Monday, March 31, 2008

OK, I'm over it. It happened, I learned, I've moved on. I hope my subconscious will follow suit soon so I can stop waking up going over and over it. I'm REALLY looking forward to racing next weekend.

The best thing that came out of Saturday's race is that I now BELIEVE that I can upgrade. It proved to me that I'm ready.

Sunday, the women's training ride was a completely different experience. Instead of us all safely staying in our endurance zone, we really pushed it -- attacking up every hill, chasing each other down, pulling hard into the headwind. It's what I've wanted the women's ride to be: aggressive, difficult and fun. Now we just need to get more people involved.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Saturday was my first race of the season, and for the most part it went really well. I felt strong, I sat easily near the front of the pack the entire race. I attacked hard a couple times and was able to respond to the attacks of the other riders. It was GREAT to find that I was one of the stronger women in the race.

I had been worried about my climbing -- Hillsboro ends with two significant hills, a turn into long descent onto 4 or 5 energy-sucking blocks of brick road, then turning back onto pavement for the finishing stretch. But I was first up the first hill and feeling good. I even pushed the pace a little near the top and dropped everyone else.

Between the two hills is a flat stretch into a stiff headwind. My teammate Heidi surged ahead there, with a couple racers on her wheel --- THIS was THE move and I was going to join it. And then, for some idiotic reason, in that moment I decided I needed to be in my big ring [which I didn't need to be]. And I dropped my chain. I DROPPED MY *#%@!$* CHAIN!!!

Often, when your chain falls off the cranks, you can pedal it back on. So I was pedalling and I could hear it flopping around. It wouldn't catch. Everyone passed me and it wouldn't catch. Finally I just stopped and put it back on manually. Twice. Then I remounted and started to chase. The first person I passed was my teammate Gigi, who hollered "You can catch them!" and that spurred me on -- I could see the front pack on the second climb.

I charged up the hill, passing two more riders. I passed a fourth in the turn and then bombed the descent. I hit the bricks at 37.4 MPH and caught up to a couple more women. I worked my way past them and another in the turn onto the pavement. None of them were able to catch my wheel. In the finishing stretch I sprinted past one more racer and did a great bike throw at the line.

The instant I crossed the finish, I was devastated. I had lost this race with one stupid mistake. I am confident that if I had not dropped the damn chain -- or even if I'd been able to pedal it back on quickly -- I would have finished in the top three. I've been struggling to stop beating myself up about it and to let go of the crushing regret. I have to let it go.

And in the end, I placed 10th out of 44. Not bad considering. I'm really proud that I didn't give up when it was obvious that I had lost, but fought tooth and nail. If the course were longer, I think I would have caught them. Tenth gives me one upgrade point -- and I'll take it!

My three teammates in the race were awesome -- Heidi and Denise came in 4th and 5th [in their first road race!] and Gigi finished with the front group in 17th. None of us crashed -- and several women did -- and we all learned a lot.

But it really sucks. I love that race and I really wanted to place well in it. It's galling to know that this year I was actually capable of getting on the podium and I ruined it for myself. OK, I'll let it go. I'll get over it.


Well, I just checked the official results and it says I came in 11th. So no upgrade point. Still, this race has proved to me that I'm ready to upgrade, that it's not presumptuous to think that I might win another race. And that's great.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I just noticed I have bicycle grease on the cuff of my work sweater . . .

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been HUNGRY the last few days. Eat through my desk hungry. I'm trying to decide if it's because I actually need to eat more to fuel myself appropriately -- I DO work out a bit, you know -- or if I just need to suck it up and suffer. The real problem is most likely that at camp I was eating to fuel an 8 hour day of hard riding, and my stomach just got used to that amount of food.

I have been making a point to eat more on the bike and right after. Although yesterday I ended up with a headache before lunch that had "low blood sugar" written all over it, despite large amounts of oatmeal and clif product. It's so hard to strike the right balance of eating right but not excessively.

I got my power intervals done this morning on the Lakefront before the rain started. Jackie's alarm woke me at 6, and it didn't look very wet out, so I took the chance. I got about 10 minutes of light sleet right at the end -- and if I hadn't inadvertently done an extra interval, I wouldnt've had that [I count good!]. I'd MUCH rather get my training ride in before work than have it hanging over my head all day. Plus, I have a lot to do this evening to get ready for my race on Saturday. I'm driving down to Hillsboro tomorrow afternoon and staying overnight -- its about 4 hours away and I don't want to do that right before a race. A bunch of my teammates are staying in the same hotel, so it's a scene.

Looks like there will be 5 xXx women in my race, and it'll be the first road race for 3 of them. Hillsboro was my first road race two years ago, and it holds a special place in my heart. I'm REALLY looking forward to it.


It's snowing right now. That 'control the weather with the force of my will' thing is still not working. Arg. Maybe if I eat more . . .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Got up at 5 am this morning to get in my 3 hours before work. Good ride - met up with Gigi, Cecile & Emily for part of it. Now I'm at work and I need a nap. I need to lie down and put up my feet and snooze a while. My boss, however, has other ideas for how I should use my time.

The fabulous guys at Mission Bay fixed my shifting problem while I waited last night. They shortened my chain and replaced the cable - I was a bit surprised to see him snip through the old cable. 'Hey, I need that,' I thought. But this morning it worked like a dream. So with a thorough cleaning tomorrow evening, and perhaps a change of tires, I'm ready to race on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I did my power intervals on the Lakefront this morning. It was warmish and sunny, but there was a rather rude gusty wind that kept trying to knock me over. Didn't succeed, but did push me around quite a bit. Mashing a big gear into a stiff headwind maybe isn't exactly what coach had in mind, but it certainly made my ride more challenging.

My rest week seems to have done the trick, I felt strong and fresh today. Getting to bed before 10 pm probably didn't hurt either. I'm pleased that pedalling into the headwind has gotten easier. Other than when it knocked me sideways, I rather enjoyed it.

I'm still having trouble with my rear derailleur. I took my bike in to Mission Bay yesterday because it's doing that annoying thing where you have to downshift twice and up once to go down one. They looked at it and put on a new chain [despite my having gotten one in January], but it was still acting up this morning. I want to get this fixed before my race on Saturday. Back to Mission Bay, I guess. I love it when it's perfect and responsive, a light touch putting me in the gear I want.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Got my new training plan from my Coach. The REAL work begins tomorrow morning -- no more spin drills, etc. I'm starting strength intervals and loooong hours on the bike. Or longer hours. Pretty soon, I'll look like this again:

This is me after a 108 mile ride at camp. It was a fun ride. Or at least the first 80 miles or so was fun. I was exhausted! [And more tattooed than I realized. Hmm.]


My first race of the season is on Saturday. I'm excited and a little nervous.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

This stuff is DOPE:

Friday, March 21, 2008

It seems my efforts to control the weather with the force of my will has failed. Rats.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's the first day of spring and its sunny and pretty and mid-40s. I had a really nice ride on the lakefront with a couple teammates. Everyone keeps insisting that it's going to snow prolifically tomorrow and the weekend will suck for riding, but I refuse to believe it. It's SPRING now. No more trainer. Do you hear me? NO MORE TRAINER!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm in the middle of my much needed rest week, still adjusting back to my normal schedule. It seems like I'm always tired and always hungry right now. But I'm very happy the weather in Chicago is moderate enough for outdoor riding. Going back to the trainer after a week in California would be too depressing. Today there's even a bit of sun.

I can tell that I built more muscle at camp. That has been my experience every year. 8 days of hard riding is SUCH great prep for the racing season. I read that sentence and I marvel at the person I have become. An athlete. An honest to goodness athlete, not a dilettante or dabbler. Camp is really a place where we bond as athletes, where we learn from each other and learn how to push ourselves. We remember, after a long winter of base training, how to suffer. I wouldn't be the rider I am now without a lot of help from my teammates.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Here we are in lovely California -- I'm sporting brand new kit! Getting back to my regular schedule will be weird -- heck, I've gotten used to eating an enormous breakfast [to prepare for 6-8 hrs of riding] very quickly. I'm going to be hungry in the morning.

I rode better than last year. And next year I'll ride even better.

This is my sunburn. It ends at my glove line:


Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm home. It's good to be home. Camp is awesome, but after 8 hard days it's good to be home.

I'll start with the worst part of camp. Friday on our way back to the hotel, we're flying down the shoulder of a moderately busy single lane highway. We have a tailwind and a very slight decline and the guys at the front pump it up to 31 mph. We're in a tight double paceline, and it feels great. My HR isn't even 130. I'm riding mid-pack behind Brian M. And then Brian S, riding next to Brian M. on the inside, hits a nasty little sinkhole hard. He recovers, or seems to, but it must have damaged his rear wheel, because he's starting to fishtail. Back and forth, farther and farther and I know he's going to crash. And he does, spinning sideways. He slams into Brian M. and their bikes go careening. It's like watching footage of crashes in pro races. Or Wide World of Sports. And I expect that I'll go down too. But somehow, as I hear the shouts and cries of men hitting pavement behind me, a path opens in front of me and I get through. So do Heidi and Chris. But 7 men are down.

I get stopped about 40 feet down the road, lay my bike in the grass and sprint back to the crash site in my cycling cleats. Someone is lying in the road. Teammates are standing behind him waving their arms, stopping traffic. It's Brian S. For a moment I don't know what to do, I'm freaking out. Flashback to Beth's accident washes over me. And then I go sit by Brian's head and start talking to him. He's on his side, bleeding from his mouth. A lot. And moaning this terrible keening sound . . . and I'm SO happy to hear it. He's still with us. Soon he's talking with us -- Chris, Loukas, Peter and me. Then Coach is there, taking charge. Brian wants to roll over, but we tell him he can't -- he has to stay where he is until the EMT guys get there with the neck collar and backboard. But Brian is insistent, he can't breath and his shoulder hurts. REALLY hurts. Coach talks him through assessing his neck and back, and then agrees to let him turn over. We help him, but his left arm just lays there at this awkward angle. We all look at it and then at each other . . . then Brian himself picks it up with his right hand and pulls it against his chest. I cradle his head and then we help him sit up and he leans against me. He's in so much pain. Coach asks him a series of questions to see how disoriented he is, and he's doing well. The ambulance finally arrives and puts the collar on his neck. I empty his jersey pockets so he can lay on the backboard. When they have him strapped down, one cuts his jersey away from his shoulder and it looks bad, swollen and red and jutting out where it shouldn't. I give Coach Brian's wallet and phone and they get in the ambulance and head to the hospital.

Brian's beautiful matte black Cervelo has a big dent in the top tube. And a couple other bikes are out of commission as well. Our follow van takes them and their riders back to the hotel as the rest of us ride slowly, silently through town.

Our banquet is that night and it's subdued. We get several updates from the hospital. Brian's scapula is broken badly and his shoulder is separated. He's being released. I see him the next morning at breakfast and despite road rash on his nose, cheek and lips, looks WONDERFUL. The best sight I could see. As we travel home via bus, airport, and plane, he navigates well one-handed, eschewing much of the help offered him. His shoulder is bad, but Coach has him scheduled to be back on the trainer in a week.

I did end up riding 'The Wall' on Friday. I decided my knee pain was just a bit of tendonitis from the unaccustomed climbing. With ibuprofen and ice, it will be fine. The Wall -- along with all the other hard climbs I did last year -- seemed much shorter and less challenging this year. Still a hard climb, but doable. Very doable. Saturday morning, we spent about 2 hours on a fun, twisty little mountain. Part of the descent is on a dirt road through a farm. A brown cow stood at the edge of the road and mooed at me loudly. She seemed offended at all these cyclists whizzing by. When I got to the paved road, I took the descent more conservatively than I really needed to at first, but then caught up to a group and followed them down. It was good to stretch my legs before spending the day on the bus and airplane.

The thing about cycling, crashes happen. Almost every racer I know can show me their scars. I've watched it happen to women right in front of me in more than one race. I'm lucky that I haven't crashed. Yet. It will happen, it's part of the sport. We have to accept that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Training camp is harder this year. I'm stronger and a better rider . . . but so is everyone else. The rides are fast and there are lots of attacks.

Wednesday was an epic ride. 89 miles total, so not the longest ride, but the most challenging terrain. We leave the hotel, turn left and immediately start a 6 mile climb up a 6% grade [and someone is riding tempo at the front, OF COURSE!]. After that there's 50 miles with lots of climbing and some flats with head and cross winds. The thing about climbing, if you kill yourself keeping up with the fast group, you destroy yourself and get to the top much more slowly than if you find your own rhythym and ride within yourself. So I let the main pack go.

Then, THEN, after 56 or so hard miles, you get to Black Mountain [cue forboding music]. Black Mountain is a 7 mile road that twists and turns and meanders up to a mountaintop fire station. Its not switchbacks, it's all over the place. It's narrow -- I'd be frightened to drive a car up it -- and there's lots of sand, gravel, rocks, and spill from the cliffs [yeah, CLIFFS - up one side of the road and straight down the other]. So its a bit dangerous. I start up with three other riders and soon leave them behind. The first 4 miles are a relatively sedate 6-7% grade, and I'm well within my comfort zone, averaging 8-9 mph. Then there's a left turn and suddenly you're faced with a 20% grade. And its not a short bit, its 60 ft [?] straight up. If you put down a foot, you have to go back to the bottom and start over. No way. I somehow force myself to not stop pedaling -- I'm in my easiest gear, standing, gripping the handlebars and forcing the pedals around. And at the top of that incline . . . you have another 3 MILES of twisting, winding climbs. More super steep parts too. It was so hard. The steep bits would shoot my heartrate up to redline, but it would fall to a comfortable 80% of max quickly.

And then I encountered groups of the fast guys coming down. SLOWLY. Its a crazy dangerous descent and no one was pushing their luck. As you got toward the top, there was a strong crosswind trying to push your wheel out from under you. But I finally made it. Lucas was there, and a couple minutes later, Brendan then Emily and then Rick joined us. Woo hoo! I did the whole thing without putting down a foot. Seven grueling miles with out stopping. I'm proud of myself.

After making a slow way down, we still had 30 miles to ride. Despite eating well during the ride, I bonked. I begged a Clif bar off our follow van and that helped. Got me ready for a flying descent down that 6 miles we climbed first thing. Last year I hit 55 mph . . . sadly this year there was a headwind, so I topped out at 45 mph. Sigh.

Yesterday was a moderately paced [mostly!] 60 mile day with some short climbs. A recovery day. Unfortunately my knee is hurting me a bit. I've been icing and taking ibuprofen, massaging and trying to work out my ITB. If its still hurting me on today's ride, I'm not going to ride up "the wall" -- which is as steep as the steepest parts of Black Mountain, but not as long or grueling, I rode it last year. I'm not going to push my knee and injure myself at camp so I can't race.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm at training camp in beautiful San Luis Obispo. It's been in the low 70s everyday, sunny and clear and gorgeous. The landscape is verdant, California poppies bloom everywhere, it's just fantastic.

The riding has been super fun too. We did a short 32 mile ride on Saturday afternoon when we got here, then 70 miles with some significant climbing on Sunday -- I stayed with the lead group WAY longer than last year, up to the last kilometer when the climb got really steep and the fast men attacked. I let them go and climbed the rest in my own rhythym, reaching the top easily. I never even shifted out of my big ring! I rode with the lead pack all day Sunday -- only one other woman did that and she's a PRO triathlete.

Yesterday, we did 106 miles with SO MUCH climbing. Again, I stayed with the lead group way longer than last year -- I was with them until they started attacking. Then I worked with two other riders until we met up with the big group again. We all rode together to another climb [Peachy Canyon] and when the big men started pushing, I was out the back. While I find that incredibly frustrating, I have to keep it in perspective: I'm a 40 year old woman who's been seriously training for only two years and I'm riding with men, most of them a decade or two [or more] younger than I. That I'm hanging with the pack as long as I am is really good. Of course, I want to do better, but I can't lose sight of how far I've come. And it's not like I was last up -- I passed and left behind a number of riders. Not to mention the ones that lost contact with the pack before me. I spent an hour riding on my own -- which was lovely except for the pit bull who didn't like cyclists riding across his patch of road. Happily, barking and chasing was the extent of it [pit bulls aren't people aggressive, I projected calm and gunned it].

Today was our rest day. We had a skills clinic for an hour --- practicing bumping wheels and leaning on each other as we ride --- then an easy 12 mile recovery ride. The rest of the day was our own to enjoy. I had lunch with a couple pals at a great veggie restaurant then we walked around in the sun enjoying the breeze and the fresh wonderful air.

Tomorrow there are options to ride 60, 77.5, or 89 miles. I'm going to do the 77 at least -- up Black Mountain with it's crazy steep grade. I'll assess how I feel after that. I'm looking forward to it!

I've gotten terribly sunburned. I didn't think about sunscreen on Sunday and my arms burned between my glove and short sleeve. I did wear sunscreen on Monday, but we were out for 8 hours [ride time was 6 hours] and it must have worn off as my burn got much worse. AND I got a bit of pink on my face -- everywhere except where my helmet strap crossed my cheek. Heh. SUCH a lovely pattern! I'm just going to embrace the stupid white-shoulders-red-arms look. In past years I've been at pains to get my shoulders to match, wearing sleeveless jerseys, etc. I'm not sure I care this year. I might just sport the cyclists tan all summer in tank tops and sun dresses. why not, I EARNED it.

I have pictures, I'll post them later. I am having a BLAST!

Friday, March 7, 2008

So tomorrow at 6 am I'm flying to California. 30 members of my racing team and our coach will get on a charter bus to San Luis Obispo for 8 days of serious cycling. SLO is GORGEOUS, and VERY bike friendly. A pro-tour team, High Road, is based in SLO now. You can ride your bike on the highways there. The weather is lovely, the scenery awesome, it's just glorious.

My coach lived there for a number of years, so he knows the best routes to ride and has them pre-planned. We ride as a group at the start of each day, then we all go at our own pace and break up into ability groups. My first year, I was in the slow group, the group that got left behind at the bottom of every hill. Last year, I was NOT in the slow group. I stuck with the fast group for way longer and then fell in with a couple guys making a small medium-ability group. I'm excited to see how I do this year. I know my fitness has improved.

While it's training CAMP, there's no actual CAMPING -- we stay in a hotel with a fabulous breakfast buffet and then ride our bikes down the coast and up and down the mountains all day. There are different distances on different days, ie on Monday we can choose either a 50 mile ride or a 106 mile ride. Some days have challenging climbs, other days we'll work on skills like pacelining, cornering and sprinting. After our rides -- which sometimes last 6 or 7 hours -- we eat and recover and eat and nap and hang out. Its great to get to know some of my teammates better.

I have so much fun at camp, I've been looking forward to it all year. When I come back, I'm faster and stronger -- I can SEE and feel all the muscle I've built in just the one week -- and ready to start racing.


Just a note to say that Whole Foods carries this AWESOME British cereal, Dorset Cereals. It's a mix of grain flakes [oat, wheat, barley] w/ nuts & LOTS of wonderful fruit. The fruit is the only sweetening, and it's decadent. One of the varieties even has big bits of coconut in it. It's got tons of good carbs and a bit of protein [more w/ milk, yogurt, or soy milk]. We got a variety pack of Dorset Cereals at the Waitrose when we were in London in December and had some for breakfast every day. SO delicious. I'm thrilled to find it here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bike racing is all about the suffering. It's easy to forget that in the off-season. But last night's workout was a total suffer-fest. It's never fun when your legs hurt going in. It takes about an hour for the pain to ease off. I had two hours of endurance last night and instead of counting down the minutes -- daunting when you still have 106 minutes to go -- I counted songs on my iPod. Every fifth song, I'd crank the resistance and stand on the pedals. Five songs is generally 15-20 minutes, so I'm focusing on much smaller blocks of time. And irregular blocks, determined by the length of the songs that come up at random. I didn't start counting down until 24 minutes to go -- the home stretch!


I have SO MUCH to do before leaving for camp on Saturday morning. I haven't even started packing. I'm not sure how I'm going to fit in two hours of training today AND all the stuff I need to do to get ready. And we're having a baby shower here at work on Friday and I haven't gotten a gift yet. Blarg.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Four days to camp!!! Wheee! It's in the low 70's there today. Man, I can't wait!


I love the giant ibuprofen that my doctor prescribed. My neck has been giving me pain since Sunday -- the trainer lets me be in a more upright position than riding on the road does, so 10 hours on the road this weekend -- a significant portion in the drops fighting the headwind -- put my neck in a position I'm just not used to any longer. PAIN. Yesterday, any little movement and pain shot out from the base of my skull. But one big ibuprofen this morning, and my neck has felt normal all day long. I'm taking those pills with to camp, that's for sure.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I had a good biking weekend. The weather was temperate enough to ride outdoors, and I was out for 5+ hours on both Saturday and Sunday. And more importantly, my energy is back. I'm feeling MUCH better.

I think part of the problem may have been my diet. I've been stringent. I'd gained weight and I wanted it off for camp. This past weekend, I ate more normally --- I didn't count calories, I ate at restaurants, I even had a dessert. I didn't go overboard, didn't overeat, but I had healthy foods that I haven't had in a while. And I felt a LOT better and my weight is fine. My clothes continue to get looser even.

And its not like I had radically cut my food consumption. Or so I thought. I guess for my activity level, which has been increasing over the last few weeks [and which was high to begin with], I simply NEED more calories. I just need to find the right balance of eating enough food and not too much. Sticking mostly to whole, healthy foods really helps too. I think I've been relying on packaged foods too much, simply because I could quantify it easily.

Training camp in California is five days away! I am SO looking forward to warm, sunny weather. I can't even tell you. That alone will give me energy and motivation for the rides. However, I'm going to continue to keep my hands obsessively clean, continue to use zicam and zinc tablets, continue to get as much sleep as possible and to eat right. I'm going to go to camp feeling GREAT.

I also got my powertap to download onto the computer. Lots of charts and graphs! I'm getting a lot better at using the thing . . . but I can't decipher the resulting data [yet]. Good that my coach can!