Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A hardly winter equals fit dudes in March

Although it is fun to fantasize that because Cleveland had a mild winter and we were riding 50 to 60 mile rides in February on a regular basis that we were some fit dudes up north, the fact is everyone in Ohio (Pa, Indiana...) also had the same winter. So going into the first race at Deer Creek State Park which was reported to be a ridiculous 75 miles on March 18th the only emotion I could say that was prevalent was self doubt.

70 miles....70 miles.....70 miles....

I am on Team Spin this year. We have generous sponsors and I was rolling a new bike, new clothes and some choice bits like socks and a Specialized Prevail helmet. No I didn't get a free bike, but it is pretty awesome. But again, I wasn't feeling that confident. I hadn't done much in the way of hard riding until a couple weeks before the race and had just finished a long week of construction work which left me very exhausted by the end of the week and only 2 hours of riding for the past 7 days.

But I line up with 56 other riders and as the neutral roll out is over I am in the top 10 and immediately cover an early break. Now I am feeling that groove, but when we hit the wide open road that has a favorable cross/tail wind good feelings are gone. We are flying and it we don't let up. The first hour of the race goes by and we have covered 26 miles.

The race is fun and not negative which is nice, especially in a field this large with so many teams and fast racers. Uberti, Clarke for Panther, Gatch, Pendleberry, Grimm for RGF, Spin has a 9 rider line up and the list goes on and on. We get Jason Halloran away with Pendleberry and Grimm. That is a lap or two and then we get Joe Holmes away for awhile. Unknown ot me rob Thompson crashes out hard and cannot rejoin. He and his bike are fine, but look the part of a fast crash.

 I  bridge up to a very small group including a Panther rider, Pendleberry and I drag two or three  across who don't help even with my flipping my elbow like I have a nervous tick. Our move sticks for a  full lap on lap 4 of 6 and were working smoother and smoother with every passing mile. I guess it takes a few miles t get everyone on the same page in March.

The race gets really hard for the peleton I hear afterwards when Clarke decides he doesn't like the odds of his one man in a break of 5 or 6 so he puts the hammer down and drags 3 or 5 of the disintegrating pack back to us and then attacks at mile 52. By mile 54 guys are still attacking left and right and i am chasing them all down. Finally the field comes back together for the final lap and our team of 9 is still 6 strong with Rob Thompson crashing out and others just coming off only when Clarke put in his killer  pull.

Zak Dieringer got away for us on the last lap with one rider, but they were pulled back by a chasing group who was bent on flying at mach speeds. But it was a good move to  and they got some real estate quick.

One last time down the wide open cross wind stretch and I move Jason up to get in position for the finish then he flats shortly after. I lose maybe 3' to Gatch's rear wheel and hammering in my 53x11 and 12 hold that 3' for a couple miles. Talk about scary to be so close and not be able to close it so late in the race. It was  so difficult and I was pedaling so fast and so hard I was quite sure I was done for the last time up the short climb and the 500m sprint to the line.

Derek Wilford remained second wheel to Clark the last half a lap and topped the hill 5th, but faded to the line. Dave Steiner was in the money up the climb too, but got pushed aside and hit his brakes and was out. I faded up the climb, no cramping, but legs screaming in pain and no speed and already too far back for money and picked up the pace to the line "just because" for 27th as I passed a half dozen riders.

67 miles was the race length and we finished in 2:37 for an ave speed of 25.8 for the first race of the season for most of us.  Uberti won solo and the Grimm took the field sprint. Our team, well we got guys in all of the breaks and we held back a few for the sprint, but it didnt work out this time. But there is no doubt we have guys who can race their bikes and were covering what needs to be covered. I think were gonna be one fast team, just like the speed of the first race. As for the self doubt? That was gone after 12 miles and damn it felt good to be racing again.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Same old ,same old

One thing you can always count on in cross is feeling like you left a lot on the table at the end of every race. Unless your one of the top 5 and even they feel like they could have done something better.  I always make promises that I will ride a lot of singletrack all summer and oh yeah, do a few mountain bike races too. Then there are the training requirements for cross. The explosive first few minutes unlike anything in bike racing except maybe a short prologue, only you have to keep riding for another 50 minutes. The muscular endurance to pedal fast lap after lap in mud and grass and both again combined with hills. And then there is the running and crashing.

And then on top of it all there is the mental aspect. Lets face it, cross is hard and it hurts in unique ways. Your lungs sear, your legs cramp and slow and your arms and lower back starts to get weak. Then on top of that you have to ignore all of that and keep pushing as hard as you can. And often your scared of crashing so you have to stay mentally focused to not only not make mistakes, but also to DO what your brain does NOT want you to do. Like not brake for the barriers or keeping speed over rocks and the muddy pit lined by concrete and wood poles or a scary off camber turn on a descent.

Luckily in cross as long as you don't crash your brains out on lap one or in warm up, you get a boost of adrenaline on the first lap and obstacles or sections you could barely ride in that warm-up become death defying acts of bravery. Not always mind you, some things are just too damn technical for me. Actually most of cross is too technical for me. Some examples of when it works was at Cascade Park last weekend. In warm up after the road section there were some jagged painted rocks that I kept gingerly trying to weave through because one wrong move and you bent a rim and most likely would flat. I kept wondering, how can I go between these at race pace? Also after the mud pit and 180's was the steep muddy hill that lead up to the long straightaway by the river. I was so slow and scared of the approach to it I couldnt go quick enough to ride up it.

Come race time both took care of themselves. Flying up to the rocks I just stayed left by the trees and let the bike fly over the edge, a path I never considered. And on the steep muddy hill? Race pace and wheels to follow allowed me to clear it riding more often than not. But still, in cross for me year in and year out it is always the same. A few spots lost by a bad start, a few more to major bobbles during the race and a few more to crap technical skills and a few more to lack of fitness. Heck, the way I see it if I fixed all of them Id be winning by a lap. Yeah right! Same Old, same old though and I'll keep chipping away at it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Choices, Self Loathing and More

Did you ever have the opportunity to hear "that guy" who makes all the decisions, compromises, sacrifices that makes his life the way it is and then still complains when things don't work out? I call that the ole cliche of "you make the bed, you sleep in it." I really despise that guy, hence, therefore I must hate myself cause I do it all the time now.

Luckily for me my inflated ego doesn't allow me to hate myself that much. I mean I am my own worst critic, but I also am good at making up my own list of excuses. So what sacrifices did I make? Well only one really. I quit training to de-stress my life in 2011 for school and family. But I still did a handful of races. Not one of them with any miles to speak of (excuse list entry).

My life in 2010 was so stressful every day I knew I couldn't do that to myself for another year. I felt at times I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had the shakes sometimes. b-b-b-bad stuff. Getting my teaching license with full time online school at night and all that that entails, field work for school, working this super, mega, ultra ass kicker of a job working on foreclosed homes, daddy and husband duty and the rest. Something had to give. I chose to give up training.

So every time I raced out came the excuse list. Nothing original: I havent ridden in weeks, I havent done any intervals, my longest ride has been 50 miles - three months ago, I'm gonna get dropped in the first few miles, I'm 5, 7, 8, 10 pounds over weight, yada, yada, yada. I wasnt trying to make excuses really, more managing and lowering to the lowest level possible expectations.

Turns out I placed a lot and won money a lot this year. Bizaare I know. Every time  apologizing to team mates I couldn't do more and trying to explain I just got lucky, I am out of shape. The pre and post race apology lists being used. But I did have my limits. I have no recovery. I literally need a week to recover from one race and if I race or ride hard again in two days I can feel it big time. I cant climb very well and my top end power is non existent. Oops, there I go again with the self deprecation. See it is annoying isn't it?

So anyways I learned I still love racing my bike this year. So with student teaching this fall, Praxis tests to get my license coming up in a few months I hope to have a "normal" life sometime in 2012. With that a new beginning is also in order I think. I have joined my very good friends on the R.R. Donnelley/Spin race team starting with cyclocross and then the 2012 road season. I had a great run with Torelli and then Carbon Racing, but this is a change that comes from the heart as much as from the flames of competition.

Hope to see you all on the cyclocross circuit, you know when I can fit them in between not riding or training. I will have my excuse list for sure and you can tell me to just sleep in my bed cause I made it!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tour of Knox County

It was so awesome to get my head back in the racing game. At the start it was like old times immediately. Get good position, be ready, decide if this or that move was worth going for. After my team mate Josh Halvax bridged up to an Iron City beer rider and Steiner went with him, then Brian bridged up I was on easy street. Follow some wheels, but stay hidden from the wind and keep thinking :how do I feel?

I intentionally kept the pace slow the first time up the 200' 1k climb that we had to do 10 times!! I lead us up the first few laps at a comfy pace. I think come Malabar that pace will be laughed at and the fireworks will come flying, but seemingly everyone was happy with it so slowly we climbed. I have had little to no training the last 3 weeks so I was in safety mode.

But I learned pretty quickly that I was actually going alright. So when Brian  did his thing and left the remnants of the break after the climb and started to disappear Josh and I started riding tempo and threshold pace the whole time at the front to keep attacks at bay. I rode what in most cases would be called stupid, taking long, long pulls at the front, but I considered it the good team mate thing (in the US Postal/HTC way) AND the good workout thing. I figure I have to race myself into shape with limited training time so ride a bit harder than would be best.

Josh and I had a mid race meeting at the front while we bottle necked thepack and decided to just control the race, but when Dave asked for the gap to Brian one lap a spectator said "about 3 minutes" Josh and I waited till 5 to go then started attacking and counter attacking each other to try and get a 2nd break going. I had visions of soloing in for 2nd, but I honestly didnt have the jump or the power in my legs. That and i felt too marked to get away. My slow jumps also met quick reactions by the group.

I planned one attack all race long. Up a leg breaking rolling uphill section after the downhill switchback turn was where I planned my attack. I went up the right side and a Panther rider bridged up, but I didnt have it and we got pulled back. It sure was fun to try though. All of the attacking took its toll and the field started to whittle down a bit. My legs also were taking a beating and I couldnt do the last pitch of the climb. So that was more motivation to break away. I knew I had nothng for a bunch sprint as it was at the top of the climb.

Another fun attack I planned was on the main climb. With two to go I stayed in the big ring when I  usually went to the small ring so I could accelerate in the flat in the middle. But I had to back off as we were in with the Cat 4 finish and I was interfering with a guy trying to com in 3rd. But I got a small gap, but again it was short lived. From there Josh and I decided to stop attacking and to not try and chase the Panther rider by ourselves. If other teams didnt want to assist in bringing back 2nd podium spot, we already had the win.

On the final lap Josh had me watch John and he stayed with Brent the whole last lap. I also knew Jason from Spin would light it up the climb as hes got a whicked uphill acceleration, but I knew he would wait. And John did make a move before the climb (setting up Brent?) and I covered it and started the climb 2nd wheel untill Jason attacked hard. I got going, but then both legs started cramping on the final pitch and I had to sit down and a lot of guys passed me. Josh did as planned and followed Brent as Jason's attack faded about 200m before the line.

Brent lead it out leaving Josh to jump him to win the field sprint!! All in all a great way to start the season.  A very on form Brian got us the win in a big way and Josh took 3rd. I had a blast racing hard and trying to race to my few strengths that day. I got a good workout in and some confidence that if I can stay healthy and start some specific workouts I will be alright. I really thought I would have been dropped yesterday before the race started. I am far from fast, but I did alright.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It gets easier

I studied most of the day. When I wasn't studying I ate a wee bit too much. I made bacon and a cheese omelet for breakfast and baked potatoes with cheese, sour cream and butter for lunch.  I think I am making up for it with a salad for dinner. Though me thinks some dessert may be in order. OH well, its a weakness.

Finally after 5 I got on the trainer and did 40 minutes at high L2 power and finished with 5 minutes at mid tempo. I am happy to say I am adapting to the trainer so that "maybe" when its time to do long tempo and threshold efforts I can do them.  Some guys can go just as hard on the trainer, some even higher than the road. I am not one of them.

Now the question is when do I start ramping it up? I signed up for four classes next semester so I think I am gonna have to be very efficient with my time. These one hour Power, power sessions will have to be good ones. But it is getting easier as it does every winter.

I am also going to do a few of the popular (with my friends) Computrainer races in my basement this winter. Price to do them?  Some beer, food if you like-what else!! They are a lot of fun and now I have better audio/visual in my basement. You could say the man cave is coming along.  I'll let everyone know on my facebook page when the first one will be. And everyone who doesnt train with power gets a kick out of the power they put out. Those of who do train with power are usually amazed at how much power our friends put out. Its all fun.

Monday, November 30, 2009

OH Junior!!!

When I was in Chicago this summer at the USA Cycling Cat. 2 coaching clinic I met one of the other coaches who trained junior triathletes. He was quite loquacious, but the one thing I remember most was that he could always tell children who trained (especially ran) with their parents. He could pick them out because they ran slow.

Sean Gilbert put that comment into perspective tonight when he said that we've got plenty of time to get slow. Kids should be fast, run, run free...ok digressing.  The junior triathlete coaches words have rung loud and clear in my ears ever since the clinic. Younger athletes shouldn't be de-trained to ride 4 slow hours. It makes a lot more sense for them to put on that junior gear and be fast in shorter, age appropriate races.

Then I am talking to Jason Halloran before the Chagrin CX race and get this exciting email from Tom Humphrey who is director of the Spin/ RR Donnelly racing team. They are looking for a coach for their junior development squad of 5 riders. All under 18 years of age. The plan is a great one. Develop young local talent with the support they need from parents, coaches, bike shop and of course sponsors. Develop them to first be fast young athletes who can race their bikes, prepare them for collegiate success (and possibly some scholarship money at cycling friendly universities) and finally prepare them to be Cat.1's for teams like RGF and hm, hm, Carbon Racing to pick up for regional racing.

I can reflect back to when I got started racing in college. I hadn't ridden a bike since elementary school. I dont recall owning a bike in junior or senior high. But one day I borrowed my room mates Nashbar road racing bike with Suntour (it looked so amazing to me then). He slammed the seat down into the frame and I rode and rode and rode. Then a friend gave me this behemoth steel bike with cantilever brakes that was easily 8cm too big and I rode and rode that bike. Further and faster by the day. My point of all this was in my day there was no collegiate racing and I certainly didnt have a coach. My coach was the Lemond book!! I basically got fast, fast and eventually dug myself a crater from over-training I never got out of it till I quit racing and riding in 1992. All lessons learned and to be applied later. Sure it sounds like the "I never made varsity, but my son will!!" sort of thingy, but I assure you it is not.

So I do my best to contain my raw enthusiasm to just have the chance to coach the team. I fret for weeks then I hear Ive got the job. I am now waiting for the first meeting where I explain my dastardly plan to the sponsor and parents. Brooo, hahaha (think adult Goob in The Robinsons). OK, my plan isnt dastardly at all, but thanks to a loquacious coach from Illinois I have a solid direction to go in and I cannot wait to start.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I have been intentionally putting on the brakes. I have pretty much let all the "race" fitness go and have traded it for longer endurance rides and cross training. But I have tried my best to have a no junk miles policy in place.

No junk miles means I try and ride easy, but at the top end of endurance pace on the flats and downhills. And surprisingly that pace after 2 to 2.5 hours is quite tiring. The plus is that I burn more calories then if I didn't pay attention.

The hard part will be this weekend at the Kirtland Park Cyclocross race. No hard riding in weeks then POW, all out for an hour.  But it will be fun. And I will probably be slow.