Thursday, December 27, 2007

I now have headcold #7 for calendar year 2007. Its my PR. I hope never to break it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I wish that I could project my thoughts into other people's minds letting them know exactly how much I hate them. I don't even need to tell them why --- nine times out of ten its because they are IN MY WAY. And the other time its because I'm in their way and the honking/shouting/gesturing isn't going to make me move, its only going to make me hate them more.


Rode the lakefront path for a couple hours today. First time I've been on the path in . . . six weeks? It remains exactly how it ever was. It was warm and sunny and I saw a handful of other cyclists --- including my coach --- getting in their winter miles. I wonder if I could convince my boss to let me ride for a couple hours in the middle of the day through January and February. Its so dark and cold in the mornings.

Oh, and the two weeks off the bike have made me SLOW. Arg.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Saturday it was in the 40's --- WARM! So I went on my team ride and had a blast. It was my first day back on my bike after my 2 weeks off, and it felt so great to be riding again! It was damp and dirty out, so I had to hose down my bike when I got home. Then I had to hose down my face. hee.

I was looking forward to riding on Sunday, but the temperature had plummeted and there were high, cold winds. So I tried out my new rollers for the first time. I did 10 minutes and didn't fall or have any sort of mishap -- although it took me a while to figure out how to get off the damn thing. When I'm on my bike, my feet don't touch the ground, so I sorta sat there in limbo until I found some toeholds. Heh. I'll use the rollers for increasingly longer periods every time I'm stuck training indoors. It breaks up the soul-sucking monotony of the trainer, which I rode for the other hour and 50 minutes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Driving to work this morning, I shared the road with a gangly guy on a fixed gear. I was keeping an eye on my side mirror to make sure I wasn't crowding him or anything, when I realize he's grabbed onto the wheel well of my car. Long arms --- I guess if you CAN some people WILL. I tried to maintain a steady speed and straight line, but the responsibility of having an external passenger made me nervous.

I slowed for a light and he zipped ahead and grabbed onto the car ahead of me. That's when I knew for sure he was on a fixed gear and not a single speed --- he didn't grab on and coast, he grabbed on and kept pedalling madly. He never quit pedalling. He let go of the car when he couldn't pedal as fast as the car was going.

Later, stopped at the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland, he came around me and did that thing where you turn right along with traffic and sorta work your way through the intersection dodging the cars. Except I've never seen anyone do it at such a fast rate of speed and in such a busy intersection. While this guy is skillful and fearless, I can't say I admire him. He's going to die like a dog in traffic one day, and that's never good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My women's racing team had our monthly social last night. It was fun -- we met at a great ethiopian place and chatted about training and next seasons goals and training camp and holiday plans and etc. Nine of us were able to be there, 5 or so others were previously committed. Our team is getting bigger and stronger. That's cool.

First Sunday in January we're having our annual open house for women interested in racing to come and check us out. I went to one two years ago, and last year it was at my house. I met women there that I raced with all season. I'm excited to see who will turn up this year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Today my workplace held our annual "Say it with Sweets" extravaganza. Basically, all the parents bring in a couple dozen cookies or brownies or cupcakes or some sort of holiday baked good and they arrange it all on buffet tables [LOTS of buffet tables], give each employee a large pastry box and beg us to fill them up.

Considering that my relationship with food in general and baked goods in particular is complicated, this is not a good thing for me. Last year I called in sick on "Say it with Sweets" day simply to avoid getting anywhere near that much sugar. This year . . . calling in sick wasn't an option. Would that it had been. Or that I were the sort of person who could just ignore the event. But I'm not. I filled a pastry box and it sat on my desk smelling delightful.

Long story short, after indulging more than I should have, I taped the damn box shut and gave it to my coworker [to add to her overflowing box]. Then I went and worked out.

Where I though about how lucky I am. I remembered how in my early 20's I would get completely winded walking from Ashland to Damen. How it felt like it was SO far. My daily companions were sugar wafers and Mountain Dew. Now I get cranky that I've lost my top-end speed so on my 50 -80 mile Saturday morning ride its way harder to keep up with the fast racers. My life is GREAT.

Thank god I got rid of that box -o- evil.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm back from my fabulous trip to London, Brussels and Amsterdam. It was so much fun, and great to spend an entire week with Jackie.

I fell in LOVE with Amsterdam immediately. There are bikes EVERYWHERE. Thousands and thousands of cyclists. Everyone bikes pretty much everywhere they go. If they didn't put mayonaise on everything, Amsterdam would be perfect.

Still on my 2 weeks off my bike . . . not loving it. Although its so snowy out that I'd be riding indoors on the trainer anyway. I will be soon enough. Ugh. On my trip, we walked everywhere. Its so great being on my feet and active all day --- maybe I should quit my desk job and become a waitress. ha. Now I'm just doing weights and core strength stuff with a little eliptical thrown in. I'd love to get to a cardio kickboxing class, but I've been so busy.

Tomorrow evening is the free pilates class here at work -- I really enjoy it. The instuctor, one of our dance teachers, makes it challenging for everyone, giving harder options to the more advanced. We do my new favorite exercise: get in plank position with your feet on a ball [one of those big balls], then lift your hips and bend so you roll the ball forward until it touches your arms and you are balancing with your hands on the floor and feet flat on the ball, bent in half basically with arms and legs straight up and down. Five or six reps will pretty much do you in.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I did the team ride this morning. It was COLD. There were only 6 of us -- and we lost one to metra on the way up [she's new and didn't have warm enough gear for her feet. Actually, she was wearing sneakers and had cages on her pedals]. Did I mention that it was COLD? It was cold. Temperature was about 19 degrees when I left the house, and I could have used another layer. But once we got going, I was fine.

My fitness has declined. I know its supposed to in the off-season, but I hate it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Woo hoo! Jackie and I are flying to London manana! I'm so excited. We'll spend a week abroad in London, Brussels and Amsterdam. Wheee.

Training-wise, this is great --- I'm supposed to take 2 weeks off the bike around now anyway, so spending one of them walking around Europe will be a complete pleasure.

Our flight leaves Saturday early evening . . . so I *could* do the team ride in the morning. Which isn't exactly "completely off the bike," but I would really enjoy stretching my legs. Especially as I'll be spending 8 hours in and airplane seat. Hmmmm.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I bought my plane ticket for training camp in March. Eight days in gorgous San Luis Obispo, riding most of the day and then eating, sleeping and riding again. Its wonderful. I've gone the past two years — the first year, they taught me to draft on the second day [after getting dropped on the moderately paced 30 mile ride on day one]. I knew nothing going in, and learned a ton. The second year, I was a very different rider. I was able to keep up with the fast group for WAY longer than I expected. And discovered that I was a pretty fast descender despite being lighter than the guys.

Can't wait to see how much I've improved this year!


I've spent 5 hours this week on the trainer. ugh. The tendon under my left kneecap is a bit inflamed now. Riding outdoors doesn't do it, just the unending monotony of the trainer. I'll be on vacation [and off the bike] next week, but after that I'll have to put together my rollers and learn to use them. It'll be interesting at least. Hopefully not TOO interesting.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Last night was my cycling team's end of year banquet. I was shocked and very honored to have been voted "Women's Road MVP" by my teammates. I can't help feeling like several of my teammates deserved it more . . . but I'm trying to simply enjoy this. I was presented with the adorable trophy pictured above. Jackie thinks it would make a great centerpiece on our dining room table. Ha!

Our team coach also presents several awards, and he chose me as "Most Improved Racer" [or as the certificate says "Best Most Improved Racer"]. Despite the great strides forward many of my teammates have made, he said my improvment has been especially dramatic. I was SO very bad at racing when I started, but by sticking with it, I've become competent — proving that you don't need talent or aptitude if you're willing to work like a dog. And seriously, not many people stick with something they aren't immediately good at, so I'm proud of that.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by all this. And very happy.

Yesterday was also my 40th birthday. I celebrated by getting caught in a downpour on my morning training ride. It was so warm — 48! — and I couldn't stand the thought of two hours on the trainer. Happily, it didn't start raining until an hour and a half into my ride, so I was headed home. And as long as you keep moving, you stay warm. Saturday I went on the team ride in the 26 degree weather. I was pleasantly surprised at how doable that temperature is. I had the right gear and didn't suffer from the cold at all. So no more wimping out because of the weather!

But when it IS too cold and wet out, I now have rollers for indoor riding — thanks, Dad & Jill! Hopefully I can learn to use them without crashing.

OK, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I was voted MVP! It was an excellent and wonderful birthday . . . maybe being 40 isn't going to be so bad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I dreamt last night that my racing bike was stolen. I was devastated. And the thought of the cost to replace it left me reeling. Somehow the fact that its insured didn't occur to my subconscious.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I STILL have this cold. I spent most of the long Thanksgiving weekend reading books on the couch. I spent some time on the trainer, but it made my lungs hurt and left me wiped out for the rest of the day. I missed the team ride on Saturday and riding with the lay-deez on Sunday. I feel lumpen and inert.

And I'm still coughing and dragging.

On the bright side, I read my first Robert Ludlum book. I have a feeling that he pretty much wrote the same book over and over, so there's no real need to read any more. But the first time its fun even if you can predict the end by the halfway point. Interestingly, he's dead, yet books continue to be published in his name [with a tiny TM right by the huge "m"]. Sort of like V.C. Andrews or L. Ron Hubbard. Or Carolyn Keene. Perhaps I should read one he actually wrote.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Due to my cold and the appalling weather, I did my first indoor training yesterday. Two hours on the stationary bike in the fitness center. Two hours staring my heart rate monitor, keeping my heart rate between 140 and 150 beats per minute. Which pretty much means, keeping it at 149 as long as possible. Yes, I am THAT WAY. Have to always push.

It was easier to stay in my endurance zone indoors as there was no one to chase down or ride off my wheel. Just me and the blinking numbers. So I made up the super fun game of trying to keep my HR at exactly 149 for as long as possible. Its way harder than you realize to keep your HR in one place for longer than 10 seconds. I think my record was about 38 seconds. It made the time pass, anyway.

I also had the excellent playlist that DJ Potpie UK [Jackie] put on my shuffle. Kept me from chewing through my ankles to escape the monotony of the BodyCycle. If you haven't yet downloaded Chromeo's latest album Fancy Footwork, you owe it to yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Its supposed to be cold tomorrow, but I'm hoping it will be dry. I can't take another 2 hours of indoor pedalling.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I have ANOTHER flippin' cold! This is the fifth since March. I feel like crap and its going to interfere with my training. I can't tell you how much I hate that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm on a "rest week" this week. My training is periodized so that I don't burn out. And giving your body a short rest from routine makes that routine more effective --- your body doesn't get so complacent and efficient, so you get more strength and endurance out of the workouts.

So I'm riding about 7 hrs instead of my usual 10-12, and I'm doing core strength instead of resistance training. I have two days with absolutely nothing scheduled. All that free time . . . its crazy.

I would LOVE to sleep in on Sunday . . . but I know I'll be awake by 7 a.m. anyway.


Last night I went to the opening of Pieter Ombrecht's posthumous photo exhibit. Pieter was on xXx and died from injuries sustained in a bike race crash not long ago. I was completely blown away by his work. Its breathtaking -- complex, geometric, emotional . . . compositionally AND conceptually sophisticated. I can't recommend it strongly enough. Its up through the holidays at The City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower at 806 N. Michigan Avenue [that little castle!]. Go see it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare."

--Juma Ikangaa, marathoner

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rode up to HP and back with Gigi and Emily. Good ride --- it's 10 degrees warmer today than yesterday, and we didn't get rained on. I did flat -- first time since March -- but got it changed without issue.

On the way back through Evanston, we passed a guy on a road bike in a bulky wind coat wearing a camelback [snerk]. A couple minutes later, he passes us. So Gigi, who was leading, just got on his wheel. At which point he slowed down. So when traffic allowed, I cruised passed him with Gigi and Emily on my wheel. And sure enough, a minute later he powers past me. Yes, he's THAT guy. That guy who can't let any woman ride faster than he does.

Which, whatever. But if you're going to pull out your dick and measure it, make sure its big enough. ie. don't kill yourself to get in front of me then slow down because you can't maintain that pace.

If we were on the Lakefront path, I would have ridden that guy off my wheel. But we were in traffic. So I just gave him some tips on how to have a more efficient pedal stroke [which he desperately needs, not that he'll heed] and passed him easily every time he dropped off the pace. If he's going to be that guy, I can at least make him suffer.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Team ride today. For some reason there were TONS of people. Tons. Loads. Hundreds. Which resulted in the trip up to Highland Park being quite slow. I'm not sure why, exactly.

As I want to build up stamina on longer rides, I "went long." There was a large group that went north from HP and about half turned off at Fort Sheridan --- the shortest extra bit --- and half continued on to do a much longer 30-40 mile loop. I went with them, but turned off at Old School road, which added 26 miles to my ride [for a total of 76]. It was FUN with the big group. We had a tailwind and there were lots of guys to draft off. For a while I was spinning my 50-12 -- my biggest gear -- at 100 rpms. That's about 31-32 mph. NOT downhill. When I turned off, I was wanting to stay with the big group. But I was afraid that when we hit the wind, I'd lose energy and get dropped somewhere with no clue how to get home. Jackie's in Texas with her band, so I couldn't just call and get directions.

So I turned at Old School with 2 teammates and we rode back to Chicago together. If my knee weren't bothering me a bit, it would have been a really great ride. It was pretty day, not too cold, I had good company and I felt pretty strong.

But my knee is bothering me. A bit of tendonitis right below the kneecap. I've started using the roller to loosen my ITBs -- they turn into tight little fists and pull my knees out of alignment slightly. And I iced it. But its still achey. Blarg.

Tomorrow I'm riding about 50 miles with the xXx laydeez. Should be fun!

Friday, November 9, 2007

My teammate Bob has a great post about cycling safety on his blog [linked below] --- new riders aren't being taught how to ride safely in groups. It used to be that the experienced riders instructed the inexperienced riders and they either listened or they were out of the group. If you couldn't be trusted, no one would ride with you.

But now, a lot of new cyclists are older and aren't willing to listen to someone tell them what to do. So they don't learn. And worse, they have no clue that they've missed something extremely valuable. Riding in a group with these guys is dangerous.

So what does my team do on our weekly group ride? The first part of the ride is "no-drop" at an easy pace --- perfect for teaching skills. But, as noted, some people don't want to hear what they're doing wrong. Which makes it hard to say anything.

Now, I am certainly not a very skilled rider. But I'm aware of my shortcomings. I've been scolded and I thanked the scolder and tried to do better. I've improved a lot. I still do boneheaded things, but I really want to be a good, solid wheel to follow and I work hard to be that.

There are people on our ride that scare me. People that I'll avoid. People whose wheel I won't follow. But I find it difficult/impossible to say anything about it. As do the more experienced riders, it seems. No one wants trouble. Which isn't to say that teaching doesn't happen --- it does. But the guys who won't listen and who endanger us all, aren't excluded. They're on the ride week after week.

How do we address this? In the pre-ride speech about helmets and riding two abreast, should the ride leader just say "someone might give you safe riding tips during this ride, and you need to listen."?? Who would that "someone" be?

This is something that the team has been struggling with for a while.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I watched a half hour of "CSI: NY" last night. Its DISTRACTINGLY bad. Its like the actors were told "You're robots! GO!" And the writers were warned "No more than 2 lines of dialogue per scene, or you're fired. But make sure you get all the exposition in. No, it needs more exposition!" All this show lacks is a beautiful young stripper who takes it all off in the penultimate scene to truly be art.


I have to agree with my teammate Jeff --- a merino wool base layer is one the best and most useful items of clothing I own. I got mine from Smartwool [or rather my mom got it for me for xmas a few years ago], and it's attractive enough to wear as a regular shirt . . . which I do when it gets really cold. The only bit of cold weather gear that approaches the merino wool baselayer for fab functionality are my Hytrel socks. I don't know what Hytrel IS, but it sure keeps my feet warm on long winter endurance rides. Especially with wool kneesocks underneath.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My new wheels! Not for the mountain bike, but a second set for my racing bike. I got a great deal on ebay --- Ksyrium Equipe with a shimano 10 speed 23-11 cassette and brand new vittoria tires.

These will be my training wheels as the ones that came with my bike are slightly nicer. They will be my racing wheels. It will be good to have a second set in case I flat during a race. I'm going to put those new Vittoria racing slicks on my racing wheels.

I'm very excited about the new cassette --- I've been riding a 27-12, which is great for climbing, but not so great for keeping up when it gets fast.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Since I somehow committed to doing a cross race later this month, I've started fixing up my old mountain bike. I took off the rack and the fenders and discovered why the wheel has been rubbing against my brakes. Yikes.

Beyond the wheels falling apart, this bike is embarrassingly filthy. I haven't cleaned it in years. I scrubbed at the chain w/ pedro's and a toothbrush for an hour the other day . . . and it could use another hour. Its up on the workstand and when I walk by, I give it another squirt of degreaser. I'm hoping it will loosen up some of the greasy dirt clots.

This means that I haven't started practising for the cross race. I've watched cyclocross, but I've never even attempted as much as a dismount. My goal for this race is to finish without breaking an ankle.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One way to improve as a cyclist is to ride with people who are faster than you are. Its something I try to do regularly. On Saturday, a couple of our elite racers were on the team ride, so I got into their group for the ride back. And I got dropped three times. OK, so yeah, if I got dropped more than once, it means that I caught back up, which is good I guess, but I hate being dropped in the first place. There are three places where the guys sprint. Its always a challenge for me to hang on to the group then, but it was beyond me with the cat 2 riders driving things.

And its SO FRUSTRATING. Which is dumb, because I'm riding with them BECAUSE its a huge challenge and I expect to get my ass handed to me. But each time I lost the wheel ahead of me and watched that gap grow . . . it totally sucked. I have to get better at this. I hate being dropped so much.

I felt bad for the guys behind me. I get gapped and they get gapped too. They let me pull them into the wind at 30 mph until I simply can't keep it up, then they swarm past me up to the group [at my urging]. And I'm so wasted from trying to bridge, that I can't grab a wheel as it goes by and ride back up.

I'm wondering if switching from compact cranks to regular would make a difference. Compact cranks have only 50 teeth [that turn the chain] as opposed to 53. They're slightly easier to pedal -- especially going up hills. The tradeoff is that you don't go quite as fast. I'll be in my hardest gear, my 50/12, and I'll lose the wheel ahead of me. Now part of it is that I need to develop the strength and endurance to pedal the 50/12 faster and longer [yes, yes, that's what she said] -- and that's the real issue. But its still worth having a conversation with my coach, I think.

Must. Get. Faster.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I was taking it easy on my ride home last night, when a guy on a time trial bike with a disc wheel shoots past me on Armitage. I laughed --- how often do you see disc wheels in traffic? I sped up and kept pace with him, and the chase was on. He wasn't able to drop me, but I never did get a chance to chat him up about his fancy bike.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I've been thinking about my goals for next season. The success I had at the end of this season felt great. And I want to start next season stronger and faster and able to win races. I want to be the one launching the blistering attack in the last miles, riding the other girls off my wheel.

I'd like to compete in a real stage race. Where you have to complete each stage within a time limit to move on to the next. And I'd like to be comfortable with the effort. I hesitate to say I want to be formidable in my first stage race, but its something to shoot for. I definitely want to finish all the stages.

And my big goal for next year: I want to get the points I need to cat up to the 3s. To do that, I'll need 20 points in a 12 month period. I'll have to place in the top 6 in a race with at least 10 racers to get points. If I meet my goal of being good enough to win, I should be able to do this. But more than just catting up, I want to be strong enough to be a viable cat 3 racer. The jump from women's 4 to women's 3 is huge --- the cat 3 women are usually lumped in with the cat 1 and 2 racers, making the races much longer, harder and faster. So I'll need to do a lot of hard work to get there.

I'll have to stop racing master's for the time being. My wins have been in the master's 35+ category, but those points don't count towards the 20. And maybe I should stop racing master's altogether. I don't want to cat up to the 3s and find myself outclassed and end up in the less difficult master's races. If I become a 3, I want to be able to compete at that level.

Another thing I've been thinking about is equipment. I have an awesome bike that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. But I'm not sure I want to subject it to winter riding. It would be very nice to have a secondary bike for training. If something were to happen to my racing bike, I'd have something else to fall back on. Of course, I have two other bikes: a mountain bike that I've had for 10 years [take my advice, don't buy an aluminum hardtail. CRUNCHY!], and a touring bike that I raced on last year. Its not a bad bike, its just not a racing bike and it held me back. The geometry is wrong, it has several "comfort" features that aren't right for racing, its a little big for me, and its a bit heavy. My experience racing it has left me not liking it. Its a perfectly fine touring bike . . . but I'd rather have a good "B" bike or a secondhand cross bike for dirty winter riding. And I could race cross next year if I had a bike! I don't have the $$$, but I'm keeping an eye on Craig's list to see what shows up. Can't hurt to look.

I'd also like to get rollers for indoor training and aerobars for time trialing --- better to get them now and practise. A powertap would be awesome too, but they are major bucks, so that's not happening this year. I'd rather have a backup bike. Not that that's happening either. Heh, I can "make due" with my amazing and wonderful racing bike.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So I'm transitioning into off-season training. Right now, that means about 2 fewer hours per week, and very little intensity. Most of my bike time is endurance riding, not interval training or sprint practise. I'm only on my bike 4 days a week now [as opposed to 7 before: 5 days of training and 2 days active recovery], and I'm back to weight training the other three days. Which I've really missed.

My job over the next 5-6 months is to maintain and build my "base" with lots and lots of long, slow endurance miles [relatively slow, anyway], and to build strength with resistance training. It also doesn't hurt to work on my "power to weight" ratio, which is a nice way of saying "lose a few pounds." And actually, the pounds only matter going up hills, and weighing less doesn't matter nearly as much as being lean. Especially if you care how you look in the incredibly unforgiving spandex shorts.

The weather is slowly getting iffy. Its now very dark when I leave the house to ride before work. Some days its very chilly, other days temperate. There seems to be more rainy days forecasted. Soon --- I hope not too soon --- I'll be stuck indoors riding endurance on the dreaded trainer. As much as I sometimes can't stand yet another trip up and down the Lakefront Path or out to Highland Park and back, 2 hours on the trainer is worse, much worse. Its boring. And its hard on the body. Outside, you're constantly adjusting pedal stroke, coasting here, pedaling harder there, standing to climb . . . on the trainer its the sameness that gets you. Numbs the brain and causes overuse injuries to the body.

I'm planning to buy some rollers this fall. Heh, check out the fun: --- at least it won't be boring.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

High tide on the Lakefront Path!
I hope my shoes and socks dry out before its time to ride home.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

So I've finished my last race of the season. I'm sad. It was really SO much fun, I don't want it to end. But unless I take up cyclocross [not likely], there really aren't any more races until March. And Jackie would divorce me.

I raced in the Fall Fling road race--the Fall Fling is a series of 4 races, two crits, a time trial and a road race, with an overall winner. The women's cat 4 road race was three laps equalling 24 miles. We got there early and I rode a warm-up lap --- very valuable to learn exactly how strong the wind was and where it was a serious factor [Very strong. Very serious.]. Jeanette and I were there to try to keep our teammate Cecile in the overall leaders jersey. We were thinking we'd try and push the pace and see who we could drop, but a triathlete in her her first road race got on the front almost immediately and singlehandedly pulled us all around the course at a very strong clip. So we let her do our work for us. I sat on her wheel waiting for attacks and Jeanette sat back with Cecile.

On the second lap, I attacked up a hill. But no one chased. I figured they were going to let me dangle out in the wind until I died. I sat up a bit and they finally caught up. Soon after, we started dropping women. By the third lap we were down from 12 to seven, and dropped one more in the rollers. Cecile's two main competitors attacked after the third turn. Jeanette helped Cecile bridge. It took me longer to catch up, but that is a long uphill section and I had the triathlete's help. [this is the same place there was a big attack in the road race two weeks ago, and that didn't stick either. Its just too long of an incline into the wind. I think you need to either go earlier or wait until just before or after the fourth turn.] When we regained the leaders, Jeanette was pulling and Cecile was fourth wheel. On the next attack, Jeanette was left behind. I stayed with Cecile, hoping to give her a leadout . . . but I couldn't get into position and I didn't want to alert the other riders by talking about it. So when the sprint started, I just tried to keep up. We left the triathlete behind, and the four of us raced to the line. I saw one of the other women crack and I passed her! Unfortunately, Cecile wasn't able to outsprint the other racer, and she came in second, with me right behind [taking points away from everyone else].

I enjoyed the race a lot. I should have done some things differently, but I guess I'll work on that next time. In March.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm back from my conference in Toronto. Great conference, a wonderful, relaxing time with Jackie. And 5 days off the bike. Eating way too much. I thought the hotel gym and lots of walking would be enough, but my ride this morning was awful. I'm so slow. Or at least I was until I started trading pulls with some strong guys. I finally got warmed up and started feeling OK. I'm still fat and slow, but its not as bad as I thought at first.

My teammate Cecile is currently #1 in the overall at the Fall Fling Omnium. So I'm going to ride the road race on Saturday in support of her. I hope Jeanette and I can help her keep the yellow jersey another day!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ha, I just remembered something funny [or sad, depending on your outlook]: the official at the cyclocross race told us that racing ages have moved up to the age the racer will turn in the 2008 calendar year. Which means that while I am still 39, my racing age is now 41.
On Sunday I volunteered at the first Cyclocross race of the season. Cyclocross is amazing. The racers navigate a course of grass, dirt, sand, and mud, uphill, downhill, dismounting and carrying their bikes over multiple barriers often positioned so the bike has to be carried uphill as well . . . its a crazy, fun circus. Seriously, there should be cotton candy and balloons. Except that its usually done in the cold — cross season runs from September to December.

I should try it. I don't have a cyclocross bike, but I should figure something out and give it a go next year. Its such an all out intense workout. It would be super fun.

I cheered on my teammates, and every woman who raced by, and men in attractive kits. Everyone looked to be absolutely at their max and grimly determined to pick up the bike and get it over the barrier and up the hill . . . except this one guy, Paolo. Every time I cheered for him, he'd yell back "Rock'n'roll!" He wasn't drenched in sweat, he wasn't gasping for air, he didn't set his bike down and roll it up the hill, he carried it the entire way. And he wasn't losing ground either. He must be made of steel. So aspirational.


I was on the lakefront this morning and they seem to be repairing the most egregious bumps and hazards. Yay. I wonder how long before the asphalt gets pushed into new and exciting bumps.

Things I like about the Lakefront path before dawn:
90% fewer people to dodge!

Things I don't like about the Lakefront path before dawn:
Its REALLY dark. You can't see anything.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Today, I learned that some of my teammates were assaulted by a driver during our Saturday team ride. You can read details at Chicago Bike Racing and Decisive Moments [links below]. Its shocking and infuriating. I'm very glad that no one was seriously injured and that the driver was arrested and charged.
I raced on Saturday — the ABR Master's National Road Race Championships. We had a very small field, four 40+ riders and three 30+ riders, so only seven of us altogether, four of us from xXx, two in each category. We didn't have a chance to discuss tactics beforehand, so I wasn't sure what my role should be going in. So I sat in at first. But my teammates were doing a lot of the work, so I started doing my part too.

After a few laps, it was extremely apparent to me that I was not going to be able to break away, so I figured I should work for our sprinter, the other 40+ rider. So on the last lap and a half I tried attacking over and over, forcing the other 40+ racers to chase me. My attacks got weaker and weaker, and finally before the last turn, my teammate Jeanette [in the 30+ category] put in a big attack on a hill and I got gapped. OK to be fair, her main opponent, a cat 2 rider, was on my wheel and I was blocking. But when she finally went around me, I couldn't catch her wheel and got left behind with another 40+ racer. I chased, and soon caught up to Beth, our sprinter. She'd redlined and fallen off. So I urged her to grab my wheel, and she and I worked together to catch back onto the lead group — pulling the other 40+ racer with us.

So we were all back together going into the homestretch descent. I didn't want to lead out our opponents, so I was trying to figure out where I should be. The one strong 40+ racer finally went, and then the sprint was on. The other 40+ racer, the one Beth and I had pulled back up to the front group, unleashed her sprint. I tried getting on her wheel, but wasn't definitive enough — the cat 2 racer got it and they both sailed to victory. Beth came in third, behind them, and I actually sprinted past the other 40+ racer and crossed the line fourth, third in the 40+ race.

So overall, a fun and educational race. I'm very happy that I'm strong enough TO experiment and learn. Big lesson: have a game plan going in. There's no excuse for us not controlling that race better when we were over half the field. Lesson 2: Jeanette has an awesome uphill excelleration, and I have to do some work now so that I'll be able to keep up with it in the future. If I can get stronger on the hills and build more high-intensity endurance, we could tag-team the hell out of this kind of race.

It was VERY cool to actually outsprint someone. She went too soon, I think, but still. And afterwards, she was shocked to learn that I was only a cat 4 racer. That was nice.

This was my first road race since the Proctor road race where Beth K. was killed. Two of my teammates and a number of other master's racers at this event had been in that pack. It brought up a lot of feelings to again be in a race where the course is open to motor vehicles while the race is going on. I can't express my sadness about that horrible, tragic accident, or my anger. But I think this was an important step for me. It was good to spend some time decompressing with my teammates afterwards. I hope they are doing OK.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Picture of me on the podium after winning at Sherman Park. Jeanette is the blonde next to me. Yes, I dyed my hair blue. I was bored the night before, I guess.

I've been sick. I think not getting enough sleep last week [plus stress, plus terrible, terrible news] tipped me over and I have had a really crappy cold. I didn't ride at all over the weekend, which sucked. I missed the memorial service and meeting for Pieter. Which also sucked. I feel very out of touch.

I rode this morning, and it was HARD to get up so early. But once I was on my bike, I felt great. My energy was good and I enjoyed my workout. I'm still a bit tired, but I'm going to get to bed early as I can tonight, ready to ride again tomorrow.

I'm racing on Saturday.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I found out yesterday afternoon that another one of my teammates has died while racing. Pieter Ombregt crashed at Matteson while on a solo breakaway and severed his carotid. All the sadness and . . . bleakness . . . I started feeling when Beth died have rushed back and filled me. Like a kick in the gut.

I didn't know Pieter other than to say hello. I didn't see him often. My first awareness of him was reading a race report about last year's Spring Prairie race --- one of Pieter's first with xXx --- in which he shattered the field with an incredibly strong pull. He was "that guy" --- that guy with the enviable strength and quiet and humble demeanor. Many of us on the team have been surprised to discover that Pieter was an accomplished photographer . . . did he simply not talk about himself much or did he keep the parts of his life separate? Or is it just too easy to take the quiet guy for granted?

So . . . we wear a black wristband with Beth's initials on it . . . do we get another wristband for Pieter? Lately, I've felt a bit uncomfortable with Beth's wristband. Yes, its a tribute, a memorial. And a necessary one. But I also feel like reducing a whole life to a wristband is wrong. I'm not saying that the team has done that, I'm saying that I'VE done that. Maybe I'm not coping very well, but Beth's wristband makes me angry. There was SO MUCH to her . . . and all that's left is a strip of stretchy terrycloth.

Death is so difficult for the living. Aren't we selfish.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today was one of the first truly chilly days this fall. When I left the house at 5:30 am, it was 50 degrees. I broke out the long sleeved jersey, knickers, kneesocks, and full fingered gloves for my endurance ride. My racing season is almost over.

I'm tired today. I need to get more sleep somehow. Not going to happen tonight. Just a couple more weeks and then I can relax a bit. Which will be totally weird. But more time for Jackie and my house and reading and creative pursuits will be a very nice change.

I admit though, I hate to lose the strength I have now. I know I need the break and I'll get it back next season . . . but I feel like I have so far to go, and I want to keep going.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Aaaaaand my other teammates are out. So its official, I'm not racing the Team Time Trial this year.

Interestingly, its possible that NO ONE is going to racing the TTT this year. There's no race flyer yet and when contacted, the organizer said he was trying to "save" the race. But if he couldn't, he'd refund all the preregistration fees. Cryptic! If the race IS cancelled, I bet a bunch of racers won't get the word and drive to Utica anyway. Now that would suck way worse than finding yourself without a team five days before the race.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I just heard from one of my TTT teammates . . . she's out. Its not because we haven't been able to decide where and when to practise . . . its that the events of the season have finally taken their toll on her.

Earlier this year, in a road race that was a target for a lot of us, one of our teammates was killed. As we were racing, the woman in front of her moved sideways suddenly, bumping her wheel and crashing both of them and a whole bunch of people behind. Beth K. crashed across the center line just as a truck pulling a horse trailer had crested the hill we were climbing. It hit her.

I was in front of the crash and didn't see it. I continued to race, along with about a third of the pack. But my TTT teammate, along with two of our other teammates and two women from Kenda Tire, were there with Beth trying to help her until the ambulance arrived.

Its been very hard on pretty much the whole women's team. Beth was bright, funny and popular. A strong and determined racer and all around athlete. Some of my teammates haven't raced since. Others have tentatively stepped back in, and others continued on with grim determination.

I'm not very good with feelings, and this heaped a whole ton of them on me that I had no idea what to do with. So much sadness, some guilt. Anger. I've reached out for help with some mixed results. Its been hard for me, but its been SO much harder for the women on the scene and the people who were close with Beth.

So its very understandable that my teammate isn't feeling up to the TTT. I'm disappointed, of course. I was looking forward to this race. But I want her to do what she needs for her own health and healing.

So . . . unless we somehow dig up another teammate willing to race, no Team Time Trial for me. Oh well.

Monday, September 3, 2007

So my next race is the Team Time Trial on this coming Sunday. And my team of four has not gotten it together to practise. We have less than a week now, and we're still arguing over where to practise. One thinks the Fort is the only possible place—and it IS ideal. Except that its 27 miles from my house and out other teammate lives even farther away in Hyde Park. So she has suggested an alternate meeting place on the Lakefront Path . . . but the first is very opposed to the Lakefront Path. And I can't blame her, it IS a clusterfuck. But if you go early enough and we pull off into Northerly Island, its not bad at all. AND its not a 2 hour ride for the second.

And this is where it stands. One says Fort, the other says Lakefront, I say, just choose . . . and then no one says anything for 3 days and the opportunity is gone.

I got my new training schedule from my coach. I have 4 hours today. He put in the notes that I can use it for TTT practise. Arg. If only.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Team ride today. I love the team ride. The ride up to Highland Park is no-drop, so its leisurely and social. I've met a lot of my teammates this way. At HP you can either go longer or go back. Either way, the ride is a LOT faster and more challenging. I LOVE that I'm now able to hang in and not get dropped. I love being strong. Next year, I'll be able to do more than just hang in.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A pic of my teammates and pals cheering my approach to the finish line. They are so great.

And suffering up to the line. I couldn't believe I was actually winning.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I've envisioned this blog as a sort of paean to pack fodder. I mean, that's what I've been. Until now.

I raced the Women's cat 4/master's 35+ race on Saturday. 40 minutes plus one lap around a mile long, well, circle basically. Other than some potholes and a few big puddles, Sherman Park has a very non-technical course. A bit of a decline and tailwind on the side after the start, a bit of an incline and a headwind on the side coming into the finish. So very different than the short, technical cat 3/4 races I've been doing lately.

From the start, I felt good. I sat third wheel for a couple laps until I flatted. My teammates gave me a quick wheel change and pushoff back into the field [thanks Ed & Mark!]. I had no problem getting right back into third wheel, no problem covering attacks. My teammate Jeanette moved around the little pack, surveying. After about a half hour, she signaled to me, then attacked. Two riders jumped right on her and I jumped on them. The four of us left the rest behind. Then Jeanette signaled again and I jumped. Hard. I just pounded it . . . and I got away!

Since I'm not a sprinter, but I am pretty consistently strong through a long race, I figured that a breakaway would be my best chance of maybe winning someday. So I'd been experimenting a bit when I got the chance and had been reading other racer's accounts of how they rode away from the pack. And Luke at Chicago Bike Racing [.com] had written that a breakaway could succeed at Sherman Park because it was possible to get far enough ahead that you couldn't be seen.

So I dropped my hammer and got myself out of sight. As I came through the start/finish, I heard a bell and thought "one more lap! I can do one more lap!" And I burned it all on that lap, just gave it all up. And when I came up to the finish line thinking that maybe I had possibly won . . . I saw the card read "3." I had to ride three more laps.

I settled in. Downshifted one and just kept spinning. All the marshalls were my teammates and they yelled encouragement. Every time I came through the start/finish, there was a roaring cheer. For me. I heard my name, I heard someone yell to keep my rhythm. To dig deep. Finally [finally!], I came around for the last time. The marshalls called out that I had 20 seconds on the chase group . . . but I kept thinking they could catch me at any time. I pushed across the finish line . . . and I won. I WON! I actually won. I succeeded in my solo breakaway and WON! Seriously. I won.

It was SO HARD. Actually, before I attacked, it wasn't hard. For pretty much the first time, I felt comfortable. I was strong enough to sit on the other strong riders and chase down their attacks. And then I was strong enough to ride away from them. And then it was all pain. My heartrate at my max, my legs burning, my lungs trying to escape from my chest. On the verge of throwing up. Just incredibly hard for 5 laps.

And it wouldnt've happened without Jeanette. She read the pack and set me up perfectly. Then she blocked for me. At one point, the other two started to look like they were going to chase in earnest, so she got on the front and pulled respectably hard for 100 meters then slowed down . . . and they slowed way down too. Hee. She's so smart about racing. And so selfless. I wish I could read a race a tenth as well as she. She took second in the sprint, for third overall.

Frankly, I still have a hard time believing it. Conditions were exactly right. It was a small field, and Jeanette and I were strong and coordinated [thanks to her]. The other strong racers spent a lot of time pulling the field around the course, wearing themselves out. In a larger field, it might not have worked at all.

But yesterday it did. And I'm still giddy. I've learned so much in the last year and a half, and it all came together. I WON MY FIRST RACE! WOOOO!

Random bits:
-as I took a cool down circuit on the sidewalk, the men's master's race went by and my teammate George called out congratulations from the pack.
-my coach, Randy, gave me a big hug—and then gave me trouble for not posting up as I crossed the finish. As if I'd EVER thought I'd need a victory salute.
-this morning, riding with Gigi, she noticed that my cornering has improved. I guess those crazy hard technical crits were good for something.
-Thanks to Jeff Kao for the picture taken right after the race. That's Seri in the background. She did really well in one of her first races ever.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Its been raining all week. The Lakefront path is a mess of wet sand, gravel, puddles and flooding. Thus so is my poor bike.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bike racing is fun. Its exhilarating and crazy and really, really, hard. I imagine its REALLY fun to win. Or to have a chance at winning. Or even to be useful to your teammates. But until I get to that point, its fun.

Racing is to riding a bike as Ballet is to walking. You need all sorts of skills and muscles and knowledge that take time and effort to acquire. Some people are able to do it much faster than others. But even though my improvement is incremental, I AM improving.

Last Saturday, I raced the Downer's Grove crit. The amateur women's race was a 20 minute plus 1 lap 3/4 crit — 20 minutes around a mile long, hour glass-shaped course with a small, steep hill on one end, with the category 3 and 4 riders racing together. I'm a 4 — the beginner category. A 4 gets to be a 3 by doing really well in a whole bunch of races. I'm going to be a 4 for the forseeable future.

It started to rain just as our race started. I don't think it made that much difference in my race — I was chasing from the whistle. It was super fast and super hard. Ideally, one wants to be near the front of the pack in a race, and I was clinging to the back, using up WAY more energy than I would have if I were better positioned. I just don't corner well enough to keep a good position on a technical course like this.

My climbing is better than my cornering. I had no problem with the little hill. However, on the second to last lap, I got behind someone who just died going up it. I was forced to brake hard and swerve into the gutter. I stayed upright, but ended up 20 feet behind the pack. So I spent the last lap chasing hard.

Into the finishing stretch, I came around the racer ahead of me and reved up my sad little "sprint." 10 feet later, she floated right by me and crossed the line. Sprinting is one of my biggest challenges. I practise all the time, I think I understand the mechanics of it — I've been drilled enough — but I always get dropped like a stone in the sprint. I think its the 'fast-twitch" muscle vs. the "slow-twitch" muscle thing. You need fast-twitch muscle fiber for explosive power . . . and I don't seem to have any. Anyway, I finished 18th out of 33 with 26 finishing. And it was really sorta awesome just to be a part of it all.

One of my teammates took an early flyer, got caught and then popped and was dropped. Another crashed out in a slick corner. And the third finished a respectable 8th. They're all 3s.

This coming Saturday is the Sherman Park crit — my team, xXx Racing-Athletico stages it every year. I'll be racing the cat 4/master's women race. 40 whole minutes! Woo! I'm looking forward to the race and to volunteering and spending time with my teammates. And seeing how I'll do in a field without the 3s to speed things up.