Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to get fast - a true story

Part of my plan to get fast(er) by July is to hang with really fast riders. Lest you think I'm kidding, this plan worked for me in 2007. Friends noticed when I started "coming into form" last year, i.e., actually getting some Ws and hanging in with the big girls at the Crystal City Classic... Clearly, I was doing something different. Okay, so I was actually riding my bike and doing that training thing and having fun with the R1V peeps. But I was also seeking guidance and insight from Josh Frick, who was rumored to be pretty fast, with minimal training, and an equal love of ice-cream and Maryland rest-stop cinn-a-buns. I'm not kidding. He loves racing and eating. Ok, me too. Now make me fast. And while you're at it, are you going to eat that last cookie?

This is my life. Work too much, ride too little, eat whatever the hell I want, and remember that despite results or lack thereof, this is fun. And it is. Not just because I love my new teammates, but because showing up at every summer wedding and poolside-bbq with that all-too familiar bike tan is the new mullet. People stare, they whisper, they point, they say, "wow, you've got some look going there." And secretly they want it, too. The bike short tan with a bikini is a show-stopper. As in, please, stop this show. I digress.

Josh was known to tell me on more than one occasion, "Robin, you cannot get fast just by talking with me." But I talked to Josh a lot in 2007. And I got faster. And I raced smarter. And I had a ton of fun.

It's now 2008 and we're smack into the season. And I am still following that tried-and-tested training plan from 2007. Talk to fast guys. Josh clearly sees the ways of my training as he called me yesterday while he was riding with the fast guys, and said, you should grab dinner with them. Yummy food with fast bike racers? No brainer. When, where, and do I have to bring my boyfriend? (Yes, because he took the picture.)

In case you cannot tell from the dimly lit atmosphere at Sonoma's, these handsome, charming and super fast men surrounding me (while I breathe in their aura of speed) are from left to right, Blake Caldwell, Jason Donald, Magnus Backstedt, yours truly, Tyler Farrar, and Steven Cozza.

Was great to meet the Slipstream Chipotle crew! You've definitely got a DC-based contingent cheering you on this season and wishing you all success. And of course I'll thank you now for making me fast in the latter part of the 2008 season.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Southern MD Crit

Awesome twisty course. Rain. All the makings of a disaster. Fortunately it was a small field and the women can handle their bikes.

Sonja Evers (Joe's) set a hard pace for the first lap and the tone for the rest of the race. Attack after attack after attack. But while the field was small, it was strong and nothing was going to get away. Though we did lose a few racers along the way.

At the end there were 13 (maybe?) riders left (6 CycleLife thank you very much). But somehow two Artemis riders snuck away on the corner with the planks. It seemed like we would catch them, but they were stronger than we'd realized and the race had taken it's toll on the remainder of the field.

They held it!

Congrats to them. Though we won't let that happen again.

CycleLife Results: 6 out of the top 11 including 3rd, 5th, and 6th.

Wilmington Grand Prix - Stream of Consiousness

Since most race reports are pretty self involved anyways, I thought I'd go whole hog and do a little stream of consciousness for the first NRC race of the season. For a more comprehensive race report, check out Wendy's blog:

Here goes...

Crap. I missed the race to the line. What's that? Joe Jefferson is doing call ups and is showing the local teams some love. Pardon me….I must be in the front row!

And the whistle blows…

Must stay forward. Must stay forward. Must stay forward.

The field is strung out going as fast as we can. Two riders are up the road, and there goes Laura Van Gilder accelerating away to catch them. For a second the daydream of following her wheel seems like a good idea. Nope. Would pop in 2 seconds. She has a secret power booster somewhere.

Just focus on the wheel in front of you. Must hold wheel. Must hold wheel. Must hold wheel. The field is blowing apart! But I'm still in it! Move around gapped riders. In the zone.

This sucks! I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!

How many more laps? Crap. 25.

I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!

Whoever is driving this train is strong! Stronger than me. But I can hang on.

I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!

Is that my dad yelling?

I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!

My parents are probably wondering "Why is our daughter doing this? Why couldn't she just be having kids by now? What the hell is going on? Oh well. Go!"

I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!

The break of 3 riders is gone. Only 10-12 of us are left in this chase group. Local rider Susanna Matsen (LSV) is one of the drivers of the train along with Aaron’s, Colavita, etc. The other local rider in the group is Heidi Goldberg (Kenda). Juice Plus and Advil have teammates in the break so they aren't helping...though they are attacking and causing painful surges. I am the caboose and have been no help whatsoever. Though I haven’t yet puked or pooped on anyone so they should be grateful.

A wall of screaming people as we go through the start/finish. That's cool!

Move to the front. I’m helping… really. OK enough of that. It's too hard up there. Much easier to follow wheels.

Crap. Lapped riders keep mixing in our little group. Must get around them. Why aren't they getting pulled?

Finally, it slows down. Can start focusing on the finish.

8 laps to go and the fantasy of sprinting for 4th is burst - 15 riders swarm our little group out of nowhere! Where did all these people come from? We’ve been caught by a chase group from behind as well as a few lapped riders. Who is who?

I hate sprinting out of large groups. I'm going to go for it with 2 laps to go.

There’s Wendy. She was in the group that caught us. Comforting to have a teammate! Words of encouragement. A voice (Wendy’s) says to “move up”. Thank you. Yes. Will do.

2 laps to go and way too far back not to mention the field is moving too fast. So much for the grand plan.

“Move up."

Finally the finish…25 riders sprinting for 4th. Is that a lapped rider in the middle of corner 3? YIKES!

"Move up."

Going around the final corner I'm not in the front, but Lorena Candrian(HPC) is right in front of me and Susanna Matsen (LSV) in front of her. Maybe I can pass them before the finish line? Must stand up. Don’t sit down! Don’t sit down! Nope. Not going to catch the riders in front of me. But there goes Sarah Caravella (Tibco) blowing past at twice the speed and passing all of us. She must have that power booster.

Crossed the line. 10 riders in front of me in the sprint. Quick math. 10 +3 in the break. 14th!

Not bad. Actually really happy with it.

I love racing! I love racing! I love racing!

CycleLife Results: Leslie 14th, Wendy 23rd, Michelle – lived to race another day.

Other Notable MABRA results: Susanna Matsen (LSV) 12th, Lorena Candrian (HPC) 13th, Jenette Williams (HPC) 15th, Sonja Evers (Joe’s) 17th, Heidi Goldberg (Kenda) 18th.

Oh yeah and the podium results: Laura McCaughey (Juice Plus) 1st, Jennifer McRae (Advil) 2nd, Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) 3rd.

End Note...The parents ended up not being there. So I don't know who was yelling at corner 4, but he sounded a lot like my dad.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Playing with the Boys at Greenbelt

So, now "race season" is in full swing. I always know when we're getting into the groove when I pull up to the Greenbelt Races for the first time. Route 1 Velo does a phenomenal job promoting this training series year-in and year-out. Many thanks to them for the time, effort and heart they give in order to give us OCD racers a mid-week interval session. Big shout out to our very own Robin, who officiated the race. Robin took the time to become an official earlier this year, which is super cool. It was great to see a friendly face at the line each lap while we were dying after the hill-interval. I love to see racers giving back to the sport - awesome.

A few ladies lined up with the boys of the "B" race - there were some purple-gals , the velo-chicken, newly minted in C3 colors, our TT specialist, Sara and me. Sonja, being the rockstar that she is, decided to try her legs in the A race.

Things were fast from the get - I put myself in the top 5 or so just to avoid the chaos that is the pack of the B race - and besides, I felt GOOD. After a lap or two, two guys tried to take a flier. I completely lost my head and decided that I had to go get it. I'm a little like a greyhound with the rabbit. It doesn't matter that it makes no sense, if it moves, I'm on it. Anyway, as I dragged the pack, kicking and screaming, up to the break, I thought - hm, I might pay for that in a little while. But thankfully, I was able to sit in near the front of the pack and recover before things got animated again.

Quite a few ABRT guys were in the field, which was fun since we like to play with them (being friends and former teammates). Matt took a great flyer for a couple of laps followed by an awesome counter by Lance, who stayed out a few more laps. I was sitting pretty, top 5 or top 10 at all times and thinking, hey ... this is kinda fun ! Unfortunately, our fun was interrupted by a rider who hit the pothole on the fast downhill and took out Sara. Have no fear, Sara has some cool road rash (only cool if its not yours) but she's alright - and yes, her bike made it out unscathed. Thatta girl- take the road rash, save the bike !!

We came around for the last of our 17 laps and I was in decent position, but I sat up as the sprint started. Still not entirely comfortable sprinting with the boys. All in all, the race had a fairly good pace and I have a feeling that we'll get faster as everyone finds their race-legs. Thanks to all the guys and gals that made this a relatively safe event and a great workout - and thanks for all the support and good vibes after the race - you are too good to this kid !

Monday, May 5, 2008

Solo and Incognito in Philly

After the sufferfest at Poolesville (see Mel's post below), I decided to take a quick trip up to the Memorial Hall Criterium in Philadelphia to play with some of the out-of-district girls. It was my first "solo" race of the year and I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed racing out of town. Dont get me wrong, we're really lucky that we have such an active, competitive and close-knit racing community - but sometimes its fun to see what the other districts are up to.

When we got to the course at 9am, it was only in the 50's. I was unprepared - no long-sleeve layers, no knee warmers. Good thing I didn't race until almost 2- by then it was in the mid-70's and sunny. Better yet, the course was FLAT and FAST ... 4-wide open corners on a rectangular course. Nice headwind on the back-stretch, which gave us an awesome tailwind on the front. Awesome! I knew some of the girls that were lining up with me, but most of them did not recognize me in my new colors. Incognito is COOL.

Verducci had half a dozen riders in the field, as did Human Zoom. A few other teams had a couple riders here and there several other solo riders. This was good for me because I knew other riders would work with me in a break or to chase back dangerous moves. I sat in for a lap or two, trying to gauge my legs after the prior day's efforts. I was feeling pretty good, so I decided I was here to play. I went to the front and started covering moves - Verducci and Human Zoom sent riders up to attack and I made sure I was in everything that looked dangerous. If I didn't make the move initially, I drew inspiration from LJ's many awesome bridge-moves and shot clear of the field to bridge up. There were several breaks that might have survived, but the two teams did not want to work so everything came back. With 3 to go, an Ambrosio's girl took a solo flyer and it looked like the field might let her go. With the tailwind to help, I jumped across and joined her going into the windy back-stretch. I should have known that the two teams wouldn't let that stick and they caught us coming into the bell lap.

I was in terrible position and thought it was all over - but I sat on and tried to get a few seconds of recovery as we rounded the turn onto the backstretch. The field got antsy and started things halfway down the backstretch. This was going to be interesting ! Coming out of the last turn, I stood up and started my (slow and painful) wind up. It was good to start my sprint from the back because once I got rolling, I was flying past my competitors, which made me go even harder. It was a long sprint, which is good for my strengths on the bike. Given a few more meters, I would have picked up a couple more spots. My spectators told me I finished 5th or 6th, but I watched their last race before I went to check.

File this under lessons learned (again): 1. when sprinting in a tight group, better to be nearest the camera. 2. always check the results during protest period. They had me listed as 9th, but I passed several of the girls listed ahead of me...a couple of them came up to vouch for me but I knew I didn't have a legit gripe since it was my fault for not checking. I know better, but it was very cool of them to try to make things right.

Despite the finishing gaffe, the race was really well run, VERY laid back and just plain fun. I missed my girls but it was fun to go solo and incognito. What a great way to spin the legs out, to reset the mental batteries and enjoy a sunny day in a beautiful city. All positive energy, I loved it !

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Year after year this race rattles peoples nerves. Even the skilled offroad types are shaken, physically, by the rough cratered surface of mile+ stretch of pot-holed, sharp gravel, washboard section along the creek. It's a decent course but the size of the potholes is obscene and downright dangerous, but despite the treachery, it's still a MABRA classic.

We originally planned to have half the team do the Women's open and the other half do the women's 3/4 race. Zim was out sick and Mel decided not to do a double, which left Z all to herself to survive the crashfest of the women's 3/4 race. At the end of the first lap of the W3/4 race there was a small group of maybe 12 riders that survived and the rest of the 45+ rider field was blown apart, literally if you think about it with all the flats from the potholes. Z smartly called it a day and headed for home, dusty and frustrated.

In the W123 race a different story played out. It was a small field of 20 or so comprised of the main forces that make up the MABRA women's scene - Team CycleLife, HPC, Kenda, Joe's and a few strong individual riders. The race was pretty safe and fairly calm since there wasn't as much of a need to dive for position heading into the gravel.

The main storyline of the race was a strong surge at the end of the gravel on the second lap led by Kenda's Heidi G, HPC's Lorena, and Kelly's Susana. They were riding smooth and steady while the rest of us were battling the potholes and dodging the water bottles left behind while also trying to make up ground or stay on a wheel.

Once the dust settled and we were all back on pavement again, the damage was already done. Two teams were represented in the break being pulled by one of the strongest riders in MABRA. Meanwhile Joe's and us CycleLife girls tried to set up shop at the front of the field to bring that break back, or at least get some riders to bridge up, however Kenda did their duty and were able to pretty much screw up the rotation and any hopes to get enough horsepower to get the field going forward.

A new chapter began in the race story as we passed Heidi from Kenda now on the side of the road yelling she had gotten a flat. Now there were only two sets of legs in the break, and finally we now had help to try to bring the break back. The Kenda girls were our enemies only a few minutes before and now they were our best buds since they were determined to get back in the action. Although this time, we had HPC to disrupt the flow of forward momentum at times.

Heading into the gravel on the last lap there was some jockeying for position but we all made it onto the dirt just fine. And the story once again takes a new turn. The pace picked up with some strong pulls around the potholes, and some hard hits dead on too which cost Wendy (man those things really give you a jolt). However, in the middle of the pothole field there was Lorena holding her wheel - which meant now there was only one up ahead, and no teams represented.

At that point it should have been back to square one with all players back in the game and all chips in. Although this time the teams were not full strength with the race having taken it's toll on the field and legs. Going up the little riser after the gravel only a group of 7 riders remained together for the chase.

Kenda and CycleLife continued to try to work together, but HPC either didn't realize they no longer had a rider up the road or they were content to just race for second. In the end it was a frustrating cluster of tired legs and weak pulls, despite a few hard surges by some of the riders. Joe's Janet and HPC's Kate were content sitting on the back waiting for the sprint. We strolled around toward the finish and were raring down for the final stretch. Leslie offered a great leadout in an effort to help Mel get a placing good enough to get upgrade points, sacrificing her own chance to take the field sprint. In the end, Mel was not on the wheel and was not able to stay on as Kate Flore came around Leslie to take the field sprint.

And the ending to the story was that Leslie did get some cash. Mel did get some upgrade points. But we all got tired and dirty.