Aug 13, 2008

picking a groove

if it's tuesday, it must be team 'cross practice. we had our second skills and drills night last night and after a review of some dismount & remount drills, it was off to the sand pits. you read that right: sand pits. (we're riding on an old overgrown, defunct golf course that has been claimed as a cyclocross course) we got a brief explanation of the best way to ride through the sand -

pick a groove.
stay in it.
don't try to steer.
pedal, pedal, pedal.
keep your weight off the handlebars
high cadence, bigger gear.

and like a bunch of lemmings, off we go to the sand pits. the first one wasn't so bad. probably because it was sort of packed down. not so fluffy. no worries, all it took was the team coach and a pick ax to fix that problem. every time we came around, he was hacking at the sand to churn it up and make it deeper and harder to ride through.

after the small pit, it was onto the big one. same thing: pick a groove. stay in it. i came up a little hill and looked down into an ominous, long pit of deep, groovy sand that i was supposed to ride my bike through - here's the thing about these team practices thats really good for me: i can't puss out. cause there's about 20 people in line behind me waiting to go through the sand pit too. so while i may want to turn my bike around and go home, i gotta just do it. pick a groove and stay in it. first time through the pit, i dumped. second time through the pit, i dumped. third time through the pit, i didn't quite pick the right groove and wound up steering my bike all over the place, and i just made sure to keep pedaling, and i made sure to keep the weight off the handlebars and the front wheel was going everywhere and i couldn't believe i hadn't dumped yet and i was laughing so hard and pedaling my bike and holy crap i came out the other side! i may have even shouted out a little ye-haw or woo hoo or something to that effect. i was laughing so hard the guy behind me asked if i was crying or laughing - for someone who wanted to cry at the top of the hill, i came out the other side thrilled.

a few more runs through the sand pits for the gang and we were off to some tight cornering drills. cornering, as you know, is my favorite thing. um. yeah. not so much. the tip for the corners: same as on the road - get in the drops! and relax. i know about both the drops and the relax. one (getting in the drops) is easier than the other (the relax). at any rate, getting in the drops was going to have to wait as i was on a mountain bike.

about the bike i was riding: the sweet cross bike that i blogged about here was just too monstrous for me. we didn't really know you need to size down so much for cross, nor did we take into account size differences between manufacturers. anyhow, that bike is on its way to some lucky guy in california thanks to the magic of eBay. but, i am out a bike until mine comes in at the end of the month. so in the meantime, i've been riding a friends mountain bike. this behemoth of a full suspension bike is responsible for the ginormous bruise i have on my hip from lugging it over barriers and my aching wrist from trying to carry all kabillion pounds of it up stairs. in short, i was riding a tank around the course.

onto the turning. picture twenty people going around in a slow circle with a crazy tight turn that just led into another crazy tight turn. uphill. i think i made it around unscathed the first time. not sure. but the next three, four, five times? i dumped. every time on the hill. i'd hit the hill (and it really was a weensy thing. tiny, yet steep. a couple pedal strokes and you're up. should be no big deal. right?) and right at the very crest, i'd spill over to the left, or off to the right. it would sort of be slow motion yet strangely faster than i could stop it. so there i'd be. on the dirt. still clipped in. crushed by the weight of the tank i was riding. and thankful that whoever was behind me never ran over me. i'd flail like a bug stuck on its back with a bike stuck to its feet and wrench myself out of my pedals, and then try to look cool while doing a really pathetic re-mount onto the bike all the while trying not to notice the traffic jam my fall had caused. i'd come around the sharp turn to hear the team coach yelling to me: pedal faster! what are you looking at! look where you want to go! next time do it faster suzanne! when all i was trying to do was get back in my pedals in time to crash again as i came around to the hill.

after most people had moved onto other pursuits of 'cross insanity, my husband made me stay back to keep trying the hill. he wanted to know what i was doing to have crashed every time. i think i was leaning too far back or something, cause my front wheel would come up and off the ground. i'd be doing some sort of mini-wheelie thing at the top and then it was goodnight irene. so he made me do it again and again and again. and i think i made it abundantly clear that i was less than thrilled at having to visit the scene of the accident(s) over and over again. but then i did it. without falling. a couple of times. huh. what do you know. maybe there's something to that whole "practice makes perfect" thing.

you just gotta keep doing it over and over again.
and then do it some more.
find the groove.


Cindy said...

I hadn't even heard of cyclocross before reading on your blog. wow!! probably won't ever do it myself, but i'm enjoying it vicariously. you kick ass!

Anonymous said...

Wow, just think how good you'll be when you get your real bike after training on the behemoth!

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog. You always make me laugh. And I love to laugh! The description of your training last night made me feel like I was right there. Hope you get to dump the tank soon. You go!

Groover said...

I so need to do your bike handling drills. Very enganging post. I was suffering with you, especially the part when your husband made you do it again and again afterwards. It's like having to stay back in school because you didn't pass. So excited that you made it in the end. Looking forward to seeing pics of your new bike.

zanne said...

groover: i look forward to seeing pics of my new bike too! and yes, the bike handling drills are great. i really, really, really need them - both for 'cross and for the road. i am hoping my newfound skills will translate into more handling confidence on the road for my road season #2!

pamster: its a mutual admiration thing, cause your blog posts on (shameless plug) always make me laugh too!

vegan: yes, one would hope that's the case!

cindy: love the whole living vicariously thing. i do it often! happy to educate you on 'cross. not sure where you live - but if there are any races nearby, you should check it out - very fun to watch! (i'll let you know what it feels like to race it in spetember!).

bsegal said...

Having witness the crash(es), I have to say you did the most important part. You kept getting up. And you never hit the old lady turning the sand pit with the pick axe or the 6 yr old riding in the pack, so really, celebrate the victories.
When you get your CX bike, it will be a whole new thing, way easier and even more fun.

zanne said...

bsegal: i totally left out the shameful part where i got smoked on the warmup by that old lady - and i mean smoked! that old broad kicked my ass. was totally afraid of her once she got ahold of that pick ax! also left out the part where i skipped my last lap (opted for the easy, side route instead) through sand pit so as not to run over the six year old that just bit the sand right on front of me!

ItchyBits said...

Sand pits? Yikes. I can totally see myself tipping over. Deep gravel usually freaks me out. The cross bike isn't exactly light. I was expecting it to be lighter than my road bike but it isn't. One way to build some arm muscles! I had to miss CX because of work which totally stunk.

Unknown said...

CX Drill Sgt here....Zanne was a trooper through all of this, especially when you consider that she's on the wrong bike for CX and we have 20 - 30 people riding together through the pits and over the barriers on our team "skills and drills" nights.

If you would like to see the course Ms. Zanne was riding on play that video in her previous blog post about CX. That was from the USGP last season, shot on the same course we practice on...the big scary sand pit toward the end of the vid...yeah...that's the one that she "owned" on Tuesday.

~ lauren said...

oh yes, sand. i did the same thing with the sand when i first started.

i still do it at the beginning of each season. but yeah, not a lot of steering, power through it, stay loose, but guide the handlebars.

at least sand is soft enough when you land on it. that's what i keep telling myself.

and that bike! i can't believe you're carrying that bike! that thing is an RV!

when i first started, my husband did the same thing. but it was for mounts and dismounts.

we went out and he made me do mounts and dismounts over and over and over again - until i could do the mount without a hop.

you're having fun! that's what i love about cross. it's so silly and so much fun!

Gotta Run..... said...

You have got a great coach/husband!

I was scared for you reading this post. This would be way out of my comfort zone. You are wild girl!!!