasn't going to make it better.

In the end, though, it was warm enough to race in shorts and a short sleeve jersey (though not warm enough to hang out in that for 45 minutes after the race, which I kind of accidentally did, then regretted, then remedied with a chai from a food truck).

There were about 10 in the women's Cat 4. Though I wasn't there in time for a warm up lap on the course, for once I got to the staging early and got a spot in the first row. I also, for once, had a good start. I clipped in on the right like normal and then sat on my seat leaning over to the left.

This proved to be a better strategy then standing over the top tube, as I have done before, because after the whistle I was in the lead! First! For 3 seconds. But then I was 3rd for a little bit, like 50 meters, before 3 girls whipped by me. And I am not sure why I needed to go through the next 35 or so minutes of pain, because I was 7th in the end too.

And pain there was. I thought it was quite a hard course with a couple spots of soul and momentum sucking misery. One was pit of pea gravel that surprised me on the first lap even though someone had mentioned it. More amazingly, it surprised me on the second lap too and I just barely remembered it on the third.

There was also a whole section that looked like it should be fast and fun, but it was low-lying and was in fact muddy and slow and after the first time through I remembered that.

The last notable part of the course was a spot where there was a 90 degree turn that went straight into a steep but short descent and another 90 degree turn in some soft ground at the bottom. On our first lap one woman in my race wiped out at the bottom and the one right in front of me bailed at the top, making it a bit of a tricky spot that lap, but it was not an issue after that. Then the course shortly after went into a few S-turns on the side of another steep incline. I really thought I could ride it the first time through, but wasn't able to manage in the traffic. The next two laps my legs were feeling the race and I didn't even try to ride, since it seemed faster to commit to running it from the start. I felt better when I learned that women in the higher Category races were running it too.

In the end I thought it was a fun race. Seventh wasn't ideal, but it wasn't last and I felt pretty spent at the end.

That's a wrap of Cyclocross season. Had a fun time and am considering doing some training over the rest of the year that would cross over to the sport more specifically so I can try again next year.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


So, I know I should just be grateful that the bulk of my 12 mile bike commute is on a nice bike path that cuts across Northern Virginia on a route that is more direct than I could take on the roads and, more importantly (especially with early dusk), has no cars.

But sometimes, sometimes on December days where the temperature is forecast to hit 70 degrees, I wish there were two parallel bike trails. One for the commuters and one for the walkers, runners, toddler tricyclists, and dogs on extending leashes (oh, the extending leaches!).

Yup, I know I am spoiled.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Thursday morning was my turkey trot. Forecast was cold, in the 30s, but the sun came out strong once we got there and I took off several layers before getting ready to line up. And then Dave pressured me to take off my long sleeve shirt, leaving just a short sleeve tech tee underneath. Hesitated, hesitated, but decided he was probably right, so I stuffed it in the stroller with about 4 minutes to go until the start. Kept my gloves, though.

Lined up near the front, but about 6 rows back. I know there are some speedy folks at this Turkey Trot these days, but I didn't want to get behind people out for a morning stroll. Somehow this still happened, even though I was right up close, but I probably lost just a few seconds.

Race starts downhill to the first turn and basically trends downhill, then there is a long climb, then repeats this twice, with each decent and climb becoming a little shorter.

When I started my specific training 10 weeks ago, I had to do a timed mile to set paces. I was not thrilled to learn that my timed mile pace had fallen to 7:23, and that was at the track! According to the plan, that meant my race should be at 7:45s or 8s, and I was not down with that, so I had hoped that my fitness would come back with the focused training. Therefore, I was pleased and a little concerned to find my first mile to be 7:04. "Just don't lose it in the second half!"

Usually I have a decent sense of where I am in the field as I run, but I couldn't tell who around me was in my age group, not to mention that the race was chipped, unlike the Backyard Burns, so order over the line doesn't matter, chip time does. So I just went my hardest. There is a hill right in the last half mile that is a bit of a pincher and that is really where it hurt the most, but I tried to stride it out through the finish and ended up with a 22:31, for a 7:15 pace average and 10th in my age group. Not my best, but I am pretty happy with that right now.

I tend to obsess over results, I might have mentioned that, no? So, I have two observations. And a bonus observation. The first is that there were women in my age group who finished 9, 13, and 14 seconds ahead of me. Sure 5 seconds a mile is something, but I never help wondering if I could have found a few of those seconds somewhere with a little more pain or a better line.

The second is that my two most recent results in this trot were 21:20ish in 2010 and a 21:40ish the year before that. Of course you can never compare one race to another like I am about to do, but a 21:20 would have been a podium finish this year. Anyway, I would like to be there again, so maybe I will shoot for it next time I race it (I might be pushing the baby and running with a 5 year old next year so my husband can race, so I guess this might mean 2014 - that's a pretty long-term goal for a 5k...)

Bonus observation: The four fastest women were under 20 years old (16, 16, 19, 19), then the 30-somethings started finishing with a few more teenagers interspersed, including a 14 year old. The first 20-something didn't come in until 12th. I thought this was odd, but Dave pointed out all the 20 year olds might have just been out late the night before...

Next up: Maybe one more cross race if I can swing it and then trying to figure out how to train for a series of 5 hilly 5-mile trail races and an almost pancake flat half marathon at the same time. I can be at my peak for all 6 of those races, right?

Friday, November 16, 2012


The other night I had the computer out and must have been looking very seriously at it and "hmmm"ing and "mm...mm"ing, because Dave asked me what I was studying.

A little sheepishly...."Oh, this website that compares your cross finishes and compares them with other people in your group. Did you know that there was a girl I raced in all three of my races and she beat me in the first two but I beat her last weekend?"

"Well, it's good to know you aren't obsessing over your results."

Now, that's funny. Does he even know me? And did he hear what I said!?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Race Report - Schooley

Sunday morning the family accompanied me out to Maryland for what may be my last cyclocross race of 2012. The morning started cold, but got warmer and warmer until, in stages, I found myself at the starting line (second row) in shorts, a short jersey, and long gloves.

The prologue started up a hill on pavement and I figured it might be a hard day when I was feeling in the red zone by the time we passed the officials' tent the first time, about a minute into the race. But I got out in front of a few women with that sprint and mostly was able to hang onto that position.

Later in the first lap, I passed one or two other women, more on better handling than fitness, I think. For much of the rest of that lap and into the second (3 total this time) I was in sight of 1 to 4 women in front of me and even briefly passed one of them before she passed me back. At some point they pulled away however, and I was feeling kind of down. My exact self-talk was possibly, "I really stink* at this."

* Or other not so positive word.

 Clearly mental toughness is a challenge.

But I pushed through the 3rd lap and even was trying to sprint the finish because I saw a biker up in front of me, but it turned out to be one of the girls from the Juniors wave that started right after us finishing her 2nd lap. It did give me the fulfilling feeling of having left it all out there, though. Particularly when Dave met me at the finish and felt the need to pull my gloves off for me, as I seemed to spent to do it myself.

In the end, I placed the best I have this season, 6th, (in an admittedly somewhat smaller field) and 30 seconds of the 5th place spot on the podium.

And I feel tempted to search out a 4th race now.

A good morning!


Um, the obvious: fitness & the ability to red line for the whole race. Or pace better. At about 12 minutes I looked at my watch and thought, ok - I guess this is how long I can go this hard for.

Warming up. I have not yet felt really warmed up at a race. I even got a lap of the course in this time by dragging the family out there 30 minutes earlier than usual, but it didn't do the trick. I see people riding trainers in the parking lot but I can't really see myself doing this. At this point. Maybe that is the secret, though.

Shifting again! It shouldn't take until the 3rd lap (4th total, if you count my warm up) for me to react to the spots where the course requires me to downshift for a steep unhill before it is right in front of me. Honestly! 

Monday, November 12, 2012


I owe a race report from yesterday, but that has to wait. Because today a "free" holiday. That is work was closed, but daycare was open. So how did I spend the one day per year that this happens?

(Well, all morning I did errands and did all the cleaning I always put off. Yes, I'm talking about vacuuming the stairs, cleaning bathrooms, bathroom mirrors, and bath toys-you get the idea. Let's skip to the afternoon: )

Fountainhead.  (Mountain biking park, not Ayn Rand book.)

It was a gorgeous late fall day with temperatures in the high 60s, so I pulled out my mountain bike, unused these 9 months for some reason, and hit the new trails they have built at one of our local parks. Despite my legs being disproportionally fatigued last night in relation to the length of my cross race, biking definitely sounded like a good idea.

I can't think of a nicer way to spend such an afternoon than out in the woods, so this was perfect. Trails were swoopy and challenging, and it only took me a couple of miles to remember how the shifters on the mountain bike work.

Now I am going to have to find a way to get out there again soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012


In the past week I have not been happy with how my stomach feels. I haven't been sick or anything, I just have been feeling eh. Therefore, I have diagnosed myself as potentially maybe having some kind of allergy. Some adult onset allergy or intolerance? That happens, right? So, as an experiment, yesterday I started massively cutting back on gluten. My brother discovered a gluten intolerance later in life and says he felt much better after he stopped eating it.

Now, I am one of these people who loves bread. Toast for breakfast, toast for a snack, sandwiches, and that doesn't even count all the sneaky things gluten is in. But I had almost none yesterday (there was probably wheat in the crust of the farmer's market quiche I had for lunch), and I did not feel sick last night. This is hardly proof of anything and it may be that cutting bread just kept me eating a cleaner diet in general (and not availing myself of the pizza they served after my husband's race yesterday morning), but it isn't like I was totally clean. I had plenty of M&Ms at said race and Trader Joe's peanut butter cups upon returning home, but I am going to try to keep my gluten way down for the next couple of days and see how I feel.

What I really need to do, for the sake of speed and reclaiming my pre-baby wardrobe, is totally revamp my diet, but honestly, I can't figure out how to do it when trying to feed the munchkins and us and keep the house clean and get both of the adults in the household the workouts we need. Only how many years until the kids can be left alone in the house?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Best longish run in a long time. 70 minutes isn't terribly long, but I was surprised to see a run this long on my 5k training plan that I am following this fall in my search to find a level of fitness I had before having kids.

(As I described before, I'm racing a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and then planning to spend the winter building up to a half marathon in March as well as five 5 mile trail races this spring. Lots of race reports coming in early 2012.)

But all that is neither here nor there. I definitely didn't have any improvements in sleep recently but I have been trying to be consistent with workouts even when life tries to get in the way. Plus, it was a stunning 50 degrees with almost no wind. Whatever it was, I'll take it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I went to a women's cyclocross clinic today. It was mid-day, which is tricky with family obligations--I would always rather just get out first thing and get it done--but I was glad I went. The crowd was a little big--I wasn't expecting 50 women, I don't know why--so I think it could have been better organized by splitting the group up by ability and experience instead of trying to go over all the basics and all the more advanced topics with everyone and then leading a group of 50 women from a standstill through the trickiest corners of the course, but I think I picked up some good pointers. Mostly about cornering. That is where I need a lot of work. A lot.

After 90 minutes of clinic (it was scheduled to last 90 minutes, but was continuing), I decided just to hop out and do a lap on the course before returning home (shouldn't have bothered - Dave had both kids sleeping when I came in). And I think I could tell just from that lap that I was feeling a little more confident on the trickiest parts of the course. A good reminder that good technique can make you faster just like good fitness. Of course both together is better.

Wish I could put what I learned to the test racing tomorrow, but I am in charge of the 4 and under cheering quad for a running race for Dave tomorrow, so I better find my clapper!

Anyway, a fall day with the leaves starting to change and temperatures in the 60s. Being on a bike is a nice way to spend it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hyattsville CX

I headed out for my second Cyclocross race ever this morning, after racing about a month ago in my first.When you are Cat 4 (beginner), you start "early," (I don't really consider 9 am to be early compared to 7 am or 8 am triathlon and regular life with 2 kids, but it is just the 2nd race of an all day affair) but since the family wasn't joining me, I was fine with that.

It was a fun flat course with lots of 180 degree turns. There was a section in the forest that was supposedly loamy and gravelly and hilly, but our heat didn't do that section so we just had the flat grassy turns.

Areas that "need work" (in perceived order of seriousness):

Fitness, Handling
Staying on course


I don't mind getting cold, wet, and muddy (thanks years of rugby)
I have a great bike

So basically I have some work ahead of me.

At the start of the third lap, I followed the biker ahead of me off course onto the prologue section and didn't notice for maybe 20-30 yards and had to U-turn. A woman I had noticed behind me in pink made up a lot of time on my mistake and I think when she spotted how she had gotten closer, she was able to close the gap. So she alternated between right on my tail to 20-30 yards back for the next 2 laps. My friend Karen said, "I saw you look back SO many times."

With just a few turns left she was RIGHT there and I told her, jokingly (I think she realized I was joking), "I know what you're doing!" That is, trying to hang out right behind me and then pass right before the finish line. So we went around the last corner onto the pavement and I got up and sprinted, sure that she would fly by, but she didn't. So I guess I hung on to 11th. Out of not that many more than 11. But it was a fun morning.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Other Side

When I started our blog about our firstborn, that is what it was, a blog about the kids for family and friends. Then in morphed and it was about the kids and about our racing and training, but then the eldest got a little bigger and I decided to make that blog private and, in the meantime, with the hassle of the password and all that, lost, I think, most of the readers who aren't interested in the kids.

But now I am seeking that competitive side of me again. Having babies is not necessarily good for one's athletic endeavors, but I know that just a little hard training and discipline will bring out the speed and fitness that has been kind of elusive this past year. When I trained and raced before, I wouldn't have necessarily used the term "balanced" to describe my life - it was kind of sport heavy. Now I won't have a choice but to be balanced, so I am going to shoot for that.  

So, at a time when I am trying to revive the athlete in me, it seems like it might be appropriate to revive the training and racing blog. Who knows if anyone will read it - maybe I will have some races and/or experiences either so good or so hilariously bad that they might be worth reading about. But on the tail end of a block of 3 weeks of solid training, a feat after a 2012 that has not been too conducive to training for all kinds of reasons, I will try it out.

And so, it is always important to have a discussion of goals.

Short term: Don't embarrass myself at the Turkey Trot 5k. I've managed to place in this race 2 or 3 times, which was easier when no one knew about it. As an Arlington race it keeps getting faster and faster, but I have put myself on a training plan that will hopefully get me through it at a pace that is respectful.  Also, I am going to try one or two more cyclocross races. I can't hope to not embarrass myself there, but if I do them and have fun, I will likely be happy. Ish.

Not good enough? Ok - I am shooting for the low 7 min/ mile pace, that is, anything up to 7:30/mile. A few years ago this would have been a no-brainer, but we'll see what happens in 2012.

On the horizon for 2013: Backyard Burn series, Shamrock Half Marathon, what sprints and olys fit into our schedule. I will enter the lottery for the NY marathon again and if I get in, training for that will direct what else I decide to do. I have only done one marathon, Marine Corps, and injury, travel, and being in the middle of a rugby 15s season caused me not to train properly. As a New Yorker I decided that the only other one I really want to do is NYC. So I better get to it while I am still youngish.