Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday Night World Champs

So about a week ago I decided I wanted to try my hand at bike racing - you know, the kind that isn't preceded by a swim or followed by a run. In talking with my bike racer friend, he suggested I come out to this weekly ride to get a feel for riding in a pack, drafting, etc. This little weekly ride is the aforementioned "Tuesday Night World Champs". He assured me there'd be plenty of riders who would break up into packs so I wouldn't have to worry about hanging onto the fast guys. Because we BOTH knew that wouldn't happen.

So, I met Steve at his house last night around 5, then we headed to the rendez-vous point where he and his brother wait for the ride to roll around then jump on. As we are waiting, we see three riders screaming down the hill to our left. At that point, I see fear in Steve's eyes. Three riders?? That was not good. Then another pack came down the hill, but it was only about 10 riders. And that was it. Steve had warned me if it was a small group, it would be a fast group. And, of course, I was the only female. Wonderful. Can I just go home now? Please?

Well I didn't go home...I jumped on the back of the group and proceeded to head out of town with them. Once we got out of the city, the speed began to creep up. I kept looking at my bike computer - 24, 25, 26 mph. Holy hell. I held on to the back of the pack. (Although it turns out not close enough, according to Steve) Steve had said if I could make it up the Saylorville Dam hill and not get dropped, I could at least make it to Ankeny with the group. The hill was coming. I was getting nervous. 26, 27, 26 mph. I was working pretty darn hard to hang on. These guys looked like they were out walking the dog. ARGH!

Then there it was...the hill. Not a huge hill by any means, but a hill nonetheless. And the one where the women get dropped. I wanted so bad to hang up that hill. Those guys hit the bottom of the thing and they were up out of their saddles attacking it. Me, in my little triathlete mindset of spinning up a hill, reacted a bit too slowly and by the time I was out of the saddle attacking, they had opened up a gap. I was a goner. Absolutely NO chance of bridging that sucker. Damn it!

After the hill, I saw them up ahead and they were just putting more and more distance on me. Then we hit a spot on the route where there were several roads you could turn on...and since I couldn't see them anymore, I had no idea where they turned. And then I also realized I had no idea where the hell I was. I finally stopped at a little park to look at my notecard with directions on it. And then it started to rain. Are you freaking kidding me???? At that point I considered calling Greyt to come pick me up...but I wasn't even sure I could tell her where to pick me up. *sigh* So I did the only thing I really could do...HTFU, woman! I got back on the bike and headed north.

I finally found my way into Polk City and as I was heading in through town, I hear this guy yell behind me. It was Steve. YAY! I somehow managed to get back in front of the group and now had some people to ride with for awhile. That is, until the fast guys caught us a few miles later and Steve and the others dumped me again so they could get back on with the others. Those guys motored past me like I was standing still. Unreal.

Will I ever go back to TNWC? Um, maybe. After I've spent more time riding and have gotten stronger, perhaps. I didn't dislike the ride, and what happened was exactly what I thought would happen, so it's not like I was terribly disappointed or anything. And the point of me riding with them was not to hang on the entire ride anyway. It was to give me a feel for the pack riding dynamics and get some pointers from Steve for Saturday's race. I learned a lot in the 30 mins I hung with the group. And I'm excited to race the Cat 4 women on Saturday. I think I'll do ok....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Offseason Fun

I know some of you are still out there in the thick of triathlon season, especially you crazy people getting ready for an Ironman. I say that lovingly, of course. I, on the other hand, am done with my triathlon season. And loving every minute of it. Don't get me wrong, I had a good tri season. I had fun. But after Big Pig I was ready to move into the offseason and start really having some fun. I was ready for a change, ready to tackle some new challenges. And what better way to tackle new challenges than with a new toy??

CYCLOCROSS, BABY!!! Yep, decided to take the plunge this year and venture into the world of cyclocross. I needed something a little less "serious" than triathlon, and cyclocross has exactly what I am looking for. Off-roading, obstacle-jumping, mud-flinging, beer-drinking FUN. If you aren't familiar with cyclocross, here's a little taste of what it is...courtesy of the elite race at Jingle Cross in Iowa City last year.
(copy and paste...I couldn't get the link to show up otherwise)
Looks like a BLAST doesn't it??? And, yes, that is snow. Hey, I need something to be excited about as the weather turns cold. I've already been doing a little training, getting used to riding in grass, mud, etc. But just like when you first start seriously riding a bike, you have to condition parts of your body to handle this kind of abuse....

Yes, I crashed my bike. And yes, this will be the first of many. Think I need a little work on my crash technique??? No worries, I am ok, I did not black out and had no signs of a concussion. That being said, I am going to insert a little PSA here. If your helmet feels a little loose and wobbles on your head AT ALL, go get a smaller helmet. Had mine fit correctly, I would not have this wonderful shiner. It slid just enough to expose my brow bone which absorbed the whiplash effect of the fall. And yes, I immediately went out and purchased a new helmet that FITS.

I'll be back with more updates on cyclocross...and the other fun things I have planned for this fall/winter. It's going to be one fun offseason!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dr. Jekyll Meet Mr. Hyde - Big Pig Race Report

Well, I knew Big Pig would be more of a challenge than Racine, but I didn't quite expect the day I had on Sunday. The two races couldn't have been more different - including the distances! Racine was a perfect day (weather, physical state, mental state), the swim was short, the bike was fast, and the run was good. Big Pig was a horrible day (weather, physical state, mental state), the swim was choppy and visibility was bad at times, the bike was BRUTAL, and the run turned into a battle of will to just finish. So rather than write a race report that rehashes the most difficult 6.5 hours in my triathlon life, I think I'll instead list out some of the things I learned from the day. Maybe they will help someone else down the road. In no particular order:

> No matter how hard of a day I have, finishing always feels better than quitting.
> Nutritition will make or break a race longer than an Olympic.
> Races in tough conditions are won mentally, not physically.
> I need more experience racing to understand how to fully adapt my strategy when conditions are less than ideal. I am still new at this.
> Swallowing Heed is almost as hard as swallowing pride.
> Bad races are only bad if I don't learn something from them.
> Knowing the course ahead of time helps me mentally get through the day, especially when the day is not going well. (I heart Newhall)
> Passing people going 8mph is still passing people.
> Running is always faster than walking. Really, it's true.
> Even if it is downpouring rain before the race, put on sunscreen. It just might end up sunny and blistering hot on the run.
> Stick to Raspberry Creme PowerGel. It tastes good both when going down and coming back up.
> Hold onto that cup just a little longer at the aid stations - it works really well to disguise the fact that I am puking.
> Taking the extra few seconds in T2 to body glide the armpits saves me from the very painful chafing I experienced at Racine.
> No matter how tough a day, having the support of friends and family at a race is just awesome. No matter what, they always think you did a great job and are proud of you. Thank you Laura, Rachelle, Becca, Steve, Jamey, Kelli, Jon, Diane, Margie, Cathy Y and everyone else out there cheering us on. It means more than you know.

And with triathlon season draws to a close. I wish it had ended on a better note, but I learned a lot and will be a better athlete because of it. Big Pig is now behind me. It's time to focus on my new challenges for the fall - cyclocross racing, some road races, and sherpa duties for IM Coz!