Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Transition to Cyclocross, with a Bonus MTB Marathon!

After racing something that has the distance of the Leadville Trail 100 it has been a little difficult for me to find reasonable goals for the fall racing season. I have discovered that I love the long hard format of marathon mountain biking and that I also have so much to learn. These races are few and far between, though, so I knew that I would have to change my focus for the fall. Thanks to the finances involved, a trip to Bend, OR, for the Marathon National Championships was out of the question, so I have been left with a body that wants to do long and fast mountain bike races, but there seemed to be none to be found.

So after a physical and emotional break from racing I settled in on Cyclocross, which seems like the exact opposite of what I had trained for much of the summer. My coach Mark Fasczewski started filling my training with short intense intervals, which filled my legs with pain. Mark was just elected as coach to the USA Cycling Cyclocross Committee, so, yeah, he really knows his stuff! Anyway, I sure need work in the Anaerobic Capacity department. Cyclocross races have turned into bike handling fiestas, and I also discovered that my cornering was definitely not up to par.

The first Cyclocross race of the season, Kirkland Cyclocross Race, is five miles from my home. MVBC, our local club and one that I sponsor, promotes this race and I help out when I can. Two tropical storms sandwiching a cold front also "helped out" with this race, dumping at least 8 inches of rain in a ten day period. Needless to say, the course was a muddy soupy mess, but most racers had a ton of fun. I was no exception. A bit stressed from some organizational tasks, I jumped into a very talented Women's Open field and had myself a fun fun time, running so many of the spots that I could easily climb on my preride the day before. It was great to be around my Corning NoTubes teammates again and we all spoke enthusiastically about the cyclocross races to come. My teammates cleaned up as well, collectively we took first, third, ninth (me) and tenth.

This past Saturday I kept myself close to home and raced the Critz Farms Kermise. I chose to race in the 40+ category, which gave me the win and some cash to help with the weekend's expenses. That was a good move, as the women in the Open category all finished ahead of me. My teammates again, taking a very solid first, second and fourth. This race was mostly on the gravel and rock roads at an apple orchard, and my poor cornering lost me lots of time. I will be so happy to be cornering on grass again!

After this race friend Katina reminded me of an endurance mountain bike race in Lowville, only 60 miles north from my home. This was to be held the next day, and, OMG, it was a chance to ride my mountain bike hard and fast! Even though I had just emptied my legs with many many intense sprints out of those dreadfully slow corners I was convinced that I would recover in time for the 46 mile adventure. So what if I had just installed my mud tires onto my mountain bike?

Sunday dawned cool and sunny and I was so excited as I drove up to the Tug Hill Plateau. The race, dubbed Race With the Wind, started and finished at the visitor center for the Maple Ridge Wind Farm. We are talking lots and lots of windmills here, as this is the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi. The huge white windmills and the clear blue sky made for a very surreal view in all directions.

The beautiful day brought out the racers and there were probably 50 riders at the start. We started up a paved road and then took a right up a smooth dirt road. A woman on a cyclocross bike left me in her dust and, at that point, my 2.2 Kenda Karma tires were doing me no favors in the speed department. I tried to keep her in my sights and concentrated on riding my own race, keeping my heart rate high, but in a zone that I knew I could hold for hours. The race was going to be pretty long, so I did not want to bury myself in the very beginning.

The dirt roads got rougher and rougher, with smooth gravel being replaced by huge round stones. All the roads had intermittent areas of huge puddles and mud. When I arrived at the first super-steep hill of the day, littered with rocks and crevices, I was thrilled to be on my trusty Stumpjumper 29er hardtail. I was riding this with ease, while the woman on the cyclocross bike was walking up the rough slope. I wished her well and pushed on. Ahead of me was a long section of bumpy, rocky, puddly, undulating road, and I was loving every minute of it. I was also very happy with the Kenda Karmas.

Now I was the lead woman, and in order to keep in this position I had to not only go as fast as I could without crashing but also take care of my body so that I would remain properly fueled and hydrated for the duration of the race. I focused on the data from my Joule, specifically my average speed and my current heart rate, and worked to keep the heart rate up but not spiking and my average speed above 13 as much as possible.

This was not so hard on the way out, as a quick look at the course profile shows that more elevation is lost than gained in the first half. In the second half I pushed even harder, knowing what I might expect for a finish time if I kept up the average speed. I kept sipping on my Camelback filled with water and Fizz tablets, nursing my bottle with Perpetuem, and periodically ingesting packets of my favorite flavors of Hammer Gel. Thank you Hammer! I caught and passed several of the men who had dropped me in the beginning.

When I got back onto the aforementioned roughest rocky undulating road I put on the afterburners. I roared back up this terrain, dropping the two guys that I had entered this piece of road with. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time, and, next to the sweet singletrack sections, it was for me the most pleasing part of the race. I pushed and pushed, not seeing a soul ahead or behind. Yeah, I was loving those tires.

When I was on the second to last road, only a mile or two from the finish, I turned around to see one of the men that I had been going back and forth with during the race. Oh, no, the bike racer in me would not let this overall placing go without a fight! I put it into a harder gear, putting in some more distance. Then, one last turn, and the finish line. I had won! More importantly, I had put in a good hard aggressive race. (Final results have not been posted, so I do not know how I placed in with the men.)

My time for the 46 miles was 3 hours and 32 minutes. Now, all I need to do is to produce two more consecutive intervals like this when I race Leadville next year and I could finish in under 11 hours! Ouch. Well, that is a worthy goal, and one that I am chasing. As for this race, I was thrilled to have this under my belt and to race it in a strong and consistent manner. It was great training for what lies ahead and something that I can visualize as I do my other training.

OK, now it is back to Cyclocross season again. I guess I had better get out there and practice some corners.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Putting Leadville to Rest for a While, or My Thoughts on Time

The Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is a race against the clock that just happens to be long, on mountainous terrain, and at high altitudes. In my last post I commented that it seemed like race day would never arrive. Now it is already two weeks post-race. Time certainly has a strange way of making itself felt. The night before the big race? The clock ticked ever so slowly, but once the alarm went off the clock started racing, as it would for the rest of the day.

I was very fortunate to have some time to spend in Leadville before the race. My daughter MK and I drove in from Durango on Wednesday, found a beautiful campsite, and then went for a ride on the trail that winds around part of Turquoise Lake, only a mile from our digs. Seeing so much beauty in one day can be breathtaking. Witnessing it all at 10,000 feet takes breathtaking to a new level.

Our days leading up to the race were a nice mix of preparation and rest. We rode a bit on the dirt roads in the area in which we were camping, we hung out at our campsite, we went into town to hang out and get groceries, and we did a small bit of course inspection. MK did some trail running while I watched hummingbirds and tried to figure out what my split times would be. It was inexplicably dry the entire time we were camped; outdoor living was especially good.

Race day dawned clear and cool and I struggled to put my cycling clothing on over sunscreen. Well, it was not even dawn yet, but you get the picture. MK drove me into town, and then asked me where my cell phone was. Cell phone? I eventually remembered that I left it on the ground back at the campsite, so she agreed to go back and rescue it after my start. How could I just leave my phone on the ground? At least I had everything I needed to race, including MK, who would be my super-awesome support crew.

The start area was a mass of people and bikes. My starting corral was way, way, way in the back. Pros started first, and then those with finish times from prior Leadville races were lined from fastest, up to twelve hours. New racers, like me, had the last starting area, and folks had gotten there ultra early to have the privilege of laying their bike onto the pavement in order to save their spot while they walked around. Everyone else was walking around the bikes lying on the ground in order to cross the street to get to the porta potties, and they usually tried not to step onto tender bits, like derailleurs or brake levers, in the process. I just kind of straddled my bike next to my corral and waited the order from the officials to move into position. The scene was organized and chaotic all at once.

The gun went off promptly at 6:30 and it took me over a minute and a half to actually cross the start line. As I rode through the start area I could see riders on the road ahead, as far as the eye could see. That was truly remarkable, until I realized that most of the people in this race were on the road ahead of me! I dug deeper and tried to infiltrate into the crowd, which had slowed for a small climb, then it was a downhill, a corner, and more downhill. Despite wearing two pair of gloves my hands were freezing and everyone around me was busy shaking out their hands while trying to keep up on the fast pavement stretch.

The speedy portion came to an abrupt halt upon entering the first unpaved section, CR 103. Suddenly, I was mastering my track stand, trying not to dab, as I worked toward moving forward. The climb up St. Kevin’s loomed, and I was wondering how I would ever stay on the bike, given the mass of humanity around me. I was mostly successful, though, only getting off once for a few seconds to avoid a guy who had wobbled completely across my path. I got onto a train of people who were riding through the traffic and it felt good to be moving again.

So much of the race revolved around other people. With 1900 registered racers, I was never really alone. On the climbing sections I would continue to ride past so many of the competitors. On some descents those who could ride downhill faster than me mobbed me as they passed. When I climbed up the dirt road portion toward the 12,500 foot Columbine Mine check point, also the halfway point, I was passing people like crazy, while the race leaders and faster riders were already descending on the same road. This was not a lonely place.

Then, I hit the “goat trail.” I had seen photos of racers pushing their bikes near the top of this climb, but with still over two miles to go to the course's mid-point I was greeted with a hike-a-bike that went on and on. We were now above tree line, and as I rounded each curve I could see the course rising higher, with a steady line of people still pushing their bikes. I could not see an end. Climbers pushed and pushed, staying to the right, while the people who had already made it to the top were bombing back down. Yes, on the same little goat path! The irony was that when you got to the “top” you still had to actually ride down a bit to where the aid station and check point was set up. Which meant, yes, that you had to ride uphill again in order to start the journey back down.

You’d think that just coasting down the mountain back to the Twin Lakes checkpoint would be easy. In fact, it was so tiring. The goat path was quite rocky, and I had to make sure to not run over any of the folks still walking up that climb. The dirt road was just plain fast, with loose sand and gravel to make life interesting. I was definitely happy to find a few sections where I could pedal, and was thrilled when I finally arrived back at the Twin Lakes aid station where MK had been patiently waiting for me to return. She was at the crucial aid stations, zooming from place to place, with everything I needed, including a big hug and a good song to keep all the bad ones out of my head. Her support was invaluable and everything that she did to help would take another blog post! She was even keeping my Face Book friends posted on my progress because, yes, she did go back to get my phone.

It felt hot at Twin Lakes, and as I climbed the road out of there I do remember looking at the lakes and thinking how wonderful it would be to jump into one of them. I found out later that it was 92 degrees there, at 9200 feet, which was the lowest altitude on the course. When I met up with MK, just over an hour later, at the Pipeline aid station I was certainly getting finish line fever but I still felt pretty good. I had no idea how hot it was, though, because the dry air at those elevations just dried the sweat off me as soon as I was producing it. I just figured that in three hours or so I would be done. Yahoo!

I was not, however, prepared for the amount of hike-a-bike that climbing up "Power Line" would involve. This video of eventual winner, Todd Wells, shows him riding Power Line. Todd was one of only a few racers to ride this section, though. I walked this, hopping on the bike in random flatter spots, with the entire piece going on for four miles. It took forever! Yes, there were still people everywhere, and yes, I would eventually top this section out at over 11,000 feet. Finally, on the other side, I was greeted with a rough, rocky descent, which felt rough beyond words. I kept checking my fork to make sure it was not locked out, although it certainly felt like it was. Suspension, where were you? Was I tired or was my fork just a bit low on air?

I came off the rocky descent at 10:30 on the clock. I remember thinking that if I really motored I could make it to the finish line before 12 hours hit and I could still collect the coveted belt buckle. I knew there was some smooth dirt road and a good chunk of pavement ahead, and I was ready. Zoom zoom down the dirt and the pavement descents, then zip up the pavement climb. I climbed and climbed, passing several people along the way. But the climb kept on going and going and going, and zip definitely got zapped. A man standing near an aid station cheered me on, telling me that I had one more hour in which to collect that buckle. “Can I make it?” I asked him. “YOU can,” was his response. Hmm, he must have been saying that all day, it sounded very well rehearsed.

Well, I did finish, just a bit over the 12 hour mark. I was nauseous for the last 2-3 hours of the race and had to force myself to drink and eat. Time continued to fly by, while my body seemed to be standing still. I was beginning to feel miserable, yet I was so close to the finish line. The last 2 miles were the worst, still climbing and climbing to get to that finish line. When I hit the pavement with one km to go I just wanted to cry. I knew where I was, but could not imagine how I was going to get myself to that finish line. Up another small hill, down the other side, and the finish line finally came into sight. I lined myself up with the red carpet as I heard my name announced over the loud speaker. I crossed the line, found MK, and tearfully collapsed into her arms. Done! I was also given an official time and a beautiful finisher’s medal, designating an official finish. I did not even care that I had missed the belt buckle. I had done everything I could and I could now get off my bike.

At this point, I was expecting to start feeling better. There was food to be eaten, recovery drink to be had, and maybe, even, a beer. Instead, I spiraled from a post-race euphoria to a full-out shivering, cramping, nauseous mess, so I bypassed the food table and went to the medical tent. The unusual heat and dry conditions had caused me, and countless other racers, to dehydrate. A cot and sleeping bag combo was now mine to inhabit as I drank salty fluids and ate pretzels. But there was no improvement. I could not move without completely cramping, and MK and I both wondered, independently, how sleeping in a tent was going to work out for me that night.

The good Dr. Matt, from Denver, eventually prescribed an IV of saline, that within three minutes stopped the nausea. By the time the bag was done I was up and walking, cramp free. I had also managed to stop shivering. It was absolutely miraculous! And I was suddenly ravenous, so MK ordered some burritos to take back to the campsite, and we had ourselves a yummy dinner underneath the stars. I think/hope that she had a well-deserved beer, as well. Yes, it was still warm out, and as we enjoyed our last night at camp we were just a little mystified by all the things that had transpired that day. I could not believe that after everything I had done I was feeling so good. How strange was that?

Many people need to be thanked for helping me get to this race and then for enabling me to finish it. MK, of course, was integral in all of this. Not only did she serve as race support, but she housed me in Durango for the week leading up to the race and the few days before I went home. (Imagine having YOUR mother move in for two weeks.) Her boyfriend Drew loaned us his awesome truck to make transporting all our gear a lot easier. Speaking of gear, I only supplied my sleeping pad, the rest of the camping equipment was courtesy of MK and Drew.

My sponsors also need thanking. They include Hammer Nutrition, Specialized, Stan’s NoTubes, Terry Bicycles, Sonne’s Cycling, and Dr. Norm and Val Cognetto.

Then there are the men that help me get the most from my cycling. My coach Mark Fasczewski gives me the work to do and helps me to emotionally get through it. My acupuncturist Mackay Rippey keeps my body and mind tuned up on a very regular basis so that I can keep up with the training and racing that I love to do. I continue to love to do it because I generally feel so very good. These guys provide an endless cycle that keeps me pushing toward my potential. Thank you both!

A thank you would be incomplete, though, without thanking the people who very patiently support and cheer from the sidelines. My husband Phil Thompson puts up with all of the things that I do, from the training, to the travel, to the recovery. I cannot even imagine what I would do without this. My daughter Melissa, my Dad, my sister Alison, my brother Steve, my extended family, my very good friends, everyone has been so kind and supportive. I am truly blessed!

So, while I was walking up Powerline, the “never again” litany started playing in my head. It got louder and louder as I dragged myself toward the finish. But time also has a funny way of obliterating discomfort, both physical and emotional. Within 24 hours MK and I were talking about ways to do things better “next time,” although both of us had sworn that that the very possibility of “next time” would never exist. Time, it sure is one strange dimension.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm Almost to Leadville!

Five days until the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race… Wow, how did it get here so fast? Conversely, will it ever get here? I am currently in Durango, staying with my daughter MK. She has very kindly opened up her home to me so that I could come out early to acclimate to the altitude. She has also offered to be my support crew for the race. Lucky me!

Leadville was not even on my radar when 2011 began. I was, however, thinking that it would be super to do the Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships in September, a 50 mile race. My body responds well to long hours of training on multiple days, so my coach Mark Fasczewski, who I’ve been with since 2004, sees that I get my fill of long long rides for most of the year. I figured that as long as I had built up lots of endurance I might as well do some long races.

But Leadville? Naw, that race seemed too hard to get into, you had to enter a lottery or something. It sounded like too much red tape for me. Still, I wanted to do some long races and kept my eyes open. Then, in late March, I was stunned to read that there would be three 100 km qualifiers for the Leadville race. One was in Lake Tahoe, one was in Crested Butte, but one was in Lake Placid. Lake Placid? Three hours from my house? It took me about 1.5 seconds to decide that I really wanted to do the race. What an experience! I would get in a long mountain bike race in preparation for the national race in September.

I called Mark the next morning, got his OK, and training was ON for the Wilmington/Whiteface 100km. My goal was simply to finish the race, nothing more, and to see if I really liked racing endurance events. Mark piled on the hours, I focused on the Lake Placid event, and visualized it with every ride and race that I did. Even when I flatted only 4.5 miles into the road race at the Killington Stage Race and endlessly chased the pack I was thinking that I had to ride hard and strong in preparation for “the qualifier.”

Two weeks before the big day Corning/NoTubes road racing teammate Paul Speranza and I met at Whiteface and did a preride of the course. The out and back course was challenging, but nothing that was beyond our abilities. The climb up Whiteface Mountain, at the end of the race, would be the icing on the cake, and it worried me the most. However, I was now very excited for race day to arrive, and for the first time I was actually thinking and hoping that I would qualify for the Leadville race.

The Wilmington/Whiteface 100km was the perfect race on the perfect day. I could not believe how good I felt or how happy I was riding my mountain bike in such a beautiful place. I found myself smiling a lot as I worked my way toward the finish line. I finished 5th overall for the women and 100th overall, winning a belt buckle in the process, and I had qualified, and registered, for the Leadville Trail 100.

OMG, now what? More training, more mountain bike racing. The next on my list was Race the World at Windham. Not my best race, to say the least. While my climbing was good my technical skills showed the lack of singletrack training. I had been focusing on road riding to get my endurance really up to par for the Lake Placid race and now it was time to get my mountain bike technical skills in order. I drove home from that race a bit disappointed, but determined to get my skills up to where they needed to be for me to race well at Leadville.

The following weekend was the Six Hours of Power in Ellicottville, NY, and it was another picture perfect day for mountain bike racing. Not only was the course dry, but it was fast, flowing and fun! I did not doubt my skills, I rode nice even splits, finished fourth overall for the women, and even got a compliment for my descending skills from a guy who knew me years before. OK, I guess I was on to something!

All that racing and training tires me out, though. That is where my acupuncturist Mackay Rippey comes into play. I go for regular treatments almost every week, and he has seen me through some pretty exhausted times. I dragged myself into his office the Tuesday after the Six Hours of Power and even Mackay had his doubts about how quickly I would recover. However, he came up with just the right combination of treatments and I recovered so quickly that I had my third fastest time trial ever on our local 10 mile course that evening. Wow! Needless to say, Mackay has been as integral in my training for Leadville as he has been for every other race and training session since 2003.

There are so many people who have been supportive of me in my push toward these endurance events. Hammer Nutrition has sponsored me since 1997, and these days I go through a lot of fuel. Dick Sonne’s Cycling, Fitness and Skis, my local bike shop, is always there for me. Specialized helps keep me in bikes while Terry Bicycles keeps me in saddles and clothing. Stan’s NoTubes helped me with wheels, tires and sealant. Dr. Norm and Valerie Cognetto have gifted me with lodging. My husband Phil and our daughters love and accept me despite this craziness! My family and friends put up with me being out of the area or too tired/busy/brain dead to get together on the spur of the moment. It all adds up to the supportive atmosphere that is necessary to enable me to reach such challenging goals.

So here I am in Durango! Friday and Saturday I did laps on one of my very favorite trails – the Dry Fork/Colorado Trail/Hoffhein’s Connection Loop, which tops out at 8500 feet. Sunday I rode up the Dry Fork Trail, turned left onto the Colorado Trail, and rode through the Aspen trees between 9000 and 9500 feet, riding up to the high point in that area three separate times. Once I got up there I did not want to head back down to the heat that would meet me at a mere 7000 feet.

Yesterday, MK and I drove up to Molas Pass, which is not too far from Silverton, and rode out and back on a section of the Colorado Trail from Little Molas Lake. That was the most spectacular trail I have been on yet. It is a flowing ribbon of singletrack flanked on either side by wildflowers, with vistas galore of peaks over 12,000 feet high. We rode for only two hours, but were riding the entire time at over 11000 feet. It was a magnificent ride, and thoughts of exploring more of the Colorado Trail’s 400+ miles danced through my head.

Today is a very much needed rest day. MK and I head to Leadville tomorrow, so I will start to pack for that trip in a little while. We will be camping at 10,000 feet or so, which should feel quite “interesting.” Fortunately, I have been back and forth to Colorado at least once a year for many years, so my body and brain knows how to deal with it. Still, it takes much longer than this to become fully acclimated, so I will just have to deal with things as they present themselves and be even more careful about how I pace myself during the race.

So that is it for now. I will try to update this with a short post when I reach Leadville. Now, time to start getting organized for the penultimate phase of my trip!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Killington Stage Race Report -- Women 3/4

The first “big” race with our team, the Killington Stage Race, was this past weekend. Vanessa McCaffery and I represented the Corning/NoTubes Race Team in the Women’s ¾ race and we did a pretty good job of getting our team on the map! Teammates Ruth Sherman and Marjolein Schat raced the ½ race, and I know they will want to tell their own stories.

Saturday turned out to be a bit misty, but fortunately for our race it did not rain. The race that day was a circuit race, which navigated a 17 mile lap. There was a neutral start for the first couple of miles and then we were let out of a cannon from there. Our pack had over 50 riders in it, and everyone was kind of nervous, especially since the loop featured what seemed like way more downhill than climbing. We had to do two laps, which featured a sprint hot spot after lap one, and a QOM (Queen of the Mountain) sprint during both the first and second laps.

As we negotiated the first lap the group stayed together, even on the gentle climb up Plymouth Gap. Compared to any of the climbing we would do the rest of the weekend this was no climb at all. The QOM, though, was on a side road that went through a little historical village that was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge. The QOM, as expected, was always a pretty lively event. The finish line, which was the site of the intermediary sprint hot spot was a very fast downgrade and that was always a bit more exciting that most people wanted as well.

Lap two was a bit harder, and just before the QOM all hell broke loose. I suspected as much and worked my way up into the group that was heading away from the rest. The pace remained high after the QOM, and coming back out onto the main drag and then to the ensuing steep descent was pretty exciting! Once I got to the bottom of that descent and corner I got onto a group of women who were busy getting dropped. Great! I wanted no part of finishing behind the leaders so I took off. Yeah, so did the pack. I time trailed for six minutes, but regained contact with the leaders again. Phew! Through all this teammate Vanessa was sitting up near the front and looking good. This was going to be her, race, I just knew it. My goal was to do as little work as possible so that I would have some super legs for the TT on Sunday. I was hoping that this extra TT practice did not foil that plan.

Shortly after I got to the pack one of the girls had a really hard crash. Her wheels got caught in one of the many vertical cracks in the pavement, she hit the wheel of the rider in front of her, and then she and her bike literally flew through the air and onto the other lane. Miraculously, there was no oncoming traffic just then and no one else went down. Our moto com was right there, as were our support vehicles, so there was plenty of help for her. I still do not know the extent of her injuries, but I did hear that she was at least able to talk when the immediate help arrived.

Coinciding with this crash was the start of a downhill section and the setup for the final sprint. Vanessa was close to the front and working her heart out. I was in the back still freaking out after witnessing the crash so up close and personal. I responded to the surge the pack was now taking and rode in with them to the finish. I had achieved my pack finish and the “same time” that I was looking for. Even better was the fact that Vanessa had finished second on the stage! Alan Atwood even showed me the finish line photos, which were wonderful to see. We would be going to awards that night. Hooray for Vanessa! However, our glee was definitely tempered by the worry that we felt for the girl who had crashed.

Sunday was the day that I was looking forward to -- a 10.75 mile time trial, point to point, gaining elevation along the way. What fun that would be for me! I was so excited and a bit nervous. It sprinkled a little bit, but before my start the sun came out and it was getting hot. Perfect TT weather.

Start order was in reverse of finishing from Saturday’s stage, so because I finished at the end of the pack I did not have any of the contenders to chase. I did have lots of women to chase, though, and I passed a lot of them. I crossed the finish line and was quite happy with my average power. I rolled around and around the parking lot to cool down and waited for Vanessa, who started second to last, to finish. She sounded like a steam engine rolling in, as had I, when she finished.

We waited for results to be posted at the finish and we were ecstatic with what we saw. Vanessa had finished fourth and I had won the time trial! The GC was also posted and it showed that I was now the leader of the race and would be in the pink leader’s jersey the next day. Vanessa was in fourth place, and her time bonus from Saturday put her only 27 seconds back. OMG, that was pretty cool. Every once and a while this time trial thing pays off! We had some fun at the awards ceremony, held at the Long Trail Brewery, which was also the sponsor of the TT. I won some cash, a six-pack, and a very cool pint glass. And, of course, the jersey! Results are posted at Velocity Results. There you can see my "photo finish" as I grab for the brakes before hitting the end of the pavement at 27 mph.

Monday’s road race was a 61 mile affair that started with about 5 miles of climbing, followed by 20 miles of descending to a sprint hot spot, followed by a lot of climbing and descending. The profile for the race showed the last 20 miles to be nothing but climbing, with the last 5.5 miles going from the base of the gondola, on route 4, to the very top parking lot on Killington Mountain. Not for the feint of heart!

Our race was the last to start, and we had the usual contingency of follow vehicles, as well as a state trooper, leading our pack. The Killington Stage Race is very well supported and very well officiated, something that cannot always be said about other races. As we headed up the climb toward our turn onto Route 100 my bike seemed kind of squirrelly, but I just thought it was me and my nerves, or the pavement. As we got to the top of the climb, though, I knew that it was not me at all, but that I had a flat tire. Oh NO! Here I was, the race leader, and I was now stopped along the side of the road awaiting a wheel change as the pack raced away. Darn!

I got a new wheel and installed it myself, made sure that the brakes were not rubbing, and took off, chasing away. I caught up with some girls who had been dropped and passed them up as soon as the official’s car would let me by. I was going to try hard to catch that pack! I looked back a minute or two later and the three girls came up behind me and told me they wanted to help bring me back to the pack. How sweet! Unfortunately, as soon as the terrain went up I dropped all but one, and when another short climb occurred I dropped the other. I was on my own again, and for a total of 20 miles, except for those two climbs, the terrain lost elevation. I had a moto com at my side or behind me for much of this time giving me splits as to how far away from the pack I was. I came within two minutes and got a good look at the back of the pack a couple of times, but just as I was really getting close it was time for a hot spot sprint and one of the bigger teams put the pressure on in order to keep their girl in the red jersey. The pack pulled away and I never caught them. When I got to the hot spot line I was told that I was three minutes down. OK, time to get ready to climb.

Shortly after that hot spot the course turned right and it was climbing time! It was hot and the terrain was starting to take its toll on our field. Girls had been dropped and I caught and passed them one by one. By the time I got to the feed zone I was so thrilled to see Bob there with a nice bottle for me. It was hot, I was sweating a lot, and “Soak Up the Sun” was playing in my head. Thank you Bob for the support! Then it was on to more girls, chasing as best I could…on to the dirt road section…on to Route 4 and twenty more miles of climbing. At this point I had Katherine and Cindy with me, but Katherine disappeared while Cindy stayed on my wheel until the base of the steep climb up to the finish. We passed a pack of 6 more girls. I wanted to get to the climb and get this race done!

The climb had a bit of shade at the bottom, but was in the sun for most of the painful part. I was shocked when I started to feel the effects of the heat and the climb. I had so looked forward to this climb, with average grades of over 10 percent, and to passing more women. I could see them ahead of me, but I was making no time on them. In fact, it seemed that I was going backward. I was so hot! A couple of the girls that I had just passed now passed me on this climb and I could not respond. Eventually I got to the QOM and then there was a bit of downhill to cool me off. Oh, that felt good. But then there was the last few km up to the finish. “Just pedal and think of nothing but the present, one pedal stroke at a time.” That was my mantra.

Eventually, the finish line approached and I crossed it. My teammates were there and was the moto com who had supported me for almost 20 miles. I could not pedal another stroke, so I stopped and then I had to sit down and get some ice on me and some cold liquids into me. That certainly helped! It was either that or pass out, which would not have been too pretty. Well, I was not looking too pretty by then anyway.

What a day! Vanessa hung in there and ended up 11th on the day and took 9th in GC. I managed 27th on the day and 21st in GC. At the end of that climb toward the finish the words “never again” were also playing in my head. However, I would really love to go back there and race that stage the way it is supposed to be raced – with a pack – and see how I feel on that climb. We’ll see what next year brings :)

Thank you to Bob Nunnink for all the support he gave the Corning/NoTubes team during this great three-day stage race.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Battenkill Preride

Yesterday's Battenkill preride was blessed with good weather and a big crowd. Dieter has turned this event into a fundraiser for Farm Team and, from the looks of it, they made some cash! Although the weather was cold, the cloudless blue sky made everything seem much warmer, and if race day turns out even this nice it will be a good thing. There were icy puddles -- one in the parking/registration area and a few along the side of the road in the early part of the ride, but they were always in areas that I never would have been riding. And, yes, it did warm up during the ride and the ice melted away.

The course was generally in good shape. The paved roads showed some signs of the past winter, with some broken pavement and lots of sand, especially on the corners. I do hope that the corners will be swept before the race on April 10. The dirt sections were, in general, quite good. Dieter prevails upon the transportation jurisdictions to refrain from grading any of the roads until the race is over, so they were generally what I like to call "Battenkill Cement," which translates to rock solid with the occasional rounded potholes and random loose stones. Thanks to the cold weather during the week there were areas on some roads that had frost heaves, and there were a few spots that were soft and somewhat muddy, but they were the exception, not the rule.

So, what was the new section like? As much as I was lamenting the loss of eight miles of gentle downgrade on pavement, the addition of 10 miles of more climbs and dirt just added to what makes this course truly Battenkill. It certainly added time to the course, as the ride took me 20 minutes longer to complete than it did last year for exactly the same normalized power. The "new" section had a nice steep dirt climb with little sun exposure, so it featured the highest snowbanks and probably the most muddy sections on the course. The dirt descent was good and smooth, and I could let it go. While at speed I did encounter some soft riding surface that had the effect of slowing down my bike just a bit. My body took a nanosecond to respond, so that was exciting!

I really love the last third of this course. Mountain Road was in good shape as was Meetinghouse. In fact, Meetinghouse was better than usual, with any potholes being on the section where you would be slowing down to go up the last rise. Stage Road was also good, but that could just have been the euphoria that I felt, knowing that it was the last climb of the day. Kind of a bittersweet feeling, such a wonderful ride was almost over. This definitely is a classic and enjoyable course to ride on, which becomes so much more painful on race day. Oh, right, they are all painful on race day.

Bottom line: the roads were in decent shape with nothing out of the ordinary to report. The biggest unknown will be the weather. I am sure hoping that it will be a repeat of yesterday.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Specialized Roubaix Pro SL C2 Red for Sale -- Size 56

Specializeed Roubaix Pro SL C2 Red, 2009 -- size 56 (L) -- $2250.00 plus shipping

This bike is by far the most amazingly wonderful road bike I have ever ridden. I am a fan of rides lasting longer than four hours – day after day – and this bike has been key to making those training days happen! I have never been on a bike so comfortable, yet the bike responds super-quickly to the rider’s demands to go faster. It climbs like a dream and soaks up rough road at the same time.

This bike has been used and raced, but never crashed or dropped. I am always aware that I will eventually be selling my bikes so I strive to keep them in like-new condition. This bike is no exception. It has been professionally maintained. The drive train has been inspected and is in very good shape. Components are SRAM Red shifters and rear derailleur, with Force front derailleur and brakes.

Included with this bike is a brand new Red rear derailleur. I was able to warranty the original rear derailleur, and it is pictured with the bike. It will be installed before this bike is shipped off to its purchaser. Also new: cables and housing, brake hoods, handlebar tape, and Specialized Avatar saddle. The Roval wheels have seen very little use because I race and train with a Power Tap and usually ride with another front wheel. The tires are Continental 4000 clinchers and are lightly used.

The frame has a couple of very very very tiny chips in the paint. There are also a couple of very small chips in the crank arms, mostly likely from errant gravel while riding. The crank arms have been protected with Crankskins that I just removed. I have a new pair of Crankskins that I can include with the purchase.

This bike retailed for $4400.00, and it currently retails for $4900.00.

Specs on this bike can be found at http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?arc=2009&spid=39259&menuItemId=0&gold_ses=

More photos available upon request. Email me at thompbike@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2010 Cyclocross Nationals

The fall of 2010 was busy with cyclocross racing and travel to those races. What fun! I was lucky enough to be able to combine local, regional and then national races into the months that comprise the season, and my love for this silly sport grew even more.

Coming off a full season of hill climbs, I was a bit tired of racing when the cyclocross season began in September. I have been racing cyclocross since 1992, though, so I knew that the sport itself would regenerate me for the season ahead. I was right! The camaraderie that has grown up within our local cyclocross scene created an infectious buzz which was hard to avoid. Within a couple of races I was again hooked and it was not long before I was looking ahead and putting all of my training and racing eggs into the basket called "nationals." I was feeling good and, with each race, building up to a mid-December peak.

I have some very good friends in Oregon who very generously arranged housing for me in Bend at the home of their friends -- and now mine! -- Albert and Janet. Brian and Corrine Vegter are artists who now live in Baker City, but made Bend their home for a good bit of time after they left New York. Since their move to the west coast we have stayed in touch, and last year Phil and I visited them at their Baker City home. The Vegters were wonderful hosts and even traveled to Bend last year to cheer us on in our races.

This year they really stepped up their game. In addition to arranging housing they were also my dedicated support crew for my championship race. Wow, I felt so honored to have such attention lavished upon me. I had secured a bike for the pit from my sponsor Specialized, and Brian was in the pit with it, awaiting any catastrophe. Corrine was out on the course to give me splits. My coach, Mark Fasczewski, was at the start for me and then would head to the pit as well. Lucky me!

Little did I know that when I lined up at the start line that I would need their help so quickly! The course was a combination of ice, frozen mud, snow, and a couple of huge icy puddles. The gun sounded, we were off, and the fun began, past all the features I just listed and then onto a paved section. I was one of the top four in my race -- hooray! -- and my rear tire was going flat -- oh no :( We went into an off camber section and back onto the pavement from a curb and more of the air escaped from my tire. Darn, the three women I was with just rode away and I had a long snowy/icy slog ahead of me to get to the pit.

I tried to ride, but that was not working, so I eventually got off the bike for good and ran along the course. Everyone passed me, including all the women in the categories that started behind me. This was just the first lap, so my race was not off to such a great start.

I got to the pit, exchanged bikes, and was on my way toward pulling back my field. It was not that easy to do, as I now had some traffic to get past, but I raged on as best as I could. Corrine was telling me where I was, as was Mark, and Brian made sure that my flat tire was fixed and my bike was ready in case I needed to make a switch.

The time on the course flew by all too quickly. I had pulled back to fifth place and had fourth place in sight, but I ran out of race. I had lost too much time slipping and sliding on the ice while running to the pit during that first lap. Oh well, that is bike racing, especially cyclocross! In a 40 minute race there is not much time to crawl back after a mechanical. Still, fifth place was good for a medal and a trip to awards, so all was not lost. I was thrilled for Linda Elgart, who was the winner. Her husband John had won his race earlier that morning, so it was wonderful to see the two of them in their stars and stripes.

The rest of the time in Bend was great! Corrine had some of her amazing ceramic campers and some jewelry on display at a local gallery and it was wonderful to see her new creations. The Vegters also introduced me to some other artists in the area, and I was able to learn about their mediums. My stay with Albert and Janet was wonderful, they were amazing hosts with fascinating stories to tell about their own cycling experiences. Brian and I went around to some bike shops to see what size 29 inch mtb bikes would fit him, and we all went back to watch more racing. One of the weekend's highlights was watching good friend Kym Flynn Fasczewski win the D2 Collegiate National Race. WOW!

I did "race" another race that weekend, lining up at the back end of the Elite women's field on Sunday. I remembered how much fun I had the year before so I decided to do it again. The course was wet and soupy and my legs got wet and cold. I did not have the snap that I needed to stay with the group just ahead of me and got pulled a lap before they did. Darn! I had fun after the race, though, when friend Inga Thompson showed up at my car. She had watched my race (OMG, I cannot believe Inga watched my race) and wanted to say hello. She and I ended up going over to the Mill District to go shopping after watching the Elite Men race. Retail therapy for both of us, even if we did not buy very much, followed by a bit of time sipping on a local brew. Outstanding!

All too soon it was time to say good-by to friends who make Bend feel like home to me. I had already said good-by to Mark and Kym, then it was time to wish Inga a safe journey back to Eastern Oregon. Brian and Corrine and I headed back to Janet and Albert's, where we had a super pot-luck meal. Monday dawned, and after a mighty breakfast Corrine and Brian headed east as well. I packed my bike while chatting with Albert, then loaded up my car and headed for Fed-Ex, one last trip to the outlet stores, and then the airport. Time to get back to the real world!

Thank you one and all for making my cyclocross nationals such a memorable experience :)