July 30, 2007

Superweek: Whitefish Bay

There's not much to say about my last Superweek Crit in Whitefish Bay, another 25-mile (1+ hr) crit. I just couldn't get into the rhythm of this race. This course is more technical than the others with a few tough turns and no one seemed to be able to get off the front, so the whole field was coming into the turns together which resulted in more braking in this crit than any other I've ever done. Even with all the braking, the pace stayed surprisingly high - I think we averaged around 22 mph, so we dropped some people pretty quick. But I was hanging out at the back for the whole race, so it was like interval training - brake, sprint, brake, sprint, etc. Obviously if I had gone to the front I probably wouldn't have had to brake so much, so I have no one to blame but myself, but I just wasn't feeling good enough to be up there. And it was a bit sketchy, so it just seemed safer in the back (as opposed to sitting in the middle of the field). Even the overall leaders did a lot of just sitting in, and I don't blame them since a lot of them had done six straight days of racing. With about 12 laps to go, I was just logging laps at the back and I had lost my interest in this race, so I just wanted to be done. With about 5 laps to go, GW Sara attacked (because she's aggressive like that!), and it took the field almost a full lap to reel her back in, and then she fell off the back a bit. With 3 laps to go, some women tried to crash coming into the first turn, and at that point, I decided that I was happy with my three Superweek races and I was very happy to still have all of my skin intact, so I slowly just drifted off the back. GW Sara caught up and said "we can still get back in and try to help out" - bless her optimistic heart. But I had no desire to get back in, so I rode the last few laps by myself, and those few laps were the most enjoyable of the race because I didn't have to use my brakes. I ended up finishing 24th in the race, and 26th overall for the series.

One thing I realized this past weekend is that I'm really glad I wasn't doing early season races - because if I had, I'd be burned out by now. Instead, I'm really enjoying all of my favorite crit races and really look forward to racing in August.

Strats out

July 28, 2007

Superweek: Kenosha

Here are the quick stats from Friday's Kenosha race:
  • 30-mile, 1+ hour crit with about 40 women lining up.
  • This was the fattest, hardest crit I've ever done. I think we averaged something b/t 22 - 24 mph which is fast for Cat 3/4 women.
  • I felt good early in the race, so when a woman attacked about 3 laps into the race, I decided to chase her down. When I reached her, she just sat up, so the field caught up, and I sat in and recovered. But luckily I was near the front on the next lap because some more women decided to lay on the pavement. The race was pretty sketchy for the first 10 laps or so, but then people seemed to settle down (and we dropped a bunch of riders too, so that helped wittle the field down).
  • At some point, 5 women got off the front, and the field just could not get organized enough to bring it back. But since there was a break up the road, the pace stayed high for the entire race.
  • During the middle of the race, there were a few laps where I was really hurting. But I somehow managed to hang in there and not get dropped.
  • With about 10 laps to go, I decided to go to the front again just to see if I could - I made it up there, regretted my decision, but decided to deal with it - so I tried to keep the pace up for half a lap, then returned to the field for some recovery. In the end, I was glad I had done it just to test myself.
  • Coming into the last lap I moved towards the front again and tried to position myself for the big field sprint. I didn't do a very good job and got caught behind some women who were bumping into each other, and had to hit my brakes.
  • I ended up coming across the line in 20th place and feeling really good about my race. I was just happy to be able to hang on in a tough race. Last year, I got dropped in all four Superweek crits that I did, so I'm feeling much better about my performance this year.
  • And somehow I ended up in 23rd in the GC (overall) after only doing two races.
  • The hard race effort and my lack of proper drinking and eating during the race left me feeling nauseous for the rest of the night, and my stomach still wasn't feeling well this morning, so I opted to skip today's race to let myself recover. It was a good decision and I'm feeling much better and ready for the last race in Whitefish Bay tomorrow.
That's all I got.

July 26, 2007

Superweek: Sheboygan

Here are the highlights from today's 25-mile (1+ hr) Women's Cat 3/4 crit in Sheboygan:

  1. GW Sara deserves the most aggressive rider award for today! Damn, did she attack a lot...she definitely helped keep the pace high and kept the race interesting and she reeled in some primes while she was at it.
  2. Speaking of primes, there must have been at least 10 throughout the race...5 of which where in the last 7 laps of the race (I was starting to get pissed every time they rang that bell).
  3. Flanders Paula had a great race too - she threw in a few nice attacks and was riding strong!
  4. My goal was just to sit in, see how my legs felt, and not get dropped.
  5. With two laps to go, it started to pour - the field was actually being pretty careful in the oily corners, so it wasn't too sketchy.
  6. The pace ramped up with one to go and the field was totally strung out - I just tried to hang on and stay towards the front. I was trying to stay on Paula's wheel coming through the last turn, and a few women in front of us decided to lay down on the pavement (and one of them didn't look good as she was laying on her neck), so we had to hit our brakes, but everyone else was far enough behind us that we were still able to roll in 8th and 9th (out of about 25). They pay 12 deep, so I actually got money today! Woohoo!
  7. Everyone was cleaned up off the pavement by the time we came through again on our cool-down lap, so I'm assuming everyone was okay which was a huge relief.
  8. So I was happy with today's race, to say the least, and I'm hoping tomorrow I'm feeling even better for my favorite Superweek crit in Kenosha.
Side note -apparently there's been some trickle-down from Le Tour. The report from the men's 1/2 race is that they finally decided to do some drug testing after tonight's race. And apparently a few guys are suddenly no where to be found.

July 25, 2007

remember your first bonk?

Do you remember your first bonk?

My first bonk took place in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, back in 2003. It was around June 1st, so it was hot in Moab. Pete and I were technically still "just friends", but had decided to take a two-week trip out west together. I was not in good shape. I was still recovering from leg surgery and was about 10 lbs under my normal weight (due to some serious muscle atrophy and a few months of taking painkillers). We were camping in the "Devil's Garden" campground which is about 18 miles in from the park's entrance. We decided one day to ride from the campground to the park entrance and back. We had eaten a big breakfast in the morning to prep for our ride, but decided to wait to ride because of the heat. But as I recall, we ended up riding later in the morning/early afternoon when it was still hot anyway. I don't recall why we didn't wait until the evening hours to do this ride, but in hindsight, that would have been much smarter. So we were biking in Arches when most people were viewing the Arches from their air-conditioned RVs (for good reason). The roads through Arches are quite hilly, and it didn't take me long to realize that there was no way I'd be able to ride to the park entrance and back. So early in our ride, we turned around. Unfortunately, the bonk came before I could make it back to the campground. I recall pulling over on the side of the road and forcing down a GU, but it was too late. I had bonked too hard to recover without a full meal and a nap. We decided that Pete was going to have to ride back to the campground to get the car and then come and pick me up. Pete helped push me up a hill so that I could make it to one of the parking lots (accurately named the "Fiery Furnance" parking area) near one of the trailheads so that I wasn't just hanging out in the sun on the side of the heavily-traveled roads. But there is no shade in Moab. As I sat, cross-eyed and crabby, in the parking lot trying to get shade from parked cars, numerous people stepped from their air-conditioned vehicles and commented "wow, I can't believe you're biking in this heat...that's impressive!" I could barely muster a smile and I remember feeling like a total poser. I felt so small. So weak. So bonked.

Goals for Superweek

1. Stay upright.
2. Avoid heat stroke.
3. Do not get dropped.

The forecast for Sheboygan on Thursday is for rain/storms, so goal number one may be more difficult to achieve than I originally thought. To reach goal number two, my first line of defense will be to start hydrating; however, spending the day in the car makes that difficult as I'd like to avoid having to stop for potty breaks every half an hour. If I learned anything from racing at Superweek last year, it was that the key to reaching goal number three is positioning; therefore, I will do my best to make at least half of the women's 3/4 field stare at my see-through gray shorts instead of dangling off the back where no one has the opportunity to view my ass-crack.

We'll see how it goes.

July 23, 2007

Track Racing & Tour of Granite County

Track Racing Last Thursday Night
It was awesome to have Special K back in town and racing at the track. It was also notable that it was probably the only time that the entire Grumpy's/LGR track racing contingent will be at the track for a night of racing. Karla and Gwen did awesome in the women's races (I had a typical night of track racing), and the highlight for the Grumpy's team was T-Hag's second place finish in the State Keirin Championship.

Tour of Granite County
Loon State hosted a great weekend of racing last weekend - it was the 3-stage Tour of Granite County. Honestly, I don't know how Skibby and Delaney do it - promoting races is so draining, yet these guys just keep doing it - so big thanks to Skibby, Delaney, and the rest of the Loon State Cyclists for a great, organized weekend of racing.
  • Bell Tower Road Race (45 miles): This was the first road race I've done this year, and it turned out to be the strangest road race I've ever done. The Category 1/2/3 and Category 4 women raced together, and it turned out to be more of a training ride than an actual race. Don't get me wrong - there were some times during the race where it got hard, but there were also times when we were literally going 12 mph. But given the breakdown of the teams represented (i.e. there was a lot of blue in the field), it seemed like everyone did what they had to, but it made for a boring race. I felt pretty good and I chased down a few attacks, but in the end, it came down to a field sprint for the Cat 4 women, and while I did my best not to get boxed-in by the sea of blue, my hamstrings weren't up for a sprint, and I rolled in second to last in the field. Such is road racing. We had dropped some Cat 4's earlier in the race, so I ended up 9th out of 16.
  • Albany to Avon Time Trial (5 miles): I've never been a fan of TT's - I do not find them fun and I suck at them, so I usually try to avoid them. But since I signed up for the omnium, I was stuck doing my one TT for the year. 5 miles doesn't sound like much, but after doing the road race and being out in the sun all day, 5 miles into a strong headwind totally sucked. I ended up 7th and I was pretty happy with that. After the TT, Pete and I packed up and headed to St. Cloud in search of much-needed sustenance. We found a Godfather's pizza place and proceeded to replenish all the calories we had burned. Yum.
  • St. Cloud Crit: The women's Cat 4 crit was at 9:10 am, and having to get up at 6 am just to eat really sucked after a full day of bike racing. When I got up, my legs felt okay, but my stomach was not happy with the previous day's diet which consisted mostly of energy drink, GU, coke, and pizza. But I love crit racing, so I was excited for this race. There were only 11 or 12 women in our field, 4 of which were Birchwood women, so I fully expected to be on the defensive the whole race. But when the race started, I suddenly felt really good. I loved the course - it was a 6-corner crit and more technical than any other local crit yet this year. I tried to stay really active in this race by attacking 3 or 4 times, and I was impressed that the other non-Birchwood riders were willing to be active too - Julia from GP, Kristy from Silver, Dano from MnJRC, and even an unattached rider all took their turns attacking and working at the front. It was a super fun race, and in the end, I knew that I would have trouble out-sprinting a few of the women, so I attacked on the last lap so I could be at the front coming into the last turn - I was going so fast (for me anyway) on the last few turns that I took them super wide (sorry ladies!), but I managed to come through the last turn first and tried to get my legs to sprint. Two women passed me before the finish line, but I was super happy with my race and my 3rd place finish. The race was great practice and a confidence-builder for my upcoming races this week at Superweek where I'll be happy just to finish the hour-long crits.
It was fun to stick around and watch the rest of the races. The LGR guys did great, and Pete and his teammates had a great race as well with Marcotte taking first and Pete taking second.

Thanks again to Loon State for some great races!

July 20, 2007

velodrome becomes "salon" for local male cyclists

Attention local male cyclists!! Want to chat about which guys are getting fat and who's the biggest drama queen besides SickBoy? Want to know who's in a fight with who? Want to check out all of the latest cyclist fashions?

Then velodrome racing is for you! Thursday nights, 7 p.m., walk-ins welcome.

July 18, 2007

4-yr old futbol

Last night I watched 4- and 5-yr olds play soccer. My dad had suggested that it would probably be like watching the tail of a kite. Aside from the whining ("I'm too hot"), the bored goalie sticking his head through the net and laying down on the ground once in a while, kids taking their own timeouts to run to the side of the field to get a drink of water or say hi to mom, some tears (only from my nephew), and a lot of yelling "you're going the wrong way!", I was actually quite impressed with their skills. They were kicking, dribbling, running, scoring, knocking each other over and getting right back up...not bad. But my nephew had a rough game (note that the game was about 15-minutes long). After playing goalie during last week's game, my nephew had apparently forgotten that when you're not the goalie, you can't use your hands. So early in the game, he decided to pick up the ball while he was playing defense. The ref blew the whistle and the coach (his dad, my brother-in-law) reminded him that he can't use his hands...the tears started flowing and his game was pretty much over. He came to the sideline and informed me and his uncle that he didn't want to play soccer anymore. I then found out just how difficult it is to give a pep talk to a sensitive 4-yr old. He eventually went back out on the field, but mostly just to lean against the goal post for the remainder of the game. A few teammates even tried to cheer him up, but he wasn't having any of it. After the game, I asked him what it was going to take to get him to play soccer without crying (he's 2 for 2 now)- his pouty response was simply "I want to play goalie". I then tried to explain that him and his teammates all need to play different positions, and that didn't go over so well. He cheered up a bit when he got refueled with his post-game snacks (Teddy Grahams and Gatorade), so before I left, I figured I'd give it another shot and we had the following conversation:

Me: So are you going to be playing soccer again next week?
Him: I don't know.
Me: You really don't want to play?
Him (in a very sassy voice): I said 'I don't know'...but I didn't say 'no'.
Me: Alright then, I best be going now. How about we have this conversation again in 14 yrs or so?

Kids these days.

July 13, 2007

track night

I made the trek to the track last night for the first time in a month or so. As I was sizing up the competition, I realized I really hadn't raced with a lot of the women who were there - there are a bunch of new women racing at the track this year, most of whom don't race on the road. It was a pretty strong women's field, including TargetTraining's Mandy Lozano. While it was a strong field, it also seemed pretty sketchy, but everyone managed to keep their skin and bikes intact.

I didn't have a good night of racing, which isn't that surprising. But it was a weird night for women's racing. For starters, every time the official told us to "roll out" for our neutral lap at the beginning of each of our three races, nobody "rolled". What's up with that? Twice I had to start the "rolling", and the 3rd time I think Amber did. I guess people were concerned about their positioning, but I thought it was kind of lame. And what's up with riding too slow on the neutral lap? I actually clipped my Speedplay pedal during one rollout...that's messed up. And then there was the crazy dad who stands in the infield and yells at his two daughters during the races, then proceeds to publicly bitch them out after each race. I felt so bad for them. And I was so happy when Sister #1 finally broke and yelled back after the last race - she ended with "I don't want you coming here anymore!". Amen sister. As one of my teammates commented, "they must still live at home because there is no other reason why anyone would put up with that shit". It was disturbing. Sometimes I wish only racers were allowed on the infield - it would help keep the crazies (like Angry Dad) from standing next to the track. Make him go yell from the stands amidst parents and children and see how that goes over.

Anyway, the first race was a 15-lap scratch race, and Mandy ramped up the pace right away. I think I attacked once, and then blew up (this was a common theme for me last night). The second race was a Bavarian Win & Out. My goal was to go for the first sprint which would have given me 4th place, and then my race would have been done. However, I didn't position myself well - but S. Brokaw did, so I watched her execute my plan perfectly, and I was stuck riding the rest of the race. Actually, I think I may have quit the race...I don't even remember. The last race was a 30-lap points race. I don't like women's point races - I think they're too predictable. We ride in a paceline, then sprint, then get back in a paceline, then sprint, and so forth. So I think I attacked on the first lap. Why not? No one really chased me down (probably because they knew I was not a threat). Eventually another women caught up, and the two of us got points on the first sprint, but then the pack came flying by me like I was standing still. I got back in, and eventually attacked again a lap or two before a sprint lap. In the end, I quit that race too - my legs hurt and "track lung" was in full force, so the infield seemed like a more safe place for me to be. I don't know, maybe I'm missing something....maybe I'd do better if I just sat in more, and sprinted when everyone else sprints. But it just seems boring. And as I've said before, patience is not my forte. So maybe I'll never be a good track racer or win any races or the omnium, but I'll really enjoy the racing a lot more if things are happening.


July 11, 2007

"Are you considering retiring from bike racing? Seriously?"

From the comments section of my last post:

Are you considering retiring from bike racing? Seriously?

First, let me clarify something - I use the term "retirement" tongue-in-cheek. Lets be honest here - I'm a bike racer that has been racing at the Cat 4 level for a few years now and my goal for every bike race still remains the same...do not get dropped (and I've only been successful a handful of times). What would I really be retiring from?

To get to your question, am I considering it? Yes. But I started considering "retirement" the moment I finished my very first humiliating road race. However, for the past few months, I have started to seriously consider it. I recently told a friend that I feel like I either need to start really training and try to upgrade, or I just need to stop racing and stick to riding just for fun. My reasoning is just that it's difficult to do this sport half-ass. And I'm sure there are a few people who are thinking "then quit already and shut the hell up". My problem is that I just wouldn't be happy doing either of those things (training hard or quitting bike racing altogether) - which is why I just need to learn to be happy with where I'm at (i.e. Cat 4) and stop my whining.

Don't get me wrong, I've been enjoying cycling in general a lot more this year. But it's because I've made a concerted effort to (1) not burn myself out by racing too much, (2) only do the bike races I really enjoy (which is why I've skipped the road races), (3) do fun rides with friends, and (4) avoid weeknight cycling stresses (e.g. Opus, Black Dog, track, etc.) when I have too many other things going on . Which reminds me - I really miss racing at the track. And I've gotten a lot of shit for not racing there lately....trackies really take it personally (I know because I've been begging others to race there for years). Bob Williams likes to tell me that I work too hard (at my day job). But the reality is that I don't work any harder than any other racer who works full-time, and I like my job, and it pays for all things cycling. And when you're required to bill every six minutes of your time, it gets a little difficult to work less than 50 hrs just to bill 40 hrs. So leaving work early a few times every week for weeknight races all spring and summer really starts to dig in to my comp/vacation time. In the past (when I had a ton of comp time), I was okay with that. This year I'm not okay with it.

So, to summarize, I'm not "retiring" just yet. In fact, I'm suddenly excited about bike racing again - maybe it's because I recently spent a night drinking wine with a very inspirational group of women cyclists or maybe it's because I finally did well at a race or maybe I just needed a good break and now I'm ready again - I don't know. But I'm not going to worry about it (for real this time). Of course, chances are good that I'll return from Superweek ready to "retire" again.

All I know is that when next Tuesday night rolls around and I'd love to leave work early so that I can be at Dakota Tech and ready to race by 5:30, I'll be heading to my nephew's soccer game instead...and the smile on his face when he sees me will remind me that there are much more important things in life than a bike race.


p.s. Julia, this long post was for you!

July 09, 2007

Hopkins Crit

Last week I told Pete that the Hopkins Crit might be my last race...ever. The Hopkins Crit is my favorite local race, so I figured it would be a good one to end on. Here's why I like it so much:

  1. I can ride there from my house and be warmed-up by the time I get there.
  2. It's flat.
  3. It has corners (unlike that other crit nearby).
  4. It's in a downtown area where there is plenty of food available after the race.
  5. They offer both a Women's Cat 4 and a Women's Open race so I can do more than one race if I choose.
  6. Cash payouts for the Cat 4 Women!
And since I love the Hopkins Crit so much, I've always wanted to do well there, so I was pretty excited when it finally happened yesterday. I got 3rd and I was pretty stoked about it. So I finally do well at a race, and I can't even provide an interesting race report. Basically it came down to the one thing I've never been good at in bike racing and life in general...patience.

And now I have a wild hair that's making me think I should do some Superweek races. It's crazy how this damn sport just keeps sucking me back in.

July 05, 2007

more lessons learned

  1. Painter's tape is the key to a good caulk job for first-time caulkers like myself.
  2. Attacking (or more accurately, attempting to attack) on lap 2 of one's first real crit of the year is NOT the key to success for once-a-month bike racers like myself.
  3. Wearing boxers under shorts on a hot day really makes your butt sweat...I don't know how guys do it.
  4. Junior bike racers (18 and under) are not allowed to use big-boy/big-girl gears for any road race, even if it's a Pro/1/2 race. Am I the only one that didn't know this? The reason behind the gear restrictions is actually quite interesting. And it's quite entertaining and impressive to watch the Cat 1/2 juniors spin their 52x14's while the big kids are pushing huge gears.
  5. The neighborhood rabbits are foiling my plans to impress the master gardener next door with my novice green thumb - apparently their weekly diet corresponds with whatever plant in my garden is about to flower.
  6. I'm told that strange sensations in the leg can be caused by a pinched sciatic nerve, even if you don't feel any discomfort in your back where the nerve is supposedly pinched. I'm skeptical that this can be true, but I'm no doctor.

July 02, 2007

PCakes gives us a scare

Patty Cakes was riding to work today and got hit by an SUV. He's fine for the most part...just really banged up and sore. He's damn lucky it wasn't worse. It was Pat's fault...he rolled through a stop sign (instead of stopping) about a block from his house and the next thing he knows he's on the hood of a Jeep. The driver of the Jeep didn't see him in time to react, so it wasn't until after impact that the driver hit the brakes and Pat went tumbling off the hood. The shaken-up driver and a bunch of people from the neighborhood instantly tended to a stunned Patty Cakes and the driver called an ambulance. The EMTs checked Pat out and gave him the go-ahead to go home instead of to the hospital (he had someone help him get home). Since he took a bump to the head (and learned a valuable lesson about wearing a helmet) and Pete and I have the day off from work, we made him come over to the house so we can keep an eye on him. He's got some nasty bruises on his face, head, shin, and shoulder...he's going to be hurting in the morning, but he knows he's lucky that it wasn't worse. His mom said I had to fill in for her and do what she would do...snuggle with Pat all day. And his dad talked to Pete and made him give Pat a big bear hug for him. He gave us all a hell of a scare today.

Please wear your helmet.