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.