Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pictures of CX Nats Make My Life So Wonderful (with apologies to The Who)

Here we go, you can check out all of my pictures from the 2010 Cyclocross National Championships in Bend, OR on Picasa.

I've got pictures from:

December 9 - Masters Men 50-54 and Single Speeders
December 10 - Women 30-34 and Masters Men 45-49
December 11 - Masters Men 40-44, Juniors 17-18, and Masters Men 30-34
December 12 - Elite Women and Elite Men

Along with a smattering of other stuff: smokestacks, fluffy puppies, tiretreads in the mud, kids in the mud, oh and did I mention mud? There was a lot of mud. I really like patterns so you'll see that I took a picture of some sort of pattern in the mud pretty much every day.

This was my first time shooting with my new Canon EOS D60, as well as my first time shooting with a telephoto lens, and I know I have a long way to go. But let me know some of your favorites in the comments so that I can start to get a sense of what does and doesn't work.

And as I keep promising, a full report is still to come before the end of the week. And thanks for checking out my pictures.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Still recovering, bear with me...

Pics and full Bend report still coming soon, but after traveling home on a red eye and dealing with unpacking, picking up the pets from West Virginia, and getting ready to go back to work tomorrow after a week off, I haven't made nearly as much progress as I had hoped.

But to tide you over, here are my pics from the elite men and elite women. I'm brand new to Picasa so forgive the disorder, I'll try to clean things up and group the pictures better over the weekend. Was also using a brand new camera and still have a lot to learn, but if you take the time to weed through, I think you'll find some cool shots. Thanks for checking them out!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Greetings from Bend!

It has been an amazing last few days here, can't believe it will all be over tomorrow. I'll have a full report when I get back home on Monday and I'll also post the couple hundred pictures I've taken. MABRA, and mid-Atlantic cyclocross in general, has been well represented out here, and has had some great results. Wish you were here!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010 Cross Season: A Pictorial

I took a lot of pictures this year, and I took pictures at every race we went to (13, or 15 if you count each day of Charm City and Granogue), so I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

Charm City

Ed Sander






Fair Hill


Vint Hill

 Schooley Mill



Sunday, November 28, 2010

End of the line: 2010 MABRA Cross Championships at Taneytown

Lots of thoughts running through my head with the end of the local cross season, so this might end up being my first multi-post week. Scratch that might, it definitely will be, because at the very least I'm going to put up some of my favorite pictures from the season later this week.

Each year really builds upon the previous one, in terms of people I meet, knowledge/understanding of the sport, familiarity with the local scene, and mostly my enjoyment of it all. This was the first year that I went to every single race that Steve did, in the past I've usually skipped one or two out of exhaustion or previous plans, but this year I hit them all. And for the vast majority we stayed for the entire day, which is definitely a different experience than getting there first thing in the morning to warm up and then leaving pretty soon after Steve's race is done.

So today, Taneytown, MABRACross championships: I'm getting repetitive here, but it was another gorgeous, bright sunny day. There were ZERO pouring rain, miserable, suffering, freezing cold races today. Even today started off chilly with me practicing wearing all the layers I'll be rocking out in Bend, by the afternoon I was down to jeans and a long sleeved shirt. This was the driest this course has been in at least the last three years (I have no recollection of this race from the first time we were here four years ago), but that charming off camber hill against the back fence remained unridable to all but a select few of the elite riders.

Our friends all had strong races today, some podiums, some high series finishes, and Mike Birner won the elite Masters series, which came down to a pretty epic duel between him and Kris Auer over the last few weeks. Always awesome to see your friends have such great seasons and ultimate results. Talking to these people every week and knowing how hard they work for it makes it even better.

And when it was all done, car was packed, dog was ready to pass out from exhaustion, and the last pumpkin muffin I had baked was eaten, there's nothing left but to feel kind of massively bummed out that it's all over for nine months. You become so close with people, you know everything about them and their lives for three months and then they vanish until next fall. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Some final notes- So before I get too depressed, it's not entirely over yet. Steve is going to race the final Verge race in Rhode Island next weekend, although I'm going to skip it to stay home and enjoy some “Jen time.” And then the following week we'll be at Nationals, which will be an experience unto itself, and then there's a smattering of other post-season races: Philly, NC, etc.

- It looks like I'll be getting my very own cross bike within the next few weeks. Looks like it'll be a Redline, and I'm pretty stoked. I talked to another local racer today who is also a below-knee amputee and has been racing for nearly 30 years. It was pretty awesome.

- Steve also surprised me this week by telling me that I'm getting a new camera, a fancy Canon EOS DSLR as an early Christmas present so that I can bring it out to Oregon. I haven't used anything other than a point and shoot since high school, but I'm super excited.

And last, but most definitely not least, thanks to all of you readers for the support in my nascent endeavor at a blog. I had wanted to try this last year, but serious life issues intervened, and it got postponed until this year. But I've really enjoyed having the chance to write in a non-technical way (like what I do for work), and I'm glad that people have found it worth reading.

(Also, mandatory shoutout to Jason Ludicke goes here – see, I know your name!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life, death, and cyclocross: Schooley Mill and Rockburn CX 2010 (HoCo2x)

A lot of highs and lows this weekend. Overall, amazing weather, great racing, and good friends. But on the other hand, a rider with a serious medical emergency during the elite race at Schooley Mill put a lot of things in sobering perspective. Hoping for the best with that racer, and hoping that he is able to make a full recovery. Also was witness to some rather poor sportsmanship, which was disappointing to see in a sport where people are competitive, no doubt, but mellow in general, and not typically prone to behavior like I witnessed.

In a much pettier negative this weekend, was my bonehead move on Sunday afternoon – the men's elite race is about to start, and I'm obliviously crossing the course with the dog to take a picture of a friend on the podium, when all of a sudden I hear “riders up” and look to my right and they're like 10 feet away. I managed to make it out of the way, but just felt like such a dumbass, I am usually so careful about crossing the course and have never made a mistake like this before! Nothing like having a couple dozen racers coming toward you at top speed trying to get the holeshot to get your adrenaline pumping though! Sorry dudes, I'll look where I'm going next time, promise.

And now to the good, Saturday was another warm and sunny fall day, while the Schooley Mill course doesn't have any real central spectating area, I moved around between the bleachers on the back hill and the picnic tables next to the straightaway near registration. Attempted some heckling of Nick versus gravity during the B race, but got heckled back to think up some better heckles. Steve is the expert in that area, not me, so I should probably give up while I'm (maybe a little) ahead.

This course was more of a power course, and a lot of my friends had great results, with Scott Stahl winning the masters B race, a definite highlight. I met another female racer and am starting to get really excited about trying to race next year.

Rockburn on Sunday was great as always, despite the fact that I've some unfortunate incidents with the port-a-potties there in the past, Sunday I managed to control my liquid intake and had a blast. We set up at the bottom of the back hill, by registration and the start/finish, and I didn't move much from there all day. This was a more technical course and while our friends still did well, the results weren't quite as good as yesterday. But Mike Birner recaptured the MABRA leader's jersey in the master's elite race, which was awesome to see.

Steve raced on Saturday and felt okay, he even sprinted to avoid getting lapped (despite being scored on lap down in the end), but on Sunday he raced about half a lap and then called it a day. The wrist is feeling better for the most part, but now it's lack of fitness that's causing issues.

And finally, the other big news of the week, is that we're going to Bend!!! Super stoked to get to see the best racers in the US have at it, and to go to Oregon, which I've never been to before. It's going to be a pretty intense and crazy trip, but it should be a blast.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vint Hill Cyclocross With a Side Dish of Fuzzy Wuzzy Alpacas

Pretty mellow weekend overall. Steve decided that the wrist was feeling better and was scheduled for a cross practice anyway, so we headed out to Warrenton and the inaugural (I think?) Vint Hill race. Nice ride out there, past some rolling hills and big, beautiful horse farms. Also, an intriguing sign for an alpaca farm (more on that later!).

The course was fairly small and very compact, you could see more than three quarters of it from one central location. The highlight was a tricky little double turn between two trees, some folks were able to ride it when there was no one else around, but most found it more efficient to run. Turnout was fairly healthy for a non-series race, and our friends all had great races: Scott Stahl and Mike Birner both won their races (Masters B and A, respectively), and Elliott Caldwell placed third in the regular B race. It's always nice to see your friends have good results.

Ended up staying most of the day just hanging out in the unseasonably warm weather. I met another awesome woman rider (I have met several this year so far) and continue to feel like I want to try to do this myself. (On a sidenote, I have a potential lead on a very inexpensive Kona cross bike, will keep you all posted...) I really hope to see Cynthia out at another race before the season is over.

There was also some more talk about Bend, but it's still too premature to say much about that yet.

As far as Steve, he completed the race and didn't get lapped, which I'd say is pretty successful after spraining his arm less than a month ago, and not doing much riding during the recovery. As he keeps pointing out, the good thing about this season for him is that when it's over and done with, he won't be completely burnt out like he has been for the last two years. That means he'll enter the off-season on the upswing, and should go into next season in excellent form.

The elite race was teeny tiny, just six riders, so we took off about halfway through with Dombrowski and Nieters solidly in the lead. Apparently this was Joe's last race before he heads off the training camp so I'm sure you guys will be excited to see my excessive fangirling come to an end. But I can't lie, it's really been awesome getting to see someone like that race week in and week out.

And back to the alpacas, on our way out we decided to follow the signs and ended up at an adorable farm that was having an alpaca open house. The proud farmer took us on a tour of the animals and one in particular kept following me and giving me butterfly kisses. We also got to pet a baby that was less than one week old. Super cute and super sweet animals. Before we left I ended up buying a soap that was wrapped in alpaca wool from a vendor that was there.

All in all, another blissful autumn weekend spent in the company of cyclocross. See y'all net week for HoCo2x!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tacchino Ciclocross 2010, or, Joe Dombrowski is my hero

Well apparently all it takes is one week off from races for me to become derelict in my blogging duties. Another part of the problem is that I find that races with a bigger party/hang-out scene mean that I spend more time hanging out and a lot less time actually paying attention to the races. I still haven’t even uploaded any of my pictures from this weekend.

Tacchino this past Sunday was another great example of a race that has an awesome hang out scene. The team area where tents are set up is right near registration, the band, the food, and all that good stuff, so people are always walking by, coupled with the fact that it’s right along a nice downhill straightaway so you get some decent, if not overly technical racing to watch without even moving.

Steve’s wrist is continuing to improve but he is still not racing, despite coming thisclose to doing so on Saturday at Fair Hill, so that meant that we went all out with a huge assortment of beer, brats, and veggie burgers to grill. I even decided to bake for the occasion, and it seems like I’m going to have to make the pumpkin doughnut muffins again in two weeks for HoCo. Some of our friends were lucky recipients of encased meats from the legendary “suitcase of sausage” and those went right on the grill as well.

The day was also marked by several “things that you don’t see everyday at a cyclocross race”: fighter jets on maneuvers from Andrews, a bald eagle circling overhead, and, oh yeah, a runaway horse in the middle of the elite masters race! Never a dull moment.

There were also several exciting race moments as well: Chris Carraway taking second in the B race, Mike Birner taking over the MABRA leader’s jersey for the elite men, and Joe Dombrowski crushing the A race, despite starting two plus minutes late after missing the start while completing a leisurely warm up lap. Joe Dombrowski is my hero.

Jim McNeely and the whole Coppi team did another amazing job with this race, and handled the monkey wrenches with aplomb – thanks for an awesome day! Oh and they also had a sweet t-shirt commissioned, which, excitingly enough, came in women’s sizes too! Always a plus.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Off Week Miscellanea

With Steve still having a bum wing and no “big” races happening this week, we decided to take the week off. Of course the housework that builds up every fall when we’re travelling all weekend still didn’t get done, but that’s okay, there’s always another day!

Part I. You CAN Forget How to Ride a Bike

But I still found time for a bike-related activity this weekend: Sunday afternoon I took my bike out for the first time since my surgery. I’ve never been a prolific bike rider, I think the longest ride I’ve ever done was from Georgetown to Bethesda and back on the Capital Crescent Trail, but lately I’ve been having aspirations (delusions?) of actually become a regular bike rider, and potentially even a cross racer myself.

My bike is a basic Specialized Rockhopper hardtail mountain bike, it weighs a ton but has the girly lower top tube and was a lot less intimidating to me than a road bike when I was shopping for it a few years ago. Of course I was convinced that I would hop on the bike and immediately pedal off on a 2 hour ride before it got dark, but it was not to be, and I was very glad Steve came down to the park with me.

The first problem I had was just sheer nerves. I haven’t ridden a bike in well over a year and I had no idea what it would be like to attempt it with my prosthetic leg. Since I can only stand on tiptoe with my left foot, I’m going to have to retrain myself to have that be the one I put down when I stop. It doesn’t come easy! The other problem was that my current prosthetic makes it quite difficult to bend my knee in the full pedaling motion. We lowered the seat to make it easier for me to get on and off, but then that made my pedaling even more awkward.

So all I ended up doing was pedaling around on the grass for about 15 minutes with Steve holding onto me the entire time. I am incredibly out of shape and this alone was exhausting. But we practiced mounting and dismounting a few times, and it started to feel more natural after just a few tries, which was good.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, I have a much longer way to go than I thought. But I’m determined! I’m hoping to start riding on a regular basis either on Steve’s trainer or at a gym, and I’m going to try to get out to the park at least once a week to start feeling more comfortable in the wild. Maybe by the spring I’ll be able to graduate to a road bike, and then in the fall who knows, I may be blogging about myself in addition to my friends!

Part II. I Hear Wisconsin is LOVELY in January

It was announced last week that the 2011 National Cyclocross Championships are going to be moved to January and will take place in Madison, WI. I am pretty excited to only have to travel halfway across the country to see the big boys and gals in action. As it is, I should probably just go ahead and take all of January 2012 off work, what with the nationals and world championships both taking place that month.

But in the meantime, I’ll be investing in plenty of fleece, down, and long underwear, and prepping for a cross-a-riffic winter next year!

Monday, October 25, 2010

DCCX - Sunday, October 24, 2010

Well, despite Steve still being out of commission with the sprained arm, DCCX is practically in our backyard, and is always tons of fun, so we did it up and made a proper showing anyway. Got there around 8:30 and set up our tent/table/bagels in the team area by the pave sector of the course. Other teammates and friends quickly found us and we set up a nice little home base. It ended up being kind of funny being all the way down at the end of the row, we didn’t really get to see much of the raucous spectator area by the heart of the course, but it was a good time nonetheless.

Sunday also reaffirmed to me that as much as I may hate Pittsburgh as a sports town, the people we have met from there in the last year are among the best people I have ever met. Just genuinely nice, awesome, and fun people, and always great houseguests to boot. It’s definitely a bummer at a race when none of them are there.

I have to confess that I was lazy and comfortable in the tent and didn’t walk around the course much at all this year. I went over to the main area to get food a couple times (frites and Belgian pancakes were perfection as always) and watched some parts of some races, but mostly just watched from the one spot.

The races were all pretty well attended, particularly the women’s race which was awesome to see. And despite the fact that mechanicals plagued some of the favorites throughout the day, there was still good competition and fun racing to be had. I was also really glad to see so many people really sticking around and making a day of it. A lot of times it feels like Steve and I are the only ones left other than the people still racing and their friends and family by the end of the day, but unless we have something else to do, we really do try to stick around for as much of the day as we can.

But as I mentioned in my post last night, the real highlight of the day for me were the races at the end of the afternoon: rookies and single speeds, followed by tandems. In addition to getting to see people trying out cross for the first time, it was just awesome to see people letting go and letting loose. And the tandems were priceless, with props especially to the Bartlett twins and their bunny hopping, or as I catcalled them, “twinsies on a tandem”!

But in all seriousness, and amazing day and a great race. Great job all around the Family Bike Shop, DCMTB, and all the dozens of people who worked on the race. And a big thanks to the Armed Forces Retirement Home for letting us use (and hopefully not abuse) their beautiful property on such a gorgeous fall day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reason #1,001 Why Cyclocross is Awesome

Joe Dombrowski and Jared Nieters are two of the premier elite crossers in the DC area, and here they are today with huge, shit-eating grins on their faces riding in the tandem race at the end of the day at DCCX. Guys like this could easily come to a race, warm up, race, and then take off, but here they are participating in the fun, non-competitive part of the day and (by all appearances, at least) loving every minute of it. See also their participation in the parade lap with the Special Olympics kids at the end of the Hyattsville race. Full participation like this makes cross awesome. Kudos to Family Bike Shop,  DCMTB, and all the other folks who put on an awesome race today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Granogue CX Days 1 and 2 2010

So Granogue was epic and amazing and I am trying to get out a write-up that will do it justice, but I've come down with a fun-filled early fall cold and it's hard to concentrate on anything other than blowing my nose, sneezing, and feeling like I'm going to die. In addition, there was a major fly in this week's racing ointment: Steve sprained/strained/something-ed his arm playing soccer on Thursday night, and was unable to race this weekend. And maybe not for the rest of the season!

But it's hard to pass up a course and setting as beautiful as Granogue, plus most of our out-of-town friends were scheduled to be in attendance, so we sucked it up and still went both days. And while I know it was depressing for Steve, it was still a blast, and definitely beats sitting at home and pouting all weekend.

This year's setting could not have been more polar opposite than last year, in place of 40 degree temperatures and pouring down rain (and the accompanying mud, natch), it was in the upper 60s, sunny, and even a little bit DRY. Saturday featured the more traditional Granogue course, although there were enough adjustments to make it even more interesting, while Sunday took a few of the features, but really changed up the bulk of the course and the approaches. From those that know, Saturday was more about power, while Sunday was more technical.

Saturday featured the seep uphill climb that more elite riders ride with ease, but the new wrinkle this year was a slightly different approach, and the installation of low barriers. This was where I watched most of the races from, and it also featured the ever-popular crumpled dollar bills thrown on the course for the riders to pick up.

A bummer to me this year was the lack of the big-time national guys, Wicks, Trebon, et. al., but there were some other elite regional folks, and the top two juniors in the country which was an exciting battle to watch. It is incredibly exciting that two of the best young riders, probably in the entire country, both race in this area with regularity. It's pretty awesome watching Bahnson and Dombrowski continue to improve.

Sunday we had to leave after the elite Juniors race, but I spent a good chunk of that day observing the steep run-up on the backside near the expo area. While not as steep as the Belgian Wall a few weeks ago in Winchester, it was an exciting feature to watch. It's always impressive to see the skills the different riders employ to tackle the same obstacles.

Topping off the weekend in Delaware were stops at some of our favorite local dining establishments for ice cream, hoagies, cupcakes, and, of course, snacks from Wawa! While it's definitely different, and obviously a little weird, being there with Steve not racing, it's still so great to hang out with good friends and awesome people in the fall sunshine. We'll definitely be out at a few more races this year, and hopefully Steve will even be able to race in some of them!

And finally, a massive thanks to the Dupont family for allowing us use of their beautiful property, and to all the folks who help make Granogue happen every year. Congrats on 10 years, and here's to at least 10 more!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hyattsville CX - 10/10/10

Well I'm off to a great start – never blogged about last weekend's races, and they were two that I had never been to before! I need to remember that if I want to make this blog successful I need to make the time to write, instead of putting it off every day and ending up never getting to it at all. I still may end up writing about last weekend, especially Winchester, because that Belgian Wall? Was completely epic.

Today was the Hyattsville race, which I love if for no other reason than that it's one of only two races that are less than half an hour from my house. But there's much more than that to this race. The city really gets behind it which is always awesome, the mayor of Hyattsville even made a little speech! But my favorite element is that the proceeds go to the Special Olympics, and that they have Special Olympics athletes on hand to share in the experience. A lot of people pay lip service to “giving back,” but it's impressive to actually see it in action. Kudos to Arrow/Route One Velo!

Another distinguishing feature about today's race was that it was HOT. After the painfully scorching summer we suffered through, we've been blessed with a very pleasant and temperate cx season so far. And although today was only in the low 80s, the sun was merciless, and ended up sending me to less than ideal vantage points in search of shade. Most of my quality watching time was spent near the volleyball sand pit, which is pretty exciting since it can be a bit of a bottleneck when bigs groups come through at once, but by the third race of the day the sand was well packed enough that everyone was riding straight through with little difficulty.

I then watched some of the later races from the beer garden area, which is ideally located next to the barriers, plus with purchase of pint glass, free beer! I can't remember exactly what I drank, and while it was a little bitter for me, it was still pretty tasty. CX races definitely help me expand my beer horizons!

Really this weekend just served to whet my appetite for Granogue though. I'd be hard pressed to rank the exact order of my top five favorite races, but it's definitely up there, and probably even the top one or two. Looking forward to a fun road trip, good friends, and a great race!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Sander Race @ Lily Pons

I was excited to see what the Ed Sander race would look like DRY, seeing as how I had only attended the 2009 race in person, and seen the results of the 2008 race when Steve returned home. Mudfests, both of them. Although the day began with some surprising showers, they quickly passed through and the course returned to a dry, dusty state by the early afternoon.

While I like cheering for all the people I know in all the different races (and I really do usually have at least one person to cheer for in every single race!), my favorite right now has to be the B men’s race. Not just because it’s what Steve races, but because I usually have half a dozen people, all on different teams, to cheer for. There is everyone in this race from a former coworker, to someone I used to go to hardcore shows with when I was 16.

Although I used to try to walk around the course a lot more during the course of the race, my strategy now is to do my walking at other times, and really just try to hunker down in one spot for the B race. Yesterday that place was the back 9, naturally. After stocking my camping chair with some delicious free beer (thanks, Flying Dog!) and waffles, I had the dog in one hand and the cowbell in the other and was ready to go.

The race was FAST this year; I think most of the races got in a good six laps, compared to last year when I think it was more like four. Most of my friends had great races, with four of them finishing in the top 25. Steve held his own on the San Jose and powered up the big hill at least twice, with ample encouragement from Mayhew, serving as emcee, and other rowdy, slightly drunk spectators.

Hung around for the rest of the afternoon drinking beers, eating vegan cookies, hanging with friends, and getting a healthy sunburn. On our way home down 270 we passed the same racer that we had seen on our way up in the morning, and gave him a goodbye wave as the day drew to a close.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome to the CX Wife!

Welcome, and thanks for checking out the CX Wife. I've been throwing around the idea of doing a blog for more than a year now and decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I've been attending cyclocross races for four seasons now with my husband, currently a Cat 3 racer for AABC, and have become a bigger and bigger fan every year. What started as a way of spending time with my husband instead of not seeing him for pretty much the entire fall has become a family and a great way to spend my fall weekends. While I'll never be, and don't claim to be, an expert, I feel like I know enough to speak semi-knowledgeably about the sport, and I'm planning to write primarily from the perspective of a fan and enthusiast. And who knows, maybe you'll even see me out there racing one day!