Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Season Recap

It's that time of year to look back on the season and remember all of the fantastic experiences I've had in the past 12 months. The above picture is one of my favorite shots from this year. Taken at a Wisconsin cyclocross race at Estabrook Park by the great djonnymac it embodies the spirit of the sport. Not a part that I regularly partake in but I wholeheartedly appreciate and respect the offer here.

Here's a look back at some pictures of the season - first some numbers. They certainly don't define a season but I still like to keep track of them.

63 race days
9 wins
28 top 5 finishes (including wins)

States raced in 11 - IL, WI, IA, AR, MN, OH, MA, KY, NJ, MO, Ontario (Canada)

No racing yet but a fun training camp in NC in March with some WI riders as well as a few KENDA teammates
a windy weekend of racing in Iowa City in April had me in second behind Sydney Brown both days
another fabulous edition of Joe Martin in Arkansas in May and the opportunity to stay with two amazing hosts - Carolyn and Marion
While in Arkansas we found peace on top of a mountain during a training ride - Lee looks like she's about to do the move from Karate Kid and I love the look on Kat's face
In the Tour of Arkansas crit - going after an attack
The podium at the Tour of Arkansas - can you guess the two major teams in the race?
In Iowa at the end of May trying to defend my two Snake Alley titles
but . . . couldn't drop Sam up the climb and she outsprinted me in the end
Another favorite race of mine - the Stillwater Crit at Nature Valley Grand Prix in June
Racing the Grandview crits in Ohio at the end of June and staying for a second year with wonderful host family the Camerons
In Massachusetts in July for Fitchburg and enjoying the local dairy bars
Back in Wisconsin for Superweek in July - here I was second at the Ripon crit
Brooke Miller and I were off the front for a few laps of the inaugural Chicago Crit in August - cross your fingers they give the women a race here this year
Last road race of the year for me - Downers Grove Crit Championship in Illinois
September was all Dave - he raced an impressive Ironman - 10:35 - check out those quads!
First cyclocross race of the year at the Jonathan Page Planet Bike Cup UCI race in Madison at the end of September
A full plate of UCI racing this year - at the USGP in Louisville in October - I'm liking those black skinsuits!
A trip to Toronto for two more UCI races in November - so much fun - great courses both days and excellent support of the women
Getting on the podium both days in Toronto was an honor
Another weekend of USGP racing in New Jersey - holy mud fest - lots of running and lots of wanting the pain to stop!
Going down at the State Champ race - this was from the mens 3 race I did before going on to win the womens race
At Jingle Cross day 2 in the sloppy snowy mud - one of the most frustrating races I had all year . . . but fun!
Racing the Womens 30-34 race at Nationals
and getting on the podium by less than a bike length in the sprint
last race of the year in the Nationals Elite Womens race - see how cold the spectators look.

Thank you to everyone in my life who supports me in my racing!

First and foremost Dave for his unconditional love and support.

My family for coming out to so many races and being my biggest fans.
Dave's family for being supportive of my addiction and not disowning us for missing family weddings!
Bob Downs and Planet Bike for their incredible support of the sport of cyclocross and the Planet Bike team. It was such a pleasure to race on the team this fall and I'm proud to represent such a respectable, hard working company.
Paul Forsythe, the owner/manager of Team KENDA for his hard work with the team and providing opportunities for so many women to be involved in racing.
Team KENDA mechanic Mike Wakeley who is one of the most generous people I know. And he races too!

And thanks to all of you for checking in on me and reading my ramblings! Hope you all had a great 2008!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow Days

As might have been expected, I've been very lazy since my season ended with Cyclocross Nationals. In the past 10 days other than one 40 minute trainer session I have done virtually no physical activity and it feels kind of nice. Another long racing year in the books and I think a couple of weeks off is deserved. Base training for next season is not far off so I'll enjoy this time of not worrying about whether I've gotten in my required hours of training. Baking Christmas cookies is more fun this time of year anyway!

It's been snowing in Wisconsin practically non stop and I suppose all of the shoveling I've been doing might fall under the physical activity category. We're up to nearly 40 inches for December already. It's crazy - the snow piles in our front yard are so tall! Our driveway is practically a tunnel and backing the car out into the street is scary as you can't see if there are cars coming.

In addition to the snow we had a few days of below zero temps. Usually those don't hit until January or February so it was a little odd. Lots of layers and cups of tea around the house. Cider likes to play up the "I'm a poor little cold dog" act so we cover her up with blankets when she's on her perch looking out the window.

Just for good measure there are a few tidbits of cycling news out there that deserve mention.

Madison's Planet Bike Cup UCI race from this past season has evolved into a USGP race for 2009. Cyclocross Magazine article Awesome news and a testament to what a great scene we have in Wisconsin due in very large part to Renee and also to Plant Bike. Pretty much the premiere racing series here in the US it's great to see that they chose to add Madison to the now 4 weekend series. We'll kick off the racing at the end of September and then Louisville, New Jersey, and Portland will round up the racing.

The destination for 2009 US Cyclocross Nationals has been revealed . . . Bend, OR. I admit I let out a triumphant yell when I heard that. The Pacific Northwest has always entranced me and I have yet to ever step foot into Oregon or Washington. Bend is one of those cities that seems to hold a sort of mythical quality to it (not unlike Boulder and, although to a lesser extent, not unlike Madison).

I thought Katie gave a great interview in Velocity Nation about her own goals and history in cross but also about the state of womens racing in the US and Europe. US women are kicking it over in Europe - last weekend's World Cup had Katie winning, Georgia on the podium in 3rd, and Rachel a strong 8th. Very cool.

Well that's all I've got for now. I'm headed out to shovel the new 4 inches or so of snow and then go do some Christmas shopping. (Yes, it is Christmas Eve - I am one of those procrastinators) I'm looking forward to the next few days and spending time with lots of family. Tomorrow is my big family gathering at my aunt and uncle's house and then Friday we'll go up north to spend time with Dave's family.

I hope everyone has a fun and relaxing holiday spent with family and friends!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cyclocross Nationals - Day 3 and 4 report

picture by Andrea Wilson
Ugh - I apologize for not updating regularly in KS. We had very slow internet at the hotel and it's amazing how quickly the "down" time can get sucked up. I'm still in the process of collecting pictures from the trip and races so check back as I'll add them in throughout the week.

Day 3 - Saturday - U23 races, Masters Mens races
Mild temperatures in the 50s but extremely windy. Conditions turned the soft mud into a hard packed yet spongy course. Fast but still energy zapping. Watched the U23 races in the morning. No Planet Bike riders in either of those fields but I did get to see future Kenda riders Ally Stacher and Ashley James take 2nd and 3rd (respectively) in the womens race. Nice job ladies!
After heading back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours we headed back to the course in the afternoon to watch the 40-44 race and see Wisconsin racers JPE, Paul, Dave, and Mark race. After that Bob raced the 50-54 race and despite being in the final stages of a cold he had an impressive performance and finished a strong 7th place.
He was bringing back 5th and 6th place and if he had another lap I think he may have been on the podium. The race was won by mountain biking legend Ned Overend.

Day 4 - Final day of racing with Elite races for Anna and I followed by Jonathan and Marko. The weather was a balmy 60 degrees when we woke up and around 9:00 it dropped 15 degrees in a matter of 5 minutes. By the time we got to the course at 10:30 it was 35 degrees and the wind was howling out of the north - freezing cold. Fast course again with the dry, windy conditions. Anna and I warmed up on trainers sheltered from the wind by the van. Nearly 80 women on the line for our race and I had a third row call up. We shivered on the line and finally off we went. My bad start luck continued and I lost maybe 30 spots as we entered the grass. It's become a mental block for me. Some friends told me it's just part of my formula - I need to claw my way through the field in order to get in "the zone". Either way I vow to improve on my starts for next season. I quickly started to pass riders and was out of the saddle trying to take advantage of every straight away and the hill to make up time. The course was a lot of fun - it was fast but the hill provided plenty of suffering as the head wind and the bumpy ruts took it out of you. I felt better today in the technical descent portions of the course but realize I was still losing time there to many riders. Thanks for the picture Andrea!

I was feeling alright and in the second and third laps continued to pick off some riders. I heard people yelling that I was in the top 20 and with several riders just ahead of me I knew top 15 and possibly even top 10 was within my reach. The next lap I passed a few more girls and through the technical section got passed back. Coming through with two laps to go I passed the two riders just in front of me on the uphill section and heard fans telling me I was in 15th place. There was a strung out group of 5 riders not very far ahead of me and I pushed to try to catch up to them and put distance on the chasers behind me. On the runup after the hill I was nearly on the wheel of the rider in front of me but she gapped me in the corners on the descent. As we came through with one lap to go I was at my limit and was trying to push hard to reel in the riders in front of me. Just couldn't do it though and I focused on staying smooth and powerful on this last lap as I could no longer feel my toes and my breathing was getting erratic. I tried to stay calm and keep the pedals turning and finish off this last race of the season strong. I came across the line in 15th - 25 seconds behind the group of 5 in front of me. I wish I could have been in there sprinting for 10th but I was pleased with my race.

My toes were so cold after the race despite those little toe warmer inserts. I skipped a cool down and instead changed quickly in the van and put on virtually every piece of clothing I had with me for spectating the mens race. Anna and I were enjoying the warm van but finally emerged ready to be Superfans. Congrats to Anna on a great Elite race too - she finished a very strong 22nd. The wind was incredible - it cut through whatever you were wearing and made the 25 degree temps feel like 0. I put on my balaclava in an attempt to stay warm.

Being a superfan was a blast. Jonathan had a huge contingent of family and friends and we were handing out cowbells with Planet Bike and JP stickers on them. JP was leading the field off of the pavement and a group of about 7 riders soon formed. photo thanks to Amy

Marko was in the top 15. After a couple of laps Anthony attacked and Driscoll went after him. The remaining group of 5 rode together and after a lap or so Trebon went as Anthony's lead dropped. Trebon was incredible and passed them both to get a good gap that grew with each lap. Driscoll rode strong in between Trebon and the group behind that eventually became Page, Anthony, and Johnson. Marko was working himself further up and was riding with Troy Wells for 11th. Page hit it hard the last two laps in an attempt to get to Driscoll and dropped Anthony and Johnson. Couldn't quite make it and he finished a very respectable 3rd. Marko meanwhile dropped Troy in the last lap and was nearly on Bishop's wheel as they reached the finish stretch. photothanks to Amy
He couldn't quite come around but finished a strong 11th place. Strong rides by both Planet Bike riders and an awesome race to watch. Wow - was I ever cold by the end of the race!

We had a nice team dinner that evening. I'm going to write up a more official thank you blog post soon but I have to thank Bob and Planet Bike for the incredible support during nationals and throughout the season. I am so proud to be a part of this team and the sense of family within the group of riders and support crew is inspiring.

The snow began to fly as we ate and it was cold, windy, and snowing as we made our way back to the hotel for the night. I am quite thankful we didn't have to race Monday as we woke up to 6 degrees, windy, and a snow/ice covered landscape. An uneventful trip home - thanks to Kohli for driving the whole way! - and we arrived at Planet Bike before the sun set.

All in all a great way to finish off the season. Thanks for following me along on all of the cycling adventures of 2008. Blog posts will probably become a bit boring in these next couple of months but I'll try to keep 'em coming!

Sprint Finish

Thanks to my friend Andrea Wilson for taking this awesome picture of the sprint from Friday's race.
I love that Ben is in there screaming too. I think he's truly screaming at his teammate Sarah Kerlin for winning the 35-39 race but I know he was yelling at me throughout the race too!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cyclocross Nationals - Day 2 report

Quick recap on the proceedings out in Kansas City from cyclocross Nationals. We left a snow covered Madison on Wednesday morning and made the 8 hour drive to KC in the Planet Bike van.
A pretty uneventful trip which is a good thing but we did manage to take a quick stop at the World's Largest Truck Stop in Iowa. I just recently learned of this not to be missed attraction off of I-80 and was very excited for the photo op. Didn't look around too much but maybe we'll stop on the way back home.

A quick team dinner and we all settled into our rooms. Decent hotel with Suite rooms so we all got kitchens which is always nice. Thursday was a day for most of us to go check out the course and see what we were in store for. Mechanic David Kohli set up shop in his suite and started dialing bikes in. With over 12 bikes to tend to he was definitely going to be busy - thanks so much David! We have a big crew of riders here with Jonathan back from Europe, Anna, Diane, Mark, Bob, Patti, Ian, and Jordan.

Diane and I rode our bikes from the hotel to the race site on the very rolling roads of KC. We discovered a somewhat sloppy muddy course due to the inch or so of snow that had fallen on Tuesday. It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the mid 40s so the snow had melted and made the course wet and muddy. A tough course with more elevation change than I expected. Long stretches of gradual climbing and a few fast technical (and very sloppy!) sections. Two separate sets of stairs built into a hill and one set of barriers right before a 180 degree corner. The start and finish was on a fast flat pavement stretch. I liked the course and knew I would like it even more if it dried out a bit more. We rode a couple of laps, got the bikes completely muddy and then rode back and left them with Kohli to get them back in working order.

We had a really nice team dinner in downtown KC at PF Chang's with everyone coming together. Somehow they managed to seat all 19 of us and we ate well. Anna and I had a lot of fun playing with Jonathan's kids Emma and Milo who thought they became invisible when they covered up their faces with their napkins. It's amazing how long kids can be kept entertained by such a simple game! They're so cute! On the drive home we were not amused by the steady sleeting rain that fell for nearly an hour - not in the weather forecast and sure to make the course slick for the next morning's races.

Today - Friday - was a big day for Team Planet Bike. With a total of 6 racers in the day's events it would me a long and busy day for everyone - especially David! Anna at 9AM, Jordan and Ian at 10AM, Diane and Patti at 1PM, and me at 2PM.

The mud was mostly frozen and hard packed in the morning although the sun quickly warmed things up. Anna had a great race and finished a very strong 2nd in the girls 17-18 race.
She was only 10 seconds back from cycling phenom Coryn for nearly the entire race. The last lap brought a flawless ride for Coryn and a crash by Anna. Very exciting race to watch and congratulations to Anna on a great ride! Also in that race were Wisconsin riders Kaitie who finished 3rd in the 17-18 group and Sarah who completely demolished the 13-14 group to take home a stars and stripes jersey - awesome races! It was so cool to hear announcer Dave Towle speak so highly of the riders from Wisconsin with all of our great finishes in the races. That strong Wisconsin cross scene!

By the boys race at 10 the course had softened up and was turning into a sloppy muddy mess again. Both Jordan and Ian raced well in the conditions. Ian's pedal actually came off and he had to ride half a lap with one foot! He finished 12th and Jordan raced really strong to finish 3rd. Check out Jordan's bike after his race - yuck!
Jordan was kind of muddy too.

I chilled out in the van for the next race and got ready to preride the course at noon. I struggled with the decision of whether to preride or not because I didn't want to totally trash the bike and my clothing. But I decided it would be good to see what kind of condition the course was in. And the answer? . . . thick, muddy mess. After a lap there were blocks of grassy mud around my front derailer, my brakes, the chainrings, the rear der. pulleys. My bike must have had 10 pounds of mud on it. And the water vehicle was no where to be seen as it was gone to get refilled. Luckily we've got a Nomad and David helped me de-mud the bike. Looked like it was going to be a day for some bike changes.

I rode around and watched parts of the Womens races and got to see Diane rock the 55-59 race and defend her title from last year.
Patti also rode strong and finished just off the podium in 6th. Great races for them both! I was also pleased to see that the course firmed up an incredible amount in the preride hour it was open and the bikes were no longer caked with the thick mud.

There were 25 women on the line for my 30-34 race and I started second row. Tough competition in attendance with riders like Mo B-R, Josie J-M, and Rebecca Wellons toeing the line. Off we went and I won't mention the start . . . if you read any of my race reports this year you'll know what happened. I moved up on riders through some of the early corners and passed more as we began the long uphill section. I was amazed how much the course had dried out and only a few sections were very wet so that the bike stayed relatively clean. After the finish of the first lap I had moved up to 7th place. There were four riders not too far ahead of me and I knew if I could stay in control they were catchable. I held 7th for the next lap after moving up on riders on the hill and then getting passed back on the technical, more wet muddy sections.

I had so many people cheering for me out on the course it was awesome! Many Wisconsin and Midwest riders/fans out there and it was motivating to hear my name at so many points on the course! On the third lap I was determined to move up and passed one rider with 4th (Josie) and 5th (Kristi) just seconds ahead. With two to go I moved into 5th place on the hill and knew I had to really try to get a gap on the part of the course that suited me. Coming through the finish with one to go I was in 5th with both Josie in front and Kristi behind me, each 10 seconds away. Here's a great shot (thanks Jamie!) of Bob pointing out to me how close 4th place was.
Sarah Kerlin was just ahead of Kristi and was leading the race in the next age group, 35-39. I knew she wasn't going to jeopardize my podium spot. I was getting tired and rode up the hill with as much power as I could hoping to hold my spot or move up. I was slow through the technical section though and Sarah passed me. I found out later Kristi is a former downhill rider and she was flying through this section. Through the barriers near the end of the lap she was right on me and as we came to the steps she was running next to me and then passed me. I got into my drops through the final twists and shifted into the big ring and stuck to her wheel. I knew that the pavement section would suit me and if I was geared right I should be able to take her in a sprint finish. I pulled around her and gave it my all. Sarah was just ahead of us and was crossing the line with her arms raised for the win while we were sprinting behind her. I took Kristi by less than a bike length and crossed the line in 5th - the final podium spot. Here's a cyclingnews pic of Sarah winning her race and Kristi and I sprinting in the background.

Whew! What a race! I was happy to finish on the podium with some great competition in my age group. And the sprint finish certainly made things very exciting! Thanks again to all of the people on the course cheering for me - the atmosphere at these events is awesome and I love all of the spectators! I think Ben gets the award for superfan at this race - I swear I heard him yelling at like 10 different parts of the course!
Thanks Jamie for the great podium shot!

Big thanks to David Kohli for being in the pit and having the bikes all set to go. The whole Planet Bike crew did a great job today for everyone - in addition to all of the racers Jim, Dave S., and Jamie all did a fantastic job helping out - thanks guys!! Thanks to Bob, Planet Bike and all of the sponsors for the support out here!

Alright - time for bed. I'll try to get pictures later! Thanks