Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pushing the Limits

Liberty Classic went well. I joined the BMW-Bianchi girls for the weekend. They were awesome! Made me feel right at home with them from the moment we all met.

I admit I was nervous about this race. It was a crashfest last year, and my rear Zipp 303 fell victim to the carnage. Luckily, my body remained intact, but my race was effectively over before we ever hit Manayunk. This year was much better! The field was smaller and perhaps more select, although it was far from crash-free.

I was so excited to climb with the field each time up the wall. It wasn't really as bad as I thought it would be. I mean, it hurt, don't get me wrong. 17% hurts. And the worst part is the last block after the really steep section. It flattens, but is still a few % grade, and it's just a grind. But Manayunk really is a short climb, and I was never in any danger of being dropped. In fact, I think I moved up on the hill each lap. The really hard part was over the crest, though!! The right hand turn when it flattens out and the decent over the next couple of miles are all-out as hard as you can go. The whole pack strings out into a whip, and you'll get caught closing gaps if you aren't near the front. I chose to use my 12-25 cassette for the hill, so I only had a 12 for the descent, and I completely spun it out. I really needed an 11. I didn't really need the 25 up the hill, I think I used it on the last lap, maybe I got tired. If you're in a 25, you're going too slow!
I found it relatively easy to move up in the pack, but staying up there was difficult. It took serious guts. Everyone was so aggressive. I am embarrassed to admit that I let some German Nuremburger rider push me aside at one point. I'm just not used to the aggressiveness. I can only imagine what a World Cup race would be like! I took a drink at one point and fell all the way to the back of the pack in a matter of seconds! Every moment had to be spent working on moving up, finding a hole, pushing myself in a spot, or else I was moving back. I found it really mentally tiring, much more than I was expecting. By the last lap, to be honest, my head just wasn't in it anymore. It was clearly going to be a pack finish. I got complacent, and sat towards the back. I underestimated how fast the race would be in the final kilometers over Lemon Hill. Everyone got very aggressive looking for good position leading into Lemon Hill the last lap, and I just lost my focus. I didn't want to take the risks some of the other girls seemed to be making to move up. I thought I'd be able to move up on the flat and wide roads in the last kilometers. My legs felt good. I totally misjudged. I went into Lemon Hill at the back, and scrambled trying to get through everyone. Everyone strung into a line and gaps opened in front of me. BIG gaps that I motored through to find the pack. I knew what a big mistake I had made, but hoped I would still have something left for the sprint. At 1.5K to go, I was just catching back on and there was a crash to my left. Iona Wynter-Parks went down with Brenda Lyons. This for some reason, maybe because I stopped pedaling for just a moment, maybe because the pack accelerated as they heard the crash, made it impossible for me to catch on. The pack was literally 30 feet in front of me. I just buried my head and chased all the way to the line, hoping nobody would come around me. What wasted effort! If I had simply kept my head in the game and been in better position up Lemon Hill, I have no doubt that I had the legs to be top 25 on the day. Another lesson learned. The strength I have. I need to work on my aggressiveness in the pack and holding my position. The rest will come.

I pushed my limits a little too far, though. All this working Mon through Fri then traveling to PA, DC, Baltimore, etc on the weekends caught up with me. I drove home alone and exhausted Sunday night. I awoke at 3:30 in the morning with my throat so sore and swollen I could not swallow. I went to work and felt pretty bad all day. Tuesday I got myself up and went to work even though I felt awful (because I feel so horribly guilty about calling in sick -and I had two private lesson students after school that I was really looking forward to seeing). But I didn't make it though the day. The nurse took my temperature and I went home with a fever like I was one of the kids. Today I called in sick. The aches and pains and nasal drainage and pressure are now turning into a cough. It has happened every time I've had a cold since I was a little girl. Getting a cold = bronchial infection. And the same pattern is happening again.

I hope to race with my NEBC teammates at Crystal City (Arlington, VA) on Saturday and the RFK Crit (also in Arlington, I think) on Sunday. We'll see. Another long drive after work on Friday, another late return home Sunday night, another day of work Monday. This will be my fourth weekend in a row driving to DC/Baltimore/Philly. And will I race well?? I obviously won't have ridden this week....

(And yes, lest you are about to suggest it, at this point I am very seriously considing MOVING to the Mid-Atlantic region!! I don't understand why there is no elite road racing in New England!! Plenty of regional races, but not a SINGLE NRC or ProTour race!! The cross scene is great. But it's also good in the Mid-Atlantic, and I travel to DE, PA, and NJ for UCI cross races in the fall, too.)

Okay, time for some TheraFlu and beddy-bye. School will be over a week from tomorrow, and then I can play PRO BIKE RACER for the summer!! I live for it!! Yay!

Friday, June 08, 2007


I'll be racing in the BMW-Bianchi colors this Sunday at the Liberty Classic in Philadelphia! Thanks so much to Missy and Laura for letting me have a spot on their team!

Overview (from race website)
Over 100 elite, international women cyclists will compete in the 14th annual Liberty Classic. The 57.6-mile race consists of four laps of a 14.4-mile circuit through Philadelphia with 4 steep climbs up the grueling Manayunk Wall. The Liberty Classic is the final leg of the 2007 Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling for women and is held during the men’s International Championship on the same course.

Race Date
Sunday, June 10, 2007

Official Start Time
9:10 a.m.

Course Description
The course begins and ends on the fast and flat Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and makes its way along scenic Kelly Drive to Manayunk where riders must face the infamous, and steep 17% grade Manayunk Wall each lap.


56 miles

I crashed before Manayunk last year, was forced to chase, and finally just got pulled. I felt awesome and had great legs that day, but a successful race also sometimes takes a little luck. Right now I don't really have the fitness I had last year. I started training a few weeks later and as a result, have only done 2 base cycles and one short intensity cycle. I've only done 2 weeks of interval training. I've also only done 4 elite level races! (Well, that's because I have a job and can't take time off to travel to races, nor can I afford it, but not because of a lack of training. ;-) It may take more than a little luck for me to have a good result, but if I can put myself in the right position, perhaps anything's possible.

Time to clean and check my bike and wheels, pack the car and prepare for a very early morning departure!

Check out some of J. S. McElvery's race pics from last year to tide you over. :)

Monday, June 04, 2007


Boy, do I have a lot of catching up to do!

I have a lot to tell about the weekend. I had two good races, but failed to convert in the end both days.... I'm knocking on the door, I can feel it....
FAST. HARD. My favorite crit. a short 1K course with 6 corners and a 250 meter finish straight out of the last corner. Oh, and thousands of screaming spectators! I have to find the balance of being active and sitting in. I decided to conserve and sit in and wait for the finish. I did too much last year and spent myself for the finish. Only a few laps in, Laura Van Guilder and Rebecca Larson got off the front and the field seemed content with that - the chase wasn't organized, much to the dismay of Colavita and Brenda Lyons of Lipton, who was racing with no teammates. I was right up there top 10 with 3 to go and 2 to go.... pack swarmed around from the left, I didn't defend my position well enough, and it was so fast it was too hard to move back up in the last lap. I ended up 25th (not Rebecca Much, as the results list on BikeReg - I guess they confused us - I was 25th, at least that's what they told me when I checked posted results) and disappointed, since I had a lot more in my legs. I'm trying to feel out how much to do in a race. Last year I did too much and then was spent for the finish, I'm trying to sit in more and work on my positioning every race.

This was the first of the Triple Crown series which includes another crit in Reading Thursday afternoon and the big circuit race in Philly on Sunday. The field was a little smaller than last year, with the World Cup in Montreal conflicting. Ina Teutenberg was there, though, so it was going to be FAST. The course is a basic rectangle, but with a hill on the third side, and the pavement was so bumpy it was almost dangerous. I lost both water bottles and even rebroke my cage that I had epoxied back together after Somerville. (Some of you saw it snap.) So I had nothing to drink in the race! Anyways, I started too far back, and played the miserable "closing gaps" game for the first few laps because it started out wikkid fast and moving up was excruicatingly hard, especially when I had to close gaps before I could move up all while dodging ripped up pavement and flying water bottles. The pack let up momentarily, after the inital several-lap flurry of attacks, and I moved up all the way to the front. I decided that I was going to race with my gut today - to try and be smart, but also not tell myself I couldn't chase or bridge or be active. Laura VG attacked on the back side and got a gap immediately. I jumped to her wheel. She looked over her shoulder and looked a little confused -- who the heck was this? I'm sure she was expecting Ina. Although this may not have been tactically correct, she wanted me to take a pull, and I did. A short one, leading into the start of the hill. Then Ina caught us and attacked up the left side on the hill, and I followed. Laura and I were right on her wheel. We had a gap (I could't believe I was with Ina and Laura and we had a gap on the field!! My heart was pounding, and not just from the hard effort!) Then single riders from other teams joined us. Yes! Cat Powers (Aarons), Sarah Tillotson (Colavita), someone from Targetraining (Robin?), Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci, national crit champion), maybe one more I'm not sure. I couldn't believe it. I was pretty certain the break would stick because Aarons & Cheerwine would control the field. I was unsure what Colavita would do because Tina Pic was not there (at world cup), Mackenze was their sprinter for the day, and she didn't get into the break. I later heard that the HUB team chased like mad.

I couldn't believe it. I was so excited and having so much fun riding with those women. I could ride hard and smooth through the corners, and Richard Fries was announcing, so you know I got some mic time. ;-) It was a very exciting moment for me. But they clearly did not want me there. I felt like Ina did not want me there. (But why would she care?) I was nervous being at the back of the 7 riders because I felt any one of the riders could gap me off the back to get rid of me. I wanted to actually rotate through so I could stay in the mix, but I didn't want to take any hard pulls. I was on Laura's wheel and she pulled off and flicked her wrist for me to pull through. I did, trying to maintain pace but not expend much energy, we turned left into the hill, and I swung just a little wide so that I could get off the front. Big mistake. Ina attacked from a couple of riders back and went up the left side, away from me, just as I was allowing the rider behind to pass me. I tried so hard, with everything I had to hold onto the break. She passed me going quite a bit faster, and I just couldn't hold onto the last wheel. Maybe she was trying to get away from Laura, but the timing right after my pull made it feel like it was to get rid of me. The break strung out for a minute. I dangled just seconds behind them for the whole next lap, but i just popped, couldn't catch the wheel. I couldn't believe it. I was going to finish top 6!!!! (Targetraining flatted so 6 were left) I was going to get to try to sprint it out with the best!!! And it was all slipping away! No!! I rode another lap in no-man's land, with the pack only 5-10 seconds or so behind me, so I had no choice to let them catch me and and try for the sprint, but it was speeding up, and I was dead. I stayed top 5ish for the next 2 laps, but with one to go, I simply didn't have the juice to defend my position as it got ugly in the corners and the rough pavement, and I slipped back. I finished 21st in the pack, and naturally, the money went 20 deep. From the highest high to low in one race. I wanted to stick my head in the sand. I got dropped from that break - I felt I had failed. But then something even more important happened, and put it all back into perspective for me.

Richard Fries congratulated me after the race, said I rode an awesome race, and then said, "There's someone I'd like to meet.... come here." So I did. He introduced me to a 12-year-old girl and her father. She had just been diagnosed wtih Colitis (often accompanies Crohn's). She was so excited to meet me. She was so excited to see that someone with Crohn's/Colitis could race like that. So was her father. Her dad was also a middle school teacher like me, and the girl, Molly, had a bike. They wanted to know how I dealt with some symptoms of the disease and still competed at such a high level. Her dad took a picture of the two of us together. I hope that seeing the race inspired her to pursue sports and physical activity (maybe even cycling) to keep strong and that if she has hard times and feels sick in the future, she can look at that picture of us and know that she can get through it and be strong. I go through day to day thinking of myself as an ordinary person. I hadn't imagined that I might inspire others in this way. I learned lessons during the race, but I think talking with Molly was the most important part of my day.

On Saturday night, Ward's team and I stayed at our friend Greg's place in Pennsylvania. I really enjoy staying at Greg's! He's working on remodeling his house, and I can't believe how cool his bathroom is going to be!!! Check out this tile job he designed and finished himself!! Greg is also quite the bicycle lover... he's got a bike from about 1897, in amazing condition, and he plans to ride it 100 miles someday soon.

To top it all off, I got to sleep and wake to the birds chirping and the fresh air of the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.