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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chris Lillig Memorial Cup

Well, I survived my first big road race as a Cat. 3.

I was worried I would be completely off the back, out there racing by myself and that everyone would question why I'm on the team, and that it would be just awful, and I would help the team out at all....ugh I always imagine the worst possible scenario!

Photo By Brittany McConnell
All 25 of us in the Women's Pro/Cat1/2/3 field started off at a decent pace for the 39 mile (3 lap) race. I was really surprised that the pace was friendlier than a normal group ride...at least most of the time!

Riding in such a large group, it was almost hard to keep a position towards the front. Riders were constantly jockeying for position towards the front and I kept finding myself moving towards the back.

As we got to the halfway point on the first lap, toward a climb where the course turned to give us a tailwind I knew I should have been further towards the front of the group but just didn't get there. As anticipated there was an attached and I was poorly positioned to respond.

While slightly disappointed to not have gotten into the lead group, I was happy to still be in the chase group and not off the back by myself (like my worst case scenario worries). And we got four teammates in the lead group-yes!

Things were pretty calm for the next to laps. There were of course attacks, but nothing major and nothing that stuck. With just over a half lap to go, one of my teammates launched an attack and solo'd off the front of the group. Surprisingly no one tried to chase her down. Shortly afterward another teammate solo'd off the front and again no one followed. We now had six teammates ahead (and two others in the chase group with me).

Iowa City Road Race
My teammates off the front of the chase group. Strong ladies! Photo by Brittany McConnell

After my teammates were a safe distance ahead, I decided to try an attack of my own at the top of a climb. One girl caught me and shortly after one of my teammates and two others also caught on. Not ideal, but at least it made the chase group slightly smaller.

We kept a high pace all the way to finish were we sprinted just for the fun of it. I took 3rd in the field sprint...not great, but not bad either.

 Not sure if this is my "Oh my god I'm done" face or "not impressed (that I didn't do better) better" face. Photo by Brittany McConnell

Needless to say, the race went fine- not great, but fine and far from the worst case scenario plaguing my thoughts!! Overall, I was really happy to have a chance to work with my teammates and learn more about team tactics. While I didn't get into the lead group, I was at least able to do some work for the team before the big break - goal accomplished.

And, after I was done with the race, I go to hang out with this cute little guy :)

Race baby! Photo by Brittany McConnell

More on the Old Cap Crit to follow!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hard Ride = Happiness? (Hills/Iowa City Spring Classic)

Yesterday was the Hills/Iowa City Spring Classic, which is a pretty hilly gravel race. So today, I was thinking I might be pretty tired and sluggish on my townie ride to work, but instead I found myself with a little extra spring in my step pedal stroke and just smiling away. I was trying to think why I was so unexpectedly happy, I mean, it was Monday morning and I hadn't even had my coffee yet, and then I remembered that I put in a hard effort on the bike yesterday. That was it! It almost never fails that I'm in a really bubbly mood the day after a hard ride or race. Does anyone else wake up the next day and just feel little extra happy? I hope you do, because it's great!

I'm glad I was in such a good mood today, because I've been severely lacking motivation to race these past two weekends. My fitness at this point is still questionable, and while I enjoy grave rides, I don't love gravel races... I knew I would do the race, but was looking for any excuse not too. I told myself it would just be a nice hard ride, which I would do by myself if I didn't race. And riding with others usually wins!

Getting ready to race with these lovely ladies :) Photo by Mark Beatty.

The whole group of racers rolled out from Hills, IA to the start of the race a couple miles to the west. The officials were great, and got us all started really quickly once we arrived.

One of the women, who had gone the Gent's Race the day before, fell behind quickly along with another girl who was new to racing. Robin, Andrea, Alijah, and myself all hung together until the rollers where Robin kept a fast pace and rode off ahead. The group was down to just three us of. I pulled us the rest of the first lap and then said someone else should take a turn. After one small hill to the start/finish I was back on front pulling.

Photo By Brittany McConnell
 I don't know how, but I managed to drop my chain and had to stop and fix it on the second lap. I felt like it took forever to get it back on, I was thinking about how much work it would be to catch back up to Alijah and Andrea when I saw them riding towards me?? I hoped back on the bike and told them they should have kept going!! I felt really bad that they had stopped, so I jumped right back on front to pull. I would have been working hard solo for a while anyways!

One we hit the pavement section, I tried to let someone else pull again and the pace went down to about 11 mph. I couldn't stand to go that slow so I got everyone to echelon until we hit the gravel, and then I was back on front. I gave up on trying to get anyone to share the work and ended up spending most of the race pulling on the front.

On the last lap, I attacked on the pavement and Alijah jumped up to me and then Andrea caught as well. Andrea and I rode side my side going into the final climb. She went ahead and I wasn't sure if I had the legs to out sprint her. Alijah came around both of us and I put all my remaining strength into getting to the finish line, barely ahead of Andrea. She is one strong lady!

Yes, that's my "grr" face, haha! Photo by Mark Beatty.

It was a fun race, and I was happy to have the strength to be on the front so much, especially with all the climbing. I got my hard workout it!

Robin & I cooling down after the race. I love this lady! Photo by Tara Coady.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Beginnings

The first race of the season (for me) was this past Sunday, and my first road race as a cat. 3! I was so anxious/nervous/excited about the race and starting a NEW JOB on Monday, that I could hardly sleep on Saturday night. There were a million things flying through my head now that I get to BIKE TO WORK!!! Like, what dress shoes can I also ride in? And how do I carry my stuff with me? (I'm working on a rack/bag) And then back to worrying about the race, am I going to get dropped immediately? Apparently I need to learn to relax :)

Besides being a little nervous about the category upgrade, I was far more nervous to see what kind of shape I would be in. With the winter we had, and the amount of riding outside that I had gotten in up to this point, I didn't have high hopes or expectations.

I ended up hanging with the lead group for almost 3 of the 5 laps. Towards the end of the 3rd lap the cat 1 guys came around to pass us and we caught onto their tail. The group of women were riding single file behind the guys (it's allowed in this race) and we were riding into a strong headwind. I used all my strength and got on to the end, and then fell back off due to the headwind and pace. It could have been worse! While I was a little disappointed to not finish with the lead group, I was happy to stay with them for as long as I did. 

Mercy Specialized Women
Kent Park Classic - Photo by Mark Considine

It felt great to be back out there racing after what felt like a long winter! The race gave me a good idea of my fitness and the work that I need to put in to get in prime race shape.

I can already tell this is going to be a great year! I am so, so, happy have a job in the same city that I live in! I'm sure everyone that I know is happy that they will no longer have to hear me complain about a 45 minute commute :) And as a bonus to working in IC instead of Cedar Rapids, I now have a mind boggling number of places to go to lunch! It's a good thing I'm burning some extra calories on the ride to and from work ;)

 Happy riding!