Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Thursday ride

Yesterday was an 81-mile ride, with a group of four other people.  Much of the route was familiar to me, but there were parts that were new, and these were particularly beautiful.  Unfortunately I haven’t yet gotten the route in my mind, so I’ll have to pay more attention next time …

At first I felt a little uncertain about riding after the crash — not riding itself, but riding with other people.  I didn’t want to be close to anybody else or to ride behind anyone.  But soon enough I got into the ride and forgot about the crash, and then things were easier.  My bruises hurt whenever I went over a bump, but that was the only reminder that I’d crashed two days before.

I worked harder than usual on this ride, as usually happens when I’m with a group.  Our average speed was 16.7, average HR 154, and we rode for nearly 5 hours.  It was a good group — the three guys were faster than me, but not embarrassingly so, and they weren’t out to ride hard, so it didn’t matter so much.  The one other woman and I were more evenly matched, although I think she has more overall endurance than I do (she’s a triathlete and is training for an ironman — when we finished the ride she went out for a short run).

Today is off, and I hope to squeeze in a short ride tomorrow between rain storms, and then be ready for Sunday’s race.

Race report — with crashes!

Today was my first crash in a bike race! I’ve crashed before, but always on my own, because of black ice or failure to pay attention to the road. This evening I got the thing over that I was dreading — my first real bicycle race crash. And I’m fine — I’ve got a nasty-looking bump on my knee, some bruises on my hip, a few red marks on my elbow and calves, a sore ankle, and that’s the worst of it. Except for my bike, which has a broken front wheel. It now has a curve in it it didn’t have before. Fortunately Hobgoblin has some extra front wheels, so I’ll be able to ride again before I get a new wheel of my own.

I’ve done two races in the last three days, and neither race went particularly well. Sunday Hobgoblin and I drove up to Hartford to ride in the criterium there; it was a beautiful day, in the 70s and sunny, and I’d just come off a week of easy riding and should have been well rested, but I just couldn’t quite get into the spirit of racing. I’m not entirely sure what the problem was, but I think part of it is that I ate too much before the race — always a potential problem for me because I’m more afraid of eating too little than too much — and my stomach felt heavy the whole race. I also don’t think I warmed up enough, but it could also be that I simply wasn’t into racing that day and so didn’t have the energy to put into a proper warm-up.

At any rate, the race started off fast but manageable, and I hung on and felt okay for a while. My heart rate was high, but I remember that happening on this course last year; it’s a fast course, mostly flat, which means the pack keeps a fast pace the entire time, with no chance for a break. I was okay until the 14th lap (out of 20 laps total), when I fell back a bit — I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I might have grabbed the wrong wheel and started following someone who couldn’t hold on. So there was a gap between me and the field, and I started chasing. I chased the field for a lap but couldn’t quite catch on again, and finally I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I rode the last 5 laps on my own — pretty unusual for me, because I hate riding all on my own in a race.

That was a disappointment because I finished the race last year and thought I could finish it again. But it just wasn’t my day, for whatever reason.

The race tonight, though, was another story. I got in a good 40-minute warm-up and worked hard enough to feel my energy levels pick up — something that never happened on Sunday. When the race began I could feel that I was going to do pretty well; I had no trouble climbing the hill, my heart rate stayed at a good level (in the upper 160s and 170s on the hill), and I had a lot of energy.

There was one ominous moment, however, when a particularly unstable rider (I’d noticed him as potential trouble in earlier races) crashed seemingly out of nowhere, all on his own. He may have been bumped and I missed it, but it looked like he just fell over, for no reason. No one else went down, but the warning was there. Everything was fine after that until the very last lap. I was feeling great, getting ready to make a big effort to stay with the pack as they sped up the hill, when I saw some wobbling in front of me, heard some yelling, and then the next thing I knew I was heading straight toward two bicycles lying on their sides on the road. I skidded forward a little ways, but landing on the bicycles meant I didn’t end up with as much road rash as I would have gotten otherwise. I discovered I was lying on someone’s leg, so I jumped up immediately. I’m not sure how many others went down, but it was 6 or 7, and it quickly became clear that the unstable rider, the one who crashed all on his own earlier, was the cause. I stood for a moment watching him lying there on the road, feeling anger — he should have learned his lesson after the first crash and his stupidity caused a lot of pain and will cost everyone involved lots of money in bike repairs — but also pity — I would never want to be a cause of a crash and I feel badly for anyone who has to deal with the guilt.

People slowly got up and assessed the damage; someone helped me figure out what was wrong with my bike and someone else drove up in a van to transport injured people and bikes back to the start line. People were complaining about the sloppy rider and he, the poor kid, was apologizing profusely, offering to buy me a new wheel and offering to replace everyone else’s broken parts. He kept apologizing, even well after we’d recovered from the crash. Mostly people ignored him, probably because, like me, they didn’t know what to say. Crashing is a part of racing, and everyone out there takes the risk that they might injure themselves or their bike, so I would never take anyone up on the offer to pay for bike repairs, but I do hope that rider learns how to ride a bit better.

So — now that I’ve crashed I can stop worrying about when the first time will be. I imagine I’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but I’m planning on doing a long ride on Thursday, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be just fine by then.

Rest week

I was gone on a retreat from Monday through Thursday, but I did take my bike along and I got in two rides, both of which took me to a state park on the Long Island Sound with beautiful water views.  The first ride I was out exploring on my own, but on the second ride I ran into another rider early on who volunteered to show me the back roads way to the park, so we rode together for an hour, chatting about riding and racing.  It was kind of fun to have a conversation with a random stranger like this — it happens relatively often, actually, and usually I meet nice people.

I rode for 1:15 yesterday too and today I’m resting for tomorrow’s race up in Hartford.  It’s a women’s open, which means it will be a challenge, but last year I finished the race without too much trouble and I’m hoping to do the same again.

Weekend riding

I worked hard this weekend because I’m looking at four days ahead without much if any time to ride.  Saturday I rode 60 miles, from home to the Housatonic hills course and back.  I hit all the hills I could.  Today I rode for an hour and felt tired, but in a good way.  So now I’m ready for some rest.

Group ride with rabbit

On Thursday I set out with three other people for what was to be a long ride, something in the neighborhood of 4 or 5 hours.  I’m always nervous about group rides, especially long ones, as I’m afraid of being the slowest in the group and holding everyone up.  But this group seems fairly well-matched, and it was clear we weren’t out to race each other.  We were going to head north, up into beautiful Litchfield county, along roads I wasn’t entirely familiar with, so I was excited about learning a new route.  About 50 minutes into the ride, though, a rabbit decided to cross the road just when we were riding by, and it ran directly into one woman’s wheel, taking her down.  We were all terrified.  She lay on the road for a while, mumbling something about her hip, and I was about ready to suggest we call an ambulance when she started to get up.

After a few minutes of standing around, she said she felt fine, and so we rode on, impressed at her courage.  I would probably have requested that someone go get a car to drive me home.  We rode on for another 45 minutes or so until the woman decided it was best to head back home, and so we did.  We were out for more than 2 1/2 hours total, a full hour and a half after the accident.  It turns out the woman had a mild concussion and cracked her helmet in half a dozen places.  She said it was the adrenaline that allowed her to get up and keep riding.

Thank God for helmets, right?

Race report

I didn’t feel quite as strong in today’s race as I did last week, but I still did fine, finishing once again, and this time in a slightly longer race, 25 laps instead of 22.  I did drop behind in the last half lap during the sprint, but I’m sure it’s better to stay out of the way of the serious sprinters and avoid any potential crashes.  I wasn’t quite as fresh this time around, having ridden pretty hard over the weekend, but, still, I had no trouble with the hill, and I never had a moment when I struggled to hang on.

Pace: 24.2 mph; Distance: 19.3 miles; Average HR: 170; Max HR: 182

Sunday ride

I headed out today for an easy recovery ride after yesterday’s hard workout, but it turned out to be not so easy after all; it didn’t help that I was heading into the wind for the first half hour or so.  After that I began to feel better, but I haven’t felt quite this tired in a long time.  My legs had nothing in them.  I hope I can rest up enough tomorrow to feel fresh for Tuesday’s race.  Time: 1:15, HR: 134.  My heart rate is rarely that low …

Riding update

I had to take the last two days off because of busyness and bad weather, mostly bad weather.  But today was nice, mid 60s and dry, so I went out on a 3 1/2 hour ride to the Housatonic Hills race course to practice the hills.  My legs are now aching.  It was a good ride; I was able to maintain an almost 16 mph pace without working too terribly hard (average HR 150), which I’m pleased with, given all the hills.  I do hope this training helps when I get to the actual race in June …

Race report

The Tuesday night race series has begun, and it has begun well. I was worried about the race all day today because I knew I was going to have to rush away from class and hope the traffic wasn’t going to be too heavy to make it to the race on time. I had Hobgoblin do everything possible to help me get ready, including pinning my number on ahead of time. But as it turned out, I had plenty of time and was able to warm up for a half hour or so.

And then I was anxious, of course, about how I would do. This is the third year I’ve ridden in these races, and in both the previous years I’ve started off not able to finish the race and have had to slowly work my way up to the point where I could stay with the pack the entire time. I could only accomplish this steady improvement by working so hard I sometimes felt like I was going to die out there on the course. My first season I got so tired of working this hard I stopped racing in mid-July because I was burnt out.

So I was nervous. I was going to be racing with category 4 and 5 men, including Hobgoblin and other people who are clearly stronger and faster than I am. There was one other woman out there, someone who’s also much stronger and faster than I am. But when we got started I relaxed, and I was pleased to note that my first trip up the hill wasn’t that hard. I could sit comfortably the whole way. I’ve discovered that sitting on that hill is the best thing I can do; if I stand I expend more energy and tire myself out faster. But sometimes I panic that I’m falling behind, and I feel like I have to stand to stay with the group. As the laps went on, though, I found I could sit the whole way up nearly every one. In fact, sometimes I was passing other racers and sometimes noticing that other people were breathing harder than I was.

The race was 22 laps, 17 miles, and with each lap I told myself, okay, one more down — let’s see if I can do another one. I kept going this way until 5 laps to go when the sprinting started. It was a points race, which meant that certain laps, in this case the last five laps, awarded the first two racers across the line a certain number of points and the rider with the highest number of points at the end wins. What this meant for me is that the last five laps were hard. On the first points lap the field felt very tense and riders were doing foolish things, trying to get in the best position possible for the sprint. This made me nervous, as we’d already had one crash, and I didn’t want to see another. I did my best to stay away from squirrelly riders and kept on. Somewhere in those last five laps I noticed a teammate of mine off on the side of the road, throwing up onto the pavement, and then riding on. Yes, this was intense.

And I made it all the way to the end. Yay! I was afraid I wouldn’t, as at the very beginning of the last lap my calf muscles started cramping up horribly and I thought I might have to stop, but I did my best to stretch them out on the bike and kept going. I stayed right with the pack all the way through the last lap and crossed the line just behind the crowd.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this good on that course. The hill almost seemed easy. I was working hard though, as my average heart rate was 171, maximum 187. We were riding for about 41 minutes, and my average speed was 24.3 mph.

I hope my Tuesday night races continue to go this way, so I don’t have to experience that awful “I’m going to die out here” feeling again. That’s no fun.

You can read Hobgoblin’s report here.

Sunday ride

Yesterday was off (I only rode 4 days this week, when I usually ride 5, but I’m still getting in my usual number of hours, around 7) and today I went out for 1 1/2 hours; it was a beautiful day, upper 60s, sunny, and dry.  You can’t ask for better cycling weather.

The Tuesday night race series begins this week, but I’m trying not to think about that … I’ll be riding with Cat 4 and 5 men, and it’s always incredibly hard.  I start off the series not finishing races and slowly work my way up to finishing.  It’s good training, but exhausting.