Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wrap It Up

Well, my road season came to a close rather quietly over the last week. Originally I had been intending to do the Bloomington Criterium and New Albany but I came out of Prairie State exhausted. The last four days of NCC races were mentally and physically challenging, I'm glad I did it and I finished in the top half of the field for the series but it was clear that I needed a break.

At the beginning of this summer I had been intending to race through August and I still may do a few races, but early in July I began the process of switching schools. I finished this last year at IU on the dean's list for my graduate program and facing just one last year to complete my Masters of Science in Environmental Science. In the background of all of this was the growing realization that I did not want to work in that field. As an undergraduate your degree field does not really matter in the grand scheme of things, but your graduate degree needs to be in the field you intend to work in. With this in mind I began to look at schools with programs in Sports Marketing, and was lucky enough to stumble across an opportunity at Lindenwood due to some help from fellow collegiate cyclists. I will be starting either the MBA program or the MA in Sports Management program this fall as well as riding for their collegiate cycling team.

After leaving Chicago I headed down to St. Louis, spending the early part of this last week looking at apartments, meeting up with teammates and nailing down my plans. Because of the move my summer is significantly shortened, especially with me heading to Tennessee this next week, then coming back and getting my wisdom teeth pulled right before moving out to St. Charles. Not a lot of time is left in between moves, resulting in a shortened race schedule.

So, I have been looking back at this season and it has been quite the ride. The collegiate season, especially with getting sick at nationals, was rough. New experiences and my first time having to race against large teams would lead to a steep learning curve at the beginning, though I did manage top ten finishes both days of regionals. Coming out of nationals in May I was glad to have such a successful first race with the win at Snake Alley in the 2/3's field, my first win at the Category 3 level and the first of three wins this summer where I would ride away from the field (I need to learn how to sprint). More exciting results would follow at Tulsa Tough, Madeira (the win and every prime, teamwork at its finest), and South Bend, though the wreck at Grandview still has lingering consequences (stiff muscles and having to finish the season on my old aluminum frame).

My upgrade to category 2 would follow in time for amateur road nationals (one of the most embarrassing races of my life) as well as the Prairie State Series, where a flyer for a 6th place finish would be the highlight of the week though every day on the bike was a huge learning experience with my first set of big Pro/1/2 races. The racing season for the year is far from over, with both collegiate track and the cyclocross season ahead of me, as well as the possibility of doing Gateway Cup out in St. Louis. However, I am happy with where I am and with how my third season of racing has ended.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Beginning of a Long Week

This past weekend and the remainder of this week has found me in Kenosha, WI and Chicago, IL for the Prairie State Cycling Series. Since I could not do TOAD due to house and dog sitting obligations this series was an opportunity to do some larger races including four National Criterium Calendar races at the end of the week. Being newly upgraded to Category Two I expect it to be a day by day kind of week, with some races being relatively successful and some being complete learning experiences. First off, I want to give a shout out to Beth Engwis and her family for hosting me for the first two races as well as the rest days and velodrome stuff.  Beth and I met my sophomore year when I first started with collegiate cycling and we were in the Bs field together. Our friendship has survived the upgrade to the A field (even if she does go to Marian….) and she is the one who convinced me to try track. It has been fun to visit her and get some racing in.

Thursday night I was up on the Major Taylor Velodrome and took the overall omnium in my category for the evening by finishing 3rd in the Points race, 2nd in the Elimination and 1st in the scratch race. In the process I received my Cat 3 upgrade which will allow me to race as an A on the track for the collegiate season. Yipee!

Friday’s race was located in downtown Kenosha, close to the waterfront. Beth and I were able to tool around and warm up before rolling to the start line. It was a relatively small field but team names represented included Vanderkitten, Exergy, Tibco and ISCorp so I had a feeling it was still going to be a tough day. Attack after attack went the first bit, with a group of three including ISCorp, Exergy and Tibco rolling off the front. They would go on to catch the field. At this point I had started to shake the remaining nerves from nationals and was feeling more confident in myself and my bike. A flurry of attacks followed the catch of the pack and I went up against two women from Vanderkitten and Tibco to take a prime. Shortly after the prime Vanderkitten and one other lady went up the road and I found myself in the wrong place to respond, instead watching 5th place roll away. As five to go came up a 100$ prime was announced and facing a guaranteed 10th place finish (the pack had lapped/dropped several riders) I decided to take a chance. As I took the prime I looked under my arm to see the pack was nowhere to be found.  I would go on to stay off the front the rest of the race to take 6th.

My solo dig off the front for the prime and 6th place.

The Saturday race was cancelled due to unexpected construction in Chicago. This left Beth and I to have some fun in Kenosha. A coffee shop spin and some relaxed velodrome laps were in order and I used the opportunity to practice some slower-paced flying 200s and track standing. Its interesting how different the velodromes can be from one another and I look forward to racing on the Kenosha velodrome Tuesday night.  

Sunday at Crystal Lake was a mixed bag. More of the riders in the field had teammates and so the break took longer to sort itself out, creating a faster paced race. I struggled for the third race in a row with my start, unable to move up in the pack. When the break of Vanderkitten and Tibco finally did get away the peloton still gave chase due to a lack of representation from other teams. An attempt for a prime saw me shelled with ten to go and in a chase group with three other women. I finished in the money, and not last. The heat took a toll but also I had a hard time moving up to the front at the start and found myself dealing with a lot of rubber band action. However, it was a great race in that I learned a lot about what I need to start working on more. This whole experience is about education and I was up to my ears in it after the race. It was nice to see some friends, including Sarah from Lindenwood who I got to hang out with after the race and commiserate about our shared learning experiences after upgrading.

A diminished pack coming through the start/finish at Crystal Lake, at this point a move was up the road.

Overall it was a nice way to ease into the more elite level racing against the Pro categories. The back half of the series, which contains the NCC races, will be a different story but I am looking forward to the experience. The next two days I am hanging out in Kenosha including racing on the velodrome a bit, but for the most part will be focusing on recovery and getting ready for the next five races in the series.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Whoops, Nationals

Well, this past weekend was a bit of a crapshoot. I had headed up to Madison for the U23 Nationals Crit, an event that was added into my racing schedule just two weeks ago.  I got up to Madison the night before and was able to relax a bit, find a Whole Foods and a local gluten free bakery.

I spent the morning of the race at the hotel before heading to downtown Madison. It was nice to see some friends that I hadn’t talked to in awhile, as well as the usual stalwarts from the MWCCC that were competing, including my friend Hannah from Lindsey Wilson who would be racing with me. I felt good leading into the race, with only minor nerves about racing on my old bike and some discomfort from the wreck the week before.

However, once the race started it was clear it was not going to be my day. I struggled to get clipped in from the line, and then the constant sprinting/ slowing down motion of the first few laps made it hard to find a rhythm. This continued for the next fifteen minutes or so and I was dropped along with Hannah. However, as USA cycling said, the race was very “Controlled” and because of the slow pace in between Hannah and I did fight out way back on. Unfortunately, another few accelerations and I was back off. However, this time Hannah was further behind and mentally I just cracked with my body following suit. It was clear that someone was wrong, which was only made more obvious as I became friends with a trash can after I pulled out.

I could blame it on the bike, the wreck, and the long car ride but simply put, my legs weren’t there nor was my mentality midrace. I was not riding like I have been the past few weeks. I have always struggled in races where there are massive changes in pace like that, but it is frustrating to be dropped and DNF in a race with only 17 other women, many of whom I have raced against successfully in the past. It is even more frustrating when the average speed was less than that of the 10-12 year old juniors and the words "parade" and "group ride" were being used to describe the event. 

Everyone has bad days, mine just happened at an extremely inopportune time. I am still glad I went because it provided a much needed wakeup call and will be a little push to keep going. I know I still have a long ways to go but looking back I can still see how far I’ve come in just 2.5 seasons of racing. I’ll be doing the entirety of Prairie State this coming week, which will be my first big set of Pro/1/2 races. I fully expect to get murdered, but I also know that I can’t spend the rest of my time riding in the 3/4s fields. Time to put on some big girl bib shorts.

My replacement race bike should come in after Prairie State and hopefully by then I will have shaken whatever is going on with me mentally and physically.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Roller Coaster Weekend

Friday I headed to Ohio to race at the Tour de Grandview. What looked to be a pretty basic rectangle course on paper would have been a generally safe course but the first two turns were tight and with it being a women’s open race I was a bit concerned about how everyone would handle them. My concerns proved valid as wreck after wreck occurred in the first two turns, with one neutralizing the race for about 15 minutes. However, the craziness for me did not involve a turn, but rather a pedestrian.

I was sitting second wheel in the pack behind Katie Arnold (Riley) when about ten feet in front of us a lady carrying a beer and a sandwich decided to walk around the gate and in front of the entire pack. With a line of riders moving up our left Katie tried to go around the lady but instead ended up hitting her dead on and I went down on top of her.  As we scrambled to untangle our bikes and ourselves she picked up her sandwich, and threw her beer cup aside and walked away without saying a word. Lovely. I got back in the race for the neutralized portion and managed to finish 4th in the 3/4 field and 8th overall. Not exactly how I had hoped to finish the day but glad that I was able to finish the race.

The next day as we were looking over my bike it became clear that I had sustained worrisome damage to the carbon on the front fork and one of the seat stays. Although some repair is possible, racing on the Madone is no longer an option. The timing was not ideal, with U23 nationals in less than a week and pretty much all the Trek frames in my size sold out. As of right now I will be racing the next two weeks on my aluminum 1.2 “The Beast”.

Saturday I was home dealing with the bike, Old Navy Flip Flop Day, a power outage (complete with sparking downed wire in the backyard), an injured cat and a dog who apparently likes to eat things it shouldn’t. With not very much sleep and still sore from injuries I loaded up the The Beast and headed to Madeira on Sunday. Warm-ups were uneventful as Emma and I chatted and I tried to get the 1.2 as dialed in as I could though the setup is different from my normal racing bike. More than anything I was glad to have a teammate with me today.

The first ten minutes of racing allowed me to loosen up, though the two 180 degree turns on the course were causing a lot of speed-up/slow-down motion that was taking its toll on the pack. Emma took the first prime and then I took a flyer for the second. Coming through with such a lead I decided to keep moving, staying off the front for another few laps. As I looked up though I realized we were only 25 minutes into a 60 minute race. Not really willing to do the rest of the race solo, or put the effort into a solo effort only to get caught and spat out the back, I sat up and returned to the field. As the race continued I would take the next prime as well. Emma and I were able to stay close to each other, working really well together as Emma put a lot of effort into the front of the race. As five laps to go came I sank back in the pack a bit, mentioning to Emma that I was planning to attack with three to go. As we came around into the first 18 degree turn on the fourth lap I flew up the outside and pulled away, never looking back and taking the last two primes as well as the win. At the end of the day Emma and I took every prime, the win and 8th place for Scholars Inn Bakehouse.

And yes, I did lock myself out of my car.