Monday, April 27, 2009

Iowa City Weekend

What a weekend! Headed down to Iowa City for a great couple days of racing. I've been looking forward to these races for awhile. I did them last year and they were so much fun - a great 52 mile road race on Saturday and a fun criterium in the downtown with a wicked scary fast corner at the bottom of a hill followed by a short kicker uphill on the next corner. Lots of crazy/exciting/scary things happened this weekend. Let's start at the beginning. BEWARE - this is going to be long.

Saturday morning Monique and I made the three hour drive in the rain to the road race. Somehow the rain let up as we got closer to Iowa City and the cool and windy conditions were certainly better without the precipitation. We had a great team for this race. Catherine came over from Kansas, Jess from IL, and then Mo, Jill and I from Madison. A solid field of 25 riders with Team BH and ISCorp being the other largest teams with 3 riders each. We wanted to be aggressive and try to get a break off. On the first of our 4 laps the fun began as we began to attack. The field had many strong solo riders in addition to the teams and nothing was sticking for very long. It wasn't for our lack of trying! I am so proud of how every single Kenda rider raced. One would attack and a break would last for a bit or things would be strung out and once we were back together another teammate would launch. It was so much fun! Near the end of the first lap Mo had just attacked and once things were back together I went off the front with Jill on my wheel. We had a gap and worked it for a couple minutes before we were sucked back in by the field. I didn't see Mo after that and didn't realize she had slid out on a tough off camber corner while Jill and I were off the front. Bad news.

The remainder of the race consisted of the four of us consistently trying to get a move to stick. There were many small breaks and even some valiant solo efforts by both Jill and Jess. Catherine was involved in so many moves off the front - her tough perserverance is amazing! At one point I was in a break with Kaitie from ISCorp on the last lap and I thought we were going to hold it. Five minutes later we were back to the whittled away group of maybe 17 riders. I began to wonder if all of our attacking was just a waste of our energy as we were all pretty tired. I was just hoping that everyone else was pretty tired too!

As we got down to the final miles things started to bunch up. I was not feeling very snappy and decided I could be of the most use by going to the front and trying to string things out a bit for the other girls. I got up there and sort of felt like I was going in slow motion but I think I at least disrupted some of the other teams plans and brought the pace up. As the line approached Jill attacked on the right with another rider on her wheel. With the line still probably 200m off she couldn't hold it and the swarm of riders came around her and Catherine popped out to take the win ahead of ABD's Jessie Prinner! What a race!

We had so much fun racing as a team and to get the win was a huge accomplishment for us. Catherine is so strong and is such a smart racer - it was excellent for her to come across the line first. Every one of us raced so aggressively and well together. It was great to feel like we really controlled the race even though our plan to get a break off just didn't come to fruition. Great team chemistry and a hard race and it was nice to hear positive feedback from other riders in the field. Jill rolled across in 10th, Jess 11th, and I watched in all unfold and finished 16th ;)

Soooo . . . after the finish we see Mo in street clothes and it looks like she's got an ice pack on her hip underneath her pants. Not an ice pack. Mo landed so hard on her upper thigh that a humongous hematoma was starting to form . . . and it kept getting bigger. We've all landed on our hip before and gotten road rash but this was different - it looked like Mo's leg was going to give birth -

We cleaned up ASAP and asked a local rider who is also a med student where the best ER was and off we went. Jess and I sat with Mo at the University of Iowa Hospital as various nurses and doctors came to marvel at the growth which was now nearly the size of a football.

After the head of trauma surgery saw it things got a little more serious and immediate surgery was necessary to keep the incredibly stretched skin from dying. Within 20 minutes she was in surgery for "hematoma evacuation". Basically an artery kept bleeding inside her leg and a huge mass developed. They needed to remove the somewhat coagulated blood by making a small incision rather than just administering a local anesthetic. She would only be out for about an hour but it was critical that they do it immediately to prevent her from needing a skin graft. Needless to say it was a long day. Everything went well with the surgery but Mo would have to stay in the hospital for monitoring until Monday. Immediately post race she was hoping to race the next day - now she was in the hospital being told to stay off the bike for a month. She's a trooper though and she's going to recover and be back attacking for us soon enough.

Wow - how scary is that?! We crash so often and get hematomas on our hips - this was just a fluke accident and things got out of control. Excellent medical care from the hospital though and we were fortunate to be so close to the University Hospital rather than out in the middle of rural farmland.

So Sunday's race we were down a rider but more determined than ever to have a great race for Mo. Scattered storms were forecast for the day and a light rain fell about 2 hours before our race. There's a scary fast corner at the bottom of a steep little hill with about 5 spray painted "avoid" potholes/cracks and in the wet conditions some riders were sliding out in earlier races. Luckily things were drying up for our race but safety was on all of our minds.

After 2 laps of riding the course at a steady pace and making it through safely I decided it was time to play. On the third lap I attacked on the uphill and was solo for maybe a lap when I saw two riders coming up on me. Kim Eppen from Mercy and my superwoman teammate Catherine. Perfect. We began to work together and I saw the field maybe 15 seconds behind us. We were going to have to work hard for a few laps here if we were to solidify our gap. We worked well together and soon the group was no longer in sight. Catherine urged me to try to get the win today and to attack at the end of the race.
Thanks to Robin for the picture!

With about 6 laps to go we saw the group ahead of us and we soon lapped back in the field. There was a bit of confusion about whether anyone was off the front of that group and whether the main field could work with us. By 4 laps to go we confirmed that we were all just one big group and we could utilize the help of our teammates in the main pack.

Jill and Jess played things perfectly. I told Jill to attack on the hill at 2 to go and that I would be on her wheel and go with her. My hope was to ensure the win for us and also place another rider in the top 5. Jess strung things out before we got to the hill and then Jill went and I desperately tried to stick to her wheel. She turned the gas on and we had a big gap. I asked her to just push through a few more corners and then I came around to give her a break. Up the hill again we needed to keep the pace up but I knew our gap was good. Jill crossed the line ahead of me to take 4th and I got the win. As we expected and hoped Catherine crossed the line ahead of Kim to take 2nd. And Jess snagged 10th!

Another fantastic day for Team Kenda! We had so much fun racing together and to see the execution of our tactics play out was phenomenal. Everyone played their role so well and to get 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th was better than we had hoped. What a great weekend of racing!

And I won some flowers for Mo! We called her immediately after the race with a report and the good news. I'm actually writing this entry from the hospital visitor computer lab! It's Monday morning and we hope to hit the road in a few hours and make it back to Madison this afternoon. Thanks so much to Mercy rider Robin for letting me crash at her place last night!! Also thanks to Mark and everyone else for putting on a weekend of great racing. I always look forward to coming to Iowa City to race.

A pretty crazy weekend - a little bit of everything! The team chemistry is so great this year and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. Some more local races in Wisconsin this weekend before I head to Arkansas for my first NRC stage race of the year - Joe Martin - the following Wednesday. It's going to be a tough race but we've got a great group together for it and I'm so excited for the event.

Thanks so much for stopping by and check back for pictures on Tuesday once I make it home and download them!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rainy racing

This weekend there were back to back crits in Madison put on by the Great Dane Velo Cycling club. I skipped Saturday's races and instead hung out with Dave's entire family who was in town to see his Dad get an award from the University and also for a family wedding in Milwaukee. Saturday was warm, sunny, and beautiful. Sunday was, of course, cool, windy, and rainy. Gotta love spring.

I volunteered for some of the morning races and it was good to cheer on the juniors and cat 4 women. I came back in the afternoon and raced the 30+ 1/2/3 mens race which I've started to do rather than the cat 3 men. The 30+ guys seem to be a bit more consistent and overall I think it's a harder race. I was a bit nervous on the line with 40 guys and hoping I could make it through until the end. It was a great race - quite a few attacks and pretty fast throughout. I felt good and tried to stay near the front of the race and just feel comfortable moving around in the pack and staying sheltered from the wind. Thanks to my buddy Brian for a push after one particularly hot lap! A break was off the front and after it was clear they were gone several other guys tried to get another group off the front. Never really happened and then with about 5 minutes left in the race the rain started to fall. No need to get crazy and cause a crash as the field was sprinting for about 10th place so the guys kept it fast but safe. I was happy to make it through the 65 minutes of racing with the group and quickly rode home to get warm and dry before the womens race in the afternoon.

I came back a couple hours later in the steady rain. A bit frustrated to see that only 4 other women were going to do the race. Kaitie, Rachel, and Yvonne from ISCorp and Jane from GDVC. We all agreed to shorten the race to 30 minutes as it was already late in the day and the cold, rainy conditions weren't exactly ideal. ISCorp had the obvious advantage in the race and going into the race I wanted a good hard workout and to try to disrupt their tactics as much as I could. On lap two while Kaitie was on the front I attacked and Rachel came with me. Kaitie tried to as well but was dangling off the back. I knew that Rachel had no interest in pulling and putting distance onto her teammate so I pushed the pace for a couple of laps until I couldn't see Kaitie when I looked back. Rachel took a pull but I knew that they were really hoping to get two of them in the break and she wasn't going to work much with me. I needed a long LT effort in anyway! With about 4 laps to go we caught sight of Yvonne and Jane ahead of us - the remaining "field". I eased up and then Rachel went to the front and pulled us up to them. After we reached them I put in an attack hoping I might be able to go clear of them all and TT the final laps. After about a half a lap Rachel was back on my wheel and it was the two of us again.

I kept the pace steady and slowed up on the last lap eased up and figured it was time to try to play the game even though I knew my legs weren't really feeling up for sprinting! Around the last corner I went wide and figured I would force Rachel to come around me going into the wind - even though it was a shorter distance to the line. She went and I tried to get in her draft as we approached the line. No dice though and she beat my by a bike length. Rachel and I have been in breaks together many times in our racing career and she beats me nearly every time! She's got a great sprint and I always enjoy racing with her. Maybe one of these times I'll beat her :)

All in all a fun day of racing. Next weekend we're headed to Iowa City for a road race and a super fun crit in the downtown. Should be a good turnout of Midwest riders and I'm really looking forward to the racing. I think we'll have a team of at least 5 riders for Kenda so it should be fun to try to execute some strategy too!

Last week the weather was beautiful in Madison and I rode two days in only a jersey and shorts - so nice! The tan lines are still pretty weak but another couple of weeks they should be nice and defined ;)

It was nice to visit with Dave's family over the weekend and we headed down to the Capital for the first Farmer's Market of the year. One of my favorite things about Madison the Market signals that spring is officially here and summer is on its way. I love walking around the square, the warm sun shining down, sipping a cup of coffee, and seeing all the great local produce, flowers, cheese, and bakery items.

Sorry no pictures this week - I'll try to take lots while I'm in Iowa!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Break

Last week was spring break for Madison schools so I got out and rode a lot, worked a few days at Planet Bike, and headed up to Green Bay for some family time over the weekend. It was one of those weeks where I was reminded how much I love riding and how fortunate I am to work for such an incredible company.

I commuted to PB every day I worked there and each morning the sun was out and the air was crisp. Arriving at work after riding in always feels so much better than driving. I love my route too which is mostly on bike path with a few jaunts through some neighborhoods.
Riding by the lake and getting a view of the downtown is nice too. It's always great to see so many other commuters out there. It's pretty amazing and cool how many people use their bikes to get to work in Madison.

At PB this week we had a big meeting planned and it began with all 8 of us riding down to the UW Memorial Union and finding a lake side picnic table in the sun. Here's our pile of bikes.

It was an insightful and inspiring time spent amongst my coworkers. Planet Bike is a unique company that has been an innovator in the bicycle industry. Their responsible, passionate, and committed approach to increasing the usage of bicycles and reducing environmental impact is awesome. From the solar panels on the roof to the minimal packaging of our products and countless other measures we take - it feels good to be a part of something that is making a difference. And donating 25% of all profits (over $600,000 at this point) to advocacy has been a pledge that other companies in the industry are starting to mimic. This socially responsible attitude is allowing organizations to work with various levels of the government and is helping to make it easier for people to ride their bikes. Buying Planet Bike products is a simple way to be a part of improving conditions for cyclists - and you get a quality bike accessory as a bonus.

So I of course spent many hours of break riding my bike. Several days riding out west of town and I rediscovered how beautiful the terrain is. Lots of climbing and unfortunately lots of cold north crosswinds - but great riding nonetheless. Just under 300 miles in this week and it felt good to get some long rides in. I'm itching to race more though and am looking forward to some good local races the next few weekends and a trip to Arkansas for Joe Martin in May.

I also made it home to visit with my family over Easter weekend. Always good to spend some time with them and my dad and I got out for a nice ride too. As we were riding we see this huge old boat of a car with a guy in a bunny suit sticking out of the sun roof waving. It was pretty random and quite funny - I wish I had my camera.

We also thought it might be fun to do a little Easter candy experiment.

One innocent yellow peep

a little bloated after some time in the microwave

ready to burst after a little more time

poor little melted peep

I know, I'm a horrible person - but who really wants to eat those things anyway?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hillsboro Roubaix

So the first real weekend of racing has come and gone. Technically I did two crits in Beloit last weekend but I considered those more training than anything else. They were good races and I was in a break of 4 in the womens race (finished third after a failed solo break attempt on the last lap) and had a good hard race with the 30+ 1/2/3 men. One advantage of being 30 is I can race with the fast guys who usually race with a bit more attention to safety than the Pro 1/2 field. Fun to race in a big field and get in some solid efforts. And it was great to see Bob Downs of Planet Bike take the victory. The weather was cold (mid 30s) and blustery and somehow I forgot both knee and leg warmers. Luckily I threw in some ridiculously warm windproof tights so needless to say I was a bit overdressed . . . but better than freezing. Guess I'm a little rusty with my race bag packing skills after the off season!

So this past weekend was the first "big" Midwestern race of the season. Down in Hillsboro, Illinois (an hour outside St. Louis) the race is billed as a spring classic. A 22 mile circuit that winds through rural farmland on narrow, gravely, beat up roads with plenty of exposure to the wind. A decent little hill in the last mile followed by a fast descent on bumpy cobbles all add to the "classic-ness" of the race. It's a pretty ridiculously long drive (5 hours) down there but the race always draws the best riders from the Midwest and it's a fun race to start the season with.

Team Kenda out in full force this weekend with a crew of eight 1/2/3 riders (Catherine, Christy, Jess, Jill, Monique, Shelley, Theresa and myself) and a couple (Morgan and Megan) in the 4s race. I was super excited that so many girls were going to make the trip for the race. I rode down with my two teammates Jill and Mo and we filled the drive with lots of games of 20 Questions - it's this little crazy electronic ball that asks you 20 yes or no questions and then often shocks and amazes you with its ability to correctly guess what you're thinking of. Good for car trips!

We stumbled into our hotel rooms at nearly midnight and tried not to wake up our sleeping teammates! It was so fun to see Christy and Ben again and I was impressed to see Ben flipping corncakes in the hotel room with his electric griddle that he brought along - I wish I had taken a picture! We bike racers have serious routines with our breakfasts!

It was a beautiful day for a bike race with sunshine, temps around 60, and the farm fields nice and green. We organized ourselves as a team and laid out our plan for the day. To succeed as a team we were all going to have to play our parts. In a field of 40 strong riders we were the largest team and the pressure was on.

Madeleine of Team BH started out the race fast and had us strung out on the first stretch. I knew positioning was key on this narrow course so I carefully and quickly moved myself into the top 10 riders. A slight lull in the action caused Jill to move up and keep the pace high just as we had planned. With a small hill approaching and the crosswinds blowing I attacked hard and hammered up the hill. I kept the gas on through the corner when Rebecca Much from Webcor came past me with Sydney B of Mercy Girls on her wheel. The three of us began working together. These girls were fast. I was a bit blown from my attack and was trying desperately to stay in the rotation. Next thing I know my teammate Catherine had bridged up to us - perfect! I pulled through a few more times but I could feel myself reaching my limit. Up a small incline I lost a wheel and watched as the trio slipped away.

Looking back I saw a group of 4 riders chasing - maybe 30 seconds up on the main field. I tried to catch my breath and sat up to wait for them and integrate into the chase. I was very happy to see who was in this group. Superstrong Bri K, her teammate Katie W, my teammate Christy, and teenage powerhouse Jessie P. We began working together to hunt down the break and keep distance on the chasing peloton. A great group to be in, everyone was encouraging each other to close the gap. After about 7 miles we finally caught them but lost Katie in the process.

We were now a break of 7 riders. Having 3 Kenda riders and 4 solo riders was exactly what we wanted. Everyone was riding incredibly strong, especially Rebecca and Syd, and we all worked well together. Again a very positive, encouraging group of women. We knew there were plenty of teams not represented in the break and that the chasers would not give up easily. I was hoping the remaining Kenda riders were doing what they could to block for us.

Coming into the finish of the first lap the girls upped the pace on the climb and unfortunately we lost Christy. Down to 6 of us we continued to work together and rode hard the second lap. My legs felt like lead and there were several instances where Syd or Rebecca pushed it just slightly and I thought I was going to be gapped off the back. Never one to try to just sit on, I missed one or two pulls to regain myself and then continued on with our rotation. The winds were mildly annoying but they could have been much worse.

With about 5 miles to go Sydney got a flat tire. We sat up initially but in a race like this we knew that a flat fix could be a 5 minute ordeal and that we couldn't risk the field catching us. We slowed the pace slightly for several minutes but as we approached the finish we ramped it back up. At the base of the last short climb Rebecca attacked hard. There was a vehicle from a different race in the lane and we were forced to zig zag through the cones and around the car to try to follow her. I was hurting and the legs were not feeling very snappy. Catherine and Bri chased after Rebecca who had opened up a big gap. I sat on Jessie over the top and down the cobbles and apologized to her that I wasn't going to pull the two of us up to Catherine and Bri who were maybe 10 seconds up the road. She continued to ride hard and once we got closer to the final corner I jumped hard around her. As I rounded the final corner I was a bike length behind Catherine who was sitting on Bri's wheel. I pushed to try to get her wheel and prepare to try to be a contender in the sprint but I was toast. Catherine came around Bri at the line to snag second and I was just behind them for 4th.

Whew! What a race. It was a great fast race and an excellent way for Team Kenda to start out the season. We were very pleased to have two of us on the podium for the day and congratulations to Rebecca on her well deserved win. It's great to have a rider of her caliber show up to a Midwest event. Syd's ill timed flat was unfortunate and I have no doubt the podium may have looked a little different had she been with us at the end. It was an honor to ride with all my break mates and kudos to everyone on a great race. Complete results here.

All of my teammates worked really hard to get Catherine and I up there. Jill and Jess were working really hard to block and disrupt the chase and I had several other riders compliment Kenda's teamwork and tactics in this race. It's such a thrill when the team's plan goes as hoped and the unselfishness of teammates creates opportunities for other riders. I was so proud of how all the girls rode. And then to top it off Jill took second in the field sprint to pull off 8th! Not bad for the first race of the year! Christy suffered like a dog out there solo for the second lap and was reeled in by the main group with only a mile to go to the finish. Definitely a valiant effort! An excellent way to start the season and proof that we've got a solid Midwestern team assembled this year. Can't wait to race more with my great teammates!

It was fun to hang out with everyone after the race although with the long drive ahead of us we quickly packed up and hit the road. Got in several more quality games of 20Q (two of the games favorite questions - is it heavier than a duck? is it bigger than a bread box? . . . seriously!) Sunday's race in Madison was cancelled due to the predicted snow so yet another day in the basement on the trainer.

No school this week with spring break so in addition to a couple of days of work at Planet Bike I hope to get out and get some solid training days in. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Thanks for stopping by!