Monday, May 20, 2013

Rumble in the Jungle Race

With nice weather forecasted for Sunday’s race, I was a bit surprised when I woke up to the gentle sound of rain. I checked the radar and did not see too much green or orange and thought it was a passing shower. Well I was wrong, as it rained all day. I suppose the rain was so close to the ground, it was under the radar. We certainly do need the rain, but racing in the rain can completely change the game plan.

This may seem odd, but seeing the rain on Sunday gave me a feeling of relief. A dry race would mean a full effort the whole race for me and everyone else. Rain meant slippery conditions and a slightly backed off pace, flirting right under loss of control and flailing about. While some racers may have been intimidated by the conditions, I felt confident backing things down a notch and trusting that my skills would dictate my race. Staying within my control and riding smooth, efficient and consistent were my plans for the day.

The start went well. I’m not sure if the ladies were being cautious or I was having a good day, but I found myself as 3rd wheel with ease. As soon as things opened up, I moved up to second, which was ideal going into the first long stretch of single-track. Once we began to snake our way through this slimy, slippery intestine of a trail, I found my “keep it upright” speed. With the twisty trail, riders were spotted in front and behind, but not much changed. The conditions dictated the pace for all, and I was happy with it, as it was very workable, leaving some in the tanks for the technical climb ahead.

Much to my surprise, the climb and all the rocky sections were in pretty good shape, which enabled me to ride the entire course, and made my race so much more fun. I can honestly say that this was the most fun race to date this year. It was somewhat challenging technically, but nothing seemed overwhelming for me. It just came together like a fun ride.

By my third lap, the Cat 3 racers had been released onto the course. This is not the usual way races are run, but the weather had thrown lap times off and the promoter chose to stay on schedule regardless. I got a little panicky when I heard the distant whistle, thinking that I was going to be swarmed by energetic Cat 3 men, some with no wet racing experience, but that never happened. ...they were all in front of me. My third lap became an exercise in polite passing etiquette, and trying not to ruin anyone’s race or terrorize any 10 year olds.

By the time I reached the slimy intestine trail, it was almost futile to try and pass as the conga line went on for as far as I could see. One by one, I worked through trying not to make anyone pullover and stop. I received some unexpected cheering at the stream from spectators. You got to love Cat 3 spectators! So, although my last lap was slower than I hoped, I knew that all the women behind me were in the same situation. Dealing with passing is part of racing and I got my practice on Sunday. Racing in with the Cat 3's also reminded me how far I have come as a racer. It was an awesome day and well spent!

After my race I spent hours removing a half inch of caked mud from my bike, my clothes and me. ...and yes, I did remember to wash behind and in my ears.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Strava Blues

Just another reason to slow down on a ride.

As many of you already know, I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to technology. My natural tendency is to resist anything new that is overwhelmingly more complicated than practical. However, once convinced to give this new stuff a try, I am usually completely sold on it and wonder why I lived so long with out. Just for chuckles, some of the things that I resisted that have made huge changes in my life are: tubeless tires, disc brakes, computers and cell phones.

This past winter, I updated my heart rate monitor to a Garmin Edge. This piece of technology was long overdue and been something I had been resisting. When my man gave me one for Christmas, I happily accepted. As soon as I got it up and running, I realized it worked great and I was able to download data for more accurate records. Many people told me to try Strava. I found it so easy to use, even for a luddite like myself. After a few weeks, and still somewhat na├»ve, I started noticing little crown and medal icons popping up and thought what is this all about? … and there you go, the Strava hooks were placed into another rider.

So, I don’t think I ever became obsessed, but after 20 years of racing, a little Strava motivation was a welcome training tool to get me through the winter. However, one thing I did notice is that when trying to challenge a segment, many other things would get in the way. First there was snow and ice in the trail, then blown down trees across the trail, or a flat tire, social group stopping, giving directions to a lost hiker, stopping for wildlife. The list could go on, but why bother. I think you get the idea. Nearly every ride with Art somehow turns into trail maintenance, whether I like it or not. It’s part of what we do as being Stewards to both the park and Jorba.

I suppose Strava and I are not a perfect fit. At first, I thought I was a bit too easily distracted with my riding to concentrate on my Strava goals. Then I thought a little deeper, and decided that a cyclist or mountain biker probably should not be too distracted by Strava while out riding. You can call it priorities, but I call it common sense.

I’ll admit that the whole concept and technology behind Stava is pretty amazing. You can create and share routes, make goals and create world wide competition. However, I can see how some could loose track of reality. I plan to use it as training tool when it is appropriate, but I hope to not let it run all my rides. There is more to riding than what can be interpreted electronically. I still like the happy little surprises that pop up when I get home, letting me know that I am indeed still a big deal to somebody, even it is just because I am out riding a bike.