Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not Even on the List

Although it was pouring rain when Debbie and Manek picked me up this morning, it was, at least, light out. That's a first for this season's road races (one has to look for the positives when setting out to do a tough race in the rain).

Debbie now has a bike rack, making it much easier to carry the bikes and our stuff. Since it is a 4-bike rack, she can even take 3 extra people. Today, Manek was the only additional passenger besides me. I thought ahead and covered my saddle. At least I wouldn't have to start out with a wet butt.

Debbie and I were the only members representing OOA in the Cat 4 Women. Today's race was put on by the Group Health gals. It was the Independence Valley Road Race (commonly referred to as IVRR). IVRR is a course I am very familiar with. However, this is the first time I've raced it. The start was moved to Swede Hall. Last year it was at the Middle School in Rochester. Advantage to that would have been a paved parking lot versus the puddle-riddled gravel and grass parking at the Hall. Still, Swede Hall was better. There were regular restrooms (instead of Sani-cans), and a dry place for the podiums. Most importantly, starting at Swede Hall meant no roll-out on US 12.

My first attempt at setting up my bike on the trainer didn't work out so well. Then I took the cue from Jeff and Julian who were parked next to us and turned it around. That worked okay. There wasn't much need for a solid warmup as we would remain in the neutral rollout for much of the way up Michigan Hill. I just did some high cadence pedaling and one hard effort. It was more to get me physically warm, so I wouldn't freeze at the beginning of the race.

At the start line, there were 23 of us. Not a big field. All the young fast girls were there. Not so many of us older, fast-for-our-advanced-years women. As I looked around, I thought to myself, yep, this is just going to be a bike ride. I was curious what the "neutral" rollout would look like going up Michigan Hill (a rather lengthy, with moments of steepness, grinder that is not much fun even when not racing). The "goal" was for everyone to be together near the top of Michigan where we would actually start racing. However, the race official did say that, should there be some who were unable to keep up with the neutral pace, that they may drop behind the follow car. I hoped for a truly neutral pace.

All was fine up the first part (the not-so-steep part). Then we hit the first pitch. I stayed with the group up most of that, but then on the second bit, I started dropping behind. We were still, supposedly, in neutral. Nicki (Group Health) went off the front even while we were still in neutral (that proved to be a mistake). Someone commented that a gal was off the front. Weren't we still in neutral?

Finally, the follow car beeped it's horn signaling that we were now actually racing. Right after that, the follow car went around me. Just as I suspected...dropped on the first hill. Now, I was just on a bike the rain. I continued to pedal and wheeze my way up the rest of Michigan. I was hoping, once I hit the downhill on the other side, I could make up some time on the mosquito girls ahead (as we know, weight always wins on the downhill). At least I would be able to go as fast as I wanted down the hill. No brakes!!

I reached the bottom just as the main peloton turned the corner onto Lincoln Creek. Onto Lincoln Creek, I could see them off and on, but I just couldn't get any closer. Then Nicki caught up to me (somehow I must have passed her on Michigan--I don't remember that), and, after a bit, asked if I wanted her to pull for awhile. I was fine with that! So, we worked together, taking turns pulling. We caught up to a couple other gals. Then we were 4. We were working together in a rotating paceline. We could see another gal ahead. When we got close enough, Nicki and I bridged up to her to ask her to join us. Unfortunately, the gal was not able to stay with us for long. Then we also lost the other two. 

I managed to get ahead of Nicki going up Manners, but I knew she would catch up on the other side. I flew down the other side Manners. Sure enough, Nicki caught back up to me, and we returned to taking turns pulling. Up ahead we could see two more riders. We worked our way up to them. It was Amanda (Starbucks) and a Cucina Fresca guy (we had already passed Manek on Lincoln Creek). Darn, instead of catching two gals, we only caught one. The three of us joined forces (with the dude sitting in). We left the guy behind until we were going back up Michigan. Then, he caught up to us. Amanda, being the stronger hill climber (Nicki and I being strong hill descenders) got ahead of Nicki and I. Then I passed Nicki. I knew Nicki would catch up again on Lincoln Creek, and I knew we would catch Amanda again too.

That's exactly what happened, and we began rotating again. Only this time we added a second Cucina guy. Did either one of these guys step up and take a pull? No. So, we left them behind (help us out or, adios wheel-suckers). Nicki was hammering like a machine. Amanda and I were barely hanging on. I think with just three of us, a regular paceline (as opposed to a rotating paceline) would have been better. I would rather take longer pulls, and get longer rests. In the rotating paceline, I was not really getting any recovery. It's not like we had any chance of catching the main group, but we were to the point of just wanting to get it over with ASAP.

When we got to Manners for the second time, I could no longer stay with Nicki and Amanda going up the hill. I hoped to catch them on the downhill, but that didn't happen. I could see them most of the way, but just couldn't catch up; especially once Nicki caught up to Amanda and they resumed working together. Oh well, at least there weren't anymore big hills. 

After I crossed the line, I saw Nicki and Amanda circling back to wait for me. We congratulated each other for our work together, and rode the rest of the way back to Swede Hall. Unfortunately, I don't know what place I got. Best possible would be 14th, but it might be 15th or 16th. When they put the paper up, we saw they only posted results for the first 11 finishers. I was not on that list. They will post the full results online. The top finishers were the same as for the last few races. Hopefully, they will upgrade to Cat 3 soon...

Overall, the race went as I expected. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay with the group up the hills. I did, however, enjoy working with Nicki and Amanda to finish faster than I would have alone.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Same Result, Different Scene

Aiyiyi, third weekend in a row, racing my bike around Mason Lake! I think two would have been plenty (not that I would really want to end the series on a crash...)! Funny thing--though the course was the same, each race was very different. Let's quickly recap. Mason Lake #1--bossy mentors, 6th place, my time was 1:20, and no crashes. Mason Lake #2--good mentors, 13th place (after crashing), my time was 1:16 (notice, it was 4 minutes faster, even though I crashed), and, of course, the major crash.

So, that brings us to Mason Lake #3. We had a plan of attacking the hills, but with two key teammates missing (Jean and Geraldine), I was dubious that we could pull it off. Heather would no doubt fly up the hills, but Debbie and I?...not so much. But, I figured, what the heck, let's give it a try. 

We started with 37 racers--the most we've had for the Series. We also had mentors again. Today's mentors were from the Starbucks Team. As we rounded Corner 1 and began racing, I found myself stuck in the midst of the pack on the inside. Heather and I had hoped to attack the first hill. She was about 3 bikes ahead of me, but also stuck. So much for that idea!

I remained stuck. I was moving up and back as the gals on the same line would speed up, then slow down, but I was still stuck on the shoulder. We were too close to the shoulder to attempt passing on the right (always a dicey proposition if you ask me), and I could not get out to the left. Sometimes I was one bike back and to the right of Heather, other times, I would be 3 or 4 bikes back. 

Heather managed to escape out to the left (an amazing Houdini act). I saw her go off the front with a good attack. However, she went alone. I couldn't get to her. As is usual amongst us Cat 4 Women, no one wanted to go with her on the first lap. Eventually, she burned out, and the group brought her back into the fold. However, it was a spectacular try, and I was suitably impressed!

I was finally able to escape from my prison on the shoulder going into Corner 2. In fact, we had already dropped a substantial number of riders. I stayed with the group as we sped down the hill, and through the curve at the beginning of the rollers. Just as an aside, I t was so much nicer going through that curve on dry pavement!

On the rollers, I could see Heather. Now she was stuck on the shoulder side. I was out near the yellow line, but the others out there were making it impossible to get by. But, the pace was pretty speedy, so I don't know that I could have passed anyway. We had a brief slowdown, when a dog meandered across the road just ahead of us (you would think the people who live along the route would...I don't know...maybe keep there dog inside???).

As we were riding along, spread out across the whole lane, I heard a gal (Bike Sale) saying, "Snuggle up, snuggle up. I'm coming up the left side. Snuggle up!" That was a new one! But, with a little bit of our sheep mentality still showing, we complied, and moved closer together. She went up the left side with no objections from the rest of us (not even so much as a "Baaaa"). That is a trick I may add to my limited arsenal!

Lap 2, heading up the hill, the pace picked up. By now, we had completely dropped about half the group. Heather and I were still in it. I managed to go with an attempt at a break with 6 or 7 others. We were each taking short pulls, but unfortunately it didn't stick (or the group was bigger than I thought). 

Into the rollers, things were going good. We were flying along at a blistering pace. With not as many people, I saw an avenue open up where I could go up the left side. I "sprinted" to the front, and managed a little continued time out of the saddle, attempting to get away. After a short bit, I glanced back only to see my effort was ineffective. Also, I was sucking wind like mad (my lungs seem unable to keep up with my legs)! Yep, everyone went by me. I could not stay with them this time. You know the saying, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." In this case it was, "Something ventured, still nothing gained." Sadly, had I not burned that match at that time, I probably could have stayed with them to the finish. 

As it was, being so far ahead of the other dropped riders, I continued on and finished the race alone. But, you know, I was okay with that. I think on some level, I had no desire to finish with a bunch of riders around me...hmmm...wonder why???

Ironically, I got the same place as the crash week--13th. However, the scene was MUCH different (and preferred) from that week! Oh, and my time this week was 1:08. Yes, it was a much faster race!

For the Series, I got a whopping total of 6 points, therefore finishing 14th. Although, I don't totally understand how I got 14th. I thought the Series points only counted if you did all three races. There are, at least, two gals who finished ahead of me who did not race all three weeks. It's a mystery! Oh well, best part is I don't have to see Mason Lake again for a whole year!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Ditching" At the Finish

It's not what you think, but I'll get to that.

Mason Lake #2--The weather was much the same as last week, except more rain. I opted to wear the little bike hat under my helmet to keep some of the rain and spray off my glasses. Today it was me, Jean, and Debbie representing OOA. I wasn't too sure how my legs would feel after yesterday's thigh-scorching finish.

We had mentors again. This time they were, our own Michelle, and Gina, from Bike Sale. There were 23 of us racing. Some of the same gals from last week were there. I think, for the most part, Jean and I were the only ones who had also raced Sequim yesterday.

We rolled out neutral as usual. After the first corner, we were racing. Except, also as usual, not too fast up the hill. This time, even after the hill, we were still going at a quite leisurely pace. I was just fine with that. The longer I could go without having to put forth much effort, the better my legs would be. Most everyone was doing well. One Bike Sale gal seemed to be spinning at a pretty fast cadence. I wanted to tell her to shift. She was like a hamster on a wheel! Instead, I just got away from her. There was a Fisher Plumbing gal who was quite sketchy, but Gina had a chat with her.

The only thing of significance in the first lap was that I looked ahead, and Jean was on the front! Jean is smart and usually stays tucked in. She stayed out there for awhile too! Then I noticed she was tucked back in, but still near the front. Excellent! She was feeling good!

As we came around Corner 1 on the second lap, the pace picked up. I was watching Malia, a new gal from Este Racing. She was in the break-away last week. I had decided if she went, I would go too (if my legs would cooperate). Between corner 1 and corner 2 she did attack with another gal. I went after them, trying not to drag the whole pack with me. One other gal came too. The four of us were working hard, but soon I could hear the whir of the other wheels. Then Malia went again, and I followed. But, so did everyone else. This time, I was breathing pretty heavy. I started coughing, then I was gagging. Everyone went by. I got my breathing under control, and took off to get back to the group. I got back, and sat in for awhile. Then I went up the left to the front. I was on the front for awhile (this was the only time of the whole race I had been on the front). I was just starting to get worried about running out of steam, when a bunch of gals passed me. I was able to tuck in and recover. Just before the 1km, and for a lot of the distance from 1km to the 200m, there is a lot of downhill. I was able to rest and was feeling like I would have a good sprint left in my legs. The group was not going that fast after the 1km. We were mostly all in a group. There was not a break-away this week.

The 200m to the Finish

I was right next to the yellow line coming up to the 200m sign--right where I like to be. We passed the 200m sign. I was near the back. Several gals moved over the yellow line, but I had a pretty clear path to go up the left side. I had shifted into a harder gear, got into the drops, and got out of the saddle to sprint. I was moving up the left, when all of a sudden, a big bunch of gals went down in a pile. All I remember seeing is the white kit bottoms of the gal in front, and to the right of me, come careening into my line. As my line was at the side of the road, I had no option but to change my line to the ditch. Actually, I was pretty much pushed into the ditch. There was a fair amount of water in this ditch. My head landed and slid through that water before coming to a stop. Debbie, who managed to brake and avoid the crash, says I popped up out of the water really fast. I say, you try taking an unexpected swim in a ditch of cold water in March. You'd probably pop up pretty quick too! As I sat up and started to crawl out of the primordial swamp of ditch water, I looked across the road and saw Jean sitting, holding her shoulder and crying. I got to my feet and went to her. Her shoulder (her bad one from last year's unfortunate encounter with a dog in Chelan) was hurting really bad. Debbie had finished and come back. Jean was asking for Ron, so Debbie went to find him. One of the race officials came over. He started to help her up, but I told him to not touch her shoulder. We got her to her feet, and Michelle and I walked her to the follow-car. She kept looking at me and saying she couldn't stop crying. I told her it was okay to cry. She was a little in shock. We got her into the car, and they headed to the start place.

I returned to Tessa. A gal was starting to walk her to the finish. I said, "That's my bike, I'll take her." Her chain was wedged between the spokes and the large cog on the back. I managed to disengage it and get it back on. The bar tape was no longer white, but a lovely shade of mud brown, as was I for that matter. Michelle tried to brush some of the mud and pine needles off my back, and Debbie brushed the stuff off my face. I realized my glasses were gone, but another gal had them. She had put them back together and handed them to me. I put them back on. Michelle checked out my bike, and I got back on to ride back to the start. As Michelle and I were riding, I asked if it still counted if I crossed the finish line. She said it did, so I made sure they knew I finished. 

Muddy 271

Good thing I hadn't put the new purple and red bar tape on yet!

I rode the rest of the way back to the car. I was freezing cold because of my soaking swim in the ditch. Fortunately, Debbie's car was open, and I was able to get out of my wet clothes and into the dry ones. My left hip was stinging some, and my shoulder a little sore. I mostly have just scratches and small bloody dots on my hip. My shoulder looks okay. I had mud on my back all the way through to my bottom base layer. My hair was a mess of mud and pine needles (and I just washed it on Friday too!). Apparently, my face wasn't much better. My bib shorts managed to get just one teeny tiny hole in them. Whew! After my shower at home I even cleaned pine needles out of my ear!

For my efforts, I got lucky (?) 13th place. Not exactly what I had planned for the day. However, I do consider myself pretty lucky. There were 9 DNFs, 5 finishers after me, and Debbie thinks she was the last across the line of those who didn't crash--she got 9th. So, potentially, not counting at least one gal who quit after the first lap due to a saddle mechanical, there could have been up to 17 people who crashed--although I don't think it was that many. I think, by landing in the ditch, I came out of the mess one of the least injured. Jean, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Her collarbone is broken. I will miss riding with my training and racing buddy! 

There were so many possible titles for this post. Here are a few I considered:
"Who Knew Mason Lake Was a Duathlon?"
"The Lake Would Be a Better Swimming Hole"
"Diving for the Finish"
And..."Check That Off the List of Things I Don't Want Do Again!"

Out of the four road races I've done so far this season, half have had major crashes! This is not good! As for the cause of today's crash, the only thing I've heard is that the Lead Car saw, possibly, a Bike Sale gal's wheel "go up". I'm not sure what that means, or how that happens. All I know, is that all hell broke loose, and a whole lotta people went down. But, it's a bike race, and anything can happen--even ditching at the Finish!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tour de Dung #2--Add a "0", Or...

...My Old Ways Returneth

Back to Sequim for the Tour de Dung #2. This time I was chauffeured by my teammate, Debbie. It was still an early start, and I appreciate Debbie offering to drive, even though she wasn't racing. Her role today was that of Team Photographer. Yes, she would be shooting us as we shot by! 

We arrived in plenty of time for some socializing with the other Cat 4 Women. Each race I learn a couple more names. It's great to be able to say things like, "Coming up on your left, Kirsten." Or, "Can I get in, Nikki?" It's so much more personal (and, therefore, more fun) than, "On your right, Bike Sale (or Starbucks, or Group Health)." 

Something new this week was the opening of the whole road at the 1 km mark. Last week (and in all the other races I have done) we couldn't take the whole road until 200m. I thought to myself, okay, this will be good.

I had talked to Jean about making a plan where I would lead her out for the sprint at the finish, like she did for me last week. She said she would try to be there. But, as is true in every race, who knows what's going to happen at the end. At least we also had Heather who, if I couldn't do it, possibly could. It sure is nice to have three of us!

The start was uneventful. We were a field of just 23 this time, with better chances of all of us staying upright! There was one gal, who word quickly got around, to stay away from. Her riding was very upright, and her legs were pedaling like crazy, and not real smooth. Heather remarked later that it looked painful. Fortunately for us (not so much for her) she dropped part way through the first lap. I even heard people say, "That gal (team shall remain anonymous) is gone." Followed by a collective sigh of relief.

On the first lap, I was on the front, when Heather came up, passed me, and told me to get on her wheel. Then she said, "Let's go." I said something like, "It's the first lap. We've got a long way to go." But, what the heck, why not? Maybe Heather knows something I don't. So, I hammered behind her. She pulled for a bit, then she moved over. I came up and got in front of her. But, then she was gassed and fell back. I had no desire to continue hammering the first lap...alone! We went up a hill, and I was able to get off the front. 

We came down the hill and did a good job taking corner #2. Anna came up to those of us near the front and said we should punch it after the corners because we were fast enough to get a gap. There were about 7 of us who pulled away. But, the group would always catch us. 

I found myself going to the front frequently when the pace was really slow, or I just found myself too far back. I would pull for awhile (too long) then try to drift back and return to the draft. There were a number of times when either Kirsten (who has no teammates in the race), or Heather (and occasionally, Jean) would ask me if I wanted to get in. Most of the time I said, "Yes, please." But, a few of the times, it would not do me much good because I would end up right back on the front. At one point, Heather asked if I wanted in, and I said I wanted to go further back. I needed a little longer rest.

Finally, we were on the last lap. Now the work would really begin. As we came into Corner 1, I was near the back. The gals in the front shot around the corner, then took off. Well, crap! I was not positioned to go with them. As I was fighting to get by the slower gals and get up to the front group, the lead car slowed down, and the follow car beeped it's horn. At the most opportune time (for me, anyway), we were neutralized while the Cat 3 Men went by! There was a breakaway of three guys, then the peloton. We remained neutral until they were all gone. Whew! I even got time to take a swig from my water bottle and eat a Shot Block! Of course, we were all back together. So much for that breakaway!

I moved up to the front again, but got passed going up the hill, but not by too many. We took Corner 2 for the final time, but no one tried to take off. In fact, the pace got really slow. It was as if we were all trying to save our energy for the end. After awhile, I felt quite rested, and moved back to the front. That was a mistake. Even though I kept slowing down, no one would pass me. I finally got off the front on Kitchen-Dick Rd (yes, that is really the name of the road). But, I had, as they say, burned too many matches. I wanted to stay out by the yellow line, which I did. Unfortunately, I was not able to move up at all in the pack. I wasn't terribly worried, because I knew the road would open up at 1 km (thinking I still had some sprint left in me). 

We got to the 1 km mark and I made a move to get up and over so Jean could pop in behind me, and we could commence with the lead-out plan. I picked up the pace, my legs were rapidly heating up to spontaneous-combustion level. I kept it up as long as I could to get Jean to the 200m mark. As my legs were crying for a fire extinguisher, Jean sprinted past me. I yelled, "Go Jean!" I tried to sprint, but due to my extended periods of time spent on the front over the course of the 36+ miles, it pretty much fizzled. But, the plan was for Jean to sprint...and that she did! Heather did an awesome job too, coming in just ahead of Jean. So, Heather came in 7th, and Jean came in 8th. Just add a zero to my last week's finish to make it this week's at 10th. I'm happy with that. Once again, three top 10 finishes for the OOA Cat 4 Women!

I thought I would like getting the whole road at 1km. Nope, turns out I didn't like that at all. It made it hard to remain in the draft. Of course, since I had reverted to my ways of yesteryear by staying on the front too long and too many times, who knows if I would have had anything left even without the whole road at the 1km?

Here are some photos Debbie took.
Jean, Beth (Bike Sale), me, another Bike Sale (don't know her name...yet), and Heather--A Trio of OOA Awesomeness!

At the finish. Can somebody get me a fire extinguisher?

OOA Gals of Awesomeness (where did Michelle go?)
Left to right: me, Maria, Jean (in front), Debbie, Lauren, and Heather

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Today I Am a Sheep!

Another day, another race. Today was the first of a three-race series at Mason Lake. After coming home yesterday in a torrential downpour, and waking up to rain this morning, I was not super excited about today's race. At least my legs weren't really sore. I packed my wind vest to wear under my jersey (I did not order the new Team vest this year--I only raced in the vest once last year). It would, at least, protect my core from the wind which would most certainly come with the rain. 

As Debbie and I were driving to Mason Lake in the dark, I noticed it was no longer raining. Debbie said the weather report had rain, tapering to showers. Okay, but that's still rain. I could only cross my fingers that the rain would hold off long enough for us to race and get outta there! 

Our race was scheduled for 8:37. We arrived at about 7:15. This being the first day of Daylight Savings Time, it was still dark out. When we arrived, it was kind of strange, because there was hardly anyone else there. We were not the first race. Pretty soon a few more people started to trickle in. We checked in, set up our stuff, and prepared to warmup. Jean and I were on our trainers. Geraldine and Debbie were going out on the road. 

We finished warming up, and headed down to the start. Today there was supposed to be a separate Cat 4 Beginner's race that would be shepherded by a couple of Cat 1 riders. Unfortunately, there were not enough pre-registrations to run both races separately (we had just 22 total). They combined the two, but the Cat 1s were still going to ride with us. Kelly and Joslyn were our Border Collies (I mean--mentors). Kelly is a former pro, having raced all over the world until she decided to settle down, and have a couple of kids. Joslyn is a Cat 1 amateur racer (she liked the steady paycheck of her regular job instead of being broke and travelling the world as a Pro). The mentors would ride along with us, and give us tips and suggestions to make our racing better. Of course, they would not be actually racing against us. In fact, Kelly had a rain bike complete with fenders. 

We got rolling. After corner 1 we were racing. Just after turning the corner, we headed up a rather lengthy hill. It was okay. The pace was pretty slow. Once we got to the top of the hill, the mentors started barking out commands (uh...I mean...sharing their wisdom). We were racing "too comfortably", the race was "stagnant", this would be a good time for someone to "move up to the front". To me, it was early in the race to be burning matches. I wanted my legs to get settled in before I asked them to do a ton of work. Plus, there was a headwind (still no rain, though). I did my usual plan of staying near the front. I was even on the front for awhile. Not long though, as my new mantra is to not burn myself up on the front, so I can save something for the sprint at the end. Besides, everyone was being very careful. Most of the gals were riding nice and steady. If one got a little sketchy, the mentors quickly barked at them, and brought them back into the herd. 

We negotiated Corner 2, came down the hill, and into the roller section. I practiced sprinting away up one of the hills. As I went past the front gal, I heard her say, "Is she attacking?" Since my lungs would not likely be able to sustain a solo attack, and no one joined me, I sat back down. That will be my next thing to practice (getting a breakaway going with a small group that we can maintain).

Coming into the second lap, I had just such an opportunity. Geraldine was in front of me, and I was on her wheel. There were two pace lines on either side of us, and a wide open aisle up the middle. I told Geraldine to go on up the middle. I went with her. We popped out at the front and Geraldine said, "What do I do now?" I told her to "Go! Pedal hard!" She went alright! I could hardly keep up with her! In fact, she was gapping me by a good wheel length. I wanted to rotate with her, so we could widen the gap from the group. All too soon, she was tiring, as was I, and four more gals caught us. But, we still had a good size gap on the rest of the group. Three of us were gassed, and the other three kept telling us to keep it going. If the three who were rested had pulled us other three, so we could recover a bit, we might have been able to stay ahead of the group. As it was, the group caught up. Oh well, it was a good try. Maybe next time we can be more organized.

The Collies kept making us sheep work. They kept wanting us to do a rotating paceline. Clearly, several gals didn't really know what that was. Quite honestly, the only reason I knew what it was, and how to do it, was from last year's practicing with Michelle, Lauren, Jen, and Jo. They took all of us newbies (and not so newbies) out and we did rotating pace lines...slowly. Not at race pace. Trying to do this at race pace, with gals who didn't really know how to do it, was not working for me. It was not very efficient, and if felt like I was not able to race my race. I understood why they were trying to do that, but it seems like there might be more basic skills that should be mastered first by the lambs (newbies).

Finally, a breakaway of 5 managed to get away from the rest of us. I was not with them. It was unfortunate because, had I gone with them, I would have broken free from the bonds of the shepherds, and been able to work with the renegade fast sheep. Oh, it's quite possible I would have been unable pedal my little hooves fast enough or hard enough to keep up, but I could have tried! 

At that point, I just did my best to stay near the front of the remaining group. All 4 of us OOA gals were there. We came to the 1 km mark. Coming down the last hill before the 200m, we were still all together. I reminded Jean to remember to sprint at the end. At the 200, we were a train of Geraldine, Jean, me, and Debbie, all near the yellow line. Once we were able to take the whole road, I crossed over the line, but waited a bit until I felt I could sprint the whole way to the finish (they had drilled into us that it was a long 200m). I was already in the right gear. I went into the drops and sprinted past the remaining group of gals and crossed the line in 6th place. Jean came in 9th. Debbie crossed in 10th, and Geraldine came in 14th. All very respectable results for the Cat 4 OOA women! Funny thing, as I had passed Geraldine, I hollered, "Sprint Geraldine!" When we got back to the parking lot, Geraldine came up to me and laughed, saying, that was her sprint! I told her I was very familiar with that feeling! She did a lot of work for everyone. That means, come sprint time, the mind is willing, but the body is not! She did great! We all did great! 

We had a debriefing with Kelly and Joslyn at the end. They did admit that the things they were trying to get us to do may not always work. It is not possible to really know how a person is feeling. If you want to make something happen, you might have to do it yourself. Sheep are like that sometimes. For me, I'll take the guidance, and use what I can. But, in the end, I have to race in the way I am capable, and be my own "woolie" self! Here's the results sheet.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sometimes, Practice Pays Off

Today was the beginning of the Road Racing season. Ron and Jean picked me up at the sub-butt-crack-o'-dawn (as in the crack o' dawn was not even a glimmer) for the more than 100 mile drive to Sequim for the Tour d' Dung #1. I even cooked my breakfast and took it with me because the thought of eating at 4:45am was not too appealing.

The weather seemed to be cooperating with just high cloud cover (once the sun came up). We made a couple of stops, and arrived at the start at 8:00--right on schedule. Ron raced at 9:45 and Jean and I followed just 20 minutes later. Since all the Cat 3, 4, and 5 guys went before us, we got to wish our teammates well. 

According to the registration list, there were 40 of us Cat 4 Women. However, at the start there were 35. Still, that's a big field for the Cat 4s. We got the usual spiel. This year they changed the finish to a mile or so further down the road..on an uphill. The race official was telling us where the finish was, but it didn't really matter as we would go by it twice before actually finishing. Then we were off!

We had a medium length neutral rollout. I like to think of this as the "chatting time". "How's it going?" "What's your name again?" Stuff like that. It is fairly relaxed, as is the beginning of the race once we are actually racing. We have three laps, and no one is in a hurry at the beginning. 

I found myself around the middle of the pack. That is not really my favorite place to be. It's crowded, and can definitely be sketchy at times. There seemed to be a whole lotta braking going on. Of course, then everyone is yelling, "SLOWING!" 

Jean and I didn't really have a specific race plan (hard to do with just two of us), other than keeping track of each other. We would call out to each other periodically. We stayed pretty close together for the majority of the race.

At some point on the backside of the course, at least a couple of gals went down. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye. All I can say is it looked like it hurt. YIKES! Jean hollered at me that she was okay and was soon by my side. She was a little freaked out, but I told her she was okay. She didn't crash, we were good.

The pace on the first lap was really not terribly difficult. I was on the front a couple of times, mostly to just get out of the sketchy pack. It was far more relaxing for me with no one in front of me to unexpectedly brake or swerve, or any of that scary stuff. However, I knew I would wear myself out if I continued to pull the group along for too long. Instead of my usual pulling until someone gets tired of going slow behind me, I actually pulled out, and let a chunk go by me. Sometimes it took awhile for me to be able to get back in the draft, but I usually managed to before I got too tired. On one section of the course, the pavement was new, nice and smooth. I rode up on the right hand shoulder (not something I do very often) to get closer to the front. Up ahead, I noticed the shoulder came to an abrupt end. As I got closer, I started saying, "Shoulder ending--Colleen is coming over--'scuse me, pardon me--coming over." They let me in, and just like that, I was back in the draft, and closer to the front! SWEET!

There were 7 Bike Sale Team gals, 6 Starbucks gals, and 12 Sound Velo Cycling Club (aka Group Health) gals. Those three teams made up over half of the field! I thought to myself, as we were going along, that these gals would probably control the race. Each team would work with their teammates to get someone from their team to finish well. However, the only time I saw any sort of teamwork happening was in the second lap when one of the Bike Sale gals took off alone. I noticed her teammates were fairly effectively blocking the front of the pack. But, as the poor gal was all alone, she was quickly burnt out and brought back to the group. In fact, she was so spent, that she slowed way down. I'm not sure if it was because of a chain reaction of sorts from her extreme slowing, but we had the second major crash of the day! I heard a commotion behind me and looked back to see a big pile up of gals and bikes. I couldn't immediately see Jean and yelled out for her. Fortunately, she yelled back that she was okay. She had to cross the yellow line to avoid the pileup, but she made it through. WHEW! 

As we came up one of the hills, I passed everyone, and went to the front again. I wasn't trying some kind of attack, I just had momentum going, and didn't want to lose it and end up off the back at the end of the hill. I stayed on the front for awhile, but once we turned into the wind, I opted to let someone else take over. Jean created a space for me to get back in the draft. 

During the third and final lap, I found myself sitting on the back of what was left of the pack. My plan was to stay near the yellow line. If they ramped up the pace, I did not want to be stuck on the shoulder side, and take a chance of getting pushed off the road (I doubt they would be as gracious as before), or getting boxed in. I also wanted to position myself for the sprint at the end. I may not of executed any attacks during the race, but I had practiced sprinting, and I was sure as hell going to give it my best shot at the finish!

At the 1km sign, I was at the back of the remaining pack of about 15 or so. Seriously, there was no one directly behind me! I was on Jean's wheel, out near the yellow line. There was another gal there too, and I could not get past. That was okay though. I was waiting for the 200m sign. Up the first little rise, a few gals couldn't hold on, and dropped back. The 200m sign came into view. I had already shifted into what I thought would be a big enough gear for the uphill finish. I got into the drops. At 200m, I stomped on the pedals, got out of the saddle, and crossed over the yellow line to the other lane. I passed Jean (little did she know she had done an excellent job of leading me out). I passed a bunch of other gals, none of which had crossed the center line. I could see Nicki of Group Health ahead of everyone else. Just as I thought, "Hey! I just might get second here!", she slowed down and I was able to catch her and pass her (apparently, she had mistakenly started her sprint at the 1km mark--that rarely works). I continued sprinting with everything I had, and crossed the line...FIRST!!! Woo Hoo! It worked! 

So, the same as last year, I have won my first race of the season. At least this time I felt like I executed a bit of a strategy, and used a skill I have been practicing. Now, if only I can do better than last year's progressively worse finishes as the season goes on. I don't feel like I was pushed to my limits today. I feel like I rode a pretty smart race for me. I also felt that I was able to recover some when the pace slowed, and not be so affected by the surging/slowing (that frequent braking, however, has got to stop (no pun intended)--I think it was the cause of both crashes today).

For my victory, I got a pretty nice bag of swag. I gave Jean the Smith Optics bike sunglasses. There were some gloves, socks, a hat, rear fender, CO2 inflator and a few cartridges, and a gift card for a bike shop in Renton. Plus, a "growler" of Georgetown Beer. I tried to pawn the beer off on the guys, but got no takers. I'll take it into Joy Ride on Monday. I'm sure I can get someone there to take it off my hands (I just want to keep the empty bottle).

Here is the "podium" photo, and the official results.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bad Romance In My Head

Back to racing! Today was the Cucina Fresca Icebreaker Time Trial. It's called "Icebreaker" because it kicks off the road racing season (as opposed to mountain bike, or cyclocross). However, today, "Icebreaker" was also appropriate due to the bits of snow/freezing rain. Not to worry, we finished before it did anymore than spit. It was pretty chilly though. A guy at the start said it was 41 degrees. That's not really that cold...except when you are wearing less clothing than you would normally consider for that temp...and you are also excited...and the wind is blowing. Then, it's a little cold.

Five of us OOA gals (those of us racing in the Masters 35+ Cat 4 Women category) met at a Park and Ride in Olympia to caravan up. Jean had the earliest start time (Katie, racing regular Cat 4 Women was much earlier, so she didn't caravan with us), so we planned our arrival to the course to give her sufficient warmup/get ready time. I was to be the last of our OOA group off the start line. Our start times were alphabetical. It would be Jean, Cindy, Karen, Debbie, then me (with various gals in between us).

We got things situated (Karen and Cindy picked up their numbers), hit the potty shacks, then returned to our parking spots to get ready. Jean and I had our trainers which we set up between her and Debbie's cars. The road shoulder had a slope to it, so it was like we were riding uphill. Jean started her warmup. I got on my bike shortly after. The other three gals headed out on the road for their warmups. 

Jean had her earbuds in listening to music, but she was singing along. Since I knew what she was singing, I sang along too (well, until I got to the high cadence and hard effort parts of my warmup--no singing!). The best part was when it was Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". We'd be belting out, "Caught in a bad romance" just as other riders would go by. It was like bad Karaoke, only on bikes! Next time we'll bring speakers so everyone can join in!

I actually did a most awesome 40 minute warmup! The shorter the race (this TT was 10 miles), the longer the warmup needs to be. Michelle emailed a warmup and also told me to do 10 minutes more of easy spinning at the beginning if I had time. I did, so I did 20 minutes of easy spinning before I started the high cadence and hard effort parts. Then, I followed up with 10 more minutes of easy spinning. I was nice and warm at the end. 

I took Tessa off the trainer, got my TT clown helmet on, sucked down a gel and some water, and headed over to the start. There was no way I was going to miss my start this year (goal #1)! I think I only waited maybe 10-15 minutes before it was my turn. 

At the Start Line

I'm at the start line. The guy gives me the instructions...road is open, stay to the right, no drafting, blah, blah, blah. Gives me the 5 second countdown, and I'm off. We had been told there was a tailwind going out, which of course, means a headwind coming back. Must save some for the ride back! My heart rate immediately shoots up to 155. But, thanks to my awesome warmup, I'm not wheezing like a donkey! This is okay! Cruising on the aerobars, I'm doing 23.4mph. Yep, there is definitely a tailwind! All of a sudden, what pops into my head? "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance"! Funny thing, last year, I kept trying to get a song in my head, but couldn't do it. This time, I wasn't even thinking about it! At least I actually like this song! 
Ride, ride fashion baby--work it--move that bike like crazy! (Creative license with the lyrics)

Bad Romance ran through my head for most of the 10 miles (I want your ugly I want your disease...). It was great! Seriously! My heart rate was in the upper 150s, then lower 160s, but my speed was good, and I was feeling good--still no donkey wheezing. I passed Debbie (yelled at her to keep going--she was doing just fine). Then, I passed Karen. Also yelled at her to keep going. I saw Jean as she was coming back, then later Cindy. Of course I yelled at them too. Just as I was about 100 meters from the turn-around, I was passed by another gal. Fortunately, she was on a TT bike. Goal number 2 for the day was to not get beat by anyone not on a TT bike (I don't know if I accomplished that, but I didn't get passed by anyone not on a TT bike--of course, that wasn't too hard since I was probably the second or third to last one to go of the women). 

I made the turn, and immediately noticed the headwind. Back onto the aerobars, I was managing to stay between 19.6 and 20.4 with occasional increases to 21 (when there was a slight dip in the road--this was a pretty flat course, so one notices any little dip or rise). There was one spot where I dropped below 19, but that was on a small rise just after a bridge. I was back up to 20 right away. My heart rate was holding at a steady 161. Breathing pretty heavy, but nothing I couldn't handle.

Not too long after the turn, I heard the unmistakable whoosh whoosh of a TT bike coming up behind me. It was a dude so, no worries there. I was passed by a couple more guys. They were all on TT bikes. As I was nearing the 1 km mark, I could see Cindy ahead of me. I increased my effort, but didn't want to go all out until the 200m mark. My heart rate climbed, just a little, to 163. At 200m I put my head down and gave it all I had left. I didn't look at my heart rate, but since my max was 169, I'm guessing it was somewhere around that. I crossed the line at 28 minutes and 11 seconds. My third, and most unrealistic goal, was 26 minutes. I didn't even come close! DANG! 

After cooling down, we all met back at the cars, broke out the Girl Scout Cookies and a bottle of something (Smirnoff?) that Karen brought to toast to her first race. We bundled up to keep from freezing, and went over to see the results. It's the only time I've ever seen a crowd around the back of a port-a-potty. Yes, they posted the results on the back of the potty shacks. Let's just say it was not so Cucina Fresca

We waited around for them to post our results. While we were waiting we got another gal to take this photo of us.
Left to right--Debbie, me, Jean, Cindy, and Karen

Well, we waited and waited. Finally, we gave up and left. They would post the results online. The five of us went to Big Daddy's in Auburn and had some lunch. 

So, how did I do? 11th place. At first I was disappointed. Afterall, last year I missed my start time and still got 5th. Now, starting on time, with a TT helmet (that I did not have last year) and carbon aerobars (also did not have last year--I had aerobars, but they were much heavier), and I get 11th? What is that about? But, then I looked at the results from last year vs. this year. Most importantly, last year there were only 15 of us. This year, there were 30. So, in that respect, I did about the same. I also looked at where, those who raced both years, finished last year compared to this year. With the exception of one gal, we all finished lower than we did last year. So, I was starting to feel not so bad. Then, Jean texted me and reminded me how much fun we had (especially our warmup karaoke), and I realized I did have a great time. I felt good about how I raced. So, I'll take 11th and be happy with it!

                                                Want your bad romance