Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Learning to.... Fly? at Tour of St Louis

First up was the Carondolet Circuit race on Saturday 4/24 at 8:40 am.
I got my tired legs out of bed on time and thanks to my life Sherpa Phil, I got the car packed up in record time. Thanks to my sleepy head, I forgot my Garmin. Doh!

The women's open race started second, after the women's cat 4/Juniors. I got a chance to warm up around the park and tried to shake the cob webs out of my head and legs. I chatted with Amy, Teresa and met Cindy Reese before the race. I even got a chance to watch the Cat 4 finish. Suzanne, Cat and Kate are all doing really well this year!!

At the line for our race, Buddy informed us that the race would be shortened to 40 minutes plus 3. He also announced there would be 3 primes, including one for the first person to cross the finish line on Lap 1! Great! I was sure the first lap would be a "hot" one. Fortunately, it came down to a sprint up the hill to the finish. I think Emily D took that one. That girl has a fierce sprint! It was weird to see Chris have to work so hard.

More circles around the park had me hanging on for dear life at times. I tried to stay mid pack. Did my best to work a little. The primes tore me apart, but I managed to bridge back on after one. Then there were some fake attacks from Chris, to wear us out and confuse us for Molly's attack. It was beautiful and painful all at the same time. In a moment, I felt that glorious feeling of letting up "just a bit" which was just enough for me to hopelessly fall off. With 5 laps left in the race, I soloed it in. Ugh.

Some of the guys warming up on the course were nice and encouraging. Others, not so much... Guy with sarcastic tone:"Are you racing?" Me: "Uh, yeah, at least that's what I was supposed to be doing!" I tried to use one guy warming up as a carrot to pick up my pace. With 1 to go, I was almost exactly 1/2 a lap down. I looked up the hill to see Alice's finish and thought, "Thank God, I am almost done!".
As I cruised up the hill to the finish line, I passed Molly walking! She'd flatted on the last lap! All I could think was, "WOW, I am NOT DFL!!" (thanks Molly)

I headed home soon after to rest for the TT in the afternoon....

Phil was presented with his new TT helmet on Friday and decided to give it a whirl. Little did we know that it would literally get a "whirl!"
It was drizzling as we loaded up the car and I kept checking radar as we drove to Riverview for the Columbia Big Bottom Time Trial. There seemed to be a little window with no rain headed our way, but I grew more apprehensive as the rain picked up.
When we arrived at Columbia Bottoms Road there was a lot of wind but just a little rain. Reluctantly, Phil and I registered and then hurried to get suited up and warm up.
All reports from those who finished before us indicated there was a cross wind at the beginning, head wind until the turn around and a sweet tailwind on the way back.
As we were lining up, Chris offered her TT helmet up for my use. I've never even had a TT helmet on my head but I thought it wouldn't hurt. With the TT helmet and Mavic Carbones I was pretty aero!
Phil started :30 before me and was gone in a flash! Buddy made some chit-chat and I was off. I struggled to get into my pedal and had an awkward start but settled in to tackle the crosswind and head wind.
On the way out, I tried to keep my speed around 18-20 but in the headwind struggled not to dip to 12 MPH!! What a buzz kill! I managed to hold off the guy behind me until just before the turn around! He was on a TT bike!! Woo Hoo. Thank goodness for small accomplishments!
Just before the turn around, there was a little tailwind section. I quickly accelerated to low 20s and grew excited to be headed back. On the return, my speed reached 28-29 mph and my heart rate dropped to a less than pounding range. I actually felt like I was running out of gear! Unfortunately, I could see lightening in the quickly approaching distance. Black clouds were making their way toward the start/finish area.
An intense crosswind arrived sooner that I would have liked and the last 1.5 miles I needed to focus on just staying upright. I was leaning hard to the left and watched my high 20s speed plummet to 17 mph in a second. I kept trying to point that TT helmet to the left, into the crosswind, hoping it would help.
As I approached the line, I could hear the cheering from my friends and Phil. Steph M was standing at about 200 meters with an umbrella that the wind had pasted to her body. I was concerned for her! I crossed the line at 26:06, one minute less than my goal :( but SOO GLAD to be done. I took about 200 meters to cool down and made a mad dash to the car to load up and get out of there!
There was a little traffic jam of cars doing the same. I could see the rain moving in a massive sheet across the field and straight for us. People were scrambling to pull down the tents and secure themselves. The hail started before we left the park.

*photo credit to billh/ hub racer extraordinaire!

I later learned from Suzanne that Alice and 4 others were out on the course. Fortunately, Suzanne, Steph and Mike rescued them and their bikes. Alice even kept going once the hail started. She was only about 1-2 miles from the finish!

Phil and I followed Kate down Riverview to Broadway, through "mini-lakes" in the road, into the city and out of the storm. Before we reached hwy 70, the sun was out and blue skies replaced those devilish looking clouds. As we drove home, we heard weather reports of a tornado touching down in Des Peres and that same cell had made its way to Alton (Right over Riverview/Columbia Bottom Road!)

Nicole appropriately termed this race the Tornadic Time Trial!

Sunday morning was the Delmar Crit. Historically, I have enjoyed this flat, square course. This year I learned that High profile rims and wind don't mix!

Alice found a great carport at a business parking lot on the course for a dry warm up area. The races got started late and at around 9am, 9 of us lined up for the Women's Open (Chris, Molly from Mesa; Jamie, Allison from Momentum; Emily from Dogfish, Cindy Reece, Aubree Dock, Alice and myself). Of course, the Mesa ladies were to be watched.

I stayed on for several laps, surges and attacks; however, as we raced, the wind picked up. On one lap, just after start/finish and before turn 1, I caught a swift kick in the side in the form of cross wind to my back wheel. I felt the wheel wash out and I'm still amazed I didn't go down. I swerved and was thankful to be at the back. I was spooked and sat up.
I tried to chase back and caught up to Allison and Alice, only to realize Allison was slowing to head to the wheel pit with a flat. Alice surged and it took me another 1-2 laps to get to her and we "worked" together - just focusing on not getting lapped.
The flat must've done Allison some good because she soon attacked, taking Molly and Emily with her. Alice and I tried to keep them away from us, but we weren't as quick and confident in the corners. Aero and the spectators were kind and cheering as we came around start/finish although we were hopelessly behind.
Unfortunately for us, the break caught us on the next lap. Not far behind was the chase group of four. We jumped in with them and it was soon evident there were some team tactics going on.

Alice and I were ready to work for this group; however, we were unsure if that would be allowed. As we crossed the line with 3 to go, Chris yelled to Buddy inquiring if Alice and I could work for the group. As we passed, Aero announced for "Hub ladies to stay in the back" so we did as we were told. (We later learned from Larry that we could've worked for the chase group; just not the break... Good to know). Nicole and Kate heard Chris yelling to Stacie to have Molly "Drop one person" from the break and they thought Chris was yelling about needing to drop us!

Fortunately, by mixing back in with the chase group, we were able to practice sprinting at the finish. I came in at 8th out of 9.

So far, this season of racing has been such a learning experience for me. I have been challenged and humbled by those I am racing with. I hope to be able to hang with the pack and finish strong. I will continue to race with a balance of pride and humility and I am sure I will continue to learn great things from this incredible group of ladies.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Starting to Suck Less

The above photo is proof I was in it. (look closely...behind Teresa!)

Judging from the pained look on my face, I was really IN IT.

By IT, I mean the B race at the Tuesday Night Worlds.

By IN, I mean I stayed IN. In the field. The whole time. (Well, I did jump out one lap to get a drink- I still can't drink and race with these folks- and cough up some pollen) I fell off at the SECOND 2 to go lap (oops, it's a practice race for the officials too!)

Two Prime laps and I was still in there!

Later, I asked Phil if it was slow. Phil, who took 5th, graciously double checked his stats or the night and reported back to me that the average was like 24-25 mph! NOT SLOW.....

Woo Hoo for me!!

Here's hoping my molasses streak is truly over.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hermann 2010

I only did the TT....

Not sure why, 'cause TT's are not my best feature. I guess it was the least of three evils.

I placed 10th, out of 10 in the women's open. Judging from my time (33:29 for the 11 and change mile course), I would have been 10th out of 20 in the 3/4.

Solidly 10th.

I very much enjoyed watching my com-padres tear it up in the women's 3/4 Crit and very much enjoyed fried cheese balls with Johnson-Klucker after.

Phil ROCKED the TT.

28 minutes even steven.
15th out of 32 or 34 in the Men's 4. If he would have stayed in the Women's Open, where I registered him, he would have won!

Hub ladies cleaned up! Kate was 3rd in the TT, Ashley took 4th in the Crit, 2nd in the Road Race. Alice took 5th in the RR.
Kate and I were 2nd and 3rd in the Hub Roubaix :) Phil won, of course!

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's hard to blog about a bad race but I think it's just as important for the process. It's just as hard to take what positives and learning experiences I can and put the rest behind me.

I know bad races happen to everyone. I know they strike for many reasons, and can occur despite your best efforts. I know they do not characterize me as a racer, or more importantly, a person.
Still, it's hard to scrape myself up off the ground, especially when my last race had me literally on the ground.

No, I didn't crash....

I bonked - Lance Armstrong style. Foaming at the mouth with salt, legs cramping with every more style bonking.

It all started on a beautiful Saturday in April....

We gathered at my house, loaded up three vehicles with six people - my Hub teammates (Kate, Alice, Ashley, Katie) and Suzanne, our teammate from another team! Our Caravan was off at 7:40ish. The drive to Hillsboro was without incident. No missed exits or mishaps.
We parked, registered, picked up timing chips, changed, ate, drank water...wait, YES, I actually did both of these things. The Cat 4 women went to warm up, while Alice and I hung around. Our start was 1 1/2 hours later, the LAST race of the day. Ugh!
The pre-race jitters were there and then moved off. We rode around, climbing hills to get heart rates pumping, circling with "the Sharks" - (Teresa and Amy from Big SHark!)Alice commented that I seemed defeated before we even started. I just felt tired.
We grabbed a coke and shared it. That energized me a bit. When it was time to line up, we were near the back. I knew I wanted to be up a little bit but not too far. Chris prompted me to get into my Big chain ring. Sarah re pinned by center line number and confirmed that my beloved Catlike helmet is no longer race legal.
The next thing I know, Todd is calling Alice and I up to the line for being Hub racers (Sponsor team!) Woo Hoo!, I think. Yikes, there are some pro racers in this field.

After some instructions and a few jokes from Todd, we were off. I didn't stay on the front long, but managed to stay near the front. We passed the women's Cat 4 race as they were finishing up the hill. After the neutral section and first turn, I even pulled a little, down the hill and into the first climb. Chris came to the front with me and then instructed me to seek some shelter on the inside.
I did as instructed and tried to relax. The other racers continued to move around me but I stayed in the upper 1/3. We were really flowing like water. The field was so big, it was hard to see the road ahead. Little turns yielded some gravel on the sides. I slid back a bit. Jamie and Suzanne W came around me. I tried to stay on Jamie's wheel but found myself on Suzanne's. She moved left and right a bunch and without really focusing, I was easily overlapping her wheel.

9 miles down, 49 to go. We reached "Ruth's hill", I fell further back, but stayed on enough to catch right at the top of the hill. Amy was on the back too. A few others had dropped off. I couldn't see Alice.
I tried to get back in but the surges were starting to wear on me. It was strange to climb a hill and see the attack at the front, but have to wait for the wave of riders in between to respond.

The next thing I know there is "Danger! XXX" written on the road. The smell of brakes filled the air. As soon as I reached the turn at the bottom of the hill
there was an attack. I couldn't stick with it.

I was dropped. 10 miles in.

I fought to get back on. Another girl bridged to me from who knows where and we tried, in vain, to work together to get back. No dice
I dropped off and she continued her fight.

Several miles go by. Solo riding, trying to keep my speed up but watching it dip from 20's to high teens to 17mph. NO shelter from the wind. No one to hide the fact that we are climbing a hill.

Then Alice and Margie (McDonalds, from Louisville) catch up to me. I soft pedal to let it happen sooner and start to rotate in with them. It's clear Margie's out to catch some carrots. She soon sees Joan in front of us (another from Louisville) and we work to catch her.

We rotate through and work well together. Since none of us have ever done the feed zone thing, we spread out and try our luck. I see the familiar face of Natalie Carroll and toss her my water bottle to clear the way for the one I hope to pick up. She catches it like a pro. (I was hoping she'd give it to my teammates up the hill, but instead she threw it in a big box with other bottles and it was left in Hillsboro! Since i had my name on the bottom (!) it made its way back to me last week :)
A few seconds later, I see our awesome Team Rev support and easily snag a bottle from Kate. My guess is that it's much easier to navigate a feed zone with four people than with 40!
As we climb the second hill, I am feeling strong. We hit the cobbles and I am second wheel. I pull through to the front at the Start/Finish and we begin lap two.
As we descend the feed zone hill, I notice a twinge of cramp in my right calf. I ignore it and it moves to the left. I change my pedal stroke a bit, grab a drink and get some food. I share some pieces of my powerbar smoothie with Alice and Margie. We roll down the road. Several men's groups pass us.

Halfway through the second lap, I noticed that I am starting to fade. My pulls are shorter and less frequent. My head starts to feel full in my helmet. With about 10 miles to go, I get dropped. I catch back on but can't move up to take a turn pulling. I am starting to limp. The cramping increases, but I try to shake it off. My cadence slows. My heart rate increases. My speed takes a sharp dip.

We passed a guy who looks worse off than me. I am only going about 14 mph and seem to fly past him. I start to notice the volunteers are packing up. Hmm... Alice, Margie and Joan are getting smaller and smaller in the distance.

My whole body starts to ache. Cramps move up both legs into my hamstrings and quads. I pray for tailwind but even with it, my speed is slow and pedalling is labored. I realize this is a BONK and focus on just making it to the finish.
I see the last climb with a mix of joy and pain. I have to climb it to finish.
The guy behind me passes me. He takes a long look at me as he passes, swerving into the other lane. I can't figure out what he's staring at. I must've looked pretty bad. He keeps looking back as he climbs, as if he is considering coming back for me. Soon, he's gone and it's just me and the hill.

I reach the second part of the climb and realize they are picking up the cones and opening the course. Fortunately, when I reach the cones, they stop picking them up and let me pass. My vision starts to get fuzzy and I see spots. I reach the top of the climb and realize the police officer stopping traffic at the turn is walking away. There's a car up! I signal and make the turn. Down the hill, I get a little break from pedalling but the pain doesn't stop. I start to cry, but quickly realize it makes things worse. I force myself to stop crying as I reach the cobbles. Fortunately the traffic there waits for me. A guy in car at the corner also waits for me to make the turn. More tunnel vision.
I turn down the finish. The last thing I remember seeing is the 200 meter sign. I cross the line and ride right over to the Team Rev ladies cheering me on. I stop and try to put my left foot down but my leg doesn't want to have any of it. Pain and exhaustion are all I can feel. The spots have turned into fuzzy black and white stars.
I fall left, fortunately into Larry Pirtle. He realizes I am going down and catches me, making me stand. My friends help me unclip my right foot and help me over to the grass where I can sit down. Kube gives me some food and some Gatorade. I am covered in goosebumps and can't breath. Kate tries to put pants on me, both legs at once! After a few minutes, my head starts to clear. My legs feel tired but aren't twisted into knots.

Suzanne graciously offered to drive my car back to St Louis. It'd been a while since she last drove a manual. I was just grateful for her company and support. We headed directly to Llewellyn's for some much needed food. After a Coke and a burger, I was feeling more normal. I even considered trying to do the Tilles Crit, but was shot down by my friends/teammates.
I guess a Sunday of rest and spectating isn't too bad either.

My longest, hardest race ever also became my worst. Despite the painful, frustrating finish, I can glean some positives. The most obvious is the incredible support of my friends. From cheering, to feed zone support, to literally holding me up at the finish. They are the best! Also, I was able to hang on to the wheels of some fierce and strong women, including some Pros, for about 10 miles. Hopefully my endurance will get stronger and I'll be able to hang on longer.
I also learned that I can push myself beyond what I perceive are my limits. I did not give up. I finished the race. And I will line up at the start again soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

hamakir et mikomo

Literal translation: "Know your place."

Everyone has something unique to contribute to the world. The challenge is to figure out who you are, then how you fit into the grand scheme of things.
The beauty of it is that you do fit. The challenge of it is that most of us think we are square pegs and try to force ourselves into round holes, or more often, trying to force the round holes to be square. It takes true wisdom to know yourself, and thus, your place.

Arrogance is a barrier to growth. The arrogant carry a smug sends of satisfaction. They stop seeking and assume they know. They assert themselves without stopping to recognize how much they have yet to learn and how much opportunity is around them.
Once you realize how truly little you know, you appreciate what wisdom you do have and guard it as a valued possession. Stop taking for granted and push yourself always for a little bit more.

Your place is not in isolation. It is not you vs the world. Your place only exits in relation to others. When you allow it to, the wisdom from you will flow to those around you and from them to you. When you relax in this, you can grow by allowing other's wisdoms to flow around you, into you, like water. This knowledge also requires you to be humble. When the moment calls for it, you take the lead. You must also recognize when another is more suited and step back as to not impede the flow.

Silence can be golden. It is harder to know when not to speak than when to speak. You can share more of yourself by sometimes saying nothing at all.

Knowing your place may mean stopping to ask yourself, is it time to step up, or step back and the wisdom in both actions.