Thursday, February 28, 2013

Walking Away?

Getting back from Lindsey Wilson this past weekend was a bit hectic, it took me forever to sort through the odds and ends left in my car (I had two extra bikes, a helmet and a heart rate monitor that were not mine). On top of this was the shock of coming back to the "real world". Monday packed a punch with midterms and as happy as I was to start the racing season the timing with school has been less than ideal.
The explosion of my room after the race. 

Not only was school causing stress but the weather has been rotten too. My intervals on Wednesday were spent entirely in the snow and all of this frustration both on and off the bike was beginning to pile up. And then there was Little 500. It is nearing the point where I am going to have to make a decision about my training for Little 500 and it is not an easy thing.

It is because of Little 500 that I started riding, it is because of Little 500 that I have self confidence, it is because of Little 500 that I met seven amazing women who have changed my life and strengthened my faith.

And yet here I am, dreading getting back on the track.

I have stopped enjoying it, stopped wanting to work for it, stopped pushing my teammates to work for it. And that's the thing, Little 500 deserves more than that. I may have all the fitness in the world and my team may have the ability to compete for a top place on the podium, but if I am not willing to let it consume me, then I should not be doing it.

Collegiate cycling has always been an amazing experience for me, and the opportunity to go to nationals (individually or with a team) is something that I do not want to just throw away. On top of this I know that if I train on the track too much I will burn out quickly and the speed and power will not be there on the road.

So, decision time.

All of this (school, riding and decisions) had me seeking out advice from Kym and Mark, both for validation in my choices and advice from people who had been there. A big concern was how I was going to continue to line up against girls who are so far out of my league in the collegiate races.

Kym had some very applicable advice, focusing on the fact that I am just jumping into this level. Now is the time to learn as much as possible, using this information to my benefit both when racing against them and later in the regular season when they are not there. In the end just because I know they will likely beat me doesn't mean that I should just roll over.

"You are probably going to win, but I'm going to make you chase me first."

In dealing with the Little 500 decision, well there is no easy answer but Mark put it pretty simply. If you aren't going to wake up in the morning and be completely dedicated to something, you shouldn't be doing it. Fortunately I have a wonderful team around me who will support me either way I go and I will continue to help coach and lead them, which makes the decision a little less stressful.

So I guess the question is, when I wake up in the morning, what gets me out of bed? Road racing or Little 500?

The Little 500 Track Wednesday night.

Also been working on my cooking: lemon/parmesan asparagus, baked potato, steak with sautéed peppers. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

She Wants to Be Free, Like a Runaway (Lindsey Wilson)

Well so goes the first collegiate race weekend. It was a bit overwhelming for me and a ton of amazing memories came out of it. Highs and lows, as well as a bit of personal frustration with my performance, but when it comes down to it Indiana Cycling did great and I have to keep reminding myself that it was the first set of races for the year.

I had the good fortune to be driving down three other girls, Ashton and Emma from Bakehouse/Teter and Aryn from Chi-O. It was great to have a mix of old friends and a new girl to get to know and by the end of the weekend we were a really tight knit group. It really makes me look forward to next year when Aryn and Ashton will hopefully upgrade to join Emma and I in the "A" field.

Like past years we got to Columbia, KY around 9pm and were staying in a set of cabins along the lake there. So much fun as always. That night we had got the chance to meet a couple guys from the Wisconsin team (so nice!) and then it was off to bed for an early morning TTT.

To be honest our goal going into the TTT was just to keep all four of us together. We wanted to do well but had never had the opportunity for the four of us to practice one. Our plan worked really well and all four of the girls rolled through the finish line together. We ended up 5th out of 7 teams and everyone was pleased with that.

Heading from there to the road race course was ominous. Lindsey Wilson is almost universally considered the hardest road course of the Collegiate season, with this hill at the very end of the loop that I have seen some riders walk up in the lower categories. This was only my second race since my wreck this past summer and I was a little worried how my nerves would handle the larger pack, particularly descents. I'm a goofball though so I tried to handle this stress by joking with some of the other riders (particularly a few Lindenwood riders) while we watched almost every single race start before ours. Passing D riders midrace? Not fun.

The Lindsey Wilson finish line, waiting for the rest of the As to come in. Paul is collapsed from his 4th place finish!

Anyways, the first lap went as expected, there was an attack about fifteen minutes in (ish?) that everyone just kind of let go. I think they assumed there was no way it would last with such a long race. We hit the base of the last climb on the first loop with mostly everyone together. Looking back as we hit towards the top I was "panic" climbing. I knew this was where the race would really stop and instead of relaxing I was mentally all over the place and that hurt how I was climbing (I was all over the road, whoops). I got to the top of the hill maybe 4-6 bike-lengths off the main pack but as we turned into the wind they started launching attack after attack and I could not close the gap. I spent the next 4-5 miles chasing by myself before being caught by a teammate and another girl. Cashed out, I was dropped from that group about a mile later. I spent the majority of the last lap by myself, getting caught by a train of girls from Lindenwood at the base of the climb. Unfortunately two of them beat me up the climb out of the group and I ended the day in 22nd. Not last, but not at all where I wanted to be.

However overall IU had an amazing showing at the RR with Ashton coming in 3rd in the Bs, Paul in 4th in the As, Emma 10th in the As and a few other finishes that I can't remember off the top of my head without the results sheet. I was super excited for Emma's finish and am looking forward to training and racing with her this summer for Bakehouse.

Hanging out at the cabins the night after the Road Race. Exhaustion doesn't even come close.

The Crit the next day was, in my opinion, much better. I was not quite ready for the hammer to drop from the whistle and that hurt me. I found myself in a second, smaller pack with a teammate, a few Lindenwood girls and others.  After we got organized there were a few attempts to attack and split the chase pack. My goofball self was in full swing (there may have been singing involved) but I managed a strong attack up the small climb on the backstretch and broke away with a Lindenwood rider. We stayed away for the next 7 laps or so as the pack we left behind got caught by the lead pack. We tried to hold off the now-together field but were swept in with one lap to go.  I think I rolled in somewhere in the top 20. Regardless of this though I was very happy with how the Crit went. I felt comfortable in the turns and was feeling very good the majority of the race (except those first five laps or so) and I could not have been more pleased with my personal performance regardless of final placing.

Aryn, Alyssa and Emily lining up for the B crit.

IU did well at the Crit, with Cameron scooping up a win in the Ds, Aryn with a top ten finish in the Bs, Paul and RJ a top ten finish in the As (Paul doing so by lapping the field with a group), and Indiana University ranking third in the conference and third in the nationals qualifying.

Hanging out at the start finish line waiting for the Men's A sprint.

Overall it was an amazing weekend. I got to reconnect with some old friends (special shout out to Jane   from Michigan and Beth from Marian), as well as meet some new people (the entire Wisconsin team, some of the Lindenwood girls, etc.). After not being able to race much last summer due to illness and injury it really reminded me how much I love road racing and refocused me for the months to come. For those of you that know me well you know that since September I have said that Collegiate/ Road Racing is the priority for me going into this season and after this weekend that could not be more true. I may not have lived up to my personal expectations but I can only improve. Depauw is next weekend.

Best quote of the weekend, from my coach:
"It will come... patience young Skywalker"

The entire team the night we got to the cabins.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Spring, Another Collegiate Season

Well Lindsey Wilson, the traditional MWCCC opener is only a few days away. This finds me tying up loose ends and scrambling to get ahead in classes since I will be traveling the majority of the remaining weekends this semester.

Not only this but it has me putting together a small crate of stuff that will stay in the car for the remainder of the semester as well. Spare tires, tubes, cleats, handlebar tape, as well as other odds and ends to ensure that I won't be unable to race due to a small mechanical. A lot of this comes from the list of things that I brought to development camp, and subsequently watched get broken. With the collegiate races being so far away I have to make sure that I have everything I need, especially with no Dad around to fix whatever I might break.

The in car kit, complete with Luna bars and towels for the bikes!

I have always had the tendency to overpack for races, but no more so than Lindsey Wilson. First, it is the first race of the season so I still have't gotten my routine back. Second, the conditions can vary so much with the early morning TTT and the late afternoon RR and Crit. I typically bring four different gloves (liners, full finger with wind protection, thermal and basic full finger) and three different jackets. Yes this might be overkill, but I've also never not had the clothing I needed.

The IU Club Cycling team competes in a tough field. We have world ranked riders on the Marian team as well as a slew of scholarship and varsity programs that make up the conference. I remember the first year I raced showing up with my little Trek 1.2 (it still had reflectors) on the back of my mini van and being greeted by a the Marian tour bus. It was quite the eye-opener, but honestly that is what I love most about the collegiate season. It is such a vast array of people that come out to compete, and you see the same people every weekend, making for a tight-knit community.

This year I am going to be riding the newer bike (no reflectors), though I will still be driving my parents' minivan down to Kentucky, fixing my own mechanicals, and staying in a cabin with roughly thirty other racers from IU. Wish us luck!

The Lindsey Wilson Road Race Course.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Weekend Away

This past week/weekend were not great for me when it comes to the bike but Thursday I was able to get out on a good ride and even get a free draft from the BKB cycling team. Who said chivalry was dead?
Guys are always the best drafts, generally faster than the girls and easier to hide behind.

Friday a stray cat showed up on my door so I spent the morning hauling him around and getting him to the shelter before heading up to Chicago. I was up there for a SCUBA conference and a few seminars. It was a wonderful experience and even led to some potential future internships. SCUBA is something that I have done in conjunction with my Environmental Science degree and I am currently working on my Divemaster certification and finishing up my senior thesis on coral restoration. It really is a whole different side of me outside of riding (yes, despite the beliefs of the girls on Cru I do other things than ride my bike).

Life-size whale at the conference!

Sunday saw me back to the grind and out with the Scholars Inn Bakehouse group ride. I fell off on the hill out of the causeway to do my intervals and headed out to the flashers by myself. I was intercepted on the way back by the long group and had fun hanging on the back of their rotating paceline for awhile. It was nice to get out on some familiar roads with the group since this is one of the last weekend rides I will be able to do with the team until after Collegiate Nationals. Anyways, Lindsey Wilson is this weekend and I could not be more excited to get the first race of the season out of the way!

The guys riding away and up the hill. 

I just love the roads around Bloomington!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Last Weekend

Apologies in advance for the length....

Some weeks I get my workouts from my coach and it is like Christmas morning, I feel overly excited to get on the road and start working. Other weeks I see it and mentally scream for a few minutes. Lucky for me this past week was more of a recovery week, so there was less screaming and more wrapping paper.

I'd been putting in a lot of miles over the past month, and with the racing season coming up things were starting to come together, so a rest week was much appreciated. Not only this but my workhorse bike was finally shifting properly thanks to the wonderful work of the mechanics at the Bicycle Garage (instead of me having to use my right hand to pull the shifter into the big ring). Thursday saw me heading out for a ride with Scholar's Inn Teammate Emma, and we ended up meeting up with her boyfriend Ryan from Upland. It was a longer ride than expected, but the 60 degree weather was gorgeous.

Emma on the phone planning a rendezvous with Ryan at the Bike Garage.

Friday had originally been planned as an interval workout, but after SCUBA I found myself really concerned about doing an interval workout the day before the planned IUCC race. Logically I knew that it was just a fun club race, but at the same time I had a lot of doubts of my own to put to rest and a lot of thoughts running around in my head keeping me up at night. Honestly, this is where I really appreciate my coach, Mark Fasczewski. I am still getting used to working with him (like telling him when things go wrong, or I get sick versus powering through it), but overall it has been great to have someone who is keeping track of the big picture and who can give little pep talks (or texts!). He moved some things around, and told me to get the worries out of my head. So instead of doing the intervals I headed out with girls from Cru, Melanzana and Teter for an easy spin.

Nothing like inner team unity for Little 500!

So, Saturday dawned bright an early. Lyndi and I went to the farmer's market and a few other errands before heading over to the gates to meet the rest of the IUCC women. Randi Cox helps organize this event for the club every year and it is a great chance to shake out the legs and put fears to rest. My stomach was doing flip flops and really not feeling great, so I was hoping it was just nerves and not something I ate at the farmer's market. There were roughly 20 women there though, and as we headed out to the Forest Loop everyone was in a cheerful mood. It was really great to see such a large turnout! 

Neutral roll out to Anderson.

Personally I could not have asked for a better practice race. I had one really strong attack and the rest of the time was able to comfortably postion myself in the pack, being more agressive than I used to be (something I have been working on). Honestly, the biggest success was the descent down Bean Blossom. Ever since my wreck at development camp I have had a hard time descending, let alone in larger groups. The fact that I did not freeze up was a huge step forward for me. As the pack came into the sprint I was lucky enough with my positioning and managed to take the final sprint, followed by Laura from Wing It, and then my teammate on IUCC/SIBH Emma! I know it is no final sprint against Marian, and that I have a lot of work to do still, but it was a nice reassurance that I am taking the right steps.

Sunday found me headed out in rainy weather with the SIBH ride. Given the weather conditions the pace was cordial, though I dropped off on the climb out of the causeway to do a few intervals. Halfway through I had the lovely joy of a leg cramp for the first time ever on my bike. Holy cow, I finally know what everyone hates so much about them. I managed to limp home in time for an Inter-team dinner with Teter, Melanzana, a rider from Air Force, and the rest of Cru. It has been really awesome to try and develop a group from different teams to start riding and hanging out with each other, especially from all different levels of riding.

Nothing like a free draft into the wind!

The fifteen girls in my living room.

This is one of my last full weekends home for the semester so it was nice to catch up with friends and get some good riding in. Collegiate season starts in two weeks, and I am more than ready!

Racing/Riding/Life Schedule:
Feb 15/16 - SCUBA Conference in Chicago
Feb 23/24 - Lindsey Wilson
Mar 2/3 - Depauw
Mar 8-11 - Chattanooga (training)
Mar 12-17 - Spring Break on the L5 Track
Mar 23/24 - Quals and Lindenwood
Mar 30 - Marian
Apr 6/7 - Michigan 
Apr 13/14 - Team Pursuit and Purdue
Apr 19-21 - Little 500 and Wisconsin

May 1-6 Utah for Collegiate Nationals and Graduation Trip!!!!!