Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Cold...Too Hot - Happy Medium?

At the last MTB race, you may remember that I complained that it was rainy and temps were in the 40s. We didn't have to worry about that yesterday at the Winding Trails race - sunny and 90 degrees. Ooph! Too much of a swing in just a short period of time. They say we always complain about the weather, but it definitely was a factor for everyone yesterday...

After arriving and watching teammates and friends start off in the Cat 2 race, we suited up to go out and pre-ride the course. It was much like I remembered from last year with a few changes - a loose, sandy downhill followed by a mud pit was the biggie. I had taken a bottle with me on the pre-ride, but in my jersey pocket - my front triangle is too small to hold a big bottle - and I couldn't get it out of my jersey during the ride! Did manage to finish it off afterwards though, and to down another bottle of water before starting. I was trying to pre-hydrate, but in the end, that didn't really help me.

Photo by AA

I went and wished Mike luck as he started in the Pro/Cat 1 Open race again this week. He had a TERRIFIC race. When he came by me in my second lap, he was in 5th place behind Thom P and Matt O'Keefe. He had to have been working pretty hard, because the verbal exchange was brief - passing on your left and you're doing great ;). I didn't see him again until the finish (erasing my fear that he would pass me a second time in my race) where I learned that he had moved to and finished in 3rd position! A great result in a tough field, especially in the heat (Mike doesn't do so well in the heat...).

The women's Cat 1 field was smaller this week than at Hopbrook - guess more people like the cold and rain than the sun and heat ;). There were a total of eight of us on the start line, and four in my field. In the end, only five of us finished ...

Video from Colt McElwaine

I THOUGHT I had a good line to get through the first sand section, but on closer inspection of the video, apparently not. I botched that and quickly fell behind the lead group of 4. I settled in with Liz A in front and Sue coming up from behind. I wanted, so badly, to stay with Sue. She put the hammer down to pass us both, I passed Liz and stayed, ever so briefly, on her wheel. That woman is a powerhouse, especially on the climbs. Turns out she had a stellar day, beating the entire women's field by over 2 minutes.

Photo from Colt McElwaine

After losing Sue and Liz, I essentially rode the rest of the race on my own, with the exception of the men from the earlier fields passing me. I want to thank all of the men who are so courteous and encouraging when they pass - none of you know just how much a friendly voice means when you're out there all alone! And to the Bikeman rider I cut off - so sorry, but if you had said you were there, I never would have changed my line...

Many thanks also are due to my teammates from the earlier races who cheered as I passed by and finished. Special thanks to Jean for handing up a bottle (which I sadly, should have drank) and reminding me to eat ;). Next time I need you to remind me to drink too!

Eventually, I did catch one of the earlier leaders (from the younger age category), but never saw Sue, Linnea, Kate or Marianne again. It was a sufferfest the entire time, and my last lap was truly the worst (and slowest) - it was hot, I was tired, my arms hurt, my toe was rubbing against the end of my shoe, I wasn't remembering ANY of the course, the "I Suck" talk started, and I just wanted to be DONE. On crossing the finish (where Mike had already completed 5 laps to my 4), I collapsed in a dusty heap trying to catch my breath.

The drive home was an exercise in trying not to lose the contents of our stomachs (both Mike and I were feeling VERY poorly after the race). That meant no post-ride food, and very little drink as well. We didn't actually finally get anything down until about 4 hours post-race - a sure sign we were dehydrated and had put in a solid effort.

Congrats to all of my teammates as well. NEBC had a total of 8 top 10 finishes across the Cat 1 and 2 fields, with a first, second and two thirds. It's definitely fun to see SO MANY people embracing the sport and having a good (?) time. While some of us question continuing, others of us are just too stupid to know when to stop...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Revolutionary Monday

Mike and I took Patriot's Day off from work. Call us crazy, but we were on our bikes at 5 am with our friend Scott to head in to Lexington to view the re-enactment. Scott had never seen the event, and Mike and I hadn't been in years. So, in the dark and the cold, with a promise of breakfast when it was over, we made our way in to join 1000s of people lining the Lexington Green.

I love going to this event. I joke that despite the number of times I have seen it, the ending never changes. But this is history and the re-enactors make it come alive. I usually pick up something new every year, and this year was no exception - I learned that for some reason, Paul Revere and another man brought John Hancock's trunk full of papers out onto the battle ground for fear of the British discovering them. Seemed odd to me, but apparently the British missed the large trunk sitting on the Green...

After the smoke cleared, we headed back to Bedford for some much anticipated breakfast! Then Scott went off to work, leaving Mike and I to some bike maintenance...

One thing I have never done in the 15 years I have been in this area is to go to the marathon. This year, our friend Michele was running, so we decided to do a "recovery" ride over to Wellesley to see if we could catch Michele running past. What a scene! I have never seen so many people working so hard. We were lucky enough to see the Hoyts go by, as well as Bill Rogers. Unfortunately, despite staring intently at the sea of runners (which, by the way, can result in motion sickness), we missed Michele even though she ran right past us on her was to a personal best time that qualified her again for next year. Way to go, Michele!

We rode a circuitous route back to Bedford, seemingly into a headwind the entire way. So much for our recovery ride ;-). We did recover later though, by taking a well-deserved nap! If you're in the area next year for "Revolutionary Monday" I would highly recommend taking in as much of the festivities as you can!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The First Road Race of 2009

While my focus this year will be on MTB racing, I will still be doing some of my favorite road races. I have always done well at Myles Standish in the past, so targeted this as my first foray on the road for the season, despite the fact that the course wasn't the same as past years - the bad pavement meant that the race used the Charge Pond circuit instead (in my only attempt at this race earlier in the season, I left my A game at home...).

Oddly enough, the butterflies that plagued me before my first MTB race were absent on Sunday. I think I am more confident in my abilities on the road, and I don't have the same focus/goals for the road season as I do for MTB racing this year, creating less pressure. It felt good to line up without feeling like I was going to hurl BEFORE the race ;).

Two of my main racing nemeses were on the pre-reg list - Lydia has beat me here (and won) for two years, and Kristen bested me in the Working Man's Stage Race last year. An added kink in the works was that this year, they are teammates racing for Colavita. I lined up next to my teammate, Nat, with a total of 13 women on the line. On the whistle, Nat and I led things out, despite the nasty headwind on the back of the course. Into the first corner, I heard Nat go a little wide and into the dirt behind me (but she stayed upright). I charged up the hill into the second lap (getting yelled at by Mike for being on the front ;)).

Taking stock of those around me, I decided that in the next lap, it would be wise to shake things up a bit and see if we could get a split in the field. I wound up the attack after the start/finish, with both Colavita riders countering. Suddenly, I realized that this was a big girl race - and I needed to be smarter! We ended up with a small gap, but with both Colavita riders putting in a big effort, the group quickly came back together.

So, again in the next lap, I tried to see what I could do. This time, Carola from Webcor came with me, and we set off. The Colavita racers kept indicating that we had a gap - seemingly trying to get us to up the pace. I let them know that if they wanted to keep a gap, they needed to pull through. They did, but then proceeded to take only 5 second pulls. They needed some coaching - we could let the field come back, or we could all become more steady (they also had a habit of bumping the pace when they went to the front) and share the work. Our break was now 5 - 2 Colavita racers, 2 NEBC racers and a Webcor racer.

Our gap on the field steadily increased. Unfortunately, this also took a toll on Nat and she ended up dropping from the lead group. This wasn't good news for me with both of the Colavita racers still in the rotation. I encouraged Carola to make them do the lion's share of the work. At one point, the three gapped me going up the start/finish hill. I heard Lydia comment on this to Kristen and they both picked up the pace. That wasn't to be, however, as once over the top, I had the power to match their acceleration and jump back on.

I knew that my ONLY hope in the race was to try and tire Lydia and Kristen out, and to ensure I had good positioning going into the final corner. I wanted to be first in the corner so that I could try to have an advantage sprinting up the hill. With one lap to go, I was in perfect positioning heading into the corner, but Kristen cut the inside with Lydia on her wheel. The sprint was on, and I was closing. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch them, but did end up crossing the line 3rd, with Carola not far behind.

This was a great race for me. I felt good. The training seems to be paying off, and I think I worked this race smarter than some of the others I have done in the past year. I know that both Lydia and Kristen are strong riders, so feel good that I stuck with them through the race, and finished as well as I did.

The men also raced on Sunday, in both the Master's 35+ and Cat 3 races. Mike and Scott raced smartly in the 35+ race, finishing 3rd and 5th respectively (a pair of 3s for the Rowells!). The Cat 3 race ended with Dave in a break of 3 and Mike, Scott and Oscar effectively blocking in the pack. Dave finished 2nd and Mike 8th. Scott had a stellar sprint for 4th, but it came a lap too early ;).

Master's 35+: Incoming!; 3rd and 5th place

Next weekend we're back on the dirt for the Fat Tire Classic. Can't wait - that will be a FAST race for sure, and was my first win last season!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Launch of the Rocketship

Wednesday was our first club TT of the season, and Mike and I hauled out the rocketship for a test run. The conditions weren't stellar (it was windy and only about 47 degrees), and we had both done some heavy racing and riding prior, so the excuses were coming fast and furious before the start (and after the finish).

Despite having to come to a stop TWICE for traffic (BTW - that really messes up your rhythm, and reduced our average speed by 1 mph), we managed to finish up in 21:55. To put that in perspective, it's faster than our first run last year, but about 1:18 off our our record. I think, however, that with better conditions (and me not fighting Mike's cadence the entire way - DOH!), we'll be in a good position to get back to where we were last season.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Here's a pic of the race bike - without any of Saturday's mud ;). I love the way it looks, and the way it handles!

Butterflies and Mud (aka Hopbrook Dam)

A week ago, the nerves started. I was sure that despite all of the hard work, I wasn't going to be ready. What if I went, and I stunk? Mike had spent a lot of time and effort on my bike (which was beautiful BEFORE the race ;)) and my coach had spent a lot of time and effort on my training. I KNEW in my head I was ready, but the butterflies still insisted on their version of the Olympics.

Oddly, as we made the drive to Connecticut on Saturday for the first race of the Root 66 series, I was calm. I think I figured that at this point, it was too late to worry and be nervous - whatever was going to happen was going to happen. And what happened? As we got on our bikes to go out and pre-ride the course, the skies opened. Yup - rain and cold the entire day. An auspicious beginning to the MTB race season!

Mike and I suited up and went out to hit the course for one lap prior to the race to see what we would face. At one point, we ended up pre-riding behind none other than Tim J, Lyne B and Matt O! Imagine our surprise to see the pros out at this race - especially Lyne, since we haven't seen her in this type of race (yet). And Tim must be home prepping for Battenkill next week... Since Mike was racing in the Pro category, he was going to have some tough competition. Me? I'm used to getting lapped by Lyne on the road and in 'cross, so was half expecting it here too ;).

First impressions of the course were good. I liked the mix of power sections with technical. The consensus back at the car, however, was that we needed to be careful and safe - the downhills were going to be slick, and sliding out on a corner in the mud wasn't going to get anyone anywhere fast.

We made our way over to the staging area since Mike's group was going off first. There were a huge number of racers who turned up despite the weather, and the Pro/Cat 1 fields were packed with talent. The Pro men's field had 25 starters lined up! I cheered as Mike got underway, and then stood and shivered until it was time for the women to head out - at the end of the entire wave of racers.

Standing in the back of our field (Pro and Cat 1 women get sent off together), I looked at the talent ahead and beside of me - besides Lyne, my coach was on the line as well as two of my training partners - Linnea and Kate, and next to me was Sue L, who won the overall series last year. I still managed to remain calm, knowing that my goal was to try to stay with the pack of Pros as long as possible, and then to bury myself to hang on to Sue as long as I could.

On the whistle, we were off, and I managed a decent start into the first corner, and then was swarmed hitting the first narrow single track. That meant that heading into the woods, I was second to last, with only Sue behind me. It was a single file trudge up the first hill, but I managed to pass a couple of the pro women once things flattened out. I still had Lydia (who was the other racer in my category) ahead of me, and Sue close behind. As we hit a technical uphill, Lydia didn't make it, and Sue got caught behind her. I had the MOST SPECTACULAR 'cross move ever at that point, dismounting and running past both of them to remount at the top of the hill (not sure why I can't pull off this move during 'cross season...). I was now leading my group, and had another pro racer in my sights.

Unfortunately for me, soon thereafter the course started uphill - Sue's specialty. I have gotten better at the hills, but Sue past me and quickly put a gap into me here, and now I was chasing again with Lydia not far behind. The good thing for me was that I could make up time on Sue anytime we went downhill or hit a technical section of the course; the bad thing was that Sue regained any time I made up every time we started uphill... I kept Sue in my sights for most of the first lap before losing her for the remainder of the race - an improvement over last year!

Lap 2 was difficult in that this was where most of the Pro men's field, and some of the Cat 1 men started lapping me. Now, I'm ok with being lapped, but there were some places where it was just plain difficult to get out of their way. I tried my best not to hold anyone up, but also to not give up any time myself - I still had my own race going on! Despite the lapping traffic, I believe that lap 2 was faster for me than the first lap. The bad thing was that at that point I could no longer see Sue in front of me, nor Lydia behind me.

By the third lap, course conditions had completely deteriorated. I now know what it must feel like to ride around in peanut butter - sticky, and no control over tires, steering or braking. Sections I was making in the first lap in my big ring I was having to run with my gearing now in the middle ring. I ran some sections I had ridden cleanly in the previous two laps - more for fear of a major injury than anything else. I also gave up some in this lap. Not being able to see the people against whom you are racing is detrimental to my motivation. That, and I really didn't want to get hurt, it was still pouring, and by now I was cold. I was also wondering if it was possible to get an infection from all the mud that was in my shorts (my mind goes to some strange places when it is tired...)!

So, the end result for me was second place in my category. Second out of three. Not great. BUT, let me now put that in perspective over last year. Last year, Sue was consistently beating me by 10 to 15 minutes in our races (I upgraded to mediocrity, you might remember). Saturday - Sue was a scant 5:30 ahead of me - not insurmountable before the season is through! I also finished ahead of Lydia and two of the Pro women. I rode the technical sections of the course, and didn't crash. I drank from my bottle, AND ate food (this was a big problem for me last year). Overall, I am happy with my result and have left some room for improvement.

Mike had a great race as well, finishing 8th in the Pro/Cat 1 Open category (in a starting field of 25). If you want a play-by-play colorful description of his finish, go read Thom's account - it's pretty funny.

After our races, we de-mudded as much as possible, and waited for teammates in the Cat 2 race to finish. Unfortunately, that means that even as I type this on Monday, I am still trying to warm up! And the kits? One wash with the garden hose and then two times through the washing machine (which needed vacuuming when finished) got MOST of the dirt out... Here's hoping for drier conditions in two weeks at Winding Trails!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Sunday was the first road race of the season - the Michael Schott Memorial Circuit Race in Marblehead, MA. I wasn't racing, but shuttled Mike and John M up so they could race, and then ride back home. John, unfortunately, broke a spoke on his Ksyrium wheel in the race and wasn't able to finish (but thanks to Wayne, was able to change the wheel for the ride back). Mike had a great race for the first time out, finishing just over a second back from the winner, in 14th place. Since I wasn't there, I don't have photos from their race, but Dave R took some of all of groups, and you can see them here.

I stayed for the start of the Men's 4/5 race, and then headed back home to Bedford for a fun MTB ride in the PR with Scott.