Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tour of Walla Walla: April 20-22, 2012

Sea Otter was too far away and too expensive to be so slow so far away from home. Tour of Walla Walla was the perfect way to spend a long weekend with the boys. No, I didn't race with them, but Tim was going with his team, so I tagged along and did some road racing with a talented bunch of ladies. It was fun. We left Portland in the pouring rain and 50 degrees, so preparing for it to be almost 80 for the weekend seemed, well, impossible. I packed for the 'just in case', but luckily, all those warm clothes stayed in the bag. We had a great weekend. 
Friday the road race was later in the day. 4 p.m. 42 miles. I did my usual sit in the front too much, kind of checking out who was there. Made a go for the QOM on the first lap and got 3rd. I should have sat further back, but it was fine (even though the ref gave me 4th). The final lap was hard and I got boxed in a bit on the sprint, thus not really sprinting, struggling to breathe and legs said ouch! 8th was the best I could do. 
The crit was in the heat of the day, but only 30 minutes long. We were delayed and got to sit in the sun for a bit longer and I acquired my first burn on the season. Sunscreen would have helped. Oops. But I had fun in the crit, tried go gain some time back, sprinting for time primes, getting a few. Maybe I should have gone for the cash, but I needed seconds, b/c I knew my TT skills were not in top form. I got 3rd in the crit pulled myself into 2nd in the GC. My TT was at 5:58. I still have not figured out how to get aero enough. I passed my 30 second gal by the top of the hill, but she passed me when I couldn't shift back into the big chain ring and even when I did get it rolling, I could not pass her again until the end. I had an o.k. TT and got 5th, putting me back into 4th in GC. 
We had an unfortunate turn of events in Room 304 at the comfort inn and suites on Saturday night. Tim was up all night puking. He was 3rd in GC. Had a great TT and now he was out. It was a long night, but on the way to the race, he started thinking he could do it. He rallied. Tried to eat something and then suited up for the start. I thought he was crazy. It was 80 degrees, he was already dehydrated and empty, but he had to figure it out the hard way. He had nothing. He is not superman & unfortunately he had to quit. I would have started.
I, however, was feeling fine. Yes, I felt like I had raced 3 races in two days and the heat was a shocker, but I was ready to have some fun. I had nothing to lose. I had never done this race and it was 64 miles, 2 laps. My coach had said, well, on the first lap attack and attack on the last hill and see what happens. Well, nothing happened except I got one hell of a good workout and may have made a few people suffer. We actually had one girl off the front until about mile 60. Lots of chatter in the peloton and as much as I wanted to get away, it was not possible. I didn't have enough and there was too strong of a group. It was a really good race. Hilary had said, well, at least lets win a stage. I agreed. I couldn't move up in GC, but I still had a sprint in me. She gave me a fantastic lead out, but I thought I had to stay to the right of the center line (stupid Oregonian), so when the gal started coming in towards me on the center line, I kind of bumped back and some smart person used the whole road and snuck around on the left. Oops. I got 2nd. I so had it. But my stupidity and not listening cost me the stage win. And I didn't get any time back, so stayed in 4th GC.
It was a great race and I encourage any regional racers out there who have not done this race to do it. I may even go back. It is well run. A great area. Great courses and a lot of fun. Not to mention a lot of good wine in the area. Too bad Tim was too busy being sick so we didn't even grab any wine post race. 
And I apologize for no pictures. I will try to find some somewhere. But with no podiums, I really had nothing to take pics of. I'll post some if I find some somewhere. Cheers. Now off to AZ for some dirt riding. It's about time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mountain biking will always make it better! April 14-15, 2012

Flowers and cash. I guess it was worth it.
It's taken me a couple days to reflect and think about how to write a post about this past weekend. Or if I should at all, but for those that actually READ this blog faithfully, I felt an obligation. As you all know, I started out as a dirt racer. I still consider myself a dirt racer, but also find myself doing more and more of that other stuff, you know, road racing. (Shhhh. Don't tell anyone.)  It is essential because one, there are not enough mountain bike races and second, sometimes they do actually help. Especially stage races & I can't afford the dirt ones. And I really do like racing my bike. It is fun. Well, Saturday was not fun. And to compound the un-fun about it, I was only doing it because the Gorge Fat Tire Festival was cancelled. 
Kings Valley road race is a 3 lap, 56 mile road race on rolling terrain in a potentially super windy area. I had done it a few years ago and gotten whooped by Jade Wilcoxson in the sprint. I think I got 3rd.  I remember that being a good solid race. And Kendra was making me do it. I had a choice. Race with the women or get dropped by the men. Masters was not an option at this one. I really do like racing with the women. I do not think I am above them or faster than them and I like to support the growth in women's racing. I only raced with the masters at Piece of Cake, b/c of the length of the race. 35 miles with the women was too short. Thus, I was excited about Kings Valley. As excited as I could be. It would be my first road race of the season with the women. (aside from Rose Garden circuit).  Although still very early season for me, I was starting to get some fitness back.
It was a beautiful day. The 1/2/3's race together and there were 30 of us. Not bad. And there were at least 3 teams with 4 or more gals. One team had 6 (20% of peloton). Another 5. I thought we were in for a tough day, which equates to good racing and a lot of fun. I could not have been more wrong. I walked away from that race disappointed. I know we can do better Oregon Ladies!!! That was not a race! Being 'out of shape', I still sat on the front too much, made some attacks, got away once for about 8-10 minutes in the head wind. But NOBODY DID ANYTHING!!!  I go into races knowing I am somewhat 'marked', but I am not the only one now. There are a lot of strong women out there! I realize road racing is not about working hard, redlining for the entire race. I know it is about conserving and being smart. It's not a TT, etc, etc, etc. But come on! At least race! DO SOMETHING!!! The entire group let 2 people just roll off the front. No reaction. Nothing. I figured it wasn't my responsibility.  I did push the pace as much as I could, trying to get my heart rate up, but I couldn't sit on the front the entire time. And I didn't. In fact, the 3rd lap I was so angry, so discouraged, I just sat in. Decided, well, I can play this game too. I know my sprint needs work, so figured if it came to that, I wasn't going to win, but I wasn't there to win. I was going to try, but heck, if I got beat, fine. At least I wanted to get a good solid race under my belt before Walla Walla. I know others have more invested in 'winning', and road racing is their focus, but I was just plain bored. I have to say, although it was not a sweet victory, I am glad I won. I was alone. No team. I don't have a sprint yet. I almost got taken out in the sprint. And in spite of all that, I won. If road racing is a team sport,  we have a lot of work to do in our local peloton. I think these races can be GREAT learning opportunities for new teams, new racers and making the sport more dynamic and competitive. If we are working at making each other faster, smarter, etc., we are not doing it well. Let's learn from this, move on and for goodness sakes, ladies, let's RACE!!! It's not supposed to be easy. It should hurt. It should make you walk away from it with satisfaction. You can go ride endurance pace on your own. I guess what I came away with after that race is that the masters boys are going to be seeing a bit more of me this year.

Unbeknowst to me, a BEER prime for first lap winner. I gave away 23/24 bottles.
OK, enough ranting about Saturday. Once I started, I couldn't stop. Tim and I went straight to the cabin post race. It was a long drive, but we had mountain biking on our mind. And it was so worth it. A nice relaxing night at the cabin and then we met up with Chad Sperry to check out the network of trails in the Dalles where the cancelled races were going to be. We rode for almost 3 hours. We couldn't stop. Dirt loving is addictive. Lap after lap. Smiles on the downhill. It took all the anger away from the prior day. (until I brought it up again. Sorry). The fun never ends when riding singletrack. Looking forward to more of that soon. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Racing myself into shape! Three races in four days: April 5-8, 2012

Mudslinger may have been the kick off, but then it has been game on! 3 races in 4 days. Almost a little mini stage race. But it has also been fun. Seeing everyone that I have not seen in a long while and getting my ass kicked by the boys. It's been a big welcome back party to bike racing. And now I need a massage. Good thing I have a day off.

THURSDAY, April 5 was the inaugural Rose Garden Circuit Race. It hurt. A lot. But I managed to pull off a win in the wet pavement, riding very cautiously around corners and just suffering up the long hill. It was nice to have Hilary push me, b/c I could have very easily gone backwards on that one.

SATURDAY, April 7 was Piece of Cake. I won this race last year and really like the circuit with the 3+ miles of gravel in it. It is windy as heck out there, but this year, the women were only racing 35 miles. It was a pretty hard decision to make, b/c 35 sounded much easier than 52, but I needed to do the 52, so I raced with the Master's men. Against Tim and his team. And they made it hard. In fact, off the gun, they attacked in to the gravel, which I knew they were going to do, but my legs just could not go. I got popped. Settled in with a group of guys, pulling more than my fair share, b/c I wanted back in with the lead group (always competitive no matter what). At one point, Karsten Hagen, who had flatted, came into our group. Rotated a bit to rest up and then all of a sudden, it was just he and I. I grabbed that wheel and did not leg go. It was motor pacing at it's best, but without the exhaust (& great calves to focus on.)

I was gassed, but we made it back to the lead group and I was stoked for the rest. Until the gravel came again. And then I saw Tim on the side of the road. I hesitated, then knew it was the right thing to do. I pulled over to give him my wheel. After a less than perfect wheel change (read: total debacle) we were off, he dropped me and I was solo. But smiling. There was a small group behind me and I saw them making their way forward. I was relieved to have company and again, we worked hard, I pushed the pace and was still motivated. To at least catch Tim who was dangling a minute or so ahead of us alone in the wind. He caught a small group and then our group caught his group towards the end of the third lap. It was game on. I was going to try to beat Tim. Of course, it didn't happen. But I sprinted for my 16th place. And I got a great workout!

 SUNDAY, April 8 I was forced to do a TT. It was the only way I was going to practice, so off to PIR we went for a closed circuit lap formation TT. I was the first person off, unfortunately. But after one lonely lap, I was in traffic. I got chased down by Jessica Cutler, but not passed. WHEW! Success. Got 3rd, which for my first time on that bike this year, it felt pretty o.k.  As good as a TT bike can feel. And then I got to take a ride with Lindsay afterwards, which just about fried my legs. After getting home, we went out for Easter burgers. They were great. And well deserved.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring has sprung, bike racing has begun! April 1: Mudslinger!

Well, I couldn't put it off any longer. April 1 was the start of my spring/summer season, whatever it may be. It is going to be a mix of mountain and road, local, regional and national. But however it goes, it got off to a really muddy start. I like mud. I dressed appropriately and the only thing miserable about me was my legs. They got a bit cold, but more the fact they just weren't working so well. Don't worry, I already got the reassurance from my coach that some day I will be fast again. Just not yet. I'm thinking December/January would be a good call. Am I starting too early???
Mudslinger is a love/hate thing with people. I have a friend who raced it once and has never raced her mountain bike again in a XC race. But it is a classic. Despite the crappy weather, how can you not go? I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and my indecisiveness on what to wear lasted right up to the gun pretty much, but I did make some fantastic choices. And I stayed mostly warm. Never got hot, like I thought I may dressed in so many clothes. But maybe I wasn't climbing fast enough? Hmmm. There's a thought. After the chilly neutral roll out, we got down to the start and the gun went off. I just went. But then Alice went by and I had nothing to follow with. I watched her ride away. I was in second pretty much from the gun to the finish. I still enjoyed myself. I descended the water bars like a small child, but rode the slick, slippy singetrack pretty well. I killed the flat fire roads. :) But all in all it was a good start to the season and it kind of felt like a cx race cleaning up. Good thing I am really good at that!
Tim, although he started racing forever ago, had a great race and took the top step on the 45+ masters cat 1 race. I didn't expect anything less!

My first place Timmy!

P.S. Is the purple too much? It just felt kind of springy. And I took the background photo last summer. The colors of the flowers make me happy, although I know today was a tease and it is going to rain all week.

P.P.S. I finally opened an etsy shop. Selling stationary I make on my days off. Trying to fund my season.  They are also available at River City Bicycles. Click here to get some!