Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Exit Rehearsal, Stage Left.

For all practical purposes, my road racing season is officially over. O.V.E.R. Other than Stage 2 of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, the rest of my 2009 racing season is likely to consist only of races lasting less than 90 minutes: PIR, Tabor, track, short track, crits, state championship TT, cross.

Rehearsal Road Race. The "rehearsal" bit is a bit of a misnomer, as RRR serves as the state championship race for Category racers. The Women's 1/2/3 race was also the penultimate race in the Oregon Cup, something I knew zero about until last week.

RRR is held out in Ranier at the Ranier Schools Complex. Home of my least favorite Cross Crusade race from 2008, the one where my left hamstring and glute staged a coup the second time up hell hill and I spent the remainder of race sulkily soft-pedaling in circles.

The RRR course was 3 times around a 16ish mile loop, elevation profile shaped like a W. One sustained climb, one longer descent. Lots of rollers. Uphill finish.

The 1/2/3 field was smaller this week than at Silverton...maybe 25-30 riders. Veloforma had four riders out; everyone else was paired up or flying solo.

Lap 1: I spent most of the first 3/4 of the lap in the back of pack, so I can attest to the fact that it stayed mostly intact for the first lap. Lots of surging, settling in, surging, settling in. I don't like where I've ended up in the peloton, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it. Spend a lot of time listening to Burns cough like a TB patient beside me.

There were some attempts to push the pace uphill, but no real attacks. I get near the front the first time up the finishing hill, just so I can play around with my gearing. I had warmed up on the hill in my little chain ring and wanted to see if I could big ring it instead. So I'm riding along at the front, riding along, wind in my flapping in my big stupid ears, obviously not paying a whole lot of attention, when I realize that I've gapped the field by about 25-30 meters. Dumbass.

Burns yells something at me and I can't decide whether its the "GO!" voice or the "What the FUCK are you doing" voice. I have no desire to launch a solo attack, but instead just keep riding a steady, faster tempo up front until caught by the field.

Lap 2: Somewhere mid-lap, one of the surges turns into a real break. Karey Miles from TAI and a River City rider get a gap on the field. There are some attempts to chase, but the strongest rider in the group is Karey's teammate and there are several other stronger riders that don't seem that interested in pulling. Nothing happens for about 10 minutes and we're losing sight of the two riders out front.

So, a decision has to be made. Option One: Sit in and see if anyone else steps up, help if necessary. Option Two: Go after it and at least make it interesting. It doesn't take me long to make up my mind, especially when I see Sam move to the front and pick up the pace. I woke up early and paid $25 dollars to drive out here and race...I might as well get my money's worth of pain out of it.

(And, at any rate, if I go to the front and flame out at the end, at least I have a good excuse...stupid newbie Cat 3 retardedness. Everyone can shake their head later and say to each other, "Silly girl, she'll learn.")

Lap 3: Four or five riders do most of the work out front and the break is caught within a few miles after the start of the third lap. The third lap goes down a lot like the first lap, some surges and short-lived attacks. Ultimately, however, a group of about 20 riders are tightly grouped with 3K to go.

At this point, my goal is get to the front and find the wheel I want to be on for the final 400 meters. This is also everyone else's goal, so there is a lot of lateral movement and surging within the pack. I pick a wheel, then change my mind when that rider doesn't make any move toward the front with 1K to go. Then, simply by the shape of the amoeba changing as we roll along, I end up exactly where I want to be. Sitting three riders back with 400 meters to go.

At the base of the hill, Tina Brubaker attacks as if there is a rocket attached to her bike. Fucking impressive acceleration. There are six or seven riders that are able to stand and follow. There was one scary moment where I was pinched between two riders and almost went down, but with each 25 meters that passed, I picked people off one-by-one and the road became clearer and clearer ahead of me. There's the 200 meter mark, there's Jeff, there's Jesus in plaid pants fighting through the red spots that have started to cloud my vision. At the 100 meter mark, all that is between me and that finish line is Lisa Turnbull, Tina and 30 seconds of misery.

I manage to catch Tina, but Lisa...forgeddaboutit.

Rolled through in second place, first Cat 3 rider. Walking Pneumonia Burns finished 4th/ 2nd Cat 3, Sam 6th Cat 3.

Here is the Cat 3 podium picture:

From L-R: Burns, LK, Stephanie Chase (Veloforma). Burns and I broke up (again) shortly after this photo was taken.

Here is the Oregon Cycling Action recap. That's half of me on the far left of the women's finish photo. Until I re-read the recap this morning, I forgot about the baby deer incident. So yeah, we almost hit a fawn on the second lap. Bambi needs to look where Bambi is going.

Next up: Fast Twitch Friday and State TTT Championship. Then my birthday (Helllloooooo, 32) and Mt. Hood. Busy weeks ahead, for sure.

(PS: I don't know how I forgot this part, but my teammate Anna threw down some hurt in the final 1K of the Cat 4 Race and won her first race...and a state championship to boot. Way to go Annamal!!!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Silverton Race Report: Just Stupid Enough to Be Dangerous

Somewhere in a box buried in the back of my storage unit there is a photograph taken my freshman year in college. My best guess is spring 1996. Ten college runners, pretty and lithe and confident. Sisterly arms around shoulders and big, drunk all-American grins. But off to the right is another girl, sort of chubby, obviously out of her element, uncomfortable in her own skin and with an expression that unmistakably conveys "I obviously don't belong in this picture...and I know it."

Yeah...that was me. Before I traded in a conservative major, organized athletics and greek system friends for hanging out on the smoker's bench, cutting and dying my own hair and hosting leftist political organizers in my home just to piss people off.

Even through the pain and focus, I thought of that picture around mile 40 of the Silverton Road Race. Because, oh holy hell, once again I was part of a picture I definitely didn't belong in.


Silverton was my first race as a Cat 3. While I was dealing with the Great PIR Anger Management Debacle of 2009 last Tuesday, I also got an e-mail from Kenji that simply read "33 points." Point taken-it was time to put on my big girl pants and go race with the big girls.

The course itself wasn't that intimidating...one sustained climb and lots of rollers, but I've been climbing well and figured I was fit enough to keep me from getting spit off the back. It was the increased distance and overall speed which scared me.

I did have teammates in the race...Burns (unofficially) and Sam (officially). Here are Sam and I at staging. She's probably saying something in Kiwi and I'm pretending to understand what the hell she is talking about:

We had a big field...almost 50 total Pro1/2/3 riders. The course was three 18ish mile loops. (I am not sure of the exact mileage, as I had computer issues after mile 5). A descent followed by a sustained climb, sustained descent, then rollers. No flats. Jeff's advice for me: "Go with the break if you can and then ride like hell until you can't go anymore." Um, ok. Simple. Yet, in my mind, totally unrealistic and retarded. But in his mind--the best strategy is to always race like hell until you can't do it anymore.

My initial thought at staging...bigger crowd, easier to blend in. Great theory. But one that is completely irrelevant when your borrowed race wheels (thanks, jb) and your own brake pads do not get along. Even a light feathering of my brakes produced a skin tingling "SCRREEEEEEEEEE."

I spent the whole first lap cringing in mortified anticipation every time the pack slowed down. SCREEEEEEEEEEE. On the descents. SCREEEEEEEEEEE. I felt like a first grader on the junior high bus, complete with a nametag and Muppets lunch box.

I think that the pack was pretty much intact coming through the first lap and I had a feeling that something was going to happen on our second time up the long climb. I maneuvered my way to the outside of the pack and started moving up toward where Burns and a few of the Veloforma ladies were riding.

The pack-shattering attack happened exactly where I thought it would. Although I had to maneuver through about a dozen people before I had a clear line to where the action was happening, I made it up to the front pack without completely going red.

I initially got shelled near the top of the long climb, but the leaders slowed up enough on the first long descent that I was able to time trial my way back up to them. Then I looked around and immediately wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. There were nine women in the lead group. I knew five of them (six including Sam): Sue Butler, Alice Pennington, Lisa Turnbull, Lindsay Fox and a masters women who used to be on the national team. Dude. I was so out of my league that it was, in fact, funny.

The next 15 miles were a painful blur. The race became one of meeting small goals. Making it up every roller with the group. Pulling through as best I could on several failed attempts to paceline. Touching my blasted brakes as little as possible. Putting as many calories I could into my system without making myself sick. Telling myself how great I was doing, to just keep holding on until the attacks stopped at the front.

Just when I thought my legs weren't going to take it anymore, the attacks became less and less frequent. The break was away for good and, ultimately, the leaders held a steady pace for the entire third lap. Sam looked as grateful for that as I felt. They were chatting up front...and I was out of water and had just enough in me to occasionally ask Sam or the BBNS woman our mileage (according to my computer, we were on mile 21 and traveling at 3.5 miles an hour).

We stayed together until the final 200M. I was so fatigued that I somehow lost track of the positioning that was going on and ended up pulling most of the last half mile. Not that I cared. I wasn't going to win the race. I just wanted to finish it without blowing up. Or puking. Either was a viable option right until the bitter end.

I didn't puke, but I did blow up. But only 50 meters from the end. The sprint started, I stood up,..and my legs said, "Are you fucking kidding me? Sit down and SHUT UP." My knees buckled and I sat down, shifted down a gear or two and coasted through to the finish.

(The race report from the leaders' perspective can be found here.)

First Cat 3 race, first Cat 3 W.

My dad took these pictures. He was in the valley to officiate the 2A state track meet and swung through on his way home. It was great to have him there for moral support and fun to watch him try to decipher our modified bike-racer English.

I was so tired post-race that there was only enough oomph left in me to get me back to the car so I could start slamming water and cans of coke. I'd only felt like this once before...after finishing my first Half-Ironman, which involved walking thirteen miles in 95 degree heat while fighting nosebleeds and nausea for three hours. In other words....I was totally cooked.

I stayed like this for the next few hours, unable to eat and consuming the majority of my calories from Recoverite, licorice and soda pop. The diet of champions.

It took me a few hours to really appreciate what I'd accomplished that morning. I think I only got pushed to that point of appreciation through the enthusiasm of my teammates and friends...who made up for the energy that I was obviously lacking as we sat at HUB later that afternoon.

Now its three days later and I'm still feeling pretty cooked (but a few ice baths and finally getting my hands on some prescription allergy medication has helped immensely). And I have been thinking a lot about how to mentally manage the rest of the road season. I started this whole adventure just wanting to be a competitive Cat 4. Things have, remarkably, gone much better than that. My next step needs to be managing a new set of internal expectations and dealing with being a newbie for the second time in a single racing season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday Night PIR, Weeks 2 and 3

Not that motivated to write much about PIR right now. We do circles around a motor track. Twelve of them. Sometimes we race clockwise, sometimes not. There is almost always a headwind. Its a good place to practice team tactics and sprinting. I let Burns boss me around and it usually works exactly like she wants it to.

So far, PIR has been good to me from a results standpoint-I've won the last two final field sprints and two of the four hot spot laps. (If you are really interested in reading about that, click here). But its also been giving our team an opportunity to work together in a more controlled environment.

There wasn't supposed to a field sprint last night. Sam, Burns and I took turns attacking repeatedly in the first six laps and finally an attack by Sam, Anna and Sarah T. from Sorella stuck. The rest of us then took our turns with pace setting and bringing back chase groups. I mostly just hung around in the pack and shot the shit with Beth. And tried not to farmer blow allergy snot all over everyone.

However, our gals mistook a hot spot bell for the bell lap and finished the race two laps early. That brought the field back together and let Burns and I set up for the sprint. She keeps letting me win, which makes me think she's storing up a big favor. Like making me wear a pirate costume for her when she loses a bet with FT.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Go Fast. Turn Left. Repeat.

I've been meaning to write about learning to ride the velodrome for a few days now. Unfortunately, life and work and racing and training and pollen have gotten in the way of my extracurricular writing activities over the last week. So I've got to catch up with ruminations on the track, two Monday PIRs and my first race as a Cat 3. And simultaneously convince my body that ignoring pollen and breathing through my nose is a good thing. I am MISERABLE right now.

So, yeah, I finally got on my track bike two Fridays ago. Independently of the context in which that finally happened, riding the track is awesomely fun and totally addictive. The context is what I want to write about first, because it was one of those, "Shit, I am totally acting like a mature ADULT right now" moments.

D was the one who convinced me to build the track bike in the first place. Then we broke up and I ended up with this piece of equipment that I was not completely sure that I wanted anymore. It was tangible relationship baggage. But it was also shiny and sleek and BRIGHT RED and I pretty much had everything that I needed to build it. Figured that if I decided not to ride it, or if I ultimately rode it and hated the track, I could sell it for more than it cost me to build it.

Through a series of fits and starts, D and I rebuilt our relationship over the spring. I grieved, lashed out, got over it and now we have a friendship built on the fact that we will never be able to bore each other talking about bikes and bike racing. Dorks need other dorks to dork-out with.

So this is how I found myself looking forward to spending a beautiful Friday afternoon with my ex-boyfriend, learning to do something that admittedly freaked me the hell out.

It turned out to be the perfect learning environment. First, he was an excellent teacher. Second, I am proud and horribly stubborn and there was no way in hell that I was going to outwardly be intimidated by the velodrome. I was simply going to have to harden the fuck up and ride. Third, when things did get scary, I had absolutely no problem calling him all sort of foul names in my head. I had a lot of practice with that over the winter. Like the first time we went all the way up to the rail--I came up with a string of expletives that my grandfather (who could curse the life back into any piece of farm machinery) would have been very proud of.

All it took was 75 minutes and I was totally hooked. Went back again for a more formal clinic on Saturday to work on race-specific skills and, had it not been for the fact that I needed to eat after a few hours of practicing (AGAIN-I can barely make it 90 minutes these days without needing to eat something), I could have stayed out there all day. I'm feeling like I'm now ready to start up with the Friday night racing. Good for the legs and good for my liver...Friday nights recently have not been so kind to that organ.

Which basically means that all you will need to stalk me for the rest of the year is the OBRA calendar. And a lot of energy to keep up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Icebreaker Crit: 200 Miles of Driving, 30 minutes of Racing, 3 Beers and 1 Win.

After a two-week hiatus from racing, we got back at it at the Icebreaker Criterium in Eugene, Oregon. But not before getting in a Team Picture Day on Saturday...HV Style.

Followed by two hours of easy riding. Followed by two hours of easy beer drinking. And, for me, two hours later in the evening of easy stuffing my face with homemade Moroccan food.

Then off to the races on Sunday morning. Four hours of driving for a 30 minute race. Seems insane, right? Not when you simply make the race the mid-day climax to an all-day adventure around Oregon.

Burns and I, as is becoming our tradition, carpooled. I drive and fiddle with the heat every five minutes. She DJs. Usually with a mixed CD she's created for someone else. I'd feel like sloppy seconds, but she has really good taste in music and totally nailed the mix on this CD (including my current favorites by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Starfucker, Jose Gonzales and the Gossip).

Arrived about an hour before race time and immediately headed out to do a few laps of the course before the racing started. All right turns...ugh. Legs sort of dead...double ugh.

Thirty minutes later I'm spinning on the trainer, dripping with sweat and getting a head start on a healthy sunburn. "We Are the People" by Empire of the Sun blasting in my ears over and over again. Getting in the zone.

We line up at around 10:45. It's a small field, Mother's Day attrition leading to a group of less than 15. The whistle goes off and I stand up and start hammering toward the first corner. From somewhere over my right shoulder I hear, "God-damn-it, Lindsay," as I ride away, up front and alone for the first lap and a half. After about three minutes, my legs have finally reentered the land of the living and I coast along and wait for the field to catch up.

Once we are back together, its all about observing and evaluating the strength and weaknesses of the riders around me. Throw in some fast corners and attacks for good measure. I don't contest any of the prime laps, instead choosing to counter after each prime. I spend a lot of time at the front, driving the pace when it dips below 19 MPH. With at least two real sprinters in the field, I figure my best bet at winning is to wear people out and lengthen the final sprint as much as possible.

So I attack with 5 left, 3 left and with 1 left, I tell Anna that it is her turn to throw down some pain. She takes off and I grab her wheel. She hammers into the wind as I try to catch my breath and get into the gear that I want for the final 200 meters.

Coming out of the last corner, I stand and sprint out of the corner. There is about 150 left in the race, but I stay standing and sprinting. I'm hoping that going early has caught people by surprise and that I can get a decent buffer between me and the speed demons.

And this plan of mine, well, it works. Although I can tell someone is gaining in the twenty-five meters, I had given myself enough room to come away with the W. With a nice throw at the end for good measure.

My first W. Ever. In a bike race.

Maybe people get used to seeing empty road in front of them when they finish races. Maybe they acclimate to that rush of being king of the mountain (albeit, in my case, less of a mountain and more like an anthill).

I, for one, will forever have a snapshot in my mind of what that empty road looked like. (And how I could still see the spots in my eyes, and taste the blood in my mouth, for ten minutes following the race. ) It was a pretty sight.

Here I am with the reason I won that race, my leadout Anna, all smiles after a great first crit:

(Thanks Kenji for the photo!)

Then we drove home...and by "home" I mean where we spend every post-race Sunday....HUB. Beers on the patio with my favorite people. Anna, Sally and Jamie showed up with flowers for Tedder, Sam (who survived her first crit on US soil), Burns (who was second in her race, first Cat 3) and I. Mindy also showed up with a crown, which she insisted that I wear for the duration of the evening:

Burns, you'd better watch out...there's a new princess in town.

Or not. She always manages to have the last word.

Special acknowledgments to:

1. Anna, who survived her first crit without killing anyone.
2. Sallyanne, who stayed with the pack and counterattacked on more than one occassion. Rock.
3. Beth, who didn't have to rip my hands off because I stayed in the drops the whole race.
4. Sam, who was here only a week before being nicknamed Party Foul.
5. Jamie, who had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed to race with us and survived anyways. And appeared to enjoy being bossed around by his female teammates.
6. Tedder, who learned on Sunday that "oriental" is not the preferred nomenclature. It's "Asian-American," dude.

Forthcoming...a post on learning to ride the velodrome and Monday Night PIR.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Now Know What Noah Was Thinking When He Decided to Build the Ark.

And Noah said unto the Lord: "Seriously, Dude, there is no way I'm going to be able to make it around this track on a bicycle."

And the response rang out from the sky: "If that guy in the day glow jersey with his number pinned on the front is willing to go out there on his commuter bike, your yacht-driving, castelli-kit-wearing ass sure as shit better get out there and race."

First night of Monday night racing out at Portland International Raceway. The weather went to total and utter crap around 2 PM. Huge droplets of rain falling in sheets out of the sky. This kind of weather doesn't have a gentle name like "mist" or "sprinkle." Those words bring up images of little girls running around in Laura Ashley dresses, skipping and giggling and carrying bouquets of daisies in a light spring rain in an attempt to sell you toilet paper or yogurt.

This is a "deluge," bordering on a "monsoon." You'd be a fool to be outside dressed as anything other than the Morton's Fish Stick Fisherman and carrying a whaling spear. Cycling rain gear is not a functional alternative.

I met Burns under the Hawthorne Bridge around 5. "Are you fucking kidding me?" "Seriously."

But we were already wet, it wasn't THAT cold and both of us had recently ridden in more apocalyptic conditions (New Year's Day, the Palm Springs Ice Storm, the Independence Valley Road Race Blizzard, Banana Belt 2). And it was sort of a ridiculous pride thing.

Thirty minutes later we are at PIR. Burns has apparently forgot to share with the appropriate authorities her insistence that "it always clears up in time for PIR." It hasn't. Rather, it is raining harder. I make fists and streams of water seep from between my fingers.

There were about two dozen people crammed under the registration tent like a pack of cornered wet rats. It smells like wet wool, motor oil and insanity. We sit around for about 20 minutes while the officials make a decision about running combined fields and starting times. By the time the race starts, I'm shaking uncontrollably. Partially from cold and partially from the anger of being personally mocked by Mother Nature.

All of the non-novice riders go off together...approximately 30 men and 10 women. What follows is ten laps of surging, resting, eating spray, dodging the dude in the yellow rain jacket. I'm determined to stay with the main pack. With each surge, my legs ache as I try to not get spit off of the back, which gets harder and harder with each lap. But each time I think that I am going to pop and spend the rest of the race riding alone, someone at the front sits up. A few minutes of relief before the whole cycle starts up again.

On the seventh lap the rain begins falling so hard that I can't see more than thirty feet in front of me. I'm squinting and blinking and praying that we don't ride into the wall. And then, at the darkest and wettest hour, the strangest thing happens.

The pack starts cheering.

Two dozen people celebrating the fact that no matter what Mother Nature throws at the Pacific Northwest, someone somewhere has enough dedication to host a bike race. And several other someones are crazy enough to race it.

After the worst was over, the sky cleared and we raced the final ten minutes under a clear sky. I met my goal and stayed with the main pack until the bitter end, but couldn't be bothered to stand up and sprint in the final 50 meters. Finished around fifteenth overall and fourth woman.

All of my HV teammates that started the race (Anna, Sallyanne and Sam, our new little speed demon from New Zealand) finished the race. And several others (Alice, Mindy, Jon, Jeff) actually braved the elements to cheer into the wind every time we passed by. We may not be the fastest, and obviously not the brightest, but we are tough as nails.