Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quad Cities and Murphy's Law

Something I have learned from this past weekend is that oftentimes, everything that can go wrong will go wrong, when it rains it pours, etc. Pretty much every cliche you can think of I have heard at this point. I woke up Sunday morning feeling battle weary and mentally drained from two days of racing in the rain. We got to the Crit course and walked it, noting the bricks in almost every single one of the eight turns on the course. As the morning started every single race leading up to mine had a crash, especially since the course was still drying out from the rain the night before.

As we started to line up there was a woman who I had noted in the races earlier this weekend as not being completely comfortable in the pack, a point that was further proved as she caused a wreck at the start line while people were lining up. Unfortunately this would not be the last crash she was involved in.

As the race started I was feeling pretty comfortable, staying in the pack easily, though without the hills to separate things out it was a much sketchier pack than I had seen all weekend with people grabbing brakes in almost every single turn. With about eight laps to go that same woman grabbed a fistful of brakes, her back wheel sliding out as she went down. I was able to dodge her but ended up going up a curb into a thorn bush on the sidewalk (I am still digging thorns out of my arms and legs). As Sarah (Lindenwood) said, she glanced over her shoulder and just saw the bushes moving, never a good sign. Rushing to try and get back to the wheel pit I made it as the pack came around for their 7th lap to go, the end of the free laps. Attempting to chase back on for the second time this weekend I went for about two more laps before my back tire went flat. End of race. Taking stock of my bike afterward showed a bent rear derailleur as well as frayed shifting cables. Unable to fully repair it we were able to get it to the point that I could shift between two gears in my big ring, it was going to be a rough second race.

IScorp was once again heavily represented in the Pro/1/2/3 race but I had my marching orders to sit in and not do work. Although I followed this rather carefully I still found myself constantly battling to stay towards the front whenever the pace slowed and the pack widened, expending more energy than I would have liked. About 15 laps in, back tire goes flat again (and yes we finally did find the minuscule tear in the tire... not sure when it happened though) but finally I got a free lap and was back in the pack without any chasing. With two laps to go though, a lady attempted a flyer off the front into a turn and somehow managed to take herself out by clipping a pedal. The pack split around her and I managed to dodge her bike as it slid towards me but at this point I shut down. Already exhausted and in the red I punched a one-way ticket to being mentally done. I rolled in with the back of the pack, just glad that I had made it through the weekend in one piece.

Looking back at the entire weekend I learned a lot of lessons, especially working on my patience and movements within the pack. It was some of the toughest racing I have done and provided some valuable lessons about racing with the elite level riders as well as some personal victories. My results were not what I had hoped, especially in the 2/3 races, but I also cannot discount my win on Saturday and I know it is still early in the summer racing season.

Next weekend is the Glencoe Grand Prix, where I will be racing with teammates which will be a nice change of pace. The following weekend I am hoping to head out for Tulsa Tough before submitting a Category 2 upgrade. My goals for the rest of the summer are really just to try some of the bigger regional races and keep getting the experience as well as the training that comes with getting beaten into a pulp by some pretty awesome women.

Snake Alley and Melon City Criteriums

It is interesting how rare it is for everything to come together perfectly right before a race, and even during a race. Weather, overtraining, mechanicals, injuries and illnesses, all these things can affect your race even before you get on the bike. Fortunately for me all dials were set for the first race of the weekend, Snake Alley.

The past two weeks had seen me finally kick the lingering cough from being sick, I had gotten some good interval training in, and had a much needed confidence boost from a Wednesday Worlds training session. Friday night dad and I went to climb Snake Alley a few times, especially focusing on doing it all in the saddle due to the forecasted wet conditions. I was ready, felt good and everything was coming together.

We woke up to rain, the kind that soaks you to the core and where the dampness seems to pervade everything. The course was slippery and with almost half of it being downhill sweeping turns bike control was going to be precarious as well as the uphill on the cobbles of Snake Alley. Entered into the 2/3 race I knew I had a shot at doing well and the plan was to mark the pack up and attack on the last time up the hill if I was feeling good.

The first time up the hill I was not geared properly and struggled to shift down quickly while moving up the climb, especially with the need to stay seated on the slippery cobbles. Although I had started in the front I quickly found myself in the back of the pack. I managed to move up a little through the rest of the course but truly found my momentum the second time up the hill, moving up to the second wheel. As we came around the start/finish I moved to the front and as the pack hit the little rise before Snake Alley I rolled up, glancing over my shoulder and realizing that no one was there. Seeing an opportunity I pushed it up Snake Alley, my back wheel fishtailing at one point due to a stupid move out of the saddle, leaving a nice bruise as a reminder not to try that again.

The pack the second time up snake alley.

I crested the hill with about 10 seconds on the leader. With no one to slow me down I was able to take better lines through the turns and increased my lead on the technical portion. The next three times up the hill the gap slowly increased to roughly 45 seconds as I got into a comfortable rhythm on the hill. In the end I took the win, my first of the season.

I still will never understand what it is with cyclists and bricks. 

The next day at Melon City I made the decision to enter not only the 2/3 race but also the Pro/1/2/3, knowing the latter would provide some good training against some pretty awesome ladies. The 2/3 race started in the pouring rain, with thunder and lightning in the area. I was feeling good and the lead pack quickly dropped to about seven women. The speed bump and the longer uphill were proving a challenge and were ultimately the reason for the selection that occurred.

About four laps in I came around the first turn and my tire went flat. With no free laps I cut the course and quickly changed it out, chasing the pack as the very last rider on the course. Ultimately I was caught but with two to go we came in sight of a group of seven riders up the road, and two other women in the field had already been lapped. With the pack going slower I leapfrogged ahead, passing the group, fighting my way back to a 9th place finish.

The Pro/1/2/3 race was a hard pill to swallow. I made some moves that I had no business trying, lacking the patience to sit in the pack and do no work. I hung with the field for the finish, rolling in 16th but I have to start being better about the matches I burn, especially with no teammates. More on the disaster that was Quad Cities later.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Velodrome and Coaching

The past few weeks and weekends have been a small break from racing before summer racing kicks into full gear, as well as providing some much needed recovery. I went into the doctor’s last week due to a lingering cough from the bronchitis in my lungs, and that seems to be coming around though my heart rate still doesn’t quite match my power output.

Off the bike I wrapped up with one job and started at a new one (as well as continuing to work at the two others), started a new summer class, celebrated my birthday and started dog sitting an amazing puppy named Luxa.

On the bike I have been using the break the past few weeks to become acquainted with the Major Taylor Velodrome. My freshman year on Wing It, Tom S. suggested I try track racing, but things never seemed to work out. However with dog sitting this summer I may not be able to travel as much for racing so the velodrome seemed like a good compromise so the Saturday after nationals I headed up for Track 101.

I truly had a blast, for me it was much more fun than going in circles on the Little 500 track, and it has been a nice break from the Bloomington cycling community (as much as I love it). So far I have taken a few of the Beyond Track 101 classes as well as participating in the training sessions on the track. Hopefully I can upgrade by the end of the summer and get pummeled into a pulp by the elite riders in the area.

My first track race was this past Thursday and I won my first two races (granted, it was the entry level group). That aside it was very low pressure and a very controlled, constructive environment something that provided a mental break from the way road racing has become. My teammate Emma is up in Indy and racing Thursday nights as well so it also provides a chance to catch up and talk about upcoming road races that are on our team schedules. Long-term I think it will help with the mental side of cycling as far as the cat and mouse and strategy portions, something I need help with. Shorterm however, it is providing some fun and a change of scene as well as a good reason to spend time in Indy, visit friends and go to the Whole Foods up there.

This past weekend has also been a bit outside of my normal training. I have been working as part of the coaching and ride leadership for a team and camp in from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It has provided a unique opportunity to put my coaching license to work doing something that I already do on a regular basis with the women on my Little 500 team, and get paid doing it. Overall it has been quite the experience working with everyone from competitive athletes to juniors just getting started as well as folks who just wanted to experience Bloomington riding.

The eclectic mix of people has made for some interesting situations as well as this constant feeling that I was herding cats, however I learned a lot, even from the riders who were just starting out. Coming from Michigan many were nervous about the hills, something that at first confused the crap out of me. However the more I thought about it the more I realized that they were going through the same thing I went through when I was in Tennessee and Utah and dealing with the mountains for the first time. For someone from Michigan, Firehouse is a mountain. Going downhill and hitting speeds over 40 miles an hour can be terrifying for someone who rarely goes downhill for more than 30 seconds, and never at speeds quite that high.

Anyways, it’s been a nice few weekends off but I am anxious to get back to racing my bike. Next up on my race schedule is the Snake Alley/ Melon City/ Quad Cities weekend, followed by Glencoe.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Collegiate Nationals: Road Race and Wrap-up

Sunday morning rolled around, bringing with it 20 mph winds and wind advisories for 50 mph wind gusts. The course involved going around a small lake a couple times before heading out for a long pass through Ogden canyon and then the four mile climb at the end of the race. Fortunately in the valley area the wind was not too bad, lending to a flat, relatively easy 40 miles to start the race.

The road race was the even I had hoped to do well in coming into the weekend, but as I woke up the morning before I could tell it was going to be a rough day. My body was clearly still stressed from the day before and with the altitude my lungs seemed to be getting worse, not better. With Melissa injured I warmed up before taking my place in the callups, chatting with a few women from Lindenwood at the start.

Starting from the front of the pack was a major stress relief for me, and I instantly was able to find a group of MWCCC women as well as a few nice wheels. Within a mile or two I had found Kaitie (Marian) and settled onto her wheel for almost the entire first 20 miles or so. I knew she wasn't going to be doing any work but would be staying towards the front and so if I kept on her wheel I would be in generally good position. To my surprise, this worked rather well.

There were several minor attacks, but none that the pack deemed dangerous with mostly girls going solo off the front but never out of sight. Towards the middle of our second lap around there had been a rider from Florida off the pack for awhile. The pack had huddled to the right of the road and I saw an opportunity to stretch my legs a little, swinging left from the back of the pack and making a move up the far end. Once separated I looked back to find a rider from Lindenwood and one from Marian with me, no surprises there. I stayed with them a few minutes, working our way to the rider from Florida.

Decision time. I made the mistake of confusing the rider from Marian, and thinking it was someone else rather than Jackie Kurth, and the rider from Lindenwood was not someone I expected them to be working for. I had been in situations like this during the regular season where a rider from each of these teams would follow an attack just to bring it in and I suspected that Coryn and Kaitie would not let this go the entire race. This was not the winning move, and I knew that.

So I sat up.

In retrospect I probably should have stayed with that small group, especially given my mistake in who the riders were. It would have brought some attention to IU and I would have been stronger for it, but unfortunately the knowledge that there was still a lot of race to go weighed on me and I returned to the shelter of the pack, this may be my one regret from the weekend.

We came into the first feed zone and I missed my first bottle which had mix in it, I would have only water and some of the food in my back pocket the remainder of the race, something that may have factored into how dead I felt at the end. Ivy, from Marian, had picked up a neutral bottle and graciously gave that to me.

As the pack swung off the short loop it was a mad dash to be on the front going into the canyon which was going to be a tricky descent due to construction and sketchy roads. I found myself in the right place, surrounded by riders from Lindenwood, Wisconsin, Lindsey Wilson and Marian. Always nice to have familiar wheels in situations like that.

As we came into Ogden I started to notice the wind and we began to hit the rollers leading into the mountains. As we came into the final climb I began to fall off, unable to breath and my legs not willing to move any faster. The minute I was off the wind struck and I could tell that it was going to be a long climb.

Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe my experience going up the mountain. Having ridden it before I felt comfortable with it, perhaps even confident. However, I was not prepared for the 30mph headwind up the entire set and my lungs were giving out on me, the elevation and coughing proving a bit too much. I summited alone and rode the remaining 10k mostly by myself, rolling in for 55th in the field.

That evening saw me in the medical tent not just because one of our riders had gone down, but because my coughing was so bad I had trouble breathing after the race. A trip to the doctor's and the hospital confirmed that I had acute bronchitis and would be spending the next few days off the bike. Whoops.

Looking back at the race there were a few decisions I made that having hind sight I probably would have done differently. However, I have no regrets about my nationals experience. I have one more collegiate season ahead of me and I very much intend to make it count. Luke, Paul, John and I will all be returning for next year's season and this experience has taught us a lot in terms of communication, racing, and general team organization. As a team we finished 23rd out of 60 in the omnium, something that will help with call-ups for next year. I truly hope we can bring full, cohesive men's and women's squads out to Virginia.

This season I had the privilege of representing IU both in conference and at nationals, as well as at team leader's meetings on the conference and national levels. I really look forward to taking comments and advice from other team leaders and coaches and applying it to the IU team next year. With as amazing as the Bloomington bicycling scene is, there is no reason why we can't have a cohesive program that stands on its own year to year.

Next on deck for me is summer racing, as well as stepping into some racing on the velodrome. However, that being said this past weekend was a little taste of something amazing, and I have high expectations for myself next collegiate season.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Collegiate Nationals: Criterium

Saturday was my first day of racing in Utah and on deck was a 60 minute, eight corner criterium with about 70 other women. Prior to this my largest race was 35 women, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. Like I told a friend beforehand, this was my first rodeo.

Melissa and I got to the race site roughly two hours before our start. We were able to get in a few laps of the course and at the time I noticed a fairly large pothole on the small climb coming out of the finishing straight, as well as some major wind. Other than that the course seemed fairly wide open with nothing that made me terribly nervous.

A phone call with the coach confirmed that the race was going to be a crap-shoot. I had not done any hard riding or training in over a week and we really did not know how my legs were going to feel, let alone my lungs. My goal was to find a friendly wheel (preferably Marian or Lindenwood) stick too it, and HIDE.

Warm ups went well, but even before the race started I was having a hard time catching my breath and there was a lot of coughing. Melissa and I had agreed that she would take the better call-up in the Crit and I in the road race and so my start put me towards the back which was a bit rough. As we started I found myself fighting tooth and nail to get up to the front and having very little success doing so. I am 99% sure there was a small wreck in the first turn out of the start a few laps in, but no one else seems to remember it, so I may be crazy.

The big moment came a little less than halfway through. A rider in attempting to avoid that massive pothole moved abruptly, knocking into Mikayla from Lindsey Wilson. Mikayla stayed upright but it set of a chain reaction in the middle of the pack. I had been following a train of Coryn and Lindenwood up the right hand side and saw the wreck happen to my left. Initially I was safe but the Lindenwood rider went down in front of me. I ramped her wheel, knocking my chain off, but grace of god kept it upright. I was able to shift back on quickly enough that I remained with the pack, which at this point had been cut in half by the wreck.

As we moved through that lap I looked around the pack for Melissa, only to find that I was alone. Teammates began calling for their riders, and I heard one of the Marian coaches yelling "Jackie is out". Never a good thing to hear. As we came around to the start/finish I could see Melissa walking towards neutral wheel support and was glad to see she was moving. Riders came back in and soon enough Melissa was back in the pack.

At this point I had managed to work my way up to the front of the race, sitting comfortable around Lindenwood and Marian, but a few laps later found myself middle back again. Alarm bells going off I saw a line up the side and took it as we came into the start line. That launched me to the front, and I quickly found myself pulling away from the field just a points prime was called. Whoops.

Screen shot of my attack that my dad found. 

I was able to hold it for about a half lap but with 70 girls coming up behind me there was just no way to sustain it. Back in the pack I stayed in the front until about 5 to go at which point I quickly found myself moving backwards in the pack, my legs cashed out. I tried to stay close to Melissa and move up in the last five laps but I made absolutely no progress. Rolled in with the main field in 33rd, with Melissa taking 29th.

What was cool after the fact was a few women from the MWCCC telling me good job. I may not have felt it was a very good finish but it was kind of them to say, and good to hear that someone had noticed my feeble attack. I really think our conference has some of the best women in it as far as development of the sport is concerned.

Our men had a rough go of it with Turner getting pulled. Paul was in three wrecks in the crit, and although he had perfect positioning going into the last lap he was in a wreck on that first turn that took him out of the race, John rolling in with the main field. We would later find that Melissa was injured enough that she would not be contesting the road race.

That night was the banquet with the announcement that nationals the next year would be held in Richmond, Virginia on the same course as the 2015 Worlds. How legit is that?!? Huge shout out to Lindsey Wilson for adopting me for the evening, none of my teammates besides myself attended the banquet and it was kind of them to take me in. Fun group!

Before Collegiate Nationals

I had the pleasure of running the twitter feed for Indiana Cycling this weekend, and so a quick note before I start. For those of you who weren’t aware this is not a blog about drama. Don’t expect to come here and get a full dish on who came to nationals and why, that’s not me and honestly I don’t think anyone knows the full story.

Moving on.

Nationals were full of highs and lows, but honestly to understand everything that happened I have to back up a bit. Thursday night (April 25th) I started to get sick. Fever, coughing, congestion, and the whole nine yards. A phone call with the coach set me on a path of vitamin C mixes, Zicam and five days off the bike. I think Bloomington may be experiencing a serious Kleenex shortage after I went through the stores.

We flew into Ogden on Tuesday April 30th. That evening I discovered that the newly installed cable housing was creating too much tension and one of the brake cables was broken. Contrary to a few friends’ beliefs I was going to need my brakes for the weekend. A quick run into Ogden the following morning resulted in a repaired cable and that afternoon I got on the bike for the first time in five days for a 30 minute spin on the road race course.

I have never felt worse in my life. The altitude was affecting me, and looking back at my ride data my heart rate was several zones above where my power was. Even though I thought I was getting better my body was clearly disagreeing with me and the 5000ft above sea level was not helping.

Thursday gave me the opportunity to do the climb as well as practice the descent several times. Given my history with mountain descents I really wanted to get this one right, I wanted “NO BRAKES” to be an option for me rather than my usual timid descending style. The climb was rough, though I got to do about half of it with members of the Lindsey Wilson Cycling team and I felt comfortable with it. By the time I did the descent a fourth time I was able to get through it with only touching my brakes on one sweeping turn, and hitting speeds that I never see in Bloomington. I was starting to feel ready and was looking forward to Saturday and Sunday.

Friday saw me heading out to Antelope Island to watch the individual time trials. An event I had initially registered but would be scratching due to illness and needing to save my matches for the crit and road race. However, it was great to cheer on my teammates as well as others from our conference. Melissa had an amazing ride, finishing somewhere around 7th in the time trial, and our men did well also with a 15th place finish in the TTT as well as individual results for Becker and Turner.  We were headed into the weekend with high spirits and hopeful attitudes.

More on Saturday and Sunday to come at a later date.