Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In the Moment

Ok...so prepare yourself for a really corny post, but I need to write about my experience this weekend. At Carl Dolan on Sunday, I found myself in my first REAL solo break (by "real" I mean I didn't fly off the front of the field, look behind me 2 seconds later, and sit up because riding in the wind by yourself = pain). Out there all alone, it was eerily and intensely quiet. The moto was buzzing beside me and I know the occasional road guard screamed my name (thanks, Jason!) but I don't think I consciously heard it. Then, as the field swallowed me up a lap later, I realized the same thing. Even among the metal-on-metal crunch of changing gears and the breathing of the girls on either side, there was still silence. Nothing existed beyond the road under my wheels and the girls in front of me...and all these things were moving in sloooooow motion. I was at the center of a tornado with chaos (aka the rest of the world, time) swirling violently around me, but in that center there was calm. I wasn't thinking about the exams I needed to grade or that I needed to stop by the grocery store because I was out of milk or any of the million stupid things I had to do when I got home. I was focused on turning my pedals.

And thats when I realized something kind of cool....I was living in the moment. I spend so much of my life waiting for the next big thing. Waiting for the end of a particularly rough training week, waiting to find out about a big grant (or promotion for you non-science nerds), waiting for that great vacation a month from now, waiting to meet the right guy, etc, etc that I wish away my days in anticipation. My eyes are so often focused on the future, largely at the expense of the present. It was such an intense moment to be in the present...I can't do it justice with words.

I don't know if other people experience this on a regular basis, or if this is just the corny commentary of a sad little graduate student. But I think I could get used to enjoying the clarity and calmness that comes with being in the moment....I just need to figure out how to get there off of the bike. For now, I'll just sit here on this Tuesday evening wishing my week away so that I can get back to racing on Saturday and enjoy being in the moment :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Tornado at Carl Dolan

Despite tornadoes and torrential rain in the DC area, the women's field got lucky. We somehow had one full hour of clear skies at Carl Dolan.

About 30 women lined up in the Open Women’s race. Clearly missing from the field was most of the enormous HPC squad which meant the CycleLife team was the biggest team out there with seven riders. The only other team with significant numbers was ADG-Joe’s. Otherwise, our competition was mostly super strong individuals.

Even though the course doesn’t lend itself to breakaways, you can’t exactly ride around in a circle for 25 miles and do nothing when you’re the strongest team in the peloton. So the CycleLife ladies spent the race attacking and covering moves – generally trying to soften things up for the sprint. A few of the moves actually looked like they might stick, but nothing doing when there are so many strong riders out there this year - seriously, what's up with that? The women's field is full of hammers this year!

After catching Heidi Goldberg (Kenda) who had bravely soloed off the front late in the race, the team worked to keep the pace high on the last lap. Wendy drove it into the corner while Jenny and a few of the strong individual riders like Susanna Matsen (LSV) kept things strung out coming into the sprint.

Michelle "The Tornado" Hart knows her sprint well, and despite being cautioned that the winner would likely start her sprint inside the 200 meter mark, she came around Jenny with 300 meters to go. Fortunately Michelle can sprint forever! She won accelerating all the way to the finish! I managed to hang onto her wheel for second place. It felt like we had a huge gap on the field, but we’ll have to check out the race photos (coming soon!) to know for sure.

Our cat 3 ladies managed some impressive results too with Sara (4th), Melanie (6th) and Robin (10th) despite working their arses off all day to help us get the overall win.

So, the only tornado at Carl Dolan (at least during the women's race) was the CycleLife team. The guys immediately after us weren't so lucky as the skies opened up just as their race began.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just wait 'til July...I'm gonna be SO fast

Too many cutesy pictures can turn blog readers away. And we loves us some blog readers, so stop. Look left. Now squint. Yep, those are Leesburg's finest worms on Bethesda's finest Specialized Ruby. I thought maybe my teammates were flying past me this weekend because I started my "winter training" late (Feb) or because I have been training extensively (for winter hibernation). But no, it's because I cannot ride fast when I'm not at my ideal race weight. And right now it's about 130lbs less these 4 ounce free-loaders. Talk about wheel suckers.

Apologies in advance readers. You get no half-naked pics of this fabulous team, nor advance notice of our next outing (because often we do strip down in parking lots before and after rides). Nope. This blog is pure mindless blabber--the type I've tried to shy away from since we started. Don't worry, it won't last long. Kind of like me in a 50+ mile road race right now.

I'm gonna be so damn fast in July. No, seriously. These are the words I have adopted in response to teammates as they either fly past me uphill, zoom around me going downhill, or look at me funny. And I see those looks ladies as I'm muttering to myself on these endurance rides. I see a lot from the back of the pack. OK, enough self-deprecating for the moment.

As Michelle posted below, the ladies decided to ride some new ground for a change...the rollers of Leesburg. And fortunately, the weather was warm enough for me to work on my farmer's tan and worm collection. Yes, the underbelly on the bike frame above is a fine start to my collection. While Wendy chose to collect little green worms on her glasses and Melanie shared a tale of consuming protein in the form of yellow-winged tartness, I rolled over the roads of wormville.

I don't clean my bike often. I bet the worms are now dried nicely on there. But that's okay, because on Sunday I added a layer of mud to the frame, and cogs, and derailer, and bottle cages. Dammit. More race weight to deal with. I think once I convince my beloved to "help me" clean my bike (i.e., please do it all for me and I'll watch) , I'll once again be rolling. Not much faster. I have to keep training for that (I know coach, I cannot be fast just from reading the workouts you send me). I tried that. So, like I said above, just wait 'til July. I'm gonna be smoking fast then. Until then, I'll just keep riding around soccerfields knocking my teammates over and picking up water bottles.

No Layers Needed in Leesburg

This past Saturday Robin, Wendy and I trekked over the river to ride with Melanie and her boyfriend, Judd, in Virginia. We met out in Leesburg and watched the Potomac Pedalers roll out for their ride as we finished pumping up our tires and deciding how many layers to wear. In the end the classic “what are you going to wear, no what are you going to wear” debate was unnecessary as it warmed up into a beautiful day and most of us got our first dose of cyclist tan lines for the year (except for Wendy who got a head start in Spain).

Wendy, Melanie, and I share the same coach, Mike Birner, so we all had a similar workout planned: 2-3 hours with a significant amount of time in tempo/threshold zone with some paceline work included. (Poor Robin didn’t know what she was in for.) What Wendy, Robin, and I didn’t know was that Mike had secretly instructed Melanie to “keep us honest” and to make sure that there was “no loafing.”

She did just that while she and Judd led us through some beautiful roads out in Leesburg. There was little to no traffic, some good climbing, beautiful weather, and great company. We all kept the pace up and turned it into a challenging ride. Mike, I promise you there was very little to no loafing...hence the toasty legs at our clinic the next day. :)

After our ride I rushed back to northern VA to attend a wedding and the other girls went home to nap. I must admit that I was very jealous of the napping! We are all looking forward to another ride in Mel’s neck of the woods and hopefully next time we’ll get the rest of the gang out there too!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ladies who Lunch

I’m sitting at my desk at work, finishing up my lunch, and am seriously craving some salty oatmeal cookies. “Where can you find salty oatmeal cookies?” you might ask. Visit Teaism at one of their three downtown locations.

My first experience with salty oatmeal cookies was about a month ago when Robin and I figured out that not only were we both working in DC, but our offices are about a half block from each other. We decided to meet up for lunch and visit our friendly local sponsor, Teaism. Robin got there a couple minutes before me to find that the line was stretched out the door, always a good sign in a restaurant! We went inside and placed out orders, salmon bento box for me and chicken for Robin. I also ordered some earl grey tea which was super yummy and wonderful on a cold day. Needless to say the food was healthy and delicious!

As the lunch rush died down Michelle, co-owner of Teasim, came out to chat with us. We discussed our recent partnership with WABA, told her about our winter training, and shared our excitement for the upcoming season. Before I left the restaurant I purchased a pack of salty oatmeal cookies to take home to share with my housemates/teammates, Sara and Jenny. I ate one on the metro on the way home and was hooked!

Now the season is upon us, and Michelle even came out to our race at Tyson’s Corner. She is excited to see the Teaism logo which will be occupying some valuable real estate on our new shorts once they arrive. I’m just excited to get back to Teasim for another great lunch and some more cookies!!!

Random Rambling

So last weekend the CycleLife women were dreading our 8am start time in Walkersville. I checked the weather before I went to bed and was really dreading the possibility of rain and cool temps to start the day. I got up a few hours later and the forecast had changed - no rain, and a high of 60+ degrees ! The weather-Gods were smiling upon us ! Bike was already packed, last minute "just in case" items added, coffee was brewed ... off we go. I'm rolling along I-70 and look down at the clock ... You may have read previous posts where I lamented having to get up at O'dark-thirty. Well, for those of you that asked what time that actually is, here ya go.

As luck would have it, after an early Saturday road race, we were scheduled for a late-day race at Tysons- over 24 hours of recovery is GOOD, esp when we're just getting used to two-race weekends. One of my favoritist recovery routines ? A nice leg massage using arnica oil. It has been a leg-saver during many back-to-back racing days. Another option, if your legs are really in bad shape is Tiger Balm ... I love the liquid kind that I can usually find at Whole Foods or Roots. One word of warning - Tiger Balm in this form should be used in small doses. I once had a full leg and back massage with Tiger Balm before bed ... about a half hour later I had to get up and take a hot shower b/c the Tiger Balm had the effect of those icy/hot patches - only not the hot part. Dont say I didnt warn you !

Anyhoo, I digress - the late start at Tyson's was a blessing - the boys that went early in the day had the worst of the rain, where we had to deal with slightly damp road conditions. The NCVC junior's tent with coffee and hot chocolate was key - I hope everyone went over to get warm and to support your local junior racers. Team CycleLife had good races both days, with everyone on the squad contributing to team finishes. It was our first weekend in our new colors, which I absolutely LOVE. We had fun taking pics in our new colors earlier in the week. (you can tell this is a cyclist's home - note the zipps leaning against the dining room wall) You dont want to mess with this bunch ! Oh, fine - we could barely keep straight faces trying to look tough ... but you didnt hear that from me.
We have an "off" weekend coming up, which is a nice way to catch our breath after the first two whirlwind weekends of racing. After this break, though, its on ...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tyson's in pics, Walkersville recap

From the gun, Team CycleLife tried to set a high pace for the circuit race at Tyson's Corner. Wendy led one of the first charges off the front.

The first 10 minutes of any race always feel like the worst, especially when the intensity is high and your legs are already tired from a long race the day before. Despite the hurt we were all feeling, we were motivated by seeing each other at the front and off the front. Michelle led an attack and managed to get clear and a small break formed and stayed out for a good portion of the race and claimed most of the primes.

The break was eventually brought back by the field and everyone got to rest for a few laps. The pace was kind of erratic for a few laps as the field would surge up the hill and then recover at the top. Then on the downhill side the field would coast the first half and then some riders would try to push the pace on the backside.

Team CycleLife showed the colors at the front and off the front several more times during the race including a few hard surges by Heidi which strung out the field.

Team CycleLife rode a hard race and showed our bright new colors at the front. In the end we gave it all we could and Leslie, with a nice lead out from Wendy, took the top spot of the team.

Pics provided by
Jim Wilson and Jeff Anderson.

Walkersville Recap

Walkersville was a long 48 mile road race near Frederick MD on Saturday. The rain held off thankfully but the wind sure was howling. Team CycleLife, with our flashy bright green and yellow kits, couldn't wait to show everyone the back of our jerseys.

Sara and Robin did a lioness's share of the work early in the race to pull the field after the early attacks. Mid-race a split that included Wendy and Melanie ended up getting folded back into the field before anything really happened. A solo late attack from a competitor however was fairly successful despite the strong winds and narrow roads which were hindering the peloton.

With a few miles to go from the finish Melanie launched an attack and managed to stay away with a few other riders and finished 2nd out of the cat 3s. Meanwhile Wendy and Leslie's 1-2 punch allowed Leslie to take the field sprint and earned some moola for 3rd in the cat 1-2 chicas.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jefferson Cup Race Report

Seven of the eight members of Team CycleLife lined up on Sunday for the first “real” race of the 2008 season. Driving through sleet, hail and even snow at some times, we were NOT excited about the start. When we arrived at the school for registration, we immediately saw DC Velo’s Ken Young, one of our local rock-stars. He looked like he’d been through Paris Roubaix and was so cold he couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. As we looked around the parking lot we saw that the cold and damp conditions had taken their toll on the big-boys, who started earlier in the morning. Was this really how we were going to start the season ?

Our team kits were not quite ready for our debut, so we sported matching green jerseys so we could find each other in the pack. The field was clearly stacked – Colavita was there, along with some collegiate rock-stars and local strong-women who were there to test their legs and tenacity. Roll out was a little higher pace than “neutral” as Leslie was on the front and spinning pretty hard just to get our core temps up. We passed the start line and the attacks began up the rollers – Cora from BMW went first and the pace responded. Sufficiently warmed up, we made the hard right turn into the “hill” (Side note – I have done this race 4 times in my limited career as a bike racer. I never really knew that THIS was the “hill” everyone despised. I just thought this was a long drag after the hills we just did and couldn’t figure out what everyone was so uptight about. Thank you, Jenny, for setting me straight. Shows how much I pay attention).

The first time up the hill was moderately paced, which was good since I didn’t remember the course and was in TERRIBLE position getting through the turn. I managed to pace up the hill hard enough to coast to the pack on the fun descent. No harm done, lesson learned. I looked around and was pleased to see that our team was still in tact – green jerseys were seen all around the pack. Colavita’s Andrea was keeping the pace fairly high so we didn’t bunch up as much as normal. Some minor attacks went off but were quickly brought back. The second lap up the hill was a much harder pace, but I had learned my lesson and was able to stick with the pack. Looking around, I had trouble locating teammates but I think we were all there. After the second hill, the real attrition began – I know we lost several of our teammates between the 2nd and 3rd trip up the hill, but not before Robin dug deep and threw in a nice little attack on the rollers following the hill. Well Done !!

3rd trip up the hill told me two things 1) follow Jenny’s advice on pacing up the hill (this is when I realized THAT was the infamous “hill”) and 2) this is going to be a cluster-group finish. By this time it was me, Jenny and Leslie left in the pack. We were all hovering near the back … this is early season and everyone is still tweaking their pack riding skills so we just wanted to stay upright. The constant pace set by Colavita and a few of the collegiate racers had done its damage – our field had split. We came into the last turn pretty hard, but then everyone sat up. Looking at each other to see who was going to jump first, we soft-pedaled the next 500m. We hit the 1k mark and someone jumped – but then we all sat up again. This was getting really dangerous. We jumped again and slowed again. Finally, we made the last turn and everyone dove to grab wheels. It was on. And I was done. Three consecutive jumps were too much for me at this point in my training, and I was far too sketched out by the cluster of a field to fight for the right position. Leslie and Jenny stayed on each other but got jostled out of position as they came to the line. Leslie finally found some clear ground and took the opportunity to sprint into 3rd, while HPC’s Lorena powered her way to the win.

Overall, the race was as it always has been for me: not great, not terrible … it just kind of happens. I rolled in with the lead group right behind Jenny and was glad to do so. We’re pretty happy with a 3rd place for our first team showing and we’re excited to move on to local races – Walkersville and Tysons – here we come !!