Tuesday, February 26, 2008

doctor's orders

After two plus weeks of being dog-sick, I finally went to the doctor last Wednesday. The verdict (as I expected) was that I'd had the flu and currently had strep throat. A course of penicillin and I should be good as new.....in 3-4 weeks she said....not the type of news an athlete wants to hear.

Of course, the first team race of the season was Snelling. This was also our first Tri-Flow Women's Development Racing Program race.

What to do, what to do?

The doctor had asked me not to race. Okay, she told me not to race. We had discussed all the pros and cons, my business commitments, etc. I discussed this with the team. I turned it over in my head. I chatted about it with my best friend and advisor. And I still didn't know what to do.

In the end, I decided I would get my girls to the line. We've got a handful of new racers this year and I thought it was important to be there to support them. I decided that I would ride the promenade and then pull off.

Of course, once you get that competitive itch, it's hard too just turn it off.

We rode the five-mile promenade, me in my favored position (1st wheel), with Tanya next to me and Sarah and Dana in the row behind and Kim and Lala a bit further back. We kept the pace fast enough to be safe but slow enough to be civil and give folks a chance to warm-up again.

As the motor signalled the end of the promenade, two racers tried to attack, but really just rolled to the front and pushed the pace. Within seconds, we were strung out single file at 26mph, women fighting to stay attached. The selection was made immediately, with at least half of the women not making the cut. Sheesh! I found myself slipping back but I'd decided I wanted to stay in the game. Twice I tried to advance into the wind and felt myself moving backwards. I finally popped at the feed zone, thinking my mad skillz would allow me to catch up on that right-left descent. No dice.

The pack ahead was completely strung out and I could see individual riders popping every few meters. I caught up to a teammate but she was too blown to sit on my wheel, so after making sure it was okay to go ahead without her, I continued chasing. The pack (or line as it were) was just within sight but I couldn't reach them.

Finally, on bumpy Figmund, when I got pushed off the road by the E3s (and stayed upright in the mud), I decided I'd had enough fun by myself that day. I turned around to find my three teammates who somewhere were behind me.

They had picked up another girl and seemed to have a functioning paceline going. I rolled back to chat with one who had dropped back just a bit. I could see it in her face immediately -- she was done.

I had decided that if I had gotten to the line alone on the first lap, I was done. If I could find a functioning group, I might consider finishing. But after all these years, I don't need to finish a race if I'm out of the mix just to finish it, especially if it might compromise my health. So, the decision was made -- I was done and I'd stay at the finish to cheer on my teammates.

At the end of lap two, two of my girls were still in the lead pack -- yeah! And two were just a few minutes behind, working in a little group of three.

At the end of lap three (the finishing lap), a group of four sprinted for the win (with no Velo Girls in sight). But Lala finished just behind with the remains of the lead pack (top ten), and Tanya (with her saddle nose pointing up to the sky) finished a few minutes later. Sarah and Dana (both nursing cold/flu/strep/ick) finished with another racer a few minutes later.

All in all, a great, fun, bonding weekend and a fabulous race, marking the beginning of what promises to be a spectacular season!

And big thanks to George M. from ICCC (one of the race officials) who let me wear one of his jackets to stay warm at the finish line while I was spectating.

I'll post my photos on the Velo Girls gallery soon. In the interim, some photos are posted here:

Rick's Photos

Lorri's Photos on Facebook

Saturday, February 9, 2008

how the other half lives

I've been down for the count all week, suffering from a serious bout of the flu. my 102+ fever finally broke and today is the first day since Monday that I've put clothes on and ventured out of the house. my adventure was pretty simple -- groceries at the store next to my condo complex -- but on the walk I was able to soak in some fabulous sunshine and observe how the rest of the world (ie those who don't ride bikes) spend a sunny Saturday morning. you see, for the better part of the last decade, I've ridden my bike every weekend day, rain or shine, year-round. I think I've forgotten how the other half lives.

but as I was contemplating this, I realized I wouldn't trade my past decade for anything in the world. I've met my best friends riding my bike. I've travelled on my best vacations to exotic countries riding my bike. I've had fabulous romances riding my bike. I've seen parts of California I'd never see if I hadn't been riding my bike. I've challenged myself in ways unimaginable, riding my bike. and I've done all this as a healthier, happier person.

so, instead of stressing about being sick and losing a week or more on the bike, I'll sit on my patio, enjoy the sunshine, and reflect on what a wonderful life I've got.....riding my bike!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

it's not over till the fat lady sings

Saturday marked the first race of my 2008 season -- the Chanoko Mountain Bike Duathlon. In my mind, it was a throw-away race -- a little exercise in dusting off the cobwebs and getting the kinks out of my duathlon routine, along with the opportunity to gauge where my early-season fitness is.

I had been focusing the past month on weight-loss, so my training included a good dose of running and resistance training, along with shorter workouts on the bike. I hadn't been on my mountain bike since November, and the rain this past week prevented me from getting on the trails to test out some new components -- not a recipe for success, but since it was an early-season race I wasn't too worried about it.

I had convinced my friend, Hans, to go race with me, and my teammate, Kim, decided to compete in the 6-mile trail run. When we arrived I saw lots of folks I know from the bay area, including Diana Garbarino, who had participated in the 2007 Tri-Flow Women's Development Racing Program that I coach.

I tried to stay focused -- get dressed, set up transition, test out the new bike components, and get in a running warm-up. It was a lot to accomplish in a short time, but we did pretty well. My running warm-up was a little too short, but I would live with it.

I need to re-create a check-list of my equipment for races. Those who've seen my car know that I've got multiples of everything stored in it (road and mountain shoes, helmets, food, water, tools, etc). But I didn't drive this weekend and I forgot a crucial piece of equipment -- my asthma inhaler. I didn't want to let that bother me, but I knew that with the cold temperatures that it would likely be a factor.

The format of the race was 2-mile run, 12-mile mountain bike, 2-mile run. I was pretty confident that I could run between 16 and 20 minutes for both runs. I had absolutely no idea what the mountain bike course held, so I couldn't really estimate my time.

As we lined up for the run, I found a spot next to Diana in the middle of the pack. I'm not the fastest runner at this point, but I also don't believe that's reason to put yourself at the back of the pack. The gun went off and away we went -- running down the beach and onto the first single-track section. I was passed by a bunch of folks, but then settled into a pace I could maintain. My breathing was a bit labored and I was making a weird, wheezing noise with each breath -- I'm sure the folks running near me thought I was going to die. I just tried to relax and keep my breathing as measured as possible.

I finished the first mile in 8:23 and the total run in 18 and change, ran to the transition area, and swapped shoes, popped on my helmet and camelbak, and headed out for the bike leg.

I felt slow and tentative. I wasn't laying it down or taking any risks like I typically do when I race. I didn't fight when someone passed me. And I didn't really try to pass slower riders ahead of me. After the first 15 minutes or so, I found myself riding alone out there, thinking that two laps in the cold rain would be way too much. But at the end of the first lap, I finally saw some other riders and my competitive spirit kicked in. I started passing riders and taking a few more risks.

The mountain bike course was a ton of fun -- swoopy single-track, some big rocks that challenged me, and a handful of really deep water-crossings each lap. The biggest challenge for me, however, were the two uphill sand pits. On the first lap I tried to ride them, but on the second lap I realized it would be faster to dismount and run.

I had no idea what place I was in, but near the end of the second lap, I saw another woman ahead. She hesitated and ran down a rocky section, so I jumped around her and didn't look back.

At the very end of the second lap, I saw three red jerseys ahead of me on the sand section. One of them was Diana. I knew she had finished the run just ahead of me, but I hadn't see her at all on the ride. So I made it my goal to catch her. As I entered the transition area to change for the run, she called out to me. When I started my run, she was at least a quarter-mile ahead. I thought to myself "I'll never be able to catch her," but decided I would try. You see, Diana is an Ironman triahthlete. She knows how to run. I'm just a hack who had been training for the past month. But I was determined to try.

As I started my run, my teammate Kim joined me on the beach, cheering me on. I tried to pick up my pace, but my wet feet were frozen and I couldn't feel them (thanks to all the water crossings on the bike). After the first half mile or so, my feet thawed out a bit and I could feel them again. Nearing mile one, I saw Diana again. It appeared that I was closing the gap. This, of course, motivated me to push just a little harder. At the water stop, I saw Diana take a cup and slow her pace. I tried to push and catch up, but I was dangling just a bit behind her. Then, I heard the rush of a runner passing me and I jumped to stick with him, thinking I would let him pull me up to her. He caught up to Diana (I think she thought it was me) and I held back to recover just a bit. Just then, Diana tuned back to look at me. I knew it was now or never, and if I wanted to pass her I would have to go now. Somehow, I was able to do it, and knew that my passing her probably defeated her just a bit so she wouldn't be able to chase me.

As we entered the final stretch, Hans and Kim were waiting for me, yelling for me to catch the men ahead of me. I really wanted to know where Diana was, and since they didn't tell me I looked back. I had a good gap but since I don't know anything about how to pace myself on the run, I wasn't going to rest on my laurels. For all I knew, Diana could sprint past me in the final section. I tried to push a little more and picked it up for the final 100 yards or so, crossing the line in 2:08. Diana came in about 10 seconds later and we hugged and laughed and congratulated each other.

Hans and Kim helped me pack up my stuff and we all got back to the cars to change into dry clothing. We went to clean the bikes and get some food just as they were starting the podium awards. I didn't think I had podiumed, but decided to stay just to support my competitors.

As they announced the women 40-49 category, they announced the 4th place finisher. Her name sounded familiar and I was certain she had finished before me. Then, they announced Diana in 3rd place. It hit Hans before it hit me that it meant I was in 2nd! Wow. I was completely shocked. The winner in our category is a woman I know who is the X-Terra world champion (and she beat me handily by a HUGE margin).

There are some cool pics here but the photographer hasn't returned my emails so I can't get copies of them:

water crossing -- epic!

sandy run-up
-- brutal!

the finish
-- yes, two feet off the ground

Two great lessons this weekend:

  • no matter how many times you've raced, use a check-list to make sure you have all the vital equipment, clothing, and "stuff" you'll need.
  • don't give up. ever. the race isn't over until you cross the line. anything can happen. I went from 4th place to 3rd in the last 2 miles of the bike and 3rd place to 2nd in the last half mile of the run.

Friday, February 1, 2008

the best laid plans

wow! my week has absolutely flown by and here it is February already. with nose to the grindstone, indoor trainings three nights this week, and half a dozen bike fits, I've barely had time to keep up with email, never mind tackle creative writing. so, while I still intend to share thoughts about the Women's Cycling Conference, I've yet to put pen to paper so to speak.

as you think about your weekend, I'll leave you with this little piece by Kathie Reid for Velo News.

the weather seems to be clearing for a day or two, so I'll encourage all of you to get out and ride in the fresh air and sunshine. I'll be racing a duathlon at Folsom Lake tomorrow morning -- my first of the season -- and I'm excited to get the cobwebs out.

between breaks in the raindrops, take a few minutes for yourself today to get outside, even if it's just for a walk around the office.