Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Catch Up

After our Attack on the Notches last week, my brain was too tired to update the blog! Of course, so were my legs, back, neck...

Mike and I returned from Maine on Saturday, and did a fairly easy "recovery" ride - except for the sprints at the end! My neck and shoulders were so sore from riding the day before that I had a really hard time keeping my head up. Thankfully, the ride was short ;-).

On Sunday, we went out and did a 50 mile tandem ride with our friends CB and SB. It was a beautiful day, and we traversed our way through Concord, Lincoln, Wayland, Sudbury, West Concord, and West Acton.

Monday was my "rest" day. This meant no riding, although I did manage to get quite a few household tasks done. We also had to go in search of a hard drive enclosure for the PC - ours decided to blow a gasket on the weekend, and we needed to get our training data off of the drive. Yes, we are geeks.

Tuesday was the best women's ride for me to date! I have had a fairly regular group of women coming out with me the past few weeks, and it is really heartening to see the progress they are making in their skills, speed and distance. The group worked pretty flawlessly this week, and managed to maintain a 19.3 mph average speed over 31 miles. One of my good friends, Becky, was with us, and she did her fastest ride ever! Kudos to her for sticking with the group.

Tonight, of course, was TT night. Thankfully, I cruised around the course without incident this week. I set my best time so far this season (25:16) but am still about 45 seconds off of my PR from last year. Not sure how I will manage to lose the time, but I am hoping to best myself before the season ends. One of the regulars set a new overall course record tonight, rounding the 9.75 mile course in 20:01! Congrats, Andrew!

Off to the races this coming weekend in Auburn, ME. Hopefully the weather forecast will change slightly before then, as the current prediction is for some rain...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Attack on the Notches I

Yesterday, Mike, Alexis and I undertook the first assault on the notches for the year - Jefferson, Crawford and Pinkham. As we left Gorham on the 'cross bikes in the morning, temps were already in the mid 80s, and it was going to get warmer.

Last year, on this same day, Mike and I did this same ride. Temperatures last year, however, were in the high 60s to mid 70s. Several times on the ride, Mike commented that he didn't remember this loop being so difficult last year. I had to remind him that it was a minimum of 20 degrees warmer this year than last (and this was really the first warm weather and the hardest ride we had undertaken so far this year).

The loop starts in Gorham, NH, and begins with an 8% climb over 2 miles. No worrying about warming up ;-). Unfortunately, on the descent (also 8%, but over only 1/2 mile), I ran over a nail, and punctured both my tire and tube. Mike and Alexis were ahead, and didn't realize that I had stopped for a few minutes. They did come back and we managed to get everything changed, and get back on our way.

We continued along Rte 2, and ducked off onto the snowmobile trail to head towards Jefferson Notch. In the winter, this is a great snowmobile route - Mike and I climbed up here on one of the coldest nights last winter, and it was -5 F then ;-).

The climb is on a dirt road which is why we do this loop on our 'cross bikes. My goal for this year's ride was not to walk on the climb. Last year, there were two steep sections where I just couldn't get the pedals turned over while keeping traction on the loose dirt (the grader had just been though, and the same was true this year). At one point, I passed Mike who had stopped at the side of the river to get some cool water on his head, but I kept climbing. I did spin out one one section, but didn't take one step - determined as ever not to walk!

I approached the summit not too long after Mike and Alexis. I had achieved my goal, riding the entire ascent! I had also climbed 2 - 3 mph faster than last year (don't get excited - last year I rode at 2 mph which put me between 4 and 5 mph this year). Goal achieved! We stopped for a break and some pictures, and then began the descent.

Going up is difficult, but going down, to me, is scary. The pitch is steep and there are rocks and ruts in the road that you have to be careful not to hit. There is, however, a fine balance between controlling your speed, and not wearing out your brakes! The funny thing on the descent was passing patches of snow in the woods - 92 degrees, but there was still snow on the ground in places.

Once we got to the bottom of the Notch, we continued across the Cog Railway Road to Rte 302 to begin our descent of Crawford Notch. This is a 13% grade for 3/4 of a mile, and then continues to descend for the next 12 miles. Mike hit a maximum speed of 53 mph going down this section of the loop, but I didn't feel entirely comfortable, and only managed about 38 mph. We moved along pretty quickly on this entire section, maintain a moving speed over about 23 mph until we hit Bartlett, and stopped to refuel.

After a short break, it was back on the bikes to head to Rte 16, which would take us up and over Pinkham Notch. By this point, we were all tired, and really hot, with not much left in the tanks. It is a 9 mile climb up the Notch from Jackson, NH and it was slow going. I watched Mike and Alexis ride off, and resigned myself to the slog fest that would come to get to the top. At this point, I was tired and my back was killing me. I actually experienced hot spots in my feet on the way up as well, and it was the most uncomfortable my feet have ever been!

A quick regroup at the top of the Notch, and we headed back down into Gorham - an 11 mile descent. There was a lot of coasting going down since we were all so tired! We arrived back at the cars about 5 hours and 40 mins after we had started, with a total of 70 miles and 4500 feet of climbing.

A long, hard day in the saddle, but it was worth it, and we'll do it again next year!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The TT That Almost Killed Us...

With Mike still sort of in recovery from his knee surgery, and me having done a hard effort at our women's ride last night, we decided to go to the TT and give the rocketship (aka tandem) its first run of the season tonight. Figured it would likely be easier for us than riding our own bikes.

We started out well, and quickly got into a good rhythm on the bike. About 2 - 2.5 miles into the loop, we were forced off the road and onto the dirt by a car that was turning left and taking up the whole road. Mike is an expert bike handler, so quickly got us back onto the road without incident, and back on our way. It was awkward and somewhat difficult getting back into our rhythm after that, but we managed, and were cruising along quite well.

At about mile 5, we were almost killed. This section of the course is VERY fast, and we were cruising along at about 35 mph when a woman started pulling out from a driveway in front of us. Mike locked up both disc brakes, but a tandem with two large people on it moving in a forward motion at that speed is very difficult/impossible to stop. Heart rates went up, and sadly, some cursing ensued. Luckily, she ended up seeing us, and didn't pull out any further.

From my perspective, this was scary. When we are on the tandem working that hard, I don't see anything around me, so didn't know what was going on.

After that incident, Mike lifted the visor on his helmet and declared that he was done. We pedaled fairly easily for a short distance, and then the competitiveness kicked back in and we were off, trying once again to get into a rhythm. At this point, we were demotivated, and having trouble catching anyone who started in front of us, and we still had the hilly part of the course to come.

As we turned onto the final stretch (where the hills start) ANOTHER car made a left turn DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF US! Is it a full moon tonight? We're not small, and the rocketship is bright yellow/orange - you can't miss two large aliens on a rocketship like that! I honestly don't get it...We finally caught a couple of people who had started ahead of us, and ended up in a sprint finish with our 30 second person (who set a PR tonight - he was FLYING). We finished the 9.75 mile course in 22:40 which is a great time given the challenges we faced.

I am just glad to be sitting here typing this story.....

Tuesday Women's Rides a Success

As I mentioned in an earlier post, NEBC has started a weekly ride series for women. The ride is now 4 weeks old, and seems to be a resounding success! Each week, we have between 30 and 40 women who show up to ride - anywhere from beginners who need to learn to paceline, to a fast group riding 26 miles at an average of 19 mph.

HUGE kudos to KM and CW for organizing and putting this ride together, and for all of the work they have done in ensuring its success. Just looking at the progress the women are making, and the smiles when we return to Lexington Center are a testament to the work you are doing!

Last night, Mike made his way around some of the route to snap some photos. Sadly, moving riders are hard to capture, but he did get a couple of shots. And my group figured that we had this all planned and staged, since Mike HAPPENED to be at the top of Liberty St, where I attacked to sprint over the line.... It was actually a complete surprise to me - honest!

Kathy's moving too fast for the camera ;)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Racing - New England Style

Sunapee, NH
23 miles, 1 lap
22 starters
Finished 2nd

It was fine weather for racing today in New England - full on rain and 45 degrees! Despite the weather, our field started out with 22 women, including 9 from NEBC (go team!). At just after 9:30, we were off to make our way in the rain, around the lake... The race starts at the Sunapee Ski area, and makes it's way 23 miles around Lake Sunapee. It is relentlessly hilly, but a beautiful (in non-rainy weather) course.

At our team meeting before the race, I told everyone that their primary goal was to keep both wheels firmly on the pavement today. Unlike last week, I didn't develop a sound strategy, but did have a finish strategy in mind if two of my teammates could stay with me.

Last year, this was my second road race. I foolishly got on the front of the pack immediately, and pulled, HARD, for the first 7 miles of the race. Then we hit a hill. I was all done after that, and had to work feverishly, by myself, for most of the rest of the race.

Some will say that I haven't really changed my ways since then, but they would be wrong. I stayed in the front of the pack, comfortable (but COLD), riding to the base of the first hill. There were a couple of quick accelerations, but nothing that anyone was letting get away at that point. By the time we reached the first hill,, I was ready to go, and Brooke had told me that I should use that to test my legs and see how I feel. I snuck out and around the field heading up the hill, got to the top and realized that I had a gap on the field, but that I had some company as well. After the next hill, we were a group of five with enough of a gap that I told the women we all needed to work together to keep the gap and stay away.

The rest of the race, four of us managed to stay together - none of us with teammates to help (we dropped one of the five on a second hill climb). We rotated in a paceline nicely, although I seemed to be at the front on all of the climbs, not because I wanted to, but it appeared I had more power. At one point, I wondered what my break-mates would say if I told them I really wasn't a climber...

As we came into the final two miles, I positioned myself third wheel to take a break before the final climb and sprint. I followed my two break-mates through the rotary, and then both peeled off as we started up the hill. I knew I had a rider on my wheel, but Cris and Brooke had told me in advance how to play the finish - small ring to the false flat, then shift to the big ring and go for the final sprint. I did this exactly, but TOO SOON! I ended up running out of both legs and gears, and getting passed by the woman on my wheel. My head wanted the race win, but my legs just wouldn't cooperate.

After crossing the line, Marianne S. from IF came over and said, "Nice job, but that was a really LONG sprint!" She was right, but now I know for next time.

My original finish strategy? It fell apart on the first hill where I attacked. I dropped one of my teammates here, and the other racing for the first time today, ended up getting a flat at the bottom of the first hill and watching the field ride away from her. She got a wheel change from support, and managed to CHASE DOWN almost the entire field, crossing the line in 5th, and in the money! I think she's hooked on racing now ;-).

After the race we had a team debrief, and it was so much fun to look around at everyone smiling, despite the cold and wet we had just raced in. Everyone admitted that the race was "fun"!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sterling Road Race

3 laps
24 miles
25 starters
Finished 4th

Sterling was the first road race I ever did, probably about 10 years ago. I wasn't into riding road bikes back then - I was a mountain bike hacker out to see what I could do. I remembered a big hill in the course, but until today, had forgotten just how miserable that hill could be.

Cathy, Loraine, Stephanie, Pat, Chandra, Erica, Kathy, Jean, Caroline, Julie

Our team had ten women taking the start - almost half of the field! Five of our team were even racing in their first road race ever. Before the start of the race, we met discussed how everyone was feeling and what their goals for the race were. Based on that discussion, I gave each team member a specific job during the race. I was SO EXCITED when they executed those tasks perfectly in the first lap, and then afterwards as well. Way to go team!

The race started with a 2 mile neutral roll out. My teammates took the front of the pack, and controlled the pace all the way up through the first hill climb (making some of the other racers a little nervous that we were going to try to block and control for the entire race - it was great fun listening to them trying to figure out what we were up to!). After the first hill climb, the race was on and the speed picked up, although the pack really stayed together.

Then came the hill. While it didn't seem so bad the first time up (because we were neutral and still not racing), it was a bear to try and sprint up the hill as I followed an attack from IBC. Two riders managed to get a break with another two in a chase group (including an IBC teammate), and then me. I literally talked myself into latching on to the chase group, but we were quickly swallowed by the next group on the road, and spent the better part of the remainder of the lap chasing the breakaway.

Once the group was back together, several of us tried to get all of the group working together, but not really to any avail. It was quite frustrating that many in the group didn't know how to paceline, and would literally push you off of your line. In some places it got downright scary, with one rider making very sudden maneuvers across the pack at 37 mph!

Coming into the final sprint up the hill, I had actually positioned myself near the front of the group to try to have a good start up the hill. Little did I know that the IBC riders had formed an alliance with two others in our group, so that when their go-to gal went, the remaining three riders rode completely across the pack, blocking anyone from following. I was literally trapped until we turned the corner! As we sprinted up the hill, I picked off the woman in third and was pretty happy about that. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, however, came another woman from our group who surged past me. I could hear other riders behind and dug as deep as I could to cross the line in 4th place - a really good finish for me!

I must admit, however, to not meeting my goal for the race. At our team meeting, I told everyone that my goal was to win. Of course to do that, I also couldn't do the usual amount of work on the front that I am known for, and would have to race a much smarter race. I did achieve that part of the goal, managing to sit about 8th wheel for most of the race. I may not have won, but I was VERY happy with my result, and proud of the performance of the team overall.

Bring on Sunapee! Maybe I am a hill climber after all ;-).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Birthday - To ME!

Yes, today is my birthday and no, I won't tell you how young I am. Let's leave it at old enough to know better and young enough to [almost] not care ;-).

Last night, several of my good friends came by to help me celebrate in style. The best part of birthdays is the party, and last night was no exception. A special thanks to CB & SB for the great socks, CL & RW for the really cute PJs, SA & AA for the lovely photo album and JS & MS, and PK & NK for the gorgeous flowers - you are the best!

Today was pretty quiet and low key. Mike and I managed to get all of our mulch spread in the yard, but have mostly just taken it easy today. A great way to spend a day off.