Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love Gettin' Dirty

It's that time of year....prime for getting off the roads & on the trails! The leaves will soon be changing and there's nothing better than making some road trips to take it all in. With that in mind, El Cap and I headed up to Freedom Park on Sunday to meet up with a few folks and practice our A,B,Cs (trail designation).

It was a little wet with some puddling in sections but for the most part the area drains pretty nicely. When you connect the trails together, there are about eleven miles of well maintained singletrack - thanks to EVMA. Nice options throughout so you can do as little or as much as you want. We decided to taper down (A/B/C, then A/B, then A). Neither we nor the trail were worse for wear afterward - though we did get a little dirty as you can tell from this pic. As is most often the case, the second loop proved to be better (this time it was due not just to typical progression but also because the trail was drying up and getting faster). Still a challenge with slick roots and a few squirrelly sections to keep us focused.

This was Cheetah's third trip up there (after many years of strictly road riding) but you'd never know it. She's been riding borrowed bikes and will hopefully be getting her own soon because she's definitely got what it takes - obvious cardio & handling skills but even more key to me...mental fortitude. I've always been thankful that I got into mtbing when I was younger & took more chances (read dumb). Now that we're older & seemingly wiser, it takes all of those elements above to get out there & give it a go because trail riding inherently holds potential for spills with all that you encounter but it's one hell of a ride!

Had a great time mixing it up & am looking forward to many more miles o' smiles...

See you in the woods!

Ali Cat

Friday, September 18, 2009

Patriots Half Iron Man Report

A sleepless night, a crisp cool morning, the two mile car ride to the race site, wet dewy grass and an amazing sense of calm is how this half ironman started for me. Setting up transition in the dark was challenging. However, with the music blaring all these motivational rock n roll tunes, it was hard not to get excited. We had scoped out the scene the day before so when the announcement was made that the swim would be in reverse we breathed a sigh of relief knowing we would not have to run over concrete back to transition, but we still did have probably a 125 yard run up a slight hill from the swim exit to the transition area. We are petitioning that next year they call it the 71.3 Patriots HIM.

Making the trek down to the swim start is always a bit surreal for me. I said to myself– Well Claudia, you’ve gone and done it again; you sign up for these races and then you get to this point and you feel like you don’t want to do it. Despite the fact that this was a goal for me I still felt the same. I have yet to go to a race where I haven’t felt this way – like buyers remorse, only racers remorse. In any case, the ground was wet and my feet were freezing which is maybe why the water felt so warm at first touch, a welcome feeling. The heats started going off – I was heat 5; so I had plenty of time to try to determine which angle I wanted to take out to the first buoy, which by the way seemed like a million miles away, much less the fourth one where we would make our first turn. The gun started and we were off, the swim was really a no brainer for me. Swim, sight, swim sight…it felt rather effortless and I really like swimming in fresh water as opposed to bay swims in salt water. Really the only problem I encountered other than swimming against the current the first leg of the swim was the sun shining in our eyes on the last two legs and being completely blinded trying to see the buoy. I relied on the swimmers ahead of me and hoped they were seeing the buoy better than me! Finally I felt the ground and looked up. It was very shallow but quite a ways to go until the shoreline. I opted to swim in as far as I could go rather than fight the resistance of me in my wetsuit against the water. I think this was a smart decision. I wound up 2nd out of the water in my age group. I knew I was doing well when I saw a large group of caps from two heats ahead of me, I didn’t realize I had done that well, but was really pleased. Swim times in general were really slow compared to past years, which leads me to believe the current either screwed us all up or the swim was longer than it was supposed to be. Nevertheless, although I wasn’t pleased with my time, I was pleased with my placement.

Transition seemed like it took forever. The good thing was my rack was right next to the bike start. So I got my shoes and socks on, helmet, glitter headband of my daughters to help motivate me, gels, gloves and I was off. I was freezing the first 10 miles of the ride from the cool morning air and my dripping wet body. It felt like somewhat of a dream and I thought well here I am on the bike, that swim felt easier than Breezy Point and wow, I have 56 miles ahead of me….doot da doo…what should I think about. I truly can not recall what occupied my thoughts during this bike ride. The aggravating wind took up some of my thoughts and I even verbally expressed my disgust using a few choice words to no one in particular during the ride although a few people who actually heard me concurred. One girl in particular who felt the need to play cat and mouse with me took up some of my thoughts. She would slow down, I would pass then she’d speed up…aarrrgghhh – make up your mind woman. She eventually passed me for good but when she did pass me every time she would cut me off and I almost wonder if she’s the reason I got assessed for drafting despite the fact that I moved away from her every time and said something to her, she continued this the whole race. Whatever, the mile markers came faster than I thought and I was pleasantly surprised by my bike performance. The fact that this was the course I had ridden for the Cap2Cap century ride probably had a lot to do with my comfort level on the course. Like I said, the wind was the only real aggravation and I didn’t even mind having to go over and back the Chickahominy Bridge despite the fact that it’s pretty big.
Watching my time I knew I’d come fairly close to my goal time of three hours but bike transition was tricky and the last 100 yards or so was on this bumpy, pothole infested path so I lost track of my time.

Run transition felt fine, not overly long but not as speedy as I had hoped. I tried to keep my coaches words in my head, start slower than you think you need to. I had to stop right at the start of the run to use the restroom as my body wouldn’t cooperate in the water or on the bike. Then I was off. Slow and steady I told myself but I could tell already I wasn’t thrilled with the course. It was kind of like the V-day 14K where you could see where you had to go and people coming back, too much criss-crossing in my opinion and this whole two loops thing is for the birds. The one thing I did like was the trail running part through the woods which we got to do twice, although the second loop through found me crossing the path with a flying leap at one point to avoid the copperhead snake that decided to slither across and jack up my heart rate! I’d like to say I negative split the run even just a little but I didn’t really pay attention. Around mile 7 my hip started acting up and from there on it was just a matter of hurry up and finish. I got to the last part where I could hear the crowds and immediately saw my family standing and cheering for me. My left inner quad muscle had started seizing up by then but I didn’t care. With the finish line in sight I smiled and sped up and crossed the line with a total finish time of 5:57:35 and a ½ marathon time of 2:05. I was handed a cold bottle of water and a cold wet towel by some wonderful volunteer and a medal was placed around my neck by another (after all that is really the only reason I do these things!); Erika – my friend and training partner was waiting for me right at the finish line and we hugged each other and high fived and rejoiced in what we had just accomplished!

Overall it was an amazing sense of personal accomplishment. It is something I will certainly do again. I received many different tidbits of advice but just want to thank my friend Eve for telling me to enjoy the scenery which I did, and Julie (Cali cat) for reminding me to have fun. I thought about what she had said remembering Daniel Hersch during her Angel’s Race and it certainly made the painful moments seem less painful. I would have never had the discipline to improve my cycling as much as I did had Erika not been such a faithful cycling buddy and overall amazing friend. My coach Denise deserves the biggest thanks for encouraging me and challenging me with my workouts, and believing that I could do it. Last but certainly most important is my amazing husband Ross for giving me time to train, encouragement and support and being my best friend and cheerleader through this all. I was proud to wear the Vanderkitten logo and get out there and kick ass. Despite my bike penalty for drafting – I still managed to get 6th (should have been 5th – darn penalty) in my age group and I took second out of the water in my age group! I’m excited to have some time off and looking forward to the challenges that next season will bring! Until then ladies, ride fast, take chances and kick some ass! - Claudia

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Season Finale!

Last night we celebrated the end of a very successful season at our Smitten Kitten's home with most of our felines in attendance. Our very cool VK Tent was up for all to see and even decorated with twinkling lights. Smitten Kitten and her manderkitten Steve outdid themselves by having a purrfect yard, purrfect lawn ornaments and lots of food and drink for all.

We had a few speeches, we had a few awards and one of us shed tears of joy for what was a very special season. The evening was topped off with a slideshow of photos on and off the bike which brought oohs and aahs by everyone. Thank you Mitten Kitten for making the show and music a work of art.

Although everyone was recognized for their efforts this season, 2 of our cats stood above all else when it came to racing. Laura was recognized for winning the CAT 1,2,3, BAR and Ali was recognized for winning the CAT 4 BAR. The team was also delighted to receive the coveted Womens Team BAR award from VA Cycling. Barb, our Club Manager, was awarded a photo album of this year's highlights. Wendie, one of or newest, outdid herself by making sashes for the winners which would rival sashes given out at a Miss America Pageant.

Our evening ended on a sweet note when we saw the cake that Jennifer Shockley had made for our dessert. Words can't describe it so I hope this picture will!