Monday, May 26, 2008

You Know You're Getting Old When...

... you drive to Canada for your best friend's DAUGHTER'S wedding. That hurt. I still remember changing her diapers and buying her a really cute sailor dress. I'm officially old ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Resuming the Tuesday Women's Rides

Last season, NEBC successfully hosted a weekly women's ride on Tuesday evenings. Most weeks, I managed to make it to Lexington to help lead one of the groups, and I had a blast meeting new people, and helping to teach skills.

With my training schedule this season, I haven't been able to make it over as much as I would like, but last night, I was able to go over and do a ride with the 16-18mph group. Despite threatening skies, there were still about 20 women who showed up to participate in one of the 4 groups.

I had forgotten, really, how much fun this was! I worked with Kathy M and Annette to lead a group of 7 women who were pretty good at pace lining and keeping up ;-). On the way back into town, one of the women and I started chatting. I soon found out that she has been driving from Stowe, VT EACH WEEK to attend our ride, and then driving back home! She said that she doesn't have any women to ride with in VT, and has been loving our group. Guess that's as good a testament as any as to the success and popularity of the ride. I'm going to have to make it back there more often.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Late for Bike to Work Week

The week of May 12 - 16 was officially Bike to Work week. Every year, Redbones hosts a huge street party to kick off the event, but that party had to be delayed by a week this year because of weather. Always great fun, however, and Rob and PK do a great job organizing, MC'ing, and giving out prizes.

I love this event - it is kind of a "kick-off" to the season (yes, I KNOW I've already done almost 10 races and been riding since January), and a great way to see riding friends and get caught up. It was a bit chilly riding home this year, but a good time was had by all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunapee Road Race

Well, it was a nice day for a hard training ride ;-). Unlike last year's freezing temps and rain, the race this year went off under sunny skies with warming temps throughout the morning (this despite waking to the sound of raindrops on the skylight at 5:00 am - YAY!).

Only Mary, Susanne and I lined up representing NEBC in the women's 1/2/3 field. We were happy, however, to end up with 18 women in our field - especially seeing that there were far fewer women pre-registered. I had done well at this race last year, initiating a break on the first climb, and finishing 2nd. This year I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me - I was racing in a strong field of climbers and I had to do two full laps - double the previous year's distance (46 miles).

Susanne, Mary and I chatted about a plan, but essentially this is a race that will blow apart when the climbing starts. Mary was going to react to any attacks that happened, so Susanne and I were happy to do the work in the chase if we could, blocking. As we rolled out from the start, Susanne and I ended up on the front (and I began reliving my race here two years ago), working together into the wind to get warmed up. We finally forced other racers around us, and I drifted to the back for some rest.
Susanne stayed near the front, and ended up doing a lot of work. As I looked forward, I could see her on the front with Mary as second wheel, and knew I needed to move up to protect Mary, and to help Susanne. Soon after my move to the front, the field was neutralized. Huh? How is that possible, we thought. Because none of the women would pull, the Cat 4 women were overtaking our field - just as we hit the first climb! Now, we had chaos as two fields combined and the first attack came from the front of my field.

Just as the attack happened, I dropped my chain, and was immediately popped off the back. I could see Susanne and her chase group for the remainder of the first lap, and would get close enough to ALMOST catch back on, and then one of those blasted hills came up, out of nowhere, putting me even further behind.

After working with and then losing Ivy, I ended up with Hannah, and into the second lap, we continued to work together. Unfortunately for me, every time Hannah went to the front, the pace seemed to drop, forcing me back around her to try to catch (I kept hearing Nat saying how that wheel just up ahead was my lifeline!). Once back into the hills, I was all done from all of the effort of chasing and we ended up riding the rest of the lap together.

As we entered the final climb to the finish, Hannah turned and asked, "So, are you going to punch me out for the sprint?". I thought this hillarious given there was no punch left anywhere in my body by that point, and the two of us made a pact to cross the line together (although, I did make sure that my wheel crossed the line first...). Tough day for me, but as it turned out, I ended up pretty sick the next day, and had been dizzy enough the day before to have to get off my trainer twice... I guess I'll take it - at least I finished, even if it was in 13th place!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Birthday Jubilee

Those of you who know me are aware that I like to make a big deal out of my birthday every year. I have never worked on my birthday, and usually do something special for myself. This year, hitting the "fabulous forty" milestone was no exception, and the Birthday Jubilee began in an excellent fashion on Saturday.

Sterling Road Race - Women's 1/2/3 - 6th (21 starters)

Last year at Sterling, I had a good race; finished 5th in the Cat 4 Women's race. This year, I was nervous - had to race in the 1/2/3 field, which meant 46 miles vs. 23, or, more bluntly, SEVEN FREAKIN' times up the hill! ACK!

At our team meeting, Brooke asked how everyone was feeling, and we discussed our strategy for the race. I didn't comment (nor let on that I was coming off of a rest week) - I wasn't sure how I was going to do, and didn't want to commit to something that I couldn't follow through on. After all, my last performance with the team wasn't exactly so stellar...

On the line, Nat put her arm around me and gave me a pep talk. She told me that I DID deserve to be in this group, to stay in the front of the pack, and not to psych myself out like I did at Turtle Pond. The talk helped, and I really did hear Nat a few times during the race - THANKS!

With nerves calmed down some, we rolled off to the start of the race. I worked to be in the front of the pack, and moving about in the right places - something I am usually not very good at. When Brooke told me to get on Mary's wheel, I did. In other places, I got on other wheels. I was proud of myself for being in there, and not being in the back.

About halfway through the second lap, I was feeling great. I started to drift back to find Brooke, and tell her that I wanted to initiate an attack. Suddenly, Brooke was off the front - so much for telling her now! The pack chased and caught, and then the women in the front started playing cat and mouse. Perfect time for me to launch, so I did. I went off the front at the Rte 12/190 intersection, and stayed away until the overpass on the hill. When Brooke came by, she told me to get back in the pack, and I managed to do just that - YAY!

The next time up the hill, the plan was for the team to attack, which they did. Unfortunately, I also got dropped. The follow car and neutral support went around me as I dropped off from the group (with Mark B. providing encouragement as he passed). I could see a good group just ahead, and KNEW that I needed to be in that pack to survive - as Nat told all of our group in the clinic, that wheel up ahead was my lifeline! Instead of negative self talk, I decided that I would not get dropped, and chased for all I was worth. As we entered the first right-hand turn, I was about to re-connect with the chase group, but got squeezed by the support car! After he finally moved over, I was able to reconnect.

Beginning the next lap, I was easily able to maintain contact with the group as we climbed the hill. As we headed under the overpass, I maintained my speed/effort/cadence and pulled the group for a bit. I moved to try to get someone to pull through, but there weren't any takers, so I continued on (I have zero patience for cat and mouse games remember). A gap developed, and I just kept moving forward, anxiously looking over my shoulder waiting for the group to close the gap.

Going into the final lap with a still visible gap, I went into full on TT mode. I knew the group wasn't far behind, but I didn't want to get caught at this point in the race. It certainly helped to have 4 teammates in the group (thanks, ladies!). At this point, however, the Pro Men started going by. Every time I looked back, I could see people gaining on me, and worried that my group was going to catch me. This was the WORST as I turned the final corner for one last grunt up the hill. I knew there were racers behind me, and worried that I was going to get caught - NO! I pushed - my legs cramped, my back cramped and I let out some sort of sound that should only come from a dying animal. But - I. Did. Not. Get. Caught! And, it was the Pro Men behind me!

I am still over the moon and awestruck with my 6th place finish in a 1/2/3 race! Rebecca won with Mary finishing 3rd and Brooke (8th) and Nat (9th) helping to round out the top 10! I really still can't believe it. And when asked how it all happened, I still think it was kind of by accident - but I'll definitely take it!

And newcomer Clara Kelly won the Cat 4 women's race! Standing at the MTB race on Sunday, I overheard one of their competitors complaining about the Sterling race being tough - because there were so many NEBC women who were out there attacking! Great job, ladies!

After the race, the team had a meeting to discuss how things went. OK - really they brought strawberry cupcakes and sang me Happy Birthday! But we did discuss the race, and were all happy with the results. I had to leave to get home, and get ready for the PARTY!

Fabulous 40

Of course, every birthday needs a party. Especially birthdays that end in Zero! I had a great time celebrating with good friends, eating delicious BBQ, drinking tasty margaritas, and of course, eating Texas-sized, non-chocolate cake!

Mike ordered the tasty concoction shown above from Concord Teacakes. Two layers of yellow cake with raspberry filling in between, covered in butter cream frosting. Of course, Mike said he needed a cake for 20 people, but I think what we ended up with would have fed at least 60! We'll be eating cake for the next two weeks...

Philip took some great pictures you can see here.

Birthday Race - Brialee Bramble - Sport Women 35+ - 1st (5 starters)

After the results at Sterling (and all that cake), I wasn't really expecting much at the MTB race on Sunday. When we got there, Mike and I got on the bikes to do a warm up lap, having been warned that it was a little messy out there. They weren't kidding! The first part of the course was really dry, but full of rocks, roots, and my favorite, bridges. This was going to be a more technically challenging race than Winding Trails ... Then came the wet spots - there was mud, there was water, there were stream crossings. More importantly, there were places where you just couldn't see what was going to be underneath your tires... Several of us agreed back in the parking lot that this wasn't going to be a race that was about pure speed - riding smoothly was going to be more important.

Since my race was in the last wave of the day, I changed back into my regular clothes to go out and watch Mike's race. He looked strong from the gun (and had also raced Sterling the day before), and quickly settled into 3rd place, where he remained for about 2.5 laps. The front 3 had a gap of about 3 minutes on their next competitors, but they were all really close, so it was a real race for the win.

In the 4th lap, I saw Mike come through in first, having overtaken both the second and first place racers! He looked great, and I cheered for him to continue doing well. As I waited for him to come through and finish, I saw Jeff M (the second place racer) DNF - he had flatted on the course. Bad luck for Jeff, but Mike went on to take his second win in the Expert Men 40-49 race in the Root 66 series!

With only 30 minutes remaining before my race, I ran up to the car to change back into my bike clothes and get ready. My legs still weren't feeling great, and I still didn't have many expectations as I stood on the line with 10 other Sport Women (6 under 35 and 5 in the 35+ category). To calm my nerves, Jean C came over to tell me that Wayne had overheard two women at registration lamenting "that Cathy [woman] is here - and she's fast!". No pressure after hearing that ;-).

When the whistle blew it was a sprint to try and get into the woods as early as possible. I entered in 4th, which I thought was good. Of course, then there was mayhem with one rider going down, and another getting caught in the mess. We sorted that all out, and as we got onto the access road, I took the lead.

I'm a reasonably OK technical rider, but this course presented a lot of challenges. I led the pack until a particularly nasty mud section where I was passed. She was a better technical rider than I, and after trading places a couple of times, she passed and went on to win her category, and the overall Sport Women group. In the second lap, I was passed by another [younger] racer, who also was better technically than I was. Knowing there were two riders in front of me (who weren't in my category), I worked to try and stay ahead of anyone else who may be coming up behind.

My third lap was my best, from a technical standpoint. I had FINALLY figured out the lines I needed to take, and where it was just easier for me to get off and run (although I ended up with a bad case of swamp foot from doing this ;-)). I managed to cross the finish line 5 minutes ahead of the second place racer! Sometimes there is an advantage to being old[er] and on my 40th birthday, this was one of those times!

So, it was a wonderful Birthday Jubilee! And to anyone who thinks I'm about to settle in now that I've reached 40, I'm only just beginning!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Orchard Assault

It was gonna be the hills that got me.

Yesterday's course out at UMass wasn't really that bad - in DRY conditions. Unfortunately, it rained for a couple of days before the race, turning logs and roots into "slicker than snot" obstacles. But oh those climbs... There were only two really, both snaking up the same hillside from different places with multiple switchbacks. According to my teammate, Cris, the second time uphill seemed to have "slicker than snot" roots or logs at the apex of every switchback. Add the mud and the pitch, and, well, it got me.

Several NEBC'ers made the trek out to Amherst, despite 43 degree temps and rain - Julie, Cris, Bernie, Scott B, Greg, Keith, Michael, Libby and ourselves. Yup - we're sadists, especially since for most of us, it meant leaving home between 6:00 and 6:30 am on a Sunday! We all met up in the parking lot before heading out to see what was in store for us.

Since Cris and I were racing together, we went out for our warmup together as well. Before entering the woods, my HR was already at 155. This was gonna be hard - and I needed to warm up! Because not too many people had yet been out on the course, it was wet and slippery, but not really that bad. I knew what was in store, and decided that I COULD ride everything - just needed to be careful, and maybe dismount for the bridge to nowhere...

Only 6 women lined up for the Sport race, and my goal was to stick with Cris as long as I could. She had a great start, and ended up with the hole shot. One other woman was on her tail, and I entered the woods in third place. At the bottom of the first descent, Cris got a little tangled. After telling her to stay calm, I passed by her, only to biff it in an uphill corner, where she passed me back. After that, I never saw her again...

The first lap for me was pure torture - all out, as fast as possible, and biffing the second climb miserably - partly due to trying to rush through sections, and partly because I couldn't see through my fogged up glasses. In the second lap (after ditching the glasses), I decided to settle in some, and managed a little bit better in the technical sections, although somewhat dejected that I had let the leaders get away. By the third (and final) lap, my technical skills were better, and my legs got back under me. I managed to clean almost all of the uphill climb (by now, the corners were so mired that the good lines were in the leaves on the inside or outside of the turns), and finally cross the line where I started - in 3rd place.

After cleaning up, I went out to cheer on Keith, Michael and Mike in the Expert race. With all of the switchbacks, and the climbs coming up the same hillside, it made a great spectator course. I could walk from switchback to switchback to take pictures, and cheer for the riders. Later, Michael said the he felt "haunted" - couldn't figure out how we were in so many places on the course in such quick succession.

Since the Beginner and Sport fields had already raced, the course was now much different than it had been early in the morning. The mud was thicker everywhere, and the corners had more exposed roots in them than before. Apparently, my favorite section of the course, which I dubbed the "slip & slide" was worse also. This was a downhill section where you had some speed, and had to navigate through about 3-4" of mud. When I went, it was a matter of pointing the bike and going - a little more finesse was required for the guys.

Keith rode really strong for the first four laps of the race. When I called out to him on lap 4 that he was doing great and only had one more to go, he thought I was kidding - he had miscounted (even though I gave him his lap count earlier), and thought he was done! I felt really badly then...

Mike also rode well despite dropping his chain a couple of times, and looking like he was having absolutely the worst time of his life. I cheered, as he had done for me, until, on one lap, he heard me, looked in my direction, and said, "This sucks". I was quiet after that, cheering instead just for Keith and Michael ;-).

While the team had great results overall, I don't think many of us would describe this race as "fun". I think it was likely the most challenging race we will have all season - at least I hope so!
  • Julie - Beginner Women 35+
  • Cris - Sport Women - 2nd
  • Cathy - Sport Women - 3rd
  • Scott - Sport Men 30+ - 1st (5th overall)
  • Greg - Sport Men 30+ - DNF (derailleur casualty)
  • Mike- Expert Men 30+ - 2nd (5th overall)
  • Keith - Expert Men 30+ - 5th (8th overall)
  • Michael - Expert Men 30+ - 6th (10th overall)
  • Libby - Expert Women

Three washes with OxyClean and Tide later, the tough stains did sort of come out of the kits - that will teach us for going out and playing in the mud ;-).