Thursday, May 29, 2008

OK, pity party is over. I think I get adrenalin withdrawal or something after a long weekend of racing and my mood suffers.

Coach wants me on the track -- it will help develop my spin and sprint and improve my pack skills, things I need to be a better road racer. Jackie's cool with one night a week at the track.

So I'm researching track bikes. Fuji Track Pro or Jamis Sonik? Or something else? Do I get the same size track bike as road bike? I'm going to the Women's Track Clinic on saturday. It'll be my first time on a fixed gear. I'm excited. Hopefully I'll like it and have my questions answered.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am again having the exact same problems with my shifting that has plagued me for the past couple months. It worked OK during Monday's crit, but today it's two up, one down AGAIN. I've had it adjusted over and over, the cable replaced numerous times, the whole derailler replaced, and its still not working properly. It might be time for a second opinion.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm a bit down today. I'm tired - we didn't get back to Chicago from Duluth until after midnight. The Duluth Classic was reasonably well-run and had good courses - I'd recommend it for next year.

I recovered well and had good energy for each race and felt I had good form. But my mechanical problems held me back. And an even bigger issue is my lack of explosive acceleration. Over and over, someone would attack and I could not catch the wheel. I'd have good position in the sprint and not be able to seal the deal - the real sprinters would come shooting by me with crazy speed.

I had hoped to upgrade to cat 3 by Masters Nationals at the end of June. But with the small women's fields, you have to finish in the top three to get any points. And I'm just not doing that. I'm stronger than I've ever been and I'm a better racer than I've ever been and I'm still solidly middle of the pack.

I'm frustrated that I'm not able to achieve my goal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm here in lovely Duluth for the Duluth Classic stage race, which thus far has been a well run race with interesting and challenging courses. There are 15 women in my field and we're racing with the 4 40+ women, including Beth who decided to race despite a nasty cold.

My biggest challenge this weekend has been my bike. I've been having shifting problems for months now and have taken it in to Mission Bay numerous times. On Friday, the derailure was stuck forward, as it was at sprint practise a few weeks ago, and the wrench said it was broken and replaced it. He said the new cable might need some breaking in, but that it would be mostly just fine. Great. Except not. During the TT on Friday evening, it was giving me problems -- not shifting well, jumping around a bit. At Saturday's RR I shifted the chain right off the rear cog onto the skewer. I couldn't pedal and had to stop and yank it out. Then I had to ride alone into the headwind forever to catch back up [but I DID catch up]. Yesterday's RR had a major hill -- twice as long as Spring Prairie and just as steep. I was climbing well, except in my small ring my chain kept jumping and skipping. It wouldn't stay in gear when I was putting pressure on it -- which made climbing torturous. I couldn't get into a rythym. It made loud popping noises as it constantly jumped and failed and skipped. We had three laps and on the first two I was dropped by the lead girls and had to catch back on on the downhill. If I could have stayed in gear and been able to choose my gear, they wouldnt've dropped me. On the third and final lap, I decided to lead out to the hill -- we had a tailwind and drafting doesn't mean much at that speed. Halfway up, two girls came around me and I was holding their wheel. [Crack! Pop! Skip!] They picked it up a bit and I needed to shift . . . but I couldn't. I couldn't even settle into the 23, trying for the 21 or the 19 was disaster. And they rode away. Two more women passed me -- it was SO frustrating!! My bike just wouldn't work.

I've had it adjusted since, and hope to have ample time today to make sure it's OK before the race.

On the good side, I'm recovering well in between races. Beth and I are getting lots of rest, lots of self-massage, and good recovery meals. My legs actually feel better today after yesterdays monster race than they did Saturday morning after the TT.

And my fitness is good. Despite having to TT back to the pack on Saturday's RR, I was able to help chase down an attack [but not bridge to it], put in an attack of my own and finish fourth in the sprint. At yesterday's RR, I was climbing well and had the strength to catch up to the front group, chase down attacks, and organize the lead pack into a rotating pace line on the last lap so we could keep our advantage. I finished fifth in spite of the horrible bike issues. I suffered mightily and I enjoyed it!

I'm feeling good for today's crit. Reportedly there's a small hill and four corners. I don't have the explosive excelleration that a couple girls here have, so I have to play the sprint smart. I doubt anyone in this group will let a breakaway get off, but I can attempt it. Maybe I'll get lucky and get off with a couple strong girls.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm off to Duluth in the morning for the Duluth Classic stage race. Beth was planning on going with me, but now she's sick, so I'm thinking I'm going alone. Oh well, I can still race hard and have fun. I've mapped the route from my hotel to a movie theater and some restaurants. Indiana Jones, baby! And Minnesota thai food.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So . . . Sherman Park last year wasn't a fluke. I CAN win races. Plural. I still need to pull all the details together to win a race on a more technical course / with a larger pack / in a bunch sprint. It would be really cool to win a road race.

I've decided to try to stop pressuring myself. To try to let go of some of the anxiety about amassing enough points to cat up by a certain date. I'm just going to race hard and enjoy myself. The rest will come.

Beth C. is coming to Duluth with me for the stage race. Yay. I'm thrilled to not have to spend four days by myself in lovely Duluth, and it will be great to have a teammate in the peleton. I'm feeling stronger this week and I'm hoping to have some real fun in the two road races.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Casualty of war.

Saturday I raced Monsters of the Midway. Our plan for the cat 4 race was to work for Gigi - Emily was going to get on the front and push the pace and Beth and I were going to attack to soften up the competition. Gigi and Anna were going to sit in and Emily and I would lead them out for the sprint. I was feeling better than I had the past week and a half, finally recovered from the vagaries of travel.

For the past 2 years, cat 4 women and masters women raced together. So as we registered, Gigi asked if I were going to sign up for 40+ - thinking that we might get good results in both categories. So I did. And so did Emily and Beth.

At the start line, the officials started separating the masters riders from the cat 4 women. This happens sometimes when they want to check numbers against their list, so I didn't think much of it other than to be irritated that I had to give up my spot on the front. But it became apparent that this year we were racing separately - the masters would start a half lap after the cat 4 field. !!! I asked If I could switch to cat 4 - as did Emily - but we were told it was too late. Poor Gigi! We were forced to abandon her.

There were 7 masters racers. Emily got on the front and pulled hard. Beth and I sat in. I chased down a few attacks and put in a few of my own. None of us competed for any of the primes. About 20 minutes into our 30 minute + 2 lap race, there was an attack. I chased. She sat up when I caught her, but then realized we had 30 feet on the group. She suggested we work together to stay away. I agreed and immediately got in front of her and put in a big dig to expand our lead. And inadvertently dropped her.

So I settled in and kept pushing hard. It was easier to hold that intensity for 5 laps than it was last year at Sherman Park. I kept my HR about 180, and forced clif shots down my throat [and down my chin] when I had the tailwind. I expanded my lead to a half lap and WON. And this time I posted up.

After that, the xXx women had another chance to work together, with Gigi this time, in the women's cat 3 race. It was actually more of a 3/4 race, as Devon, et al, were encouraging every experienced cat 4 to register for the cat 3 as well. We had about 20 women. Without Emily, it was a slow affair, everyone saving their energy. I do better in the hard races. Things sped up for prime sprints, but would die back down right away. I wasn't up to attacking in the first half of the race, but got in the groove after a while and put in a few. I attacked with 2 to go, but they weren't going to let me go so I sat up and rested in the group. On the last lap, Gigi got my wheel and I went to the front on the backstretch to lead her out. For a few moments, we had a black xXx train charging down the course. And then I unwittingly moved a couple feet to my left, shedding Gigi and picking up the competition. To whom I gave a great leadout. As they came around me for the sprint, I stood up and tried to challenge. I ended up 7th. Cecile took 5th.

And then there was my shoe. At one point after a prime sprint when we were slowing down, a couple girls got a bit close and stuck out their elbows. One overreacted and fell into the rider on her other side: me. I felt her drag across my shoe and back wheel, and as soon as I was clear, I heard her crash. Thank god for Coach's skills clinics where we practice touching wheels, shoulders and elbows! I kept my cool and stayed upright. But afterwards I realized she'd gouged a big gash in my shoe! I can't even imagine what part of her bike would do that. I liked those shoes.

So, I'm happy to have won. It felt good. Interesting that I won this race the same way I won Sherman Park - solo breakaway. Now I have to figure out how to win a race with more than 10 people in it, and how to beat a pack that I can't ride away from.


In completely awesome news, Brian Stockmaster is back on the bike! Healing from the nasty crash at training camp, he rode down to Monsters to watch some racing. SO GREAT to see him healthy and well. And kitted up for a long ride.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Should I get a track bike? Should I race on the track?

I admit that racing without brakes seemed CRAZY two years ago. But since then, I've learned more about fixed gear bikes and I'd like to try riding one. And everyone says that track racing really improves your pack skills.

There's no downside to this, right?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Still not feeling 100%. I was out on the path just now, spinning a 50-17 into a very stiff headwind and could not keep my HR above 140. It kept dipping down into the 130s. Which is not normal. And I just feel knackered. Ran in to Marc and he says its exhaustion and I need to rest. Just rest. But what exactly does that mean? Get more sleep? Have a rest week? I was off the bike for a week in Italy "resting." Before that I felt really good on the bike.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ok, now my other dilemma: what to race over Memorial Day weekend? I want to do the stage race in Duluth, but it seems that I'd be the only person on my team going. Which if it were overnight would be fine, but 3 days by myself in Minnesota . . .

I could go to Iowa and race Snake Alley and a couple crits. But that doesn't appeal. I could do the Great Race in Indiana. It was a pretty course last year, and well organized. But my field was small and the local girls were jerks. And it's ABR, I need USAC points if I can get them.

I hate being ambivalent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dilemma: on Saturday, should I stay home and race the Monsters of the Midway criterium with a lot of teammates [a race that will net no USAC upgrade points]; or should I drive three hours to the Denzer Delight road race which if I do well will give me upgrade points, but which has a mile long sustained climb. That I'll have to ride twice.

The Monsters' course isn't interesting. But its a team target race and I'd like to race hard with a plan and with strong teammates. And I wouldn't have to pay for gas and, if I drive up Friday evening, lodging. And I've been out of town for the past two weekends. And I'd probably have to drive to Denzer alone.

The Denzer Delight course sounds super fun. And I prefer road racing to crits. I'm not a natural climber, but I'd love to see what I could do on that course. And upgrade points are harder to come by since USAC changed the rules, so I should take every opportunity.

I can't decide.
I saw fuzzy little goslings and fuzzy little ducklings following their mothers around on the path this morning. Its spring!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I went to the Joe Martin Stage Race over the weekend, and the great news is that my teammate Luke was fourth overall in the cat 3 General Classification. Which is AWESOME. He got in a breakaway in the road race, came in fourth and held that position over the rest of the pack in the time trial and criterium. Congratulations, Luke! You worked so hard and you deserve it.

As for me, Joe Martin kicked my ass. Not taking care of myself in Italy, the exhausting jet lag, and being sick with a cold added up to way less than 100%. But even if I had been on form, I would have been outclassed by some of the talent there.

Our RR started about a mile from some seriously long climbs -- where the girls who could shatter the field, did. I gathered a bunch of other stragglers and organized a rotating paceline. [it took lots of shouting, heh] You can really get moving that way! I never quite realized. There were about 5 of us taking hard pulls the entire time - including a tough 13 year old junior girl, fighting her junior gears each time her turn at the front came - and another 5 or so pulling through occasionally. It took us 20 miles, but we caught the first chase group, who were very surprised to see us. [I'm very proud of getting that paceline up and running]. Then I was sitting in, resting and trying to eat [I didn't have enough food, dammit. Would it have killed me to put a clif bar in my pocket?]. I saw a move go, and I was right on it . . . until halfway up the long climb when my legs stopped working. I could not make them go as fast as I needed to and I fell off the back. It was so frustrating! I kept them in sight, but lost a minute. Came in 22. Still, that paceline improved my time immeasurably -- along with the times of about 7 other racers.

I could not recover for the [punishing, uphill] TT. We ate & napped, but I felt sick and weak. I rode at recovery pace for 40 minutes, which helped [although nothing I ate went down well], and then did a proper warmup. However, my time sucked and I came in 28th.

Still felt low-energy Sunday morning. I tried to do a set of 3-2-3 intervals to warm up, but could only manage 1-1-1's. Not a good sign. The crit course was fun -- lots of turns and hills -- but I was shelled after the first lap, and spent the rest of the race catching the person ahead of me, working with them and then riding away from them. I felt stronger as the race went on and I made up 5 or 6 places for 25th . . . as if it mattered. OK, not giving up matters.

So I ended up 24th of 33 in the GC. And totally wrung out. But it was SUPER fun AND I get do-overs -- I plan to do a lot of hard work, come back next year and make the top 10.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I rented a bike in Florence and rode a gorgeous 70 mile loop through chianti on Saturday. I met up with Francesco when he passed me on an uphill and I just about killed myself grabbing and keeping his wheel. After that, I didn't stop and take any pictures of the castles and rolling meadows dotted with grapevines or the adorable 800 year-old towns along the way -- if I could keep up with him, I wouldn't have to continually stop to look at my map. After a few miles, we started picking up other riders and had a little paceline heading back to Florence. It was so much fun! Sadly, they seem to have even fewer women roadies there than we do here. [There was general agreement among the riders that I must be 'deutch' -- do the germans have more women who ride?]

Italy in general was fun and relaxing. I'm embarrassed to say that my Italian consists of 'scuzi,' 'gratzi,' 'il conto,' and 'prego.' The latter having a surprising number of uses. The first two got me through 80% of the trip. Being vegan wasn't a problem as long as you don't mind eschewing all protein. I actually brought Clif product, and ate it daily to supplement all the pasta and pizza. Nothing says 'vacation' like a Builder Bar!

Having sat through quite a few art history classes in my time, I found it bizarre to see paintings from my textbooks all over the museums. Renaissance art isn't really my thing, but walking into a room and seeing how very small the "Madonna by the Sea" actually is, or how luminous Botticelli's "Spring" is . . . is a bit overwhelming. There were many examples of my favorite subject in religious art - the sacred conversation. This is a painting depicting saints from different time periods together, chatting. The virgin Mary, St, Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist, some pope and some cardinal [I'm not catholic] are usual, but occasionally you'd get St. Elizabeth and even St. Lucia [and her dish of eyeballs] in there too. I wonder what they talk about.

So now I'm back, terribly jet-lagged and with a snuffly cold. I'm hoping to catch up on my sleep, at least, before racing this weekend.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Venice is charming! Very touristy, but not in a really cheesy way. All winding stone passages and grand decaying facades. If you want a mask or something made out of glass, this is your spot, but there's also fun stuff here that you wont find elsewhere. Not that I'd want to find any of these masks anywhere else. Yikes.

No where to ride bikes. So many stairs and narrow alleys -- it's a pedestrian city. Walking and boating are the only way to get anywhere. Keep running into people hauling handcarts up and down the stairs. Its easy to get turned around in the maze of streets . . . but not 'lost' really -- nothing is far enough away to really be lost.

I'm glad we came, it's delightful and relaxing.