Thursday, July 28, 2005

Day 3, Johnstown to Altoona 100-mile road race

I would have stories of screaming descents in a driving and blinding thunderstorm weaving around cars in the caravan, dramatic chases and epic climbs, but I am simply too tired to tell about it.


I think that was the craziest and hardest thing I've ever done.

I finished. Not last. Nowhere near first. But I did it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Day 1, Time Trial

Wow, was this course fun!
I had a hard time getting my heart rate up while warming up, but that problem was solved in the first 1/2 mile, since the course went up over a bridge at the beginning!
All the "top riders" had TT bikes and disc wheels. Since I don't ride mine enough to be really comfortable on it in such a technical course, I opted for just my road bike - but I sooooo wished I had little shorty clip ons for the super fast downhill sections. I cracked a little in the middle right before the big hill, but I don't think I slowed up too much. I have no idea how I did. I don't think I was very fast. I didn't catch anyone, but no one caught me.

I feel good now! The pain felt good, like a return to normal, and I feel opened up. I have a sense that I'm still tired from Superweek, and I hope that doesn't catch up with me on the hilly stages like Wednesday's 100-miler.

We rode back in the dark (with a safety blinker ;) around 9:30. I have no idea how I'm going to unwind and get to sleep tonight! It's 9:45, and I'm pumped and wide awake. :) Luckily, tomorrow's circuit race doesn't start until 1 pm.

All right! Uniform is washed out for tomorrow, and food is cooking! 'Night! :)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tour de Toona, Day 1

So it's a bit hilly here...
After some initial team disorganization, things are ironing out and we're settling in.

Tonight's prologue course is very exciting. It's like a hilly crit. There are tons of corners, some short climbs, and fast downhills, but few straightaways. It's really either up or down! It's not a TT bike course, I don't think. I won't be able to shift easily because I'll rarely be out on the bars with the constant corners and terrain variation. There are only a couple of spots when the bars would really be nice. It will be very exciting! For only 3.2 miles, I'll just use my road bike. Clip-ons would be nice, but I hardly think tonight's race will affect my overall result.

I'm just hanging out now... the first woman doesn't go off until 7:30 pm.

Our accomodations in the PSU Atoona residence halls are pretty good. I slept like a log last night, except for the severe thunderstorms that ripped through here in the middle of the night. The vivid lightening was like having a cop car parked outside the window! The thunder was a constant growl, reminding me that thankfully, we don't get "real" thunderstorms near Boston.

I'm excited for the race tonight! I also hope to see some people I met at Superweek.

I'm off for a quick nap...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day 8, Carl Zach Criterium, Waukesha

Ok, now I'm tired! :) 65K on a 6-corner course with a superfast downhill turn and a rise after the first corner that was enough to hurt after an hour and a half. The first corner came relatively soon after the finish line, allowing potential for crashes, but our race stayed pretty safe.
It was HOT. Like the usual Fitchburg weather HOT. In the 90s and sunny and humid. We of course started right in the middle of the baking afternoon heat, at 2:15. I think today's race was very hard. Although I didn't have my heart rate monitor on even as a stopwatch, today definitely was closer to and hour and 45-minutes. Maybe my legs are finally feeling the week's racing, maybe the heat got to me today, tonight I am WIPED.

I came out here hoping to find my mojo, and I think I may just have done that. Getting a call-up was exciting, and allowed me to easily be at the front of the race right from the start.
I hoped to help Brooke today to repay her team for yesterday's favor and to be involed in the tactics at the front. I wanted to learn how to work with a team in a field where team tactics are constantly playing out. I chased anyone who went off the front for the first 10 laps and also won the first prime. I came out strong. After awhile of that, I realized that with 45 laps to go in the heat, I probably wouldn't make it at that intensity! So I sat in the middle for awhile. I knew I needed to be at the front for the first points sprint, because that's when Magen and Brooke were planning to break, and I needed to block with the HUB team. Leeanne from HUB and I got to the front, but Brooke and Magen weren't together, and there was a moment of confusion. I just hung out near the front for awhile.

The field strung out with the many attacks at the front, and a group did finally get away. Such a high pace meant no rest, and the pack was strung out, often single file. With 10 to go, I got on front and lead the chase. I hoped to bring things together since Brooke missed the break. I wish I had been on front when the attack originally happened, as I think I could have caught them, or at least instigated the chase. I chased for probably 5 laps, but Magen Long and a Travel Girl rider had teammates up the road, and kept pulling around me to slow my rhythm and disrupt the chase. Unfortunately, neither myself nor the pack never caught them, but at least I learned how to block properly from being in this situation! And I was active in the race.

Well, after that chasing, I didn't have much left. I had goosebumps in the heat, and felt a little lightheaded. I realized I had probably blown my finish, but felt good about being active in the race and winning the first prime. I wish I could have done more for Brooke, as did her team.

I got bumped a couple of times. Once someone tried to come around me while I chased on front through the superfast downhill turn. The turn was to the right, hard and fast, and I was all the way to the left just starting to lean into the turn, when she threw herself between me and the curb on the left, bumping my body. I have no idea what she was trying to accomplish from that move! She yelled "Woah!" for some reason. She must have scared herself with her own stupidity. But today I felt no fear in the pack or in the corners, a totally new experience for me.

I attempted to move up in the last 2 laps, but my legs had no juice. As soon as I moved up a little, I could hardly hold position as the pace quickened. I tried to go with an attack up the right side with one to go, and managed to accelerate up the side, but couldn't hold it throught the lap and finished in the pack, 34th. That's okay with me, though. I could go home after yesterday! :)

I will try to get a good finish tomorrow if I can squeeze enough juice out of my legs. I can't wait to come home and race a 20 or 25 mile crit!! With Altoona upcoming, I may not get that chance until Concord. I won't be able to post a report on tomorrow until I get home because I'm starting the long drive home straight from the race, which is at 4 pm in Bensenville, Illinois. So check back Tuesday!

I feel like I experienced more and learned more about racing in just one week than in an entire season. I hope I can put it to use tomorrow and in upcoming races, and share everything with my awesome teammates! I miss you guys, and I'm looking forward to racing with you again! I'm looking forward to talking to Kami and hearing about her experience at the development camp in Colorado!

Okay, so i'm not Tyler, but, "Thanks for reading."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Day 7, Brewer's Hill Criterium

Sometimes you've got nothing left to lose. And a friend or two, good legs, and some luck. These combined won me the stage winner's jersey today. :D

I almost didn't race today. I didn't feel well. I didn't sleep, couldn't eat this morning. I raced a 50K crit on a bottle of cytomax and a few bites of a clif bar. Legs feeling bad, I almost got dropped in the first 10 laps, and I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't let myself drop out, though. I hoped to open up and feel better, as I often do as the race continues.

The superfun course had 6 corners, with a fast descent that cornered into a climb, before the final two corners. Very poor pavement lined the fast descending corner and the climb. I liked this course a lot because I could shoot up the big ring climb and pass people every lap. I would often use that spot to advance my position.
I got my head in the game, and my legs followed suit. I rode in the front half of the pack, or even closer to the front. There were a good number of attacks, and all the riders in the top GC had teammates attacking and chasing for them. Leeanne Manderson for HUB racing was on front after chasing down Catherine Powers' teammate for Brooke O'Connor (who is in 3rd GC!). I was up front next to Brooke, who knew I was hoping to improve on my finishes or win a prime today. We came through the line and they rang the bell for a $20 prime with 5 or 6 to go. I knew I was in good position and had to go for it. We turned the first corner and began the fast descent, and I attacked. I was going early, but if I got into that descending turn first, I thought I might get a gap I could hold up the hill and all the way into the line. I also hoped that not many would go too hard for a small money prime with only a few laps left. And probably nobody in the pack viewed me as a threat.
So I jumped into the descent, and the HUB team sat up, giving me a gap into the turn. I owe them huge gratitude! I went hard and didn't look back until I took the last corner into the line, where amazingly, I saw nobody behind me. I knew I had no choice but to go for it. I jumped again and just hammered. At the next time through, I heard that I had 15-20 seconds on the field, but I still had 4 to go. I got worried about cracking and being caught, but caught my breath on the descent and pushed up the climb and in the flats. 3 to go and I still had that gap. Importantly, I was out of sight of the field. I kept thinking "out of sight, out of mind" and hoped this might work in my favor today. 2 to go, and I was hurting, but driven by the fear of being caught in the last lap! People around the course were cheering me, and I even heard my name, "Go Rebecca!" That surprised me and boosted me, as I sure don't really know any of the guys at this race! Must have been someone I just met. Also, since Magen Long has been winning everything, people were excited to see someone else out front with a chance to win.

With one to go, I heard the announcer say I had a 30 second gap, and then the realization that I might win started to hit me. I feared a puncture or some other cosmic catastrophe, but as tired as I was, pushed harder knowing it was only 1K to the line for the final time. When I came to the last 2 corners, I glanced over my shoulders and saw no one. I knew I had it without a contest. I sat up and grinned over the line, proud to win such a high caliber race in the Gearworks/Spin Arts colors.

I was through the first turn and catching my breath when the rest of the pack came through. Shocked, I rolled around the course to riders giving me pats on the back and saying things like, "Nice move" and "Great ride." I went to the announcer's stand, where I was called up, and after the men's race started, interviewed for quite awhile about everything from the course to the race to what bike I was riding (I proudly talked about my favorite Tom Stevens special) to the Gearworks shop. Then came the little podium presentation and I pulled on the stage winners jersey and shook hands with the second and third place finishers, Catherine Powers and Magen Long. :D

I think I'm still in shock. I almost decided to drive home today, but now I'm starting tomorrow's race front row, in a white winner's jersey. :D

Day 6, Shorewood Criterium

Wish I could show you how long this finishing straight was! These pics are taken from the same spot, looking up, then down toward the finish. It must have been 750 meters! A true sprint, not just a "first out of the corner wins" finish.

Tons of primes, $750 worth. Wish I could
have done something in this race. I wanted to.
Great little town. Plenty of food, beer, and people!
Lots of people partying in their yards, cheering the racers with wine glass in hand.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 5, Whitnall Park Road Race

Maybe today should have been a rest day for me. The first time I've ever raced 5 days straight, this race could easily have been spent snoozing. But there was a big bike race, just 30 minutes away, and I could sleep in and still get there, since it started at 4:30! Why drive all the way to Wisconsin and not race at very chance??

I suppose it's a bit of an experiment, really. How will I feel racing for 9 days straight? I think I might just find out.

So I drove to the race telling myself not to do it. I was tired, maybe mostly mentally, and could come back fresher tomorrow. I thought I would just go and check out the venue so I'd know what to expect if I do it next year. I had already prereg'd, and once I got there and saw everyone... well, I decided to at least start the race, maybe do a few laps, see how I feel. So I suited up, warmed up a bit, and sat at the back for awhile. I didn't really want to do anything in the race, just wanted to sit in.

The race consisted of 16 laps of a rolling 2.3-mile loop with one small climb nearing the finish. Nice course, really. Fun. Fast. At first I didn't feel motivated or strong, but by the end, my legs felt great, and I envisioned dreams of breaking away for a solo win. :) But I decided not to try anything dumb, to use the day as active rest and come back with more gas in the tank for tomorrow. I finished 31st, which means I won't even be listed on the results, and I'll drop further and further overall. But the next four days are crits, and I hope I can get in the mix. I can't believe I felt great today. I think maybe I have more in my tank than I know. I hope I can find it someday soon!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Day 4, Shaklee/MGA Proving Grounds Road Race

Another day in the Big Ring Chronicles. Really, I've raced about 10 hours in the past four days, and probably only a combined 15 minutes have been in the small ring! Crazy.

(I'm just not convinced that rollers are a good idea in the rain....)

I found today's race much harder than yesterday. Again, we rode 7 laps of a 9.5 mile loop, but started and finished on a paved track. There were a couple of climbs similar to yesterday, but a little shorter. The terrain was more rolling today.

Upon discovering cloud cover and rain in the morning, the thought crossed my mind that I should roll over and go back to sleep and call this a rest day. But what fun would that be!?!? Besides, frankly, I need to win some cash to pay for gas for the drive home!

Most of us felt cold before the race, so along with others, I opted for arm warmers. Better to have them and be able to remove them than be cold for 3 hours. I also decided to use CTodd's Spinergys instead of my Zipps (a decision that would have future consequences for me...). Those plastic spokes make them feel a bit softer, and yesterday's bumpy pavement convinced me to give them a try.

We started late, mostly due to a nasty crash at the finish of the men's fields, which unfortunately happened right in front of me. I hate seeing a crash right before I race.

I staged at the front today (as if it mattered for a 70-mile road race with a neutral .5 mile start). The rain fell harder and continued for the first couple of laps, making visibility quite difficult. When we got the first corner after the neutral start, I got out of the saddle to get over the rolling climb, and felt my legs like concrete. I couldn't believe how bad my legs felt. It was like being in the big ring when you think you're not. I thought, Damn! I'm not going to finish. This is definitely going to be a rest day!

Then I looked down at my rear wheel.

Lodged against the rear chainstay, sapping my forward momentum, the wheel gave me the problem, not my legs. A bit relieved to know my legs weren't the problem, but frustrated since I was using my lucky skewer and could no longer trust it, I dismounted and Campy support man jumped out to help. I had used these wheels and this skewer with no problems when I won Auburn, but today it didn't hold.

With the pack gone up the road, I was forced to chase in the opening kilometers. Thankfully, Campy Man paced me back... and I caught them, huffing and puffing, right at the base of the climb - oh joy! So I dangled at the bottom of the food chain (oh, I mean, back of the pack) for a few kilometers to rest. But my wheel still felt like it was rubbing a little damn! maybe it really is my legs! and when I looked down, it seemed I only had a milimeter of clearance on the left side. So the wheel wasn't really centered, or at least I didn't think it was, so I felt a little hesitant, not really trusting my equipment, and with sore legs I kept imagining it was rubbing for laps to come.

On the second lap, in almost the same location, I ended up in a little crash and ended up kind of going over my bars into the grass on the side of the road. Unhurt but amazed at my bad luck in the soaking rain today, I remounted and chased. Why did this happen before the hill both laps!? I caught them and tried to move up a little bit to catch my breath and not be in danger of being dropped dangling at the back.

Several attacks went today, and several people got away for various lengths of time. One of the first to attack, Dotsie Cowden made an awesome attack and then countered herself when caught! She was so powerful it was inspiring to watch.

After my earlier luck, and not feeling awesome, I decided to really just hang out in the pack today. I wouldn't be dropped, but I didn't feel awesome enough, well, or motivated enough to work much. So I watched things happen. I just enjoyed being there.

The onslaught began around 5 miles to go. Attack after attack, the peloton stretched into single file in the strong wind. It was all I could do to hold on to Dotsie's wheel, and I could tell she was working super hard, too, along with the rest of us. (I notice her a lot because of her sheer size! She is like 8 feet tall or something!) This was the point when I think people started getting shed off the back.

We only slowed up for a couple of moments, and basically all hell broke loose in the last mile. Attacks went and the road took several corners in very close succession. Some riders went into the gravel. If you didn't know how the finish went (like me) you were pretty much either just hanging on or in danger of causing a crash! When we hit the track, the sprint began. Already cracked, I simply gave all I could until I hit the line, at the back of the lead group. It was enough for 20th place. And after I spun down a little, I headed right over to the massage therapist's tent and got my first massage from a professional and someone I wasn't dating. :)
(And really, CTodd, I prefer yours!!)

So, it turns out that yesterday, I finished 22nd... I had thought almost everyone passed me when I cracked in the sprint. If I hadn't sat up just before the line, I might have grabbed some cash! Oh well, live and learn. I think I'm still top 20 in the overall, for what that's worth.

I got home late after visiting with my great uncle who lives in the town where the race was held today. More on that in another entry...

I didn't sleep well last night. I'm figuring out that when my body is physically stressed and tired, I don't sleep well. I have strange, vivid dreams and wake frequently during the night. So I took 2 Tylenol PM's tonight in hopes of knocking myself out, 'cause I need the sleep!!! Tomorrow's race isn't far away, and the start isn't until 4:20 pm!


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Day 3, Alpine Valley Road Race

Today was the first and most major road race at Superweek. 115K on a 10-mile loop around flat and rolling dairy farmland punctuated by two steep valley climbs and two fast descents. Another warm day, this afternoon at least had some thin cloud cover. We raced for 3hrs 50 min.

We started at a little ski area/golf course called Alpine Valley. Apparently, the women didn't really want to race today, because the first 4 laps were about the slowest race I've ever done. The climbs were similar to either Sterling, Saco Bay RR, or the Auburn RR. Short but steep, and not too long, so they suited me well. I felt AWFUL for the first 2 laps, legs of lead, so I was thankful for the slow pace. After a few laps, I opened up and actually felt quite good. But, I hung out near the back, just sitting in the pack, since nothing was happening, and really, nothing was going to, at least for awhile. The pace increased up the climbs the the later laps, and I got to the front. I climbed near and on the front for a lap or two, and had fun on the first superfast descent. The second descent of the course was absolutely HORRIBLE. The worst pavement I've ever ridden on. Two inch cracks cut across the whole road every few feet. The rattling at 40 mph shook us to the bone. My feet ached from the jostling on the pedals, and I feared actually doing damage to my bike, particularly the headset or my wheels. We all dreaded that section of road and talked about how it took more energy to descend that section than to climb. And the second hard climb came right out of that descent. On the first lap, I found myself near the back, flanking Dotsie Cowden's wheel, when her full water bottle popped loose. I gasped as I headed to collide with it, but luck saved me, and it rolled right beneath me, between my wheels. The front is a much safer place.

A couple of times up the climbs, people tried to get away, but to no avail because it was too easy to chase on the flats and nobody organized to try and get a break going. I hoped the last climb would separate the pack, because I felt good and pretty certain that I could make the selection. I got on front to be sure to respond to or go with any attacks. But instead, we slowed up after the last climb and everyone waited for the sprint. I made sure I stayed near the front.

In good position flanking the right side on the front of the field at 1K to go, I got excited. I thought I could pull off a great finish. Then at about 750 meters, the attack went from the left, and I surged from the right, but making big mistake. I didn't get right on someone's wheel. I stayed beside riders, but that also left me in the wind. The sprint accelerated, and left me in the dust since I obviously don't have a 30+ mph sprint for 750 meters! I've made this mistake before, and it cost me a good finish today. I finished towards the back of the pack.

It turns out that they only list the top 30 finishers. So, many of us who raced don't even end up in the results! To race for almost 4 hours and not even be in the results!! :(
Now that I realize this, I will be even more motivated at the finish.

A big thanks to Marci's awesome husband, Bert, for feeding me today! I would never have been able to finish without a feed. Thanks!

So, I'm still in 6th place in the overall points competition, but pretty far back in points. I will try again next crit. After yesterday's race, I was in 17th overall. I'm sure I dropped position today.

There's another 110K road race tomorrow, starting and finishing on an auto track, I think. Yay!
And damnit -- tomorrow I will finish well!!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 2, Maritime Bay Classic Crit in Manitowoc

It would be a lot easier if I didn’t want to do so well so badly.

(Okay, insert a big DUH! here. Real profound, right?)

If cycling didn’t have the lows, then the highs wouldn’t be so awesome, right?

It was a beautiful, blue sky, 90 degree day. Another big, strong field lined up for a 4-corner, pancake flat, rectangle crit. This was a ride hard, turn left crit. Wide roads and corners kept things relatively safe, although there were two or three crashes, two of which happened near the end when everyone fought for position. 55 laps of .7 miles each spelled another hour-and-a-half crit. The pace stayed hard and fast due to the points sprints and primes. The distance from the last corner to the finish line was not very long, so being one of the first three or maybe four was essential to have a shot at winning any lap. Chances were slim, though, with Kathrine Powers and Megan Long dominating the field. And did I mention the headwind??

My biggest obstacle is dealing with positioning in races. I have the fitness, that is clear to me right now. What I don’t seem to have is the kahunas. I have a real hard time moving up to the front, and when I get there, I can’t stay there. I get wigged out by how close and fast and aggressive everyone is up front.

I was too far back to go for the first points sprint. (There were 3 – at 40, 30, and 20 laps to go.) That made me frustrated from early on. I got to the front for the second sprint, but crossed the line 6th, and points only went 5 deep. I don’t even remember being in position to go for points the third time, maybe I did, but no soup for me. I got to the front in time to get in the mix for some primes within the last 10 laps, but I never got closer than third or fourth. I did gap the field on one attempt, though. On the lap when I was in best position for the prime, I was fourth in line going into the 3rd and 4th corner. The girl in front of me clipped her pedal hard into the ground, and she bounced hard. I don’t know how she stayed up. But I had to coast for a split second to keep from hitting her, and then I was gapped. I tried to stay on front, responding to attacks and surges, but could only do that so long. As soon as I tried to get on a wheel and sit in near the front, I lost position and in the blink of an eye, was at the back again. I don’t know how it happens so fast. I just can’t hold my position. And when I tried to move up again, it was just too late. With just a few laps to go, the pack was curb to curb, and the tempo was so fast I couldn’t advance. A crash in the third turn on the last lap jostled things up a bit, and luckily I wasn’t involved, but I had to settle for finishing at the back of the pack.

I find it very frustrating to do well one day and not so well the next when the field is exactly the same. I know I could have sprinted with these girls, I did yesterday.

The next three days are long road races, but I have a feeling that they aren’t going to be like road races back home. There aren’t enough hills out here. Tomorrow and Tuesday have 9-mile loops and Wednesday's a 2-mile circuit. Judging by the race profiles, I think they will be sprinter-fests. Maybe I can finish well. I hope to forget about today and look to tomorrow.

I wonder how Kami’s doing in Colorado. I heard there are a lot of girls we know out there… more than the three we knew of. Marci Titus Hall raced here today! It was fun to see her. Brooke O’Connor has been ripping up the pavement here the past two days as well. She’s been riding so well.
I wonder how everyone’s doing back home… Send an email or leave a comment here!

Sweet chopper bikes in a storefront window on the course! :) Tom, can you make me one of these??

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Superweek, Day 1

Today was the first race in the women's pro 1/2/3 series. The start time was late afternoon, 3:45 pm, so I got some much needed rest this morning. I drove about 90 miles north to the top of Lake Winnebago and the sleepy, clean town of Menasha.

Yes, my friends, there really is an East Oshkosh!

Lotsa wind, too. These wind turbines were really cooking!

Okay, so I guess you are probably not interested in anything but the racing!!
So moving on to the important stuff...

This was the longest crit I've ever done. 50 laps, .8 of a mile each lap! A full field lined up, I'm guessing around 50 women, but the numbers went up to around 75, so maybe it was more. Apparently staging is a skill I haven't learned yet, because yet again, I started at the back. Guess I just need to get good enough to get call ups every time. ;)
Basically a triangle downtown, the course had both a LONG, wide finishing straight and a long, wide backstretch with a couple of 270 degree turns and another open turn like a curve. Frankly, it got a little old after lap 40....

There's a points sprint competition at this series, kind of like a race within a race. There were 3 points sprint laps during the race, and the points go 5 deep. The first I was not in good position to contest, but I decided to go for the next two. I got 4th place twice, enough to finish in 5th place in sprint points for the day. There are some great sprinters here! One girl from Oklahoma was very strong, I feel bladly that I can never remember people's names. I'll have to look it up. I'm going to mix in up in all the points sprints from now on! Fun!!

Today I wanted to work on being more comfortable in the pack, staying in good position, and being aggressive at the right moments. I also wanted to finish top ten. I accomplished much of this, although I finished 11th (10th in the pack). I think I probably didn't conserve sometimes, but I really was having more fun being active at the front for awhile. I bridged to a group that countered after a points sprint, when I perhaps should have let the pack chase. I chased another attack as well, and pulled the pack with me. And I went for two of the points sprints, so I was pretty wiped about an hour into the race. I saw my highest heart rate ever after one of those sprints... 184 bpm.

I just kind of sat in for awhile, until 5 to go. I really was tired, and in ways I've never felt in a crit. It wasn't as much my legs as the rest of my body! My back was very sore, my left wrist hurt uncomfortably, and I almost found it hard to pay attention at times, especially because the loop became a bit monotonous. The rough pavement everywhere except the finish straight must have taken a lot out of me. I thought about it, and I don't think I've ever raced in the drops for over an hour and a half. I know, I know, wimp!! :) Guess that's all changed, as all the crits this week are long! So are the road races!

Back to back primes with 5 and 4 laps to go kept the pace high to the end. I moved up before the last prime, although I decided to save my legs and stay in the pack. I got up towards the middle of the front with 2 to go, and went along with any attacks that came from the sides. I stayed up at the front, probably 5th in line, and we were hauling, stringing the front out into single file. Around the last corner, people jumped. I went, but made a mistake. I should have stayed right on someone's wheel, and instead, I ended up in the wind. It was a long finish straight, and I guess I didn't have my best sprint left in me. I thought I finished 9th in the pack (there was one woman off the front who finished several second off the front), but the results had me as 11th, so I counted wrong. I was happy to be up there!

I got bumped in one of the corners, and stayed up. I was in front of a crash that happened early on, and I was more aggresive in terms of getting good positioning in the pack. I still have to learn to put myself consistently in a tucked in position. I'll get there soon! I get to practice again tomorrow afternoon! I am going for all the points sprints. I hope to do well in the overall points series. I really love going for primes and sprints!

The only problem with late starts is that you get home late! I'm exhausted, and need to sleep now. I hope this entry was coherent! I feel delirous.

I will sleep dreaming of sprinting. :)

Long-Winded Road Trip Report! Trip to Wisconsin for 9 days of Racing at SUPERWEEK!!

Pulling out of my driveway at 3 pm on Thursday, I decided that no plan was the best plan. The trip would be simple: drive, eat when I wanted, and sleep when I needed.

Admittedly, mid afternoon seems a strange time to leave on a 16-hour drive, but Ohio is much more enjoyable in darkness. Really, you don’t miss much by not seeing Ohio. Cleveland might even look better at night, and myriad stars burst from the clear sky through my open sunroof. The rest stops on the Ohio Tpk seem safer for sleeping, too, because there are so many others there doing exactly the same thing. Besides the fact that Burger King is the only pseudo-food establishment open at rest stops on the endless monotony of the New York Thruway after 8 pm, my plan to leave in the mid afternoon suited me perfectly. Armed with peanut butter and jelly, I battled through the night.

Around midnight somewhere in Ohio, I felt it was time to snooze for awhile. I pulled off the roadway to a rest stop with nothing but bathrooms, vending machines, and more than a dozen tractor trailers dormant and idling like snoring, sleeping beasts. Laying my pillow across my passenger seat, I pushed up my arm rest and curled up fetal-style in the front of my car, feet against the door and knees pinned under the steering wheel. I instantly fell into a fitful and nightmarish sleep. The idling of those huge engines infiltrated my lucid dreams, and I believed they were driving at my car, ramming it, intending to kill. I swear that when I was younger I saw this old movie about a crazed lunatic in a red tractor trailer relentlessly hunting down some poor guy in a brown 70s sedan. I relived that in my dream, with a psychotic driver out to kill me. I awoke at 1:15 with my heart pounding nervously, and decided it was time to move on.

I repeated my sleep attempts somewhere just west of Toledo around 3 am. This time I stopped at a travel plaza and slipped my car between the couple dozen other silent ones in the well-lit parking lot, and went in to brush my teeth. It’s a bit surreal, stepping out of a rest stop in the wee hours of the morning only to see a parking lot full of dark, resting cars, their drivers and passengers asleep inside. I made myself part of the scene, and slept soundly until 5 am.

I drove west as the sky behind lightened with the coming dawn. Somewhere a short way up ahead was Indiana, the self-proclaimed “Crossroads of America” as the state proudly touts on its welcome sign. I haven’t been to Indiana in a long time. Since Homecoming at IU in 2001 perhaps. The sun rise beckoned me home again as I crossed the border, and yes, I did feel like I was… “back home again, in Indiana.” There were deer in the fields along the side of the road, and fog blanketed the land. The sheer beauty of the scene startled me after battling through Ohio in the dark.

I can’t believe how unreliable I-90 is in this country. CTodd and I encountered this problem a couple of weeks ago in Albany when it took us an hour to LEAVE the town because they CLOSED I-90. (A host of well-intended people giving shoddy directions around the construction aggravated the problem, but that’s not for this story.) Already on this trip, construction in New York delayed me, construction in Cleveland had routed me off of 90 and onto another route for several miles, and now, just as I paid my toll at the end of the Indiana Toll Road and anxiously awaited seeing Chicago up ahead, the toll collector woman handed me my change and said almost non-chalently, “Oh, the road is closed ahead, there’s been a crash. [I’m really surprised she didn’t say “wreck” like most people in Indiana do.] You’ll have to either get off here [pointing to the exit immediately after the toll] or exit 23, which will take you to 94.” Huh? I-90 closed again?? Must’a been a helluva wreck.

I tried exit 23, which looked like the best choice, and I encountered traffic from morning commuters, as it was now around 8:30 am. The atlas showed a highway that would take me north and reconnect with 90 further ahead. Only, I must have missed the exit, because the exits signs posted road names, not route numbers, and the map only had route numbers. Who would have known the local road names instead? I should have continued west over the Illinois state line then gone north on 94 to 90, but exit 2 looked so tempting in the traffic… through Hammond then reconnected with 90… so it appeared. Thus began my misguided tour of Gary and East Chicago, Indiana.

If you haven’t seen Gary, don’t. Well, just don’t come with high hopes and money in your pocket. Maybe lock your doors. The former murder capital of our country has its problems. And it’s ugly industrial and run-down with a stench in the air. Probably a booming city in a century past, those days are gone. As I drove past the oil refineries, I saw mounted on a telephone pole a large photo of the high school girl’s softball team, nice-looking white-uniformed girls smiling proudly. Just beyond the pole, the black skeleton-like metal torches of the burning oil refineries polluted the clear blue sky. Maybe what’s so frighteningly ugly to me is hardly noticeable to those who have grown up and lived among it.

As I passed through East Chicago, I thought of my friend, Arturo, from college marching band. He told me of the mariachi band his family played in. Everything in the town was in Spanish. Everywhere was Mexican food, and I’ll bet it was all good! I wanted to stop and eat, but 9 am was a bit early for enchiladas.

I found the Chicago Skyway on the other side of East Chicago. I got on it and paid the toll, thrilled to leave my detour behind and see the Windy City just ahead. The spectacular view of Chicago from the skyway lit my anticipation. More road construction ahead, though, and I ended up missing the exit to Lake Shore Drive! I won’t mention how long I drove around in a run down-scary section of South Chicago, mapless, trying to find a road that would connect with Lake Shore Drive. Revival anyone? My road atlas only threw me farther off, but to shorten this long-winded story, I finally found it.

I have been to Chicago before, and experienced all the typical “tourist” activities: going to the top of the Sears Tower, Navy Pier, the Art Institute, the planetarium, eating at the original Pizzeria UNO, walking around and seeing the gardens and fountains, etc. (Although I didn’t get to and would really love to see the CSO!!) This time I parked my car along Lake Shore drive in one of the many free lots they have, mounted my bicycle, and rode along the awesome waterfront path with breathtaking views of the city. Yes, I drove all the way from Boston to Chicago and a bike ride was my first activity. Dork, I know. I rode down to Navy Pier and had some ice cream. Boy did I stick out like a sore thumb in my full Gearworks kit with my bike sitting in the sun on the pier. :)

The wind blew hard along the lake. I rode for almost 2 hours, and my legs felt good. While on the path, a rider rode past me in an Indiana U cycling jersey! An old striped one. I grinned from ear to ear. I also saw two other people about my age wearing Little 500 t-shirts, and I swear I recognized one of the guys. I wanted to talk to these people! While in Chicago, I also drove into the city and walked around and ate lunch (in regular clothes ;-), but no need to go on about that.

I continued on to Milwaukee around 3:30 (well, 2:30 I guess, time is one hour back), in crazy, ridiculous traffic. I think everyone leaves the city and heads north for the weekend. I will take Boston drivers any day to what I’ve experienced out here. NOBODY uses directional signals, and they cut right in front of you and everyone slams on their brakes. People are crazy lane-changers around here. Yikes. I hope they ride bikes safer…

So here I am in a suburb of Milwaukee, about 10 minutes from the city. It’s much like Delaware here, only greener. My host, Chris, is awesome, and has made every effort to make me feel totally at home. I was looking forward to meeting racers from other parts of the country, but they aren’t arriving until later next week. So I have my own bed and web access and a nice yard to relax in. Oh, one of the other racers staying here from San Diego I found out last night is none other than Bonnie Bourque, formerly from NEBC! Small world. :)

Well, I’ve got to get ready for today’s race! It’s a late afternoon start, 3:45 pm, so I’ve had plenty of time to relax this morning. I hope I find my mojo this afternoon!