Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cupcake Handup

Thanks to Luke Seemann for the photos!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Photo by John Wrycza.

Last year, Woodstock was a good race for me. I had second place tied up until I slid out in the last off-camber turn before the finishing stretch and ended up third - my best placing.

Pre-riding the almost identical course this year though, I felt really leaden. Totally low-energy. I couldn't muster the will to run the run-up or do more than step slowly over the barriers. Still, I rode it four times before the masters went off. Then I took a nap in my car.

I lined up after a lackluster warm-up - got a good spot thanks to my call-up - and didn't have a terrible start. Not a great start - I didn't get the hole shot or anything - but I didn't get trapped behind a whole bunch of slower riders either. And once I was out there, I didn't feel too bad at all.

By the last lap, I had caught and passed a number of riders, and had my two teammates, Natalie and Courtney, in sight. I haven't been close to Courtney since Jackson Park. In the maze, Kathy from Project 5 and a junior crashed and the three of us xXxers got in front of her. I worked hard to catch and pass Natalie, but she's SO much better at the barriers than I, I kept falling back. After the run-up, I could see she was faltering - and I should have sprinted around her then - but once we got into the finishing turns, there was no opportunity to pass and she out-sprinted me. We finished third, fourth and fifth - so I finally broke into the top five!

Photo by John Wrycza

I was so buzzed after that, I was excited to race the men's 4bs. I'm not much for beer, so I brought a leftover bottle of Canadian Club [aren't all bottle of Canadian Club sort of left over?] and disposable shot glasses. I like whiskey, I like handups, this seemed like a great combination.

There were two other women in the men's race this week, my teammate Courtney and Katie from Spidermonkey. We got called up to the front of the line along with the Turin guy in the Turkey suit. Heh. I got a pretty good start again, but did get held up behind the Turin turkey for a third of the lap. But once around, I made up some ground. A bunch of guys passed me, but I also passed a few of them back. It was a fast, fun race.

The hecklers were all stationed at the run-up after the second barrier. Dozens of people taunting racers with SPAM, pixie sticks, beer, twizzlers, cupcakes, candy orange slices, cheeto's and, yes, whiskey. On my second lap I got a red velvet mini cupcake - yum. Except for the frosting all over my brake levers. Third lap I spotted the whiskey and grabbed a shot glass, downed the contents and tossed the glass over my head. Went down easy. And then rapidly made me downright tipsy and a bit dizzy. Whisky has quite an effect with your heart rate at 90%. Seriously, its a BAD idea.

I grappled with that for a while - until I realized Courtney was just ahead of me. I managed to pass her in the start/finish stretch, but she got right on my wheel and stayed there to the barriers, where she got right around me and back on her bike while I was still stepping over the second barrier. I chased hard and got close again - but we hit the barrier at heckle hill, and again she proved way more adept than I and opened up a little gap. I again attempted to close before we crossed the road into the off-camber turns, but just couldn't quite make it. She passed another rider and he got in my way a bit - and then he too put in a big final effort and finished ahead of me.

I ended up 38 out of 75 - which I was mighty pleased with. No more whiskey handups, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

photo by Alan T.

I raced cross at Indian Lakes on Sunday. Damn, cross is SO MUCH FUN!!!

The South Chicago Wheelmen managed to put on an even better race than last year, somehow convincing a golf resort to let us race on their course. So mostly flat with a couple sand traps, a bit of mud and a number of long straights. A good course for a road rider with iffy cross skills like me.

First, I raced the women's cat 4 category. The woman leading the series upgraded this week, so I was bumped up to 7th in the overall series standings. I had an OK start for me, ended up knocking elbows all through the first chicane, going over the first barriers haphazardly and not being able to remount in the crush. I ran the hill instead and the crowd thinned out by the time I hit the sand traps. I was able to ride 2/3s of the first sand pit, but the exit lip was too steep and I had to dismount [with varying degrees of grace] each lap, then run to the next sand pit. I started picking off women one by one - there was always someone in sight. When one of the older juniors came by, I grabbed his wheel and drafted through the headwind. I was able to use the paved stretch to pass quite a few people. On my last lap, I had someone in sight - but she could see me gaining on her and pushed hard. I finished 10 seconds behind her in 6th place - getting closer to the top five!

AND I finished in the money! There was actual payout for the cat 4 women - THANK YOU, South Chicago Wheelmen!

photo by Liz Farina Markel

Then I raced the men's 4B race for the first time. SUCH fun. Of the 75 racers, 8 of us were women - so everybody knew our names. Along the whole course, 'Tamara! Go, Tamara! Tamara! Wheeeee!

My start wasn't fantastic, but I was aggressive. Coming to the second barrier in my first lap, I slid out, stepped onto the side of my ankle and bit it hard. I heard the ankle crack and was momentarily worried I'd actually really hurt myself. But I jumped up and nothing seemed seriously awry, so I got over the barrier, ran up the hill and forgot about the whole thing until I saw my bloody knee after the race.

Cuttin' Crew carried their couches to the top of the hill and taunted me with MGD on every lap [next week I'm going to bring Canadian Club and hand up shots. WHISKEY!] But the real action was at the sand pits - an ever narrowing alley of fans brandishing twizzlers and cupcakes and dollar bills and golf balls and cans of Fat Tire. One lap I got a cupcake - the bite I got was delicious. I grabbed a dollar bill from a woman who seemed pretty surprised - and another that was dangling in front of my face. I took a couple beers and then handed them back up the line.

And all the while I was going all out. On the last lap, I started closing in on Katie from Spidermonkey. We'd joked earlier about which one of us would win a one up sprint - I figured it would be her since she always starts better than I do. I passed her on the paved stretch and held her off through the series of chicanes. I hit the last bit of pavement and gunned it as hard as I could. I actually sprinted in the drops all the way to the line - and finished in front her. Woooo! 46th out of 75 - not terrible. And I'm definitely doing it again next week!

photo by Luke Seeman

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am so tired today - really dragging. I'm on the cusp of getting sick. Somehow, I have to find the energy to jog this evening.

I'm waiting for the bank to call me back. I've called twice and both times was promised a return call within 15 minutes. I'm going to have to call again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

St. Charles cross was yesterday - the day after Halloween, so costumes were mandatory. I lucked into a skirted ice skating costume, so of course I went as Tanya Harding.

Bicycle Heaven put on a great race - the course was 90% the same as last year [and last year's course ROCKED] with the addition of buckets of mud. Half a lap in, you were completely filthy. And once you went through the two ditches, each with a foot or so of watery mud, you were covered. I don't think I've ever been so muddy - certainly my bike never has.

I got a good spot on the front line and was determined to be aggressive. I never get a very good start and it hurts me. At the whistle, I jumped - but the women on either side of me jumped faster. The start was pretty narrow, both women near me, wobbled inward towards me, I had nowhere to go but too much velocity . . . I went down. Five feet from the starting line. By the time I was up and out, I was last. So my race turned into 'catch and pass.'

We only had three laps. The first took me past 15 or so racers. I finally had my HED stingers set up for cross and they just floated uphill and over grass. By the second lap I had Katie from Spidermonkey and Jamie from Cuttin' Crew in sight. I got around Katie, but Jamie is just better at the skills than I am. But each lap, I rode the mud better and faster. I chased Jamie up the hill on lap three, trailed her over the barrier and into the field - and finally managed to ride past as we crested. I concentrated on putting space between us. Unfortunately, no one else was in sight.

When the race ended, I still felt fresh. 30 minutes is just not enough. But there was nothing to do but wipe the mud off my teeth and congratulate the winners. I managed to come in 11th out of 29 - not bad considering, but still a bit of a disappointment.

I am very much looking forward to next week at Northbrook. I HOPE the stairs are part of the course again!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SO SORE! I started plyometrics and strength work last week - I can ride my bike for 8 hours and my legs feel fine. A couple sets of explosive squat jumps and I can barely move. I admit, I'm kind of enjoying the feeling.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I haven't updated in a bit, but things are going much better. The tailbone is 95% healed - it only really bothers me when I'm driving or sitting a certain way. I only had to miss one race.

Last Sunday I raced Carpentersville cross - a long and technical course with a lump track [or rhythm section], sandpit, creek bed, barriers, and lots and lots of twists and turns. I got there early and practiced riding the course and I though I had it down pretty good. We started on pavement, so I got a better start than usual and was fifth wheel at the first barrier. Unfortunately, I was penned in and trapped behind a woman in her first cross race ever who had no idea how to dismount and get over the barrier. By the time I got around her and back on my bike, I'd lost a bunch of places. Then I slid out and went through the caution tape that delineated the course and lost a few more places. And, without realizing it, I'd picked up a streamer of the plastic tape in my derailleur.

You can see the tape in this photo. You might also notice that my chain is off. I couldn't pedal it back on and had to stop and manually fix it while MORE racers got by me. Then the tape started causing all sorts of shifting problems. I couldn't get it to stay in gear and couldn't get any speed up. I couldn't close the gap to the riders who'd passed me. I finally got it to stay in one gear, and rode the final lap single speed. It was pretty frustrating - I finished 13th, which was way higher than I expected with the problems I had. But lower than I had aimed for.

Happily, I had no mechanical problems this past Sunday at Bartlett. With new cables and a new bottom bracket, my bike was running better than ever.

The race course in Bartlett was a power course with long straight sections you could pick up some speed on. I got a TERRIBLE start - I've GOT to work on that - and was one of the last through the first corner. That's hard to come back from, the leaders get SO far ahead. But the course suited me, so I started picking riders off. There were a couple of sections that I could shoot past a girl and get a bit of distance before the next technical part. I managed to work my way back up into the top ten and pass some racers that had been beating me all year. I was even getting close to women who consistently finish in the top five. But I ran out of time - a longer race would suit me better.

In the end, I had Jamie from Cuttin' Crew and my teammate Natalie hot on my tail. I'd gotten past them, but I couldn't break their spirit. Natalie went off course and lost time, but Jamie was chasing hard. All her teammates were at the top of 'heckle hill' the little run-up, and they were cheering her on. I could sense her at my elbow. I stayed ahead of her through two more turns, and then she got by me. I rode her wheel through the last bit of the course, but could not come around her in the sprint. She took seventh and I took eighth, with Natalie coming in a moment later ninth. It was VERY exciting - I so rarely have racers around me at the end of a cross race, it was super fun up to race hard all the way. Props to Jamie!

Next Sunday is St. Charles. Last year this was a very technical course with some serious uphill sections. I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks to Duane, Brian Morrissey, and Luke Seeman for photos. You rock.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Had to skip yesterday's race - riding bumpy grass was painful and swinging my leg over the bike to dismount shot electric bolts up my spine. Not the good kind. I'm supremely irritated about the whole situation. Now coach wants me to go to a doctor and get my tailbone looked at - to what purpose, I don't know. Bruised or broken, treatment is the same. And its not broken. I'm not saying that like George HIncapie said his collarbone wasn't broken the last five days of the TdF - I'm 98% certain its not broken. I should've just tried to race.

Friday, October 9, 2009

You'd think celeste green cross tubulars would be on the market. You'd be wrong.
I have new respect - and awe - for Andreas Kloden.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I managed to bruise my tailbone during cross practice last night. This is apparently one of those injuries with a pain level WAY out of proportion with its seriousness. The ride home was grueling - I wanted to alternately cry and throw up.

I decided I would be fine this morning, so didn't cancel my training ride. Which turned out to be overly optimistic. By the time I met up with my training partner, I couldn't sit on my saddle any longer. I had to bail and ended up on an elliptical trainer - which was uncomfortable but bearable. I'm walking and sitting and bending very slowly and carefully today.

I really hope I'm able to race on Sunday.

On the bright side, I had a bit of a breakthrough with barriers and mounting. Julia helped me out a bit, and things started to come together. Yay.


Here's a question: why is my cross bike so heavy? I have a carbon frame, double chainring, ultegra components, aluminum seatpost and handlebars, and ksyrium elite wheels. Ultegra isn't the lightest, but it shouldn't weigh me down THAT much. Other people with the same frame have MUCH lighter bikes.

I took the seatpost out last night and propped her upside down over the utility sink - but there doesn't seem to be any water in there. Hmmm.

I DID just get tubular cross tires, so soon I'll have a lighter wheelset for racing. But still . . .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Raced Dekalb Cyclocross on Sunday. SUCH a great course. Half Acre really outdid themselves. I had a lot of fun.

I'm still getting back into the swing of cross. I'm slowly remembering how to ride off-road, how to navigate sharp corners without braking. Slowly is the key word - the last lap of my second race, and I'm finally starting to get it.

I was called up to the front of the line in seventh place - good spot. I thought I was doing OK in the sprint, until we hit the first corners, then I realized I was WAY too far back, trapped behind some slower riders.

Like this awesome chick racing her commuter bike with the rack still on. I worked my way through and around quite a few women. Coach had told me that when passing, sprint by so the racer doesn't think she can catch my wheel. That worked well for me.

By the end of the second lap, I'd dropped everyone near me and was desperately chasing my own teammate Natalie. No one else was even in sight at this point. I'd get close to her, then we'd hit the barriers and I'd fall back. I'd get close again, more barriers. She successfully held me off and we finished ninth and tenth. Not the placing I wanted, but good enough.

My teammate Julia - the cyclocross phenom - won. She's applied for her upgrade, but it hadn't come through. I was GIDDY when I found out that my other teammate, Courtney, finished second! Looks like xXx has a chance to take the women's cat 4 cross cup for a second year in a row. That would be cool.

Photos by Luke Seemann. Thanks, Luke!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I raced the Fall Fling road race on Sunday. It feels really good to be racing again - my injury is bothering me less and less and I'm feeling stronger. And ABD really knows how to put on a good event – I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed Fall Fling.

The 123 women were combined with the 50+ men - we could work together, but were scored separately. This makes for a very different race - much less likely that any of the women will break away. You just sit in until the end and see what you can do in the sprint. And that was my goal - to hang onto the pack.

I started out in the front, grabbed the wheel of a guy going by and sat fifth wheel to the first corner. Unfortunately, I seem to be unable to ride through a corner without letting a bit of a gap open between me and the wheel in front of me. Entering the corner, suddenly there were riders on my inside and outside. By the time I hit the other side, I’d gone from fifth wheel to 20th.

I sat behind two of the other women. I had some chances to move up, but didn’t take them – thinking that I could stay in touch with these girls and be OK. The second corner sent me to the back of the pack.

Corner three was sweeping, no problem for anyone. I rode through the rollers feeling good. It was fast, but felt like a run-up to Old School on the team ride. No problem.

Except I stayed at the back – what was I thinking? I was comfortable in the pack. There were opportunities to advance. Why didn’t I take them?

I got a little gapped through corner four. Easy enough to make up with the tailwind. Back to corner one. Again I’m gapped a little, but this time, I can’t make it up. I trail ten feet off the back, and then 15, and then 20. I’m dropped.

So I failed to achieve my goal for this race. Frustrating.

I spent the next five and a half laps working with one of the men. We didn’t get lapped, we finished in less than two hours, and I broke my power records for 30, 60, and 120 minutes.


This morning I went out with a teammate and practiced cornering at speed for an hour. If I went through the corner first, I was fine. If he went first, a bike length would open between us. We drilled over and over – and this isn’t the first time I’ve worked on this – and still I could not hold his wheel through the corner. I don’t even feel like I’m slowing – but I must be doing small things that slow me just enough. It comes down to an irrational panic response. I don’t even really FEEL the panic, unless I really focus on what’s in my head while I ride the corner. But its there. I don’t know what to do.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coach added running to my training schedule. You use some muscles running that you don't use cycling. Ow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My new HIDEOUS/FABULOUS skinsuit got a second debut at yesterday's Jackson Park cyclocross race. Man, I LOVE cyclocross. I'm no good at it - I'm completely incapable of getting over a barrier and back onto my bike without coming to a complete stop. Which, as you can imagine, is a bit of a handicap. And with a handicap like that, 30 minutes isn't enough time to wear out the competition sufficiently to really make up for it.

But its SO MUCH FUN!

I decided not to cat up to the women's 1,2,3 field - no point until I can work out my issues with the barriers. There were over 30 women lining up in the cat 4 field, which is HUGE - so cool to have so many women racing. I think xXx had seven women in the field, most for their first cross race. I knew there was some strong competition in the field, so my goal was top 10.

I did Ok in opening sprint - not great, but OK. I was about eighth or ninth by the time we hit the ersatz singletrack through the trees. The three or four in the lead were opening up a good gap, and I was unable to get around the line of women ahead of me to keep up. Eventually some dropped off and I ended up behind Amy from Mox - which is a familiar place to find myself. I wasn't being aggressive enough about getting around her either. My teammate Courtney caught up to me and Amy and I fell behind them at the barriers. Then Amy slid out in a corner and I shouted at Courntey to get around her - we both did! I rode Court's wheel for half the course then decided to be more assertive and tried to pass on her inside in a corner. Unfortunately there were major ruts and Courtney had to almost stop to avoid them. I didn't want to screw up my own teammate! She got ahead of me again at the barriers and this time I was inhibited about trying to pass.

I could see that some of the women ahead of us were tiring. Courtney and I were working past them. I could see Britt from Verdigris, Cathy from Project 5, and Natalie ahead of us. I saw that Courtney was able to work around Nat and Cathy (who fell and lost a few places) - the barriers continued to hold me back. And then the race was over - almost before it started, it seemed.

My crazy strong teammate Julia won - no surprise there, I knew she'd dominate the first time I saw her graceful leap onto a cross bike - and Courtney took third! Woo! Natalie and I were sixth and seventh. So I made my goal of top ten and I'll get a call up at the next race.

Eileen - my teammate who took the women's cat 4 series title and state jersey last year - was very strong in her first women's cat 1,2,3 race. She dropped some serious competition and ended up third or fourth [final results aren't out yet]. She's so impressive. Yelling at her and at the men in the masters' race while I marshalled was almost more fun than racing myself. Huge props to Greg for putting this race together - and to Brian and Mike and all my other teammates who spent so much time and effort to not only make the race happen, but to make it so great. The whole Chi Cross Cup series ROCKS!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Well, the four-person time trial was yesterday. I felt good - I'd decided not to do the State RR to save my legs and didn't overdo on the team ride. I spent a significant part of Saturday resting and stretching and preparing by bike and all my race stuff. I was ready.

Our start time was 10:19. Julia and I got there about 8:20 am, thinking we could drive the course first. But there was a thick, enveloping fog in Utica - visibility was 20 feet, tops. The organizers delayed the race start for a half hour. And then another half hour. Heidi and Eileen and the other xXx women's teams arrived. Our crazy, custom skinsuits arrived. We relaxed for a while and then got ready to race.

Actually we probably relaxed too long. We didn't start our warmup until 10:50. My legs felt great, we were working well together. We practiced a couple turns. I glanced at my watch, it was 11:05 - definitely time to turn around and get to the start line. And then I flatted. I was riding tubulars and had nothing with me to fix the flat.

I fell off our paceline and started to run back towards the race start with my bike. My teammates said they'd get our start time pushed back and come get me in the car. I told them I'd try and flag down a car and get a ride.

We were a couple miles out. I walked and walked, walked right through our start time. No one came to pick me up. I knew they'd had to start without me. I was SO disappointed. I finally got a nice guy with a big pickup truck to give me a lift. I got to the start line 25 minutes late.

My teammate Noelle lent me her spare wheel - right before HER TTT team went off. I started right after them. I was there, might as well get in a good training ride. I took the beginning relatively slowly - no reason to really push - but as I rode, I formulated goals for myself and rode harder and harder. I actually passed a couple teams (who must have had something going on to be going so slowly). I ended up averaging just over 21 mph for the 60k - not terrible for a training ride. That finishing stretch was just as interminable as I remember.

My team took third. I'm proud of them, but so disappointed I didn't get to race with them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gearing up for the Four Person Team Time Trial on Sunday. I'm excited - I have an excellent team AND we have two other women's team competing. We had a tremendous amount of fun last year.

I think I'm going to have to miss the State Road Race on Saturday. With this piriformis/sciatic nerve thing [Yes, I have sciatica - because I'm 90.] I've had to lay off the intensity a bit, which has negatively affected my fitness. I'm not climbing as well as I should be and I need to save my legs for the TTT. Bummer. Total bummer. But better not risk aggravating my . . . OK, its SO awkward having an injured butt. Its not my hip, or leg or back, its my bum. One side of my bum. Charming.

Also looking forward to cyclocross. I've decided to use the HED stingers, and have been searching for a set of tubulars. I've settled on the Vittoria Cross EVO XG 700x32c Tubulars in silver. They're VERY reasonably priced and well-reviewed. They're such a great deal that every online store that offers them is out of stock. I've ordered them three times and the next day get an e-mail telling me they're back ordered or just gone. Which has frittered away a week.

I complained about my bad luck on Facebook which prompted the good people at Turin to offer to help. I love Anne Barnes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Feeling better. Thanks. Still slow, but better rested. The rest will come.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting ready for the team time trial next weekend. And the State Road Race. I'm not feeling great - my fitness just isn't where I want it to be. I tried to peak in late June/early July [although I don't feel I made it all the way], then pulled back to try to avoid burnout. Just as I started ramping back up, I hurt myself and had to lay off the intensity. The injury continues to nag. Its not acute anymore, but its not gone either. It feels raw and *wrong* when I ride, and it aches when I sit at my desk or in my car. It robs me of power.

I had a really great little vacation with Jackie last week - so good to just spend time together and relax. But since then, I've been tired and stressed out. I just can't seem to get ahead of the 8-ball. I've been getting up super early to practice with my TTT team, while I'm trying to get back on Central time - too easy to stay up too late, too hard to get up early - and then I spend the entire day dragging.

Coach has been talking about mental toughness lately. He thinks I have it and that I can exercise more of it. But when I fall into this well of worry and despair, its too easy to let it engulf me. My glass is half-empty and that's all I can see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sunday I went out to Palos for the team's 'Take a Roadie Off-Road day." Cyclocross racing last year is the extent of my off-road experience, so it was super fun to ride the trails for 3+ hours. I rode my cross bike - which on one hand was great: I got a lot better handling that bike over, under and through all sorts of stuff. On the other hand my cross bike has extremely iffy brakes, so I was inhibited on the downhill sections. The chances of me losing control and riding right off the path, into a tree or a ravine because I could not stop the bike, slowed me WAY down.

And then I got lost - but that was my own fault. I wasn't even lost, I just lost contact with my teammates and wasn't sure which path was the one to take back to the parking lot. I picked one and rode out until I got to this crazy 30 foot ravine and decided that wasn't happening on the cross bike. So I turned around and chose another path . . . that took me in a big circle back to where I started. Finally I decided to go back the way I came - and eventually met up with someone looking for me [Yay Pat! You rock!]. Turns out that path was also a big loop and took me about 150 yards away from where I'd been lost. Heh. The route out of there was twisty enough that I would never have found the way on my own.

Happily for the guys looking for me, I was easy to spot. Everyone remembered seeing the tattooed woman on the cross bike.

All the off-roadies were amazingly patient and encouraging. And the BBQ at Seegs home afterwards was a blast.


As for my injury, I had an Active Release session yesterday and that went well. The doc thinks my piriformis has enough scar tissue built up that it isn't moving properly against the other muscles and my sciatic nerve - which is why I'm feeling the pain traveling to my lower back and down my leg. Active Release helps breaks up the scar tissue.

I also had Coach adjust my bike fit. I'd never gotten my new saddle in quite the right position and I think that is the main culprit in my becoming injured. This morning, my leg and hip felt tight and occasionally painful, but not anything like it has been.

Of course, I was being careful to stay in my endurance zone and not push too hard this morning. Coach does NOT approve of me riding harder than I'm supposed to ride on endurance and active recovery days. And he's right - I don't have the energy to really do a good hard workout when I'm supposed to because I ride tempo and chase down any rider who goes by me when I'm supposed to be recovering. My legs are never fresh.

I have to change my mindset - I have to be more disciplined. More is not always better. I have to let go of my pathological need to prove to all the random pathletes that I can ride away from them. I have to let go of my need to win the great commuter race down Milwaukee Ave. It will have to be enough to just KNOW that I COULD crush their pathetic spirits under my wheels. This will take more mental toughness than spinning drills or TT intervals. Arg.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I have a new stem - angle is MUCH more comfortable. Added benefit: the brakes work better. I'm heading out to Palos for "take a roadie off-road day" tomorrow. Should be fun! I don't have a mountain bike, so I'm riding my cross bike - the ride leaders say this will be fine. Some other teammates aren't so sure. Oh well - what's the worst that could happen?

Team ride today. Slow ride to HP, then a fast ride up to Old School and back. I got popped off the back a couple times, but conveniently placed stop lights kept me with the group. My fitness isn't exactly where I want it, but it was a GREAT workout.

I raised my seat slightly and my hip/leg thing felt much better. Still tight, but not painful until Evanston on the way back. And then, boy howdy did it hurt! Every pedal stroke was like knives. Nothing for it but to ride home, so I focused on breathing (that helps) and kept going. At home, I stretched and used the roller. Something is really wrong, I think. F!

I have an active release appointment on Monday. That's worked well in the past.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pain, pain, pain, when will it end.

Still struggling with this stupid hip thing. I keep thinking its getting better, then I ride and its just as alarmingly painful as before. The massage has helped, the ice and ibuprofen help, but I think its time for the next step. Active Release has really helped me in the past, so I'm going to call today. After that, AthletiCo. Or my GP. Arg.

In the meantime, I've been thinking a lot about the cross bike. Number one thing to change is the stem. I used one I had, and its the wrong angle - which put my handlebars in a position that has aggravated my elbows and made the bike feel weird to ride. New stem today!

I'm researching brakes [thanks for the offer, Allen! - I'll send you an e-mail], and I'm going to use the carbon seatpost and saddle from my road bike. Wheels will make the biggest difference - these are my options:
- Mavic Ksyrium elite clinchers. I used these last year.
- have cross tires glued to my HED stingers. These are my primo road race wheels - do I dare use them for cross??
- find a cheap and relatively lightweight set of tubular wheels - like the Easton EA70x. Definitely need to be cheap - but will cheap tubulars be any better than the Ksyrium elites?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

After a month-long, coach-imposed hiatus from racing, I entered the 8/12 Soldier's Field criterium. I had so much fun four weeks before, I felt strong and attacked from the line. This time, still recovering from a cold and five weeks off my peak, I was not so ambitious. I sat in a lot and concentrated on improving my pack skills - rolling smoothly through the corners without touching brakes and etc. I put in a few digs and had no problem staying with the front group. There were two other cat 3s this week - all the women race together, but the cat 4s are scored separately from the 123s - and the three of us were watching each other. It came down to a bunch sprint, I sat second wheel through the last lap, saw the attacking start through the last corner and made my own move - I focused on pedaling faster rather than mashing through ever larger gears, and lost less ground in the sprint than usual. I took fifth overall by a bike throw - the first time that has worked for me! It was fun! Maybe I'll get the hang of this sprinting thing yet. I was second of the 123 women and won a gift card for a free Chipotle burrito.

Thursday, I drove up to Northbrook to race track. It was only the second time I'd been able to get to the track this year and I was really looking forward to it. I set up my trainer and camp chair, put on my skin suit and paid my fee. I got on my track bike - a bit tentatively at first - and started to pedal around the track, warming up. There was a paceline I was considering jumping on, but as I rode round and round, my right hip really started bothering me. I'd felt something there the last lap or two at Soldier's Field, so I'd stretched it out and used the foam roller on it. But the more I pedalled, the worse it got. After 20 minutes, every pedal stroke increased the pain. I got off and texted my coach. Then I got back out there. First lap was OK. Second lap, not so great. I tried a sprint, and put myself into agony. I pulled into the infield. Coach texted back - sit out tonight. Arg.

Friday I had a massage. There were huge knots in my piriformis and my illiac was like piano wire. Nothing was moving smoothly. I came out of the office feeling bruised and beat up. I spent the evening in the embrace of an ice pack and ibuprofen.

Saturday. Downer's Grove. I wasn't sure what to do. I hated to pass up the last 3/4 race of the season - a race I could do well in. But I really didn't want to make my injury worse. I rode out to DG with Courtney and Jannette. We kept to a pretty relaxed pace - but I still found myself riding one-legged. There was less pain, but I felt like my piriformis had been bisected and laid open. It felt raw. And it affected my whole leg - there was shooting pain in the front of my hip, an ache down my hamstring, discomfort in my quad, tightness in my calf, and cramping in my foot. It was tough to let it go, but I ended up not racing. I cheered through my frustration at not being a part of the action. However, it was FANTASTIC to see my teammates, Courtney, Dana and Natalie, all finish in the front pack!

I rode home alone - my companions wanted to stay and watch longer than I was able to. I had the tailwind, and was able to crank up my speed a bit. Keeping a steady pace lessened my discomfort. I was delighted to make it home in 83 minutes - and it was great to ride somewhere OTHER than HP for once!

Sunday, I rode Old School with the girls. Mostly steady, with a few small digs here and there - Heidi attacked up University Hill and I tried to counter. Sitting on the front into the wind or pushing uphill, I could feel my hip protesting, but it was really doing better. Monday, I spent an hour on an elliptical trainer, just to move my legs a different way.

Today I hit the Lakefront Path with my TTT partners for some paceline practice. I have the aerobars clipped on and my TT seatpost pushing me forward. SO WEIRD. We practiced at endurance pace, just trying to get used to each other again. Once I realized I only have to use the aerobars when I'm on the front, I was able to relax into the process. Hip and leg feel very tight, but doing better. I'm stretching out at my desk throughout the day. I'm going to try racing track tomorrow.


I've been contemplating my cross bike. Peter Allen has the same frame as I do - a larger version even - and his bike is much lighter than mine. Yes, its partly the wheels and partly that he has a single chainring while I have a double. But I think I can make my bike more comfortable and more efficient than it is.

My first step will be a new stem. To cut costs last year, I used some components I had laying around. And this stem is just wrong. Wrong angle, wrong material. I want something much closer to the geometry on my road bike.

I went with Ultegra shifters and deraileur. I'm used to Shimano and it was way cheaper than the dura-ace. I could possibly sell the ultegra and upgrade with some SRAM through the team deal. Or maybe I should spend that money on lighter wheels? Tubulars? I have the HED stingers . . . I guess I could have cross tires glued on. Paolo did that.

And I don't like my brakes. I have the euros - the triangle is HUGE - so they shed mud and muck really well. But they don't stop my bike - or even slow it very much, especially on pavement. The Ultegra levers just weren't made for cantilever brakes, I guess, so I have to grab really hard. And even then, I almost hit a pedestrian.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost over the cold. My energy is pretty good. Thinking about racing Soldier's Field tomorrow and thinking about avoiding Downer's Grove on Saturday. I'll see what coach has to say.

Right now I'm feeling disappointed in my season thus far. I haven't seen any improvement. Not sure what to do about it.

Looking forward to the Team Time Trial.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Still sick. I feel 5% better than yesterday and 10% better than Wednesday. Should I race on Sunday? I want to, I've really been looking forward to it. But the time trial I rode on Wednesday morning didn't go well - I simply couldn't make my body work as hard as I know it can, and it wasn't for lack of trying. Afterwards I was completely destroyed. Completely. Not the usual I'm-going-to-hurl-unless-I-pedal-very-slowly-for-ten-minutes-and-then-I'm-OK destroyed, but a furious, sobbing mess unable to pedal faster than 9 mph for several hours.

I've had that experience once before: my second year at training camp I woke up with a bad cold on the second to last day - the day we were scheduled to ride up the backside of the Wall, a notoriously difficult route with some 20% grades. I ended up having to walk my bike up one steep section, and at the top was beyond furious at my 'failure' and beyond miserable with the cold. I basically went and sat by myself in the bushes and sobbed for no reason.

A low point, for sure. One I have no desire to repeat on Sunday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm sick. I hate being sick. I hate missing races and workouts. I hate feeling all trembly and sweaty in the wrong way when I do any sort of intensity. I just want to lie down and sleep for three days.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eileen's 'into to cyclocross' clinic is this evening. I'm going to head out early to practice my flying dismounts and remounts - I haven't done anything like that since December. And I wasn't any good at it then.

I'm already excited about 'cross season!

Friday, July 31, 2009


Jens recorded a video assuring everyone that he's OK and will be back racing soon. Yay.

Speaking of crashes, I fell over again last night. So stupid. Got my wheel caught between two sidewalk panels. Happily, it seems my bike came out unscathed. While I was not quite so lucky, after watching George Hincapie ride four and a half tour stages with a broken collarbone - not to mention Jens' cheerful reassurances from his hospital bed - I have nothing to complain about.

Other than the loss of yet more dignity.


Pactimo, who makes my team's kit, has sent me a couple pairs of newly designed women's shorts to try out. The past couple years, the chamois in the women's shorts has had some issues, so I'm delighted that they are trying new things and I'm happy to help vet them.

Of course, I don't wear shorts. I wear knickers. I wear knickers because I'm comfortable in knickers and I'm not comfortable in shorts. I don't wear shorts off the bike either. Form-fitting spandex is tough enough - especially in front of hyper-weight conscious cyclists - so I just took shorts off the table. One less thing to worry about.

On the other hand, the oozing and ouchy doorknob I've lately acquired on my knee won't feel so great in knickers. Hmmm.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jens Voigt has had a bad crash in stage 16 - he hit a slight dip in the road and lost control, wheels sliding out from under him, on a very fast descent. He hit his head hard and slid out on his right side. He didn't finish the stage, but was taken directly to the hospital. Possible head trauma - he was unconscious for a while, but came around. Hospital says he can move his arms and legs. Riis says his injuries are serious.

BE OK, JENS!!! Be ok.

Story from velonews:

And pics - it looks bad (scroll down):

Have to say, I pretty much lost my enthusiasm for the rest of what was an exciting stage.


Sounds like Jens is going to be OK. I'm relieved. And very sad he's out of the tour.

Here's a good story about him, even if it does read a bit too much like an obituary:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coach has me off racing for a few weeks - when I was planning my season back in January, I didn't argue too hard for Superweek. Crashing at Evanston last year and ending up in the ER to have gravel dug out of my chin [not to mention not being able to eat solid food for over a month] was all too vivid a memory. But - just like last year - when Superweek is actually happening, I WANT TO RACE.

But I'm not. And honestly, it is mentally relaxing to just pull back into base training and chill.

I wanted to go long on Saturday, so when the opportunity to ride to Wisconsin presented itself, I went for it. I rode the wheel of one of our Elite racers for four hours up the Sisters route, into Wisconsin, back down to Illinois, through the big house loop, back to HP and the return to Chicago. 125 miles [200 k!], averaging 18.5 mph [including the slow part up to HP]. I don't *think* I slowed my companion down, although 96 miles in, I cracked on a little climb. But I recovered quickly and found that even the last 10 miles on my own, I was perfectly comfortable riding 19 mph down Damen Ave. "Steady" is the way to ride long, long miles.

I love being fit. I remember riding centuries five years ago - I could complete one, but was absolutely destroyed afterwards. On Saturday, I ate a bowl of pasta, showered, and headed out to Ravinia for family time, cookies, and Beethoven.

Sunday I led the monthly Women's Development Program open ride up to HP. We had three women new to group riding, so our pace was leisurely - probably a good thing after Saturday's brevet. We ended the ride at the Evanston Grand Prix in time to get burritos and watch Natalie, Courtney, Dana and Gigi race their guts out.

Then home to watch the TdF. Stage 15 was 200 k, and I tried to imagine sprinting 8 kilometers up an 8-9% grade at the end of Saturday's ride. These are hard, hard men.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I raced the third Soldier Field Cycling Series race Wednesday evening. Not a lot of women showed up the first two weeks, so they combined the women's fields but scored the 4s separately from the 1-2-3s. Which meant a chance to race with the xXx cat 4 women!

18 women lined up - a good sized field! - 16 cat 4, including three xXxers, and two cat 3s. So I was racing one person within the larger group, but was in actuality racing a cat 4 race. And it was FUN. It was nice not to get dropped within the first 10 minutes. And it wasn't like I was a vastly superior rider - there were a number of strong girls ready to ride hard who will be cat 3s at the end of the season. [Although as Seth pointed out, he, as a cat 1, would thoroughly enjoy a cat 3 race. Point taken.]

I attacked from the line - I've been wanting to do that - and pulled the first lap. Then settled in near the front. My wheel riding, especially in the corners, was terrible at first [which helps explain why I get dropped right away in the P-1-2-3 races], but it didn't hurt me much in this race. I worked on cornering more smoothly and staying in contact with the girl ahead of me. I chased a few attacks, I attacked and got chased. I contended for two primes and lost both to the same woman [good sprinting practice]. At some point I realize that our front group has been whittled down to nine, and the other cat 3 racer is not in the bunch - unless she bridges up, I've won my race. I settle in to work for the other xXx women - ALL of whom have made the split. Including Julia in her first race ever.

A Project 5 racer attacks and Courtney is on her. I sit up a little and let them get a gap. Then two other women bridge up - one of us and three of them? Nope. I close the gap and its grupo compacto. I have to say, it felt good to be able to make that choice, instead of just reacting and suffering. I try to keep my teammates in good positions - taking pulls so they don't have to, making sure they stay with the group.

Coming around for the last lap, I'm thinking I want to get up front and lead out. I'm second to last into corner 2&3, and see one of the Cuttin' Crew girls touch wheels and go down. I get around the crash but I've missed my chance to lead out, so I sit on the back and let my teammates battle it out. Courtney wins!! Julia takes fourth and Dana sixth! I'm DELIGHTED that we all finished so strong. [And very happy that the Cuttin' Crew girl who went down was not seriously injured.]

Then! Christian Vande Velde's father hands out our prizes! I gush about CVV to JVV like a total spaz. It was so cool!

Thanks to Nikki Cyp for the awesome photos!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spinning Drills. In July. Sigh.

Got my powertap back finally and continue to post record numbers. So there's that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not much to say about UWW RR. Its a beautiful course and is put on with obvious love and care. Last year I won the cat 4 race from a two person breakaway - beating women who were arguably stronger climbers than I. Quite a triumph.

This year I drove up early with a teammate racing in that category. I enjoyed watching the race - attrition on the hill whittled their field down to six who sprinted together. Then I rode the course twice to warm up.

There were eight women in the P123 field - the tall woman, Heidi, from Masters Nationals was one, and it was delightful to see her again. I'd also raced with Diane before, a 50+ climber who had just won her crit at Masters Nationals the day before. I knew Diane would be a leg-breaker.

We started, rode to the hill, shifted into our small chainrings and very politely climbed up as a group. At the top, Diane attacked. And I thought "That is so smart! I am ON that." But my legs simply didn't move fast enough. I couldn't make them. I got a little gapped. Diane took a long look back, the expression on her face saying "Aren't you coming??" But I was off.

I chased for a lap, the gap growing from 10 seconds to 30 before someone attacked and took them out of my sight.

And that was that.

I talked it over with my coach - my inability to quickly accelerate uphill has spit me out the back of most of my races this year - and we're changing my training to address this weakness specifically.

In other news, I just lost my partner for the two person TT next Sunday - a discipline that I can actually do well in. Arg.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Masters Nationals Road Race has been one of my big target races for this year. I've been building up to it, trying to peak -- and while I feel like I haven't quite gotten there, I've been delighted at the leaps in fitness I made by riding Blue Mounds. It was such great training: since then my climbing has improved and I finished the Fitness Check TT in a time that still makes me giddy with glee.

I drove down to Louisville, KY on Saturday. I picked up my registration packet and then went to the race course, stopping only for a couple liters of water. It was hot and humid but also bright and clear and the park the race is in was gorgeous. I rode the course a couple times, trying to get the turns down -- as much as possible with the roads open to cars. It is a GREAT course - winding and rolling with a couple longish climbs.

My race was at 10:30 am on Sunday. I got there early, before the first races went off at 8 am, to ride the course one more time - this time closed to traffic. There were two sharp turns that worried me, both downhill. I've come a long way since the crashes last year sent me into a blind panic in the corners, but I'm still not 100%. I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

It was hot. I warmed up and tried to stay hydrated. The 40-44 age group had the largest field with 25 women starting [or as the announcer claimed at the line: "almost 30!"] It was fast from the whistle - so many talented, tough women. And as I'd feared, the cornering was a huge weakness for me. I would get just a little gapped and have to work extra hard to catch back on, then we'd hit another and I'd get a little gapped again. I wasn't the only one - and I wasn't the worst one - but when someone put in a big uphill attack on the third lap, the elastic broke.

At first there were four of us, but we kept picking up other shelled riders and by the second to last lap, there were eight or so in our group. A Priority Health girl and I ended up doing the bulk of the work in the last laps. By then, I knew who could climb, who NOT to get behind in the corners, and whose wheel to grab on the descents. A very tall woman attacked off the front mid-way through the last lap and we let her go - we knew we'd catch her at the twisty hill, and we did. I put in a big dig on that hill and hurt a couple women in our group. Priority Health and I let the tall girl take us down the hill and onto the flat. Glancing behind, I could see another rider chasing hard. We started up the final climb into the finish and dropped tall girl. I sat behind Priority Health, and the unattached chaser sat behind me. At 200 meters, I attacked and while I felt like I was pedaling through molasses, I picked up speed and Priority Health could not respond. The unattached rider, however, could. She came around me at 50 meters and I had nothing left. She 'won' our group and I crossed the line next in 13th place. I felt good that despite working super hard for the entire race, I had enough left to contend for the finish.

It was such a fun race - and so hard. If I can improve my cornering and descending skills, I'll finish with the front group next year. A good goal.

Stray thoughts:
- oh my god my HED stingers are AWESOME!!! They take five pounds off my bike and they practically float. Another rider asked me if I liked them and for a moment all I could do was cackle.

- can't blame the other riders for thinking me a bit odd for wearing cool weather knickers in the 85+ degree heat. I didn't really think about it until I got a number of comments. The knickers make me feel more comfortable and that's one less thing to worry about in a race. And its no worse than Tati sporting wool year-round.

- driving for hours after a hard race is its own challenge.

- this race was so well-run. So many people putting so much time and effort and it really paid off. Thank you!

- the announcer mentioned that there was a film crew there making a commercial for USA Cycling that will play on Versus during le tour. There's a miniscule chance that I will be in it! Wooo!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Fitness Check Time Trial #3 was held this morning. My team gathers at the lakefront and rides a set course while our coach times us. We can compare our results with the last FCTT and the FCTT last year at this time.

Last year in late June I rode the course in 26:45 -- and that was my PR. Today I rode it in 26:00.

So, while I feel slow, I AM improving. I still have a long way to go before I can stick with the big girls in the P-1-2-3 field, but seeing some actual progress helps.

The new fork certainly didn't hurt either. Still marveling at the wonderful stiffness. [Yes, yes, that's what she said. Whatever.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Alpha-Q fork feels amazing! Very stiff. So much better than the mushy ride on the cracked steering tube of my old fork. Yay.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is why so few cat 3 women race: racing with the Pro 1-2 women is demoralizing. The few cat 3 women who CAN compete in that field continue, and most of the rest struggle for a while and then move on to something else. Too many women enter cat 3 limbo and disappear.

Blue Mounds Race of the Future is an excellent race. A lavish production with scores of volunteers, an announcer, a big stage, SRAM neutral support, rolling closures, tons of marshalls, and an interesting, challenging and beautiful course. And by challenging I mean two laps equalling 44 miles with 2200 feet of climbing --climbs that last for miles -- and a mile + uphill kicker added onto the end.

My bike was suffering lingering effects from crashing two weeks ago. Turns out my derailleur, not just my derailleur hangar, was bent up a bit. And the crack in my steering tube, while not dangerous to ride, makes my bike about as stiff as a sponge. Which feels . . . alarming -- especially while climbing out of the saddle. To warmup, I rode to the bottom of the final climb and started up -- and my bent derailleur wouldn't stay in gear. Any climbing pressure on the 23, 21 or 19 and the chain popped back and forth between cogs [and yes, I should have swapped the 23/11 for a 27/12 before leaving for Wisconsin]. So my warmup was spent at the SRAM neutral support cars where the mechanics struggled to salvage my beat-up derailleur.

And they prevailed! I was able to shift without incident throughout the race, and the chain stayed where it was supposed to. Thank you SRAM mechanics!

25-30 women started the race [the results only show the women who finished, not sure how many DNFed but I saw a couple at the side of the road]. We had a neutral roll-out downhill -- the thought of which turned my stomach. I'm a nervous descender and was not looking forward to speeding downhill en masse. So I let myself get a little gapped right off. I caught on quickly, but on the back. And then we were on the first climb and I was off the back again. I think I should have been able to stay with the pack longer, despite the amazing talent in that group. Something to think about.

Another woman popped off the back ahead of me. I chased her for a while -- she noticed me and sat up a little. I thought, great, someone to work with! But soon I was waiting for her at the top of every hill, so after a while I dropped her. And continued on my grueling 44 mile training ride.

The cat 4/5 men caught up to me on one of the big climbs that shattered their field. I rode in-between several groups and individuals off the back of their pack. It was nice to have company, even if we couldn't work together.

The 22 mile circuit ends with several miles of unrelenting up that made me REALLY regret not having the 27/12 cassette. The first time up was sorta fun. The lead was out of my legs by then and I could try to close the gaps to the guys up ahead. But starting the second lap, knowing what lay ahead, was daunting. I thought about the gels and blox in my pockets, the water and electrolyte drink left in my bottles, and how to ration them most effectively.

The cat 4/5 stragglers got together and disappeared. I was alone. I was tiring - but frankly, I would rather die than quit. I gutted it out to the last climb, swallowed my last gel, and then tried to remember to make circles instead of squares. Groups of [mostly junior] riders from another field started to come by. Suffering and cowbells and suffering. Finally I made it to the feed zone where it flattened, and then made the turn for the last mile and a half to the finish line. Uphill. I fought all the way up, my cracked steering tube, a spongy accordian, and as I crossed the line, I heard the announcer say "triple X racing!"

And I was done in. I desperately needed water, but the though of food made me sick. The other women were all recovering -- eating, stretching, cooling down. I was the last woman to finish the race. And while finishing IS an accomplishment, it didn't feel so awesome to have people who had killed that course congratulate me.

But I'm very glad to have the experience. I have 2200 feet of climbing in my legs that I didn't have on Wednesday, and I have valuable knowledge for next year. And oh yes, I will be there next year if at all possible. Hopefully with my teammate Heidi -- who would be a real force in this race. Cat 3 limbo will not defeat me.

I was delighted to see my teammate Jacques had taken second in the men's cat 3 race -- yay, Jacques!

Monday, June 15, 2009

It was rainy and cold at Sherman Park, but the cat 4/masters women's race was fast and interesting. There was a huge crash in the race before ours, so we circled the course in the rain until the ambulance left. By the time our race started, we were all soaked.

There were about 15 women, including four cat 3 masters racers. Lots of attacks -- two Wild Card women that raced cross kept trading attacks. I chased a lot down and so did Dana. It was a strong enough field that no one could ride away from the group -- although the masters women tried over and over.

There was a prime on the second to last lap. I went for it, but lost to a cat 3 from New Zealand. We had a little gap after the prime sprint and she started sitting up -- I shouted "GO! GO!" and she went. We traded pulls for almost half a lap, then she sat back and waited for the bunch that was bearing down on us. I can't sprint anyway, so I sat on the front and just pulled as hard as I could. It was tough -- for a moment I quailed, but I wanted to give it everything I had, Jens-style. I told myself to just HTFU and keep pushing. I tried to keep the pace high enough that no one would attack early. And it worked -- I found out later I actually dropped several women.

Coming into the final turn, Gigi was on my wheel and yelling at me to go faster, to lead her out. I was pretty much at my limit already, but I tried. I stood up and kept barreling to the line. My teammate Natalie and the New Zealand woman came around me -- Natalie WON! -- and I came in third, second in the masters. A result I'm very happy with.

It was really fun to be in an animated and difficult race. I attacked, I chased, I won a prime [SOCKS!]. I worked really hard.

Big huge thanks to all my teammates and everyone else that made this race happen. Stocky, Jeff Holland, Chris MacFarland, Brian Morrissey, Nikki Cyp, Jonathan Dugas, Get a Grip, everyone who set up, tore down, marshalled, worked registration, donated time or merchandise -- everyone who came out and raced. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My team - xXx Racing - AthletiCo - is putting on our annual race this Saturday and I hope you will all come.

Sherman Park has a lot to offer:
- its a good, non-technical course for people new to racing.
- its a good, non-technical course with wind, perfect for attacking and great for solo breakaways.
- it has a 40 minute women's cat 4 race.
- cat 4 women can race in the 60 minute Beth Kobeszka Memorial Women's Open - women don't get the opportunity to race twice in one day very often!
- its IN Chicago - you can ride to your race.
- there are lots of great primes.
- Its in a lovely park, perfect for a picnic with your family.
- deejayed music all day long.
- food and homemade pop available from Goose Island.

And much, much more. Come and have a good time with xXx.


Monday, June 8, 2009

I had a lot of time on the bike this weekend and really, really enjoyed it.

On Saturday, I participated in part of the Erik Sprattling 3 State Memorial Ride -- Erik was one of the founders of xXx. He would regularly ride from Chicago to Wisconsin, back down through Chicago to Indiana and then home. As I was planning to race on Sunday, I didn't think I should do the entire 150 miles, but I rode up to the Wisconsin state border and back, which ended up being approximately 115 miles.

What was really cool about it was that it wasn't a big deal. I didn't suffer during the ride, I wasn't exhausted when I got home. My legs weren't destroyed. The pace wasn't blistering -- no one wanted to burn their matches attacking on St. Mary's with 90 miles in front of them -- but it wasn't sedate either. It was just really fun.

Sunday, I drove to Wisconsin for their State Road Championship race in lovely Spring Prairie. This was my third year in this race, and every year I'm impressed by how great the race is -- its a good course, well marshalled, well organized. A big thanks to all the organizers and volunteers.

There were about 20 women in the combined cat 4/masters women field. And it was a strong group including Janette from *mostly black bulldog*, a couple Tati girls, Kim the strong newbie from the Memorial Day masters race, and a bunch of tough Wisconsin women. Two new xXx teammates, Dana and Natalie in their first road race, were also in the pack. There were a number of attacks in the first couple laps that could not get free from this group. It was a hard, interesting, animated race. I felt comfortable in the pack, able to move around reasonably well, able to follow the moves. My new HED stingers rode like a dream -- I was cornering more confidently and my bike just felt lighter and more responsive. Those wheels just eat up the pavement.

I don't know if Saturday's miles were to blame, or if I'm just not climbing as well as last year, but when Natalie launched a blistering attack up the big hill at the end of the third lap, I got gapped. The pack let Natalie dangle off the front almost to turn two. Finally it caught her, spit her out the back and slowed down. She and I caught back on and tried to recover.

I knew at this point that I wasn't going up that hill fast enough to contend. So I tried to get Natalie and Dana in good positions. I wanted to get on the front and drill it, but everyone was trying to get up front and I got blocked in. And then we were at the hill. Dana took 5th in the cat 4s and Natalie took 11th -- awesome, especially in their first road race. I finished at the back of the pack.

It was a good race, and good training for me. I have a lot of work to do, but I'm enjoying the process.

Afterwards, Dana and I stayed to cheer Heidi on in the women's open. She stuck with the front group -- that included the tough cat 1 racers from team BH -- for the entire race and finished strong in sixth or seventh place. SO cool to see.

You can't tell, but here she is cresting the hill on their fourth lap.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raced track at Northbrook for the first time this year. SO MUCH FUN! I got there early to practice as I haven't been on a track bike since last August, so I got a good hour of warmup. There was a comparatively large womens' cat 4 field this week, with eight in the first race. It was a Danish win-and-out and not knowing any of the other womens' strengths, I attacked hard to win the first lap -- and gave a really great lead-out to a first time track racer who's a strong cat 3 on the road. Unfortunately, if you don't win the first sprint, its almost impossible to win the second, and I got nipped at the line. But I managed to hang on for a third full-on lap, this time winning the sprint by centimeters. So third place in the first race.

My pal Robin came out to watch -- I haven't seen her in forever. Hopefully she'll be RACING the next time I see her at Northbrook. I also got to catch up with Francine, Val and Kristen a bit. Yay.

The second women's race was a 24 lap points race, sprints every 3 laps and the 4s were combined with the tree cat 1&2 women -- so fast and hard. I found standing up to sprint on the track bike awkward, so I concentrated on spinning as hard as I could while sitting. I got a little gapped on a couple of the sprints, but caught on quickly afterwards. I attacked and won a $5 prime, then held on for second place in the next sprint lap. But I had nothing for the final sprint and came in last, losing my battle for fifth place overall to a new Cuttin' Crew girl.

It was chilly -- so Matt Moran brought his Snuggie. While he was racing, Dave Moyer [who after handily winning the first cat 4 race of the evening, was upgraded to cat 3 on the spot] snagged it to stay warm. Team Pegasus coveted the Snuggie.

Third race was an unknown distance, and the cat 4 women were on our own again. Seven of us had a really fun, animated race, with lots of attacks. I was finally getting the hang of sprinting standing, and when the bell finally rang, I was third wheel. I came around the first two, but the cat 3 roadie on my wheel came around me for the win. I got second, my best result of the evening. I think with more practice, I'll be able to stick with the sprints without getting gapped and even win a sprint against strong women. All in all, my first night of track racing this year was better than my best night of track racing last year.

And I won $17!!

Most of which I handed over in exchange for some awesome [if I say so myself] new xXx socks. They came out great, I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Had a little crash yesterday. I was training with three teammates on the Lakefront Path, when the person beside me hit a rut and fell into me. I thought we were going to keep it upright for several long seconds, but then our balance shifted and I hit the sidewalk pretty hard. Arg.

Happily it was cold. I was wearing a long sleeved jersey and base layer -- I hate to think what my elbow would look like right now without them. Let alone my collarbone. As it is I have an alarming and tender red spot where my clavicle and shoulder meet. The layers of cloth moving against each other and the sidewalk may have saved me a world of pain. My base layer has quite the hole in it.

But I'm fine. My bike wasn't so lucky. The derailleur hanger is seriously bent and my derailleur is stuck in my spokes. I ended up carrying it to work. Its at the shop now, I'm waiting to hear if anything else is broken.

On the bright side, I'm heading out to Northbrook to race track tonight. With the road bike out of commission for now, the track bike steps up!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I raced the ABD Memorial Day masters' criterium yesterday -- and I have to start by saying that ABD puts on great races. Well-organized, well-marshalled races on good courses. Monday's race was in an industrial park on a wide, smooth road with sweeping corners, a couple false flats and a bit of wind.

I lined up with 7 other women for our 50 minute +2 lap race. Four 40+ and four 30+. We were combined with the 50+ men and allowed to work together. It was good pack practice for me . . . for a lap and a half. I got gapped and was chasing the bunch that two 40+ women were still clinging to. I got lucky and they got gapped right after I did, and the three of us continued on with a couple dropped men.

I'd raced with one of the women before, she's experienced and strong. The other was just strong - very strong. The experienced woman and I traded a few attacks. She tried to exploit my my weakness in the corners, but these corners were so gentle, and the roads so wide, that I didn't have even a moment of panic. Then we settled in and worked well together. Eventually, the bunch lapped us -- we weren't able to integrate -- and then a train of about 6 guys came by and we jumped on.

Despite a couple of the guys being super squirrely, it was really fun. Fast with lots of attacks and jockeying, but easy enough to hang in. I could tell that the experienced woman was tiring a bit, but the other, despite sitting in the wind a lot, was not.

We let the men go on the last lap. I got third wheel and . . . I don't know, maybe I haven't raced enough this year. Maybe I'm just really, really dumb. But I totally screwed up the sprint. The strong woman attacked into the wind on the false flat but couldn't drop us. I considered counter-attacking, but feared it was too soon. And then I didn't sprint hard out of the corner. I sat behind the other two waiting for them to do something. And then they did and I came in third.

Why didn't I go? What's wrong with me? When will I learn that I regret inaction more than action, even ineffectual action.

Anyway, it was very refreshing to not get dropped immediately and it was just a really good, fun, interesting race overall. And hopefully I've learned something [that I should already know. Jeez!]

I stayed to watch the men's 40+ 1-2-3 race, and had the pleasure of seeing Mark Schwartzendruber ride away from the field. He attacked early and made time on the bunch with every lap. Amazing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OK, this was supposed to be a photo of Heidi crossing the line, but I guess iPhones aren't cut out for sports photography. Maybe there's an app for that?

Today was the Fitness Check Time Trial #2. My time was 26.56 -- a 1:35 faster than six weeks ago and 23 seconds faster than last year at this time. Still 11 seconds slower than my PR last July, but I'm not unhappy. Especially as I feel I'm behind in my training.

I felt I went out a little slow. I ride faster when I'm racing someone other than myself. Sighting my minute man and reeling her in helped, but what really spurred me on was when the guy behind me went by and I sped up to chase him -- and found the higher speed well within my capabilities. I have to practice riding faster when there's no one to chase.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wore my new Rudy cycling glasses for the first time this morning and they ROCK! They are so much better than my old cycling glasses. So lightweight and comfortable. I had my prescription put in with transitional lenses, so I can use them night and day. Yay.

My newly overhauled bike feels great, but my powertap wouldn't work this morning. I've really come to depend on it. The computer had a low battery, so I've replaced it and hope that will fix everything. If not, I've downloaded the manual and will try "computer setup 5". I'd really like to have the power data from tomorrow's Fitness Check TT. I strongly suspect my fabulous vacation took a toll on my fitness -- despite running every staircase I came across [which didn't annoy my in-laws too much, I hope] and walking for hours every day. But it was a good break and now I can start building more muscle and fitness.

I haven't been racing as much as last year. Partially it just hasn't worked out and partially I guess the cat 1-2-3 field has demoralized me a bit. I'm going to hit one of the ABR masters races this weekend and see if that lifts my spirits.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got back from Europe last night. Great trip -- really fun. We started in Paris [picture of Jackie and I at Sacre Coeur above -- where the WORST BUSKER IN THE WORLD performed 'Hotel California' phonetically. He's on those steps behind my head].

We took a day trip to Versailles -- rode these comfort bikes around the city and estate. I was thrilled to be on any bike. It was actually sort of a let down to get off and tour the palace. Rococo isn't very exciting. I'm thinking of adopting this kit permanently.

Here's the Eiffel tower.

We watched the end of a couple Giro stages on French TV. Didn't understand much the sportscaster said, but we could follow the action. Then on to Zurich, where we watched more stages of the Giro live in our enormous hotel suite [seriously, four huge rooms, two showers, a front hallway and free in-room breakfast in our dining room]. Still couldn't understand the sportscaster, still enjoyed it thoroughly.

Zurich and Paris were very bike-friendly.

So now I'm back and ready to ride! I feel terribly out of shape and sorta jet-lagged, but it was worth it. While I was away, my bike had a long-overdue overhaul, so it, at least, is on form.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I went out to Maple Park today for the John Fraser Memorial Time Trial -- a good opportunity to try out my TT setup and get some good practice in. I raced the course twice, first in the W40+ category and once in the women's open.

We got there late, so I didn't have time to warm up properly. 10 minutes back and forth near the start house and then I was up. It HURT. I had my 30 second "man" in sight, and slowly reeled her in. We passed the guy a minute in front of her at the turnaround and soon after, I passed her. However, I started to die in the headwind and she passed me back. I also didn't know where the finish line was, so I wasn't able to gauge my effort optimally. My time was 21.03 - not terrible, but not very good either. It was only 8-ish miles.

Afterwards, my lungs felt like they were full of broken glass and [oddly] I felt like my teeth needed to fall out.

I got my other number pinned and went back to the start house for my second effort. This one felt better -- the aerobars weren't so awkward, my breathing was better. I felt like I was spinning better. I didn't have anyone directly in front of me, but I did eventually catch and pass my minute man. The wind had gotten stronger, but I didn't feel like I was losing power the way I did the first time. I ended up being a bit slower - 21.17, I think. Afterwards, I felt OK. I guess I didn't work hard enough.

I placed fifth in both categories.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I raced Leland - Kermesse last Saturday. I use the term 'raced' lightly -- it was a fantastic course, and Flatlandia put on a good event, but due to other races that day and forboding weather, only four people showed up to race the women's open. Three of us from xXx - Jeanette, Beth and I.

Right before the start, the official informed us that not only were the men's cat three field combined [but scored separately] with the men's cat 1-2 field, but that the women's open was also being thrown in there. We hadn't expected this, and were at the back -- which isn't where we needed to be to actually stay with that group. After a mile or two of my lousy pack skills keeping me in the wind, I dropped back to find a less exposed position -- just as the group surged. I was off and unable to bridge in the stiff crosswind. The others dropped back then as well -- being three quarters of a small pack effectively erasing my mortifying mistake.

Until we got to the turn onto the dirt road. I panicked, took a very bad line, and got myself dropped again. Again, my teammates held up for me. Feeling like the complete idiot I was, I went to the front and rode angry, inadvertently dropping the non-xXx racer. She worked furiously to catch us for quite a long time, but the wind was too much. Jeanette, Beth and I rode the next 4 laps together -- no excitement other than the lightening, thunder, rain, howling wind, slippery gravel and mud. We were the last field on the road.

Beth attacked on the dirt road, Jeanette and I countered. I sat on Jeanette for half the dirt road, then attacked, dropping Beth. Jeanette stuck to my wheel until the filth I was throwing up into her face got the best of her and I opened up a respectable gap. I thought I had a chance then, and gave everything I could on the long, uphill finishing stretch. But Jeanette is FAST. She caught me before the finish and won handily. She deserved it - she was the strongest person in our race and hadn't made any dumb mistakes. The volunteers and officials who'd stayed in the rain until we finished were delighted we fought each other for the win.

I have lots to work on. Cornering, pack riding, power, speed . . . pretty much everything, I guess.