Monday, August 27, 2012

On a roll - Central Park Women's 4 Open Race Report

So now that I actually have time to write a race report or two... here is the report from my first win of my racing career (that I can remember at least). It was at 6:15 in the morning two weeks ago in Central Park. Five lap race, women's Category 4 only. Woke up and it was pouring rain. Felt sad that I had bullied my coach into writing me a race plan, because if he hadn't I probably would have turned off the alarm and slept in!

But I could not do that so I woke up, had a protein shake, and headed to the park and registered.

We started off and I tried to sit in as much as possible. It was hard staying on a wheel the first two laps because I kept getting spray in my eyes but I did it. The laps were exactly 18:00 each. Then on the third lap I kind of lucked out because one of the women in the race started to attack on the very end of the descent to the start of Harlem Hill. I got on her wheel and as soon as the road started to ascend I went off the front as hard as I could. I rode at my top effort until I crested Harlem Hill. My heart rate at the top was 191 so it was a good effort. I didn't look back and just TTed as hard as I could to finish that lap (the third one) and apparently got enough separation to win. The last two laps I tried to keep the effort up as much as I could in case there was a chase that could catch me.

The only thing that was confusing was that I got passed by a large men's field and then they slowed down so I wanted to pass them back but I wasn't sure what to do so I just dropped back and hoped they would speed up (they did). That was going into the last lap. My laps were in the 16:00-17:00 range. I came into the finish and I was so happy that I held everyone off and won. It was definitely a great feeling and I also am happy that I conquered one of my fears - racing in the rain. I raced in the rain and didn't die! I still don't love it - I was really not happy on every descent. But living in the Northeast you are going to race in the rain, so I figure I may as well stop being a baby about it.

At this point there is one more bike race this season and then after that it's off season. It will be nice to have a break, do some fun fall rides, and sleep more! I've had so much fun racing my bike so far.

Last things first - REV3 Maine Race Report!

I still haven't written a race report for my last bike race (i.e. my first bike race win) but I have pictures from Maine this weekend so I suppose I am doing that one first! I also have the day off and I'm back in town so I have this crazy thing called free time. It feels weird.

Anyway Maine was awesome. It is so beautiful there. This is the scene of our swim!

Now do I recommend doing a tri with an ocean swim involved after not swimming for four months? Definitely not. But I'll get to that. First things first. My awesome friend Tamra and I headed up Friday morning and went to packet pickup and then since we still felt relatively energetic we headed up the coast a little further to see my old school, Bowdoin. I hadn't been back in a while and it has changed a lot and not at all, at the same time.

One thing that hasn't changed is how stunning the campus is. Wow. Here are a few shots. This is the chapel:

Me in front of the Student Union posing with the Polar Bear (our mascot):

Hubbard Hall where I took government classes:

The Bowdoin Pines, a little trail you can walk along outside the back of the alumni house:

It is my happy place, I love it there.

We also checked out the island where I lived my senior year and had dinner at a cheesy but tasty restaurant called Cook's. This is the sunset that evening outside at Cook's:

The next day we did our little pre-race workouts and then had breakfast. This snap is for Kim (who is Tamra's coach and told her to eat a lot of food for breakfast that morning).

Those are pancakes with real Maine blueberries. YUM.

So anyway that was fun, but I know what you really want to know is, how was the race? Well it was awesome. And not awesome all at once but I had a great time. We got up Sunday around 4:00 and had breakfast and headed down to the race. This was such a great venue - very easy to get around, tons of parking, very supportive community. It could not have been easier. So we got there so early because everything was so easy, which was fine. We set up our transition spots and walked about half a mile down to the start.

Now I really had not swum a stroke since late April. NOT RECOMMENDED. I did swim on Saturday for maybe 20 minutes and my arms didn't fall off and I noticed with the current it would be good to sight often. It was a beach start but there wasn't much contact at all so I just started swimming along and tried to swim in a straight line. I was all alone except at the last turn some guy swam over me for no reason so that was annoying! I didn't really get tired except I guess my back felt tired. When I exited the water I realized that was because I swam a 44! Nice personal worst swim. But what do you expect when you don't train? Pretty much that. There was a long run to T1 so I just said well what can you do and started running. There were virtually no bikes left in my area so I knew that the swim wasn't just way long, good to know. But I knew the bike was where I was fit.

So the bike was so great. I loved the course. Almost totally flat. I got into my small chain ring twice, each time for under two minutes. I probably passed 300 people. And this was NOT that big a race. One guy asked me what I ate for breakfast. I said oh that's not it sir, all I've done for the last few months is ride my bike! I wanted to have the fastest bike split and I didn't quite do it but I was close. I was told the course was a little long but my time was 2:34. I guess it was a little windy but I don't know, I feel like I could have ridden a little faster. I suppose that the swim actually taking something out of me had something to do with it! Who knows. I had a great time though, just enjoying being out there. The scenery was beautiful - all these lovely trees and farms and just MAINE. I love that place.

I got off the bike and the good news was that I felt fine. After riding as much as I have this summer I didn't feel like it took anything out of me. Which was good because I needed everything for this run.

So I don't know if I have said anything about this because I never blog but my butt is really jacked. I keep going to people here and I don't know if anything is working. It seems like there is this tightness in the insertion of my hamstring and then on the side and on the top, pretty much all over on the right side. It is really painful when I run but it doesn't hurt when I ride so I've just been riding and not running. I hoped I could finish but I wasn't sure. My friend Randy told me to take 4 Advil at the start of the run so I grabbed all my normal stuff plus a pile of Advil and headed out. I immediately felt my butt - however, it wasn't that bad so I said well worst case let's try to run the Olympic run course (a 10k) and if that's all I can do I'll come back and DQ myself.

I also had no idea how fast I would go if I could run but I knew that when I got back from the bike there were hardly any bikes in my area so I thought well maybe I can get top 5 in my age group and that would be nice. Then I hit mile 1 in 8:16 and my butt hurt so I said maybe not, I am sure someone will pass me! But I just kept running and once we got past about mile 2.5 we were on this awesome trail. It was flat, smooth, and almost totally shaded, and the surface was dirt which was a godsend, it was so much easier on my body and allowed me to continue without too much pain in my butt! I also tried out a new EFS gel flavor - the Kona mocha one - which was delicious, that helped too! I was also just having so much fun out there. Every person I passed I told them good job and if they said oh you look so strong or whatever I said you know I am just happy to be out here. It was so much fun. I was running around 8:00 pace for a while and then slowed down to around 8:30 pace for a while but just kept saying to myself just keep running, and each mile that went by I was happy that I could run that far.

I came into the finish just under 5:15. I think I ran a 1:49 - definitely not a great time, but I'm happy with it considering my lack of training. I don't think I would even have started had the race not been in such a special location for me. I am so glad I did! I still don't know if I want to do any tris next year or just keep racing my bike, because I am really enjoying that. But I do really love tris. I think because I love to run so much. I just hope I can fix my butt either way, so that I can find that joy in running again - it's not fun when it hurts!

Here is a scene from the finish line. REV3 put on such a good race. They were getting ready to cheer like crazy for the last finishers.

And here is a snap of the medal I received along with the finishers medal - they snap together, pretty sweet!

The finisher's medal is the lobster claw and the podium medal or whatever is behind it (I think it is a pot you cook a lobster in or something). Again I just can't say enough good things about this race. The course, organization, location - all incredible. You should definitely consider it for next year. I might be back if I get my butt healthy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tour of the Catskills

So Tour of the Catskills. Such an epic weekend, so much to say, so many great memories. Most of all it was a really fun weekend with my teammates, they are great girls and I love hanging out with them.

I tried to relax as much as I could, sitting on the front porch of the house we rented. It was incredibly peaceful and beautiful!

The Catskills remind me of the smaller mountain towns in Colorado. Very pretty and nice and quiet in the summer. But more like the mountain towns like when I was a little kid, now the ones in Colorado are much busier and larger. Anyway after hearing of their existence for so long it was fun to see them.

So we started off with a 12 mile time trial. My goals were:
1. Ride hard
2. Finish in time to hand my bike off to my teammate who is my exact size, so she could use it too
3. Put myself in a decent position for the GC (like any other stage race the winner of the race is the person with the fastest time overall)

I would say all three goals were met. I was 4th in the Women's 3/4 category and the fastest of all the Cat 4 women. I was under a minute back from the leader of the GC. And I got to give BrittLee my bike! She had an awesome TT and was second in her category (P/1/2/3). I like to think I helped with that a little bit!

After that I tooled around a little to cool down and then we ran around trying to get dinner, food, etc. I also had to wash my kit because I only have one and it was already disgusting. Next year I am ordering so much kit I swear. It was fun and relaxing. We knew we had a big day Saturday so we tried to go to bed at a nice reasonable time.

Saturday was Stage 2 and a 65 mile road race. Here is the course:

It doesn't look that crazy but the last big climb is ridiculous. Like it's not even like riding a bicycle. But I'll get to that.

So I was feeling good and I was with the leaders like maybe 3rd to 8th wheel back for a long time. It was kind of boring for a while to be honest - I don't have a power meter but my teammate Meredith said we were pushing like 80 watts which is not a lot! The ride was beautiful though and I was enjoying that. One funny thing happened - I'm riding along down a long descent and a bee flies into my leg and stings me. Of course, this would only happen to me. Now the reason everything was cruisey however is because of this crazy climb. So we come to the climb and it is like 'oh you have got to be kidding'. So steep. I was determined not to get off my bike and walk, because everyone said I'd have to because I had a 12-25 cassette. Well yeah, I ended up walking for a little while. I literally could not help it - my brain said pedal, my foot said clip out. So there I was! I felt like a douche but then I found out that everyone in the 3/4 field walked. So I didn't feel that bad.

Once I got to the top I was pretty far from the leaders so I started TTing my butt as fast as it would go. I caught Meredith after maybe 5 minutes and we worked together and caught two more girls and then we got into a little sprint with them at the finish and I tied the other girl who was sprinting fast. Not bad. I was dead when I finished though. It was really hot so we just ate a sandwich, drank like 13 bottles of water, and sat down in the shade on the sidewalk. This stage I finished in 10th. Oops. Not great but I mean really I could not have climbed that crazy climb any faster on that day.

The rest of the day we pretty much loafed like champs, made dinner, did more laundry, nothing too exciting. It was nice.

Sunday was Stage 3 which was a 61 mile road race with two climbs. I didn't feel awful when I woke up but I didn't feel great. I mean come on, who would? That would be ridiculous. So we got to the start and did a little warmup and then lined up. Since I was top 10 in the GC I got to start at the front, that was kind of cool. I felt very pro. We started out and the first 20 miles were easy which was alarming because what goes down must come back up. The field held together until I would say partway through the first climb which was around a 5k in length and fairly steep. I just lost it mentally and lost the leaders. I was bummed because I thought I could stay with them if I had just had more mental fortitude. But once again there I was off the back TTing as hard as I could. I caught Meredith again and we pacelined to the next climb which was later in the race. The second climb was crazy steep but not as bad as Saturday's. I managed to stay on my bike the entire time. At this point it was pouring which was annoying but also meant it wasn't nearly as hot as Saturday which was a blessing.

I suck at descending in the rain because I am afraid of crashing, I must say. Meredith TTed to catch me and we just worked together as much as we could to get to the finish. I sprinted into the finish as hard as I could and ended up 9th in that stage, bringing my final position to 10th in the GC. I won $20 so that was cute.

Here is the view from the finish:

Overall I am so happy with how I did. It was so hard but so much fun. I love my teammates. I love the Catskills. I really, really love stage races and I can't wait to do another. I am already plotting the next one which is probably next year - the season is going to wind down after Labor Day weekend and I can't race that weekend because I'll be in Denver for a wedding. Oh well! Just gotta hit it hard next year. I have a few more races this year but nothing that exciting. Thanks for reading!