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.