Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hyde Park Crit

Without going into details, near the end of May, I was doing hill repeats up Everett and cracked my road bike frame.  It took a while, but the lifetime guarantee resulted in me getting a new 2013 frame.  I received this frame exactly 2 days before my first race back.

My first race back was  Tour de Grandview.   While last year’s course was tough with a significant climb on the loop, this year’s course looked more inviting, but in fact, ended up being way more painful.  My heart rate before the race even started was in the 140s.  Early in the race, I made a bad mistake trying to take a corner and ended up doing a header into a bush. 

Of course there is photographic evidence, which left my boyfriend to ask, “what were you looking for in that bush?

To which I responded, “My cycling skills apparently.”

Fortunately, my bike held up, and I was able to get back to the start for a free lap and get back in the race.  (Note: In crits, until about 3-5 laps to go, you have what are called “free laps.”  If you have a mechanical or are somehow impeded, you can go off course to the START/FINISH and an official will push you back into the race).  A  couple of laps later, some lady just walked out into the field.  I doubt she will make that mistake again as she softened everyone’s fall, but one racer was carted off in an ambulance, another girl’s $4K frame was a goner, and I was on the ground once again.  I got back up, they then neutralized the race for 20 minutes, and then re-started the race with 3 laps total.  I ended up getting 12th, but it wasn’t the greatest race.  I had a few cuts and bruises, a few muscles felt tweaked, but I knew that I wouldn’t really be able to assess the damage until the next morning.

I then drove down to Cincinnati to spend the night at a friend’s uncle’s house.  As I drove, I called my coach and told him basically that racing the rest of the weekend was completely dependent on how I felt in the morning.  I also told him that if that race had been my first, it would have been my last.  He understood.  I called my boyfriend who was about as sympathetic as possible, glad I was okay, and then I called my mother who suggested that I needed to find a new sport. 

After driving around the apparently small town of Cleves, Ohio, I finally found the house of said uncle.  I was a good hour earlier than all the other guys coming down, but I wanted out of Columbus in a bad way.  Eventually, everyone else staying there showed up, and we all found our little niches on the floor of the basement (note: fully furnished, super nice, comfy carpet floor).  I don’t think I have ever slept so well on an air mattress.

When I woke up, I had that pre-movement realization that the next instance was going to make or break my weekend.  Would I be in lots of pain and be foregoing racing, or would my body have taken the blows with only minor stiffness?  I slowly moved to collect my glasses and low and behold, I felt pretty good.  My left glut was definitely sore, but all things considered, I was shocked by how good I felt. 

Apparently, the bagel I had had for dinner the night before hadn’t quite been enough as I was absolutely starving when I woke up.  I went upstairs and ate my breakfast and some of Sunday’s as well.  I sat and chatted with one of the guys I didn’t know, Jeremy, and discovered he was quite the accomplished cyclist.  He offered to take a look at my bike as I told him of my coach’s concerns post crash.  He noticed that the derailleur hanger wasn’t too bad at all, noticed what gears it didn’t like, but agreed that I shouldn’t be racing in them regardless so it wouldn’t be a problem.  He also went through the course we would be racing that day and gave a pretty accurate depiction of what to notice and which lines are optimal.  After discussing things like Strava segments and recent rides I had done, he told me that he thought the course would suit me well and suggested that I should attack and see what happens.

After getting lost a couple of times and struggling to find somewhere to park, I finally settled into a nice church parking lot.  I had plenty of time, but wouldn’t really let myself getting ready until noon for my 12:50 race.  My boyfriend had sent me a text and it simply said, “Give ‘em Hell !”  I don’t know why, but that stuck with me.  I did my typical soft pedal warm up.  I had noticed that the 180 turn, of which I was fearful, was left to right, which is the opposite direction of anything that I had ever practiced so I took a piece of closed off road and practiced going left to ride or clockwise through a 180 turn.  I got my heart rate up on a false flat and generally told myself to trust in my abilities. 

Then, with about 10 minutes to go in the men’s CAT 4/5, it started to rain and rain kind of hard.  All I could think of was Jeremy saying how he hoped it wouldn’t rain.  My socks were a little soaked, but I just told myself that we were all racing the same race with the same conditions, can’t do much about it.

I rode a few laps of the course, and as always, women just flew by me.  I don’t know why, but that always makes me feel okay, like, they look at me and think, look at that turtle, she won’t be an issue to beat.

They had us stage near the bottom of the hill and ride up to the start/finish.  Many of the women were a little nervous about the conditions and the words “safe” and “cautious” seem like appropriate adjectives to describe the attitude towards the race.

The course start/finish was about 30 yards before a flat and kind of wide 180 through to a straight away that was probably a third of a mile to a narrow left turn up a hill that had about 40 feet of elevation gain over .1 of a mile, a right turn up a little more to the top, then a right turn down the hill and a right turn at the bottom to the straight away that was about a quarter of a mile long to the START/FINISH.  I am guessing on distances, but that seems about right. 

Our race was 30 minutes long with no primes.  At the whistle, I started my watch and jumped to the front of the group  so I didn’t get behind anyone through the 180.  I had gone down twice the night before, and I wasn’t about to go down because someone else didn’t know how to ride.  I stayed in the front through the straightaway to the climb.  I kind of wanted to see how everyone else handled the hill.  I was in front and only a couple of people passed me on the hill.  I took that as a good sign and was able to stay near the front through the turn and the straight away.  I believe another woman was ahead of me, that woman and a couple close to me slowed down considerably as the group bunched up to go through the 180 for the second time, and as we made it through, I heard the sound of a tiring slipping and sure enough someone was one the ground.  I kind of looked at the other girl who made it through before the crash to see her reaction, and she didn’t do anything. 

I don’t know if I am proud or if I should have done it or what, but I took advantage of the crash and attacked through the 180.  I didn’t feel too bad as anyone who went down would get a free lap as we were right next to the START/FINISH so really it was the people upright who had to react.  I fully expected the entire field to catch me on the hill  but I rounded the turn, and there was still a gap.  I sliced through the downhill turn and no one caught me, I got to the start finish line, looked back and had a gap of about 5 seconds, which might not sound like much, but when you are going 21-22 mph, 5 seconds is about a 50 yard gap.  It might not have been that big at that point, but it was noticeable.

At that point, I had to make a decision.  I was about 6 minutes into a race that would be about 30 minutes long.  There was a huge field (at least for a CAT4 race) that, if they worked together, should be able to catch me.  Should I sit up and re-join the field, or should I try to stay away?  I opted to stay away from one main reason: my advantage was my ability to corner.  Going through it solo, I could slice through the 180 taking any line I wanted as fast as I wanted.  The field would have to slow down approaching that turn to take it safely, giving me probably a second or two advantage on every lap.  I also had my choice of lines through the narrow uphill turn and the fast downhill turn.  

With 24 minutes left in the race, there are several things happening, the most important of which is that we are racing an undefined number of laps.  In a crit that is timed, the officials calculate the average time it takes per lap, then after several laps, they put up a lap count to determine the ultimate length of the race.  It’s a double-edged sword, the faster I went, the more laps I would have to do and seemingly the longer the race would be, but the faster I went, the bigger the gap I had and the better the chance I had to win.  Yet, in a solo attack, the longer the race, the more of a disadvantage I had, if that makes sense.  Basically:  Faster à Winning à Longer  à Losing. 

For the first several laps on my own, there was no lap count, so I was literally racing to take up time.  They finally posted a lap count at 6.  I believe we did about 12-13 laps, so I probably did about 5 laps not having any idea how much longer I would have to try to keep my lead.

During the race, there was an announcer, and he was loud enough at the START/FINISH that I could hear the things he was saying.  At one point, I recall hearing him comment on my form, down in the drops, very even cadence, that I looked exactly the same every time I came through the START/FINISH.  I took that as a good sign as 1) CAT 4 women rarely get compliments on technique and 2) if I were starting to red line, then there were be cracks in my form.   I think he added something like, “she is showing you how to win a bike race.”  At later times in the day, I heard him say things like “see how the rider is looking back at the group to see how big of a gap there is, a sign that the effort is taking it’s toll.”  While I agree that I looked back because I was working hard and needed to make sure it wasn’t in vain, there were also times I looked back because it was just an impressive gap to have made. 

There were also spots where I knew people were cheering and while they initially weren’t cheering for me, I feel like my attack really excited the crowd and by the end almost everyone was cheering for me.  On the hill, there were people cheering for Nicole, whoever she was.  I could tell how I was doing based on where I was on the hill when they started cheering.  When I no longer heard them cheering for Nicole, I knew that my gap was pretty significant. 

Finally, I got to the START/FINISH and saw 6 on the lap count.  Oh thank goodness!  I started counting down the number of times I had to climb the hill, that’s all I really wanted, a number of times I was going to have to climb that stupid hill.

During the race, I had about 3-4 people giving me time splits (how much time I had on the field).  One of the guys I trained with was an official for the race, and while he couldn’t really cheer for me over everyone else, I would look for him every time through, I knew he was cheering for me, and it helped.  I saw one of the guys I used to race at Westlake, and he was really excited and gave me that bit of encouragement I needed when I was just wanting the effort to end.  Another one of the guys I train with was there with his wife and family, and he was cheering for me as well, giving me time splits.

Then, with about 3 laps left, I heard the announcer say that they were starting to work to reel me back in and my split had dropped from 12 seconds to 9 seconds.  I started doing the math and knew that I still had an advantage on the turns, so it was unlikely they had enough to catch me given 3 seconds a lap, but I opted to push a little harder on that next lap.  I dug a little deeper, telling myself that hell or high water, there was no way anyone was going to catch me.

Looking back, It kind of reminded me of when I first started riding, and my now coach held these Wednesday night workouts.  There was one person that everyone knew was my nemesis.  When we would do time trial workouts, someone would usually say “just imagine ‘insert name here’ right behind you.”  I used to joke that I would cut off my arm if that is what it took to make sure she didn’t pass me.  That’s how I felt at the end of the race—I wasn’t going to get caught. 

When I came back through, my split was back up to 13 seconds.  At that point, with two laps left, that gap was going to stick unless I did something stupid.  When I came back through for the bell lap, the time was up to nearly 20 seconds, the chase had given up to conserve for the final sprint, the race was mine.

On my last lap, I smiled at all the people giving me splits throughout the race, and I told the people on the hill that I was happy that I wasn’t going to have to see them ever again.  I got to the finish line and gave an exuberate scream and arm pump.  I would have raised both arms, but I didn’t want to be that idiot who crashes a few feet before or after the finish.

After taking a cool down lap and seeing some friends in staging, the announcer called me over to interview me after the race, and I talked him through my race and why I was confident I could stay away.  It was interesting that, as I was talking, the 2nd and 3rd place finishers were standing there, and they nodded in agreement that my advantages were significant and that my thought process throughout the race was dead on in regard to how the attack could work.  I also gave my friend who was an official a hug. 

Some afterthoughts:

1. Even as one of the first races of a long day of racing, there were hundreds of people out along the course.   It was really cool to race with so much crowd support.  In fact, later in the day, I went to buy a cookie and some people stopped me and said, “hey, you were that girl who did the solo attack in the women’s race.  That was awesome!”  It was cool to know that not just my friends were cheering for me.

2. My friend’s wife was saying how annoyed she was getting with the announcer, particularly when he said that they were reeling me in.  I guess my gap wasn’t getting that much smaller, and she wanted to yell, “No they are not!”  Ultimately, I doubted there would be sufficient organization in a CAT4 race to do the work to catch me and no one was willing to do the work on her own.

3. I wonder if this race would have been so sweet if it weren’t preceded by such a miserable race the night before.  I was so excited to call my coach, and he was so ecstatic.  I was kind of surprised, I even felt compelled to say, “you know Pete, it was only a CAT4 race.”  To which he said, “it’s one of the biggest races in the state, enjoy it!”

4. It was probably about the best 30 minutes I have had on my bike.  My average heart rate for the race was about 186, while it was starting to climb the longer the race went.  Below you can see the chart efforts, pretty consistent, although the heart rate started to climb the further the race went.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Maumee Bay Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I find myself spending too much time on the prelude, but here is a snapshot of the pre-race happenings.
My boyfriend, his son, and I filled his car to the brim for a nice weekend in Oregon, Ohio for this race. The Cleveland Tri Club had a picnic on Saturday, the day before the race, and it was there that universe opted to let me know where I stand. I jokingly entered a drawing for a free entry into a half ironman, and the universe joked back by pulling my name as the winner. I haven’t decided whether or not I will use the entry, but I have a little bit of time. It was nice to talk to some different people and even get to hang out with a few people’s kids who were there for the weekend for Father’s Day.

Pre-Race: There was definitely some concern that the race would get stormed out or that it would possibly get turned into a duathlon. (Duathlon: a multisport race where they replace the swim with a run aka a race I NEVER intend on duing).

My boyfriend once again let me borrow his Zipp 404 (so SWEET of him). He put air in my tires and even lubed the chain for me. I didn’t really have a spare bag for my stuff for transition so I ended up using the dry cleaning bag from the hotel and another bag from a convenient store to take my stuff. We got there early so I had no problem getting body marked or getting my timing chip.

They set up transition long wise, and I have to say that I absolutely HATED it. Even before the race started, I had a hard time finding my bike on the rack. It was open racking so you could go anywhere, and I don’t think there was anywhere that would have been particularly easy for me to find my bike during the race.
They delayed the race by about 15-20 minutes because of the congestion of people getting timing chips or going through registration. It was kind of fun, I had lots of teammates there so we all huddled together, along with people from other teams, as we got excited for the few hours ahead of us. Two of my female teammates were also doing the sprint distance race, and we all agreed that our team would be well-represented. I think we all had thoughts that it was possible that we would go 1-2-3 in the overall, but none of us were willing to jinx it. It should be said that one of the women is coming off a foot injury, and well, I have only been training in one discipline, so we knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park (even when I tried to make it one), but that it seemed a genuine possibility.

The Swim:

I have never been so undertrained for a discipline in a race in my life. I stared at the buoys and kept thinking “man, that seems like a really long swim for a sprint.” The horn went off, and I hit the start on my 310xt and ran into the water. When I first started, it seemed like there was some water coming into my left goggle. I just pushed the goggles tighter on my face and kept going as it didn’t seem to be that annoying or that impeding.

I got into a pretty good rhythm, but definitely struggled with sighting. I think I did significantly better swimming a straighter line than on the way back to the shore. I was happy to run into a significant number of men on the swim, figuring I couldn’t be swimming that slowly since the group of men ahead of us had a 2 minute head start, and there were several groups ahead of them. Think about that, even if I was swimming my normal swimming pace (1:30 for 100 yards), and I don’t think I am anywhere near that shape right now, it should take me at least half the swim to catch someone swimming even a 2 min pace and that’s if I were in the same swimming shape I was in 15 months ago when I actually swam consistently.
Now, I have done sprints, Olympic, half and full Ironmans, and I have never come out of the water as tired as I did from this swim. As I jogged to transition, I saw my boyfriend with his camera out, thinking to myself “Duh! Who let him have a camera?” I asked him out far behind I was, and he said about 40 seconds. I thought to myself, “not nearly as bad as I thought” but I knew that I was already sucking air. Time: 14:28 (50th overall including men, 2nd AG)


It took me about a minute to find my bike. I ran past it, then I reminded myself to look for my aero helmet on my aero bars, but there was no black aero helmet anywhere near the vicinity of my area of transition. When I finally found it, I looked at my bike and didn’t see my helmet. I literally thought I was going to have to DNF this race as someone seemed to have taken my helmet. (Note: it’s not just that I don’t ride without a helmet, it’s also a USAT rule, no helmet is a DQ). Just as I was about to pull off the timing chip, I looked down and saw the helmet and sunglasses on the ground...I guess the wind blew it off the handlebars I got on the sunglasses, helmet, and shoes and made my way out of transition. Time: 2:12


The bike course is really flat, but there was some serious 20+ mph wind. I knew the course was about 13ish miles so I needed to get the speed up as quickly as possible. My watch beeped for the first mile, I looked down and saw 3:06 and thought, “NOT GOOD!” but with the mounting and getting around people and trying to get out of the park, and the nasty head/cross wind, I knew it was going to be a slow start. Then the watch beeped again, 3:03, which got a mental “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING MARIE!!!!” Simple math here: anything lower than 3 minutes is 20+ mph, anything higher than 3 minute is less than 20 mph.  2:30 is 24 mph, 2:00 is 30 mph.  Seeing the second mile over 3 minutes was just not acceptable.  After a time trial when I felt like I fell apart in a headwind, my coach said to me, "The moment you click into an easier gear because of the win, you just lost."  I kept that thought in my mind, stayed in the aero position, and went on the hunt.

I passed lots of people, probably more than 50 people on the course including a teammate or two and many members of the Cleveland Tri Club. Going into the race, my strategy was and had to be to win whatever on the bike. I wanted the fastest bike split and knew I had teammates that would make me work for it. Having done a couple of time trials, I have also learned that while headwinds are hard, sometimes, people become too complacent with a tailwind as they look down and see a fast number and think they don’t need to push, they are already going pretty fast. It was in that stretch with the tailwind that I was yelling to a woman that I was passing left and apparently, she didn’t like my tone as she said something back about having the right to the road. I responded by passing her and not looking back.

I ended up passing one of my two female teammates maybe a mile or two out before transition. I kept up my pace but knew there was no way I would hold a lead on her through the run, at least not that small a lead. I ended up working pretty hard and managed a time of 35:44, 1st overall female split, 12th including all men, average pace 22.5 mph. I should say I had grand thoughts of 24+ mph on this course, but two things prevented that 1) the wind and 2) my undertrained swim.


No attempt at a flying dismount, there were just too many people plus I had just gone through a puddle, and I was worried I would slip and fall. ran to transition, racked the bike, took off the helmet, grabbed socked, stuffed my feet in the shoes, and grabbed my water and my visor and took off. Time: 1:00


I have never worn a heart rate monitor during a race before, and my coach was more than peeved with me for not wearing one for my last TT. I felt like I would wear one just for information purposes. As I started, I saw Aimee out there cheering for everyone, and it really was appreciated. The rest of the run, I literally kept thinking to myself, “just run back to Aimee.” I started out and instantly felt that “maybe I shouldn’t have laughed at the guy who suggested I do a brick workout a few days ago,” quickly followed by “oh, they call a sprint a sufferfest for a reason.” Within probably the first quarter of a mile, my teammate passed me, and I was pretty confident that was going to happen, but was a little disappointed it happened that quickly. Oh well, I kept running, and as it was a down and back, I kept looking for 1) Durno 2) Martha and 3) how many women were ahead of me.

I got to the 1st mile marker in about 8:17. I didn’t look, but that’s what my Garmin tells me. It was about that time that I first looked down and saw my heart rate—190, that can’t be right, that must be MAX heart rate, stupid watch default settings. A few minutes later, I looked again, and I saw 188. Clearly, 188 is lower than 190 so it can’t be a max field, that’s when I looked closely and thought absolutely nothing. It honestly didn’t make that much sense to me. I do actually run once a week, usually a 6-7 mile run. I shouldn’t be redlining it on this run, but that seemed to be the case.  Oh well, I thought and just kept running.

I saw Durno on his way back and then eventually saw Martha on her way back and in the lead.  She wasn’t that far ahead of me, but it’s like it mattered, unless she fell or decided just to walk, it wasn’t like I was going to catch her anyway. Now, I should say that I did actually pass a guy on the run, not sure if I have ever passed someone in the run of a sprint before, and I would like to thank that guy for the opportunity.
I saw another woman who I believe was either out in front of Martha or between Martha and Heidi, but by my count, I was in 4th, unless that one woman was in the duathlon (which turned out to be the case).
It was right before the turn around that Ken Beech passed me, assured me (again) that I was doing well, but I think he could tell that I was hurting. It was around that time that I opted to walk for 10 seconds. I needed to get the heart rate down. I don’t know why I thought 10 seconds was going to be enough time to do anything, but I couldn’t let myself keep walking. I ended up walking at least two more times, one time actually taking the time to let the heart rate drop down out of the 180s, but it jumped right back up as soon as I started running.

A little after 2 miles, teammate Mike passed me, and he looked like “eh,” and well, that’s all I could think. Slowly, but surely, I made it back to Aimee and to the finish line. I kept looking over my shoulder praying I wouldn’t see another woman behind me, not that I had a sprint in me to get to the finish line, but fortunately, no speedy women came up to pass me at the finish. My run time was a 26:23 for 3.05 miles at a 8:39 pace. I just read somewhere that there is no such thing as a good bike followed by bad run. I would like to point out to people that an 8:39 pace for me isn’t a bad run (as pathetic as that is).
Now, the cool thing was that my teammates and I managed to do something pretty cool: go 1,2,3 in the overall for the sprint. While there was no awards ceremony, we were pretty excited about it. It’s actually my highest placement in the overall, 4th a few times, but if there had been a podium, I would have been on it! I also won my age group by about 50 seconds, that woman was one heck of a runner, and I am just glad that run wasn’t much longer.  This race did an excellent job of letting me know just how long I can stay in that pain cave.  I posted these numbers of facebook, but they still blow me away.  Average heart rates: 160 (swim); 181 (bike) 188 (run).

I have awesome race reports yet to write, hopefully I will get them up shortly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


As my first real bike race (I don’t like to count Barry Roubaix, well, because I don’t and CVNP is a different dynamic), I was pretty nervous, despite it being dubbed a training race in both name and spirit. The weather conditions were pretty good, low 60’s and some wind, but the course is pretty well protected making the wind mainly a nonissue.

Along with a teammate, Zac, I had pre-ridden the course a couple days before and got an idea of how the it would go down, where I would need to conserve and where I could potentially attack. I was uneasy with the uphill finish, but I was comforted by the number of 90◦ turns on the course, figuring I could either make up time or attack with some success in those areas.

Upon getting there, it was good to see fellow racers. Having missed the first two races, I was often greeted with the “oh, look who decided to finally show up.” Yeah, I had legitimate reasons not to be at this race, and to be honest, I was missing yet another family obligation to go to this one, but I was finally ready to race. People told me who was doing well so far and gave me a few insights into who to watch, other than the obvious.

We had neutral start and then 15 laps of a 1.3ish mile loop. There were a few prem laps, but I have a history of never going for a prem, I need to get over the belief that I cannot out-sprint someone. As expected, Sam and Sally traded off attacks until we finally let Sally go after about 5 laps. Unfortunately, a CAT4 managed to go with her. I had been in a few attacks, but the breaks were never successful. As is usually the case, I spent too much time in the front pulling, pretty pathetic since I had no teammates in the race. I did try to talk strategy with LB, but it just didn’t work out. In the end, as soon as the bell rang, I attacked and pulled through the entire lap. It was a strong pull, spreading out the field, but in the end, I let up at the sprint. I had 2nd in the bag and then started to let up as I was doing a Time Trial the next day and right at the line, I was passed literally within inches of the line to end up in 4th.

I am pretty embarrassed as a slew of obscenities flew out of my mouth. I was beyond angry at myself and had absolutely no one to blame but myself. I warmed down with Lorena, chatted for a while, then called my coach to tell him what an idiot I was. He pretty much agreed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CVNP Training Series #1

This race was so much like a Westlake Crit that it doesn’t seem to merit it’s own blog post, but I will write one regardless.  From the moment I opened my eyes, I could feel the intensity with which my legs were trashed.  Not only had I raced a fast (for me) 5k the day before, but I followed up the 5k with a sprint interval workout, doing 7x 1k time trials on the bike.  It was supposed to be 10, but after talking to my coach, he felt 5-7 would be sufficient given I wanted to race the next day.

Now, Sunday morning, my boyfriend and I got into a fight that went something like:

Me: “I am not racing.  My legs are trashed.”

Boyfriend: “You said that Wednesday, and you did a 23mph time trial.”

Me: “I know that I said that Wednesday, but I am in physical pain, not just tired.”

Boyfriend: “You will be fine.”

Me: “I don’t like going to races knowing I am going to suck.”

Boyfriend: “Then don’t suck.”

Guess who won the argument...

Like Westlake, this race lacked a separate women’s field so a couple of women raced in the A group, the rest of us in the B field.  Racing in a men’s field is completely different than racing in a women’s field.  For one, we are just hanging in the field, rarely attacking each other (although it does happen from time to time) and usually only if there is a women's prem.  The other big difference is that turns are taken with higher speed and faster accelerations through them.  In a women’s race, I can create separation in a turn because I tend to corner faster than most.  In a men’s race, I am often in the back sprinting to catch back up to the field.  If you are in the back, you have to get used to those turn accelerations, and you also have to deal with squirrely riders who lack handling skills or confidence in their handling skills sufficient to keep pace with the field.

Feeling the way I did, I started in the back of the pack with fellow female teammates, which was mistake number one.  I should have just started with the front of the pack and kept myself from having to try to work my way through the field.  The roads were a bit narrower than Westlake, which made moving to a better position in the field a bit difficult.  I was never all that close to the front, but I was able to get out from the back and away from those touching their brakes through the turns. 

The course was 4 of about a 6 mile relatively flat loop on roads that I ride multiples times a week.  As soon as we got to the first turn after the neutral start, it was business as usual.  I talked to my male teammates offering my help if they had a plan in mind, but all of us seemed just to be hanging in the field.  At times, the field was going so slowly that I felt like I was back at the Tour of the Valley Road Race with the sounds of “Slowing” echoing through the air, but at other times, the accelerations seemed pretty hard and a little long because I was unable to hit many speeds on the high side of 27 mph.  I had no problem staying in the field, but there were two guys who almost got an earful from me about braking too much going into turns and the other about being fidgety in the field.  Hold your freakin’ line dude!  (Ironic given my latest race, but that will come later).

Sure enough, on a perfectly flat, rather wide, no debris or pothole section of road, 2.5 laps into a 4 lap race, someone hit someone else and created a cascade crash in front of me.  If I had had about three more feet, I probably would have been able to avoid it, but I couldn’t quite stop and ended up in the ditch.  I quickly got up, checked that my brakes weren’t rubbing and got back on the bike trying to catch the field that was speeding away trying to take advantage of the crash.

Here is where I could tell the difference between normal Marie and sucky Marie.  I was about 20 yards from the field and just couldn’t bridge the gap.  I didn’t have the time trial in my legs to get back up to the field.  I tried to work with a couple of other guys, but they both petered out.  Then, my teammate Zac passed me with a strong group of guys, but my failed attempt to TT it back to the field had left me completely depleted and unable to latch up to their line and ended up just waffling in the wind.  A few minutes later, another teammate, Oleg caught up, and  with a little recovery, I was able to work with a few of those guys through the next lap and a half of the race to get to the finish.  I knew that the two of the other women who had started in the B field were still in the field, and I was just bummed that I didn’t even have a chance to contest the finish. 

We did work pretty hard on that 4th lap, a few miles in the 25 mph range, but when it came to the finish, I just sputtered across the line.  I don’t like the fact that I made a stupid mistake of not paying more attention to where I was in the field.  I know better than to hang out in the back, but that is where I was and that was what caused my finishing placement.  I don’t like losing, and I wish I could blame someone else’s poor handling skills, but the bottom line is that I know enough about racing to know that the safest place in a race is not where I spent most of my time in this one.

I should look on the bright side: despite absolutely destroyed legs, I had no problem hanging in pre-crash.  My bike is seemingly fine as is the brand new never had been ridden Zipp 404 that my boyfriend let me use for the race, but no one has ever accused me of being “Little Miss Sunshine” so don’t expect it now.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Copley Speech and Debate 5K

Finally, a race where my two worlds collide!  After convincing my sister to start running, she agreed that a 5k has a possibility of being a good fundraiser for our team.  My sister is the head coach of the Copley Speech and Debate team so yes, it's a very big family affair.  Like most cocurricular activities at Copley, we are not given money from the district, but raise our own funds throughout the year.  This past year, a few of the bigger programs opted not to attend our tournament, and we were hurting a bit financially.  We tossed the idea around a bit of having a 5k, but I was a bit scared of the undertaking, particularly of the potential liabilities.  My sister, however, took the bull by the horns and did an absolutely amazing job.  She has absolutely no qualms about going door to door at local businesses to ask for donations or help with the event.  She was able to obtain substantial support from local businesses.  Heck, she did such a good job that we contemplated not even having the race, but we did manage to get 41 people to sign up for the event, and to be honest, a few very strong runners made the small field pretty competitive, despite some pretty cold and wet conditions.

Now, the race morning itself was pretty hectic.  First of all, I had many friends come down and support the race, and I felt it necessary to greet them all.  There were a few that I hadn't seen in a while, others who I just love to bug every chance I get.  I really appreciated  the support.  While greeting people, I still had to organize the volunteers/students, straighten out the course with the timing company, then drop off volunteers along the course and at the water stop.  Since it was cold, I made these drop offs as close to the race start as possible.  When I got back, I made a mad dash to get ready for the race.  As I went to put on my running shoes, I noticed that they had no inserts.  I had forgotten that I had taken them out for some reason and needed to get my other shoes.  I ran back to my car, gathered my old running shoes and started the panic that I wasn’t going to be there when the gun went off.  I went to the bathroom, got my water bottle, and nearly gave up on taking my phone with me, but managed to find it and the headphones just in time to get to the start of the race.

Because it was cold, my sister opted to start the race early.  I had given the kids at the mile markers explicit instructions to start exactly at 9 so I was kind of like “dang it” when the horn went off.  It was kind of startling and one of those, I wasn’t ready so I felt rushed to get on the course and that rush didn’t subside until the race was over.

I started the race feeling that same rush that I had been feeling for the 20 minutes before the race.  The course was a simple down and back on a business parkway that is directly across from the gym where I and many others run throughout the week.  It's also pretty flat so feeling how fast I started, I knew I had the potential for a relatively fast 5k.

Just a sidenote:  I have been running once a week for probably the last three months.  I usually run somewhere between 5 to 8 miles, but my focus is almost completely on cycling. 

When I got to the first mile marker (student), I looked at my watch and listened to the times he was saying and told him to add 2.5 minutes.

Mile 1 split: 8:09

As I continued down the way, I ran to the girl at the second mile marker on the other side of the street to add 2.5 minutes to her time as well.  On my way to the turn around, I saw a good friend Steve in the lead followed shortly after by a couple of teammates. 

Side note #2: If you have ever done the Akron marathon, you know that the first couple of miles are out and back on teh Y-Bridge.  It's pretty cool as it's the only opportunity really that you can see the people actually racing the marathon.  Almost every time I have done the Akron marathon, the first person I saw who I knew at the front of the race has been Steve.  He's that fast.

I also saw that I was the 2nd overall female.  Knowing that the woman ahead of me is a good runner, coworker of my sister’s, and the wife of one of my favorite trainers at physical therapy, I felt like I knew there was no way I was going to move up in the standings.  Let’s be honest, being 2nd overall is still pretty shocking, even in a small field. 

At the water stop was my nephew and a couple of my debaters, I tried to say hi, but I was easily in Z5 and didn't have much oxygen to spare.  As I made the turn, I saw Mentor nipping at my heels.  I had an instant flashback to 2011.  A week before Ironman Wisconsin, he and I did a 5 mile run up at Crocker Park.  It was miserably humid and hot that morning, and I crashed and burned, finishing a minute or two after him.  Every time I contemplated letting up on the pace, I imagined him passing me, and I continued to push.

Mile 2 split: 8:18

At that point, the mile 2 is kind of down hill and had a significant tailwind so my pushing too hard at the beginning of the race was compensated by having an easier second half.

Mile 3 split: 8:25

.1 split (actually says .13) 1:02

Total: 25:57 (25:54 on my watch).  I ended up 2nd overall with my 2nd fastest (I think) 5k of my life.  I equate the faster 5k with a few things: having better fitness through cycling and being about 10lbs lighter, thanks mainly to my skin removal. 

Most people hung out after the race as we had a TON of food: a party sub from Subway, cookies from a local bakery, bagels from Brueggers, donuts from Leaches, and food left over from our tournament this past year.  Nearly everyone there said it was one of the best organized and best fed races they have attended.  Almost everyone there got their money's worth: a gift card, post-race food, and a coupon from Brueggers.

The best part was that our team raised close to $1,000, which is a huge benefit for this coming year in terms of being able to compete.  Not the best part: I won a gift card for my placement, but when I went to leave, it was nowhere to be found.  I couldn't believe someone would steal it.  But then, as I was chatting with people, I caught a glance from one of the kids I coach and just knew that the little punks had taken it.  After about 5 minutes of "give me the gift card" they finally fessed up.  It'a amazing, the same kid who got me on April Fools Day got me again (along with his co-conspirator).  When did I become so gullible?

As the 2nd overall female, I got a gift certificate to one of my favorite restaurants.  As I was finally packing up after helping clean up after the race, my sister 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Barry-Roubaix DNF Report

The short version:

“I missed the turn for the second loop on the 100k.  I was going back and forth with a  woman who was better on the dirt, but I was a better climber.  When I didn’t catch back up after three nice steep climbs, I knew something was wrong.  She ended up in 7th.  I suspect that is where I would have finished as her pace dropped substantially after the 1st lap.  I don’t think this race is for me, too many close calls with either crashing myself or being taken out by someone crashing near me.”

When I crossed the finish line, I was absolutely frantic, where did I miss it, how could I make such a mistake… and here is my answer: I was paying such close attention to the road to prevent myself from crashing that I just didn’t have any attention to spare.    

Let’s be honest:

Did I want to be finished?  Yes. 
Did I want to give up? Absolutely not. 
Was I having fun?  No. 
Was I scared of another loop?  Absolutely.
Did I contemplate DNFing during the race? Yes
What did I say when I thought about DNFing? I thought about my uncle Joe who never gave up on his fight to stay alive. 
Could I give up because this race was hard? I just couldn’t.
How did I feel when it appears that I did? Like I am weak.

Race Recap:

We were in the second wave with the 40+ men.  I had lots of cycling buddies in the crowd, the women from Bicycle Hub and the guys from Stark Velo.  I worked a little bit with one of the Stark Velo guys, but I can’t recall if I couldn’t keep up or if I passed him.

The race started pretty fast, I have the first mile over 24 mph, not bad on knobby tires.  I stayed with the lead pack for the first couple of miles, but I got dropped on a set of three nice short steep climbs.  I knew it was a race of attrition: the women who could hang with the men for as long as possible would win.

I saw EP crash and started to panic a little bit: she’s an amazing cross racer, if she crashed, what is going to happen to me?

This course was scary!  If there wasn’t ice on the road, then there were frozen muddy ruts.  The combination of those two conditions lent itself to the additional obstacles of fallen cyclists and many more ejected water bottles (a fact I had forgotten until reading someone else’s race report).  

I ended up settling in with a group of guys, but I just couldn’t keep up on the dirt/snow/frozen mud.  When we had longer sections of paved roads, I tended to pass people.  I had this brilliant idea of pre-opening all of my shot bloks as I knew that it would be too hard to get at them with my lobster gloves.  I figured that if I had already opened them, that I would be more inclined to eat them rather than risk it and end up bonking.  I had a pretty hard time even getting to my food with my 2 pairs of gloves on so I tried to hold the wrapper with my teeth, which worked as long as I wasn’t climbing or on dirt and needed to breath.  I think a few photographers scrambled to get photos of this freak with a thing of shot bloks hanging from her mouth, but I haven’t had much desire to look.  When someone crashed right in front of me, I dropped them, glad to look like an idiot for no reason!

I should also mention that my water bottle was frozen.  I intentionally started with 2, one insulated, one not.  I started with the un-insulated so that I would still have water for the second half the race.  Good plan, would have worked too.

I ended up catching up to another woman on a long false flat.  Some guy commented on the ensuing catfight and said he was impressed by how strong we both were, but apparently, seeing me gave her enough adrenaline to pick it up a little bit.  We chatted for a while, but I couldn’t get enough distance on her on the climbs that she couldn’t make up on the descents, and she ended up dropping me on the dirt.

After getting dropped by her, the long and the short courses converged.  It’s in that mess that I went off course, or more to the point, went onto the short course.  There were a few pretty nasty climbs and when I didn’t see “Tori” I knew something was wrong…I couldn’t imagine that she dropped me by that much or that she had that much left in the tank.

I started seeing signs for the finish line and knew I was not in the right place.  I crossed the finish line and asked someone about the turn off to which he responded that he had intentionally gone to cut the race short.

I went back to the car and called my coach, left a voicemail, then called someone else who actually did a good job consoling me until my coach called me back.  He sounded about as bummed as me and basically affirmed what we both had thought: I was riding well, would like to see how it would have shaken out, disappointing that I probably would have placed in the short race, but time to move on to the rest of the season.

Interestingly enough, I told the coach I wanted to ride long the following day to which he begged against.  When I went out to ride, it turned out that my legs and my sit bones were both rather sore.   Two hours was all I could muster.

I had a great time on Friday caravanning with some guys from Spin and a couple Snakebite teammates.  We had a nice dinner, and we had fun crashing with the Bicycle Hub folks.  Many people were fascinated by my British/Australian breakfast.  I wish I could be proud of myself for racing well for the part of the race I finished and not crashing while still riding aggressively, but it’s the score at the end of the game that counts, and I didn’t have one.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Some Inspiration

I would say that starting Tuesday, I was starting to struggle with this cleanse.  Yesterday, I stared at a box of pretzel M&M's, which is kind of weird as I don't even like them (too much candy, not enough chocolate) so I felt compelled to dig deep for things that have inspired me in the past.  I hope they inspire you.

I was born and raised Roman Catholic.  Since I was in college, I have struggled with my faith, but I usually trudged along still going to mass.  Something with the semi-recent changing of the wording of the mass created a great disconnect for me.  I see the church as having some pretty tremendous problems, and it seems that they continue to turn a blind eye to them, but rather do things like change a few words that, in the scheme of things, don’t add substantial value to one’s faith, or at least not to mine.  I believe Jesus Christ was a very good man.  I struggle with whether he was more the son of God than you or me, but whether divinely placed or just more actualized, he was a very good man who taught people to live a very good life.  He didn’t get distracted with the fundamental word of the Bible, but taught in parables and metaphors.  He didn’t care what people said so much as what they did. 

With that said, there have been three sermons I have heard that have fundamentally changed my life or at least the way I see it.  One was from Father McCarthy, I believe, who was the priest at my church, Sts. Peter & Paul growing up.  The second was from a missionary from I want to say Nigeria, and the third was from Father Kramer at Guardian Angels.

Sermon #1 talked about a self-help lecture.  Some guy filled up a mason jar with big rocks.  When he could put no more rocks in the jar, he asked the audience if it was full, to which they responded, “yes.”  He then took out some sand and proceeded to fill the gaps in between the rocks with sand.  When the jar could hold no more sand, he asked, is it full.  Having learned their lesson, the audience said, “no.”  He then took out water and filled the jar until it could hold no more.  When he finished, he asked again, “is the jar full?”  To which the audience once again said, “yes.”  He then asked, what have we learned from this exercise.  Someone said, “if you want to fill the jar, start with water.”  To which the person said, “no, this jar is like life, if you don’t fit the big stuff in first, you will never find room for them.” 

Sermon #2 was not nearly as profound, but just as eye-opening.  At the time, I believe I was in high school or college and had little understanding of the world.  The priest got up there and talked about how rich Americans are…not exactly a new concept, but he talked about how in the United States, people can work one job, two jobs, three jobs if that is what it takes to support their family.  It might be working at McDonalds or some other crappy job, but there are bad jobs to be had.  In his country, there were no bad jobs, no good jobs, there were NO jobs.  I had never thought about poverty in the terms of opportunity prior to that sermon.  As someone who has lived in a developing nation, I can attest, Americans have no conception of the state of poverty that exists in other countries.  I promise you, spend a week in Haiti or even the Dominican Republic (outside of the resorts), and you will have a new definition of poor.
Sermon #3 was some random Saturday evening mass.  Father Kramer just told three stories about animals.  Story number one was about a science experiment some local girl had done where she had taught a goldfish to swim through a maze to get to the food at the end.  When she put a guppy in the water, the guppy could not figure out the maze.  The goldfish started prodding the guppy to get through the maze to get the guppy to the food.  Story number two was about the Emperor penguins in Antarctica and how they huddle in big circles to stay warm during large storms.  The birds take turns so that those on the outside for one storm are then protected by the ones they protected in the previous storm.  They constantly change positions from the inside of the circle to the outside of the circle with every storm.  The final story was about how he had visited a local middle school and asked the students what was their favorite possession.  He said that the answer he received most often was, “my dog.”  When he asked why, the children would say, “Because it’s always so happy to see me.”  The priest simply asked, is it right that we consider ourselves better than these animals?

Why do I bring up these sermons now?  Well, I have started following the internet sensation that is chief Oliver from Brimfield Police Department.  He’s a big picture kind of guy, or for anyone I have coached, he is able to see the forest among all the trees.  The last few weeks, he has had some pretty awesome quotations that I felt compelled to share.

From the chief himself, “While doing some work last evening at home, I turned on the TV for background noise.  While trying to find the suitable channel, I came across the show, ‘Amish Mafia.’ I watched seven seconds of it and lost 100 IQ points.  As a society, we may have jumped the shark.”

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” – George Horace Lorimer

I guess that is always a good question, am I going to bed satisfied with the day I had?