Friday, April 22, 2011

194/365: I'm Beginning to Feel Like a Photo Meteorologist

Last Friday's picture was of the clouds moving through for a storm and this Friday's shot is of the torrential downpour outside my office today.  I really think I should have worn my pit boots to work today.  It's crazy raining and hailing out there.  Our hail got up to the size of nickels this afternoon.  Other places in town were report 4.5" hail.  I'm beginning to give credence to global climate changes, armeggedon or something with all the strange weather we've been having.  The snow this winter was much more frequent than I can remember for some time.  We had tornadoes on New Year's Eve.  It snowed March 26th.  The wind last Saturday was epic.  Wednesday night we drug the kids to the basement when the tornado sirens sounded.  I'm beginning to wonder what's next?  The rain is predicted to continue until next Thursday and their predicting severe storms tonight.  This is beautiful weather for ducks.  Not so much for bike racers!

Monday, April 18, 2011

187/365: The Storm Rolling In

I would say that tyaking photos while driving is probably as illegal as texting and driving, but to me this was a cool shot.  I was on my way to the shop to register for the Tour of St. Louis when the storm started rolling across I-170.  This photo doesn't do the view justice.  On the left side of I-170 the sun was still shining, to the right you can see the ominous clouds rolling through.  Within minutes of this the rain began falling so hard I had to double check that it wasn't hailing.  I'm hoping that we'll get some dry time for the races this weekend.  Last year's Tour of St. Louis was the tornado time trial.  The time trial was weather delayed due to hail and tornado sirens.  I'll never forget driving out and picking Alice up as she was fighting to get back to the line.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for dry pavement and sunshine tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Race Report: Tour of St. Louis

I had two goals for the weekend.  First was to stay with the pack for both the crits.  Second was to win the tt.

Saturday's weather was awful.  It was mid 40's, windy and drizzled off and on throughout our race.  There were 14 women (i think) in our race.  The course is a combination of the Tuesday night crit course and warm up loop.  It's just short of three miles.  There are three small hills, two small downhills, and we finished up hill.  Our time was shortened to 40 + 3.  The first two laps were calm.  We had a decent pace, but no one was pushing it.  The random attacks started around lap three.  None of the girls got very far before we brought them back.  Somewhere around 17 minutes an attack went and I went with it.  Three of us got off.  Emily bridged up, yelling "we got a gap, come on" and kept going.  Jamie went with her.  I didn't have it to go.  Within the next lap, the pack caught Cindy R and me.  Emily and Jamie stayed off for another five laps or so before we brought them back.  The random attacks continued.  Somewhere in there we lapped three different girls who couldn't stay on.  I made sure to stay on a wheel of whomever was going after them.  With two to go, I told Vanessa that I was going to try to go at the bottom of the hill to the finish.  She launched a few attacks on that lap, but nothing stuck.  We got to the last lap and Vanessa gave me a great leadout.  I went and got caught and passed, ending up 7th. 

The TT was later yesterday afternoon.  The rain had stopped, but the wind picked up.  It was blowing around 23mph, with 40+gusts.  There would be a great tail wind on the way out and pain, pain, pain on the way home.  The sweet spots on the course were still the same though.  I knew where I could make up time by adding gears.  I went off 7th.  It was my best tt start yet; I was geared correctly and comfortable with my holder.  I felt great and added gears until I maxed it out.  I passed my two minute man about three miles in.  (My minute man didn't show).  I was about 3/4 mile from the turn when the wind caught me and I had to grab my horns to keep from going over.  I probably lost a few seconds on the turn around.  I thought it was coming up and took off two gears before realizing I had a little more to go.  The turn itself went smoothly and I got a great start for the way back.  Then the headwind reared its ugly head.  I passed the three minute girl within a mile of the turn.  I started to try to fight the wind and then decided I would do better to spin through it.  I added three gears in the back and dropped to my small ring.  Somewhere around mile six I got my four minute girl.  I hit the sweet spot for the return trip and began adding gears.  I was able to get my speed back up to the mid-20s as I crossed the line.  Official time was 22:59, 2nd place.  Cindy Reese (cat 2, Bicycles of Tulsa) got me by about 30 seconds for first.  

Sunday's race was a four corner crit, one block on each end, four or so blocks on the sides.  The weather was much better, low 50s, sunny and breezy.  Teresa, Vanessa and I warmed up together.  We talked about the ominium and that I was sitting in 4th, one point behind Jamie.  Teresa and Vanessa agreed to work for me to cover anytime Jamie was attacking.  My goal was to sit on her wheel and not let her shake me.  We took 15 women to the line.  The attacks started early.  No one was letting anything go though.  We all took turns bringing back anyone who tried to go.  I led the chases when Jamie was in the mix and Vanessa and Teresa weren't in position.  We got a prime bell and I just made sure to be in the front of the group.  Somewhere around 30 minutes, Chris went on a solo break.  No one really tried to go after her.  With two laps to go, Vanessa took control of the group.  She tried to get me off on a break twice, but we couldn't get away.  We got the bell and I concentrated on staying near Jamie.  We turned the final corner and I heard Jamie yell, "oh, shit".  She was about a bike length in front of me.  I took that as a good sign and was up sprinting.  Carrie and Emily were already in front of me.  I went added gears until I ran out and stayed out of my seat even though my legs were screaming.  I passed her and held her off by about 1/4 of a wheel, giving me fourth place.  I thought that would give us a tie for the overall ominium.  Not quite though . . . Chris ended up taking it.  The three of us tied for points, but it was awarded to Chris because she had the highest finish out of the three of us for the weekend. 

I felt great in all three races.  I was able to see moves unfolding and react well.  It really helped me to have a clearly defined role and goal.  The teamwork in Sunday's race was great as well.  Vanessa had the legs to help me out and Teresa would come up alongside of me and encourage me while we were racing. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Race Report: Hermann

This year's Tour of Hermann was much difference for me than last year.  Last year I knew I was well trained, but had zero expectations because I had never done anything like it.  This year, I knew I was well-trained, but had definite expectations.  I wanted to win the tt and hold my own in the crit.  I didn't know if I would do the road race or not.  I did not have it on my schedule because of my job situation, but since that had changed, it was a possibility.

The course for the TT was a new one this year--much more challenging than last year.  Most of the hills were rollers, with one 18% climb at mile 4/10.  The weather was humid, a bit windy, and low 60s at my start.  I was cautious getting out of the parking lot onto the road because it was still wet from the rain we had.  I was about three and a half minutes in when I got passed by my 30 sec follow.  I didn't worry about it and just concentrated on pedal stroke and breathing.  My legs and lungs both felt great.  I went into my small ring for the big climb and it still hurt.  I settled back in pretty quickly though.  I think I was out of my saddle about three times on the way out.  I passed one girl on the way as well.  I got to the turn and saw another rider close enough for me to catch.  I used him as a rabbit.  Around mile nine, there was a hill that I was expecting I had to small ring.  I knew the big one was close so I just added gear in the back.  The climb was longer, but not as steep for the big hill going back.  Once I was over that, I was back in my big ring and worked on giving more for the last bit.  I finished strong with a negative split.  Final time was 38:22--over a minute ahead of the 2nd place girl, 108 overall.

I had about three hours until the crit.  Jamie and I grabbed lunched at the Stone Hill restaurant and watched the races.  This crit course is the most challenging I'll see all year.  It's 1.2 miles, starts with a false flat for about a quarter mile.  Up next is a screaming downhill with awful pavement and a sharp right.  You then traverse some neighborhood streets before climbing an ugly .2 mile hill that just hurts.  At race time it was mid-80s and sunny with a 12mph wind; we were doing 10 laps.  I had one teammate, Vanessa, in the race and she had fresh legs.  She was urging me at the start to go out hard with her and splinter the field.  I told her I didn't think I'd have it in my legs.  We got the whistle and she drove the pace.  By the bottom of the descent, I was off the back.  I had two girls in my sight, so I just worked on gaining ground on them.  I caught the first girl on the third climb.  I didn't let up on her on got significant distance from her on the false flat.  I caught the next girl on lap five on the hill.  Again, I just concentrated on giving it the power to not let her stay with me.  On lap seven I caught a third girl.  I rode her wheel up the climb and then pushed past her at the start/finish, not giving her a chance to go with me.  At two to go, the announcer said the four lead girls had a minute on me, about a quarter of a lap.  I pushed my descents a little harder, and tried to climb faster, hoping to see them and get on, but all I did was lap the first two girls I passed.  I ended up 5th overall. 

I was really torn about whether or not to race Sunday.  It was going to be hot, hilly and windy.  But I wasn't paying for the race and I was in a great spot to be on the podium in the Omnium.  I emailed Chuck who gave me great advice--if I woke up and wanted to race, go for it.  If not, stay home and train.  I hit the hills in Wildwood with the girls!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Boo's New Bike

182/365:  Look at that excitement!
I'm not sure who was more excited about today, Boo, Klucker or me.  (It definitely was not Bella!)  For about the last eight months I have been telling Boo that once he learns how to ride without training wheels, I will get him a new bike.  In the midst of his decision to tackle this challenge, my job craziness began.  So the second piece of that has been that as soon as I signed a contract with a different district, Boo could pick out the bike that he wanted.  The contract was signed on Monday and today we went to buy the bike.  And where else we go but Big Shark? 

I rode hills with the girls this morning and Klucker brought the kids to meet me for lunch.  Ms. Stephanie decided to come along and be a part of our day.  Boo had no idea what we were doing until we pulled into the lot at the shop.  He was so excited.  He looked at a few different bikes before he decided on this one.  Now he just has to practice getting faster.  His goal is to win the kids' races at Tour de Grove this year.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

181/365: Illustrating Time

I took this assignment quite literally.  I would have loved to do something more creative, but sometimes creativity alludes me.  My watch was a gift from Klucker.  It's a pretty special gift to me because he often times struggles with gift giving, and with this one he got it exactly right.  It's funny, as much as I love this watch, I'm not sure whether it was a birthday or Christmas gift.  And I'm not sure how many years I've had it.  I'm guessing it was a pre-bike racing gift, because since then most of the gifts he gives me revolve around the bike.  I find it ironic that as I try to pictorially represent time, I'm having a hard time recollecting the passing of it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

176/365: An Unusual Point of View

This is an unusual point of view for my life.  On great days, this is my post supper point of view.  If I get to enjoy this it means that my workout is done.  Supper is over and the kitchen is cleaned.  Homework is done.  Kids are showered and in pajamas, and so am I!  This doesn't happen very often.  Most nights the kids go straight from showers to bed because we've gotten home late or supper has taken longer than expected.  It's very rare that the three of us get to cuddle on the couch and together.  It's so rare, that they'll usually give in and let me watch what I want on TV.  You'll notice that there are only three pairs of feet in this photo.  I think that's because both monkeys are leary of Klucker's cuddability.  That probably comes from the fact that he yells at them when they try to climb into bed in the morning.  It's obvious he doesn't know what he's missing.

Race Report: Tilles Spring Criterium

This was my third time doing this race and my third major fail.  It was a warm, windy spring day--steady 25mph winds with gusts near 50.  I got a good warm up in with Cindi and we talked about strategy for the race.  We did a lap on the course before coming to the line.  Tilles Park only has two "corners" in it, and they're not true corners at that.  The cross winds would be significant, with us only facing a head wind right before turning to the start finish.  We lined up 12 deep.  Most of the normal racers were there with a few out-of-towners who had stayed over from the Hillsboro race on Saturday. 
Still in the group.  *Photo credit:  Dennis Fickinger

We were pretty slow off the line, everyone grouping up and trying to find a safe place in the wind.  The efforts was hard, but not unreasonable and the attacks didn't seem to come as frequently as they did at Forest Park.  Somewhere in that first 15 minutes we lost Steph.  I noticed her spending way too much time at the front and knew it wouldn't be good for her.  We had a prime in those first few laps as well.  The sprint for it went way early.  I reacted but just did enough to stay with the group.  I took a brief pull at the front early on and then got back in the pack. 

We were around 22-23 minutes and I was on the front, trying to tuck back in before the wind.  Chris attacked.  I hesitated a second, looking for a wheel and then just couldn't grab one.  I wrongly assumed they would quickly regroup, but they didn't.  The group fractured.  Seven girls in the lead group, three chasing, and Steph and me.  Steph said she was going to sit up, she didn't have it.  I told her to hold on to my wheel and I'd try to bridge us up.  I made a little ground on the group of three, but never could catch them.  They eventually rejoined the group and somewhere in the three laps, I dropped Steph.  I was out there alone.  I debated what to do:  sit up and wait or time trial the race.  I wanted a good workout, so I time trialed it.  I started to get mad at myself for not handling the attack well, but then I realized that it was a sunny, beautiful day, I was on my bike and I had a cheering section everytime I went through the start/finish.  I was caught by the pack with four to go.  I stayed with them for a lap until Jamie attacked.  In that attack the Skinny Cow girl crashed herself (she was all over the place all race).  She and I rode the last two laps together to finish. 

I know on any given day, I can hold my own with most of those girls.  The dynamics yesterday were different with a few more strong ladies added.  I don't think I was mentally committed to the race, my mind was focused on my job interview from Friday before the race.  And I forgot how much I dislike gatorade once it gets warm, i.e. I didn't drink enough during the race.  The best part of yesterday for me was post race.  A friend of mine walked up and told me great job and that he knew I wouldn't quit the race because that's all that his fiancee kept saying, "Suzanne says you never quit, no matter what.  Look at her.  She'll stay with it and keep going."  It gave me a chance to walk the talk.