Monday, March 31, 2014

US Cup

Race season is back, and so are my wee race stories!

I decided to race the early 2014 US Cup/ProXCT races as soon as they were announced,  because I really like having early season race goals to push me in training during the winter months.

Texas: Mellow Johnny’s is one of my favorite races, but due to a number of mechanical issues, I was unable to finish the race (bummer!). I was then sick for few days after the race, which was frustrating, but I decided to be really patient and take a few days off the bike to completely recover.

California: I raced Bonelli 2 year’s ago, and I remember it being a constant barrage of short steep climbs, followed by quick descents with little, to no recovery. Pre-riding the course it had changed from 2 year’s ago, with even more climbing (I think one of the climbs was a 25% gradient!) and with some technical features thrown in, which definitely added more of a fun element. 
Pre-race focus
Race day was extremely hot. After the start loop, I found myself dangling off the lead group, chasing my teammate Nina. I had avoided an early crash, so expected some of the faster (read: Olympian) ladies to pass me on one of the early climbs. I was still in a good position, however, when we turned on to the 25% grade climb on the backside of the course. But as soon as the climb started to pitch up I had absolutely no power in my legs, my breathing was heavy, and I was wheezing. UGH. About 8-10 women passed me, and there was nothing I could do. I never recovered, and felt progressively worse as the race went on. I was pulled after 3 laps. I have never been pulled in a race before, so I was very disappointed. 

On my recovery spin, I still felt my chest super tight. I have made some headway this winter with trying to sort out my asthma/allergy problems. I feel like they have been getting worse each year that I live in the USA. Last year I felt like I was never 100%, with bad bursts during Whiskey 50 and TSEpic. I have seen a sports doc about the asthma side of things, but I am eager to see an allergy specialist. Sometimes it’s all too easy to focus on the training and numbers, and ignore the other things that can  make you a faster bike racer, like allergy problems, or ensuring your bike is working the best it can. I am going to try and be a better all-round athlete this year!

Bonelli short track on Sunday was even hotter, but I was determined to re-deem myself, and have a better race. This was my first short track race, and I loved it. I finished 18th.  I was in the mix for at least the first 5 laps, but drifted back as the efforts went up. Boy, did my lungs hurt afterwards, like they had been burnt!

Loving Bonelli short track
I spent the following week in LA at Kenny’s dad’s house, with Kenny and our newest team member Ben Sonntang. We took it relatively easy, with lots of coffee shop rides, Fontana pre-rides, and a visit to Crankbrothers. The offices at Crankbrothers at Laguna Beach are very nice; artsy yet functional. There were dusty bikes everywhere, attesting to the fact that these guys test and ride their products. It was very nice to see product testing going on.

Kenny laughing at Crankbrothers as I accidentally pinched his bum! 
Photo: Bill Freeman, Crankbrothers
Pre-riding Fontana. Photo: Bill Freeman, Crankbrothers

Cheryl arrived on Thursday. It was lovely to have her around. I was relieved the weather had cooled off some for our pre-ride, and with lower temps forecasted for the weekend.
Race day rolled around again, I got another good start, but was being so overly cautious on the climbs. I was petrified of blowing up and wheezing. I rode a pretty consistent race, but never felt like I pushed myself, which is also frustrating at the end of a race. I finished one spot behind Nina in 27th in a stellar field, but lots to work on.

Sunday short track was a very rubbly course. My start, I have to say, was AWESOME! 
Short track. Yes, this was me in 4th place ahead of some very fast women! Just need to maintain it
I luckily found myself behind Katerina Nash on the start line, followed her wheel, and was in 4th place behind Nash, Gould and Batty for the first 2 laps. I could barely contain myself. All I was thinking was, I hope someone gets a photo of this!! I felt great for 3 laps, but then went from the front to the back….rapidly. At least I showed to myself that I have the potential to be up front, if I can just work on maintaining my power, and not freaking out that I am up there with the bets of them.

The trip was again another huge learning experience racing against some of the the best in the world. You have to be 100% mentally and physically ready, which is kind of difficult coming from an east coast winter.

Back home in Pennsylvania now, looking forward to spring and the next round of races.

Thanks for checking in (I know, it's been a while!)

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