Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Race number 2 - Fakenham

What a contrast! The race at Fakenham was 9 circuits of a grassy field. Obstacles included bumps, a bridge over a stream and a few gravelly corners. That was it.

But then I wasn't into gritty madness at the weekend, just shaking off the remnants of a snotty cold.

The race did a good job of shaking off those remnants. With the bumps, shaking was the prominent word in that sentance. My injuries include a blister where my gloves rubbed against the handlebars and a cut on my chin where I was pinged by a stone in the mass-start on gravel.

As far as cyclo-cross races go it was uneventful except for laughing with other riders, encouraging other ladies and helping a little 7-year old who got stuck in the under 12s race.

Still, I move ever closer to my targets (though with a new target, I only snatched 4th place this week) and it's all good practice for the biggie in two weeks time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

On why I want a Mercian...

Because all these people can't be wrong

Sew nice...

Over-edge stitch, all the way along the bottom of the vanu's new curtain.

This is a new era in my life. Never again will hemming stop me from creating masterpieces.

All that over-edging and not a single jam.

I love my new machine.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The First Cyclo-Cross of the Season

Yesterday the Peterborough Cycling Club (aka me) made its first foray into the world of cyclo-cross racing.

For me it was a return to the good old days, with a twist of added sunshine.

We arrived with an hour to spare - plenty of time to get out the bikes (so nice when they don't need to be assembled out of the back of a car) and sign-on for the event.

The only problem is, we could see the course but we couldn't find where to park or register. A 3-point turn in a tight corner and asking some friendly locals finally took us to the water-park and café which doubled up as the finishing point for a local Lukemia research bike-ride. Still, I wasn't sure about that course. From where I was sitting, it looked like a game of cat and mouse around a grassy field - bloody southerners!

I was really nervous. Lots of people looking race-ready made me think that I might have misread the instructions and missed my event. TSK calmed me by pointing out that the other ladies didn't look dirty or sweaty -enough to have raced yet.

I was pleased to see other women there. It's much more fun to race against peers. Taking-part in your own little category just isn't good enough as there's a tendency to pootle a bit too much.

I wasn't nearly prepared to find that there were actually 10 ladies already signed-on making me number 11.

TSK walked down to the course and I went for my warm-up lap. After sheepishly heading the wrong way down a few turns, I finally met the race organiser who pointed me in the right direction and said the words no-one wants to hear on their warm-up lap - "you might not get all the way round because of the Ambulance".

Ambulance duly noted heading for the road, I plunged into the woods over two concrete blocks jutting from the parched ground (I figure he fell on the corner and broke his arm on the concrete). A tricky drop into bottom gear to hop over the lip of tarmac path and back into top gear for a downhill. Note girlie cycling the other way, I completely overshoot the only line on a sharp 90 bend onto a dusty climb. I turn round to have another try at it and realise this is what the other girlie is doing. We laugh that we both completely overshot the line.

She rides it, I rides it, though there's a moment there where, on the 30 degree slope, I come to a dead-stop with both feet clipped in the pedals and only avoid falling over by pulling a wheelie to get myself moving again.

Around the corner there are six people looking into a bomb-hole. A bomb-hole is a fun obstacle. It's a circular dip in the ground. Usually 6 - 10 feet deep with 45 - 60 degree sides. So long as they're smooth they are easily ridden. Riders put the weight over the back wheel by leaning back of the saddle and use their back brake to control the speed so that they don't go over the front. They use their brakes as little as possible so that the momentum from the down hill takes them up the other side and out of the hole. I generally find that not looking at the bomb-hole is the best technique at a first pass, though I approached it slowly enough to bail-out if there were any lumps or bumps that might throw me off. I passed the onlookers and gracefully (and thankfully) popped out the other side unscathed. Behind me I heard swooshs, crash, "Argh!" as the bloke behind me dived over the bars. Red and I were starting to get along just fine.

Some more single-track, a log jump and out of the woods to another straight across the grassy field, down a storm-drain, up the other side and into the second stretch of woods where a series of tight turns on loose soil and tree roots made for a challenging combo of power, speed control and smooth gear-shifting. I popped out of the woods again, grinning and asking TSK if he felt like moving to the Fens for good. These Easteners know how to build courses.

The start of the race was very organised. The first five rows on the grid were made up of people who placed last year in the league. TSK later told me that three ladies were there, although I actually only noticed one. The rest of us made a free-for-all huddle at the back. The organiser asked if anyone hadn't ridden a race before and the lady next to me held up her hand. As the organiser went through some of the rules and etiquette of the sport, I wished her luck and suggested she has fun and then we were on our way.

I had my mark on the lady in the back row of the grid and though a few riders got between us, at the first bottle neck, I jumped off, tossed my bike on my shoulder and cut through the bushes (a legit move) to get myself back in with her group. There was another woman with me.

Gradually, grid-lady (Jen) pulled away from us but we continued to ride together for the first three laps. At that point my race lungs (the taste of blood when breathing hard) got over themselves and I got into a groove which made the most of speed, control and technical skill. I made the most of the men who, determined to pass me, did so on the long grassy stretch into a full-on head wind. I sat behind them, patiently resting until we reached the single-track then attacked and made up the distance each lap but finally, the lady in blue passed me on the fast, grassy section and disappeared into the woods ahead of me.

I continued to keep pace through the woods, always keeping one eye out for her on the twists and turns and finally, there she was, picking herself up having taken a tumble on a gritty corner. She was dusting herself off so I pushed past and, at the start of the windy straight, got myself fast-enough and low-enough to tag onto the back of a faster rider that was lapping me.

And that was it really. I was slightly dogged by a man behind me who insisted on informing me of everything that was going on with the riders coming past behind us. I'd like to think he was being helpful but in some way felt that he was doing it in the hope I'd let him pass me because he was "in the know". I was close to asking him to give up with the commentary when he fell victim to the bomb-hole and spent the rest of the race talking to every stick that dared look at him funny.

A brief sprint for the line got me 50th place out of about 70 riders.

I walked away thinking I was second lady, since I'd only seen Jen ahead of me at the start but then when TSK told me there were at least 3 ladies in the grid my hopes sank to somewhere around 4th or 5th. I'm not sure what made me happier, finding out I was 3rd, or finding out that the lady I was talking to on the start line was actually first! In her first event! So impressed. We both agreed that she had fun. Bizarely she told me she didn't recognise me as I look much smaller on my bike (that's a new one on me).

The highlight of my day was on the last lap, coming round the trickiest corner in the field which teeter-totters at the edge of a dip. As I was on the brink of going over the edge into a mess, the man behind tried to pass on my inside but, not having the line, started to push me of my line. Team effort was required and to save both our asses I grabbed his saddle and gave him a shove to get him off me, somehow, throwing my own body weight back on course and keeping us both moving. As payment I took his wheel into the wind again.

All in all I am extremely pleased with my third place. I feel great this year. I expected to do OK at this race, but never expected to do so well. I said to TSK that 50% of my success was his since he has encouraged me and helped me to develop this year, beyond my wildest expectations. I'm starting to have the life I've been hankering after for the last 5 years.

Next week's race is at Fakenham in Norfolk and after the Open5 at the end of September we go National with the National Trophy in Abergaveny. Pressure's on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I have been looking for a replacement for Green.

Mercian are doing a special edition Paul Smith touring bike for 2007.

Anyone got £3k to spare?

I want to be back on holiday

Since when is my job finding work for someone else's work experience student?

She wants to be a beautician.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ongoing Saga

ClumsyJet are still not interested in Green. I have heard nothing. So Dauntless (the MTB) is currently rocking around Peterborough in slicks.

It's so much fun!

Groups of school kids, uneasy-looking elderly ladies on bikes, dogs on long leads. They all give me the gleeful opportunity to swing wide and pass on the grassy banks of the paths that I ride to work.

The first ride on the suspension, bobbing up and down as I climbed the hill near home was weird with the weight of my paniers on the back but now I'm reassured that at least by the time the Open5 comes around again I will be comfortable on Dauntless, not slightly doddering as I was on Monday morning. I'll be like the downhillers at the world champs, honest.

I have my third appointment at the gym tomorrow. Finally one of the instructors was interested enough to refer me to Catherine and apparently Catherine has a bit of know-how on the Personal-Trainer front and might just be qualified to get my running up to speed in time for the race at Grassington.

The other instructors are only interested in me if I want to lose weight or gain it and didn't understand my need to be able to run 11km and climb 450m within 20 days. Oh! the stats.

I fear I am becoming addicted to endorphins.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Vanu Has Her Pulling-Knickers on

Goodness knows how I have managed it, through a report from the World Triathlon Champs, a programme about the Three Peaks Yacht Race and the review from the World Mountain Bike Champs in Fort William, Scotland, I have spent all weekend sanding, buffing, washing and painting the vanu.

The highlight of my weekend was three footballers walking past, one quietly commenting that, "She's doing a good job fixing that up".

The truth of it is, on Saturday morning TSK had his delayed birthday present before the autumnal weather sets in (his birthday was in May). We went Kayaking on a local lake. We learned new skills and practiced them for two hours. I took my first trip on moving water (well, it was only moving about 1 mile per hour but I had fun).

Since Saturday morning, my inner thighs no longer work. My back is tired, sure, but my knees were gripping an over-sized boat for two hours and they no longer want to stay together (no funniness, please it hurts!). I felt motivated to run this morning (after watching the yacht race) but the legs said no. So instead I've stood on a chair painting the vanu roof and polishing her black plastic bits and dreaming of our next adventure in a slightly more
spruced-up wanna-be campervan.

Ps. There's no news on Green yet, but basically she's unfixable - could be bent back in shape but not worth the risk and too expensive to send her away to have it done proper and repainted. I am hoping, since she also has been on her last legs for a while, to get plenty of money towards a nice new touring frame... once I eventually hear from Eviljet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Boomerang Cycling

So I'm back. One little cyclo-cross after Canada last year and now I am staring down the barrel of my first full season starting on 15th September.

To get myself in the right frame of mind I started doing club Time Trials with the Peterbrough Cycling Club back in July and I might just be thinking of a (my first ever) road race on Sunday but that would be a bit scary so I might just stand on the side-lines.

Meanwhile today was my first day riding to work on Red in mourning of Green who got bent on the aeroplane on the way back from France last weekend.

I got to work and realised I had left my lock at home. After three hours of nervously checking she was still in the bike park every half hour, I finally rode home at lunchtime to get my lock. Got back to work to find I had left my key at home. Well it was a nice day so I just turned around and rode back home to get the key.

I'm proud to say I also rode back to work, and home again in the evening... even managing a Friday night trip to the pub for a pint, a pie, some chocolate pudding (not the best for racing legs) and a whisky before the ride home.

The training starts next week including a gym membership that needs justifying by getting the hill-running muscles back in shape for the next Open5 event on 30th September

Monday, September 03, 2007

Yling, ylang, ylog. Bling, Biking Blog

Three weeks in France, Monaco, Italy. Cannes, Monte Carlo baby.

Princess Stéphanie is calling and she wants her city back.