Monday, September 29, 2008

Equilibrium: Battle at Barlow

I'll start this post by admitting that I really had no business racing at Barlow yesterday. So I ultimately feel like I got everything that I had coming to me: a big fat DNF.

For the second straight year, I had a cold coming into the Battle at Barlow weekend. Last year I felt OK about driving out to Gresham and deciding to skip the race. It was pissing rain that day and my illness had kept me out of work for a few days the previous week.

This time around it was a very different story. My cold was Las Vegas-induced and I felt that if I could rally enough to stay out until 4:30AM on Wednesday, I sure as shit should be able to race on Sunday. (My full report on Interbike will come later this week, but for a preview, check out Heidi's blog.)

D and I got in a really nice pre-race ride Saturday evening. I did a few sprints on Highway 30 and was feeling really good about my legs. Not so good about the lungs. About 20 seconds into each sprint, my lungs would fill with gunk and I couldn't take any more deep breaths.

On the way out to the race, I felt pretty good. There was a track in my head playing over and over again: "Seventy-five percent is well enough to'll be fine."

I pre-rode the course, then spent a half hour on the roads around the high school warming up. And by warming up, I mean continually trying to clear out my lungs after every hard effort and ignoring the track in my head that had now changed to "Bag it and take care of your body."

Ignored the track and rolled up to the front of the line in the B race. I'm feeling really confident about my starts right now and although I knew that this week that I wasn't going to be able to hold on up front for very long, I figured that a good start would gain me a position or two at the end of the race.

I shot out into second place going into the first corner and felt pretty good--for all of about 2 minutes. Barlow is known for the horrendous run-up. Halfway up that run-up, I could no longer take a deep breath without, literally, choking on snot.

For every measure of oxygen deprivation, I lost a measure of common sense. When I made it to the top of the run-up, I immediately tried to remount my bike. Only to tip over when I couldn't get enough momentum to make it up the next riser. Jeezus-its not like I've ridden this loop A DOZEN TIMES and know better.

I can't remember when my chain started dropping off, but once it started, it happened often--especially frustrating because I run on a 1 X 9 set-up for the sole purpose of avoiding this problem. I would finally cough or puke up enough crap to start pedaling harder when the chain would drop. By the fourth or fifth time, I didn't even have enough voice left to became more of a resigned squawk.

I can't remember when I finally decided to cut my losses and take the DNF. It was probably about the time that I coughed on an off camber section, completely lost control of the bike, careened off the course and ended up on the high school track. Have you ever seen "Better off Dead," when the psychotic newspaper delivery boy flys off the side of the mountain screaming "Two Dollars..."? Thats how I picture it in my head.

I hauled myself up the run-up a second time and soft-pedaled the rest of the lap. My throat felt like I had swallowed a fist of glass chips and I was covered in cold sweat in spite of the heat. I pulled off the course in the parking lot, puked up snot for the final time, then threw a minor adult temper tantrum once I had reached the privacy of D's car. I'm not quite sure what prompted the tantrum-the fact that I knew better, but still raced, or the fact that I just didn't have it in me to finish.

I can tell myself a dozen times that this is how racing works--sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. The good days always end up being balanced out with the not-so-good. Death by drowning in one's own phlegm would be a particulary undiginified way to die. But all of this knowledge doesn't make quitting suck any less.

We helped the Veloce folks take down the course and stopped for a quick bit to eat on the way home. By the time I finally got home, cleaned up and started the laundry, it was obvious that I had a fever again. My body's way of telling me that it told me so.

The plan this week: lots of sleep, hydrate, resume normal training routine (hello 5am) and stay the course on D and I's plan to reduce our collective beer babies.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Starcrossed-The Teaser, Then the Race Report

(Teaser Hint: That's me on the far right!)

You will also notice that I've change the title to this blog. Seemed a bit disingenuous to continue to refer to myself as a triathlete when I haven't competed in a triathlon in over 12 months and, since that first great weekend of criterium racing, developed a general and profound disdain for running.


Now that I'm finally done with a hectic three weeks of work and am now just killing time until we take off for Las Vegas this afternoon(a trip that will be even more delightful now that I've met the spectacular Heidi Swift and learned that she and Sal will be at Interbike as well!)-here is the real deal.


I first want to comment on the weather. Tuesday night, we couldn't sleep at the condo because it was 89 degrees that day and I refuse to turn on the air conditioner in September. By the time we woke up in Seattle on Saturday morning, it was pissing rain. Someone had turned the "off" knob on summer and the "on" knob on cross weather. Too bad we didn't pack accordingly. I usually do not go anywhere near a cross race without two rain jackets and my pink rainboots. Saturday, i had to borrow coats and sneakers so i wouldn't be wandering around in FLIP FLOPS. Doh.

Second comment is on UCI events. Sign up early and bring your own safety pins. I registered on the first day that registration was open for Starcrossed and, therefore, got to line up at the front of a 70 person field (I have already registered for the Portland Cup races in December-here's to hoping that my body and my bike hold up till then) .

Racing first is a luxury/disdadvantage that the ladies never have at Cross Crusade races, where we are always the second to last race of the day. For the 3/4 ladies race, the course was just bumpy and slick, not the mud death soup that it would become by the time the elites raced.

This was my first race of the season, as I promised myself that I would take it easy on my shoulder for as long as I could hold out from racing. After we parked and I lollygagged in Heidi and Sal's tent for a bit, I rode 3 1/2 laps on the course in the rain to warm-up (note to self: bring trainer) and to calm my nervous stomach. No matter how much I race or how little is at stake, I always get the jitters before a race.

My strategy was to sprint like hell after the gun and make it to the entrance to the velodrome's technical sections with as many people behind me as possible. I had a great start (since I was on the first row, I didn't even have to use my stellar bumping skills to work my way out to the front) and was the second person into the velodrome and up the first set of barriers. Good strategy-sounds like there there was a mid-pack clusterfuck in the same section after we came through. Kristin's bike didn't survive.

By the second lap the front of the field (which, by the way, I still couldn't beleive I was still a part of) had separated into two packs. Coco was up in the first pack with three other ladies and my chase group of about four was about 45 seconds back.

I spent most of the race seesawing back and forth with Ali from the Starbucks Team (shout out to Ali, who kicked ass in her first cross race ever!), one of my Group Health teammates and another gal. They would either catch me or create a bigger gap on the pavement and I would pass or catch on the technical sections or barriers.

By the fourth lap, every muscle in my body was screaming for mercy. The mercy point is normally the one in a cross race where I would back off and give myself a 1/2 lap of recovery. This, reader, is why I always finished mid-pack last year. I was a fucking weenie.

I didn't even think about backing off this time, even when I fell back from fifth to eigth in the fourth lap. I basically just sucked Ali's wheel until the red spots in my eyes went away and then just kept going.

I was seventh heading into the final 500 meters or so of the race, which snakes around the inside of the velodrome. There were three of us heading into the log barriers and I caught both ladies ahead of me on the run-up. My legs were rubber fire, my left shoulder had called uncle ten minutes before and I couldn't discern any noise but my own breathing. I was ready to settle for a top ten finish.

Then I heard a voice speaking to me from the gray heavens.


Turns out it was D, not god, but damn--than man is loud when he wants to be.

So that is exactly what I did. I hardened the fuck up, took the inside line on a tight corner and never saw either of them again. Just to be safe, I sprinted the last 20 meters out of the saddle, rolled fifteen feet past the finish line and promptly threw up in my mouth.

Fifth place. Good enough for a podium spot and some serious schwag.

I still have a huge grin on my face when I think about it. Fifth place may be peanuts to some, but to someone who has spent her cross career languishing as a mediocre B, this is good stuff.

Some post race thoughts:
  • All it takes is one race to make six weeks of 5:30 AM intervals worth the hassle and pain.
  • I am running a single chainring on the front of the Redline Land Yacht this year. Love it. There were a lot of places where I normally would have dropped a chain with a traditional set-up.
  • I won't be riding for Group Health in 2008, but those ladies were awesome-both on and around the course. I had someone cheering for me at every section of the course!
  • If you're going to borrow someone's rain jacket, don't leave your damn driver's license in it. In Seattle.
  • D-you are a superfan. No one has yelled at me in that tone of voice since my high school basketball coach. It was equally motivating, yet not nearly as terrifying.
Off to Las Vegas for Interbike and a few days of rest for my weary legs, then back for the Veloshop and Veloce races this weekend. May try my hand at singlespeed racing this weekend....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let the Interbike Countdown Begin...T-minus 11 Days

Thanks to Jeff and Hammer Products (holla!), D and I scored passes for Interbike. Three days of bike porn, extreme spectating (Cross Vegas) and partying. I've been overwhelmed at work lately and this is the light at the end of the BPA briefing tunnel.

I'm considering getting a "if drunk and lost, please return to...." temporary tattoo. And I'll take my camera and attempt to post pictures of the more decadent porn that we find at the show.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When Animals Attack IV

On Sunday, I did the bike leg on a relay team for the City of Portland Triathlon. It is well known amongst my friends that pigs will fly on a cold day in hell before I will swim in the Willamette River, but the sustainable focus of this race is awesome and I wanted to participate in some capacity this year.

Introducing "When Animals Attack IV," ready to rock it old school relay style:

Recently minted Ironman bad ass extraordinaire Scott Hull led off with stellar 28 minute swim. Here I am waiting for Scott, looking superfly (and rather bobbleheaded):The bike route was three laps of an eight mile course out of downtown, up Barbur to Beaverton/Hillsdale Highway, up Terwilliger, back up Barbur, then back into downtown. About 530 feet of elevation gain per lap. Not exactly a time-trialers optimum course, but it was an interesting course and fun to ride in a cave of pain sort of way.

I averaged 25 minutes per lap and about 19.9 miles per hour. Total time of 1:15:27. Fourth best female time of the day and 33rd fastest overall. The three women that finished in front of me are all elite age-group racers and went on to run a 10K after their ride. This is spectacularly impressive--because when I was done, I went on to lay on the grass and try not to puke in front of my friends. Scott has a great picture of me trying not to puke. I'll post it when he sends it over.

Doug ran the 10K in a blazing 39:39. My rudimentary addition skills indicate that Doug was the one that caught up to, and passed, the two co-ed relay teams that were in front of us. We finished in 2:25:10, first out of eight co-ed relay teams.

Now, the three of us are pretty decent athletes and thirteen people (including three women) managed to do this faster than we did...all by themselves. Wow. Really, wow.

Now it is officially time to put the Kuota to bed for the winter and spend some time figuring out how the hell to jerryrig my back race wheel so that it stops either rubbing the frame or refusing to spin.