Friday, June 26, 2009

Catching Up

It's been quiet here on the blog lately. Work has been crazy busy, the weather has been pretty cr*ppy, and life has just gotten in the way. So, before this weekend's adventures started, I figured it was time to update the content here for my 3 faithful followers ;).

Mystic Velo Crit

Last weekend, in a brief reprieve from rain and mist, Mike and I headed down to Ninigret, RI for the Mystic Velo Crit. I wasn't planning on racing - sort of on a self-imposed hiatus - but put my bike and gear in the car so I could ride while Mike raced.

It wasn't until we arrived that I decided that since I was there, and had all of my stuff, that I might as well just suck it up and race. It was either that, or go out and ride on roads that I didn't know, by myself. So, while Mike registered for the Cat 3 race, I lined up, paid some nice people my money, and registered to race in the Men's 55+ race (there wasn't a women's category available, and cycling regulations allow master women to race 20 years their senior with the men).

Mike was super active in a fairly strong Cat 3 field, that oddly, included most of the Gearworks/SpinArts team. We later learned, that Mike had been assigned a shadow for the race, and in every picture I have of Mike, Tom S. is right there as well. His job for the day - do whatever Mike does! It was a fun race to watch, and Mike did well, but was frustrated by "racers" who didn't do anything for 24 laps but sit in, and then sprint at the finish for 13th place.

I convinced MaryAnn M to race in the 55+ race instead of the Cat 3, and we were also joined by Inette R. On the line, the 65+ field decided they wanted to do their own race, but there were two women in that field as well. I sat in for a time to see how things were going to play out, and the attacks started early, and often. I don't know most of these racers, so went with anything that moved on the off chance that it actually succeeded. Everyone of the attempts, however, was quickly reeled in.

While I consider this field to be reasonably safe, there were one or two wheels that made me nervous. Between that and the inconsistency in pace (24 mph to 18 mph in one flat lap), I decided fairly often to try and launch attacks. The men were having none of it, however, and the group stayed together until the end of the race.

With just 3 laps remaining, the pace again dropped to about 18 mph in a "cat and mouse" kind of situation. I believe the words "This is just stupid" came out of my mouth, and I attacked. Of course, everyone came with me, and now there were 2 laps to go, and I was pulling the entire field - DOH! I moved myself into 3rd wheel partway into that lap, and sat there through the bell. I was easily able to maintain this position into the final corner when ... I got SWARMED! ACK! The inside was no place to be on that corner, and I was forced to sprint out behind all of the leaders. But, I was sprinting... Until someone behind me started screaming something that sounded like "Give it up!" It scared me enough that I sat up, rolling across the line in a dismal 14th place.

So, the results show one thing, but I was really pleased with my performance at this race. First, I RACED. I was active the entire time, either attacking or responding to attacks. I got a GREAT workout, with an average HR of 177 for the race (ouch!). And, two former National Crit Champions complimented me on my race afterwards. In fact, Mark H. talked to me about strategy, who to follow and who not to, and encouraged me to join more of the men's races! I'd say, overall, the race was a success DESPITE what the results show.

Mike decided that he would do another race that day, since the rain was holding off. He lined up for the 35+ race, and on Go, led the field. Half a lap in, Mike was off the front of the group. Then two laps, then three with a 25 second advantage. After four laps alone, they rang the bell for a $10 prime. Mike solo'd for one more lap before finally getting caught by the chase group, which, unfortunately, contained Jonny B and a strong newcomer to NE racing, Scott G.

With the catch, Jonny attacked hard, and built a big gap on the chasers. Scott eventually bridged up to Jonny, and the two of them built a lead so big, they ended up lapping the field with about 4 laps to go! Mike and the chase group were eventually absorbed by the field. With three laps to go, Mike launched another solo attack on the field. Jonny noticed that Scott was boxed in, and launched his own counter, flying by Mike with the boosters at full throttle. Scott had to counter, dig deep and try to bridge, but couldn't quite make it, giving Jonny the win by a VERY small amount... Definitely an exciting race to watch!

CBTT Update - a New Personal Best!

Recently, a pair of Specialized Transitions showed up Chez Rowell. Jeff at the Loft loves us, because anything we buy that is bike related, usually comes in twos ;). We gave the new rides a test run last week at the CBTT, but the fit wasn't quite right for either of us, and we needed to make some tweaks.

This week, again with an ever so brief break in the mist/rain, we took them out for a second run to see if the tweaks made a difference. In my pre-ride, the bike felt great, with the cockpit adjusted to near perfection. The weather was good for a TT, although a bit on the cool side - humid and heavy air. On setting out, I settled into a comfortable pace, and reminded myself that anytime I got tired, to shift into a HARDER gear - yes, it's counter-intuitive, but it actually worked! I pushed one gear harder than I thought I could the whole way around.

Coming into the Carlisle rotary, I had a good average speed (above 25 mph), and still hadn't been caught by Eric M from BoB - my 30 second man. It's important coming out of Carlisle not to let up despite the slight downhill, so I kept on the gas, eventually passing Victoria G and Julie L just as we turned onto River Rd (and still no Eric). This is the hardest part of the course for me, and I usually lose too much time here. I focused not on the time, nor on my speed, but just on going as hard as possible through that section.

At the bottom of Punkatasset Hill, Eric finally caught and passed me. But I didn't just let him go. He really served as my motivation for getting up over the hill, down the backside and sprinting through the finish for .... a PR! I have been chasing a time of 23:56 for two years, and had finally decided that it was somehow an annomoly that I had ever posted that time. But this was my night - 23:43!

I heard from others afterwards that they thought it had been a slow night, so I am hoping that this bodes well for me. New goal - 23:30! As Mike said, it's amazing how much time enough money can buy ;).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sorry, No Bike Content ...

If you're here for bike-related content, you'll need to move along. Nothing to see here. Last week was a rest week, and I am on a racing hiatus (at least for now).

However, if you're interested in photos from a trip to Newburyport with my parents on the ONLY sunny day in the past week (although it seems longer than that...), then this is the place for you! This was my first visit to the town as well, and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the scenery and be outside.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Still a Lot to Learn

Ah, Maine - truly the way life should be! Sunny skies, warm temps and two great days of racing (preceded by sitting on the deck, beer in hand, meat on the grill...).

Despite all of the racing experience over the past few years, it appears that tactically, I still have a LOT to learn (or at least remember). Here are the lessons learned from this past weekend.

From Saturday's Auburn Road Race (7th/12):

  1. If you are in a group being overtaken by another group on the road, you need to neutralize and move over (and if you are the pace car driver, you need to overtake BEFORE the decisive climbs instead of hitting the brakes and making us all almost fall over...).
  2. Cramping while climbing a 12% grade sucks.
  3. When you can still see the group in front of you, and you are TT'ing like a crazy person, the chances are pretty good you're not going to catch them on your own - especially on a flat to downhill section of road.
  4. When you are caught by a group from behind who are actually riding slower than you, it is SMARTER to sit in with them than to work your a$$ off trying to maintain the speed you were going, 'cause you're still not gonna catch the group in front!
  5. Sometimes, being a stronger climber is a blessing...

From Sunday's Great Falls Crit (5th/17):

  1. Starts are still key.
  2. Stay IN the draft through the corners, not out in the wind just 'cause you're afraid of everyone else.
  3. Being the strongest rider in a chase group stinks - you're still chasing (and in my case, burning matches doing the work).
  4. Once you are in a Sunapee sandwich, with one of their teammates up the road, you should SIT IN instead of working your butt off and getting dropped with two laps left to go... (see #3 above).
  5. Even if you may have a small common goal, racers with teammates up the road will NOT work with you for ANY reason.
  6. Now I know what people feel like racing against the NEBC women ;).
  7. Know the rules! I ended up getting lapped right as the leaders were finishing their race. I still technically had 1 to go, but wasn't sure if I was finished or not. I went around one last time, just to be sure, but also didn't want to cross the line again if I wasn't supposed to (the rule is that you finish on the same lap as the leaders, BTW).

I don't think this is the right place to be...; Burning matches, but at least it's a nice setting!

Me and the Sunapee girls; Am I finished?

Mike, on the other hand, had a terrific weekend of racing. He decided to register for the Pro 1/2/3 race on Saturday - 81 miles, and 7 times up the miserable climbs. Both Ted and Robbie King were registered for the same race, with Ted just getting back from the Giro! Mike added to the depth of the talent in the race, managing to hang on to the chasing group throughout, crossing the line 11th. An awesome result for him showing how much all of the training is paying off!

The Pro 1/2/3 field ready to go; Mike, safely in the peloton

A terrific finish!; Tired after 81 miles

On Sunday, he decided to do just one race back in the Master's 35+ field. I watched in surprise as he took a flier on the first lap (of 20), wondering what he was up to. He and his attack partner were quickly caught, a counter went, and the chase was on. Like my race, however, the Sunapee and OA/Cycle Mania teammates were very effective in shutting down any moves, resulting in a bunch sprint for 3rd place. Some sketchy wheels made Mike think twice about dicing it up, but he still finished a very respectable 13th.

Off the front on the first lap!; Working hard

Back in the pack; Sprinting for the finish

We have a break in the race schedule now, for which I am grateful. I'm tired not only from racing, but from being on the road every weekend as well, sometimes both days. I'm looking forward to a visit with my parents this week, and then some riding for fun - remember that? ;)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

From the Top of the Heap to the Bottom of the Pile

To quote Mike, thank goodness it's Monday! We both needed to go back to work today to rest after an intense weekend of racing and hard efforts!

Waterville Valley TT

Last year, I was in California for this race and missed all the fun. Essentially, this is a 20 mile individual effort, with the first 9.5 to 10 miles being an uphill climb to the village of Waterville Valley. Great - plays right into my strengths as a hill climber - NOT! ;)

I looked at the course profile before the race, and was intimidated. As you can see, it goes straight up, and then straight down. What you can't see from the profile is that the average grade of the climb is 1.6%, with a couple of steeper (maybe 7%) rises along the way. The advice from Mike (who did the race last year) was to go out at a steady pace, but try not to blow up in the first few miles. My teammate Katherine told me the same thing and added that I need to make sure I had something at mile 7, where the course kicked up a couple of notches.

The TT is my specialty, so I wasn't worried about coming down, or the start. The hill climb aspect though was an unknown to me. I have been working on my climbing this year, but still wasn't sure what to expect. Being the second woman to start, I also had the self-imposed pressure of ensuring that none of the women behind caught me on the way up.

So, I started out at a steady pace, quickly catching my 30 second person. As I rolled along, I kept waiting for the climb to get harder. There were places where you could still move along pretty well despite going steadily uphill. Then came the mile 7 climb, where I caught the last of the men who had gone off before us. As you start into the climb, it APPEARS that there is a downhill entrance. Expecting to keep some momentum, I put in the power only to feel myself losing a significant amount of speed. I couldn't figure it out. Did I have a flat? Was something wrong with my bike? Hitting a whopping 12.5 mph, I eventually crested that part of the climb and determined that the downhill was an illusion.

Now I could see a couple more of the men in front of me, and I passed three more as we made our way around the village to head back to the finish. Checking my computer, I crested the climb with a 19mph average speed.

Woohoo - downhill! Except that this was anything BUT a free ride. The grade was narrow enough that you had to work the entire way down the hill, into what seemed to be a headwind the whole way. I knew what the fastest women's time was from last year, and I was aiming to beat it if I could. The distance back to the finish was deceiving. Finally passing the 1K marker, I still felt like it was an interminable distance before I could see the line. I was pretty excited to cross with a time faster than the fastest time last year for the women by 40 seconds!

We all returned to the school to await the official results. I was nervous. I knew that teammate Clara (who won here last year and is a terrific climber) had a faster "unoffical" time than I did, but wasn't sure about some of the others. In particular, Kristen G had raced, and she is one of my main nemeses on the bike. Did she put in a faster time? The end result had Clara winning, with me posting the second fastest women's time overall, and winning the Master's women's category! Woohoo! In fact, NEBC took 3 of the 5 paying spots, with Katherine S having the 5th fastest women's time.

Mike had a great day too, shaving 1.5 minutes off of his time from last year, on a slightly longer course. We both celebrated with a cold beer and tasty sandwiches afterwards.

Bear Brook Blast Off

After the effort on Saturday, there wasn't much "blasting off" for me at Sunday's MTB race. I was pretty beat in the morning - with two early wake up calls, plus the driving, it made the thought of racing not as pleasurable. But, everyone else was going (and no, I wouldn't jump off the cliff just because they all were, dad!)...

After last week's learning about whether to take a pre-ride of the course, my approach yesterday was much more mellow. Probably too mellow. My warmup consisted of riding to a place to put our water bottle feed mechanism, and then riding back to the parking lot. Not so great for a 25 mile race, but at least I got to see SOME of the course...

The Expert women went off in the first wave of riders. It didn't take long for the singlespeeders to start passing us, wreaking havoc - there weren't many good places to pass on the course (and any time we came to double-track, there was no lapping/lapped traffic, naturally). Any time the course pointed ever-so-slightly in the upward direction, my legs starting screaming "Are you nuts? We just did this yesterday! So, not doing it again!". Sadly, they won.

With all of the lapping/lapped traffic, and my legs throwing a temper tantrum like a toddler looking for candy in the grocery check-out line, I pretty much decided it was a nice day for a ride in the woods. The trails at Bear Brook were definitely fun (would have been more so without the racing and traffic though) - some technically challenging sections of rocks and roots, some freshly cut singletrack and some recovery sections made for a great variety.

I went into this race tired, and expectations were low. Good thing, cause I finished DFL. Quite the dichotomy of racing for me this weekend! Next weekend it's back on the road for the Auburn RR and Great Falls Crit up in Maine.