Monday, May 22, 2006

Inches from a Double

Ok... so I've neglected updating my blog. Life has felt like a whirlwind lately. I'll start with what at this point I suppose qualifies as old news.

Sterling was definitely one of those days when I had hard time deciding to race. The weather in New England has never been so predictable: rain. More rain. There was so much rain on the highway on the drive out to Sterling that morning, that I had to wonder whether I'd actually hydroplane on my bike. I figured the conditions were at least prepration for cyclocross season if nothing else, and since I love cross so much, I may as well tough it out. Besides the weather, I woke up with a sore throat feeling sick. Naturally, I decided that racing in the cold rain is perfect for sickness. I just had to do what I love to do.

My biggest fan (my dad) came to watch me race despite the poor conditions for spectating. And I'm so glad he did. I felt really strong and was very happy to get in a break with Kam, and we rode pretty hard. Since my dad stood out in the rain for 6 laps cheering me on, I was thrilled to be able to win. He had never seen me win a race, so hearing his voice as I charged to the line meant so much to me. Thanks, Dad, for putting up with your daughter and her crazy infatuation with cycling.

The original plan was to continue straight from Sterling to Bear Mtn. for Sunday's race. I still felt sick, my knees were aching, and the rainy4+ hour drive sounded torturous. After much deliberation on my part - let's just say I'm not always the best at making decisions - Ward is a saint for putting up with me - we decided to head back home, set the alarm for 3:50 am, then make the call. I woke at 3:50 feeling better than the morning before, and that was encourging. I wanted to race, like Bear Mtn, and knew I would regret it if we didn't go. Ward packed the car in minutes and we were off before the sun by 4:30 am.

I didn't feel so great during the race. The cold rain from the day before took more out of my legs than I realized. On the second of the 4 laps, my legs felt crappy and I was climbing mid-pack when I saw 2 Advil girls make a move off the front. I reacted fast and caught them swiftly. I turned back and was surprised to see that 4 of us had a growing gap on the field. I stifled a chuckle in response to a bossy comment meant to shame us into working and looked back to see where the field was and whether it was worth my effort to try to make this break work. I decided to do it, charged, then they followed suit. We pacelined and eventully grew about 8 minutes on the main field, I think. There was a chase group less than 4 minutes back by the finish. My legs weren't great, so it felt like a long 56 miles. I have played the finish over and over in my head maybe a thousand times since! I was patient. I didn't follow the early attack around 700 meters. One more gear up on that downhill finish and I know I would have had it. The finish tape showed how close it was. I was just inches behind on the line.

Monday, May 08, 2006

je ne sais quoi

Aah, Jiminy. What feels different about Jiminy compared to other races? It has that je ne sais quoi of epic potential. Although I suppose our 60km can hardly qualify as epic. So after I jumped too early and cracked on the climb, the pack caught me and subsequently spit me out like stale chewing gum. I watched everyone duke it out for the top 6 places, all the while thinking, "Damnit!! There it goes: another year and no mug!!" Yeah, I made a big mistake. I started the race with a growling stomach and then didn't eat anything and barely drank anything during the race. (Partly because I didn't want to take my hands off the bars for fear I'd die in a very squirrely open field.) I had felt good, but I really think I just simply ran out of juice. I just suddenly couldn't go anymore. By the time I got back to my car I was shaking and feeling a bit dizzy. I did finish - I'm just not listed in the results, so I don't even have to tell you where. ;-) Oh, if I could do it again! Well, I guess I can... next year.

I think my legs were still recovering on Sunday from Saturday's fuel depletion because they felt tired and heavy warming up. I opened up once the racing began, though, and the Wheelworks women put me to the test with constant attacks. Oh! And I LOVED THIS COURSE!!!! The Williams course was sooooo much fun!! I think I must have been smiling on my bike through the pain. I managed to get off the front with Amy, which was sure to succeed with Kami and the rest of the Verizon team keeping things contained behind us. While Amy and I slowed our tempo over the last 5 laps, the pack sped up with multiple riders trying to break. This meant that as we crested the hill with only one to go, the pack was visible charging up behind us! With Wheelworks riders on front of the charge, I knew Amy would be the cat not the mouse on this lap. I felt we really could be caught, decided my best choice was to go unexpectedly early. I scurried at the tennis courts and never looked back. It was a long uphill sprint, and I was lucky to hit the line first. What a fun race!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Stars Align

I guess the stars aligned. And little luck and some proper execution also came together to get me a win at the Palmer road race on Sunday. I managed to remain patient most of the race and then put myself on the Advil-Chapstick team's lead out train at the finish. Luckily, I came around all of them!

Saturday at Sturbridge I felt great but botched the finish. I would comment that the ambulance on the course and police motioning for us to slow down at 1K to go didn't help the situation, but that would be an excuse that doesn't cut it. I wasn't patient, and didn't choose the right wheel. Got out front too early, then boxed in when attacks went up the sides. I ended up at the back in a blink, then popped out into the wind on the side and drag sprinted myself to an insignificant 9th place. But I felt strong and capable of winning, and I'm happy with that.

I am so encouraged by the level of women's racing in New England this spring. Ok, I admit that this was not the case after my experience at Turtlepond... I was very frustrated by the "chase everything and sit up and ride slow" mentality of the pack that day. But this weekend alleviated my fears of a slow season. The races were active and relatively fast. A couple of teams such as Advil-Chapstick and Wheelworks and several strong individual riders kept things lively, and I had tons of fun. I look forward to Jiminy and Williams this weekend!

Somehow, between the races this weekend, I found time to see an amazing performance at the Wang Theatre Saturday night. G-Man took me to see Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. Absolutely amazing! I was moved almost to tears several times, goosebumps most of the show. An unbelievable union of athleticism and artistry. Go see them someday!!!! I know next to nothing about dance and fell in love with it. The music was awesome, too, all jazz and African-American spirituals.