Tag velo vixens

The Omnium

I had been waffling about doing the Omnium… the weekend was busy enough as it was. The River Gorge Road Race would certainly whoop me – 37 miles, finishing with a 3.5 mile climb straight up Raccoon Mtn. Then the 4 mile time trial that afternoon – in the middle of the afternoon. I’d be spent. Then, to try a criterium the next morning? I had no experience in this type of sufferfest. I polled my friends… “You’ll love it!” “OMG, they scare me!” I ended up going for it, figuring since the event was here in town, I wouldn’t be spending extra money on traveling and hotel expenses… so why not spend it on an extra race?!

The fun started Friday night with a Cowboy Mouth concert – my fav band, so I couldn’t say no. I did however slide out early… luckily Rebecca was with me, so the peer pressure helped with our self-imposed curfew of midnight. Unfortunately that gave us only 45 minutes of show time, but it still made me happy – and helped me fall asleep quick :)

Saturday morning we had an 8:50am start from Tiftonia. The women’s field was large, but I saw several familiar faces. We had a neutral start then most of us stayed together for a few more miles. A hill around mile 8 sadly spit me off the back with a group of others. 6 of us worked together for the next hour. I was the only Vixen, but recognized Marsha and Nancy from other races. Once we hit Whiteside, we were on the familiar roads of spring’s Raccoon Mtn Road Race. The stairsteps came around mile 20 and again I fell back a bit. The weather today was much more humid than it had been for the last 2 weeks and I didn’t want my asthma to blow up. Once at the top, it really didn’t take much effort to catch up to the 4 gals ahead (1 never caught back up to us). We worked together through the backside of 41. Once we we made the left turn onto the road that would lead us up the mtn, things split up. Again, I played it conservatively so that I would actually make it up. I had only done this climb once on a mountain bike (and in the rain), so I was a bit nervous (and mad at myself for not ever coming out to practice it). The 3.5 miles seemed to last forever. Half of it was in the shade; the other half had the sun beating on me. About halfway up, David Meek drove by and cheered me on. Once we were through the gates, I caught up with Marsha… and then the pro guys caught up with us. While it sorta sucked (because they rode much further than we did and literally flew by), I have to admit they pepped me up a bit :) I ended up finishing in 9th place in the Cat 4 division (out of 18).

marsha & i heading up the mountain… speedy guys creeping up behind…

me making a weird face & rebecca at the overlook, finally done!

Of course now that we were at the top, we had to ride back down to our cars – it was actually a nice cool down. I grabbed a sandwich and headed home for bit, although I was scared to relax too much. I went back up the mountain at 2:30 to get ready for the afternoon time trial. My start time was 3:53pm. We started at the entrance to the East Overlook and followed the reservoir counter clockwise. There would be 1 pretty good size climb, but mostly downhill from here. Reba and I did ride it a few times the week before, so I felt somewhat prepared. What wasn’t ideal is that I had the 2 fastest Cat4 girls starting right behind me… at a mere 30/60 seconds. I joked about “seeing them soon”…. and yeah, I did. Nicole passed on the climb and Andrea when we were on the dam. After making the sharp turn into Laurel Point, we had a fast downhill…. unfortunately there was a gradual ascent before hitting the finish line. I was spent and out of oxygen. Sure, I’m not used to doing these “speed workouts”, but I’m sure my asthma is playing a role in how I feel, as it’s usually my lungs stopping me before my legs. I didn’t do so hot here… finishing 10th/13.

at the start line… and me smiling big (to cover the nerves)

Saturday night was lazy… just rented a movie and hit the sack early. (partially because I thought I rented a comedy and it was more like a tearjerker.) Sunday was the big day – my first crit. I headed downtown early to warm up and watch a few races before ours (at 11:50am). Inbetween races I was able to take a spin around and get a feel for the road. I also watched the guys go around each corner to try to figure out where I should be. Honestly, I was clueless about the whole thing, but hey, why not dive in. At the start, 40 women gathered which was apparently pretty large for a women’s field. We tried to split up – it’s not that enticing for us beginners to hang with the pro/1/2/3 chicks (and they don’t want us newbies around either); but the officials kept us together. The actual start was ok… I was with the pack in the first turn. Then the 2nd turn came… then all of a sudden on the back I was alone. WTF?? I rode hard trying to catch up to the gals in front of me, but couldn’t quite make it. Soon I realized I wasn’t just alone, I was last. wow. I actually have never been in this position before and it was weird. unsettling. And the worst part was being in Chattanooga… with people I knew all rooting me on. I was hoping they wouldn’t recognize me, but alas, the did. sigh. After 3-4 laps I finally caught up to 2 girls in front, then we got another. We worked together for the rest of the 30 minutes. Yes, the main pack did lap us (but only once). Luckily we were not pulled from the course, which happens in most crits. Finally we were on the last corner. I really tried to sprint to the finish, but I had nothing. absolutely nothing. I think I sounded like I was about to keel over, as Monica asked me if I was OK. (yeah, you know, just can’t breathe.) Thankfully I did sneak past a few girls, finishing 12th/14.

I ended up with an 8th place finish in the omnium. Nothing fabulous, but hey, something new and different for sure. It was tough. And I’m not sure if I can call the crit fun. It was pure pain. (but oh yeah, I like that sometimes.) If I do another, I’ll have to definitely get some practice in. On the bright side, I did notice my cornering improve 150% during the course of the event.

Allanti Cycling Classic

Last weekend was the Allanti Cycling Classic, in Leiper’s Fork, TN (just south of Nashville). I headed up there with Michelle, where we met several other Velo Vixens for a day of road bike racing. The cat 4 women’s race started at 9am (with the Masters 50+ men) and would be 40 miles of rolling and flat roads with a few short climbs. The rollout is always interesting, as you don’t know what riders have up their sleeves. At the Raccoon Mtn race, it was slow and easy. At Avery Trace, the break started right away. Today we stuck together for 20 minutes before the first hill broke things up. At this point, I was spit off the back but joined up with Cecelia and Beth to work together for much of the race. It was really quite uneventful. It was a hot hot day and drinking alot was essential. I really had wished someone was at the feed zone with bottles for us. I had to ration what I had, but made it to the end with 1 sip to spare. The finish was a 200m sprint that I wasn’t entirely ready for. Fellow teammate Beth edged me out by a half wheel, finishing 6th in my division.

We then chilled for a few hours, seeking refuge in the a/c of a cute deli in Franklin while we had some lunch. The time trial began at 3pm, right in the worst heat of the day. This was my first time doing one of these and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The heat had tired me out, giving me a slight headache. My body was beat from the morning race. I was 4th person out – so at least I’d get it over with quick! At the line, I was clipped in while race officials held my bike up and gave me the countdown. Go! What I failed to remember was to adjust my gearing for a proper start. I was in too hard of a gear and without much of a push, barely stayed upright. (but thankfully did!) From the first pedal stroke, it was all business. The course was 5 miles with small uphill grade nearly the entire way. wow. This was TOUGH. I was hot, hurting, thirsty and my calf was all but cramping. I don’t have a computer on my bike so I really had no idea how far I’d gone, and how much was left. Finally someone on the side shouts 1k left. yeah! but…. how far is 1k? I really don’t have that concept of distance yet. Finally at the top of a hill I see what looks like official tents, so I crank up the pace one final time. I felt like I crept over the finish line – certainly nothing like some of the juniors I saw crossing at full throttle. impressive stuff! I finished in 16m51s, good enough for 4th. (not bad for being whooped, not having a tri bike or aero bars, and using my old mountain bike shoes still!)

At the time I thought I didn’t want to do any more multi-event road races, but now that a week has gone by, I’m considering…. There is an omnium coming to Raccoon Mtn / Downtown Chatt at the end of the month that I’m toying with…. def will do the RR & TT… but the crit has me curious. I know nothing about them, but… since it’s right here…. I’m considering :)

chattanooga waterfront triathlon

i’m really not much of a tri person, but with a big race coming to downtown chattanooga, and with the vixens having a big role in helping outdoor chattanooga with it, how could i say no? this would be only my second triathlon ever; the first being the Gulf Coast Half Ironman i did with Team in Training in May’05. and that really was a whole ‘nother ballgame. the waterfront triathlon is an olympic distance event: 1.5k swim, 40km bike, 10k run. speed was much more of a factor in a shorter event like this… although perseverance does still play a role.

the day before the event, i volunteered for a bit at the vixen tent, then went home and cleaned & cooked (michelle and i had a big party over here after the race). as the evening wore on, i thought i’d pull out my bike for a final once over. hmmm, it’s not shifting quite. i call jeramie to pick his brain for help. i finally get one problem solved.. but create another. luckily rebecca drove by and volunteered to take my bike up to mr. hoff to get fixed. (HUGE thanks to both of them!) jeramie did note that i had a chunk of my tire missing and would surely flat. swell. i did have an extra set of tires here, so at 9pm, i am changing my first tires & tubes on a road bike. (hey, i’d have to do it sooner or later). i actually get to bed around 11:30pm, which was pretty decent.

my alarm went off around 5:15 and i crawled out of my bed around 5:30. the goal was to leave at 6 to head to the finish line, where our transition was. (from there, we had to be transported a short distance to the start of the swim). i was on target with my time… decided to go ahead and pump up my tires one last time. and pssssssssft! i blow one of the tubes taking the pump off the valve. now i’m getting nervous. i decide to go ahead and drive to the start and change my tube there. luckily my second ever tube change went smoothly, and i had plenty of time to get things set up.

at 7, ann and i walked the mile to the start at the UTC Boat Ramp. swimmers would be released one at a time every 3 seconds – MUCH nicer than a mass start that is mass chaos. however, it took awhile to get to my number (and the start was delayed about 20 min too). once in the water, my friend jim was the guy releasing us, so it was nice to see a smiling face before i headed downriver. i’ve done this swim several times before, but it seemed sooooo long today. i’m not a fab swimmer and i think i expected adrenaline to kick in and help out. yeah, not so much. about halfway through, something feels funny on my ankle. i look down and see my timing band about to come off! i grab it and tread water while i wrap it on my wrist – figured i could keep an eye on it there, but it was annoying as my arm didn’t glide into the water as easily. finally, we were at the docks downtown and helpers were there snatching us out of the water. then we had some lovely concrete steps to run up to get to the transition area.

since i’m not experienced with tris, i know my transition times could have been better. however, i did take the extra minute to spray some more sunscreen on my back (as the bike leg was very exposed), and to apply some chamois butt’r. (wet bike shorts + 40k bike = not a happy body i’m sure). then, off i went! the bike leg was going to be intimidating. we would use MLK to access 27 – the main highway going north through chattanooga – and ride it all the way to 153 and back. traffic was detoured for a stretch were we entered/exited the highway. we used the inside lanes, so once we were there, traffic joined us. the TDOT did a great job with the cones and safety. since this is a rode i’m on all the time, i knew the bike would be tough. it’s 2-3 lanes in each direction with a big grassy median. there are no straight stretches; rather, long sloping ups and downs. and 100% exposed to the elements. luckily it was very overcast, which my skin is thankful for (no sunburn!) strangely, the bike wasn’t nearly as hard as i thought it was going to be. not that it was easy, but i was expecting worse. i had borrowed some aero bars from a friend, but ended up not ever getting down in them as i just wasn’t feeling comfortable enough in the open area. while speed demons rocketed past me, i did my fair share of passing too.

i felt strong finishing the bike and was looking forward to the run, even though it was on the riverwalk, which meant lots of concrete (the absolute worst!) it started with a sloping ascent that really wore on your legs quick since they were still in biking mode. once things evened out, i picked up the pace and think i held it well. the waterstops were perfectly spaced and there were several opportunities to get wet and cool down if you wanted. (cyclist friend pat was more than happy to hose us gals down!) the course was there and back, so it was fun to see friends out there suffering too :) right after mile 5 was the last hill before the descent to the finish. no biggie… short and sweet. but, not quite today. i had this weird heart palpitation (similar to what i had at the hogpen hillclimb in ’05), then my vision narrowed and i got dizzy. i started walking, hoping to shake it off. well, not today. it got a bit worse so i pulled over to a tree and held on for a few. a course marshall was by my side quick to check up on me, but i would be fine. i stayed still for about a minute, then walked for another. feeling better, i started jogging, then was able to sprint it in to the finish (passing an age grouper on the way!) however, my finishing picture does look pretty horrid :)

in all, i had fun (because i always do), but definitely still prefer the dirt to the road. and to be honest, this race just cost too much. I could sign up for a 12hr AR for what is cost for 3hrs of fun here. but the experience was great – downtown chatt is a great place for a race.

the stats:
age group finish: 20th (out of 55)
swim: 0:32:25.24 pace: 02:09.7
transition 1: 0:02:34.62
bike: 1:23:00.42 pace (mph): 18.8
transition 2: 0:01:39.02
run: 0:53:45.93 pace(minutes/mile): 08:40.3
total time: 2:53:25.22

and, here are a few pics that the Times Free Press snapped – awesome shots!

My first road cycling race!

Really, it was only a matter of time before I tried this out, so the Raccoon Mountain Road Race made perfect sense for me to jump in on, especially with so many of my teammates also riding. What wasn’t so perfect that day was the weather: drizzly and temps in the mid 40s, with wind chills dropping things to around freezing with gusts up to 30mph. Ick!! But hey, I’m an adventure racer and have been through much worse… right?!

The women’s Cat-4 race (basically that means beginner) was the last division to start, at 2:50pm. This was definitely weird, as I got to sleep in a bit, have a big breakfast (Lorraine’s Oatmeal Bar – good fuel!), and get some cleaning done around the house. I headed over to Raccoon Mountain around 1 to get checked in and organized. Our coach John had reserved 2 campgrounds at the front for us, complete with an EZup tent filled with wonderful things from our sponsors (the new Tea Cakes & Elixir from LunaBar are amazing!), mobile bike shop for last minute tuneups, and 5 trainers set up for us to warm up on – which was definitely needed on a nasty day like this! I think we all changed at least 3 times, trying to figure out the best combination to keep warm, but not overheat in.

We rolled down to the start, circling to keep warm & calm the nerves until the juniors took off. A few minutes later, our motorcycle (guide? marshal? leader? I gotta get this road lingo down…) signalled it was our turn. The first 2 (or was it 4?) miles were neutral, meaning the race wasn’t yet started. Finally, we were turned loose…. I expected to launch forward, but we didn’t. In fact, we continued in a nice easy pace for awhile (thanks to the controlling games Cat & Dreama had going on – nice work!) Early on, the wind was horrible. I remember one gust of wind that pushed Star a good foot to the right… definitely a scary moment! It was on this stretch towards Nickajack that it started sleeting on us. *lovely*! There was a small decent at some point where the leaders picked up some speed. It took some effort, but I kept up with them, latching on wisely as I knew if I was dropped here, I likely wouldn’t get back with them.

We hit Nickajack Lake (mile 15.2) seemingly quick, which meant the Stair Steps were right around the corner: a series of 6 hills where we would gain about 600′ of elevation. Here I dropped off the back of this front group a bit and worked hard not to fall too far behind. I did pass Cat, telling her I’d see her soon (that woman can descend like nobody’s business!) Upon reaching the top (and seeing fellow Vixens & company cheering us on), I kicked it into high gear, trying to gain every second I could. The break ahead didn’t look that far away, but they benefited from having eachother, whereas I was fighting the wind all by my lonesome. About halfway through this last stretch, I hear a voice – the downhill diva herself has arrived! I jumped on Cat’s wheel and we worked together for the next few miles until the final ascent. We had closed the gap significantly with 1 mile till the finish.

Soon, Jesus signalled 1km to go (seriously… there’s a huge sign that reads Jesus is Coming). I pumped it up one final notch, trying to ignore the lactic acid tearing up my legs. In the end, I finished in 11th place (out of 23), with a time of 1:35:34.989 on the 27mile course. (yes, all the way down to the thousandth of a second!) Teammates Gina & Collette easily took 1st & 2nd, with a time of 1:32:25. Dreama & Star also rocked it with top 10 finishes. Lisa is who really amazed me though… she fell early on (just a few miles after the neutral zone ended) after catching someone’s rear wheel. She was ok, but flatted in the process and found out the hard way we had no wheel truck following. Luckily the good graces of a support vehicle helped her out with a wheel and she hopped back in the race, finishing strongly.

Big thanks to everyone braving the elements and cheering us on, and to photographer friend Tim who came out and snapped a gazillion pictures, certainly catching every bit of emotion that ran across my face (and I’m sure a few nose-clearing shots that hopefully won’t be publicized!)

I definitely walked away with a very positive feeling… I really don’t think I knew what to expect, and what I did experience was much different than any other event I’ve raced in. Definitely looking forward to the next one!

Velo Vixens!

Oh yeah… guess I haven’t said it yet. I joined the new women’s road cycling team here. Several of the gals I ride with are on it, so I thought I’d support the cause. Plus it will be a great way for me to learn more about road cycling in general and get comfortable with the many problem areas I have (like descending & drafting). And maybe even try out a race or two! (Hey, I have to try something new this year!)

Raisin Hope with the Vixens

Today a bunch of the Velo Vixens headed down to Dalton, GA to participate in the Raisin Hope Charity Ride. The event was organized by local pro cyclist Saul Raisin (team Crédit Agricole) to benefit the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord injury rehab hospital down in Atlanta that was crucial in Saul’s recover from a serious bike crash overseas last April. Riders could choose from 3 ride lengths: 13, 35 & 50. Of course, we opted for the 50 miler, which included the climb up Fort Mountain.

Dalton is only 30 minutes south, so we drove down that morning. Unfortunately we weren’t ready to make the 8am start with the group. We didn’t have to start then, but this was my first road cycling event and I thought it would be cool to do so. I got a bit ancy, but once we starting rolling, all was good – and it was fun to pass people of course :) I had to get in the mindset that this was an event, not a race!

We had a 14mile warmup before we started the climb. Dalton sits around 800′, with the summit of Fort Mtn a bit over 2800′. Luckily the grade was very doable and I just spun it on up (afterall, wasn’t I still in recovery mode from the CPZ AR last weekend?!) It went on forever, but really wasn’t as bad as I had expected! (When Rebecca & I drove over it on our way to Helen I was getting a bit concerned). The group reconvened up top before beginning the descent (which was the same route we had just climbed). Going down was ok, but I still get freaked out with speed. The switchbacks weren’t too bad so I was able to let loose a bit more than normal. Still, I was the last one down! (but I was the first one up… so does that count for something?!) That descent really took a lot out of me (funny, as most people relax here! me, just stress + tension…). We had another 20 miles to go and I started to drag on a bit. I have trouble with the whole drafting/paceline thing, so I was usually fighting the wind myself. With about an hour to go, I got a bad pain at the bottom of my neck / inbetween my shoulders that lowered my spirits a bit. (It’s not an unusual thing – had it a few times last weekend during the paddle and toward the end of long biking sessions). But regardless of these little downers, getting to the finish was great. In fact, the whole day was pretty amazing. After the ride, a big bbq was served (ok, so not my ideal lunch, but I can still appreciate it), great items raffled off, and tents from vendors to peruse. Pro cyclists Kevin Livingston & Nathon O’Neill were also present. The Vixens tracked down Saul to get a quick pick before headed back home (we had a booth at the Outdoor Expo going on at Coolidge Park).

> see more pics here