Monday, March 30, 2009

Back on the hog and lovin' it! by Loren Uscilowski

Here's a great race report from Loren Uscilowski, one of the Tri-Flow development racers I coached who competed at the Bariani Road Race:

(On March 22nd) I completed my first road race after about a year and 1/2 hiatus off the bike (hog). My last race prior was The Dallas TX, U.S. Open Triathlon October of 2007. I finished the triathlon, two-stepped at the after party, and let the bike collect dust in the corner of my room for about a year and a half.

I can't really explain the time I took off the bike because I love riding, and although racing can be nerve racking, I do love to get out there and mix it up with the best of them. Maybe I just wanted to see how the other half lives -- not going to bed early on a Friday and Saturday night, because I have a long ride or race in the morning.

Fast forward to Jan 2009, I'm now living in San Francisco, having recently relocated from Los Angeles . Everyone is out riding their bikes and I can't stand the fact that I'm not doing it with them. Now I just need to figure out where to ride. I google San Francisco bike clubs and Velo Girls pops up. I click on the link and I see a bunch of girls in my favorite color - PINK! The team color is pink! How fun!! Then the first paragraph reads, Join the Velo Girls Development team. Is this weird or what? This is exactly what I am looking for!

Training officially started on a Wednesday six weeks ago in one of the team members' garages. The first night was a 20 minute time trial on our trainers to establish heart-rates for the rest of the training program. God that was hard. I left there feeling like I had just raced a real time- trial, feeling a bit dehydrated and sick, but most importantly I left wanting more.

Over the next six weeks all of us bike racing newbies got to know each other's personalities and riding styles on and off the bike. You could tell as we got closer to the race that we were all having pre-race jitters, along with many questions of the unknown. Lorri (our coach) must really have her team formula down, because something amazing happened during the fourth week of training as we were practicing. For the first time, I was riding behind teammates, not even thinking about how close I was to their wheel. It just came naturally, and I have to tell you that it was one of the best feelings in the world to finally not be afraid! We were all coming together as a team, just like Lorri assured us we would.

The much anticipated Bariani Road Race day finally arrived and it was sunny. I couldn't believe it! The forecast called for rain all week but today it was beautiful. The course was a 10 mile loop starting at The Bariani Olive Oil farm and we had to complete it three times.

I felt a little off all week and was unsure of how the day would unfold. Lorri had us set goals and my main one was to ride safe and finish with the main pack. One of my teammates Katie, made rice krispy treats so that was my other goal, finish the race and then I can eat those yummy treats that had been staring me in the eye since yesterday.

Upon arriving we located the Kenda Velo Girls tents and all my teammates were already setting up bike trainers to warm-up before the race. I quickly gathered my things noticing that my heart was starting to beat faster in anticipation of the race ahead of me. Once the warm-up began all the leg pain I had felt earlier in the week and the tiredness from not sleeping much the night before seemed to go away. Then I knew things were going to be o.k. All the girls seemed very focused during warm up. We had practiced this same regimen during our Wednesday night workouts, so I just pretended it was a training session and only once did I secretly wish that I wasn't going to have to race after I got off the trainer. It looked like what you see at the Tour De France when the camera flashes by Lance Armstrong and his team all warming up before the race. Pretty cool feeling. I think what kept me going was the fact that we were all just as nervous as the other becauseof our new adventure and there was no turning back now.

Before I do any race I seem to have this little freak out session. I misplace everything I need. If it's a triathlon, I lose my goggles. For today's bike race I couldn't find a shoe. I took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts, found my shoe, and was off to the start line.

All the velogirls lined up together on the right side. We all lined up in the right side and listened to the refree's instructions. I couldn't really talk to anyone because I was now in "race mode" and knew it was time to get down to business in just a few minutes. I must say having all of my Velo Girls teammates around me really helped with the nerves and I almost felt protected in some weird way.

The gun goes off, so many thoughts are going through my head especially the one that keeps repeating, "don't wreak". I managed to stay up front the first lap and even did some pulling. Whenever I saw Emily (another Velo Girl), I felt a sense of security, that all was going to be o.k. She was like my security blanket out on the race course.

Into the second lap, I'm thinking, "That wasn't too bad, just two more to go, I can do this!" As we are riding down this long stretch of highway with massive wind gusts, I see this black helmet head cloud to my left that looks like Joan Jett's hair and it's right over top of us. "Hmmm, where did the sun go? Could this be the storm said would come in the late afternoon? Please don't be that storm." All of a sudden I feel my arm start to sting. Everyone is stinging and we realize that we are in a hail storm. Holy crap! I thought this stuff only happens in Ohio! I look around and take a quick inventory of the "smart" girls, unlike me, they're all wearing arm warmers. Why did I opt to be cold rather than smart? Now the pace really slows down because the wind is forcing us sideways and we are all just trying to stay up right. After about 10 minutes it passes but all of us are now really cold and wet. There is much chatter about the strange weather that tried to put a damper on the race but everyone is pushing forward and game is on again.

Fast forward again to the final lap and hill climb. Mission accomplished, I get to the top with the lead pack. I see my teammate Emily. We try to discuss strategy and all I can tell her is I need to rest for a second. I tuck in behind her and catch my breath but I get anxious. I start to jump knowing we had practiced this long straightaway many times and it is pretty far until the final turn for the sprint finish. Emily jumps on my wheel, I think? We make the turn, and by now all the girls are going for it, giving teammates lead outs. I wish I could have led Emily out more but I was pooped. She races past me giving it her all. I try and stay with her as long as I can yelling for her from behind. We did it! Emily got 4th and I got 6th. That final sprint was a real rush.

Overall it was an amazing past six weeks that climaxed with the Bariani road race. I was very proud of all of our teammates that day and give major kudos to all the Velo Girls new and old, who supported me through this entire journey. We wouldn't be a team without the support of our great sponsors: Tri-Flow, Mike's Bikes, Kenda, Gu,, and many more. And last but not least the woman who got us all here, Lorri Lee Lown. You're the best! Thank you! Now put me back in the game coach!

1 comment:

Jill said...

Great report! Sniff, I think I'm actually going to cry. Great to have you with us, Loren -- you and the rest of the Tri-Flow girls all did us and yourselves proud. Looking forward to racing with you soon!