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Brief Race Report:

This was the inaugural Anchorman, a sprint-distance race that covers about half the distance/territory of Escape from Alcatraz. 

Course: Get on the ferry, get carted out to a spot halfway between the Rock and the shore. Line up by the ferry door, step on the timing chip mat right before you jump out the ferry door into the bay five feet below you.

Swim to shore with a flood tide. Get out, strip wetsuit doing the one-legged chicken dance to remove the damn thing, run 3/4 mile to transition area.

Ditch wetsuit, grab bike, ride 9 miles hilly, return to transition area. Ditch bike, grab running shoes, run four miles along the coast, through wildflower fields and under bridges and.... down, then up the sandladder at the turnaround. (In case you are wondering, OW).

How I did: 

34th out of the water in 36:39.2. (1200 yards, WITH the flood tide. This time probably includes the transition out of wetsuit and into running shoes and the .75 mile run to the transition area.) Ugh, I need to be more consistent about my swimming!

T1: 2:01.9
Bike: 21st place, 9 hilly miles in 41:35.6. Totally fine, no issues.
T2: 1:42.9
Run 31st place, time 51:01.0, 4 miles.
total time 2:13:00.6

Goals:
1) Finish first triathlon since 2003-- goal met
2) Remember why I do this crazy stuff-- goal met
3) Reclaim the person I was and the fun THAT was before grad school-- goal met (as much as you can in 2:13:00:6)
4) Fight off age, irrelevance, and debility with a baseball bat.

That last one? Let me explain. Triathletes get body marked (someone writes your race number on you in multiple locations with a big fat black marker, and for the coup de grace, they write your age on your calf.) In my first olympic distance race (1998?) I got repeatedly smoked by ladies ten years older than I was; they went steaming by me up the hills as though I were standing still.

I decided then and there that triathlon was a good thing and I'd better keep at it.

So, in this race, I made it an unofficial goal to get smoked by some women who were much older than me. And yes, this happened. (There were at least three of them, and they were thin and tanned and golden blonde, with calves marked "55". They went by so fast that I didn't see any more details.

In case you missed it: If they can, I can. I may have to train for it, but I can. Okay, life, about that birthday? Bring it!
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Overview: Cat 4 women's race, 5th of 11, 2 upgrade points. Open women's race, 14th, no points.

Lately, hills are an issue. Either I slide backward out of the pack when the terrain goes UP, or I arrive at the top with everyone else, except I'm breathing so hard you begin to suspect that I am actually a stranded fish crossed with a Hoover and improbably perched atop a bicycle.

So, when I scoped out Sunday's crit course, in which the approach to the finish line was a sharp turn, short steep hill, false flat, small rise to the line, I didn't know whether I could stick with the pack during the race or not. (After the sharp right turn to the downhill finish at Fork Shoals that caused my teammate so much grief, I was happy to see a straight wide uphill finish, though--- no matter how much it hurts.)

On the first lap here was the mental onversation:

Legs: Listen, you KNOW we hate this with the hills. Ow!

Me: Yeah, but we're doing it anyway. You GOTTA-there are ugrade points to be had here! I promise to downshift to the small ring and spin it like a berserk blender on the way up. OK?

Legs: Ow. Okay, FINE. If you're gonna be THAT way about it. HERE.

To my complete surprise, my legs stopped hurting and just climbed the hill. (Can this be progress? Lord, I sincerely hope so.) Over the course of the next few laps, I did spend some quality time gasping for air, but I was able to stay with the pack on the hill and use the downhill and the flat, sheltered backside of the course for recovery. There were a few good climbers who did their best to string things out and/or escape on the hill, but I was able to stick. I was VERY HAPPY with that outcome. At the end, I was positioned about fourth going into the climb, and I held off a hard-charging but tired climber for fifth place.

I completed the open women's race also. I stuck with the pack on the first lap, lost contact at 8 1/2 minutes (beginning of the hill on the second lap) and was lapped at 23:30 and 43:30. I heard that other people were lapped besides me, but I didn't see it happen. I was pretty tired, but I made a point of working the hill hard every time I came to it, and tried to use the sheltered backside of the course to stay ahead of the pack as much as possible.
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We went to the Greenville (SC) training races over the weekend. Both races were on the same course, a rolling 7 mile loop. Saturday was super-windy, okay, and because the course was a loop, that meant riding into the wind about 3/4 of the time. (I don't know why headwinds come from everywhere but tailwinds come from exactly one point on the compass, okay, but they DO.)

I can summarize my race this way: It was an open women's race with some heavy hitters, and I fell off the back of the pack, formed a chase group with some other people, and finished the race that way. The wind made it pretty hard.

R's race started two hours later, so I hung out waiting for him... was chatting with some teammates... when the leaders in his race finished. Okay, no big deal. Then the chase group finished, no R. Hmm. Then his teammate runs up to me requesting the truck keys so R can get back in his truck. Huh?

Go back to the truck and find... one R, limping and moving slowly. He's crashed, and the wheel truck brought him back. Yikes! Okay... this looks bad... don't panic... examine the evidence. He has a bad story of a slow-motion fall when someone cut him off and he went over his handlebars. Both wheels are busted. He doesn't have a lot of road rash, his clothes aren't ripped up, but he's complaining that shoulder, hip, and elbow hurt where he fell on his side. (He's also complaining that he's hungry, and worst, the damn fall happened in the last two miles of a fifty-mile race.)

Okaaaay..... conclusion: He fell straight and hard, right on bony structures, and didn't diminish the force of impact by falling at an angle or skidding. So. (1) check for broken bones (none that I could find, yay). (2) From the story, no ligaments or tendons are clearly torn. But (3) he's limping bad but not immediately bruising around that hip. So, he likely fell on the bursa and his body will respond by amping up the inflammation in response, meaning he will wake up tomorrow REALLY stiff.

Treatment plan: Administer orange soda, which makes everything better. Fire up the Nurse Ratched routine and administer advil every four hours, along with ice packs on any body part he fell on. Over his objections, I might add. Oh yeah, administer ice cream to the inside, later. That always helps with inflammation. ;-) I would add beer, but beer and advil just don't mix well.
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"If you want to be ahead, act as though you are behind."

-Lao Tzu

I was encouraged and enthused by the last ABC criterium. Really? I rode a smart race, and I craftily followed the strongest woman in the field, and really, it just didn't seem that hard. So, over the ensuing week, I attacked my training with vigor... hitting every workout and even throwing in a few leg workouts in the gym. ([profile] meowmie, go ahead and snicker, because I know you can predict the rest of the story...)

Then I showed up to race on Saturday... only to find that the large team of inexperienced women... who showed up as two different teams last week... was now a single team. Worse, someone had explained tactics to them. (The team captain is a smart cookie, so although she wasn't very fit, she sat in the pack and coached the newest riders.)

The result: I got ganged up on by a team of four people who now knew how to use that to their advantage. My leg workouts over the course of the week left the fast-twitch muscles in my legs AWOL, so I wasn't capable of the short bursts of all-out speed you need for criterium racing.

R and I discussed it, and the smartest thing for me to do would have been to mark the fastest rider in the group (who lapped the field that day) and sit on her. (Translation: ride directly behind her, but don't do any work.) That would have guaranteed me second place.... assuming the opposing team was not smart enough to call that rider back to the pack.

And the result: I placed 6th of 7. And worse?? The other team now knows that tactics actually work. This encourages them. Whooooooooooooooops!

Lesson #2: Bike racing is fundamentally different from triathlon training (in which you need to go at a steady, consistent hard pace, and you don't necessarily need a top end, especially this early in the season.) From now on, No leg workouts before race weeks! I cared more about doing well at that early-season race than I wanted to admit to myself.
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Place: 2nd of 8.

Players: 3 UNC-Chapel Hill ("Carolina"), 2 Franklin Street, 1 Simple Green, 1 C4, and moi.

I think the lack of school stress and the power workouts I've been doing have been working: I was able to cover moves easily, got in a 2-person break and stayed away for several laps, (Not sure how many, I was busy at the time :-) and I think I generally rode a smart race. Two of the Carolina riders were a factor in the race. I let them do most of the work and I did some, but mostly I tried to stay out of the wind and cover moves by the faster one.)

In the break, I got away with the faster Carolina racer (she went for a prime and I covered her move, and hey, we got a gap so might as well exploit it). My HR was about 182-3 beats per minute, but it didn't feel super hard, 85% or 90% effort maybe. I had a feeling we'd gone (on the break) too early and we were going to get pulled in (caught by the field) and that's what happened. So, I didn't give it EVERYTHING, I saved some for the field sprint I figured would happen. We did have a field sprint, and I sprinted but couldn't get around the first place racer. R says I started my sprint too late, and tried to go around her on the outside, which meant going up-track, i.e. uphill.)

So. I won a t-shirt and some bar tape. I don't think I have EVER been so stupid-happy to get a free t-shirt. Hooray!!!!!
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Rarely has a line from an old REM song been so appropriate.

I drove to the criterium race, feeling fine.

Lined up on the start line.

We started. Wha....? Why am I already behind.....? Aaaarrghhh!!! Within about thirty seconds I was gapped, struggling as hard as I could, and my heart rate was about 183. Whoops, when that happens, I have blown up. Okay, fine. I went hard again.... and blew up again.

A lady standing on the sidelines yelled, "The woman ahead of you is five seconds up, Gail. Catch her and work with her!"

Who the hell is that, I thought. Why is she giving me advice? "Shut..... UP," I snarled. I do not need advice from the peanut gallery.

Seven or eight laps later, I had had it. I got off the course, leaned my bike against my car, and went back to the DS (team director, who very kindly loaned me her helmet) so she could show me how to take it off.

Oh my God. I turned around and looked.... and my teammate was on the ground, crashed, and not moving. Two of my teammates went down in that crash, and one crashed on the backside of the course. No!

There was the long, agonizing wait for the ambulance, and the wait while she got loaded into the ambulance. (We later found out that she had a laceration on her face and a broken collarbone, but was otherwise okay. Thank God.) I went back to my car and.... there was a large, bike-shaped hole in the air where my bike used to be. Gone. Sto-len. Gone. No bicycle.

No! Not that! Anything but that!

Erk....

So the plan is:

File police report (tomorrow).
Check pawnshops (tomorrow).
The aforesaid team director, very kindly, will call all the local bike shops, because she knows people there, and tell them it has gone missing and what it looks like.
In the meantime, I will see if anyone has a frame my size, that they are not using, that I could borrow.

This is not the horrible disaster it might be, because I have a time trial bike that I can strip (that is, take the components off it and put them on a racing frame). I will still need to buy some parts (like handlebars) and get the bike built, and probably get it fit to me.

Bad day.

Oh, and the lady yelling irritating advice from the sidelines? That was the teammate who graciously agreed to coach me, and who was, in fact, helping me. Ooooh, way to start out the coach-trainee relationship on the right note. Oooh, you should have seen me act sheepish when I figured THAT out.

sigh...
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Last year, this was my first road race.

This year, there were 16 total people, and it was a mixed cat 3/4 race (read, I was racing with people who had considerably more experience), plus there were Tina and Carol (cat 4s from our team who are very strong and fast).

You know, in retrospect, a series of incidents make this race interesting for me:

1) Janet, a cat 3 who mentors the cat 4s, set up our race plan. Because there were going to be lots of us (there were six) and only ones and twos of other teams, we were going to send two people up the road at a time, trying to let them get away. In that way, we could wear out the other racers but remain relatively strong ourselves.

Well, what actually happened is that Janet pulled the entire pack around the racecourse for the second lap of said course, plus launched some solo attacks that got caught quickly, then faded to 11th at the finish line after doing all that work. (I should mention here that Janet raced on Thursday, and on Friday. "Machine" is not too strong a word, here.) Some of my team members made sporadic attacks. I did not, because I lacked confidence. Some of my other team members did not, and I'm not sure why not.

2) The only other team that had more than one person on it was DeFeet (in fetching pink and blue kits). At one point, approaching the only significant climb on the course, I saw one DeFeet rider nod at the other one... they lined up one behind the other..... and they did everything but hang up a big neon sign that said, "We're about to try to make a break for it."

What did I do? Duh, I did the smart thing: I got behind them and followed them when they accelerated to try to break free of the pack, so that when they stopped working so hard and sat up, I was right there with them. (Sorry, ladies. Next time, don't nod at each other so loudly, okay?)

3) The End of The Story: It came down to a field sprint, (everybody sees the finish line and makes a break for it). I was 8th of 16.

The multiple morals of that story:

1) I need to be better positioned for the sprint. I was about eight riders back in the pack 1K from the finish line. Whoops.

2) I need to decide, beforehand, when to start my sprint. If I see other people start to sprint and THEN decide to go, that is TOO LATE.

3) I need to practice sprinting more.
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Race: Dilworth Criterium (an open women's race, containing categories pro, 1, 2, 3, 4; 4 is the lowest, for beginners, and yes, I'm a 4).

The fun started in the minivan on the way, when the Victory Brewing van pulled up next to us. (Victory Brewing is a national-level team who brought two women to the race today.) That caused an instant anxious attack for my two teammates (category 2 and 3 racers, respectively). Oh yeah, and Quark was there. (Same deal-- the Quark team also races nationally).

Yipe. I. Am planning. To line. Up. With them. Okay honey, just so we're clear on this, you really ARE willing to get your butt kicked today..... right?

Right.

To make a long story short, I fell off the back in the first lap. I got into a little chase group of four women who were probably all cat 4s like me; we were lapped twice by the faster women.

But:

1) I can tell the organized training I've been doing is paying off; I felt strong and fast compared to my little chase group, and I was the fastest climber in that little group. At the end of the 45-minute race, I did not feel nuked.

2) At the end, I was 17th of 20, and I outclimbed my little chase group to finish before they did.

3) And, once again, I made a Dumb Move: Because I climbed faster than the other three riders with me, when the announcer called a prime just for our little group, I positioned myself first up the hill.... to no avail, because they stuck with me. Okay, I figured, I will outsprint them and win this $30 prime.

Nope. Not even. The #2 lady right behind me beat me to it. I still gotta work on my sprint.
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This will be fast, because I'm on a lab machine with a sticky spacebar, but...

Regular readers of this journal will no doubt recall that last year, I raced at ACE speedway-- and the first race of the season, I got dropped and lapped, then lapped AGAIN.

This year, in the first race of the season, I stuck with the pack. I got dropped once, but then I caught back on. I spent some time on the front of the pack, blocking for a teammate. (Translation: She rode so fast she left the group behind. I rode in the front of the group and tried to look like I was working hard, but really I went slightly slow, so my teammate could get away. You would think that other riders would see right through this tactic, but hey-- when you're low on oxygen, many things seem perfectly acceptable that actually are not. ;-) I came off the back in the last lap.

Progress. Small but measurable progress. Hooray!
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In today's circuit race, I:

- Kept my heart rate pretty much at or above 175
- Got dropped, but did not get lapped
- Arrived in time to get a two-lap warmup in
- Won the cat 4 women's race, competing against the same other woman who was there yesterday.

Not bad.

After the race, a couple of the more knowledgeable guys gave me a great hint, which was: When going up the hill repeatedly, don't drop to a higher gear and kill your legs. Spin up the hill the first few times. Save the leg-muscle-mangling low-gear activity for later in the race, when you might need it to fend someone off.

Good tip. Accordingly, here are my new goals:

- Hill workout on Tuesday.
- Lactate threshold intervals on Thursday.
- Race on Sunday.
(a) Arrive by 8:15, which means leaving the house at 7 AM
(b) spin the hill the first few times
(c) Keep a high heart rate and a positive attitude the whole time.
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Thirty minutes, ten laps or so around a one-mile course, one quarter-mile of which was uphill with a headwind.

Ouch. Dear God, that hurt. I tried to go very fast and stick with the fast guys. Uh, no. You let those guys out of their basements after a winter on their bike trainers, and they act like crazed bears in springtime-- fastest guy gets the contents of the beehive. Zoooooooooooooooom!

The good news:
1) I won the women's race.
2) I did not end up in a bloody heap in a crashed-out pile of aggro cat 5 men. (This is rare, but it happens, especially in crowded CA training races.) In fact, the scene was pretty mellow.

The bad news:

1) There was only one other woman in the race.
2) And, when trying to hang with the fast cat 4-5 men, I got dropped pretty quickly and lapped sometime after that. And, specifically and especially, the 1-2 punch of the hill and headwind got me.

The denouement:

(Can jocks really use that word? I guess so! ;-)

1) The circuit race (Same deal, but 2-3 mile course) is today.
2) I am going.
3) And my challenges today are: (a) Arrive early, damn it and (b) keep a high heart rate and a positive attitude the whole time, even when-- as will inevitably happen-- I get dropped. Oh and (c) Try not to get lapped.

Okay... on goes the aggro, cunning, and scrappy mindset, like a mental helmet. It's race day.
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I tried out my new cross bike today. Wow, that was a trip. it's a very stiff frame, so we shot off the line and the bike seemed to zooooom out from under me. I had to pedal like crazy to keep up with the bike... and I was in 2nd, then faded to 4th when I rode partway up a small run-up and THEN decided to run it. (Duh!)

Things were good until the middle of lap 2-- I was a very happy camper, albeit a happy trying-not-to-puke camper, when I tried to outsprint another lady on a loose, gravelly part of the course. I tried a late, sharp turn that would have been fine on my MTB... but the 'cross bike needs more expertise in terrain like that... and I promptly ate it.

I got up, and 10% of my head went "KEEP GOING! THEY'RE GETTING AWAY! as several people passed me. Unfortunately, 50% of my head was busy trying to figure out if it was still attached to my neck, and the rest of my head was trying to remember the questions to ask in a situation like this. (What's your name, where are you, what's the day and date-- if you can answer those questions, you are oriented to person, place, and time, and therefore can be considered roughly okay.)

D'oh!

Accordingly, I stood for a moment trying to make sure that I was fine (Yes, I think I banged my head a bit; I looked later, and my stylish helmet with pink flames has a few dents), decided I was bloody well going to finish, and took off... wobbling slightly, and bleeding from a slice on my elbow. It took me about half a lap to think about going race pace again, but I took the last lap at reasonable speed and did my best to sprint at the end.

I did finish.
The leader did not lap me, thank God. (Some of the C men did, but not all of them.)
I love the bike, but clearly, I need more practice on it!

The lady I was dueling with came to find me after the race ended to see if I was okay. Robin, for that was her name, said she was trying to get me to work with her so we could bridge up to the leaders. (Duh, that did not occur to me, and it bloody well should have!) I said as much to her, and I think I may have made a buddy for next time.

Off to scrub out my elbow...
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The season opener for cyclocross was yesterday in Winston-Salem. I raced Women's B (14 people-- a lot!).

Winston-Salem is about 50 miles from Burlington, and Elon. It's a city of about 175,000. We raced at Reynolda Village, a part of the old RJ Reynolds estate that contains many historic buildings (like a dairy barn, which now houses the bike shop that sponsored yesterday's race). Nearby, there were two historic mansions: The Reynolds house and the Grayson (I think?) house-- built by the people who also started the medical school at Wake Forest. (Both were lovely.

I'm not so sure about the karmic and social consequences of tobacco-driven affluence; oddly enough, the Winchester Mystery House, built with gun money, doesn't bother me-- nor does Hearst Castle, built with a fortune made in yellow journalism. Tobacco money gives me pause.

About the race: Naturally, there was pain and suffering involved. In general, though, courses out here are less technical than Californian courses-- there's more asphalt and grass, and there are fewer off-camber sections with tricky turns. Lessons learned:

1) If your bike seat seems too low, it probably is. Fix it, already. Don't race like that; it sucks power from you if you can't extend your leg all the way.

2) Line. Up. In. Front. Not in the second row. In front. That way, when the starting gun goes off, you are already in contention.

3) Having a coach, whose excellent and carefully crafted instructions and planned workouts I generally ignore, is not working for me. (I feel guilty when I do her workouts, which take time, and feel guilty when I don't do them, because I'm supposed to do them.) Nor will having a coach work for me while 90% of my attention is focused on school.
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It rained today. Before the ACE speedway race, I kept getting mental pictures of people crashing. Now, it could be my nervous brain making up stories, or my brain could be right about what is going to happen, and I'd better pay attention. I decided to race, and I stuck in for the first fifteen (eighteen?) minutes of racing, getting soaking wet and increasingly nervous in process; then my glasses fogged up and I was completely blind. That was it; without conscious thought, I rolled out of the peleton. I took a few cooldown laps, then discovered that I could see clearly if I squeegeed the lenses with my thumb and forefinger. I started to regret DNFing.... and then, on the last lap, someone did crash.

If I'd stayed in, I might not have been anywhere near the guy who crashed when it happened... but you never know.
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So, since I had a weekend with a relatively light study load and wanted to blow off some steam, I went to Yemassee, SC to race. It was hot and muggy the whole time. At 90 degrees and 90% humidity, it was like trying to race underwater. It was also a cultural experience: I saw spanish moss growing on trees; Yemassee had ten churches for a 200 person town; the local roadkill ran high to armadillos*; I helped out a couple of racing juniors, and their mother firmly instructed them to call me "Miss Gail". (Now, that was a cultural first.)

*If I'd had time to go hiking there, I probably would have seen some live ones. But since I was road racing, I saw lots of the roads, and therefore lots of the roadkill..... and one way to find out what lives where you are, and estimate how many of them are out there, is to count roadkill. I know what you're thinking, and I agree: Four years of wildlife biology, and for this? ;-)
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Well, that didn't work out the way I thought it would.

I was picturing the same ten women as yesterday, racing around a six-cornered criterium race in downtown Raleigh, NC. (We were to do laps for 25 minutes.) For some reason, I pictured this race as "flat". It was not, in fact, "flat". More like two uphills and no appreciable downhills. I am not quite sure how race organizers managed that one.

Recall that hills are not one of my strong points (yet).

We lined up; it was 25 minutes; I hopped on Amber's wheel (Amber won the road race yesterday with a breakaway on the one big hill of the course) and refused to be budged. She was in front ("pulling"), and naturally she wanted someone else to be out in the wind pulling for a while, so she swerved back and forth trying to get someone else to shoot forward and volunteer.

Not me. I ain't biting. I let her pull. She was unhappy about that, but apparently she wasn't willing to slow down enough for someone she considered a real threat to pass her. She stayed in front, and about halfway through, she and another woman made a break for it. The next three of us worked together to try to catch them, but to no avail.

By twenty minutes in, I was done-- nuked-- baked. I fell off the little group of three and limped in. Then, on the last lap, I flatted and had to walk back. Ah, the angst.

Ah well. Next time.
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If you've been reading along, you may remember that I went up to race in Mt. Airy, MD during my spring break.... and, because I was inadvertently and forcibly decaffeinated, I DNFed (my first time ever).

Well, I made good today, and finished the Wake County Habitat Cycling Challenge.

1) I finished. (goal achieved!) It was sorta ladylike. I saw people do stupid stuff, like pull more than they ought to or stay out in the wind. I did not do stupid stuff. I did pull a couple of times. One of my competitors praised me for riding a tactically smart race. It was really nice to hear that, even if she WAS one of the people hanging out in the wind more than she ought to. ;-) <-- for the uninitiated, she was not riding behind someone else. You ALWAYS want to ride behind someone else, unless you have a specific reason to be in front.

2) I stayed with the main pack. (there were 10 starters, and no team had more than one person represented. A breakaway with three riders went on the one major hill in the course on the first lap, and I was not in it; I chased for a while with one other woman, but couldn't catch them. The people in the break won the prime at the end of the first lap and went 1-2-3 at the end. I carefully noted that and will remember who they were for tomorrow's criterium race. ;-)

3) A couple of times the pack jumped (sprinted briefly), and I went with them. (That's very good for me; I'm used to going by myself at a high heart rate for a long time, but not used to riding relatively easily.... then very hard for a few moments.... then relatively easily again.)

5) I climbed carefully and did not get dropped on climbs. (I have been experimenting with finding a slow wheel to follow and sticking with him, rather than trying to gain speed on a downhill and go as fast as possible uphill, then running out of steam and getting passed by all and sundry. I'm happy to report that I did not get dropped on climbs today.)

4) At the finish, I read the pack and knew when the other six people were going to start to speed up (a little more than 1k from the line). I stayed with the pack and when the finishing sprint went, I sprinted and got 5th. (RESULT!)

Crit tomorrow.... I'm off to shower and nap now!

Gail

First crit!

May. 5th, 2004 08:59 pm
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I raced my first crit at the Ace Speedway in Altamahaw last night.

Background: A criterium race generally involves a lot of laps around a square or rectangular course, so if you are in the back of the pack, you speed up slow down speed up slow down speed up etc. as the pack of cyclists turns corners. Much better to stay in the front... if you can. This one was held on an oval racetrack, so you could really push it in the corners if you could hold the line. (That is... stay on the line of travel you picked out). But, as with all cycling, if you can stay with the pack you let their draft (the wind they create) help you. If you fall off the back or ride in the vary front, you have to work harder.

I raced the C race at 6:30 PM, with the Category 5 (beginner) men, unattached racers (anyone not on a racing team) and women. There were about thirty of us. We were going for thirty minutes.

To top it off, we now meet again Chris, of bike shop fit fame. He showed up to ride the B race (after mine) and promptly donated $10 for a cash prime for my race. (a prime means a lap prize, so whoever wins the lap after the prime is announced wins the prime.) He said he wanted to see a little action and excitement. I think it was maybe kind of sadistic to announce the prime on the first lap of our race, but hey, what do I know. ;-)

All right people: I can ride a hundred miles and not really notice. I can ride fifty miles fast and not really notice. But this thirty minute crit, where I had to match speeds (25 mph) with everyone else, kicked my butt. (I fell off twice.... by which I mean, I got left behind by the pack and let them lap me, then hopped back in the pack when they came around again... and apparently I did really well for a first timer. Most newcomers don't finish the thirty minutes.

I finished and rode a few laps to cool down. I was about to ride back to Elon, where my car was parked, but two of the bike shop guys fussed at me. One of them finally quashed my objections by loaning me his sweats, then drove me home after the B race ended. (with that much fussing, I am not going to object. I will smile and say thank you and watch the B race.)

I went home and drooled on my monitor a little. I ate a big salmon steak, then went to bed early, and got up still feeling slightly droolish. I wasn't sore today, but I was definitely tired.

Bottom line: goal achieved. I have now entered and finished a bike race. Next goal: hang with the pack the whole time. I figure I should be able to do that by the end of this module.
ninevirtues: (Default)
I went to DC over the weekend, to visit fellow Velo Bella Sami Fournier and her sweetie (Podium Boy Jon). I was supposed to do the Hump Race (8 x 5 mile loops with a significant hill) in Maryland.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. I lined up.... I started off with everyone else... and within the first mile and a half, I had put..putt...putted to a grinding halt while everyone else went on.

What the...?

I went back to Jon's truck, feeling strangely numb, and proceeded to fall asleep. (Now, that just is not like me. The whole thing just is not like me.)

Not until later that day (5 pm), after several bouts of napping, was the mystery solved: Jon and Sami drink half-caf coffee. I, just coming off a killer finals week, am up to about five cups of very strong coffee per day. Aha. No wonder I was loopy all day.

Now I'm mad. I want another shot at it. I will race again, preferably not right after finals week. And the Hump Race is on my short list for next year.

But now my US travel map looks like this:



create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide

I did get a chance to do some work while I was there. Sami is the education coordinator for the League of American Bicyclists, a cycle advocacy group. and she's in charge of writing a 120-page basic book about cycling, and she had to do an index, and the very idea was driving her mad.

Et voila. Along comes an avid cyclist who also happens to be a technical writer who can index. Accordingly, I spent some time charming my way into the desktop publishing place two blocks away (where the book is being edited and printed) and indexing the book.

Technically, the DTP place is in charge of making text changes to the book, but they didn't know how to do the index, so they gave me a spare computer and let me have at it. It's been at least a decade since I used pagemaker professionally, but it hadn't changed all that much (except that now it's called Quark Express ;-).

Seven extremely focused hours after I sat down to do it, I had a working index. It's good to know that I can still be a focused, deadline-driven, time-is-money silicon valleyite when I need to. On the other hand, on the way back to Sami's apartment, I could feel my brain still smoking slightly. It took me a bike ride home in the rain and thirty minutes after that to come down off my technical brain buzz.

But it was good. I'd forgotten that I liked to do that, and it's nice to get paid to do something lately.
ninevirtues: (Default)


I'm very pleased to report that I'm the Oklahoma Masters Women's 30-39 State Cyclocross Champion. (Later in this race report, I will confess exactly how many women were racing in the 30-39 age group that day. ;-)

I would like to note that there are no women's A, B, or C categories in Oklahoma. There is a women's race, and it lasts for 45 minutes. Period. I think I just upgraded from C's without meaning to. ;-)

Kurt Egli, who invited me to race in OKC on my way across the country, was adamant about two things: One, I could not possibly stay in a motel on I-40, because it was too dangerous, and two, once I was safely ensconced in a decent hotel on the Northwest Expressway, I could not possibly ride my bike the 1.7 miles to the race site, because I'd get killed in traffic. (I forebore to tell Kurt about the ratbag motels I've stayed in without incident all over Europe, and in every other city along I-40 that I needed to stop in on this trip. The latter may have been ratbag central, hazardous to life and limb, but they had one defining virtue: I could park the 30-foot-long U-haul and car trailer at them without having to back it up to get in or out.)

I'll spare you the logistical adventures involved in getting the U-haul and trailer to the middle of Oklahoma City. I did eventually make it to the hotel to park the thing; I would have spent a lot of time swearing while I repeatedly got lost, but my old coach has been a great influence on me; every time I open my mouth to swear, these days, I hear the guy in my head: "There are better ways to express yourself."

I can't argue. He has a point. A good point. So I grit my teeth, and say to myself, in the dryest and most long-suffering tone I can possibly manage, "That was not what I wanted to do." So... if you hear that in this race report, you will know that I was really thinking, "#$!!@&*$##!"

Right then. On to the actual race. I arrived with every warm clothing item I own-- and if necessary Kurt's wife Shelly would have loaned me more-- prepared for howling winds and blizzards and freezing temperatures, because my Dad grew up in Oklahoma and he assures me that there are freezing blizzards there 90% of the time, except in summer, when it's 115 degrees out. Nope! On race day, the weather was 65 degrees and sunny.... with a nice 25 MPH headwind. Hmm.

No sooner did I arrive, strip my sweats and show Velo Bella colors, than Megan Long showed up. (She was last year's Juniors national cross champion, I believe, and she lives in the area.) She promptly wanted to know if I was whichever Bella beat her handily at Sea Otter last year. Whoever it was-- and I didn't recognize your name when she said it-- she remembers you _very clearly_, and she may even still have nightmares about you. (Congratulations, whoever you were. I take it you kicked some serious butt at Sea Otter. Way to go!)

Pre-race, we all took a parade lap. This translates "Everyone slowly rides the course in a big group." Whatever-- it was a chance to see the course, which was asphalt or dead grass and flat with a few tiny dips through dry streambeds, The most interesting parts of it were (1) numerous sharp crit-style turns and (2) the 1/4th of it that went straight into the constant headwind. There were only two sets of barriers.

Well, I did fine on the steepest dry streambed during my practice lap, but in trying to avoid someone else in the streambed during the parade lap, I unweighted the front wheel on the steep uphill, and my bike went right while I went left. Wham!

That was not what I wanted to do. Also, it hurt.
The A race went off (about 12 guys), then the Mens' Masters race at 2 PM, then the women's race at 2:10. There were six women TOTAL racing. My lack of time on the bike came back to haunt me: Megan was off the front like a shot, her stepmother was right behind her, and I was duking it out for third until I locked up my front brake at the first set of barriers and nearly flipped the bike and myself in one giant chain-grease-covered somersault.

#3 woman said, "Those are some brakes!" before vanishing into the distance. Damn, damn, damn! No, wait... Uh... That... was not... what I wanted to do. I frantically worked the pedals forward and backward, got the chain loosened, remounted, and kept going. I did all right until I got to the killer headwind section of the course. It was flat; traction was great; there were no sharp turns; I should be able to hammer. Nope! You'd think that a headwind would feel about like a wicked uphill, but it doesn't, and I'm at a loss to explain the difference; all I could do was put my head down, and growl my way through it. (The people who routinely race and train in that wind have my respect; they must get monster strong from it.)

On a later lap, I came to the second set of barriers and fell, then got up, cleared the barriers, put my bike back down, and discovered that I'd locked the chain up.

Once again, that was not what I wanted to do.

A moment of frantic effort, jockeying the pedal back and forth to loosen the chain (Thanks, Heather Kirkby, for that little trick!) and it was back on, and I was moving again. But on the fourth lap, as I cleared the second set of barriers, a race official looked up from his clipboard at me and casually asked, "Are you racing?" (You know it, I know it: to a Velo Bella, this is worse than a woman saying to a man, "Is it in yet?") In between gasps, I looked up at him, trying to get my remaining three neurons to remember his face-- I wanted to come back later and beat him to death with my front wheel. In those situations, you gotta remember the guy's face accurately-- it's really embarrassing when you maim the wrong person. "Yes", I gasped, trying not to die of oxygen starvation then and there. "Oh no," he replied, "I meant the guy behind you."

That didn't make it any better.

Six laps later, I was still in fourth, and #5 was still 100 yards behind me, and #6 was 100 yards behind her. On one of the hairpin turns of lap #5, though, I saw Kurt. He saw me. That does it, said my brain. DO NOT LET HIM LAP YOU. You will never hear the end of it, even when it comes down to you versus Kurt in wheelchair races in the nursing home. GOT THAT?

I got that. I held him off, and he did not lap me. I am happy to report that I made it through the whole 45 minutes without further incident, and when they'd handed out medals to the first three finishers, they determined that #4, 5, and 6 were in the 30-39, 40-49, and 50-59 age groups respectively, so we each became the state champions for our respective age groups. I got to pick an item from the box of prize schwag, and someone handed me a gold medal and a cold beer. (That would be cyclocross, Okie style.)

Next up: If my school schedule allows, I will find a NC race and race that.
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