Friday, June 25, 2010

Podium!



Crit Nationals race report

My goals were four-fold: 1) Don't cry, 2) Don't crash, 3) Stay in the front, 4) Don't even think about getting dropped because I'm not going to let it happen.

So with that said, the pace started off surprisingly slow with team tactics in play. We had 39 laps to ride. It started picking up by the time we got to 30 to go, hitting 30mph at the front often. (I think we averaged 28mph--Not sure. It doesn't matter anyway.) My goal was to ride my race and not follow anyone around who I thought was going to win. I tried that at first but then would get swallowed by the pack--not good for me. I ended up chasing down several groups, scared that would be the break that would stick. I even took a 1-lap flyer just to try to keep the pace up so we didn't have to deal with massive bunch ups in the corners.

Anyway, with 4 laps to go I found myself in 20th or so as the pace increased so I made a big effort to put my nose in the wind and move to the front as I knew leadouts would start happening. With 1 to go I heard a crash behind me and didn't look back. I tried to get in behind Shelley Evans but PB wasn't having it and had her covered by 3-4 spots. I ended up being in the wind for the whole last lap and getting gapped on the final stretch, just giving everything I had to get my butt across the finish line. I ended up 5th and happy.

The end.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seattle!

I'm happy to be home for 48 hours. Ahh, Seattle weather high 60's and cool. It doesn't match my farmer tanned arms.

Yesterday I woke up at 2:55 a.m. (PST) in Minnesota to fly home and go straight to work. I am surprised I actually managed to get anything done. I think it was a relief for my brain to flex its design muscles rather than pump some pain tolerance iron. 

Schedule: Work today, pack again, and then head out for Bend for Nationals early tomorrow morning to pre-ride the TT course. My goal is to give everything I have in the time trial on Thursday. I'm not even thinking about the other stages yet.

Ok. Gotta get ready for work! Soon enough I'll be like The Butcher where I live for pain and I live to TRAIN! Oh and remember, if you're not crashin', you're not trying hard enough!
(Thanks to Lauren Hecht who introduced me to this video :) HA!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Contender

I’ve had a whirlwind—no TORNADO (Keeping in the Nature Valley Grand Prix weather theme) —of emotions and doubts and highs and lows since my last blogpost.

Stage 4 was a crit downtown Minneapolis. My plan was to stay up front and finish up front but staying up front takes more than horsepower. I found myself, just as before, getting squirted out the back. The pro’s can see you’re timid—they can sense it like animals!—and they take your wheel, cut you off in the corner, knowing that you’ll surrender with a little push. It wasn’t like anyone did anything dangerous—they just knew how to be aggressive and smart. I ended up finishing in the 30’s again, passing 20 people in the last half of the race. It was basically the same result as the first race but an easier time—mentally. I remember looking down during the race in 40th or so position, seeing we were going 28mph and thinking, how does one move up here? I mean I can only go so much faster in such a short amount of time. After every jump, there’s a corner—and there are brakes in the back of the pack—and the smell of carbon rims burning. Screeeech. Oh how I long for the front of the pack.

Stage 5 was my low point. I was determined to be more aggressive. I followed Meredith Miller in her stars and stripes on a jump off the front for a very short amount of time. She was going 29mph—I remember that-- I even nabbed a sprint point in the front because no one went for it. Then I realized why. There was a steep 1k climb up next. I thought I was fine until the person in front of me slowed down, slowing my momentum. I was in too hard of a gear and I just watched the pack leave in front of me. I don’t know what I was thinking—but it certainly wasn’t confidence. I think the whole experience had been so mind blowing that I doubted my ability. I gave into the pain and thought I can’t do this—but the weird thing is that I don’t really remember it. I think when you give up on yourself, it doesn’t take nearly the mental strength as going for it, and so perhaps your brain doesn’t store it as an epic moment cause you’re checked out. The rest of the race was uneventful. I made a lot of attempts to start a rotation to catch the lead pack as the caravan was right there, but many were not interested for whatever reason. I think I just gave up on myself then. Then to top it off, during a climb I didn’t protect my front wheel and was knocked over. By the time I got back up, the group was already up the hill and I had to fight for the next 10-12 miles just to catch them. I felt so angry, which was of course wasted energy. I remember crying when I was soloing to the back of the group—yes, crying (thank god, I was by myself). I had let myself become consumed with pity, frustration, anger, everything. I let all the negative thoughts I had fought all day, all week and all season just take control over me. There was no coming back from this one. I was overwhelmed and tired of fighting and gave up.

The second pack ended up being 5 seconds out of being able to complete the final circuits so we had to sit there and watch as the lead pack completed their laps around the course, racking up 12 minutes or so. I was happy to see of my Aussie buds from Freewheel bike hanging in there, looking super strong. I wish I would have been there with them to work with them to catch wheels and encourage each other. I wasn’t here to sit on the sidelines and watch.

That night in the hotel room after much frustration and rage and crying and all the range of emotions, I had a moment of clarity. I think it’s that turning point where you can give up on yourself or you can take out a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of “What’s next?” And that’s what I did. I made a list of the things I need to work on as I felt like I had 25% more fitness to improve and 75% more skills and tactics to be where I want to be—which is a contender. I decided to move forward and make a plan.

So in the final stage, at Stillwater with a heartbreaking 23% grade hill and killer descent into two 90 degree turns my plan was to make the cut (which was 4 laps out of 14 laps!) and have fun. Of course, from the start I was behind (mass start sprints are on my list to work on) but I just kept plugging away passing people on the hill, getting caught on the technical turn from the descent, then passing them back on the hill, until finally I caught up with a group of women—which included my Aussie friends!—and then worked with them for 10 laps until we got cut. I felt proud of us. We finished 10 laps and got the pack time. Although I would have loved to finish the race, I think after the day before, I was thrilled to have a positive experience and to know that my mind will be my best friend but also my biggest enemy if I let it. My desire and fight to win will help me but it can also ruin me if I let it.

I ended up 51st out of the 99 starters and 77 finishers (those who didn't get time cut along the way). I needed NVGP. I needed to be humbled, intimidated, impressed, and devastated so that I could come back stronger with a new mission. Look out!

P.S. I miss Freewheel Bikes ... boo hoo hoo sniffle...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nature Valley Grand Prix--Stage 3

Cancelled! Tornado!!!!!  Seriously. NVGP is a place for many firsts.

Nature Valley Grand Prix--Stage 1 and 2

A quick update from NVGP. I'm riding for Freewheel Bikes down there and they've been great so far.


Stsge 1:  I placed 38th in the time trial 1:08 behind the leader and then 31st in the crit with the lead pack time--so I'm still 1:08 behind the leader but moved up a couple of spaces in the GC.

Although 30 something  placings aren't worth much applause, I feel proud because in my finishes, I've been sandwiched between a load of pros. The top 5 best women's teams in the country are here and all the big names are racing for the win: HTC, Peanut Butter Twenty 12, Colavita, Vera Bradley, and Tibco. So I'm surrounded my national and world champs. It's quite fun.

The time trial is boring to talk about. I still have a lot to learn. I almost fell off the ramp because I was in too big of a gear and I botched my turn around and I definitely had some wuss moments--but whatever. I'll take my place with pride. Hey a minute off the winner isn't too bad for my first go.

In the evening crit, I started the race behind a girl who tried three times unsuccessfully to clip in. Finally, I was able to get around her only to see the front pack make the first corner of the five corner technical crit (did I mention there was brick? woo wee). So anyway, here I was in like 80th place, slamming on the brakes in the back through the turns. It was horrible sprinting out of each corner from 5mph whereas the front ladies can soar through the corners at 15 because they don't have to deal with the ebb and flow of the pack.

Finally by lap 20, I had made the time cut--meaning I could race tomorrow--and started moving up. (Mind you, I was worked. It was the hardest race I've ever raced--I hear that's because I was stuck in the back.) I ended up 31st and doing way too much work, but having no choice but to work to move up and stay on. I was pleased to finish again to finish rubber side down and proud that I didn't quit because, oh god, believe me, with 14 to go I was thinking what the hell did I get myself into?

It was a 1.5k loop that we did 28 times. We averaged about 28 mph. Yeah. Imagine that with the start and stop and crawling over 4 crashes.

I'm in the hotel room and about to go on an easy spin to work some of this lactic acid out. I'm worked but ready for today's 76 mile road race. I'm hoping for the top 20. Fingers crossed.

Two races down, four to go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Creating Routines

It's getting down to the wire. In just three days, I will be on a flight to Minnesota to complete my first NRC race--Nature Valley Grand Prix. I will be racing for a composite team, Freewheel Bikes, who is providing support, bikes, a director, housing, pick up, drop off, a mechanic, etc. I feel like I'm getting the royal treatment and am so excited to do a good job and represent their team well.

To prepare, I've been dialing in my nutrition and ensuring I'm getting the proper nutrients. I noticed that if I don't really pay attention to what I'm putting in my body, I can feel it the next day. It's one of those things that you don't notice spikes in your performance when you're eating right, but you immediately notice when you're NOT eating right. Recovery takes longer, you get cranky, you can't seem to hold your power as long, etc.

I'm trying something new lately, adding Cherrish to my daily routine. It's basically the new and improved POM, and it made of Montmorency cherries, which are supposed to help your immune system and aid in recovery, reducing the amount of inflamation in your muscles. I'm not trying to sound like an advertisement, but after hearing that everyone got sick after Hood, I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy. I have 6 races in 5 days next week and I cannot be sick.

I found with anything, though, if you don't stick with it--whether it be stretching, strength training, taking vitamins, etc.--and make it part of you regular routine, you'll never see the benefits for anything. I think I remember reading a Joe Friel article with him saying that any plan will work--the problem is that cyclists don't stick with a plan long enough to reap the benefits.

Every few weeks, I try to work on something to improve my game. This week it's developing new routines and sticking to them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Customers Around the Shop

Eyes on Fremont--who is responsible for my ability to see in races--featured me with my new Rudy Projects on their blog. Thanks, Eyes on Fremont!

 Check it out!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Hood River Cycling Classic Stage 2: Time Trial

Well...I won't be making the news on this one. I think I stopped to smell the flowers a little too much. I was riding along the course, cautious on the turns, standing on the climbs, trying to not get my bike knocked over by the wind. I was thinking about how I felt pretty good.

Yeah, feeling good does not equal a good time trial. I must have gotten caught up in how pretty the course, maybe smelled a flower or two was because I ended up 7th in the GC, almost 2 minutes behind the leader. Woops.

My goal of the TT was to ride safe--I was scared, as in the warm up I was being blown everywhere with my disc and tri-spoke. I remember at the start asking the guy if people have crashed, doubting my safety on the course--which actually was dry. I had only had the chance to drive 3/4ths of the course and wasn't sure about the ending on the path. I heard about some mysterious tunnel...oooo....

Anyway, the lesson learned is that you can't go into the start of the race doubting yourself, being scared of your safety, your descending, your cornering, etc. It gets in the way of the necessary "I'm going to KILL IT" adrenaline.

I guess being a good TT-er comes with experience and more time on the bike. This is my fourth TT and soon I'll be saying this is my 100th TT.  It's time that I put my excuses aside and get on that TT bike and learn how to get it done.

Wheeler Goes From Last to First

Their story:
http://oregon.cyclingaction.com/2010/wheeler-goes-from-last-to-first-for-stage-win/

My story:
The first 10 mile climb was about 5 miles into the race. Teammates Sally Fraser and Rosalyn Rombauer and I were half way up the climb, Sally climbing super smoothly and Rosalyn looking like she's been riding for years (she's been racing 4 months), I attacked a bit on the hill--not realizing how long it was and overestimating my strength--and then about 4 miles into the hill, i fell apart. I was breathing hard and my legs were jello. The whole pack swallowed me and I got shot off the back. I remember seeing Rosalyn coast by me, barely sweating, with a horrified look on her face.

Well much to my surprise, the pack continued to climb without me--WHAT?! :)--and i got further and further back. i didn't know what the F was wrong with me. i think my 10 minute warmup and me complaining about how I hate warmups bit me in the ass--or maybe my meds, tetanus shot, penicillin, etc from my crash on Sunday? Who knew. But all my excuses didn't matter because I couldn't even keep up with the other stragglers and the peloton crept further and further away. I was still dying and starting thinking about how nice it would be if I just got off the bike and stretched out a bit, maybe walked it out. So I can't tell you at this point what the race was like because I was in no man's land saying "WTF? Boo hoo. WTF? Relax. Boo hoo hoo hoo."

Then with the peloton two minutes ahead of us, something happened where all of a sudden my legs started to feel good again. I started hammering, caught the few girls in front of us and then hammered with them for the next 20 miles to catch the peloton at mile 30. I rolled in and said "Hey whassup, HB?!" Sally was like "Good on ya, Jen!" and Rosalyn made sure that i didn't get dropped on the final climbs, pulling me back up to the peloton after the 50m of gravel patches--I wished I had ridden cyclocross.

Then Rosalyn attacked at 5k to go and it got single file. I got on Rosalyn's wheel, gave her a quick lesson in leading out in front of everyone (the girl has been riding for a few months and was killing it) and she brought me to 1k until there was another attack. I got on the right wheel and went around with 150 to go and took the sprint. Placing 1st.

Rosalyn finished 11th Sally finished with the pack, saying that she's too old for the sprint :) The sprint finish is better left to the reckless youth.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My New Friends


Bicycle racing often brings opportunities to build friendships. 

Meet a few of the friends I've gathered over the past couple of months.

Walla Walla Worm



Fremont Foreign Body