My main goal for the 2013 season was to move from Sport to the Expert class. That was THE goal.
Thanks to a killer performance at the Winter Short Track Series I was moved up to Expert or CAT1. If you aren’t familiar with the difference of the two categories, it often is double the distance and sometimes on a different/harder course. Racing 22 miles on a rough, rocky, course was a bit humbling.
My first true race as an expert was at this past Sunday’s Bouldergeist at San Lee Park as part of Southern Classic Series.
Starting at the line there was 6 of us split between the two age groups, all I need to do was finish and I would be third. The start was on pavement, up a driveway climb and then left over gravel into the woods. The climb felt great on my legs, and entering the woods I slowed down to let some of the faster girls in front of me. It was a great feeling to have the hole shot, but I knew I would be in peoples way.
The course was pretty fast with nice twists, switch back climbs and some “rock” sections that with a proper pre-ride I would be able to clear easier. There was one section that only the Pros and Experts had to ride called Free Fall. I believe I walked 1.5 miles through this rock invested “trail.” Again, maybe with proper pre-ride and guidance I could have ridden more of this section, but it made me feel like a beginner all over again.
After the long walk through woods and over the rocks I was pretty mentally fried. It seemed like I was getting dehydrated and pretty disappointed. After that first lap I was done. There was an 8 hour drive infront of me and the idea of another 1.5 hours on the bike was not exciting.
Thankfully I have a very supportive group around me. Constantly over the past 2 days I have been reminded that I made a big jump with my categories. It will take time to be able to hang, and then to be competitive. As an athlete this sounds bogus to me, but then I slow down and think of what I would tell someone else. They are right, I need a reality check and time towing the line. It will take time, I need to be patient and put more time on the saddle.
I don’t have another race until 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, here’s to as many long rides as I can fit in!
A race report that was almost forgotten, as I’m typing this 6 days later in the Philadelphia airport during a layover.
My last race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series had a handful of ups and downs. As I was only able to race 4 out of 5 races my placing of this last race would be a wash. Going into a race lacking motivation is difficult for me, so 20 minutes to start time I did some soul searching and finding that mission. Mission: fun, hard pace and working to help a couple key friends on their short track virginity.
This is going to be kept short and sweet.
2nd lap I found myself sitting comfortable in 2nd place. Pushing it hard. Working with a friend Jordan on the road section. Around lap 4 or 5 I decided to slow the hell down. My morning routine was off, and my stomach was feeling questionable. Letting my heart rate drop a zone made me drop two places. Sitting in 4th behind Patty Smith. I coasted along, catching breath and finding comfort in my tempo zone. Two laps to go I knew I needed to either find peace with my 4th place finish or attack.
Of course, I attacked. Put room between Patty and myself, I had 3rd locked in place. Trying to bridge the gap between 2nd place (Jordan) and myself, I pushed hard but needed another lap to make up the time I had lost. Losing 2nd place by 10 seconds was bitter but I learned a bit about myself, comfort zones and the punch that my legs have in these early pre-season races.
One last bitter sadness is that I am currently tied for 1st overall with Patty. If I was to race this weekend and beat her, I would have first in the expert category. Unfortunately I am sitting in PA on the way to MN, far away from the race course. I can say I ended the series much better than I ever expected. My goals were to hang on and not get lapped, in the end I was the one doing the lapping.
Could I keep consistent lap times? Could I make the podium? How did my skinsuit do under mountain bike conditions?
Let’s Cut to the Conclusion
Mission, possible. 2nd place, behind a super strong (pro) Debbie, and in front of a damn good field.
I’m not going to give you play by play but here are cliff notes.
Went into the woods on first lap 3/4 behind the field. I simply didn’t have the gearing to power through the start which sucks as I’m normally good at stopped starts.
Through the woods, on the brakes, riding someone’s tire, over the rock and on the gravel. Picking off girls, calling my passes and not knowing how this was happening. I was “picking girls off”???? For a few laps I tried to work with Patty Smith. She’s fast in the short track, I could help her on the gravel and road but in the end I was giving up too much time on the road not pushing hard enough. Around lap 4 I put a gap between us, holding it steady (losing 5 seconds or so on the last last lap.) I could see Debbie through the trees, but the guys winner ended up between us, ending my last lap a lap down from her. I wish I knew the time gap better before that extra lap she did.
Hard Work Means Harder Work Ahead
Yes, I am super proud of my accomplishments in a short amount of time. It is two days after the race and I still don’t believe I placed 2nd as my goals of this series was to not get lapped.
My goals are still lofty, but feel a little closer after this past weeks performance.
Today was the first time in this race series I’ve been able to sleep in. Maybe the nerves are calming down and I am realizing I don’t have to wake up at 7am to dance around in spandex all morning. Restless. Excited. Hopeful. Is today the day I’ll earn myself a place on the podium?
My goals for today are simple. Solid, consistent, lap times. I won’t be relying on the Garmin for this, but my internal clock. My heart rate, my pounding heart, and the time gaps before or after my position.
My other goal is that today is skin suit rocking weather since it is going to be under 55º! This skinsuit, TwinSix team issue, has been in my arsenal all fall long but I haven’t been able to wear it so today is the day! On a side note, I don’t know which color sports bra to wear as the kit is black/silver. Thoughts? (Yes, these are the thoughts that go through my head…I am a girl!)
Lesbi-honest.…going into this race I was super pumped but had pretty realistic expectations. My legs would be loaded and weighed down from the previous day’s threshold test, plus I had a 3 hour mountain bike ride planned for Monday. I wanted to do well, but these Short Track races aren’t goals, they are pieces of a bigger puzzle!
Pre-Race Warm Up & Getting Jacked Up
This past weekend I honed in on a Pre-Race routine. Food, music choices and even received a few really stellar songs for my playlist from Facebook friends. I timed my ride to the race a bit closer, getting there around 1:15pm. I still ended up standing around for close to 45 minutes, so I’ll need to plan on being there even later next week. The 30 minute spin to the course is perfect, utilizing a couple spin up and short sprints right before the race line up.
A few key players including Bonnie and Elsa showed up, they hadn’t been there the week previous and replaced a couple girls that kicked my arse (Jane & Sarah.) It would be interesting to see what Bonnie did to the field and how I could respond.
Go Time, BRAAAPPP
I couldn’t get clipped in off the bat, but I still settled in 3rd going into the woods. I was happy, didn’t want to push it and needed to settle into a nice rhythm as we ticked off the laps. Finding my home between Jodi and Layla, I was putting time between Jodi (behind me) and trying to stay within a few seconds of Layla’s wheel. Going into the last lap I knew if I wanted 3rd I needed to make a move. Looking at my heart rate sitting at 185, I hadn’t hit my ceiling but my legs were. My quads simply did not have the snap left in them to attack that last lap full gas. Realizing no one was behind me, I slowed down a tick so that I would still have legs under me to get me home.
Where’s Your Head At?
Several people have commented that I should have attacked the last lap, and I agree to a point. These races are part of an interval training and part of a bigger, endurance, plan. Wrecking my legs for one place, while glorious, if it means I can’t ride the next day… is pointless. Sometimes you have to lose a pawn in the long term plan of check mate.
To the 5 or 6 friends that purposely got in their car to simply be there on the side of the trail, I am super grateful and humble.
The morning routine was off. I’m not used to racing in the afternoons, so I was up and “Ready” about 3 hours earlier than I needed to be. The plan was to ride to the course around 12:15, race time at 1:50. Next week I plan on making it a lot closer as there was a lot of sitting around and getting nervous.
BRAAAPPPP, Race Time
Lining up among 9 other pretty fast women I knew I could hold a strong line in the trail, but half of a lap is on a gravel road or asphalt parking lot. At the moment of go I settled in quickly. My starts from cyclocross paid off , though I could have easily been 2-3 in to the woods and I was comfortably seated behind fast girl, Sarah Matchett, in maybe 5-6th position. I was faster in the woods, she was faster on the straights. 9 laps, Sarah left me in her dust after the first lap. I settled into my heart rate, trying not to spew Perpetuam all over as it was 70 or so degrees. My body wasn’t used to zone 4/5 in these temperatures!!
Slowly I was picking girls off. My lap times were pretty consistent, but not as consistent as I would like. A goal for the series is to find my “pace” so that my lap times get faster, not slower, as we tick them off. I found myself in 4th with two girls within eye sight behind me. Going through the finish line with “Two laps to go!” I was trying to hit a hard effort through the parking lot and look across to the finish line to see the two girls being lapped by the finisher of single speed. I still had a lap to go, but does that mean they are done? Do I just need to stay up right?? With a fear of them working together and chasing after me I kept going. Not full effort, but pretty hard.
Improvement is Motivation
Pulling through the finish in 4th out of 10 pretty fast women I feel ecstatic with my results, along with knowing internally I’ve only been training “consistently” since Thanksgiving time. I’m sure these girls aren’t on their top game, but it feels pretty good to be in front of girls that have normally lapped me in the past! I realize it isn’t a true Expert field or length, but my goals of being able to CAT up this year to Expert seem a bit more obtainable!
Amazing motivation to continue to hit training hard, listen to my coach and make healthy decisions. I can say this is my best start of a racing season ever and the most overwhelmed feeling of encouragement and motivation from my friends.
Your first of a season are always nerve wracking. First group ride. First wreck. First long ride and so on. First are scary for the unknown and for the stress you put on yourself.
Tomorrow is my first race of 2013. The first race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series. A training race if you could call it that. A 45 minute interval set in the middle of a 3 hour ride. Riding to the course, pre-ride, race, and then another hour of riding after.
I can tell you now that I’m nervous, but in a healthy “I can’t wait to get my adrenaline pumping” kind of way. This afternoon, after I drive home from Chattanooga/Atlanta, I’ll be swapping out a front tire and riding down to the course to preview. From there I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I don’t know where my legs stand against the girls that will show up and in a hyper focused way – I’m not too worried. This short track series holds so meaning to me and I’m super stoked to be able to race all 5 Sundays of the series!
This is going to totally happen this year. Now the question is, who’s going to drag me around??
A 50 mile road race featuring 10 miles of unpaved roads including the Koppenberg of the High Country will test riders, while the breathtaking scenery and unmatched hospitality will combine to make for one of the most memorable races of the year.
Super decent price ($35) and I would guess the ride will sell out.
It’s that time of the year that I’m doing slower and longer miles, mostly by myself. Having lots of time to think through intervals and the long road in front of me I seem to reflect the most on the bike from January to March due to the speed and lack of companionship (my choice.)
Yesterday I struggled through my workout for many reasons. #1 As I’m getting towards the end of a couple blocks and haven’t had a threshold test so I’m stronger than where my zones are set. #2 The gearing on a cross bike with slicks is much different than a standard compact. It’s my own doing and I can fix both of these things. Regardless, the workout left me frustrated with finding the right gear and terrain for workouts.
Today I entered my 2.5 hour ride with a bit more optimism. Without any intervals to chase after I stopped looking at the Garmin page that listed watts and went off my Perceived Exertion scale that I have internally built in me from 15 years of cycling. I focused on pedaling strokes, enjoying jumping the potholes and digging deep into the turns.
Then I focused on shifting.
Shifting covers so many pieces of our lives. Often in cycling I find that I allow myself to sit in the gear I’m in. Maybe even falling behind the cadence I need to turn over my gear comfortable. Then there is the fear of the shift to a harder gear as it may be too hard. Maybe I’ll need to shift back? Maybe there will be a miss shift at the wrong moment or maybe it will show that I’m weak?
Shifting gears is as much about the mental feeling as it is the physical. Picking up your cadence and finding that you can push the new, harder, gear just as well as the easier. Your speed increases and often, especially off road, you find that it is easier to ride at this faster pace as momentum and speed is your friend.
Much of life is learning when to shift, when to push yourself, when to be happy with your pace or when to slow down. As I pedal around for the next couple months my thoughts will be focusing on the shift. Shifting the bike, shifting my mind and shifting how I live my life.