Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm off to Italy this evening for an, I hope, relaxing and fun week of art, shopping, getting lost, not being able to understand anything anyone is saying other than 'ciao,' and watching jealously as my in-laws consume amazing mozzarella. [I'm bringing a shaker of vegan parmesan with. Isn't that sad.] I've rented a road bike in Florence and Saturday am looking forward to an epic ride through Tuscany. It will be weird not to be riding every day. Ciao!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I raced the Whitnall Park crit today. Its a hilly little course with one sharpish turn. They combined the women 4s race and the women's open, but scored us separately. So of 30-ish starters, there were about ten 4s, five cat 2s and the rest were cat 3. It was a HARD race, one of the hardest I've done.

I like a hard race. Attrition takes care of a significant portion of the competition. This one was 40 minutes, and we managed so shell about half the pack. After 25 minutes. a breakaway of three got off. Both teams in the break had teammates in the pack - some a lot of teammates. They were effectively blocking. I chased, but my teammate Luke yelled at me to stop from the sidelines - they weren't 4's.

So I sat up. But I didn't sit in enough. I wasted too much energy in the wind. I like to stay near the front so I'm not blocked in and slow to react when an attack happens. I get gapped less when I'm closer to the front. But I kept finding myself too much in front. I have to work on that.

On the bell lap, I worked to get into a good position for the sprint. We were all fighting for position, and managed to drop another 5 or 6 racers. On the second to last hill, I saw one of the dominant teams form a leadout train and take off. I knew I wanted to be on that train . . . but I was so exhausted. I couldn't get there. I grabbed another wheel that went by and gave everything I had in the final uphill sprint. I crossed the line at my max, dried snot all over my face, just about ready to vomit [bike racing is so charming], in ninth place - second of the cat 4s. Turns out the cat 4 who won was the one being led out by that train I missed.

So, I'm still working on getting it all together. But ninth in the women's open is not bad. I can realistically compete at that level.

And I won $35, a case of double espresso clif shots and two upgrade points. Woo hoo.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I have this shirt that says "What would Jens do?" As if you have to ask -- Jens would ATTACK!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I went up to Madison, WI on Sunday and raced the Great Dane 2 crit with Gigi. Waiting for the juniors to finish their race, I looked around at all the strong, tough, young, slim, muscular, hard looking women around me and I felt outclassed. I felt like a fat old woman who was going to have her ass handed to her.

The race started fast [and stayed fast, we averaged over 20 mph for the whole 34 minutes], and in my first lap I was thinking 'WHY am I doing this? It's ridiculous!' I was braking in the corners and getting caught up in the grooves on the road. But soon I was in the flow. As is my wont, I stayed near the front -- which isn't the best place to launch an attack, but is a good place to chase them down.

And chase I did. About half way through a Capitol Velo Club woman shot off the front. She was strong and I thought A) she's dangerous and she has a ton of teammates here to block, and B) if I could bridge, we could maybe stay away together. So I charged off the front after her. Unfortunately, I don't have much explosive power this time of year, so I just ended up bringing the pack up to her. And as we caught her, two more girls attacked. And after half a lap, I chased them down too. And so it went with a couple more attacks.

Now there were a lot of teams present and a lot of strong women. I should have let some of them do some of the chasing.

On second to last lap, I attacked on the little hill on the back of the course . . . to be caught on the little hill leading to the finish [yes, an uphill finish! My favorite!]. So I sat back a little and recovered for half a lap -- staying near the front.

Coming down the descent towards the right turn onto the finishing uphill stretch, we encountered about 20 racers from the next race pre-riding the course! Someone shouted at them to get out of the way [where were the marshalls!], but they screwed up a lot of women's attempt at good positioning. Not me -- I was third wheel going into the turn.

However, I found myself slightly inside the woman ahead of me. Instead of visualizing my line and KNOWING that I would follow it, I got spooked and touched my brake --- and lost 3 places right there.

The two on the front had 8 feet on me after the turn, and I saw the Capitol Velo chick from the early breakaway shoot by me with a nasty uphill acceleration. I was standing, charging up the hill and a woman came around me on the left, and then another on the right. I did not let them pass, I stayed with them. I spun harder, and gave all that I had. And while they both crossed the line inches ahead of me, I feel great that I did not give in, but fought as hard as I could.

I got sixth and Gigi came in eighth right behind me. [the random men on the course HAD screwed up her positioning] No upgrade points for sixth, unfortunately.

What was SO great about this race is that I was a real force, I was a player. And what was so great for Gigi is that, as Hillsboro did for me, this race showed her that she is a strong and capable racer. No more struggling just to stay with the group -- we're both contenders now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

OK, I'm over minute slower than my best time last year. Arg. But I'm more than three minutes faster than I was AT THIS TIME last year -- and that was a super windy day too, as I recall. I rode the time trial course in 27:26 when I was in good racing form last August.

I'm doing fine. Just gotta keep plugging away.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My coach held the first Fitness Check Time Trial this morning. We have four every year, every six weeks throughout the season, so you can chart your progress. We do a 9.6 mile section of the Lakefront Path, down and back. Its pretty cool to pull up to the start/finish and see 20+ teammates all ready to turn themselves into gasping, drooling, red-faced schmoes on the verge of barfing.

Today there was a stiff headwind from the south [and a great tailwind riding north!]. My goal was to ride the course in under 28 minutes. I needed to hit the turnaround about 15 minutes in . . . I was closer to 16 minutes . . . and then my minute man passed me. I hoped the tailwind would get me back in 12 minutes, but I couldn't pull it out. My time was 28:34. In retrospect I think this is close to my best time last season, so not bad for this time of year. Heh, thoroughly unexceptional.

And now my legs hurt and my throat is raw. But maybe I could have pushed harder.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Well, this wasn't my best weekend on the bike. Saturday was rainy, but I couldn't face 5 hours on the trainer, so I went on the team ride. I got wet. Very wet. But happily, I wasn't suffering from the cold -- unlike the four men who braved the weather with me. Either because I was dressed more appropriately, or as a woman, I naturally carry more body fat than the guys, my feet and hands were comfortable [if sodden]. We were quite the sight, wringing out our gloves at stop lights, squish-squish-squishing with every pedal stroke.

I didn't end up with quite 5 hours, but frankly, I was happy with what I got.

I was planning to race on Sunday, but went out to eat with a friend on Saturday night and had something that didn't agree with me at all. So I decided not to worry about racing on very little sleep and no breakfast. I was pretty bummed about it on Sunday, but there's always next week. I postponed yesterday's ride to today, and am looking forward to a couple hours in the sunny mid- to upper 40 degree weather after work.

At least I'm not tired today. And I had time to organize my pantry so all the boxes of Clif Bars I won last weekend fit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's raining today. Hard enough that I was soaked halfway through my training ride this morning, but not quite hard enough to make the trainer seem appealing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Here I am losing the cat 4 race on Sunday. By a lot. Congrats to Leah -- nice sprint!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I went out to South Beloit yesterday for Spring Super Criterium. The Vitaminwater boys really put on a great race -- extremely well organized, good course, lots of primes and swag. It was a fun day.

Only downer was how few women showed up to race. We had five in the Womens cat 4 race and when only two people came out to race the cat 1-2-3 women's open, they opened it up to the cat 4 women as well. So we had nine racers in the Open.

I did OK. I'm a bit dissatisfied with my performance. In the cat 4 race, it became apparent that it was between me and one other woman. We dropped two racers right away and let a third tow us around the course for a couple laps, tiring her out. The other racer -- a Flatlandia girl that I remember passing on the second hill at Hillsboro after I dropped my chain -- and I duked out for a prime or two, and it was good sprinting practice for me. Not good enough, though as I went too soon at the end and couldn't finish strongly enough to beat her. Second got me two points towards upgrading to Cat 3 and eight (!) boxes of Clif bars.

I regret not attacking earlier in the race and trying to get off the front. I really need to be more aggressive that way -- I don't know why I talk myself out of it. It was very windy and I wasn't sure I was strong enough to hold them off. But I'll never know now. Arg.

The women's open was a longer race. My former teammate Val, a cat 3, was there and she told me she was going to attack and wanted me to come with her -- which sounded great to me. Francine, a cat 2 was the other elite racer in the group, and we had three Cutting Crew girls, all new to racing, and three other women from the cat 4 race, including my Flatlandia girl.

We settled in and let the Cutting Crew girls sit at the front. I didn't contest for any primes, I just sat in and saved my energy for the attack -- which came into the headwind with two and a half laps to go. Francine jumped and Val was right on her. And I missed it. I rode super hard to catch, but not getting on right away meant I had to bridge and I just didn't have the power for that. One of the Cutting Crew girls made the jump. But I didn't.

However, in my effort to get with the break, I managed to drop everyone else. Now, I don't know if that means I could have dropped them in the first race when they were fresher. But I know I wish I'd tried.

I spent two laps on my own, battling hard into the wind. I could see the three ahead of me, but they were too far for me to catch. I couldn't see anyone behind me. So I rode in alone for fourth. Which, frankly, is probably what I would have gotten if I HAD made the break, but that's not the point. I need to have the strength and explosive power to not let it ride off without me.

So I really need to work on my tactics. If I'd been sitting behind Francine and Val, I would've seen the move sooner and that might've made a difference. And I need to stop being so timid and stop second-guessing myself. Now is the time to experiment! This was a perfect race to try all sorts of things, and I just played it too safe. Which is the same thing I was thinking after Hillsboro -- at some point it has to sink in.


Unfortunately Gigi, who was planning on this race, crashed on our Saturday team ride and took Sunday off. She needed stitches and scraped up her face pretty dramatically, but overall--thankfully--she's OK. I really missed her yesterday. I hope she's back to 100% soon.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Braaaaiiiiiinsssss . . .

I looked up the official rules for upgrading yesterday. A road race has to be at least 25 miles long to count as a road race. If it's less, then it counts as a crit -- they award fewer points for crits. The number of points depends on the number of racers starting, and as so many women's races have so few racers, and as so many road races for cat 4 women are only one lap [less than 25 miles], accumulating upgrade points gets difficult. Only the top five at Hillsboro will get upgrade points -- our race was only 22 miles, but we had 44 women start.

So both Heidi and Denise get upgrade points [yay].

You need 20 points in a 12 month period to upgrade from cat 4 to cat 3, OR you need ten top ten finishes in races with more than 30 racers.

How many points to I have thus far? It depends if they count the times I raced in the masters category last year. If they do, then I have 3 or 4 points [depends how they count the Proctor RR]. If they don't, I have nada. Alternately, I have 2 top 10 finishes in races with more than 30 racers: Spring Prairie and Proctor RR.

I've got my work cut out for me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I've only been back training on the Lakefront for three weeks and already I feel like I'm in Lost Highway, the part where there's just the road with the yellow line in your headlights and you keep going and going and going . . . I follow the yellow line on the Lakefront path endlessly turning the pedals, spinning circles, my legs always hurt a little, my breath is always slightly labored, there's always a cold wind chilling the sweat on my arms. Dark or light, sunny or cloudy, there's always the yellow line in front of me.

If I wake up in someone else's body, maybe it could be Mara Abott's. Or Amber Neben's.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm planning to race the Spring Super Criterium in Beloit on Sunday -- 35 minutes on a racetrack. Gigi is targeting crits, so I'm going to see what I can do for her and see if I can score some upgrade points.

There's a road race on Saturday in Indiana. It's a bit far and its an ABR race, so it won't count towards upgrading, but its 43 miles -- 3 laps -- for the women's open race and I'm really tempted. Would doing this race keep me from doing my best on Sunday? Hmmm.