Monday, October 29, 2012

Race Report: Illinois Ozark 10K Trail Run

Saturday morning was beautiful.  It was sunny and the high 30s at race time.  There was a slight breeze.  I was fretting over my clothing choices because I was chilly getting ready.  I had to remind myself to dress for the run and not the standing around pre-race.  We got to the park and picked up packets.  It was early enough that I went back to the car for a few minutes to relax.  It finally got close enough and I head out for a short warm up.  I had a GU with me, but decided to save it until mid run.  About 15 minutes before start I finally dragged myself out into the cold.  A final restroom stop and time to warm up.  We ran a short loop around the streets near the ball field and headed to the line.  After the national anthem, I moved to the front of pack and tossed my jacket to the sidelines.  We got a whistle and were off.
I still feel odd when I move to the front -- like an imposter.

I stayed with the lead group for about half a mile.  I was trying to pace with them, but realized it was something I couldn't sustain -- I needed to run my own race.  Around about that time, Ryan passed me.  With his long stride I wasn't surprised.  We hit the trail a little less than a mile in and started going up, up, up.  From last year I remember how much energy I expended trying to run this first one.  I switched to a quick walk and focused on turnover.  I was able to pass two of the ladies who had passed me on the pavement, as well as Ryan.  At a mile and a half we finally hit the top of the bluff.  I began running again and the trail began its descent.  I kept my eyes on the trail and moved as quickly as I could without tripping over my own feet.  I finally reached the bottom and the flat section of the race.  Ryan passed me again, as did some girl who came out of nowhere and made me feel like I was standing still!  I saw the three mile mark and knew I was halfway.  I was mentally preparing myself for the climb that was yet to come.  I came out into the opening and got passed by another woman.  She had been in the lead group with me at the start and I had passed her on the first climb.  I grabbed a cup of water and began the uphill.

The beauty of trail running...amazing scenery.   
Finish strong!

I found a good walking pace up the stone "stairs" and managed to pass the woman again.  Ryan was just ahead of me.  Leg speed, leg speed.  I got passed him again as well.  The trail flattened and I ran again until it tilted back up.  Time to walk again.  I saw another woman ahead of me and I tried to shut down the gap.  I was closing in on her until we reached the top.  She was able to descend faster than me--story of my life.  This descent was less treacherous than the first.  It was also the uphill we originally climbed.  I saw the marker for mile five and knew I was close to pavement.  I popped out of the woods and onto the road.  The first half mile or so of the road was downhill, until we made the left back to the park.  It was around there that Ryan passed me again.  I tried to move in behind him and pace/draft off of him, but I couldn't match his stride.  I turned the corner into the parking lot and started moving my arms faster hoping my legs would follow suit.  Finally the finish!  I had no idea how many woman were in front of me, but I was just glad to be done.  Official time was 55:29, a little less than two minutes faster than last year's race.  1st in AG, 4th in women, 19 overall.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Race Report: Bubba #2 Sylvan Spring

Sunday's race was at a venue new to me.  I've done a crit there before, so I knew it would be hilly but didn't know what else.  I started the morning by bike marshaling the Rock n Roll half marathon course.  After grabbing breakfast we headed to the park.  It was unusually warm for the day, race time temp was about 80 degrees with lots of sun.  I got a lap and a half preride in on the course and did the rest of my warm up in the field at the top of the park by the barriers.

The course started on pavement before 180ing back to a long gradual climb.  It curved right and picked up an old sidewalk that you could ride most of the way to the top.  From there was a series of switchbacks -- four I think -- up and down.  We then wound around to the bottom of the park before starting the second climb.  The second climb was as long or steep as the first.  It led to the top side of the park again.  There were some curves and turns and a few small elevation changes before heading down to the parking lot.  The course cut across the parking lot before leading back into the trees and the hardest climb.  The beginning of this one wasn't tough, it was the small kicker at the end that hurt.  From there you turned right and had the barriers.  Then it was a bumpy little down hill that led to a hard left to take you back to the start/finish.  
Topping the small kicker that hurt.  *Photo Credit: Don McKinney
We had eight ladies in the A race and 15 in our B race . . . a pretty good size field.  The whistle blew and we took off.  I would say I got my best jump of the season. Liz led out, Britta was right behind and I was sitting third wheel.  I knew someone was right behind me, but didn't know who.  We stayed close and tight until we wound around the top section of the field.  There was a little downhill 180 to a short uphill right.  I was geared wrong for the uphill and had to dab to get around the turn.  Cat passed me at that point.  I got going again, determined to take back third place.  I caught onto Cat after the parking lot and was able to pass her on the third climb.  By this time there was a short gap and Britta had taken over the lead.  By the time we finished the second climb of the second lap. Britta had a small gap on Liz.  I was able to close the ground and sit on Liz's wheel.  We were even through the barriers and she got a jump on the downhill.  I went around her on the pavement.  I know she stayed close to me for the next lap and a half, but I was eventually able to gain a good gap.  We did six laps for the race, but I was never able to bring Britta back.  I think she probably had a 20 second lead on me.  The toughest part of the race for me were the barriers after the climb.  My legs felt a bit jello like every time across them.
The bottom after the gradual downhill.  Courtney hot on me. *Photo credit: Mike Dawson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Report: Bubba #1 Queeny Park

It's finally time for Bubba CX!  This year we started at Queeny Park.  I raced Queeny two years ago, but missed it last year do to Joules CX. The course used some of the same features as two years ago, but had a good deal of change as well.  It started uphill on pavement before hitting the grass and dropping into single track in the woods.  The single track sections on the entire course were mud.  Peanut butter is the best way to describe it.  After the first single track section, there was a nice grassy climb that led to an open field before you dropped back into the wood.  That drop in was downhill and to the left, tree roots and such as well.  I dabbed going through there on my warm up, but found throughout the race if I stayed high and left I rode it comfortably.  From there we wound around, had a nice big puddle that could be avoided, another 90 degree left in the mud before heading out to the path.  The path wound up the hill, a great climb! Then it went over into the grass hill side.  We went down the hill on a gravel path, 180 and out into the parking lot before hitting a short steep run up, 180 and down hill to the parking lot to a 180 and another run up.  From there we wound up the hillside, going anaerobic, back to the path, cut through the grass and the parking lot back to the finish.  1.54 miles in all.

Off the line headed to the woods.  *Photo Credit: Don McKinney
The weather couldn't make up it's mind.  Sunny one minute, totally overcast the next -- wind was continuous though.  I warmed up around the course and in the parking lot.  I felt really good going to the line.  We had five ladies in the A race and about 10 in the B race.  The whistle blew and Liz took off.  She got a little gap, but Cat was close and Britta was on her wheel.  I was sitting fourth and Teresa was behind me.  We hit the thicker mud and I realized I was geared wrong.  I could barely turn my pedals.  I managed to push through, but lost some ground.  I would need to work to catch back on.  I rode hard and clean, taking better lines than I had in my recon lap.  I hit the pavement climb and headed over to the grass.  My smalls were there cheering and that always gives me energy.  I did the first run up and got a surprise . . . they had added the second since my pre-ride.  Okay, off and up again.  I got back on the bike and began the slow grind up.  I added gear when I hit the pavement and pushed hard.  I got over by the pit and the course tape was broken.  Oh heck!  Which way do I go?  I went right.  I should have gone left.  I kept going, broke the tape twice and got back on the course.  In that I got the tape wrapped around my neck--I've got a pretty sweet abrasion on there from it.  Although I lost some time in that move, I saw Liz was close.  I was able to catch her.  As I pulled along side Liz, I could tell she was unhappy. I told her "then let's hunt Britta down. Come on!"
On the hunt for first *Photo credit: Don McKinney
I adjusted my gearing as I dropped back into the woods.  This time through was much better.  I came out and saw Cat and Britta climbing the hill.  I dug deep and went after them.  I passed them in the open field before we headed back into the woods.  Britta had responded to my attack and was with me.  I focused on riding good lines and staying up right.  She was on me until we hit the run up.  I dismounted at the bottom and took the inside line.  She tried to ride it and got about half way up and was forced to dismount.  Her dismount was awkard and she cut across and tried to run into my line.  I guess I've become a pretty aggressive racer because I'm not giving up my line that easily.  She tried to cut me off and I kept going.  She yelled "What are you doing?"  I said holding my line.  She said you can't run into me.  I responded "I didn't.  You need to learn how to ride your bike."  She got ahead of me on the remount and I took a little too much risk/speed on the downhill before the next run up.  I didn't go down or into the barriers, but I was a bit scared.  I was able to catch her wheel right after the pit and I sat on it until we went into the woods.  We had three laps to go. I saw the line she took in the mud and knew it wasn't good.  Sure enough, she almost went over and had to unclip.  I rode around her and focused and riding smart.

For the next three laps I would gain a gap through the single track and mud and she would close it down in the open sections and hills.  On the final lap I knew I need to get through the single track as quickly as possible because she would be powering through the open sections trying to catch me.  I also kept repeating to myself what Coach Chuck told me . . . the race was in front of me.  I needed to know she was back there, but not let it take my attention off what I had to do.  I got on the bike after the run ups and my legs were yelling at me.  I was worried that if it came to a sprint, I was history.  I didn't think I had the explosive jump left in me.  I reached the top of the grass climb and knew I needed to finish it off.  I revved up my cadence and added a gear, revved it up again and added another.  Push hard now and make a gap so a sprint isn't even an possibility.  I hit the grass by the pit and jumped back out in the parking lot.  I put my head down and added another gear.  I couldn't hear her, and hoped that I had the lead I needed.  The line was in sight . . . yes!!!  Put a notch in the W column.
The big puddle -- Yes, I did ride through it twice :-) *Photo credit:  Mike Dawson
Final lap -- but this was what it looked like most of the race. *Photo credit: Dennis Fickinger 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Race Report: Veldrijden Columbia 2012

I was so excited that this race got moved earlier in the season.  Last year it was after state and the turn out was light...such a shame because the venue is so awesome!

I got there early and pre-rode the course before the first race started. We had had a good rain the night before, so I knew we'd have some mud.  The course was very similar to last year.  The major change was that the sand pit was out (yeah me!), but after the single track section, there was a bit of climbing added.  Overall, a good course that suited me well.  I warmed up around the park and felt pretty good going to the line.  My only concern was the amount of guys I had seen flatting out in earlier races.  I had a bike in the pit, so while I might be delayed I flatted, I wouldn't be out totally.  And I knew what to look out for after rolling my tire on this course last year.

Unfortunately there were only three ladies (Cat, Allison) in the Open race.  The whistle blew and we were off.  Cat jumped out early and I was right behind her.  I couldn't get clipped in and my right foot kept slipping.  I finally got settled, but Cat had a little gap.  We circled around to the drop in for the first single track section.  With the rain it was slick, but not sloppy.  The drop in was short and turned hard left with tree roots all around.  I rode my brakes through it and stayed up.  Allison was behind me and ran it.  I heard her say "Come on Suzanne."  I guess she got momentum going faster than me.  I came up out of the woods and went after Cat.  I kept her in my sites through the barriers and next single track section.  We started the climb.  It went up, 180 down and 180 back up before a 90 turn.  I went too wide on the down hill turn and broke the tape.  I just kept going and headed up and across the hill and waited until Allison was right there and went back on with a smaller gap than I had on her before.  We headed back to the third wooded section and the tough hill.  Last year the hill was a hard climb, but doable.  With the soft ground and mud I had already decided it would be a run up this year.  It's the spot where I made up the most ground every lap.
Few things make me smile like splashing through a creek! *Photo credit: Mike Dawson
I knew I was closing ground on Cat.  We ran the stairs and headed to start finish and back around.  This lap I was much cleaner dropping into the woods.  I rode much more aggressively through the single track and rode the 180s on the back hill cleanly.  We hit the run up and I knew Cat was catchable.  I remounted the bike and headed across and down to the stairs. I shouldered the bike and ran hard.  I caught and passed her about three steps from the top.  I put my head down and pedaled.  For the rest of the race I concentrated on riding clean and gaining daylight.  My lead grew as the race went on, but I knew a mistake would be costly.  We ended up doing five laps on the race.  With two to go, I was approaching the stairs and saw my sunshine.  Boo was at the bottom.  He started heckling me and telling me he could beat me up the stairs.  I could barely talk, but said "Bring it, little man!"  He did.  I passed the start/finish and Larry teased me with lap cards but finally flipped to 1.  I got to race my little man on the stairs again, and this time had Bella, fresh from cheer camp with her pon poms.  It was the best last lap a momma could want!
That's a winner! *Photo Credit: Dan Singer
It's the first time I've had a lead to hold for so long.  I never let up because I was fearful one of the ladies would get a second wind and close it down.  It was a fun course, great win.  My struggle for the race was my pedals.  I will be detailing my cleats this week to get the extraneous mud out of them.  I talked myself through though and just kept turning them over while I worked to clip in.
Podium shot with Allison & Cat.  *photo credit: Dan Singer

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report: SuperPrestige CX La Vista Park

Originally I had said I wasn't going to do any of the SuperPrestige races.  I'm excited that there are additional cx options in the area, but I think I raced entirely too much last season and I needed to make a cut somewhere.  Well, I went back on my word.

Sunday we packed up and headed up to Godfrey.  It was about a mile and half course.  It had been well ridden because the grass was gone on most of it--it was dry, dusty dirt.  I pre-rode the course and was comfortable on it.  Nothing really technical, some longer climbs, a few off camber turns.  One set of tall barriers, one set of short.  I warmed up in the grass around the course, following the tape on the outside.
I was smiling early on . . . *Photo credit: Mike Dawson
We had nine very strong ladies in our field.  We got the whistle and were off.  Liz was first off the line with Carrie on her wheel and I jumped in third.  I was feeling great, doing well until the off camber switch backs.  My turns were off.  I couldn't seem to corner well and I didn't know why.  All of a sudden I had given up four places.  I started out on course again and still didn't feel right.  I couldn't figure it out until I tried to shift and felt like I was reaching.  My bars were tilting.  By the time I hit the pit, my levers were faced downwards.  UGH!

I switched bikes in the pit and took off.  Something was wrong though.  I felt too extended to get power on my pedal stroke. I remounted after the short barriers and could barrier swing my leg over the saddle.  Enough!  Racing, in spite of the 'normal' pain, is supposed to be fun.  This was sucking. I rode to start/finish and withdrew.

Lesson learned: I need to be better at checking my equipment. No one's fault but my own.  I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon making sure my bikes were in working order.  They were cleaned, lubed, and tightened.  This won't happen again.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Race Report: CrossVegas

It was finally here--Vegas, baby!  My first elite race.  I've been waiting for this race since I catted up in January and bought my UCI license.  Time to pit myself against the "big girls". While I had no delusions of granduer, I wanted to make a decent showing and not being totally outclassed.  Yeah, right!

The course for CrossVegas was tough but fun.  It was just at two miles.  The race started with a "hot lap" that looped around the upper field before taking a right down into the lower bowl.  There were no real technical pieces, the turns were smooth and fluid.  There was one set of normal barriers, up hill with a turn after, and three sets of 'stairs'--short barriers, four in succession, uphill with sand holding them in place.  The bottom half also had a hill that was brutal.  It was a long grinder, not to steep, just thick energy zapping grass.  The top section had a flyover ramp.  I loved it because you actually up and over the ramp.

I pre-rode several laps on Wednesday morning and got a good feel for the course.  I knew anyone who could ride the stairs would definitely have a time advantage, but that wasn't going to be me.  That's a skill I still need to develop.  I went back to the course around 4:30 to get my number and hang out.  It was fun to watch the USAC and Wheelers/Dealers race.  The temperature dropped a great deal once the sun went down.  I warmed up on a field adjacent to the course.  I did a few sprints and dismounts/remounts while spinning out my legs.  When the course opened I did another lap and then just rode around the hot lap section until we were called to staging.  Being as I have no UCI ranking, I was way in the back for the start.  I wasn't worried.  My goal for the night was to not be pulled, not be lapped and not be last.  We got the green light and took off.

Got greedy! *photo credit:
I've been in large cx races before, but this was craziness.  I was timid navigating the hot lap trying to get around ladies. We headed off onto the course and I felt better.  I passed a few ladies.  We hit the barriers and I felt smooth through those and the first set of stairs.  I lost a little ground on the switch backs climbing up the back side.  I finished lap one and headed back out.  I was to the barriers the second time and the camouflage guy jumped out . . . cash handups.  I thought about it and decided why not.  Well, he was a bit too close to the barriers and my dismount was a wee bit late.  I got off the bike but was carrying too much momentum and hit it.  Back wheel up, body forward, but I did not fall.  I stood up and smiled at the crowd, getting great cheers.  I hopped the barriers and remounted to realize my chain was off.  I put it back on and took off.  I had been passed by several girls and it was time to make up ground.  The rest of the race I concentrated on doing just that.

I was able to bring back two girls.  I rode well through the course, I just didn't have the go that the top ladies have.  I got better on the long hill each time, I think through endurance and finding the right body position on the bike.  We did five laps in all, each one was very fun. Having that large of a crowd cheering and heckling was an experience like no other. A lesson learned though: I need to be more aware of feed zone rules for cx though.  I know I could have taken a bottle at sometime, I just didn't know when and didn't want to chance it.  I was DRY by the time race was over.  While I didn't make a stellar showing, I met my goal for the race--I wasn't last, I wasn't lapped, and I wasn't DFL.  
On the line, waiting to go.  *Photo credit:

Hot lap -- see me in the back! *photo credit:
Will I do CrossVegas again?  Absolutely.  It just remains to be seen whether or not I'll do the UCI race or the USAC race.  Either way, it's an experience not to be missed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Race Report: Hermann CX 2012

Saturday morning I helped out at a cross clinic.  It was good for me to go through a few drills and get some feedback from some more experienced racers.  I headed to Hermann after that was over.

I was there early enough to get laps on the course between a few races.  The turns were all wide and smooth.  Obstacles included normal barriers, three short barriers on an uphill, one section of stairs and a sand pit with a turn.  I watched the single speed race to see if any of them were able to ride the short barriers or the sand -- they were all running it which was what I had been planning on.  An hour before my race I got ready and headed out to warm up.  I did a few hills and surges and also hit some grassy areas.  I did one more lap on the course and headed to the line.  There were seven of us racing.  We got instructions and the go.  I was sixth off the start.  I definitely need to work on my cx starts!  We wove our way through the "technical" section of the course and the lead three (Sunny, Karen, and Jenn) were beginning to get a gap.  Cory was on my wheel, but I knew she starts hot and fades, so I wasn't worried there.  I took the barriers smoothly and added some gear on the first pavement section.  We hit the grass again and wound to the short barriers.  I was smooth going over them, but I'm guessing dropped my bike too hard because I dropped my chain.  I had to stop to put it back on and Cory passed me.  I told myself I would get her on the power section on the field or the stairs.  I jumped back on the bike and went down the short hill and back up the other side.  SNAP. There went my chain.  Not much I could do at that point because the pit was still a good distance -- time to run.  I started to shoulder the bike and realized I was better off pushing it.  I kept a nice pace and ran through the baseball field and up the stairs.  I rode the bike down the hill and to the next up hill before I dismounted and ran again.  Through the sand and another hill and back to the pit.  I switched bikes and was off.  At this point I knew that I didn't have a snowball's chance of placing in the race, but I was not about to let up.  I needed a good workout and no better way to practice racing than in a race.  I rode solid and switched back to my bike at the end of that lap.  I was able to close the gap between Cory and me to 50 seconds by the last lap.  My highlights for the race were cornering well, even in the dark and staying focused on going hard even though I was way off the back.  My areas to work on our remounts on pavement -- I bobbled a few at the top of the stairs and starts.
Just happy to cross the line! *photo credit: Dan Singer
Sunday's course was much the same as Saturday's with one notable exception. Sunday we ran the full set of stairs...61 of them I've been told. There was also an added section with an off camber down switchback to an uphill off camber 180 around a tree.  I won't lie, that section made me nervous every lap.  I warmed up on the road again and took a few extra times down the added section.  I wanted to make sure I had good lines for it.  We had 10 ladies in the race on Sunday--three the same as the night before, everyone else was fresh.  Off the line I was in sixth place.  I was following Mary Piper and was on her heels up the stairs.  I should have switched sides on the stairs so I could get around her, but my hypoxic brain wasn't thinking that clearly.  She got a gap on me on the downhill section.  I was determined not to let her get away.  Also, Teresa was right on my wheel at that point.  We started through the turns on lap two and I got a little heckling from a friend.  When I yelled back Teresa commented "how can you still talk, I'm dying."  That made me think that I wasn't going hard enough so I added gear and went harder.  I got closer to Mary, but wasn't able to over take her.
Top of the steps . . . those hurt!  *photo credit: Mike Dawson
The off camber section after the turns.  Yep, scared me! *photo credit: Dan Singer
In lap three I knew I was closing the gap on her. Plus I could see Liz and Karen in front of Mary.  I knew if I got Mary, I could get them as well.  Lap four we hit the baseball field and I put my head down and went after her.  I was on her wheel at the dismount for the stairs.  She took the right side and I took the left.  Run, run, run.  It helped that I had my Boo yelling at me "Faster, Mommy, faster. Your mom can take these stairs faster than you."  I was a half step in front of her at the top and I lunged forward with the bike, set it down and remounted.  I got the line for the downhill.  It was now time for a gap and fourth place.  I saw Liz in the sand when I went over the hill.  I knew I could take her.  I was able to pass her in the first wide turn after the start finish.  I knew with Liz I would have to keep going strong because she is known for fighting her way back.  I started concentrating on catching Karen.  I could see her in front of me on the stairs on that lap.  I passed her just before the start/finish and beginning of Lap 6.  I heard the announcer say that I must have been lapped . . . he apologized later.  Karen passed me again going through a turn.  I stayed on her wheel through the barriers and subsequent turns and overtook her again on the pavement.  She got me through the second turn on the grass.  We went over the short barriers, just a few paces apart.  She edged me out on the downhill/uphill and I knew I had to do something if I wanted the podium spot.  We hit the pavement section and I attacked and didn't look back.  I got a sizable gap on her and knew I needed to ride smart and strong and finish the last lap well.  I got a gap count for Jenn in second.  She was about 30 seconds ahead of me, but I ran out of time to catch her.  All in all it was a great race for me.  It reinforced that I need to work on starts.  And while I'm remounting quickly, I'm still double hopping to do it.  I know in my cx skills workouts I'll be slowing down my remounts to work on that muscle memory piece.  
Podium shot -- two great ladies to share it with! *Photo credit: Dan Singer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Race Report: Gateway Cup

I got to the park and the rain started coming down in buckets. It was going to be a soggy one.  I got registered and dressed the rain dwindled.  By the time I was ready to warm up, it was drizzling at most.  I rode around the area, making sure I had good tire pressure and could corner well.  It came time to go to the line.  We were having some spurts of rain, but nothing like earlier.  17 women lined up, we got instructions and were off.  I didn't know most of the field and that always makes me a little nervous.  I knew I wanted to be upfront and out of any craziness.  We got our first prime about four laps into the race.  Right after turn 1 Tricia (Korte Hammerdown) took off.  I jumped and bridged up to her wheel.  I thought I we would be off, but right before turn three Stephanie, her teammate, led the pack back to us.  We turned the corner and Aimee (Michelob Ultra Big Shark) took off.  I wasn't anticipating her jump, so there was no way for me to grab her wheel without bringing the pack.  I sat up and let the other girls work.  She had a nice gap on the field, won the prime and kept going.  It didn't seem like anyone was working hard to bring her back.  For the next three laps or so, her lead was under 15 seconds.  I stayed second wheel to whomever was leading the chase, but refused to pull through.  I felt like I had it to bridge, but didn't want to bring the group.  Her lead then began to steadily grown.  About 25 minutes in we got a field prime.  I stayed in position until we rounded turn four and then got out of the saddle.  It was mine.  For the rest of the race I stayed second or third wheel and chased down anyone who decided to jump.  I knew Aimee's gap was good, but I didn't want anyone to get away.  We came down to the last lap.  I knew where the optimal sprint was and jumped when it was time.  I hit the line for a third place finish.
Sitting in and not letting anyone chase Aimee.  *Photo credit: Mike Dawson

Saturday--Francis Park
It was nasty humid again on Saturday.  The rain poured down as soon as I finished registering.  I sat in the car until it let up and then put the bike together and headed to the trainer tent.  I hate warming up on trainers because I don't ever feel ready to race.  Today was no exception.  I was also timid to start because I crashed on this course last year.  We had about the same number of ladies racing, a few sets of fresh legs though.  We got instructions and were off.  It rained on us mid race for about four laps.  There were lots of attacks coming from the usual suspects, but no one was letting the break go like the night before.  I never could get lined up for the primes in this race.  My positioning before turn four was okay, but not where I like.  I made sure I was close to the front, but didn't nab any.  The race once again came down to a field sprint.  My legs had ached most of the race and just didn't have it to be up front.  It was a sixth place finish on the day, leaving me in fifth place for the omnium.  Aimee lost the jersey to Tricia.
Wet once again!  *Photo credit: Don McKinney

Once again overcast and muggy.  We got a few spurts of rain during warm up, but the race itself was sunny, hot and humid.  The kids had come with us to the race, so I knew I'd have a great day out there.

Did someone say prime??? *photo credit: Mike Dawson
We got instructions and took off.  I was feeling really good and was ready to make some noise during this race.  A few laps in we got a prime bell.  I know for this course you have to be in place before turn three or your chances are slim to none.  The HED girl jumped early on the backside and took off.  I was ready to chase her down.  We were both off the pack, with her having a slight gap on me.  I took turn four poorly and had to brake to avoid the curb.  I never was able to make up ground on her.  She was tired off her jump and I caught her just after the line, and the pack got us after turn one.  A few laps later the bell went again.  I wanted this one bad.  I was sitting up front and ready for any move.  No one went.  We made turn four and I sat on Aimee's wheel and let her take me to the fencing.  I was up and going.  I crossed the line and claimed it without issue.  On the back side Kelly (KC) jumped.  I didn't know if I could react and let the field chase her down.  I had to work the rest of that lap to get back on the pack.  Three laps later another prime.  Again Aimee tried to lead me out but the HED girl was a bit smarter this time.  We went to the line and she got me by a wheel.  Again the race was coming down to a field sprint.  I was sitting in a great position on Aimee's wheel coming down the hill to the finish when Amy McClintock (Team Rev) came on my inside in the gutter.  I went wide and lost my lead out.  I sprinted hard and went to the line against Aimee.  I was scored fourth, but the photos I've seen look like I edged her for third. Regardless, she (and Big Shark) had the leader jersey back.  I got a talking to from the official about not holding my line on the sprint.  I held my tongue and didn't give her excuses as to why.

Overcast and cloudy but no rain on Monday.  I got a great warm up in the neighborhood and was ready. I didn't get a front row position on the start, but was ready when the whistle came.  I knew for this race it could be easy for a break to make it so I wanted to be up front and ready.  The ladies had lots of problems with corners and lines in this one.  I'm really surprised no one went down.

Three laps in our first prime came.  I wasn't necessarily interested in it because I wanted to save my legs for the final sprint.  We made our final corner and one of the out of town girls jumped early.  No one went after her.  Well, if no one else is doing anything I might as well see what my legs had.  I'm assuming she thought it was hers because I took off and caught her without problem.  It wasn't even close at the line.  We started our way around again and crossed over by the brewery.  I heard "Go Mommy!"  My smalls were there.  I yelled "yes" and had a new sense of energy to race.
*photo credit: Mike Dawson
Two laps later the next bell went.  I had no intention of going for it, but again wanted to stay close.  I crossed the line third.  Another prime two laps later with similar results.  With two to go Tara (Michelob Ultra Big Shark) was ramping up the pace.  We were ready to hit turn six and there was a truck in the middle of the course.  I know I yelled "oh shit" and we somehow maneuvered around it.  Final lap--I was where I wanted to be through six.  The back of the pack swarmed and as we made the final turn I found myself blocked in.  I started my sprint early to make up the ground I had lost and gained several places.  I found myself going against Aimee at the line again.  She took sixth and I got seventh.  It was enough for her to win the omnium, but knocked me off the podium for the weekend.

Overall I was pretty happy for the weekend.  My legs felt great and I was able to mentally talk myself through races where I was uneasy.  My bike handling was what it should be and I felt like I had my sprint back.  I reinforced to myself that I'm better off warming up on the road versus the trainer.  If I could change anything I would've jumped sooner on some of the finishing sprints.  I think I probably had more in my legs than I gave myself credit for.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Race Report: Edwardsville Rotary Criterium

I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful night to race than Saturday.  It was sunny, low 80s and one of my favorite courses.  It's a figure 8 course with some tight turns and narrow streets on the backside.  They also offer a sweet purse so it attracts a ton of people.  Plus the town did a great job of promoting the race with a course side pub crawl, so the streets were packed with spectators.  The icing on the cake was this is the first race all season my kids have been there. ;-)

I warmed up on one of the local bike trails.  I did a few hard efforts to get my heart rate up and rolled back up to the course.  They were a bit behind because of a nasty crash that had happened a few races before, but they were making up time during the kids races.  I got to do two laps on the course and get good luck kisses before rolling to the line.  We had 23 ladies in our field -- some very strong and a few very new Cat 4s.  The whistle blew and we were off.  The first lap was calm, everyone feeling each other out.  We rolled through start/finish to the sound of a prime bell.  My legs felt good, so I was considering going for it.  I was in a decent position up front after turn six, but Britta just took off.  She got a great jump on the field and while a few ladies gave chase, there was no catching her.  We came back together and went around again for another prime.  I'm not sure who took that one, but it was not a gimme.  Around lap six or so I had another rider come into me right before turn three.  My back wheel slid a bit and I was definitely uneasy for a few laps.  I felt myself migrating to the back and then having to fight to catch back on after turn five.  I had a good minute of self-talk/lecturing about trusting my handling equipment and knowing that I needed to be sitting no further than fifth wheel.  I moved back up and got myself refocused.  I looked at the lap cards and outwardly groaned when I saw we still had 25 laps to go.  This race was going to wear me out!  We got two more primes around laps 10 and 12.  By this time there were ladies contesting them hot and heavy.  Jamie launched a nice attack after Emilie won one of them.  Carrie led the chase and I went up and took over for her to jump on Jamie's wheel.  We settled back in and the laps counted down.  Another prime with 12 laps to go, and I knew I didn't have the legs to fight for it.  My goal was to race smart and to be there for the finish.  The race was filled with attacks and speed, but nothing was able to stick.  I got to hear "go Mommy" every time I hit the backside of the course.    

We got the bell lap and the real race was on.  There was lots of posturing as we entered the chicane.  I got aggressive and went for the wheel of the lady sitting third, much to the chagrin of another racer who was going after the same wheel.  She yelled me a bit and holding a line.  I just yelled back sorry and she kept ranting.  We came around turn five and I saw Jamie signal Emilie -- she was giving her a lead out.  Try as I might to jump on Emilie's wheel to take advantage of the free ride, I couldn't do it.  Britta jumped after turn six again and it was one.  Carrie and Emilie chased, with Ashley and Trisha getting up there as well.  I managed to stay up front with them and sprint against Jamie to take 6th at the line.  Carrie won -- fitting as it was her birthday.

In line with some strong ladies.  *Photo credit: Dennis Fickinger

Where's my smile??? I look mad and mean. *Photo credit: Dennis Fickinger
A piece I realized during this race is that often I am unaware of what is going on behind me in a larger field.  I didn't realize we had dropped some ladies until we started to lap them.  I work hard to be positioned at the front so I don't fall victim to crashes, etc happening in front of me, but often I don't know who is left.  That bothers me somewhat, but when I mentioned it to Coach his comment was the race is front of you unless you're on a flyer or lapping the field.  Point taken!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Race Report: MO State Time Trial and Criterium

It had been a rough few days last week.  I was mentally and physically exhausted and wasn't in the frame of mind to race two courses that I really don't love.  Plus, I hadn't raced since early July in Indy.  I did not have high expectations for my performance.

Missouri State Time Trial
I wasn't focused on this race like I like to be focused on a race.  I haven't ridden a 40k on the time trial bike since August 2011.  That being said, I knew I would regret not doing it.  Plus, the ride to Jeff City was a hoot.  Kate was hyped on her Double Big Gulp and Phil's sense of humor always makes me laugh.  Add in that Adam was a little loopy from sleep deprivation and it made for great laughs.

I got on my bike and warmed up on the outer road near the start.  The weather was beautiful, sunny, light breeze and cooler than it's been in two months.  I took my Gu and headed to the line.  It was quickly my turn to go to the line.  Ron took hold of my seat post and I clicked in.  Mark gave me the countdown and I took off.  I felt like I didn't have a great powerful start.  I was in my 54/23 so it should have been fine.  I added a gear, settled in and kept telling myself to tap it out, tap it out, find a rhythm. I found a good cadence and started singing a montage of songs to myself.  I never did get the melody to Fighter right in my head.  I hit the 10K mark and had originally planned on adding a gear.  While I wasn't fatigued, I didn't think I could sustain anything further.  About 20 minutes in I was passed by the guy who started a minute back.  I had expected that to happen at some point.  I also had to tell myself to hold back and not to try to chase him down, knowing that would cause me to blow up later on.  At 30 minutes I knew I should be getting close to the turn.  I got passed again by the rider who had started further back.  I kept telling myself that was okay.

I got to the at 30:03:30ish.  I didn't handle it well.  I haven't done a tt this year with a cone turn, so I was skiddish on speed and ended up sliding my rear wheel a bit.  I took off a gear stood up and got back up to speed.  I added my gear back and put my head down to pedal.  I had hoped for a more significant tail wind on the way back, but that never happened.  At 40 minutes I got passed for a third time.  UGH!  I kept this one in sight a lot longer and was still feeling really strong.  It was about that time that I started getting more and more uncomfortable in my saddle.  I knew I needed a new one on my tt bike, but with only doing shorter races this year, it hasn't bothered me.  There were a few times I had to stand on the way back to ease the discomfort.  I got to the 30k mark and knew I just needed to keep my effort hard and consistent.  I worked to maintain a cadence around 100 and didn't focus on speed.  Overall I felt really good the entire race.  My legs worked, but never felt like I couldn't keep going.  My effort was consistent throughout.  My official time was 1:05:31.  That's two seconds off my best time on this course.  Perhaps a better turn or not standing on the way back could have given me those few seconds--wouldn't have made a difference in how I finished, just a PR for me.  My place was 2nd for Cat 3 Women.  1st for MO licensed racers.

Missouri State Criterium
In spite of the results on Saturday, I still wasn't anymore ready to race Sunday.  I got there and registered and there were three others on the roster.  I was surprised and hoped we'd get more ladies.  I watched part of the Cat 5 race and then got dressed.  I was able to ride a couple of laps on the course before the Master's race started.  Kelly (Momentum) and I rode around for a while after that to warm up.  I attacked a few hills to get my heart rate up and then found Amy.  She and I spun for the last 10 minutes talking about who to watch in the race.  We ended up with 14 girls on the line at the start.  It was a good field, with some strong ladies in it.

The clouds had cleared and it was sunny, warm and humid for us.  The race started pretty quickly.  The first lap was hot.  The second lap eased and we rode about 20 minutes before the first prime.  Several small attacks were attempted, but nothing stuck.  The prime bell sounded and the positioning began.  I felt good and decided to give it a go.  We hit the back side of the course and the hill and Britta took off on us.  She got a great jump on the field.  I wasn't ready to let her have it though.  I went after her hard.  I rounded the last turn on the course and was out of my saddle sprinting as hard.  I think she assumed it was a given and sat up.  We went to the line and it was so close I didn't know what had gotten it until the next lap when I looked at Mark and he shook his head No to me.  I was disappointed, but was happy with my efforts.

Amy doing the work! *photo credit: Don McKinney

I found my smile! *Photo credit: Don McKinney
It was a close finish.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney
We came through with one to go and Britta took off.  She surprised everyone and got a sizable gap.  Emilie, Jamie, Ashley, Renee and I were all up front working to close the gap.  On the back hill Emilie drilled it and Ashley was on her wheel. I followed along.  As we hit the second hill Ashley faded and I tried to jump up on Emilie.  I couldn't grab her wheel and she was off.  I put my head down and knew I needed maintain my gap.  I turned onto the finishing straight and tried to stand on the little rise and my legs yelled at me to sit down.  I did and put my head down.  I could feel someone alongside of me and looked over to see Renee pull even. Shut up legs, we're goin' now.  I got up again and added gear and pushed.  I could see my tire move past hers and looked down to see the line on the road.  I snatched third!  It was a good hard fought race.  Amy worked very hard launching a some attacks and covering others to help me stay near the front and ready.  I was really happy that I was able to focus my mind and shut down the outside noise and get in a race frame of mind and stay there when it mattered.  And lots of friends cheering along the race course was an added bonus.  My surprise came when I went to check results.  Mark said he felt so bad that I didn't win the prime, but I was the Cat 3 state champ so that really mattered more.  It didn't hit me what he meant until Sara said something about getting my medal and jersey when results were final.  I think I squealed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Race Report: Indy Crit

It's been a while since I road tripped for a race, so I was looking forward to getting out of town and racing against an unknown field.  We got into Indy late Friday night because of several delays with leaving and my lovely ever needing oil car.  We had a great late supper at Bru before heading home for the very short night.

I went to the course early on Saturday morning to watch the Cat 5 men and Cat 4 women.  I was able to walk the course and get a quick preview of what I would be seeing in the afternoon.  It was a figure eight and very flat, one little rise on the back side, nine turns in all.  There was a headwind section after turn three and five.  We had cobbles and a slight uphill after turn six and the finishing straight was less than 100m.  The men's and women's race I watched were both very sketchy.  A did a nice job in his largest field so far and managed to stay clear of the at least three crashes and near fist fight that occurred.  Kelly and Tracie were strong in the women's field as well, both finishing top 10.

I went back down to the course about an hour before my race.  It was sunny, hot, and humid by that time.  I rode over to IU and buzzed around campus for my warm up.  I met up with this girl, Sarah (, who told me about a few of the local racers as we spun around together.  I found out that I've actually raced against her before in cx--she did the Cincy3 races last November.

I headed down to the start/finish about 10 minutes before our scheduled time.  I finally found Cat and we chatted for a few minutes. While were were standing there I also saw Emilie and Trish--it was nice to have a few familiar faces.  We had 22 ladies in our race.  We got instructions and a whistle and were off.  The first attack came right after turn one.  There were three or four Riley girls in the pack and they were strong and raced well as a team.  They took turns trying to get off the front.  Our first prime came within five minutes.  I kept watching Emilie to see if she would go for it, but she never moved up beyond mid pack.  I chased down three or four attacks in the first 15 minutes and thought my chest was on fire.  About 17 minutes in, I decided to sit in for a bit.  I moved mid pack and let some other girls do some work.  It seemed like we slowed for a lap or two before the relentless attacks started again.  The farthest anyone would get was about 20m off the front and then they'd be brought back.  I have to say this race had the most bumping and rubbing of any I've been in.  I actually got slapped in the thigh by a girl at some point.  I saw her to do it several other ladies as well.  Our second prime was around 32 minutes in.  This time I actually toyed with going for it.  I moved up and was sitting about fifth wheel when we came off the cobbles, but didn't jump quickly enough.  Emilie took that one without a question.  Our next lap we got the five to go card.  At this point, I was finally having fun and feeling good physically.  I sat in and watched what was unfolding and who the players would be in the final few laps.  It would definitely be Emilie and the Riley girls.  I decided those were the wheels to follow.  Actually Emilie specifically because I couldn't tell any of the Riley girls apart.  With two to go, I stuck on Emilie like glue.  She was up front, but didn't respond to the couple of attacks, she let other bring them back.  With one to go, she moved to the outside and up to third wheel.  We turned onto the cobbles and she was up front.  I was right behind her.  We went around the traffic circle and back onto the pavement. I think I was sitting third at that point.  I was antsy, knowing the sprint was coming.  The pace picked up right before turn nine and the pack swarmed the front.  We turned and the short sprint was on.  I didn't have my finest sprinting moment and ended 9th on the day--it was high enough to manage a payout that covered the cost of the race.  All in all a lot of fun.  Very glad I went.

See all the Riley girls in blue!  The girl two back from me smacked my butt!

Staying close to the front.  
The rest of the weekend was great as well.  Saturday evening wrapped up with a great dinner and a movie.  Sunday morning I had a sticky, humid run into downtown Indy before having brunch and heading home.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race Report: O'Fallon Grand Prix

I raced the O'Fallon Grand Prix Road Race back in 2009, my first year of racing.  That race stands out in my mind for two reasons -- 1) It cemented that I was not a road racer.  I didn't enjoy that race one single bit. 2) It was the first time I saw a crash in a race.  Several girls rubbed wheels and one went kerploosh! in a ditch full of stale water.  My initial instinct was to stop and help, but then I realized I was racing and just kept going.

That year was only the second time that race had happened.  Since then the organizers have done a fantastic job of growing the event and turning it into a full weekend of racing with a time trial, road race, and criterium.  I'm hoping next year they'll institute omnium points for it.

Prelude Time Trial
This was the first year for this event and the promoter did a great job with it.  The weather was warm, mid 80s and a strong breeze, but not unbearable.  The course was a 13 mile lollipop on Illinois country roads.  I talked with a few guys from the team who had pre-ridden it and they said there was rolling hills on the way out and a short, steep climb followed by a quarter mile or so at 8% that was a killer on the way back.  There would be a tailwind on the way out and a head on the trip home.  I got a good warm up in on the roads around town and went to the line.  I put an ice pack in the radio pocket of my skinsuit to help keep my core cool while I rode.  I went to the line and got clicked in.  My holder told me to take it easy on my start because my chain looked a little funny.  I got the start and took off.  It was my best start I've had yet this season.  My chain did skip a bit, but I was prepared.

I took the first turn at the end of the block and put my head down and rode.  I added gear until I felt a degree of difficult that was hard but manageable.  None of the rollers were unbearable.  I was able to stay in my big ring and drops the entire way.  I'm betting that the wind had died down a significant amount for me because I never really felt its effect one way or another.  I made the corner to begin my trip home and hit the short steep hill.  I got passed by a guy about that time.  I powered up the hill and began what was supposed to be the long grinder.  My perception of difficulty in a tt and what the boys told me pre-race have to be very different because I kept wondering when the hard hill would hit.  I didn't let the guy in front of me out of my sight and I began to feel like I was gaining on him.  As we got closer to town I was able to close the gap and pass him.    We started weaving through town towards the finish and he came around me again and said something.  I'm not sure what it was, but in my head I told myself it wasn't nice so I pedaled harder.  With the finish in sight I was able to move past him the final time.  23:13 was my official time.  Top woman overall.

Illinois State Road Race Championship
Saturday's temps were predicted to be HOT and the forecast was right on.  It was sunny, 94 and humid at race time.  I kept my warm up short, enough that my legs felt loose.  I took my cooler to the feed zone, iced down my sports bra and went to the line.  We had 11 women who started.  I knew about four of them, but the rest were from out of town. We rolled out neutral and chatted easily until the race started.  The first attack went there, up the hill.  We came back together and it calmed.  The first lap was fairly mundane.  An attack every few miles but it was easily answered.  The course was interesting in that it was filled with rollers and lots of turns.  It actually felt more like a long crit.  We had one girl who couldn't hold one during lap one so we were down to ten.  We neared the end of the first lap (20 miles) and I asked the group if we could agree to roll through the feed zone neutrally.  We did and everyone got fresh bottles.

The next attack happen just past the feed zone and I knew this lap would be a lot more energetic.  The attacks were much more frequent and difficult to answer.  We hit one of the short, steep hills on mile 27 and the California girl attacked.  I was slow to respond and was off the back.  I caught and passed Amy but a main group of five got away.  There was a chase group of three (Tara, Stephanie, and Joan).  I put my head down and went after the chase group.  I saw Stephanie fall off so I went after her.  It took me about six minutes to catch her.  I got on her wheel and told her I would pull after I recovered.  She told me she was done and was going to DNF when we got back.  Once my heart rate got under control, I pulled around her and set off.  I had lost sight of Tara and Joan by then.  I toyed with the idea of abandoning the race through the rest of that lap.  Around mile 32 I got passed by the MensDNF.  I grabbed my bottle from my awesome feeder and kept pedaling.

Beginning of Lap 2.  *Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rangel
I was about four miles into the second lap and a volunteer told me there was a girl in front of me close enough to catch.  That definitely gave me a push.  I started pushing harder and pretty soon I could see two riders in the distance on some of the straights.  I was still far enough back that I couldn't tell if they were girls or guys.  I kept closing in on them.  Around mile 51 I thought I could tell one of them was in a Big Shark kit.  Was it Tara?  I asked a corner marshall if they were girls or guys...girls was the answer.  Time to go, head down, time trial mode, look for a wheel.  By mile 53 I had them.  I jumped on Tara's wheel and began to rotate through with them.  As we got closer to the neutral water table, I told them I was going to grab a bottle.  I moved in front so I knew I'd be safe through there.  Somehow I managed to get a little gap on them with that mode.  I thought about trying to increase it but decided it would be better to have someone else helping me out the last six miles.  We continued to work together and take turns pulling.  I definitely was curious about how much they both had left in their legs.  We began to see the KM to go signs.  At 3KM, I heard the distinct sound of air leaking.  Tara had a flat.  It was down to Joan and me.  She was quite happy to let me sit out front in the head wind.  I kept moving so she would have to take her turn pulling.  We made the last turn and headed to the finish.  I quietly jumped back into my big ring.  I
was debating where to start my sprint.  500m came and went.  Right before the 200m mark she told me it was nice to race with me.  I took that as a sign and jumped.  I had worked hard to catch those girls and I was going to beat them, no question.  I easily gapped her and finished.  By my count, I was 6th.  I later found out that the lead group had splintered more and one of those girls DNF'd so I took 5th, last money spot.

Illinois Cup Criterium

FAST group of ladies leading it out. *Photo Credit: Brian Keller
I was feeling the results of the two prior two days of racing.  It was going to be another hot one.  I got a great warm up in, on the course.  It was eight corner figure eight course.  The pavement was awful!  We had 12 girls in our race, seven of them coming with fresh legs.  The attacks started after turn two.  Nothing was ever able to stick, but they were frequent.  The pulse of the race was that an attack would go and we'd be flying.  It would be brought back and we'd slow way down -- over and over and over.  My struggle with the race came on the primes.  I tried to stay with the lead ladies, but my legs didn't have it to sprint against them.  After each of the three I was gapped and had to push to get back in the group.  At some point we had two ladies drop out and had lapped someone.  At the end, it came down to the sprint.  I tried to position myself well as we turned the final corner, but was near the back.  The sprint went and I tried to respond, but my response was limited.  I ended up in 7th for the day.  No fat cash for the day, but a fun race regardless.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Race Report: Tour de Ste Genevieve

I'm not a huge fan of our state road race.  I think because the first year I did it was such a bad experience nutrition wise so it has negatively colored me against the race.  That being said, I won't do a race without giving it my best effort.  We had seven ladies in the Master's field.  There were three that I knew were tough--Britta, Cat, and Lora.  We were starting with the women's 4 field so we actually had 17 ladies that should have been together.  

The weather was different than originally forecasted--it was cooler, mid-80s, but a significant wind.  I purposely lined up in the second row because we would be heading out in the wind and I didn't want to pull into it.  Our neutral roll out may not have had any attacks, but it was not a parade pace by any means.  We pulled out onto the highway and it sped up a bit more.  The group quickly moved to a single line and I was sitting about sixth.  I moved myself up a bit because the girls I was watching were sitting up front.  I didn't think they'd move early, but I didn't want to be caught back too far either.  The girls started rotating through and I was amused to see who took what length of pulls.  My greatest amusement through the race was one of the ladies who took the shortest pulls complained the most about other girls not working.  We got to the first climb at mile five and I think we shed a few girls there.  The next climb at mile nine had the same effect.  A few small attacks were attempt on the climbs and after, but everything was brought back.  It was somewhere in there where people stopped working and started complaining.  The lions' share of the work was done by about four or five ladies.  At one point, I was on front again and wanting off and no one would come around, they just sat on my wheel as I moved towards the center line.  I slowed us down to about 11mph before Molly finally came up.  The mile 17 climb is the first really challenging one of the race.  It really shred our group.  I think we were down to about seven by the end of it.  The group came together at the top and we kept rolling.  

Warming up with Kelly pre-race.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney

Just before the downhill where I got gapped.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney
*On the front . . .  *photo credit: Don McKinney
To me, the hardest climb comes at mile 24, it's a curving climb that feels like it goes forever.  Britta went hard on it and I worked to stay on her wheel.  This was the climb where I got dropped last year so I was happy to be with the leaders.  We made it through there and headed towards the QOM climb.  I have to say that I felt great through all of this.  My nutrition was doing what it was supposed to.  There is a long downhill right before the QOM climb at mile 28.  It was there that I started to struggle.  I was in my 50/12 and didn't feel like I could keep up with the two girls in front of me.  They gapped me.  Three other girls flew around me as well.  We started the climb and I focused on what I knew to do.  I sat back in my saddle, hands on top of the bars and tapped out a quick cadence.  I began to pull back ground from everyone.  Although Britta pulled away, I put myself back into second with a comfortable gap, so I thought.  I added gear when I got to the top and was moving along well.  I was about mile 29 when Cat caught and passed me.  I tried to go with her, but couldn't meet her speed.  I was making up ground until she met up with the Cat 4 leader and worked with her.  I was at mile 30 when Lora went around me.  I kept her in sight until we got into town, but could never catch her either.  I was pretty disappointed with my finish and inability to react to those girls.  That being said, my climbing was better this year than it ever has been before.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Race Report: University City 10K

How do I get myself talked into these things?  This one went something like this . . . I was having lunch with my friend Katie who said "Marcy and I are going to run the UCity 10K, why don't you do it too?"  Sure, why not!  And then Katie bails--with good reason--but I'm already registered and committed.  Commitable may actually be the more appropriate phrase.

The day was hot and the course was hilly.  I did a mile warm up before the race down Delmar to the shop and back.  I also made sure I was at the front of the field.  This is a new habit for me since I never have considered myself much of a runner and didn't really think I belonged up there.  I also was able to find Marcy.

The course started on a slight uphill that was about 1/4 long.  My original plan was to stay with Marcy for the race and let her pace me through.  We got the start and were off.  I stayed on Marcy's shoulder and followed her as we weaved through the field.  (There was a 5km that started on the same course).  We were almost to the top of the hill and my legs were itching to open up so I went around Marcy and started stretching out my stride.  I prayed I didn't pay for it later.  I had some watch malfunction (i.e. operator error) between mile one and three but I think my first two splits were around 7:34.  The first two miles of the race were all on Delmar, which was mentally draining to me.  I was ready to turn and see something else.  I grabbed a cup of water just before mile two and kept going.  The course was rolling hills throughout and mostly shaded for the first four miles.

At mile three I realized my pace had slowed (8:01) but I felt comfortable with what I was doing and knew it was something I could sustain for the rest of the race.  Between mile four and five I was passed by a handful of girls.  Two of them passed me, but not at a pace that I couldn't sustain so I sped up a bit and got in behind one of them.  I stayed just off her left shoulder and worked to stay with her.  A few times I felt like I could push harder, but held back a bit.  One of the two girls pulled away and a little after mile five, I pushed passed the girl I was following.  I turned the final corner and saw the finishing arch and the mile six mark.  I worked on speeding up a little and finishing strong.  I was hot and tired at the end, but not dead.  In my mind I had wanted to run it in 45, but knew that was a big stretch.  My time was 48:39.  I was 78th overall in the race.  19th out of 240 women and 6th in my age group.

Here's a little video of my finish.

Crossing the line, happy to be finished.  *photo credit: John Musselman

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Race Report: Big Bottom Time Trial

My first bike race ever was a time trial.  It's still my second favorite discipline in the sport.  And I love the Columbia Bottom tt course.  That all being said, I just wasn't that excited to race this one.  It was an okay race for me, but not the race I was wanting.

It was warm and breezy, but not terribly windy.  We got there and I did my warm up.  I rode on the roads outside the park because I didn't want to interfere with anyone's race.  I went to the start about five minutes before my time and they were no where near on time.  I turned around and kept spinning for another 15 minutes or so.  I went back to the start area and there were still about 12-15 people who needed to start.  I should have turned and ridden some more, but I was also nervous about missing my start.  I had talked to Eddie and he gave me the insight on the wind (and let me borrow a tt helmet since I forgot mine) since I didn't preview the course.

My start was a little slower than I like.  I've felt that way on every tt this year, so it's something I need to focus on more.  I got my cadence up and was able to add two gears pretty quickly.  I was feeling good through the first three miles until the bend where the wind hit.  (Eddie was right on with what he told me).  I took a gear off until I got back into the cove where I was able to add it again.  I could see back there that the woman who started in front of me had added time between us.  I made the turn and saw the girl behind me had made about 10 seconds on me as well.  I put my head down and pushed.  Once I got past the bend, the wind was almost a direct tail.  I was able to add two gears and speed.  The toughest part of the course was last mile.  There it was a direct headwind.  I took off gear to maintain a decent cadence.  I finished in about 21:06 for 8.4 miles.  Slower than I would have liked.  I finished first in Cat 3, but fifth overall.  Not a stellar result for me. In hindsight I would say I could have suffered more, especially on the way out.  I didn't push as hard as I should have.  I also felt like I lost some benefit of my warm up by sitting for as long as I did.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Race Report: MO PRO

After my experiences in 3/4 races last year, I swore them off.  No more big events with 3/4 fields.  Dangerous, squirrely, skin destroying.  Yep, that lasted nine months.  This event had been branded Tour de Grove the last two years, but this year Mike Weiss renamed it to better represent all the venues involved.  He and the Big Shark event staff did an outstanding job with it.  I may be a bit biased though!  

Friday--LOOP de LOOP Grand Prix

The weather was perfect for the race.  I got to the course early enough to take a few laps on the course since this was a new venue for me.  The race started on Delmar and was a hint of an uphill.  At "turn 1" the hill kicked up a bit more.  Turns one and two really were turns, it was more of a sweep.  The back side of the course was long and downhill, very bumpy.  Turn three was tight and narrow and there was only a block until turn four and back to the start/finish straight.  

I warmed up on the road, doing a few efforts/sprints to get my heart race going.  
Ready to race, smile and all.  Great night to reconnect with lots of friends.  *Photo Credit: Don McKinney

Strung out around a corner.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney
Gettin' my sprint on . . . didn't quite get that preme. 
There was a good mix of local and out of town ladies, a lot of whom I've never raced with before.  We had about 14 women on the line.  During announcements they told us we'd have six premes in the race.  Carrie Clay (Big Shark Racing) led us out quickly.  There was little attack on the backside that was quickly brought back.  At the line we got the bell for the first preme.  We regrouped.  Someone went again on the backside and I responded.  We rounded onto the finishing straight and I was sitting third wheel and no one was seemingly sprinting so I took off and easily got the preme.  For the next eight laps or so, it was preme lap, off lap, preme lap, off lap.  The $50 cash preme was fourth in the line up.  I was in good position for it, but didn't go early enough on my sprint.  Skylar (Team TIBCO), Kelly (Bike America Racing) and I were off the pack with about 75 meters but I couldn't get them to keep going. With four to go, Carrie moved back to the front and stayed there for three laps.  Everyone sat in and let her do the work.  She started getting sloppy with one to go and finally someone else took over.  As we approached turn three, the pace really picked up.  Once we hit the finishing straight it was moving quickly.  The sprint went a little early, about 250 meters.  I did okay, but it was only good enough to net me fifth.  I talked to Carrie after the race and she asked a question I can remember asking myself when I started racing "how do you get off the front?"  My response--stop pedaling.

Saturday--Tour de Grove

Trainer tent!  I couldn't ask for better friends to train with and race against.  *photo credit: Don McKinney

The ladies are on the line.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney
And we're off! *Photo credit: Don McKinney
Finishing sprint.  What the what? *photo credit: Don McKinney
This is the prime event of the weekend--the biggest payouts.  I was excited when I saw the course.  They had repaved the sketchy corner and it was smooth.  I warmed up on a trainer because the neighborhood is a little iffy.  We had about 21 girls in the race, some of them fresh legged.  This course is a bit longer (1.7 miles) and more technical(about 7 turns).  I had two other teammates racing which worked out well.  We didn't go out as quickly.  The first lap was more moderate because some of the girls had never ridden the course.  I noticed when we passed the wheel pit at the beginning of lap two a girl was jumping in, it struck me as odd, but I didn't know what happened until later.  We got to the small chicane on the back of the course and I jumped.  I tried to get off, but they were on me quickly.  I led through the last turn and sat back in.  There were two premes in the race.  I sprinted for both of them, but wasn't really close.  I made sure to race smart though.  Tara (Big Shark Racing) and I talked mid race and kept trying to wear down the group, but to no avail.  Everyone stuck.  With two to go, it got very squirrelly.  Some of the girls who had sat in the entire race swarmed the front and were trying to take corners five wide.  A few dicey moments but everyone stayed up.  It again came down to the sprint.  I knew this one would go early, as soon as we rounded the corner.  I wasn't in a great position for it though.  I sprinted well, but crossed the line in fifth.  What I later found out was the girl who "won" was the girl who came in after lap one.  She didn't start the race on time and was a lap down the entire race.  That gave me a fourth on the day.

Sunday--Dutchtown Classic

All lined up and ready to go.  Finally! *Photo credit: Don McKinney
Breakaway!  What was I thinking! *Photo credit: Don McKinney
LOVE working with these ladies!  Top notch racers! *Photo credit: Don McKinney

Sharks leading the pack! *Photo credit: Don McKinney
This course is one of my favorites.  It's about a mile and a half and has about seven turns.  It was another trainer warm up.  We had a smaller group, and I again had two teammates.  Tara and I talked to Kelly from KC and decided we would try to get away from the start.  The races starts uphill and weaves through a chicane right away.  Our idea of out of sight out of mind.  We all executed perfectly, but Skylar let the pack right up to us.  By turn four they were on Tara's wheel.  We sat up and sat in.  The first preme went at lap four.  Tara and I moved to the front.  As we were going down the backside of the course, I told her to just keep increasing the pace slowly, nothing to draw attention.  We rounded turn seven and I slid in behind her and she kept steadily increasing the pace.  I could hear/sense some of the other girls moving into place, but I knew where I wanted to jump.  We hit the bottom of the hills and the flags and I took off.  I crossed the line and looked back and no one was close so I put my head down and went.  I kept telling myself "you're a time trialist, pretend that's what you're doing".  I rounded turn four and hit the wind but pushed through.  I still had a nice gap through the start/finish and kept pushing.  When I hit the wind again I looked back with the group was within ten meters so I sat up.  For the rest of the race the attacks either came on the uphill at the start/finish or between turns two and three.  Nothing was able to stay away, although we did drop several girls through constant pushing.  The other preme was uneventful. Trish Clark (Walt's Bike Shop) led the entire lap and kept her lead until the sprint.  We came to the final lap and everyone was moving into position.  The sprint started a little earlier than I was ready for, especially with it being uphill.  I ended up in fifth.