Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Triumphant Return

Mike and I haven't raced our mountain bikes since sometime in 1999. Today, we decided to haul the MTBs down to CT with our friend Wayne to race in the Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic - the third race in the Root 66 series.

We met Teri at the venue, and caught the end of Julie's 1st MTB race before heading out to do a lap of the course.

What fun! Fast, flowing, tight, twisty - this course had it all. The terrain played to my strengths - lots of power sections, and several sandy places where keeping momentum was key. There were also a lot of tight turns that I took some risks with during the race - thankfully, all of those risks paid off ;-). I had a blast on the warmup lap, and couldn't wait for the race (3 laps of a 4.6 mile course).

On the start line, I saw friends from 'cross season - Stacey M, Sally M and Alex J. It was nice to see everyone after a long winter. Also funny to hear that so many of us are using the MTB racing to prep for 'cross season (only 4 months away!). I was also psyched to see such a big field - 19 women starting in the Sport category.

I went out hard, but got caught in a bad line in the sand right after the start, letting about 4 or 5 women get ahead of me coming out of the first hill. I stayed behind for just a little bit, before putting in a burst and passing all but one. I caught the one remaining woman, and worked to try and get even more distance. I did, however, quickly have company. She stuck to my wheel like glue for the remainder of the first lap, and no matter how fast I went (or how slow...), I couldn't shake her. She followed me into Lap 2, but fell crossing the first log. With that, I kicked some to take advantage (cold and heartless!), and build a gap.

I had to keep on top of my game for the remainder of the race, and not make any mistakes. I talked myself through entire sections, and going into the 3rd lap, even told myself that this was my race to lose, and not to let up now. I attaked the rest of the hills, and sprinted out of the corners. In the end, I crossed the line first - my first mass start win ever! The second place woman was only 20 seconds behind me, but we ended up 3 minutes ahead of the rest of the field.

I was so excited! And even more excited to learn that Wayne had also won his race, with a two minute lead over his competition. We watched Teri finish her first Sport race (and a terrific one at that - rode everything and no crashing - way to go!), and then headed over to watch Mike start in the Expert Men's 40+ field. He had a strong start, and stayed that way throughout his race - also winning both his category and having the fastest time across all the Expert fields.

It was an NEBC trifecta - Expert 40+, Sport 40 - 49 and Sport Women 35+. A carload of happy, but exhausted, racers. For more pics from the day, click here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Racing History

PK sent us these photos from our MTB racing past. It's funny to look back to a race at Nashoba Ski Area (which no longer exists) and Putney, VT (which we are looking forward to doing again this year). Anyone (besides PK or MKR) want to guess what year these races took place (hint: I had a different surname then ;-)).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Myles Standish - A Better Racing Day, for Me...

It was a beautiful day for racing yesterday!

I decided to (or Mike talked me into) go and do the Masters race to practice my pack skills. After last weekend's [not so great] performance at Turtle Pond, I realized that I really needed to feel more comfortable being in the middle of a pack. What better way to practice than with some smooth (or so I thought) Masters men?

Before the race, my teammate Michele introduced me to some of her ECV friends in the race. We kicked off, and I did what I set out to - rode with the lead pack, in the middle and surfing throughout for the entire 20 miles. Some of the men made some pretty sudden moves in the pack, causing me to have to brake seriously on more than one occasion - this made me think maybe I hadn't done the right thing thinking these guys were safe! One of them even blew his nose in the middle of the race, landing snot all over my arm. Yuck. He did apologize though ;-).

Coming into the end of the race, I even sprinted, finishing ahead of a couple of my packmates for a great finish - 11/20. I felt great about my performance and result. One race down, one to go ;-).

I had just enough time to change my jersey in between the Masters race and the Women's race. Having put in a fairly hard effort for the first 20 miles, I wasn't sure what kind of legs I was going to have left, but I lined up with 10 other women (2 Cat 2s, 2 Cat 3s and 6 Cat 4s) anyway.

We didn't really have a team strategy, so when the race started, Katherine took the first run up the road, with the rest of us blocking on the front. After she came back, Kristen put in a great attack, and stayed away for quite awhile before also coming back. It was at that point that I figured I felt pretty good, so why not take my turn? I signaled to Katherine to back it off as we caught Kristen, and launched from there. The team did an AWESOME blocking job, and I was away for almost 2 full laps. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to get caught, but eventually gave up when I couldn't see any chasers for a good deal of time.

As I crossed the start/finish area, I asked other teammates/friends watching for time gaps, and learned that I had about a minute advantage on the field. I still felt great, and pushed forward. I knew I was racing strong, and the mental conversation today was non-existant. I was just riding as hard/fast as I could to try and maintain my lead.

The chase group of 4 caught me on the third lap, after being on my own for almost 2 full laps. The catch came as the Cat 4 men passed by (there was a protest about this afterwards - according to some I had a 1:20 second gap on the field, and the chase were using the men's field to catch me. They denied using their draft, and the results stand). Unfortunately, they caught me at the top of the only hill on the course, and I was promptly dropped. Determined not to let that happen to me a second week in a row, I chased until I finally caught back on. At that point we were a group of 5 with one lap left to race. We ended up in a group of three (two of the chase group went off the front), and a game of cat and mouse ensued. Not having patience (and not wanting to get caught by the rest of the field), I tried an attack that didn't work and ended up pulling my group into the sprint finish, and crossing the line 5th.

I really needed the ego-boost that these races gave me. I raced well on this course last year as well, so now I think this is one of my favorites, but I don't think Mike would agree...

Friday, April 18, 2008

First CBTT of the Season

Photos by PK

It was a great day for the first CBTT! The sun was out, temps were warm (-ish), and the wind was, well - it was a little windy ;-).

Thirty-eight riders showed up on Weds, and the new registration/parking location and logistics were awesome. Many thanks to all of the terrific volunteers who work so hard to make this weekly race a reality.

My goal on Weds was to go out and get a benchmark time for the season, and to hopefully not embarass myself too badly. I went off in the number 1 spot, and played "rabbit". I was glad, though, to only have been passed by two racers!

There were places where I was going great guns, and others where I looked at my speed and was pretty concerned. I know where on the course I need to make improvements at least! As I headed into the final stretch, I could tell that my effort wasn't going to be completely terrible - 25:42 for 9.75 miles (that's 22.75 mph) - a minute faster than my first time last season, and lots of room for improvement.

And the ticker was definitely working hard - average HR of 175 bpm with a max of 182!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Turtle Pond Pics

Pics from the early races yesterday. The new kits look super fast!
Click here for full size photos.

Mental Tenacity

Apparently, this is what I am lacking...

Yesterday was my first race of the season. Turtle Pond in Loudon, NH. I was pretty nervous going into the race - this was my first road race in the P/1/2/3 field. I have been doing a lot of riding, and following my training plan, but wasn't sure that I was going to be able to hang in with a strong field. As it turned out, I couldn't ;-)

Before the race, I chatted with some of the NEBC men. Scott B told me that it was as much a mental game as a physical one - don't get discouraged, and hang tough. Don't let yourself get mentally dropped. Don't give up. All great advice.

I headed over to the staging area to get ready for the race. My teammate Sally and I were riding down the road. "How are you doing?", asked Sally. "I think I'm dead." I replied. My HRM was showing 0 bpm. Sally laughed and asked if she should start CPR. It was a good light moment to help calm the Butterfly Olympics in my stomach.

On the start line, I positioned myself close to the front, knowing I would need a decent position to get myself up the hill. As we listened to instructions from the official, I looked down and saw that my HR was already in my tempo zone - 151 bpm. Definitely not dead. I was nervous beyond belief.

We took off and headed for the hill. I felt ok. I drifted through the pack towards the back, but maintained contact up and over (realizing that I was in my big ring the whole way - DOH - no wonder it felt so hard!). Over the top and we were off. I stayed mostly in the back of the pack for the first few miles, happy to watch my teammates and learn from what they were doing.

On the backside of the course, Sally attacked the field. It took awhile for one other person to counter, and the two of them were off. Brooke found me to tell me what the next team move would be, at which point I told her that I was basically hanging on by my fingernails. She coached me to move up through the pack to the middle and get on Nat's wheel, so I did that. Then she told me to be sure to move up so that I could again be nearer to the front going into the hill.

About halfway up the hill the second time around, a squirrely move by one of the racers caught me off guard. Shortly thereafter, I disengaged from the pack, watching them ride away from me. I could hear Scott in my head telling me to hang on just a little bit longer, but I didn't think I could, and I let go. So, over the crest of the hill, I was off the back and in for the chase. I could still see the pack, and worked as hard as I could for a few miles to be able to catch back on.

The follow car had passed me as well, but I was gaining. Chasing, gaining, chasing. The follow car moved out of the way as I chased close enough to almost reconnect with the pack. Chasing, chasing, connecting, right hand turn, pack surges, goodbye. After all of the chasing I had done, when the pack stepped on the gas coming out of the first right hand turn, I had nothing to match their move. They accelerated, and I never saw them again.

I wanted to quit. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to chase back on again. I was discouraged. It was cold, it was windy, but for some reason, I kept on going. Back up the hill past cheering friends and spectators for another lap alone. I didn't even continue to just ride - I kept "racing", putting out as much effort as I could muster (which wasn't much).

The mental conversation for the remainder was pretty amusing:

"You suck, but just keep going anyway"
"It's a nice day for a long LT ride - NOT"
"I don't belong racing in this category"
"I want to quit. It's only one more lap. But that's TWO more times up the hill."
"I think I'm the last person out here..."

After 2.5 laps of racing/riding on my own, I turned up Oak Hill Rd for one last climb up the hill. I knew I was almost finished, but I was so embarrased as my teammates, who had already finished (and Mary won - YAY!), were now coming back down the hill, all cheering loudly for me (thanks, ladies!). As I crossed the line, I was glad to have stuck it out and finished, even if I was Dead Freakin' Last (DFL).

Maybe I do have some mental tenacity afterall...either that or I'm just too stupid to quit ;-)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Too Much Riding

I know - for some of you out there, too much riding is a misnomer - can't ever ride too much.

This year, I hired a coach for the first time, and am "following" a structured training plan. This plan has increased my time on the bike from my usual 9 hours to over 12. With the onset of the nice weather, and my eagerness to be on the bike outside, I have increased this even more... Oops. So, when I called my coach and complained of being tired and having sore legs, and then 'fessed up to the riding I had been doing that WASN'T on the plan, I was told that I did too much. Those of you who know me will not be surprised ;-)

I am on an [unplanned] rest week this week as a result, and have promised to listen to and follow what Aidan has prescribed for me. So far, so good.