Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Finishing is an Accomplishment: Lindenwood

This weekend's race was one for the books. The Midwest conference headed out to St. Louis for the Lindenwood race weekend, which was designated a dual-conference meet with the NCCC. With Little 500 Qualifications and Hillsboro-Roubaix the same weekend I was the only IU cyclist headed out and as much as I missed my teammates it was nice to just chill on my own schedule the entire weekend.

Since I got to St. Louis early I was able to do a short spin on the road race course and head up the first climb, running into a few guys from DePaul who let me tag along. Knowing that this was one of three difficult climbs every lap of the course (with three laps for the women's A field) I had fair warning that the road race was going to be a tough one, especially with the trio of Ashley (Lindenwood), Katie and Coryn (Marian) driving the pace.

Made a sight seeing stop to the top of a nuclear waste/superfund site. Didn't know that's what it was until I was on top.

The real reason I like travelling for races.

With no need to do a TTT I rolled into the Daniel Boone site a couple hours before my race in time to watch the women's B/C/Intro, Men's D and C fields head off and come in. It was again clear that the course was going to be difficult as they rolled through the finish in small groups or alone.

Start of the Women's B/C/Intro race.

The first five miles or so were relaxed, with everyone chatting and settling in. I was fortunate with my positon right behind Coryn as we went into the climb and the hammer dropped. As we started to climb I did my best to stay on her wheel, knowing that this was where the pack would be split. I made it to the top with the main group but couldn't hold it and watched those three ride off with another small group a little ways behind them. Looking behind me it was clear that the pack was completely shattered, and we were only 7 miles or so into 62 for the day.

I rode solo through the descent before dropping back to a group of four that included Stephanie and Emily (Marian), though Emily and I soon dropped them and headed off the two of us. By the time the second lap came around we had caught Marisol (Lindenwood) and Hannah (Lindsey Wilson). Coming back to the first climb on the second lap we caught Allie (Marian) who had suffered a flat tire. This whole time the small group ahead of us was within sight, but just out of reach as the wind picked up and the climbs every few miles began to take a toll. We had agreed to keep it easy on the climbs and so finished the second lap as a group, though we lost Allie to another flat in the process.

The third lap rolled around and we still had the small group ahead of us in sight along the curving roads and hills. Coming out of the first climb Marisol, Emily and I dropped Hannah and continued forward. At this point it was clear that the wind was killing us, even my usual chatter had dropped to a minimum. We were passed by two guys on Lindenwood who had a crazy gap on the Men's A field. Coming out of the final turn I pushed it up a small rise, dropping Marisol but not Emily. She had a better sprint and I made a few stupid moves coming into the final minor downhill and the sprint where I finished just behind her.

I'm at the point now, where strategically I know generally where I need to be (though still have to work on sprinting), but physically can't do it. It is frustrating to watch wheels just roll away, but I am throughly happy with the fact that I did not give up.

Looking at the finishing reports, the wind, length and climbing took a severe toll on all the fields that had to do more than one lap. 60% of the men's A field did not finish, 50% of the men's B, 40% of the men's C, and 36% of the women's A. People always says that the Lindsey Wilson race is the worst, but honestly this one takes the cake. I ended up 12th out of the 25 women that started the day.

Unfortunately that wind also brought in a severe weather front, which cancelled the crit.

Snowy and stressful drive home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"I Miss My Tennessee Home"

"I miss my Tennessee home, I've been away way too long"
-Brad Paisley, Southern Comfort Zone

Spring Break started this last weekend, and the timing was perfect with a few weekends off from collegiate racing. I was lucky enough to head down to Chattanooga, Tennessee for four days of warmer weather, mountains, and riding with some old friends. This marked the third time I have been down to Tennessee for training, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the world. 

We got to Chattanooga late Thursday night, driving up the backside of the Suck Creek climb. The cabin we were staying in was something else, the decor was for sure interesting, but it was right on the river and close to some good climbing. Friday was sunny and after a quick trip to Whole Foods and the Trek store I found myself out on a winding road that followed the river with Mark (my coach) and my dad. It was fun to hear about the history of the area, and while the road had no massive climbs we were either going up or going down the entire time.

The Indian in the cabin.... just weird. 

Saturday dawned bright and early, we met up with Mark as well as a few new people and headed up the mountain to the valley on the other side. I started out with a five minute power test on the first climb, and then spent the second climb mostly by myself as everyone spread out to climb at their own pace. The scenery was gorgeous, with the blues and greens of the mountains really standing out in comparison to the dull grey we had left in Indiana. I was tired by the end of the first day, but not dead yet.
Looking up Suck Creek

Sunday, Kym (development camp coach and a close friend/mentor) was back in town and so we were able to meet up with her and Mark northeast of town for one of her favorite road rides. She had just done an epic mountain bike/ road bike race the day before and so was taking it easy on me, which was much appreciated. I managed to stay with her up the first climb, though I was outside of my planned zones for the day (whoops). It was a windy and long day in the saddle with another climb at the end, and a descent straight to the car. It was great to catch up with Kym though and hear from her about her doctorate program as well as get her advice on tons of things dealing with coaching, and racing from a woman's point of view. I am truly lucky to have her and Mark in my life.

The view from outside our cabin.

That night everyone came over for dinner at our cabin, and it was nice to catch up off the bike, as well as give my mom a chance to meet both Kym and Mark. It was a great way to cap off a long weekend, especially since the next morning was only supposed to be a short easy ride in the area, and there was a possibility of that being done in the rain.

I made friends with the lizards at the cabin...

Looking back on the weekend I am really happy with how it went. I feel like I really got the chance to push myself on the climbs, as well as just reset my mental health with the warmer weather. This showed, with my power test numbers containing new peak power records for the 5min and 4min marks (yay!). It is still going to be awhile before it gets warmer here, but at the very least it was nice to take a break and just focus on riding (and homework at night). 

Probably the best moment though, was when I was getting ready to drive back to my apartment from my parents' house. My dad and I had been talking about where I could go as far as cycling is concerned, and we had pretty much wrapped up the conversation as I got into the car. My dad said bye and then hesitated before he said "I'm proud of you, keep it up and you will get there". My dad very rarely says these things and so when he does it really means so much to me.

My response?

"I won't, I've come too far to give up now."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anything Can Happen (Depauw Race Report)

This weekend was a little insane. The weather was crazy and there were highs and lows all around. With the race being only an hour and a half away we were able to stay in Bloomington, in our own beds, at night which was a wonderful luxury.

Saturday had us leaving town at 6:30 to make it to the road race course in time for the start of the women's B race and men's C. A wreck in the men's D race had delayed the day and the snow and cold was creating miserable conditions. Being the idiot that I am I managed to lock the keys inside the car, causing some problems for Ashton and Andy, the two B and C racers who had ridden up with us. Fortunately everyone got out on the course more or less comfortably. The Cutters were very graceful in letting me hide out in their car while a race between the Sheriff, AAA and my parents occurred to see who would get there to unlock it first. Seriously, I owe that team cookies or something.

The IU Women were well represented in the B race, with Aryn (ChiO) coming in second, Ashton (SIBH/Teter) in fourth and Rachel and Kate (Theta) finishing somewhere around 10th (I think). The Men's C race saw Cameron (SIBH/AEP) and Aaron Starkston (DU) coming in the top five.

The women's B race coming through on their second(?) lap.

Fortunately AAA arrived with 1.5 hours to start time and Emma (SIBH/Teter) and I were able to kit up and do a couple down and backs on the road before joining the entirety of the A men and women in the firehouse to stay warm until the last possible moment. As the pack headed out I knew we were graced by Cyclocross World's competitor (US Collegiate National Crit Champion) Kaitie Antonneau as well as the usual teams of Marian and Lindenwood. IU was vastly outnumbered and the lack of large hills meant attacks flying every few minutes. A break of Ashley James (Lindenwood) and another Marian rider escaped off the front, leaving the pack to fight for third. My teammate Melissa (Riley/Wing It) was showing her strength on the front, helping to chase breaks as well as attack. I would like to think I was doing the same though it has become clear to me that I still have a ways to go to comfortably maneuver in the pack. Emma was able to hide well in the pack, and as we came up to the finish line all three IU girls were able to place in the top 15. Melissa went one better than that and came out with an 8th place finish following a fairly sketchy sprint.

The IU men had mechanicals and issues with the cold as well, with Paul Smith (Motion/Delts) finishing somewhere in the top twenty.

The cold and snow took a toll on everyone's mental stamina and so the TTT saw Ashton, Melissa and I duking it out against four person Marian and Lindenwood teams (two TTT teams for each program). Despite cold conditions and a strong headwind on the way back to the finish we were able to claw our way to a 3rd place finish, out of five. The guys team faced similar struggles and managed a 5th place finish. A huge shout out to my teammate Ashton for dragging herself through the cold, and to Melissa for pulling when neither Ashton nor I could manage in the last half mile. Seriously both were beasts (I mean that in a nice way).

Snow at the start of the TTT 

As a team we headed for dinner (at a place I will not name), and it was nice to relax somewhere warm and let the stress and cold from the day melt away (as well as the snow)! The next morning saw a slightly more civil wakeup hour of 7:30, with us arriving for Ashton's Crit on time (no keys getting locked in the car today). The sun was out and there was no snow, providing warmer conditions than the day before. Ashton did wonderfully, finishing a strong third in her race.

Ashton's Third Place Finish

The women's A race started much better for me this week. Anticipating the fast start helped a lot and although I was not able to make the jump to the winning break I was able to help chase back a few moves, though Melissa was clearly the stronger IU girl in the race. Again, my timidness in the pack put me in some badly blocked positions when I needed to be able to chase girls down, but it was a learning experience. I finished with the main pack, nabbing an 11th place with Melissa taking 8th again!

Drew (SIBH/Sig Ep) enjoying the Men's A race from his makeshift recliner

The IU men worked hard to get something together but in the end did not make either of the breakaways, with bridging attempts coming from Paul, Turner (Theta Chi), John Becker (Motion/ Theta Chi), and Kevin Depasse (Nuvo/ Cutters). Kevin took the field sprint and 8th overall. Alex from Wisconsin rode a wonderful race, and was clearly a crowd favorite as he came through for 6th? and Lindenwood did well, taking 1st and 3rd. Other IU guys in the top 20 included Paul (12th), Turner (16th) and Charlie McClary(19th).

The escape from the chase group for Wisconsin