Monday, April 23, 2007

New Team, New Season

Meet my awesome new team for this summer! I'm racing for the new NEBC Elite Women's Team. (Dave Chiu's doing an awesome job with the website!) I'm very happy to have such wonderful teammates this year. And thanks to Dave and Roy from the men's squad for your cheers and support, especially on Saturday. Congrats, Roy, on your win!

We made our first team appearance Sunday at the Miles Standish Grand Prix in Plymouth, Mass. As we lined up for the start of the P/1/2/3 women's race, the announcer said, "Wow, NEBC has a huge team this year!" There we were, all 7 of us, in our red, white, and blue on the line with Brooke there to direct. (Alie, lucky girl, is off vacationing in California, so we'll have to wait for next weekend to race as a complete squad.) We learned so much as a team on Sunday. Everyone attacked, everyone contributed, and we came away with the win. Learning to race as a team will make this a fun and rewarding season!

Although held in the same Miles Standish State Park as the Adelphia Grand Prix in years past, the course was changed to remove the bumpy descent and left hand turn into the downhill finish. This year, the 5-mile loop went around clockwise (the opposite direction), still included the same hill, but also some roads out by the pond. The finish came past the registration/parking area on the right and had a slight rise to the line. I enjoyed the course, but it was hard to get away in the rolling terrain, bumpy roads, and wind. All of us we were active, Amy attacked first and got the pace high in the first lap, then Natalie went off the front with a great move. Neither move stuck, but every effort kept the other teams working and chasing. Both IBC and the Anthem/Blue Cross teams made attacks, and Tami, Suzanne, Ashley, and Cris worked to reel them in. Two Harvard racers and and IBC racer (Sam for IBC, I think... sorry I don't have names, Anna and maybe Eve for Harvard... I will definitely be learning these names this season!) Got a good gap off the front for a couple of miles. I eventually bridged up, but the break was doomed to fail, since we were neutralized when the junior field passed us. This caused the slowest part of our race. Things settled down, and I sat in to rest for the finish. Sitting in is difficult for me, since I love to attack and chase, but I knew my team was working for me, and I had to come through for them. The pace picked up through the rollers a couple of miles to go to the finish. Our team was well set up near the front of the field, with Cris and Natalie lined up in front of me. Then, a Harvard rider went off the front (maybe Eve?) with a hard attack. Our train "broke" and I surfed different wheels as we caught her and the pace increased. An IBC rider (Sam) started the sprint with a very hard jump, and I jumped to her wheel. It was maybe 400 meters out... I stayed on her wheel until the last 50-75 meters or so, then shot past her for the win. We've got some things to work on as a team, but this was a great beginning. I felt much more relaxed and comfortable racing with teammates around me, knowing that they were there to help me (for that race, anyways). I know this is the start of a great season to come!

Saturday at the Turtle Pond Circuit Race in New Hampshire, I raced with my two teammates, Tami and Natalie. Turtle Pond is an 11-mile rolling circuit with a 1 K climb to the finish line each lap. The climb has a "step" in the middle and then flattens out a bit at the top, with a hard drag to the finish line. I like this hill because it's a sprinters hill! And I know if I can get to the flatter section at the top at the front, I have a good sprint to beat others to the line.

The weather was awesome. Upper 60's and sunny! No leg warmers, no arm warmers. I thought the sudden heat might actually play a factor during the race, I was baking before the start, so I made sure to hydrate well before the start (naturally, this strategy led to a bursting bladder by the time we got to the finish). Tami had a mechanical at the end of the first lap, just at the start of the hill, and was left to chase for most of that lap. She didn't give up, but chased hard and rejoined the pack. The third lap, 4-5 of us had a little gap going up the hill, but any thoughts of a breakaway were squelched when the pace car slowed down and honked at us to neutralize at the top of the climb! Oh, how frustrating!! I felt so good up the hill. But I decided I would certainly feel good again the next lap, and I knew I could rail it to the finish line. Tami did a lot of work keeping the pace high for the last lap, since we were neutralized several times during the race and things got slower each lap. With maybe 2-3 miles to go, an IBC/Wachovia girl (I think it was Sam) launched a very effective attack. IBC was all stacked up at the front. I was up there, too, and so was Tami. Nat was on my wheel. Sam got a big gap, but I didn't have to decide to risk it to go after her so close to the finish climb, because Tami was awesome. She got on front and reeled things back together before the final right hand corner before the climb. Whew! I started the climb in the second row, center, on Suzanna's (UNH) wheel. She accelerated a little just before the first step, and it opened up enough of a gap for me to get out to the front of the group. Anna (Harvard) attacked from behind me at the step and opened up a gap. I had to chase. I caught her near the top, where the road flattens out, shifted up, and sprinted past her for the win. Natalie held on for 7th, and Tami, spent when she hit the climb from all the work she did, rolled in at 18th. Yay!

I would like to add one more comment on the weekend....
Anyone want to guess how much moola the winner of the P/1/2/3 women's field earned for her team at Miles Standish on Sunday?? Just venture a guess....

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yes, It's true

Oh, no! It can't be true!

Not the steel-loving, frame pump using, fender-happy, still training on Rolf wheels from 2001 Rebecca that I know....

Oh, but my love, it IS true.

It's ready.
I'm ready.
The new rocketship. Aboard this I'll propel myself through space and time.

Let's race!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Intro to Race Weekend

This past weekend was an "Intro to Race" weekend on two fronts: teaching at a clinic on Saturday and riding a training race on Sunday, which served as my first race attempt this year. On Saturday, I instructed at this year's installment of NEBC's annual "Intro to Race" clinic. Almost half of the participants were women this year, 22 in total! Helped by teammates Ashley and Janet, I got to work with a group of 7 women, bringing them through the basics of pacelining, rotating pacelines, bike handling topics, and other skills. I found it to be a really fun experience! It's amazing how much we take for granted on the bike. I mean, there was a time when knowing to put your inside pedal "up" into a corner was a new concept. When riding within 2 feet of someone's wheel was terrifying, and when the smallest descent made you feel you were flying. (Ok, well, sometimes I still get that last feeling. :) Sharing my love of cycling with new aspring and eager racers felt great. Seeing their faces light up with a smile when they felt something new on the bike renewed my love for cycling, and reminded me once again why I love the bike.

Sunday was another freezing cold day. Ward and I rode from home to the Wells Ave training race, then rode back home. On the way there, we thought we might be late, especially if they combined the A and B fields due to lower attendance (it was Easter, after all, and cold and incredibly windy, too), so we hauled ass out there. In strict adherence to Murphy's Law, we got there much earlier than desired. This left us soaked though with sweat and waiting outside in windy, snow-flurrying, 30-degree temperatures. By the time we started, I felt borderline hypothermic! I had on my lobster gloves, heavy tights (I still have not ridden this year without tights and booties), neoprene booties with woolie-boolies, balaclava and windblock headband, Craft base layer, thick fleece mid-layer, and a Verge Warsaw jacket (okay you get the idea) and I DID NOT overheat during this race. Never even unzipped the jacket.

I was chatting at the back of the pack at the start, and I didn't hear the official say "roll off" to start the race. I swear it was a cyclocross start! A few guys went all out from the proverbial gun, got away, and stayed away the whole 40 laps. Crazy. Me on the other hand... not such a spectacular display. My frozen, stiff legs averaged 350 watts for 30 seconds into the headwind around the first turn and I felt like the kid left on the sideline at gym class who nobody picked for the team. I was warming the pine in this ballgame. I sat up and waited for the pack to come around again. Dropped in the first lap at Wells Ave in April. This was quite the awakening. I got back in and stayed in for half the race, completely pegged riding mostly at the back, getting whipped off the back and chasing back on every lap for 20 laps. Then I popped momentarily. I actually began hyperventilating. I kept gasping but couldn't breathe. Freaky stuff. Luckily, it's a training race for a reason, and I caught my breath and recovered while waiting for the pack to come around. I stayed in the rest of the race, but played much the same game at the back with legs that felt like cement blocks.

I felt disappointed, but I definitely have to look at this in context: Sunday was the very last day in my first 5-week training block, and I was wrecked. I had ridden hard the day before after teaching outside for hours in the cold, sprints on Friday, and power work on Wednesday. Oh, and I forgot to mention one more thing... I also did not sleep Saturday night. Wicked insomnia. I awoke at 1:30 am and just laid there ALL NIGHT, counting my heart beats, listening to Chopin nocturnes on my iPod, and doing deep breathing exercises. I finally dozed when the sun rose. (By the way, I've found listening to music does not put me to sleep. Quite the opposite! I get excited by various colors, poignant chords, rubato, and other elements of affect in the piece, and my heart rate increases slightly.) Anyways, after all this, I feel a scratchy throat, so for fear of getting sick, I'm going to play it really safe the next few days, take lots of Emergen'C and enjoy some late afternoon naps!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

more sax, please

Okay, can it be spring now, please?

Despite my complaints, I actually had a good workout on my trainer yesterday. Ward and I have a neat little sunroom with 7 windows around, sort of like a 4-season porch, and it provides a great indoor training space. Lots of light, snowy views of the yard, carpet to absorb the hum of the trainer, and it's cooler than the rest of the house, which is good when doing lots of intervals and threshold work. I pumped up the tunes and spun away as the cars and sanders slushed by on the street.

I just got home from rehearsal... I'm playing in the pit orchestra for our high school musical, 42nd Street. I decided to do it because I miss playing so much! My head was spinning with key changes and doubling on three instruments (plus transposing the soprano sax part on the fly since I only own an alto and a tenor), flute, clarinet, and alto sax. Years ago, just out of college, I would have sightread the whole thing flawlessly, but well, I'm a little rusty. Especially when switching between playing in the key of C# on alto then a mess of flats on flute while in cut time at 120+ beats per minute. Aah. Show music. But it feels good to play again. I hope I will continue to play more, even when the show's done. I've always thought it would be sweet to perform the national anthem at the start of a big race, then roll up to the start line, ready to put the hurt on. :)

I am so excited that I get tomorrow (Good Friday) off!! I think this might be one of the perks of teaching in a predominantly Catholic town! I can't wait to sleep in....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yes, Folks, It's April in Boston

It's a little after 4 pm. I just got home from school, ate my after school snack, and now I'm ready to train. There's just this one small problem.....

IT'S SNOWING!!!! And it's only 32 degrees!

Relegated to the trainer again.


Live footage of the accumulating snow... :(