Monday, September 26, 2011

Wheels in Motion to Cure Cystic Fibrosis

Team Children's Hospital:  Me, Teri, Patrick, Steph, and Jeff
Saturday was the first, of hopefully many, Wheels in Motion to Cure Cystic Fibrosis rides.  It started at T.R. Hughes in St. Charles with 35 and 60 mile options.  The registration was smooth, the course was well-marked, and there was great beer at the end.

My cousin, Teri, asked me to ride with her when her husband Lou had to back out.  Teri's co-worker Patrick's daughter has CF and he is very involved with the local organization.  My onus for wanting to ride was to get Teri back on her bike.  In high school Teri was a very competitive swimmer and a good runner.  In her 20s, she could hold her own on the tri scene.  Then came Lou and the kids.  She's had several starts and stops in trying to get active again and I want to make sure she maintains her momentum this time.  We did a quick ride after work a week ago, and are trying to find time to get out more regularly.  She made me SO proud on Saturday.  It was her longest ride in over a year and she did it like a trooper, even when we had some hills come our way.  Her goal is to be able to do the 60 mile route on the Freedom Ride next summer.  My plan is to make sure she does.

Race Report: PICX#2

When I pulled into the park on Saturday, I wasn't excited about the race.  I had raced at this venue last year and it was obnoxiously hard.  I got my bike down and got my helmet on and pre-rode about half the course before the first race of the day began.  It didn't seem like it was as difficult as last year.  The course started flat for about 100M.  From there it turned around a tree and went downhill before turning and going right back up.  That hill was a tough climb, long with a good grade.  At the top, it jumped on the side walk and headed towards the lake.  We swept left, off camber by the lake before turning to the hillside again.  We followed the hillside with a sweeping right and uphill.  You could get enough momentum on the downhill sweep for that little climb before doing a 180 and going down again.  From there it was  sweeping right and and uphill ending in an off camber left.  Back down again and a turn to the right before a little two 180s leading towards the tennis course.  Next was a hard left downhill, a short uphill left sweeper, and a 180 leading to the TALL barriers.  After the barriers, it was downhill and back up to a left turn.  A series of three 180s with a short downhill followed up a little steep uphill.  It then turned left and had a gentle downhill before a gentle uphill and a sweep left to the start finish.  All in all, a lot of climbing.

I warmed  up in the adjacent fields, doing some hills and hard efforts.  It was about 75 and sunny.  We had nine ladies in our race.  I got a full lap in on the course immediately prior to our race.  The whistle went and Liz took off.  I was sitting sixth and Alison passed me right after the lake.  I worked at staying with her and passed her in the second lap.  I kept pushing to secure a gap on her and I realized that Cat was in my sites.  In lap three, I passed her on the long climb.  She came around me again after the lake.  I stayed with her and got her on the start/finish.  Again, I worked to secure a larger gap.  I could see Britta and Gina within distance of me and so I concentrated on catching them.  The next two laps I could tell their lead was decreasing.  I crossed the line and saw three to go and realized the leaders in the men's race were getting ready to lap me.  The passed me after the big climb and I jumped on the second guys wheel.  I went aggressively around the turn at the lake and slid right onto Gina's wheel as they went around.  I rode Gina's wheel until the next set of 180s.  We were getting passed by the guy sitting in third in the mens' race, a teammate of mine.  Travis told us he was coming and where he wanted to pass.  Britta thought he was me and wouldn't let him around.  It slowed down our pace.  I tried to take a gear off because we lost momentum.  My drive train must have been under too much stress because it shifted hard and felt like the chain was going to drop.  It was enough that I bobbled the bars and cut my knee on the cables on the top tube.  I kept it upright, but lost the wheel.  I rode hard the rest of that lap and the final one, but could never get back on.  I finished fifth.
Pushing up the hill. I hate climbing out of the saddle, but this one required it.  Photo credit: Mike Dawson

Smiling & cheesing my way through it! Photo credit: Mike Dawson
I felt like I did well pushing myself today.  My handling on the corners was also pretty good.  I struggled a bit at the barriers . . . the ones in this series are taller than any other races.  I never feel like I can jump them, it's more like stepping over them.  And turns by lakes at cx races still freak me out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Race Report: Gateway CX Cup

The course was a lot of fun and I was well suited for it.  There were very few elevation changes.  The turns were wide, allowing me to pedal through comfortably.  My favorite section was right after the second set of stairs--there were three short uphill/downills that were like being on a roller coaster.
Course Map
I got to the race and was able to sneak on the course and pre-ride it.  I was very glad I did because the barriers came so quickly after the first set of steps, I almost rode into them in my pre-ride.  That also gave me a chance to try out the flyover and lose my fear of it.  I did the rest of my warm up in an open field.  It was warm at race time, almost 80 degrees.  We had a nice size field.  I was staged in the 2nd row.  We got the green light and off we went.  I was conscience on starting hot.  I was able to keep contact with the lead group until just before a little off camber hill about a quarter way into the course.  After that I got passed by three girls and it made me mad.  I set out after them.  I was able to overtake Kelly pretty quickly and Sally was next.  That was within the first lap.  I looked back for a little bit until I felt like I had a comfortable margin on them.  I started after Cory next.  I could tell I was gaining on her.  At the pavement leading into the finishing straight, she waved me past.  She wasn't looking good at all.  I took the opportunity and went.  I saw three to go on the counter.  I could see Teresa and the lead four in front of me.  I continued to push myself to go after them.  I bobbled my dismount on the first set of steps in that lap.  My brain and legs were not working together.  When I finally began running up the steps, I heard Dan Singer say "There's that smile."  That made me push harder.  I spent the rest of that lap and lap three whittling down Teresa's lead.  On the last lap, in the straight before the stairs, she realized how close I was.  She was out of her saddle trying to get away.  I focused on clearing the stairs well and riding good lines.  I was right back on her as we crossed over into the field before the finish.  We went past the pit and she turned on the gas.  I was expecting that and went harder as well.  She took the last corner before the pavement better than I did and got a little gap on me.  We were both out of the saddle sprinting at the finish.  I was able to catch her wheel, but not pass her.  I think I set an all time new heart rate record for myself--it was 197 at the finish.
Having the time of my life! Photo credit:  Mike Dawson

After the race, and getting past the feeling of wanting to puke, I couldn't stop smiling.  It was so much fun!  What was even better was that Nell was with the kids so I got to stay out and play.  It was awesome to watch the pros race.  The crowds were great, especially considering it was a Wednesday night.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Race Report: Hermann CX

Saturday night's race went much better for me than the results show. Jeff, once again, put together a great, challenging course.  It incorporated the warning track of the baseball field, those stairs we all love, two sand pits, a couple of railroad ties before a little off camber spot, and barriers.  The turns were nice and open, which is a plus for me.

I jumped on course and did a warm up lap between some earlier races.  At that point, the conditions were good and the lines were already visible.  I felt like I could ride the first sand pit, but decided to run the second because I knew with the ties being uphill, I wouldn't be confident in trying to hop them.  I finished my warm up on the road, trying to agitate my heart rate so I would be ready to go off the line.  The weather was overcast, low 60s and humid.  It rained all day Wednesday and we had spot showers on Saturday.  There were 13 women in our race.

The whistle blew and I thought I went off hot, but I was sitting in 12th immediately.  By the time we hit the second chicane on the field, Cory had passed me.  I pushed myself and stayed on Carol's wheel and passed her on the way to the stairs.  I stayed in front of her through the first two laps, but she passed me through the start/finish on lap three.  Cory was in site though and I went after her.  I overtook her right after we circled back on the baseball field.  Alison was in sight, so I kept trying to catch her.  That lap I fumbled with my bike over the first barrier and grazed the top of the second barrier with my wheel.  I almost went down, but recovered and remounted.  Lap five I was closing in on Alison.  I caught and passed up running up the stairs.  I would put distance on her in the open areas, but she'd catch me through the turns.  In the last lap, I put what felt like a good gap on her after the stairs and sand, but I think I slowed down through the winding to the finish because right before we went out on the finishing straight, Jim yelled at me that she was right on me.  I didn't look back but added gear and got out of the saddle for the sprint, crossing the line in front of her for 11th.
The thing about cx is that no matter how much I struggle, I usually am able to smile my way through.

This is a BIG deal for me.  It's the first time I've ever been able to shoulder my bike.

Sunday’s course was the same as Saturday’s except that the conditions had deteriorated. There was lots of mud and little grass. Temps were low 70s at race time, and we had a field of eight.

I was on the back off the start and lost contact with the group after the second chicane. I knew I wasn't well suited for the mud, so I looked at it as an opportunity to practice my handling skills. I held it upright through everything and began to gain ground on the two ladies in front of me. I struggled with my remounts on lap five because I was just simply exhausted by that point. I got lapped by the three leaders just prior to the stairs, making lap six my final lap.  The other big point of this race was that I took my first beer hand up!

Here's what I noticed about my racing:
  • ·         I'm much more comfortable on this smaller frame.  My bike handling was much, much better than it's ever been.  I now need to focus on adding speed through the turns.  
  • ·         I didn't get skittish through the sand, mud, or when I couldn't get back into my pedals following the run through the sand. That’s a HUGE improvement for me.
  • ·         I was conscience about what my strengths were in this race.  I knew my area to make up time was where I could use power versus the girls who are better handlers.
  • ·         I need to work on not getting complacent.  In a crit, this isn't an issue because of the pack.  I find myself losing a little focus when the field gets strung out.  
  • ·         I know I need to work on going harder off the start so I do not constantly have to regain ground.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Life Well Lived

Every year Beloit College publishes the Mindset List.  This list reflects the world view of the freshmen entering college in the given year.  For example, this year's freshmen never lived in a time with the Berlin Wall.  For them, there's always been a FOX network.  The purpose of the list is to help faculty be mindful of the references they use in class.

Last night we celebrated my grandma's 94th birthday.  As I sat with her, I began to think about her mindset and how the world has changed in her lifetime.  Cell phones and computers are now common.  She lived through Prohibition, The Great Depression, World War II, Korean Conflict, Armstrong on the moon, Vietnam, both Bushes in the White House and 9/11.  As one of thirteen children, she's outlived all but three.  She's incredibly sharp, smart, and has a perseverance that I aspire to emulate.  She's lost the love of her life and her son.  She stayed at home and raised her kids until they were grown and then became a career woman.  She can still cook circles around anyone, and the only reason she's stopped sewing is because she's lost most of her vision.  Can you tell I want to be just like her if I ever grow up?

So besides thinking Mammaw is pretty amazing.  I loved spending time with this side of my family.  When I was a wee lass, we were always together.  The entire side of the family drove to Yellowstone, camping along the way.  My parents and aunts and uncles square danced (it was the 70s!) together every week.  Then there was drama . . . marriage drama on the part of my parents and other family tensions.  I think I was about seven.  I will say my dad and his brother stayed pretty tight, they were so much alike it's scary.  But I grew up not really knowing my cousins well.  It was until my cousin Darla put her foot down and said, "Enough!" that things got better.  I still don't spend enough time with them, but I truly treasure when I do.

So a few photos from last night, the ones that make me smile the most:
Uncle Lloyd, the oldest of the three and his momma.  She was so surprised when she walked in she started crying.

My cousin Darla and I are almost as similar as our Dads were.  We're ten years and a day apart.  She and her dad can bring tears to my eyes with a simple hug that passes so many unsaid words.

I will forever treasure this photo.  Sissy gave Mammaw the necklace that she has on the last time we visited.  She hasn't taken it off since.

Sissy is getting loving from Uncle Lloyd.  He and my dad looked so much alike that when their grandkids were little, they would get confused over who was whom.  Every time he sees Sissy he reminds me of just how rotten she would be if my dad had ever had the change to spoil her.

Just a shot with my brother.

I was trying to get Jeffrey's head down far enough so you could see his bald spot.  He started smacking me with the cake server though.  Yes, we frequently got in trouble for wrestling in the house.

Mammaw raised three children, two boys and a girl.  From those three came seven grandchildren . . . all of us there last night.  From the seven grandchildren came 11 great-grandchildren.  And if I'm right, I think there are  four great great grandchildren.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race Report: PICX #1

I definitely could tell I hadn't been on my cx bike in nine months.  It was a brutal race, but I smiled my way through it!

The course wasn't technical, but it wasn't easy. Lot of hills, a bit of tall grass, a fun, quick downhill and a nasty, steep, short uphill.

The weather was beautiful, high 70s, and we had six women in the Open Race.  I set three goals for myself today:
1.  Not fall.  My elbow didn't need the impact.
2.  Not get lapped by any girls.
3.  Not finish DFL.

I accomplished the first two.  We got the whistle from the line and I guess I forgot about how to start a cx race because I wasn't prepared for jumping so quickly.  Yep, off the back from the go.  I decided to take the nasty little hill near the end as a run up on the first lap.  I had tried to ride in during my warm up, but didn't make it up.  Second lap I moved a little faster through the course and decided to ride the little hill.  I almost made it the top, but had to put a foot down near the top.  I got lapped by the men's leader during lap three.  Two laps later, I finally made it up the hill!  The last lap I pushed myself harder, standing through all my climbs and got some great speed on the cobbles.  
It couldn't have been that bad . . . I was smiling. *Photo credit: Kelly Patty

My bike handling definitely needs some work.  I lost a lot of speed in the tight turns.  My dismounts were passable, and remounts were ok.  I'm choosing to look at it positively in that I have lots of room for
My best side!  *Photo credit: Kelly Patty

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Making Friends

I was talking to one of my friends earlier this week.  She was slightly worried because her beau finally told his mother that he was dating someone.  (There's a LONG back story to this that I can't divulge and isn't really pertinent at this time.) And she is slightly worried about how she and his mother will get along when they meet.  Her comment regarding this was something to the effect of this:  "I don't really have girlfriends.  I do better with guys.  The few close girlfriends I have are like me."  Now, this was not an epiphany for me.  We met each other through our boyfriends being friends, and while those relationships have long since faded, our friendship has stood the test of time.  But our conversation got me thinking about making friends, and how difficult it is to make friends as an adult.

I would say if I had to use the high school term BFF, those are two ladies in my life who fit that bill.  My friend I mentioned above, and a friend I've known since kindergarten.  I can honestly say I trust these girls with my life and secrets.  I would drop everything if either one called and said "I need you". And I know they'd do the same for me.   

Now one could argue that the reason these friendships are my closest is because I've known these ladies so long--21 and 35 years.  The closeness has had a long time to develop.  But at the same time, I don't see or talk to these ladies as much as I see and talk to others.  Yes, at one time I hung out with each of them on a daily basis, but life keeps us from having those frequent interactions now.

I have a fairly large circle of friends I've made since becoming an adult.  (Age wise, not behavior) None of those friendships have developed into anything near what I share with M and S.  I wonder why that is.  Part of me thinks that as we get older, we get jaded, less likely to trust others.  Or is it because those rolls are already filled for me?  I wonder because I don't have the daily high school or college interaction, or the time to hang on the phone daily, if those relationships are nurtured the way my earlier ones were.  I'm not really sure. 

I can say this, I agree with my friend M and her comments about doing better with guys.  The guys I've befriended over the years don't play the passive aggressive, mean girl games that I've seen from so many of my gender.  I get exhausted second guessing myself about who I offended this week simply because I have a bit of snark in me or because I won't give into popular opinion.  Oye!  The other things I can say is that I am extremely lucky to have M and S.  I will go days or weeks without talking to or seeing either of them, yet I have the safety net of knowing they're there for me.  I know when I pick up the phone, stop by or jump on a plane, we'll begin where we last left it, like we've never been apart.   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2011 Road Season in Review

I’m big on reflection.  I’ve seen as a classroom teacher and as a staff developer that people learn best once they have time to process and put their learning in a context.  That’s what I’m trying to do now, as a cyclist, with this past season.

I went into this season being nervous.  I upgrade to Cat 3 after Gateway Cup last year.  That meant, for most of my races, I would be competing against Cat 1/2/3 women.  I was worried about being sorely out classed.  To compound this, I had a dismissal cross season last fall and winter.  One more variable in the equation is that I was job hunting at the beginning of the season as well. 

In spite of all of that, my season started well.  I was holding my own in most races.  I won the time trial at Hermann.  While I cracked in the crit, I had been expecting that.  My Tour of St. Louis and Belleville Crit went great as well.  Then came Tour de Grove. 

Tour de Grove, Midtown Alley was not my night.  I went down hard in the sprint and tore my left side to shreds.  In spite of that, I was able to come back and podium at Dutchtown that Sunday.  I was feeling good about my racing until late July.  That’s when the bottom dropped out.

I am attributing the problem to a dietary change.  I cut out all processed refined sugar.  However I don’t know if that was the actual culprit.  All I know is that I struggled through Edwardsville, the MO State Timetrial and Crit.  I was outclassed by the competition and I was hating racing.  Fortunately I have a great coach who gave me constructive feedback and worked to keep my head in the game and my fitness where it should be.  With some adjusted nutrition, by the time I raced Sedalia and Otterville, I felt like I was back and was looking forward to GWC.

Gateway started out fine.  I planned to race all four races, with Monday being my day to shine.  Friday night I sat in for most of the race and had a decent sprint for 11th.  Saturday started out well.  I was sitting in the pack and was moving into place in the final lap when I went down.  I’m not sure how or why, I suspect someone hit me. Regardless my left side was again trashed.  I managed to race Sunday and Monday, but my performance mimicked Jeff City. 

So what have I learned from all of this:
  • I can hold with Cat 1 & 2 ladies on any given day.
  • Tough Pads work better than Tegaderm for road rash.
  • A great manicure can survive a crash at 30mph.
  • I will not screw with my nutrition mid season ever again.
  • I love my team, my teammates.
  • None of this matters if it stops being fun.

So cross begins in three days.  I don’t have a lot of high expectations for myself for cx.  I want to race.  I want to work hard.  I want to smile. I want to get muddy. I did upgrade to Cat 3, but not because I think I’m a dirty goddess.  I upgraded because I’ve raced two full seasons and I’m no longer a beginner.  I know I’ll get lapped.  I know there will be races where I’m DFL.  I know I will laugh and have good times with my friends.  And I hope that the disappointment I’m feeling now will fade and that I will have my head wrapped around the idea of racing hard, fast and aggressive when February gets here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Race Report: Gateway Cup

Friday Night
Lafayette Square
It was hot (100ish) but fortunately no humidity.  I got to Lafayette early enough to ride five or six laps before the men's 4/5 race--I wanted to know where the wind would be.  I continued my warm up on the neighborhood roads and headed to the staging area with one lap to go in the men's race.  The course is a basic four corner sprint, almost a perfect square.  There is a slight uphill on the back side and we had a light head wind.  I made sure to be on the line at the start.  We had 42 women in our field and I didn't know most of them.  We got pre-race instructions, 30+5 and 2 primes, and got a whistle.  I went up front and this girl with RS on her butt zoomed ahead of me.  Everyone was on her quickly and we formed a tight pack.  Somewhere in lap 2 Becca tried to launch an attack, but was quickly reeled in.  The first prime came about 5 laps into the race.  I stayed up front for it, but didn't get out of the saddle for the sprint.  Becca took it.  The pack reformed and around we went again.  There was a lot of poor cornering, especially turn three of the race.  More than once I saw the RS girl wobbling and taking a poor line as she went through.  She's someone I'll watch out for as the weekend goes on.  Our second prime came about 20 minutes into the race.  I found myself sitting too far back in the pack to make a go for it, but I used it as an opportunity to move forward again.  The lap after the prime, we went to five to go on the lap cards--they cut our race time.  I worked to stay up front and have a good spot for the final lap.  Our pace slowed.  We got the bell and went into the last lap.  I was sitting about fourth or fifth wheel.  We came around turn three and someone sitting second wheel took off.  I lost a few places there, but quickly caught a wheel.  We took turn four and the sprint was on.  I knew I had no chance at top three, but wanted to get as high of place as possible.  I moved up about four or five places with my sprint, ended up 11th.

Francis Park
It was another hot one.  It was about 97 degrees and humid at race time.  I did about five laps on the course and then finished my warm up on the trainer.  The course is a rectangle, with a gentle uphill right after the start/finish and a downhill after turn two.  Turn three is a bit sketchy because it's off camber and has two manhole covers in what should be the best line.  45 ladies started our race.  I was on the front to start.  We took off quickly, with ladies working to get position.  Lap three was our first prime.  I was in the front of the pack, but in no place to contest it.  We reformed as a group after the sprint and went around again.  A few attacks were launched, but nothing was getting away.  I moved around within the group, always trying to set myself up for a good line in the third corner...that only happened a handful of times.  The second prime came about 24 minutes in the race.  I was in better position, but was probably eighth across the line.  Two laps later we started counting down.  In two to go, an attack went.  We came back together right at the start/finish with one to go.  We turn corner one and another attack launch, the squirrelly RS girl took off.  The pack let her go.  We rounded turn two and she was still out there, pulling away.  I decided to see what I could do.  I moved to the outside and jumped to go after her.  I assume someone decided to follow my lead because I felt something on my back wheel and I started wobbling.  Down I went on my left side.  The moto ref came up to and called for the medics.  I told him to have them meet me at the line because I was finishing.  I straightened my bars and realized my chain was off.  I got it back on, but still couldn't get my rear wheel to turn.  I threw the bike on my shoulder and started walking.  I had gone about 50 yards when a friend of mine, Larry rolled up.  He asked the ref if I could finish on a different bike.  The ref gave the ok, so I took Larry's bike.  Larry is about 6'2" so I rode standing.  I pulled on the finishing straight and was stopped so the medics could get around me.  There was another crash, right at the start/finish.  Cindi was done.  They took her off on a stretcher. 

Somehow, I ended up 32/45, but I didn't get a DNF.  My injuries are on top of the scars from the crash earlier this season.  The scrapes on my elbow are pretty deep, the doc at the race thinks I bruised the bone.  My hip and shoulder have small abrasions and someone I have some scrapes on fingers on my right hand.

Giro de Montagna
I was incredibly nervous to line up for the Giro de Montagna on Sunday.  While this is the “premier” race of Gateway Cup, it’s also the most dangerous.  It’s a four corner rectangle crit.  What makes it difficult and dangerous is that the streets are narrow.  The finishing straight is downhill and you go into turn one hot.  The end is only a block long, so you’re still taking speed into turn two.  The backside is a long uphill, nothing difficult to climb, but you know you’re climbing.  Positioning in turn three is crucial because it determines how you finish.

The weather was cooler—mid 70s with a slight wind.  We had 40 women again.  The whistle blew and we were off.  I stayed towards the back.  By the third time up the backside, I saw the field surge and I consciously let them go.  I was still feeling timid and didn’t want to be in the mix.  I spent the rest of the race chasing.  I tried to organize a group, but only one other girl had the legs to keep the pace that I wanted to keep. 
Taking a pull up the hill on the backside.  *Photo credit:  Mike Dawson

My group of three got lapped with five to go.  I stayed on, but with the pack for the remainder of the race.  I ended up 34th on the day.

Benton Park Classic
I was hoping Monday would have been better than Sunday.  I really like the Benton Park course.  It’s about 1.7 miles long with 10 turns.  The weather was even cooler on Monday, but the wind was brutal, 18mph with gusts up to 28.  I got a great warm up in when I got there, only to have our race delay by 90 minutes.  When the men’s 4/5 started, I went back out to get warm.  I got back just in time to head to the line . . . which meant I was three rows back.  The race starts on an uphill and there were a lot of girls who had trouble getting in their pedals.  Our race was shortened to five laps because of the delay, so it went hot off the line.  I got caught behind the Team Type One girl who didn’t get in and was gapped immediately.  There were a good number of us fighting to get back on.  I came close, but could never catch a wheel.  I caught the Bikes of America girl midway through lap one.  She and I traded pulls and maintained a race pace, never letting up.  We caught the Team Type One girl during lap three.  We all worked together until the end.  As we rounded the final turn, I was pulling.  I felt TTO coming on my left.  I went into my drops, upped my cadence and pulled away.  I knew they wouldn’t let go that easy.  At about 200M, I jumped.  The BoA girl went with me.  I added gear to try to fend her off.  I felt like I was losing bike control right at the line and sat down and she got me by an inch or so.  I ended up 32nd.

It was interesting to me that both Saturday and Sunday I would be the one pulling on the uphill.  I knew it was probably a tactical move on the part of the girls with whom I was riding, but I also felt like I could ride the hills better and even though catching the group was unlikely, I wasn’t going to stop trying.

I’m pretty disappointed with how the weekend played out.  I felt really good on Friday night and Saturday.  I know I raced injured on Sunday and Monday, I was just hoping it wouldn’t have had as much of an effect as it did.