Monday, July 12, 2010
Newton's Revenge, Climb up Mt. Washington. I set a new record for women 55-59 -- 1:24:23 and was the 4th woman overall. Stats for the auto road: base elevation 1563 feet, summit elevation 6288, length of the race is 7.6 miles, with an average grade of 12.7% and an extended portion at 18%. Highest temperature ever recorded at the top is 72 degrees, highest wind 231 mph.
The race was postponed from Saturday, due to torrential rains near the top, making the dirt section extremely rutted and slick. After that decision was announced Phil and I went back to our awesome B&B, the Nereledge Inn B&B and had a superb breakfast, then headed out to be tourists and to find a calm place to ride our bikes. Late in the afternoon the weather cleared and we drove back up to the mountain. Phil had earned a free trip up the auto road for the volunteer work he was going to do at the top on race day, so we used that voucher and drove up the auto road. I am so glad that we did, because I saw that there were some sections that flattened out just enough to give legs and lungs a small break. I figured I would need that! And, oh, it is so beautiful up there, we hated to come back down. We have fallen in love with New Hampshire.
Sunday dawned sunny and warm -- the race was ON! By race time it was HOT, which was my limiter of the day. I felt fantastic warming up and for the first three miles of the race. I had great legs and was good to go, but the heat was relentless. I kept waiting for the temps to cool on the way up or for some of that fabled wind but it never happened! The sun was full on -- clouds, where were you??? -- and what breeze we did have was a tail wind giving absolutely no relief. Like climbing in an oven...
Eventually I went into survival mode, especially once I got above tree line at 4 miles. No more dots of shade. I was just boiling by the time I hit the one mile dirt road section, "the 5 mile grade", so I stopped looking up at it while I was climbing. That part is straight along the side of the mountain and steep, and was my slowest mile, average there was well over 15 percent, probably that 18% that I spoke of earlier. Once back on the pavement I took a few seconds to regroup then hit the "Hairpin" which featured another short and very steep grade. A photographer was sitting on the yellow line (!) and I was wondering how I could negotiate that steep kicker and also avoid him at the same time. I managed to, and then it flattened out again to the "cow pasture."
Almost there, but how far? I could see the observatory and hear people yelling, but there was more steep road ahead. After I recovered a bit I went back to getting the ride completed. The last 50 yards did not disappoint. That 22+ percent grade (seemed like much more) was so hard, but thankfully short. Then a left turn and a few feet to the finish line!
The race ends at the very top, so once you cross the line you have to stop. That was equally challenging! I had two people helping me, keeping me from falling over. They put a blanket on me, which made me hotter, so we took that off and my helmet and got me to a chair. Who would think it would be this hot at the top? I was shaking like a leaf, but after some water and a Hammer Gel I was better. Eventually I got up and walked around, and after a while went to my van to ride my trainer. A wonderful person carried my bike for me while I hobbled down the stairs to the parking lot. What a beautiful place to ride the trainer, way above tree line with all the clouds and vegetation far below us. A mystical place and now one of my very favorites. Again, I did not want to leave.
OK, so I did not say too much about the climbing -- mostly because that is what it is all about. You just pedal and pedal and pedal, and if you stop you fall over, which happened to a gentleman I was catching up to who had started in a wave or two ahead of me. I was happy with my SRAM Apex gearing, 34 x 32, which would have been perfect if the heat had not zapped me. However, I just gutted it out. My mountain bike experience sure came in handy on the hairpin and the fabled finish line kicker.
What a marvelously put on race! The race promotion was right-on, with all the right stuff. We had number plates for our bikes with disposable chips that we did not need to return, we were greeted at the top with medals and beautiful souvenir Polartec blankets, we had a full fresh turkey dinner post race (yeah, they carved the turkey in front of you) and awards were prompt. There were lots of door prizes too. Mary and Kelly, their staff and volunteers did a magnificent job.
I'd like to thank my sponsors for getting me to and through this event: Hammer Nutrition, Specialized, SRAM, Terry Bicycles, and Sonne's Cycling. Thanks to my coach, Mark Fasczewski, for priming me up and keeping me going, and to my family for putting up with this! A special thank you to Phil for being support person extraordinaire. What a wonderful weekend we had.
When I signed up for this race in January I set out to break my age group record, which I did by 3 minutes and 7 seconds. By race week I had hoped to come in with a time under 1:20, the mythical "top notch" time, but the day's heat did not allow me to give this my best effort. I've got another chance, though...watch out Mt. Washington, I'll be back on August 21!
Monday, June 14, 2010
Two weeks ago SRAM generously provided me with the RD and cassette combo prior to its impending release. I cleaned my Power Tap wheel and installed the cassette. Justin at Sonne's did a flawless install, replacing my Red derailleur and fitting a longer chain. I was now ready to assault the toughest climbs I could find. An Internet search lead me to some 15 minute climbs just west of Lafayette, where I could crank out 15 minute intervals which started out on 20 percent grades. My four minute intervals could be done on the famed 24+ percent grades of Potato Hill. I was ready.
Wow, climbing with a 34 x 32 is an entirely new experience! This gearing definitely levels the hills. No, I am not going very fast when I am using it. However, I actually have a cadence and can keep within the power range that I want to average for the duration of the hill climbs. Working with this gearing on the steepest of climbs has me working on balance at such unbelievably slow speeds. An added benefit is that I can ride just about any hill I want and keep my power in Level 2 on my easy days. Fun!
Of course, and happily, I am not in the 32 tooth for very long during my intervals. When the grade comes back down into the teens I need some more gear inches, and fast! The Apex derailleur shifts flawlessly, just as I would expect from SRAM, and once back into the smaller cogs my bike rides just as fast as it ever did :) With the recommended gearing for Washington being 1:1 -- this almost makes that cut -- I am thrilled that I did not have to install a triple. Instead, I can just change cassettes, as per usual, when I plan to road race.
SRAM has reminded me that I am not the first to use Apex. It was ridden to a third and eighth place in the infamous hill climb TT stage in this year's Giro. A certain famous cyclist from mountain bike races past is also racing Mt. Washington with Apex. It is fairly certain that he will cross the finish line before me! However, I will be thanking SRAM and Specialized for enabling me to get to the start line with the right equipment and thanking them too as I work my way to the top, somewhere in his wake.
I'll keep you all posted.
Monday, March 15, 2010
My question was answered as I watched an interview of Apollo Anton Ono on the last weekend of the Olympics. He talked about the racer's desire to have the "perfect race" in an "imperfect" situation, and how critical every aspect of training was when working toward that goal. Perfection is hard to achieve, and Apollo reminded viewers that an athlete "gives up a lot" to accomplish his/her goals.
As a coach and competitor I readily identified with the "giving up" part. While my lifestyle of ride, ride, ride, might look appealing to the 9-5 crowd, I can ride that much because I continually train, train, train -- on my bike. I work early mornings and late nights, so I'm pretty ignorant about things like TV shows and movies. Well rounded, I am not! Goals in cycling demand training on the bike, training very specifically, so I am in the gloom of my basement when the white stuff is out there to play in. The payoff is pretty instantaneous as soon as the snow melts, though. That first ride outside was amazing as I rode past snow banks that towered over my head.
Friday, March 5, 2010
I was asked to prepare this for the folks at Potato Hill Farm Outdoor Education Center, so I thought I would post it in case anyone else was interested.
Margaret E. Thompson
Margaret Thompson Cycling Coaching Services
Margaret Thompson Enterprises, Inc.
- President of Margaret Thompson Enterprises, Inc.
- USA Cycling Licensed Level 1 (Elite) Coach
- Category 1 Mountain Bike Racer
- Two time UCI World Championship Master Mountain Bike Silver Medallist
- One National Championship
- Category 2 Cyclocross Racer
- Six bronze medals at USA Cycling National Championships
- Category 3 Road Racer
- Seven National Championships on single bike and tandem
- Multiple Medals at National Championships for single bike and tandem
- Utica College, ‘96
- Major -- CPA Accounting
- Minor – Speech Communication
- USA Cycling Coaching Education Programs, leading up to Level 1 Certification in 2007
- Assistant to Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO) coaching staff at Collegiate National Mountain Bike Championships – 1998, 1999, 2001.
- Assistant Coach for Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) at Collegiate National Mountain Bike Championships – 2005
- Head Coach for Central Open Cycling Team, Empire State Games – 2005 thru 2008
- Head Coach and head Mountain Bike Program Consultant for Potato Hill Farm Outdoor Educational Center, Boonville, NY – 2008 – present
- Assistant Coach at USA Cycling Elite Junior Mountain Bike Camp, Mt. Snow, Vermont – 2009
- Assistant Coach at SCV Winter Training Camp, Suwannee, TN – 2010
- Ongoing – Individual work with new riders for the Ride for Missing Children – 2003 to present
- Ongoing – Private Coaching Practice since 2003
- I moved to the Mohawk Valley area when I was 4 and was educated in local Catholic schools.
- My husband Phil and I have two daughters who have made cycling just one of the many activities that they are passionate about.
- Although I have raced and trained in Europe, Canada, and all over the United States I consider this area to have some of the finest road riding and mountain bike terrain. The beauty of this area is outstanding.
My goals as a cycling coach are two-fold:
- To help cyclists of all abilities formulate and then achieve their cycling goals.
- To foster a love for sport and the outdoors through cycling, enabling the athlete to become a more fulfilled and balanced person. It is my hope that this fulfillment will provide a platform for each individual to become a better person in his or her world.
Friday, February 26, 2010
After my ride I went onto Computrainer's web site for some info and coincidentally found that there is a time trial on March 6 for anyone anywhere to do, as long as it was on the Computrainer. Count me in! The FB40 is a 40 km TT, and I downloaded and rode the course today. Wow, it is not flat, with almost 1900 feet of climbing. The one "unroadlike" characteristic of the Computrainer is that if you decided to coast down a hill you will eventually slow down and stop. No rest for the weary! So this course looks to be a killer.
In the week leading up to this TT I will be doing my SST intervals on the course in an attempt to get faster on it. If nothing else, it will be good training for something else. Stay tuned for more of my impressions about this event, and check it out on FaceBook!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Specificity was demonstrated in the men's cross country skiing 30 km pursuit on Saturday. The race is a mass start, with the first 15 km skied in the classic technique. At the halfway point the racers each ski into their own corral, where their skate skis await them for the second 15 km -- this time in freestyle. This transition area is similar to triathlon, and speed here is essential.
Several skiers entered the transition area at the same time, but Sweden's Johan Olsson changed into his skate skis so quickly that he was 2.5 seconds ahead of the pack in a heart beat. So he started to ski for the gold, all by himself, with 15 km to the finish line! Meanwhile, the pack gambled that he would tire out and they would reel him in. Enter Olsson's teammate Marcus Hellner. He went to the front of the pack and effectively slowed their pursuit. It was beautiful to watch, and Olsson's lead grew. Eventually, the chase began and Hellner was able to stick with the chase. He was one of a group of three that caught Olsson with only 1 km to go. Once caught, Olsson stayed with the trio and it was a hard charge to the finish line. Marcus Hellner's reward for his teamwork? A gold medal! An exhausted Olsson held on for the bronze, outkicking the Russian skier Alexander Legkov, who had started the chase with 5 km to go. Sweden had won 2 medals, and it was an amazing thing to watch. It almost made me want to come out of xc ski racing retirement!
Much of the preparedness is obvious -- physical and mental training and good ski technicians come to mind. However, the specificity of the ski change cannot be overlooked. Olsson nailed it, and with that the opportunity presented itself, and he went with it. Opportunity abounded for Hellner as well, who now was defending his teammate and in doing so he earned the gold medal for himself. Amazing!
Bottom line? Don't overlook the "small" skills when training, and keep the mind open to the opportunites that will always present themselves.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
This missing link is nothing that can be borrowed, purchased or even stolen. Instead, it is a commodity that is present only between the athlete's ears. The committed brain. That's right, it is the willpower to really embrace indoor training. My brain has given me a lot of trouble over the years while training indoors, doing things like suddenly making my feet unclick from the pedals and forcing my body to get off the bike. Pretty wishy-washy, I must say. I've been reduced to standing next to the bike -- or walking away from it -- and the training clock has effectively stopped. This brain attack can happen for any number of reasons, from imagined equipment issues to thinking about all the other things that I am "supposed" to be doing.
A recent bolt of insight made me realize that the only thing that these brain attacks were doing was wasting time -- the very time that I really needed to do all the other things in my life. If a three hour trainer ride was really taking me four, well, that was not helping my time-crunched life out at all. This weekend I mounted my indoor trainer in a different frame of mind. I rode my bike, got off only a couple of times, and had more fun in the process. I worked harder at keeping my averages up, I got in the right amount of training in much less time, and I was super happy when I got done. The "time saved" on Saturday was spent on the couch resting my worn out legs, and on Sunday I spent the time having a great Indian dinner with Phil in the Village of Clinton. Now, if I could only do that with money...
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Keeping in mind that goals should be both a challenge and achievable, I open up my brain every spring in an effort to find something that will fit that bill. I love doing National Championships in road and cross, so any other events cannot interfere with these sacred dates. The date change for Master Road Nationals this summer, though, enabled me to look outside the box. July was now wide open!
Enter my sponsor Hammer Nutrition. As a member of Team Hammer Nutrition I am eligible to apply for any of the comped entries that Hammer receives in exchange for their generous sponsorship of these events. These entries are advertised on our member forum, and the events are all over the US and in a variety of endurance disciplines. I read them with interest and then hope that one day an event that I can race in will be offered.
That day happened three weeks ago when the call went out to anyone interested in racing Newton's Revenge. What is Newton's Revenge? It is the July bike race that climbs up Mt. Washington! I have always wanted -- maybe fantasized is a better word -- to ride up this legendary climb, but other things always got in the way. Economics, for one thing, and a conflict in dates for another. Never mind my perceived power to weight ratio problems. But with the first two items somewhat taken care of I figured that the power to weight ratio would give me and my coach Mark Fasczewski something to really work on.
So my entry is now official and training has begun. You can find me in my basement on my Computrainer for the time being, and when this snow ever melts out on the road doing LONG SST work. Keep posted for my progress!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
In addition to training I was privileged to work as a coach at the SCV (Scenic City Velo) winter training camp. SCV funded this weekend-long developmental training camp for their Cat 4 women and Cat 4 & 5 men, and Mark and Kym, as well as SCV president Steve Strain, put on a stellar show. Despite the cold temps and the intermittent flurries we rode outside on both Saturday morning and afternoon teaching a slew of racing skills. The camp was held in Sewanee, TN, at the top of a mountain, and the snow flurries and below freezing temps on Saturday night forced us onto trainers while Mark lectured and answered a myriad of questions regarding racing fitness and tactics. What a super way for a club to develop its racing team. Way to go SCV! Thank you Mark, Kym, and Steve for giving me the opportunity to work in your very finely oiled machine.