Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Now I know why I prefer dirt... My first real PIR experience.

Well, I knew I couldn't get by too long without racing. Not that you can call PIR a "real" race, but it is a race, none the less. Kendra, my coach, thought it would be good practice. I have avoided PIR (Portland International Raceway) so far this season with so much travelling, etc, but I knew the time would come. I managed to postpone it one night (I was going to have to go Monday to masters night), but opted on Tuesday to race with Tim. For those not from Portland, PIR has road races and basically we ride around the race track. Each lap is approximately 1.9 miles. Well, Tuesday, there is no women's racing, so you just race with the boys. Road racing has categories that are by number. 1 being the highest and 5 being novice. I am a cat 3 on the road with very little experience. Well, because I don't believe in the easy way out, I chose to race with the cat 1/2/3 men, or rather I was told to race with them. That was fine, b/c then I was able to race with Tim (b/c thankfully he was able to borrow a rear wheel after he so graciously gave me his after my tire exploded on the way out there and was not safe to ride.) I actually raced once at PIR last season after knee surgery and with the novice women in a pack of about 10. I won, by a lot. Thus, I was upgraded to a 3 and there I have sat. This pack was a few more than 10. Tonight the 1/2/3's had about 91 people starting. 5 were women. For me this was not a race, but a workout and it was hard. A lot harder than I thought it would be. With an average speed of about 28 miles per hour and a nice strong wind and due to my lack of knowledge of where to sit in the pack, I just about got spit off the back more than once. I felt safer in the back b/c I could see everyone and avoid bad bike handlers and crashes, but in the back, you work harder. When corners come, the peloton (group) strings out and then the people in the back have to pedal like hell to catch back up. It's like an accordion. I kept trying to work my way up to somewhere in the middle and then when I thought I was there, I would look back just minutes later to discover I was on the back again. But I hung on and worked my way up for practice and tried to shelter myself from the wind. 20 laps later I had done what I set out to do: I didn't get dropped. I made it all 20 laps.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A weekend without racing! May 19-20, 2007

Yes, a weekend without racing was finally here, but not a weekend without riding. On the contrary. I rode more this weekend than I have for a very long time. Tim was pretty focused on pre-riding some of the Mt. Hood Classic courses, which is a stage race on the road that we will be doing in a little over a week. For me it is a 6-day race, so a huge commitment. The greatest thing about this race is that it is near the cabin and we get to spend time at our favorite place. This past weekend, however, that meant catching up on a much neglected home away from home.
We got a late start rolling out of Portland, but finally made it to the Discovery Center near the Dalles for an easy spin back to Hood River on the time trial course. Our good friend Erin rode with us and drove the car back for us and we had dinner with her afterwards. We didn't even get to the cabin until after 11. It was so great to be home!
Saturday was the BIG day. Another River City rider came out, Jason, and we were going to ride the mountain stage, which is 86 miles and 9000 feet of climbing, plus the miles to and from the cabin. Ouch! I had just had a small break off the bike, so I knew it would hurt. I didn't know it would hurt as much as it did, b/c the head wind was brutal. We actually hooked up with 4 of the Fred Meyer juniors that were out there and lucky for us, they had a sag wagon. Their parents were great and helped us out with water, food, etc. I still marvel at the kids' dedication, but also the parents. It was a long day! Over 6 hours of riding when all was said and done. I didn't hesitate to accept a ride from Meadows to Cooper Spur. I was done. Tim and Jason forged on. Amazing! We were so exhausted by the time we got back to the cabin, our appetizers of pizza became dinner, b/c we just didn't want to make dinner.
Sunday we woke up to rain. I decided not to go skiing, although I was considering poaching a few runs on the last day at meadows, but I don't ski in the rain. But I do bike in the rain. I wasn't happy about it at first, but we survived. The circuit race actually goes right by our cabin, so we did a couple of laps of that (40 miles, about 2.5 hours) and then called it quits. Even though I whined as I got ready to ride in the rain, it wasn't that bad. It lightened up and we were dressed for it. Perhaps over dressed, but now my pretty bike is all dirty. And that is first on my list for today. I have to clean them up and get them to the shop for a look over. One week from tomorrow and the real pain begins. Then, back to the mountain bike...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Maplelag MTB Spring Opener: Callaway, MN: May 12, 2007

Abi, Me & Alec after my pre-ride

Where the heck is Maplelag??? Northern MN, of course. When I saw a UCI race scheduled for Minnesota, I figured it would be a great trip back to the homeland to see friends and family and maybe get a few UCI points. Why not? And then to find out my teammate Emily had signed up too. It was looking to be a good weekend. I had invited my family to come up and spend the weekend at the resort, my treat. I had to entice them to come and watch, b/c I needed my fan base. I arrived in Minneapolis/St. Paul Thursday p.m. and it was HOT! I finally motivated to put together my bike and did a short spin to the river with my brother in law, Tuma. He was on his $20 Schwinn Varsity chasing down the fat guys on litespeeds. There were so many people out riding on Summit and by the river, it made me almost miss MN.

Cathy and I left Friday morning for the 4.5 hour drive up to Maplelag. It sure wasn't close, but we managed to get there at a reasonable hour and I hooked up with Emily and we went out for a pre-ride. To my surprise, there was some great singletrack on this course and also some pretty technical spots with some tight trees. It was going to be a fun race. The resort seemed quite deserted, so it was a quiet ride with only us out on the course. Jay Richards, who put on the race, was working out there and was very welcoming. I was excited to be in a spot in MN I had never been and knew the race would be fun. My family arrived soon thereafter and we were all taking in the beautiful area and our fantastic HUGE cabin with nooks and crannies everywhere. A kids paradise.


Climbing up suicide hill



RACE DAY: Saturday, 5/12
All meals at Maplelag are served family style, so 8:30 a.m. we were at the lodge getting our pre-race meal of Swedish pancakes, sausage and oatmeal. 11 a.m. was race time, so preparations started and all 7 of the pro women were called up to the front line. This was my first time on the front line at a race outside of Oregon. Bear Naked/Cannondale represented 3/7 of the racers, with Jenna Zander also being a MN native and Emily Van Meter decided to join us. Megan Monroe and Kelli Emmett came from CO and then 2 local MN racers were there. Hopefully next year we can double the numbers. It was a fast start and the fun kept on coming. I had an o.k. start, but for some odd reason, I wasn't too worried about being up in front, b/c I knew by the time we started climbing, things would shake out pretty well. And they did. Kelli was out front and I followed Jenna to the first set of singletrack and then the next one, where I proceeded to take the first of three falls on the first lap. A vine maple reached out and grabbed my handlebars and took me down so fast, but I didn't let anyone by. Not a chance. Then we looped back to the starting area and to the 'lakeside drops'. This was the second time I found myself off my bike. A silly mistake cost me a bit of time, but I was still in 3rd. A great photo sequence of my flub can be found on http://www.skinnyski.com/. Quite embarrassing and of course cyclingnews.com had to publish a pic of me "getting tripped up". Well, I rode it clean the next 2 laps.


Entering the 'lakeside drops'.

The singletrack was awesome, but I found myself scrubbing speed more than I wanted to. I think the first 2 falls made me a bit cautious. There was one set of trees that my handlebars did not fit through, so I had to stop and get through every time. See below...


Sara K-J got by me at some point and I was riding about 30 seconds behind her for the rest of the race. I just couldn't keep enough speed to catch her, so after 3 laps, I had to settle for a 4th place finish. My first podium outside of Oregon and this included flowers and cash! All in all, it was a great race and a lot of fun.

4th place podium finish

Post Race Thoughts & Happenings:
It's not after every race that you get to go canoeing on a marvelous lake right outside your cabin. The race was challenging, but I finished thinking I could have done better. I think I had more to give. I watched my fellow Oregonians in the men's race, Erik Tonkin & Evan Plews, cheering them on to a 3rd and 5th place finish respectively. The weather was awesome, the views were spectacular and my niece and nephews were having a ball. Most of my family was together and after our family style dinner, we headed out to the lake. I found out that beer doesn't taste as good out of a plastic water bottle, but one must do what one must do. Emily and I paired up with my nephew Alec and Paul and Nikolas, 2 of my brothers, had my niece Abi. Somehow it became somewhat of a 'competition' on the lake and some bumper boating. It was the first time I had been in a canoe in years. After canoeing, the party moved to the deck at the cabin. Hours passed and many beers and laughs later, race day was over. It was a great trip. I was able to spend mother's day with my mom and hopefully this will become an annual trip for us!

Paul, Emily, Alec, Sue & Musa, Abi & Nik ready to canoe

Me, Alec & Emily on Little Sugarbush Lake

Monday, May 7, 2007

NMBS#3: Fontana National: Fontana, CA: May 5-6, 2007

It has been a great week in SoCal, staying with my good friends Gina and Hal near Claremont. Wednesday I met up with my teammate Emily and we did an awesome ride in the San Gabriels out of Chantry Flats. We climbed over 2 hours to the top of Mt. Wilson on singletrack that was sometimes not rideable, then we descended down some sweet singletrack! It was a great ride and good to have some company to sample some of the local rides. Thursday I decided to go ride the course and had so much fun, I rode it three times! It was going to be a fun race! Friday Brett Nichols had his semi-pro race, so I went early and road a lap and then sat in the feed zone and handed up bottles! Tim rolled in around 7 p.m., so we picked him up at the airport and put together his bike and made dinner. And the next day was game time!

Race Day 1: Cross Country
Although Short Track has been first for the past 3 races, XC was Saturday. Race time for me was 11 a.m. Tim raced at 8 a.m., but needless to say, I didn't go with him. My start position was much better this week. I think I landed in the third row. I had a great start out of the gate and it was a super fun race! It hurt, especially the 500ft. ascent at the beginning of the lap. The sandy descents were challenging and got sandier each lap. I only messed up once on the second lap, taking a bit of a closer look at the sand. Mmmmm. It tasted great. It was a fun race and there was a little something for everyone. At times you thought you were going through a dump, and other times it was fun rocky singletrack. It was, well, interesting, but all in all, I liked the course. I had a great finish, passing 2 girls with 1K to go and was able to sprint to the finish to maintain my 17th place. Not bad. My best NMBS finish yet and and the same as Sea Otter.

finishing the XC with 2 girls on my tail...

Race Day 2: Short Track
A very late race with a 3:15 start time. It was going to be a hot one, for sure. We got to the venue plenty early with Brett racing at 2:30. The course was open at 1:30, so we checked it out. I knew it was going to hurt with the course going up the mountain cross course. We would see how it would play out with a funnel down to a single person descent towards the end of the course.
My position was great at the line. I managed to be in the second row and put myself right behind Alison Sydor. I figured she would be a good person to follow out of the gate. I had a great start and was right up there in the top 15. I had a great first lap and decided not to wait at the funnel of the descent and dismounted to run around on the right. It didn't gain me as much time as I had hoped, but didn't lose any either. By the next lap, I would be in a position to ride each time. The hill hurt every time and I lost some steam. I finished 24th.


Post Race Thoughts:

Well, I made it home today in time to unpack, nap and get a massage and go to dinner with Tim. I am really enjoying the racing. It has thus far been a great experience, especially when it allows you to spend time with people you haven't seen and visit places you haven't been. It is strange that the national mountain bike series is half over, and as Wendy pointed out on the way home from the airport, our trails haven't even really opened. I haven't really done any mountain biking in Oregon except for the Syncline and racing. Looking forward to some epic rides...