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.


Suze said...

What a great race report! You are working so hard and growing so much this season and are an inspiration to me.

billh said...

Hey Steph, I took that storm pic with my very own little camera . . . we must have been there at the same time. billh

StephanieN said...

Bill - I lifted that (Gently) from your blog. I couldn't figure out how to give photo credit while trying to secretly update my blog while at work. Let me give credit here!!!

You missed a whirlwind of a tt!