Friday, July 27, 2007

So Close, But Oh So Far

Current CBTT Tandem Record: 20:41.0
Our current CBTT tandem personal best: 20:43.2
Time on Weds: 20:52.9

It's amazing what 12 seconds means. Now we have to go out and do this again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Racing with the Big Girls!

I decided (or got talked into) racing the Yarmouth Clam Festival bike race at the last minute. This was a women's open field, and our NEBC Elite Women's team was going to be at the race in force. For me, it was to be a test to see if I could manage to stay "attached" to a field of strong women (Cat 1, 2, 3 and 4) in my new status.

Michele S and I left Bedford at the crack of dawn to make the trek up to Yarmouth. It was awesome to have company on the ride up and back, and Michele also helped to show me [most] of the race course and provide pointers beforehand (there was a running race as part of the festival that used some of the same route as the bike race, and we followed those markings on our warmup instead of the ones for the bike race - that was my fault ;-)).

Although the Elite team was at the race, I didn't speak to any of them about their plans beforehand. My ONLY goal for this race was to hang on - as long as possible, and I didn't want them to depend on me for anything. On the start line, I was nervous. This was my fourth day of racing in 6 days - would my legs hold out? Was I really deserving enough to be a Cat 3? Could I hold on to the group?

On the line, they announced that the first lap would be a prime lap. Go figure - EACH of the 6 laps of our race turned out to be a prime lap! On the first lap, I ensconced myself at the back of the pack. I had heard descriptions of the course the day before, including things like "bad pavement on the downhill", "really sharp corner" and "brutal hill climb". I wanted to hang back and see what the real course looked like. Turns out, all of those descriptions were accurate ;-).

On the first and second lap, I went into the hill climb in my big ring, and grunted my way to the top where I had to work like mad to chase back onto the pack (I did learn later in the race that climbing in the little ring made this a WHOLE lot easier). Because I was in the back of the pack, I also found that I had to chase coming out of most of the corners, but that on each lap, there was a section where the pack eased up - I just needed to stay attached to get to that point.

Each lap I worked to stay on, noting that some of my friends and teammates were getting dropped. The pace was high, and it was a big effort just to remain where I was. As we came into the final lap, Tami was having problems with her chain/derailleur. I knew the Elite team would need her, so I dropped back a little bit to be able to bring her back up to the field. Unsure of what the issue was, Tami urged me to go on. At that point, Amy had also dropped back. Now the two of us had to get ourselves back up to the field. I worked as hard as I could to make sure that Amy got to where she needed to be for the team, and then just hung on...

In the end, I did manage to finish with the main pack! I was SO excited. I even passed a couple of people coming into the final sprint, and finished 25th out of 31 women. I know it's not a great result, but to me, this was more of an accomplishment than my finish at WMSR!

The Elite women included both Loraine and I in the debrief meeting, and it was heartening to hear that they captured most of the primes, and that we had 3 racers in the top 10 (Rebecca, Natalie and Cris). This was a terrific learning experience for me, as well as a bit of a confidence booster - maybe I can play with the big girls after all ;-).

An Upgrade and the Attleboro Crit

Cat 4 to Cat 3

My first race as a Cat 3!

Well, after my results at WMSR last week, I submitted my race resume to request an upgrade to a Cat 3 road AND 'cross racer. My request was approved, and I raced my first race as a Cat 3 at Attleboro on Saturday! Now I just have to get used to coming in at the back of the pack again ;-).

Strangely, I am excited about this upgrade. It means that in several New England races, I will now be racing with the Cat 1 and 2 women. This is sure to help me become a stronger and smarter racer, and to provide a different kind of experience for me!

Attleboro Crit - officially 14th

This was a combined 3/4 and Masters race for the women, and NEBC had 9 women on the starting line! Since I had already raced a couple of days during the week, and had just upgraded, my only goal was to help my teammates, Kristen and Loraine, so that they, too, could get some upgrade points for the race.

It was a strong field of women, and the pace was pretty quick out of the gate. I got a poor start, and had quite a bit of trouble trying to maneuver in the field, but Kristen stayed attached to my wheel, until I told her to move up. The original plan was for her to stay attached to my wheel until we launched an attack after the second prime, and then for us to create a break. Failing that Kristen was to attach to another wheel, and if it came to a field sprint, Janet would lead out Loraine. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans sometimes unfold...

After I caught my breath and got my legs back under me, I launched an attack on the field coming through the start/finish and into the only hill on the course. Apparently I managed to hold this for quite awhile, pulling the field for a full two laps before someone finally came around me. After one lap of recovery, I was back on the attack to try and shake things up a little bit (I didn't want to blindly ride around in circles without making the race at least somewhat interesting). This let my teammates sit in the pack to watch for any counters, and to save their legs for the finish.

Sadly, shortly after my second attack, there was a crash in the middle of the field (someone on another team), and I got caught behind it. This did two things - separated me somewhat from the pack, and made me nervous. I spent the remainder of the race in full on TT mode, trying in vain to catch back onto the field. I did manage to pass some of the women and not get lapped, but never managed to quite catch back up.

The big lesson I learned in this race is to use your teammates - even if they are BEHIND you. I managed to catch up to Julie, who had been lapped, and used her wheel ever so briefly to try to "catch my breath". Julie didn't realize I was there, and in hindsight, had I made myself known, she may have been able to help me out for a little bit. Because I was in TT mode at that point, I didn't think to say anything to Julie, and potentially missed an opportunity.

The team did will in the end, taking 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 14th and 19th in the 3/4 race, and 7th and 9th in the Masters race. I believe that the results were still "messed up" in the end and that I should have placed 12th, but it doesn't make a difference overall.

Oh - and my friend Carol from Boston Scientific, who helped me out at WMSR, had a STELLAR race, finishing 2nd overall and was the 1st Cat 4 to cross the line! Congrats Carol!

Mike raced in the Masters 35+ race with seasoned racers like Mark McCormack (former National Champ). He was nervous going into his race because of some of the talent, but managed brilliantly, hanging with the pack until the end of the race! Here is his description (note that NEBC is AHEAD of McCormack in the photo):

So, McCormack is still pretty fast. Basically set in with the pack for a while until he decided to hunt down the break of Johnny Bold and Tyler Munroe (I think) and the three rode off the front for the rest of the race at about 14 seconds ahead. Seems they got some time at the end though as it says they were 31 seconds ahead. Race was fast and hard save the few laps we were neutralized when the Ambulance was on the course taking an unconcious CCB rider off the course on a backboard. Nasty crash into a granite curb. Overall I really liked the course and thought it was the safest I'd done (as a crit course) so far.

Mike finished 33 out of 62 starters - pretty good for a field that includes Cat 1 - 4 racers! Here are a couple of additional photos from his race:

The race is neutralized; Restarting the field with 10 laps to go

Hanging at the front of the pack; The finish of a terrific race!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

WMSR Stage 3 - RAIN!

All day, the weather held off, and it looked promising for tonight's race. Unfortunately, as we headed out to get to Epping, the skies opened, and the rain came down HARD. I was already nervous about tonight's points race (NOT my specialty), and adding heavy rain was making me even more nervous.

By the time we reached the track, it was pouring. We signed in, and all huddled under a small tent to try and stay dry. The officials and race promoters met for over half an hour to determine the course of action, and in the end, wisely decided to cancel tonight's race for all categories. They made the right call - this track is slick when it is dry, and the torrents of water weren't going to make it any better.

We were disappointed in not being able to race. The good news, however, is that the GC standings as of last night stuck, so I ended up finishing 3rd overall (Michele tied for 7th, and Julie tied for 13th).

So, instead of racing/riding, Mike and I, Michele, Philip Stern and his daughter Alexa headed to Applebees for burgers and beers ;-). After all, the only reason I ride/race is so that I can eat ;-).

The two stages we did get to race were great fun! I will look forward to going back again next year.

WMSR Stage 2 - Circuit Race

Tonight's race was the Circuit Race - 3 laps of an 8.8 mile loop, with QOM points as well. The skies threatened, but we remained dry throughout the race (YAY!). Fifteen women took the start line again today, and with the leader's PINK jersey, I felt that I had a giant target on my back ;).

Tonight's race was much different than this same race last year - we averaged around 23 mph (vs. 17 mph last year), and EVERYONE shared the work (where last year, it was basically two or three women who pulled the entire race). While there were no breaks, it did come down to a group of about 10 women on the final climb.

In the racer meeting prior to the start, we heard that there would be QOM points on each lap with the exception of the first. However, at the start line, the official stated that there would be points for EACH lap - at least that's what I heard. So, the first time up the climb, I surged, and was surprised that they were letting me go. I crested the hill first, and didn't realize until after the race that I had either misheard, or the official on the start had been wrong - oh well!

Michele did an awesome job keeping pace for me - too awesome in fact, and sadly got dropped going downhill on the second lap after chasing from the back to pull in front of me. Julie also was out on the front for some time doing some pacing on the first lap - thanks and congrats to both of you for a great race!

The NEBC gals in their colors ;)

In the final lap, Carole from Boston Scientific offered to lead me out in the sprint at the finish, assuming she would be there on the final climb (I think she said something about it costing me $10 though ;)). Unfortunately, I got in front of Carole on the climb and fast following descent, and couldn't let up for fear of losing contact with the major players. Carole and Helen were definitely great help to me tonight though - both checking in often to see how I was doing, and offering wheels. It's nice to have NEBC friends AND teammates in the race ;).

I rounded the final corner with the front group, but in the wrong gear. Had to chase them down in the final sprint, and crossed the line in 7th. I lost the leader's jersey tonight, but am still 3rd in the overall GC, with a STRONG group of Cat 3 women still behind me.

Final results for tonight for the team: Cathy - 7th (3rd GC), Michele - 11th (tied for 9th in GC), Julie - 14th (tied for 13th in GC).

Mike also had a great race tonight, finishing 14th in his group, and managing to avoid two big crashes in his field, the second rounding the final corner into the sprint. By the time the Cat 4 men's field came through there, the road was wet. Mike was, however, nervous in his race, as last year he crashed in this one. Not sure where he is currently in the GC, but he should still be fairly high in the standings as well.

Tonight is the points race - not my strong suit, but I am going to have to work at it to maintain my overall GC placing. I heard a rumor that the track has been repaved which will be AWESOME, unless, of course, we get the thunderstorms that are predicted...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2007 WMSR Stage 1 - TT

Whew! It was hot out there, and FAST. NEBC was well represented in most of the categories, including the women's Cat 3/4, with myself, Michele and Julie (in her new national champion jersey!) in a field of 15 women.

Looking at the other competitors before the start, I was intimidated. I don't remember seeing quite as much hardware at last year's event - full on TT bikes, disk wheels, aero helmets... And knowing that some of these women were strong Cat 3s, I was worried.

I set off next to last, with a goal of getting into the 16:00 range (I finished the 6.6 mile course in 17:17 last year), and I'll admit [sheepishly] a secondary goal to beat Sally's time from last year (of 16:40). I went out fast and hard, catching both my 30 second and 1 minute gals, but not knowing how I was doing besides not being able to breathe ;-). I admit that I didn't feel great, but I tried to push past that feeling, and just get through the amended course (this year's distance was more likely around 6.2 miles, accounting for about 30 seconds).

When I crossed the line, I finally looked at my time, and was surprised to see 15:53! I had more than achieved my goal, so I was pretty pleased. As I headed into the parking lot and back to the car, Ivy from Vello Bella came up and congratulated me. "What for?", I asked. She then told me that I won!

Final results for NEBC women (15 starters): Cathy - 1st (15:53), Michele - 9th (17:29 in her first TT!), Julie - 13th (18:38).

This means that I have to defend my position in tonight's circuit race. The second place finisher from the TT is a very strong Cat 3 racer, and Ivy is in 3rd place.

In the Men's Cat 4 race, Mike, Tom, Jay and David all lined up for the start. Mike managed to beat his time from last year fairly significantly, but finished 6th (of 57!) - last year he finished in 4th... Still a great result in the first night of racing for both of us, and for the whole team!

Here are some additional pics of the team from last night:

Mike: intent on the start

Michele blazing across the line; David getting ready to go

Julie in her Stars and Stripes; Jay setting off

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random Posting

Yes, I know that I didn't update the blog over the weekend. Mike and I spent the weekend watching the Tour, playing croquet, cooking and running errands. There was NO RIDING. Yes, you read that correctly - no riding for us - we were resting in preparation for this week's Working Man's Stage Race.

So, instead, you get some older stories and pics to tide you over until tonight's race report.

The week before vacation, I had to go to Houston for a meeting. While there, I FINALLY got to ride in the fire truck (my colleague is the volunteer Fire Chief for the Cypress Creek Fire Dept). One would have thought that I was a boy of 5 or 7 given how excited I was to go for a ride, and to be able to run the sirens!

And of course, I need to add some pictures from the yard!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Training Camp Payoff

Well, it seems as though last week's training camp has paid off for me. In last night's TT, I managed to set a PR by 36 seconds - breaking below the 24 minute mark with a time of 23:56! That translates to an average speed of approx. 24.5 mph - woohoo!

Mike had a good night as well, tying his PR time of 22:09. He started 1 minute behind me last night, and my goal was to be to Carlisle center before he managed to pass me. I got to Carlisle and still hadn't seen him, or Norm (who started 30 seconds behind me). I looked at my average speed there, and saw that it was 25.5 mph - faster than I have ever ridden the front part of the course! I thought that my readings must be off...

Mike finally passed me as we turned onto River Rd and onto the "hilly" part of the course. Later both he and Norm told me they were surprised at how long it took them to catch me - goal achieved! Once I got to the top of Punkatasset hill, I looked at my time and knew that I was on target for a PR, and HOPED that I could break the 24 minute mark. I put on the gas the whole rest of the way to achieve that goal as well (my overall goal for the TT for the season).

All in all, a very successful night! Now we need to work on that tandem record ;-).

I also went to an NEBC meeting this week, and was handed the Northeast Bicycle Club Annette M. McCloskey Memorial trophy. Last year, I won the club championship for the women. This involved both a time trial, and a road race with the winner having the best combined times. I think it's cool to have this as a reward, but I'm not so sure that I want to spend time polishing it ;-).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Vacation Day 6 - The End of Training Camp

What better way to start the last day of vacation than to sit and happily watch other people race their bikes? None! The Tour de France started today with the prologue in London, England. With coffee in hand, it was exciting to watch Fabian Cancellara win the stage soundly by almost 15 seconds. Not only is he fast, he's kind of cute, too ;-). I'm hedging my bets on the overall winner this year - I'd like to see Levi take the win, but I think that he will have a fight with Vino over the next three weeks.

After watching others ride, it was time for us to go out on our bikes. Today's 38 mile ride brought to an end our week long "training camp". A look back on the week shows these personal best totals (note that Mike's total mileage and hours are higher because on Weds, when I was out on my MTB, he was on another road ride):

Cathy: 354 miles ridden in 21.4 hours, burning a total of 14,600 calories
Mike: 411 miles ridden in 24.6 hours, burning a total of 18,000 calories

We rode through many towns over the course of the week, and I realized that we really take for granted the sights that are local to us, many of which I have shared with you over the past week. We are lucky to live in an area so rich in history, with rural landscapes easily accessible by bike.

I guess now, after all of this training, I am ready. What for, you ask? 'Cross, of course ;-).


Last night, Erica and Jay brought the final parts needed to build up Erica's new ride. She was SO EXCITED when her new Griffin was finally assembled (Erica has been without a bike since crashing at Monson three weeks ago, where her carbon LOOK was broken). She claimed whe was going to be out riding at the crack of dawn this morning - we'll have to wait to see what the verdict is on the new wheels.

Looking out the window this morning, we finally got a glimpse of the fawn that we heard has been frequenting our yard and the neighborhood.

It's kind of hard to be angry that this is eating all of my flowers and foliage when it looks so darned cute! Here you can see that it is pretty curious - peeking around the tree to see what the squirrels in the yard are up to as well. Momma wasn't far away, and kept a keen eye on both baby, and Mike (while also munching on foliage in the yard - sigh).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vacation Day 5 - Closer to the Goal

Let's start out by recapping the week thus far:

Monday - 80 miles on the tandem
Tuesday - 78 miles on the road bike
Wednesday - 9 miles on the new MTB
Thursday - 65.5 miles on the tandem
Friday - 83 miles on the 'cross bike

Total mileage so far: 315.5
Goal for the week: 350
Remaining mileage: 34.5

One more day of "training camp" left to go. Ooph - I'm tired! Thankfully, my coach has given me permission to have an easy week next week ;-). I think after all of the riding we have done on "vacation" that I will burn my bike shorts in celebration when it is all over (that, and I don't really want to wear them again...).

Here are some pics from today's loop. We rode a little bit of everything today - Carlisle, Chelmsford, Dunstable, Westford, Groton, Ayer, Fort Devens, Harvard, Bolton, Stow, West Acton, and West Concord. Some of the same roads we've already ridden this week, but also some variety!

Riding along; Saved from certain death (but not happy about it)
Great Brook State Park; A lovely roadside farm
Lilies as far as the eye can see; An interesting mailbox
The lunch of champions ;-); Scenes from the base
A beautiful farm in Harvard; The view from Fruitlands
Tired at the top of Fruitlands; A goat farm?
Another farm; Harvard library
A family of ducks; Finally, back home!