Monday, November 3, 2014

My 2014 Race Season

Now that my racing season is over for 2014 I am finding a bit of time to reflect on it all.  This reflection gives me an opportunity to complete my resume for the year, and to plan ahead for 2015.  Looking at this “big picture” I again realize how lucky I am to be able to do this and to remember what a gift my good health really is.  Whether it is nature or nurture, we bike racers are an unusually fortunate bunch.

My goals this year were two-fold:  To win my age group in the BUMPS series of hill climbs and to win my age group at the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain bike race.  I was successful on both counts, and these victories did not come without an obstacle or two. My husband and I were sick with some kind of sinus issue for the entire month of February.  We got to watch a LOT of Olympics, but the fitness that I had worked so hard to build seemed to melt away.  Yikes!

The challenge, then, was to build up and get myself back to where I could enjoy the racing that I had planned for the season.  With the enlightened help of my long-time coach Mark Fasczewski I got back on track when my symptoms finally subsided, and I worked at regaining both power and endurance.  After a couple of weeks back on the bike Mark encouraged me to register for my favorite race – Austin Rattler – assuring me that I’d be ready for the 100 km.  Making the trip from snowy Central New York to sunny and warm Texas was a huge treat, and mind and body transformed with his change in locale.  I had a super time at that race, winning my age group and an entry to the Leadville Trail 100  MTB.  

Once I had qualified for Leadville it was time to put my focus on the particular training needed for that kind of racing.  My needs for Leadville are many, though, and getting to the start line with a high (for me) FTP, good endurance, and enhanced bike handling skills is mandatory.  And so the spring progressed and summer commenced.  I raced gravel grinders in Western New York and West Virginia.  I participated in a Strava climbing challenge and placed 11th overall for the women. I raced the Wilmington/Whiteface 100 KM on the Summer Solstice.  And while racing the hill climbs was also perfect Leadville training races conflicted and I was only able to do one before it was time to head to Colorado.

This Leadville was my third, and I chose to spend even more time at altitude in order to acclimate.  One of our daughters lives in Durango and I was super lucky to be able to spend over a week riding up and down the many dirt roads in the area.  Fun!  Durango is a great place to visit even if one does not want to ride a bike, but was a perfect venue for me to acclimate and to keep polishing my dirt road descending skills.  Not to mention the fun I had on the long climbs.  Thank you MK and Drew!

In years past MK and I have camped in Leadville, but this year we banded together with some good friends and rented a home near the aid station at Twin Lakes.  To all of our collective delights this house overlooked the lakes and gazed out at an array of mountains.  We spent so much time just looking at them that, in short order, we rearranged the furniture so that we could comfortably gaze out of the windows from any seat in the living room.  What a great relaxing way to get ready for a big race.

Leadville day dawned chilly and clear and the weather report looked to be in our favor.  Hooray!  The gun went off and I fought hard to maintain my position in the giant glob of racers.  Another hooray!  However, as I was descending the famous Power Line descent I was clipped from the side by a guy who’s ability to thread the needle was not very good, and down we both went.  My stuff scattered all over the place and I hurt, but aside from a swollen and scraped up hip (I found this out later) I was OK.  I lost time and, eventually, lost energy.  Still, I finished the race and collected another awesome Leadville finisher’s medal.  And I was first in my age group.  Another hooray!

After spending so much time in Colorado it was really hard to say goodbye, but I needed to get home.  I missed Phil terribly, and I needed to be at the base of Mt. Washington in 6 days to be part of the pre-race “meet and greet.”  My hip was sore, I was tired, and I had a not-so-welcomed five hour layover in the middle of the night at O’Hare.  Flights were smooth, though, and when I did arrive home on Wednesday I simply went to bed.  Ahhh, sleep!

Thursday dawned and it was time to pack for New Hampshire.  I installed a 12x36 cassette on my Power Tap hub, adjusted the shifting, and my trusty Specialized Roubaix was ready to race the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hill climb on Saturday.  Now this is not a race schedule that I would recommend to anyone, but one cannot dictate the dates of races.  My hip was a little sore and my power was lacking, but my climb up Mt. Washington was rewarding just the same.  I won my age group and set a new age group record in the process.  It was 40 degrees and hellishly windy at the top – you know, like Mt. Washington! – but at times the clouds parted and the glorious view was there for the eyes to feast on. I missed Colorado just a little less.

After that weekend some real rest was in order and then it was time to put my mountain bike back together and get ready for the ADK80K, in Lake Placid.  I retired from cross country ski racing after the 2003 season, but I’ve not lost my love for the trails on Mt. Van Hoevenberg.  This time it was camping with good friends and teammates and racing four laps of the amazingly fun double and singletrack.  I love this race, and to prove it I was 35 minutes faster than my time from last year.  I’ll take that!

The fall featured a couple more hill climbs and I was able to wrap up my season.  The focus of my training continues toward the ever-important task of keeping/building threshold power and maintaining and improving my handling skills.  Building power works for me on the trainer, but I am outside in the wind and cold as much as I can just to keep myself on an even keel.  Fun rides with long climbs are in order.

Phil and I have done some traveling as well, visiting MK in Durango last week.  We worked with her on a construction project, and I got some good riding and hiking in as well.  Later this week I will fly to California to visit with Melissa.  I might get to jump on a bike and climb a few of the hills in Oakland while I’m there!

All of this racing takes training and all of the training takes fuel and equipment.  I’d like to thank my sponsors Hammer Nutrition, Dick Sonne’s Cycling, and SpecializedBicycles
.  Yes, I am truly blessed to be able to do all this and incredibly fortunate J

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Winter of our Discontent

It seems that this winter has been going on forever, and it certainly has been a tougher year to be a cycling coach.  Our weather has been consistently snowy and cold, making indoor training the only option for me.  To me, this is a normal winter, but the warmer-than-usual winters of the past few years has spoiled a lot of folks.  There is no doubt that taking that occasional ride outside can change one's perspective for the better.  We've had little opportunity to do so around here, though.

As for me, I'm just happy to be able to train at all.  February came and went, and I was sick for the entire month.  I trained very little to give my immune system a boost, and I shudder to think of what would have happened if I had not backed off in time.  Things have improved dramatically now that the calendar says March.

Now that March is here I can think of racing again.  My coach is systematically ramping up my training, and I've felt good enough to register for the Austin Rattler  What better way to get out of the snow than to travel to sunny (hopefully!) San Antonio, Texas?  I had so much fun during this 100 km race last year and my motivation for making this trip has been compounded by the fact that I did not get drawn for the Leadville Lottery.  Please keep all your fingers crossed that my bike and my fitness holds together for me in this Leadville Qualifier, on March 29.  However, the big goal, as always, is to simply do my best and have fun.

Cycling in general, and bicycle racing in particular, teaches us all about the unpredictability of life and looking for new opportunities when plans go awry.  My knee injury last fall ended my cyclocross racing season, but it healed well enough for me to take fifth place in a Strava Climbing Challenge.  All the rest I got while fighting February's respiratory monster will keep me from feeling burned out, and all the balance work that I did while doing nothing aerobic is bound to help my handling skills :)

Bottom line?  Roll with the punches and be prepared to reinvent yourself at a moment's notice.  My goals this year are similar to year's past, with the BUMPS series of hill climbs and Leadville looming large.  All of this, though, is simply for the joy of cycling and meeting those other passionate women and men at the start and finish line.  Preparation is key and training indoors, well, should bring a smile to the face.  I'm off to my basement right now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb

What a week it has been!  One week after completing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race I found myself at the start of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hill climb.  Following through with the logistics of the journey between the two locations was as demanding as the recovery my body had attempted to make. My coach, Mark Fasczewski and my acupuncturist Mackay Rippey did their best work to get my body "back to normal."  Climbing this 4698 feet in just 7.5 miles would be even more of a challenge than usual.

This was my fifth race up Mt. Washington, so I knew what to expect.  I hoped that my time at altitude would extend its reported benefits in my direction and would override any of the obvious recovery and logistical issues.  The timing was not perfect, but I had been asked to represent Hammer Nutrition at the Meet and Greet, held the evening before the race.  I happily accepted, grateful for the opportunity.  Summer is short and there are never enough weekends!

The race started and I felt pretty good.  Hooray!  I did not overdo the start, but paced myself via my power meter, watching folks in my wave get ahead of me and then reeling them in again.  Eventually I was reeling in the racers who started in the waves prior to mine.   This makes for some tricky maneuvering at times, but a courteous "on your left" generally does the trick.  The most worrisome riders are those that are zig zagging up the climb, so good communication is essential. 
The temperature at the bottom was a nice 65 degrees and I soon worked up a sweat in the initial miles.  Eventually, though, the road  ascends above tree line and the reliable Mt. Washington wind becomes an issue.  This race was no exception.  The sustained winds of 30-40 mph were mild by this mountain's standards.  Combine them with the certain drop in temperature provided by such an elevation gain and, well, a sweaty body can cool off in a hurry.  Yes, my body was cooling off much too quickly.  My hands even went numb.  Yet, had I worn protective clothing in anticipation of this I would surely have ripped them all off due to the warm conditions at the bottom.

Nearing the top of this climb one can hear the distant cheers of the crowds and the whistle of the cog railway.  Clouds rush past at 30-40 mph.  Headwind, tailwind, crosswind and steep grades all conspire to tip bicyclists over.  The ground underneath moves very slowly in the carefully selected climbing gears.  The clock moves very quickly.  Still, I managed to finish second in my age group and a very pleasing 10th place overall for women.

I arrived at the finish line and the first thing I did was ask for my finisher's blanket.  My husband Phil was right there and he helped me to where our van was parked so I could put on all of the warm outer garments that I had packed.  Then I jumped onto my stationary trainer and did a ten minute cool down -- or was it a warm down?  Then it was back up to the observatory area for a warm drink and to check out the weather observation equipment.  Yep, it was chilly and windy, but I could have told you that!

This day had enough clear sky to showcase the stunning views from the top of this mountain.  Being above treeline helped sooth the feelings of missing the mountains in Colorado.  Our drive home later that day took us through the White, Green,

and Adirondack mountains.  Add that to the Rocky mountains just a few days before, and I can only say that I am truly blessed to be able to do this.

Thank you to my sponsors Hammer Nutrition, Specialized and Stan's NoTubes for all the great support.  Thank you family and friends for always being there for me.

Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race

Another Leadville Trail 100 MTB race is in the books for me. After over a week of rain showers and some constant pouring the day dawned clear and chilly. The first 4+ miles are downhill and on pavement so it is really a test of trying not to shiver too much while you are flying along with 2000 of your closest friends.

The speed reduces to a crawl when the dirt riding begins. All was good for me until the start of the St Kevin's climb where I was forced off my bike by a guy in front of me. With hundreds of riders streaming past I had nowhere to get back on and was reduced to walking.  I was so grateful to eventually get riding but certainly lost time.

That debacle set me back and I found I was sliding backward on my projected splits. Despite arriving at elevation 10 days prior the altitude was getting to me. I could still ride but I could not ride hard. Belt buckle dreams slipped away and total focus went toward making it past the time cuts. It was a race to each one.

The funny thing is that my climbing, while on the bike, was quite good. It was the hike a bike portions that clobbered me. On the long road climb up Columbine was passing folks all the time.  As soon as I got to the goat path portion and joined in the hike a bike my altitude difficulties started in earnest.  Emotionally I just willed myself to move forward and not quit. I just kept telling myself I would feel better when I got back to a lower elevation.  Endurolytes were a huge help with the cramping I experienced.  My walking was like a death march, but I was gambling that I would feel better when I got back to a lower elevation and pushed toward the top.

I reached the top and then the short descent to the aid station and timing mat. More Endurolytes and Espresso Hammer Gel propelled me forward. Climbing out of the aid area was torture, but as soon as the terrain tipped down I felt better. Wow!  As I descended I cheered on those still pushing their bikes up telling them they would feel better too.

It is a long descent back to the Twin Lakes aid station. One rides from the highest point on the course to the lowest, which is 3000 feet, without taking into account the undulations. I went as fast as I could back down, hoping to make the time cut. I did that, and then continued on to where my daughter MK was waiting for me with all my Hammer essentials. I am so grateful for her amazing help!

Climbing out of Twin Lakes I really thought I was out of the water. However, a big headwind kept my speed in check. I passed a lot of people when I was climbing, but this section took 10 minutes longer than anticipated. I thought I would never get to that last check point!  MK was also worried. As I finally got into the Pipeline aid station people were screaming at me to get over the mat. I got through just in time, with one person later telling me they closed it down as soon as I passed through.

More Hammer refreshments from MK and I was on my way again. I was hoping to get in before 13 hours and get an official finish, but was now on at least a 13:15 pace. Plus, the dreaded Powerline hike a bike and climb was ahead. Well, nothing left to do but attack it, right? 

Attack, I did. I started picking off people from the start of that long slog all the way to the finish. A couple of guys passed me back, but I got them well before the finish line. Finally, I was feeling good and racing like me!  I flew down the rocky descent from Hagerman Pass, grateful for the rear suspension on my Specialized Epic. This is why I bought this bike!  When I got to the smooth gravel a check of my watch told me I was on pace to finish at 13 hours. Good, but now I wanted better!

I raced down the gravel to the nice pavement descent and them settled in for the three mile climb to Carter Summit. I got there far ahead of my anticipated time and MK was there to share in this excitement. Now was the fun part, the fast descending of St. Kevin's. Now I could make up, at least mentally, for what I missed out on during the ride out when I had been forced to walk.

Fly I did. Wow, this was so much easier than it was for me 2 years ago. I was feeling fantastic and loving my bike. It was time to hammer!  In no time at all, it seemed, I was at the foot of "The Boulevard" which is the long gravel grind toward the finish. I had completely fallen apart there two years ago, but this year it was my friend. I had ridden it the day before and learned the line on the initial climb and memorized its landmarks   As I rounded the corner I could see at least 10 racers walking. No way was I walking that!  A glance at my watch said I could break 12:30 if I rode this like I knew I could. I went into full blown fury with100 miles under my belt. Better late than never, I guess.  I rode hard for me and for MK, who had so tirelessly taken care of me.

Up the Boulevard, over the pavement to Sixth St and up that climb. Then I could see the throngs at the finish. I was at12:26. Could I do it?  Push hard down the hill and then up, crossing the mat at 12:29 on the clock. Yippee!  MK waiting for me, jumping up and down, and then the finishers medal around my neck.

What a day, full of ups, downs and then ups.  Standing at the start with MK there to take my warm coat at the last second. Listening to Ken pronounce his mantra which soon became mine:  "You are better than you think you are.  You can do more than you think you can."  Over and over, for 12.5 hours, I repeated that to myself. It worked!

A huge thank you to Hammer Nutrition for its continued sponsorship and support.  And a huge thank you to MK Thompson for always being there for me with my Hammer Products and for motivating me to move forward -- as fast as I could.  Thank you also to Specialized and to Stan's NoTubes for all the help.  What a challenging and amazing day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Serotta Tandem for Sale

   My beloved tandem has raced all over the country, and it
has been ridden to 8 National Championships and numerous national medals and State Championships.  It has raced the Burley Tandem Stage Race, and been a faithful steed in many many rides, both short and centuries.
   When we were shopping for a tandem we became aware of the frame and made a trip to the Serotta factory for a test ride.  It was unpainted at the time and the welds were just magnificent to see – a real work of art.  We fell in love with how it handled, had it painted and built up to my specs and it has been fun and fast riding ever since.
   I’ve had a variety of stokers, ranging in height from 5’1” to 6 feet tall.  This is the only tandem I have captained where we could both stand up at the same time.  The “boom tube” at the bottom was specifically designed to enhance handling.  This bike descends perfectly and inspires confidence. 
   The shifting was originally all Campy, with 40 spoke wheels and Phil Wood hubs.  I upgraded it to 9 speed a few years ago and the rear wheel is now a 36 hole XT mountain bike hub, with an XT rear derailleur and Ultegra Shifter.  The front shifting is still Campy.  The old Campy shifter and Phil Wood Wheels will be available with this bike as well.
   The paint is Serotta’s flagship pearlescent white with orange decals.  There are some surface chips and dings in the paint that happened in transport.  There is also a hint of surface rust in a few locations.  This bike, though, has been well cared for and maintained. 
   Also included in this sale is a soft sided BikePro case which I used to fly this bike to races.  It is what I will pack the bike to ship if shipping is required.
   Additionally, the Profile Aerobar , as noted in the photos, is included in this sale.

Specs include:
Head Tube – 16.5 cm
Top Tube – Captain – 59 cm
Captain Stem – 13 cm – Custom Serotta
Captain Handlebar 44 cm cc – Ritchey Aluminum
Brakes – Shimano XTR Canti
Front Wheel – Bontrager Tandem Race
Rear Wheel – Shimano XT hub with Mavic Rim, 36 hole
Rear Derailleur – 9 speed Shimano XT, Rear Shifter Shimano Ultegra
Front Derailleur – Campagnolo Chorus, Front Shifter Campy Chorus
Crankest – Shimano 54/44/32, 110 BCD
Saddles – Specialized Phenom
Stoker Seatpost – USE elastomer suspension

Many photos are available, upon request.  $3250.00 plus shipping.  Central New York Area.  315-796-1054

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cycling Road Trip Kicks off the Season

My husband Phil and I just returned from a stellar road-trip vacation.  The 5000+ miles that we drove, carting both mountain and road bikes, enabled us to race, ride, and see friends and family along the way.  It was an outstanding way to enter the racing season.

I will be competing at the Leadville MTB Trail 100 this year, so getting in some long racing in preparation is my focus.  The Austin Rattler, in Smithville, TX, fit right in, giving me an early season race of 100 KM and also giving us an opportunity to visit some great folks in San Antonio we'd not seen for years.  The idea of a road trip was born out of this racing opportunity.

We drove to Texas via North Carolina, where we met with good friends and raced the US Cup East/SERC #2 in Bryson City.  The fast and flowing singletrack was a wonderful change from the snowy winter riding I had been doing, and took some getting used to, but was a terrific way to start the season and to get ready for Austin.

My race at the Austin Rattler was one of those where everything aligned just right.  The course, the weather, my bike, my body, and my super support crew all came together to give me one of the best mountain bike races ever.   The course consisted of four laps, 15 miles in length, which was a perfect format for me, and after the first lap I raced my way from fourth to first in my age group.  What fun!

My time for the race was 5 hours and 46 minutes, which was a pleasant surprise.  While I had hoped to break 6 hours I would have been happy with 6.5.  In addition to winning my age group, finishing in this time slot gave me a better corral in which to start Leadville.  My next races will be long as well, with the Wildcat 100KM in May and then the Wilmington/Whiteface 100 – another Leadville qualifier – in June.  Yippee!

Our trip home from Texas took us through Huntsville, AL.  Coincidentally, our daughter was there visiting with her boyfriend’s parents, and we were lucky enough to be able to join in with all of them for a day of hiking and general fun.  The next day we were taken on a great four hour ride to the east of Huntsville, and then we headed up to Chattanooga to do more visiting.  

Heading north from Tennessee, we consulted the map to see where we might be able to get in one more unique ride as we made our way home.  We stopped for the night at Beuna Vista, VA, where the Blue Ridge Parkway provided us with such an opportunity, and the next day I managed to find the longest contiguous climb along the parkway -- 12.5 miles!  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to climb the monsters, and this was one terrific rise to the top.  I even saw a Golden Eagle, who’s shadow as it flew over me was like that of an airplane – huge.  Phil picked me up at the top of this climb, we repacked our van for the final time, and 10 hours later we were home, safe and sound.  

Lucky us!  We are so blessed to be able to do this and to have such an array of caring friends and family.  Thank you to everyone who helped us out along the way.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Functioning on the Indoor Trainer

While I had promised in my last post that I would give some direction on effective training I have been a bit tardy in doing so.  A mixture of indoor and outdoor training, along with work and social happenings, left little time for writing.  Instead, I took the coachly advice to recover a bit at the end of the day.  However, it is 20 degrees out today, and flurrying, so in order to get the most out of what my coach has prescribed for my workout today I will be riding the trainer. 

I’ve had even more motivation handed to me this week.  My entry into the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hill Climb was confirmed.  After that I found out that I had “won” the lottery for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race.  The best part is that these races are only a week apart. Wow!  Be careful what you ask for might be a better title for this post.  Poor riding conditions or not, I need to be training. 

So I need to continue to embrace the indoor trainer and make the most of the time you I am spending.  You can too. Think about how to function well on the trainer.  The mantra of cycling coaching is “The Specificity Rule” so use the time on the trainer to most-closely resemble what you would actually be doing if you were riding on the road. 

Focus:  Sitting on a trainer and merely pedaling the time away while watching your boxed set of old TV shows has its place, but not for every workout.  Before even getting onto the trainer determine what the purpose of the day’s workout should be.  Zero in on what your coach has planned for you.  If you do not have a coach, devise a plan for yourself that is compatible with the goals that you have coming up this season.  Work on raising your threshold power.  Just as if you were riding outside, think about the purpose of this ride and go for it. 

Fans:  People associate riding the indoor trainer with copious amounts of sweat.    Even if one trains in a chilly garage a microclimate soon forms and, wow, the body gets hot.  Fans are required, and more than one.  It is tough work to keep the core temperature down while working hard, and a strain on the body.  Why suffer with zone 4 heart rate while only producing Level 3 power?  Folks are afraid of feeling chilled, so I advise them to start out with a light jacket, arm warmers, etc.  Yes, the skin will feel cool, but it does while riding outside as well.  Those on power meters can make sure that their heart rate does not exceed what it normally does outside for the level of power produced.  If the heart rate is spiking then get some more fans on the job.
Food:  Mix drinks and bring your gels, etc., with you to your training area so you can eat replenish just as if you were on a road ride. Learn what works well for you, experiment a bit, or follow what is tried and true.   

Fit:  Squirming around on the bike?  Do you have little aches and pains that you overlook while on the road?  Is your “trainer bike” an older bike that has not been fit properly to you?  Riding indoors gives you ample opportunity to adjust your bike so that it is more comfortable.  If, however, you are still unable to find that sweet spot treat yourself to a good bike fit.

Form:  An advantage of riding the indoor trainer is the fact that one can sit up at any point in the ride to relieve back pressure, etc.  However, folks can forget that they are actually training for riding on the road and their body positions often get sloppy.  To get aggressive on the trainer one needs to get into an aggressive riding position.  Vary your time in the various positions on the bike – drops, hoods, tops.  Feel how the power originates a bit differently for each location.  Look ahead, relax the upper body. Stand up, sit down, vary your cadence.  Use your muscles as specifically as you would on a good road ride.

Fun:  OK, this gets back to my last post about motivation, but it is always worth mentioning.   Training, on some level, should always be fun.  Not every pedal stroke is going to feel glorious, but the satisfaction one gets from completing a good workout does feel really good.  Arriving at a goal event in personal best shape makes that event ever so much more enjoyable.  Feeling good enough to bury yourself, if need be, is a super reward for investing the time to effectively train for your events.  Anxiety is reduced, fun is enhanced.  Need I say more?