Sunday, May 14, 2006

Have I mentioned lately that I love hills?

Well that might be an overstatement, but it appears that I’m going to have to start. Last week I chilled out in Nashville, Tennessee with my Kenda teammate Robin. In all honesty, I would love to tell you about how great the city was – that I saw the nightlife and it was a blast, but please remember who’s blog this is ;). So what I can tell you is that the place that Robin is housesitting at is quite lovely; there is a beautiful park loop of about 35km to ride and there is a kick ass coffee shop with free wireless (something that I am currently lacking at Starbucks). The truth of the matter is that traveling as a cyclist, most cities look similar – at least if they have television, internet and a coffee shop nearby.

Thursday morning rolled around and Robin and I were stoked to meet up with Allison (another teammate) for our fun, fun drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas. That is the home of the Joe Martin Stage Race – a pleasant place in the heart of the Ozarks – those are mountains by the way. I had a massive headache when we got in (somewhat reminiscent of the Dan driving shoulder…) but we made it to our host housing by 10:30 that evening. Our hosts were incredible and had a beautiful house that we called home for the weekend as the race organizers did their very best to kick the crap out of me.

The first day, being tailored to my exact skill set was a 100km roadrace with a 14.5km mountain pass at about kilometer 40. I can’t lie, I didn’t fair terribly well, but I did make it up and over in order to take Gatorade and Power Gels from the charming neutral feed at the top. I’ve been practicing thinking in miles to try and make the distances seem smaller, but somehow it doesn’t work all that well as a 9 mile climb is still quite long.! Once over the top I was able to work well with my small group of 5 to bring us home back to Fayetteville. On the up side, my time trailing seems to be in good shape as once we got off the uphill I actually felt quite good and aside from yelling quite angrily at one of the girls who wasn’t working with about 10kms to go (I was rather cracked at this point and I wanted to cry), everything went well. We only conceded 10:00 to the main group – almost twenty to the front girls, but whatcha gonna do? I just wanted to start the next day. Next year I’m going to make my life easier by making it up with a larger group – Cypress here I come!

Day two was killer. We were up nice and early for an 8:00 am start and 105km of fun (for those who were counting that’s over 200km in less than 18 hours). The course was a lollypop (translation – and out and back section with a loop on the end of it) and the attacking started just after the girls had a pee brake – oh about 30 minutes in (I didn’t need one so I just rolled ahead – gotta get the brakes where you can!) The pack seemed a little hesitant to make it crazy hard – I got the impression that people were tired. The hill was essentially two steep sections with a medium grade in the middle joining the two. Kelly Benjamin (who has been riding like a star) helped me out by telling me where we were on the course, which helped a ton! I made it through the first lap and prepared myself for difficulty on the second, but unlike the day before I held tough. I didn’t manage to stay in contact with the leaders, but I did get myself in a group of about 20 riders and we were able to regain contact with the leaders in about 10km. A few solo riders tried to get away in the closing kms, but I just sat in and prepared myself for the finish. Unfortunately the lead moto decided to cut me off and so I had to brake sharply to avoid hitting my second motorcycle exhaust pipe for the season and I rolled across the line last in my group – just making the top 50.
No more than 6 hours later we were back on the Blue machines warming up for yet another uphill time trial. Now, I can’t say that this form of testing my ability is my favorite, but at least it ended up better than Redlands. In warm up I wasn’t able to get my heart rate much over 170 (which is what I do many aerobic rides at), but I knew I had to give it. On the way up the 2.5 mile climb I kept telling myself that each pedal stroke counted – to which I was greeting each time by the equivalent of a screeching OWWW! The pain was over in just under 13:00 (whereas superstar Erinne Willock blased up it in 9:40) and I have now vowed to spend next winter time trialing up whatever hills I can find because I really must improve my ability – but this time I wasn’t time cut!

Which bring us to today. I knew that it was going to be a little crazy, not only because they put a freaking mountain in the crit course (elevation gain of 110 feet per 1.2 mile lap – that’s right, I’m going imperial), but because there was only 20 seconds separating the top 3 on GC. I don’t know if there is much to say except for it was fast. I went hard and about 25 minutes in I was sitting at the back of the lead bunch and one of the girls decided that she was going to kamikaze and make up a few spots on the inside, only to come crashing down in front of me. To her defense, I saw what she was doing, though “hey, that’s not a bad idea” and took her wheel – which saw me end up on the far curb with a sore finger. The free lap was actually quite nice and seeings as I only have a small (like quarter sized) amount of road rash on my knee and elbow, with my most severe injury being jammed fingers (didn’t know you could do that in cycling, but apparently it is possible!) the rest was welcomed. Unfortunately, about 15 minutes later I saw the end of my time in the front group. At that point I believe only about 30 girls remained (80 started the weekend) so I was proud of myself and determined to finish up – which I did. The major piss off being that the organizers got my placing wrong and instead of being in 30th about 4:00 down, they have me in 44th, 10:00 down. Now I know that the latter people don’t really matter, but it’s pretty irritating that I paid $135 to do their race and they can’t even get the top 30 correct!

So all in all the weekend was a success. Need to work on the longer hills, but it’s good to see that my power is good – luckily I get to work on my weakness next week at Tri Peaks. Again I ask why I thought that it would be a good idea to check out a race entitled Tri PEAKS, but it’s all about getting fitter right? Maybe this week will provide a little insight into what life is like in Little Rock, Arkansas – the hometown of a Mr. Bill Clinton – a man who could properly pronounce nuclear.

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