Tuesday, July 5, 2011

P.T.=Painful Transition

I know it's been awhile since I've worked with Carrie on doing another P.T. Q&A session and perhaps you'll forgive me as my life has taken a lot of abrupt changes personally and professionally. That being said however, because all these changes inevitably effected my training & racing, I thought it provided a perfect platform for another great topic!

Question posed by myself:
How do you keep from completely blowing off all your training, goals & racing when life outside the bike turns upside down? For instance, the stress of losing a job, moving twice in a year and venturing on new career paths can drain you in ways that make it really hard to even mentally face completing even a single work-out. That being said, realistically goals do need to be changed, but how does one go about adjusting those goals whilst feeling overwhelmed in the throws of all that uncertainty?

Answer given by Carrie:
If you find yourself in the position of wanting to blow off all of your training and racing goals, it usually means either A. you are overwhelmed, B. you need a break, or C. both! When you are in this place, you need to take a step back and regroup. It is very rare that we are able to create a perfect balance in our lives. The whole act of balancing means that sometimes certain aspects of your life will weigh more than others and it becomes necessary for the balance to shift. When this happens, it can be difficult not to go swinging on the “all-or-nothing” pendulum. One of the greatest mental skills you can have as an athlete is the ability to adjust your goals.

What was once a realistic goal may no longer be realistic given the new circumstances. Sometimes we are forced to adjust in order to keep moving forward. When you don’t adjust, you run the risk of stopping movement altogether. How quickly you are able to recognize that you need to adjust and then make the adjustment is a sign of your resilience; a sign of how “fit” you are mentally. When your sport is your true touchstone, you understand that things don’t always go as planned; that your sport is the anchor you come back to. When your sport is your touchstone, goals are adjusted instead of dropped, and if they are dropped, it is because that is what you need in that moment in order to take care of yourself as an athlete. You understand that one race, even one season, doesn’t define your whole career and that things may need to be sacrificed in order to keep working on the bigger picture. There is a famous quote by Francois de la Rochefoucauld that says, “The only thing constant in life is change”. Dealing with change and adjusting goals is an inevitable part of being an athlete. That kind of resilience is a great example of how you can be deliberate about working on your mental game. The most successful and consistent athletes are the ones that can adjust to the new set of circumstances in front of them instead of remaining stuck in how they wanted things to go and then dropping their goals altogether.

Carrie is a Sport & Exercise Mental Skills Coach and consults with athletes and teams on mental skills training and peak performance. Click on the links to sign up for Carrie’s newsletter, follow her blog, or follow her Mental Skills Training for Athletes page on Facebook!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

P.T.=Personal Time, balancing the holidays with your training, another Q&A Session with Mental Skills Coach Carrie Cheadle!

As usual, I always feel like Carrie is speaking right to me.....but I know I'm not alone. I hope you find this Q&A session helpful for these remaining holidays! Oh! And Happy Winter Solstice :-)

Question Posed by Myself:
The holiday season is in full swing and I think a situation arises for a lot of us who are a little more than say, recreational cyclists, where we are knee deep into our base training for the 2011 season and the parties and associated beverage and food associated with this time of year are at inherent odds. How do we have a healthy balance of staying dedicated to our training while dealing with outside influences? To begin with, there are the bottomless jars of candy at our office/day jobs, the multitude of holiday party invites (and they're inevitable late hours) where there is almost assuredly going to be tables full of (let's just admit it) incredibly delicious, but also carbohydrate and fat filled goodies and beverages also full of sugar (and for some of us) alcohol. That's only the start! If 'you' have family and friends that you are close to and wish to spend some time with, more often than not, there is a lot of the time spent (taken away from your training naturally) packing, driving, airport sitting and then all activities with friends and family. Before you know it, you're packing a few extra pounds, jet-lagged and have probably lost some of that hard earned fitness.

Answer given by Carrie:
Ahh… the holidays. For some it brings warm cozy evenings of tree trimming and cider sipping and for others it just brings potential obstacles to our athletic goals. Athletes that are trying to stay on task with their nutrition and training goals might be tempted to say “no thanks” to every invite and hide out in the house until the holidays have passed. We tend to make the holidays a stressful time when they don’t have to be. You are more likely to get sick when you are stressed so the best thing you can do is to relax about the holidays. You don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation you get and you don’t have to say “no” to every dessert that passes your way. You can get through the holidays both enjoying yourself and not completely derailing your goals.

Whether it’s at the office or at a family gathering, it can be hard to say no to all of the delicious temptations set out in front of you. Even though it seems to keep showing up at the grocery store earlier each year, there are only two weeks out of the year that Egg Nog is allowed in my house. If it’s in my house, I will drink it. But we can’t hide from every temptation.

Before you hit the parties – remind yourself of what your ultimate goal is for that upcoming season. Recite your goal as you are leaving for your destination and again as you arrive. Then each time you are faced with chocolate rimmed martini glasses and trays of decadent appetizers you can ask yourself “Does this immediate action help me get closer to my goal?” When we see goodies that we don’t normally get to eat, our pleasure centers start lighting up and we want that immediate reward. Don’t grab anything right away. Make a deliberate decision about what you want to eat. Think about the proportions of what you eat on a regular day and try to stick close to that.

You can also bring your own healthy contribution so you know that there will be at least one thing there that will not exceed your daily fat and carb intake in just one serving. Chances are there will be other people that are grateful you brought something healthy too!

Set a goal for how many rides and workouts you want to get in while you are traveling. Don’t fall into the “all or nothing” trap - “I have to get ALL of my planned rides in or I am a total failure and I have ruined my entire season!!” Not true. Fill in the numbers; “It would be awesome if I could get in ____ rides, but I would feel pretty good if I got in at least ____.” Make it a goal to get all of the workout clothes that you packed into the dirty clothes bag before you leave.

The fact is that if you want to perform at a certain level, there is sacrifice involved. There is a difference between being motivated to accomplish your goals and being committed to accomplishing them. As an elite cyclist, being committed to your sport means that there will be times when you will be the only person not drinking and you will be the first to leave the party. That being said, I am also a big advocate for having some balance and enjoying the holidays. You are not going to ruin your season if you skip one training ride to hang out with family and friends or have a slice of pie and a glass of wine at the office party. Everything in moderation – including how much pressure you put on yourself!

Carrie is a Sport & Exercise Mental Skills Coach and consults with athletes and teams on mental skills training and peak performance. Click on the links to sign up for Carrie’s newsletter, follow her blog, or follow her Mental Skills Training for Athletes page on Facebook!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

P.T.=Perfect Timing. Another Q&A Session with Mental Skills Coach Carrie Cheadle

We, as athletes, are amidst a familiar transition period during this beautiful indian-summer-like-fall. I wanted to offer up some useful information regarding off-season cross-training. I hope you enjoy!

Question posed by myself:
'There are many things I'm doing differently with my training this year. One of the mistakes I made last year was that I took too much time off the bike following my race season. Then my cross-training was too unplanned and therefore ended up being severely insufficient as I transitioned into base training. As a result of a poor quality/quantity off-season, I was obviously quite frustrated with the loss of fitness as I attempted to build an appropriate base as a Pro/1/2 racer over the winter. So this year, I planned my time off the bike - which was perfect. I also planned the big picture of the 2011 season's training and racing (which, as you know for us bike racers starts several months in advance in the fall). I felt pretty strongly that cross-training before starting the big base training that I have planned would be a necessary mental as well as physical break from the norm.
One of the things I wasn't anticipating, was attempting to get in the time necessary for cross-training while still keeping it light and fun and not too *planned*. For instance, I'm trying to do as many different things as possible, and am already seeing the benefits - both mentally and physically. However, I also know that I should still probably try to be getting in a certain amount of training 'time' each week; as a result, striving for that mental balance between spontaneity combined with necessary preparation can be hard.'

Answer given by Carrie:
'After years of working with athletes, I have learned that there is both an art and science to optimal training and that combination is different for each athlete. It’s good that you are assessing what is working for you and what isn’t and then trying to dial in the right balance for you. A lot of athletes struggle with how much time to take off between seasons. Some are afraid that if they take any time off they will lose too much fitness and not be as competitive. Some are so burned out that they take more time off than optimal for their physical fitness, but what might have been necessary for their mental state. Then they feel discouraged when they start training again and realize how much fitness they have actually lost.

When you are in your off-season there will come to a time when you still need to train to stay fit, but haven’t started your official base training yet. During this phase, it’s good to have an idea of the hours and intensity you need to get in each week and then be flexible with how you get that time in. This time is a great opportunity for cross-training. Changing things up can help prevent mental and physical burnout. During this time, get in your hours with things that sound fun to you.

If your off-season is completely unstructured, you run the risk of not getting in enough fitness, especially if you are balancing training and work/life. In order to keep things balanced, you might have to have a combination of planning and fun. You can have some days where you know you need to get in a certain length of time for your workout – but don’t plan exactly what it is you will do. You can leave it open and do whatever you feel like on that day. Take advantage of the opportunity to do things that you don’t get to do while you’re in season. If it sounds fun, it won’t feel like work to get it in. Go hiking, take a dance class (I recently took flamenco classes!), go kayaking, get on your mountain bike, be a gym rat – do whatever sounds fun to you.
For some athletes, they can transition right from cross-training into base training. They are ready for it and excited to start. If you aren’t feeling ready and excited to start, you may want to consider having a transition into your more structured training. The most important thing is that you don’t want to be sick of your bike when it’s time to start base training. So if you do want time in the saddle, make that fun as well. For some folks that means they only go out riding with friends; no heart-rate monitors or bike computers allowed. For others it means they ride their mountain bike instead of their road bike, or they ride their road bike, but don’t do any of their typical training ride locations.

There is a happy medium in there and you have to figure out what that is for you and that may even change from season to season. You have to have a certain amount planned so that you make sure you’re getting your fitness in, but you have to spice it up enough so that your body and mind get a break and get rejuvenated for the upcoming season.'

Carrie is a Sport & Exercise Mental Skills Coach and consults with athletes and teams on mental skills training and peak performance. Click on the links to sign up for Carrie’s newsletter, follow her blog, or follow her Mental Skills Training for Athletes page on Facebook!

Friday, August 27, 2010

P.T. = Perspective Taking Q&A with Carrie Cheadle Time!

Suisun Criterium

I really liked Carrie's answer to my question below. She is absolutely right by the way, I didn't have clear cut goals and I did set unrealistic expectations for myself. I've accepted this year as a transition year; and maybe even transition year #1.

Question posed by myself:
"'We're in to the final part of the season and CalCup is in full swing. I've had a difficult season, for many reasons, and I have found that 'perspective' seems to be an important word for me right now. How does an athlete put things into perspective at the close of a race season when there seems to be so many reasons why things happened the way they did and how do you 'weigh' each of those reasons so that you can better judge what changes you need to make going forward? Some of the reasons were definitely in my control, such as training, coaching, and my mental attitude toward myself (I'm very hard on myself). However, circumstance played a part as well. For instance, it is my first year as a Cat 2 - and therefore, my first season racing at the full Elite level (Pro/1/2). Secondly, this is also my first year on a real 'team', whom I've been dedicated to working for. Thirdly, this part of the country lends itself to being the toughest district in the U.S. Keep in mind that I WANTED to be racing in this district FOR that reason, that's why I came out here! It's hard a lot of time, when you're in the middle of the race to put all of this into perspective and focus on the race itself. As a result, the end 'placing' of the race becomes harder to 'judge'."

Answer given by Carrie
When you have a season that didn’t go as well as you were hoping, how you end that season says a lot about who you are as an athlete. It’s difficult to hold onto the motivation to finish strong when you’re focused on how you wish things had gone differently. Additionally, it’s extremely difficult to be objective when you are enveloped by a results oriented culture.

Since it is your 1st season racing at the elite level, you are basically a freshman. Think back to your freshman year in high school. When you’re a freshman in high school you have some experience with school (racing), but you’re still navigating this new world and learning the ropes (Pro/1/2). You’re not supposed to be good at it yet. You’re still learning. Next year you’ll be sophomore with a little more experience and an understanding of what to expect, but even as a sophomore you will still be learning.

Here is some advice on how to keep perspective throughout the cycling season:

Be clear with your season goals and your race goals:
We gauge our success based on how we do relative to our goals. You need to be clear on what your goals are. If you haven’t set out these goals, you will create them as you go and then possibly hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. What I see happen with a lot of athletes is that they actually have a secret goal that they are gauging their success on. Their goal was to finish with the pack, but they were really hoping to be top 10, therefore it was not a successful race. If your goal for the race is to finish with the pack and you finish with the pack – you have had a successful race.

Dedicate time to evaluating your races:
Our perceptions create our reality. At the end of a race or the end of a season, we create a story about the events that occurred. You are the author of that story so you get to choose the slant – that is where perspective comes in. There is a time and place for reflection and in the middle of a race is not one of them! At the end of the race is really where our perception starts to influence our reality. That is the time to reflect and do so in a way that it positively or negatively affects your confidence and motivation going forward into the next race. The reflection is where the stories get created.

Don’t worry about the outcome of a race. If you keep your focus in the moment, on the things that are in your control and on setting yourself up to have the best possible race – the results will come. If you’re in the middle of a race and you’re wondering how this race will turn out and if it will be better or worse than the last time, your focus isn’t where it needs to be in order to have a good race. The race is like a conversation and if you’re up in your head worrying about the outcome, you’re not in the conversation. If you want to build on your performances and maintain perspective, commit to answering these four questions after every race:

Ÿ What did I do well?
Ÿ What could I have done better?
Ÿ What did I learn?
Ÿ What do I want to carry forward with me into the next race?

You also need to evaluate your entire season in the same way. What worked, what didn’t, what are my goals for next season, and how do I get there? The goals we set and our reflections will influence that story, therefore YOU influence the story. Two cyclists could have the same exact season and come out with two different stories. In one story the athlete is excited to continue on the journey and inspired to have an even better season than last year. In the other story, the athlete is dejected and frustrated and wondering if they should quite cycling altogether.

We often put expectations on ourselves and think that we should be performing better than we are. That often comes from comparing ourselves to others. Don’t worry about anyone else’s path. Everyone has their own path that gets them to their destination and all of those paths look different. You can’t control how anyone else gets to their destination you only have control over how you get to yours.'

Carrie is a Sport & Exercise Mental Skills Coach and consults with athletes and teams on mental skills training and peak performance. Click on the links to sign up for Carrie’s newsletter, follow her blog, or follow her Mental Skills Training for Athletes page on Facebook!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

May - Feels like a whole season ago.....

WHUT??!!! Definition: 'A word that combines What, WTF, WTH, OMG, etc.....'

That's how I feel right now. I can't believe the race season is 1/2 way over....and yet it feels like a whole season has already gone by since my crash at Wente. I lucked out by having no broken bones....but not so lucky in that my bike was toast and I lost valuable training days. Giant got me a crash replacement frame at a discount and my favorite bike shop -Mad Cat bicycles - helped me put it together by teaching me how to build the bike. I've been learning how to do more and more of my own mechanical work on my bikes. It helps saves money and time and quite frankly, I think it's just a wise thing to know how to work on your own bicycle. There was so much road rash, and in an 'area' that makes direct contact with the saddle that it took me off the bike for 5 days. I was really looking forward to doing the Cat's Hill Criterium- one of my favorite crits - but I was barely able to do a painful recovery ride that same Saturday. I did another painful recovery ride Sunday and then was able to go back to training that next week. I had lost some high end - which is going to happen - that's the first thing to go when you miss some training. So, my first week back to training was difficult - I felt like I was fighting my body the whole time.
These last few weeks of training during my mid-season race break the beginning of June have gone really well though. I finally feel comfortable on the TT bike and I can feel myself getting stronger in the hills too. I keep looking to next season though because I know what mistakes I made during the off/base-buildling season and I know it's too late to make up for lost time/miles on the bike. I'm doing the best I can now with the 'tools' that I have in my 'bag'. I don't like all the DNF's on my race results and I think by now I've figured out that it's a combination of a lot of things: a not-so-optimal off-season, racing against the best pros in the country, being the domestique for my team and being a new Cat 2. I've tried to put things in perspective and have realistically determined that this year is a transition year. I did so well as a Cat 4 and then as a Cat 3 - finding it relatively easy to just put in the time I could on the bike, show up at races, race smart and feel physically competetive enough to get on the podium - and I did - frequently. I didn't put in anywhere near the time on the bike that I do even now and I know I need to put in more to be competetive at the Pro/1/2 level. But as a Cat 4/3, the other girls weren't putting in anymore time than I was either, so it wasn't that difficult to be competetive physically at that level. You can still work normally, have a normal life, etc and get decent results...as long as you're still commited to your training program. I upgraded relatively quickly (from what I've been told) and now I'm racing as a new Cat 2 against the best in the country who have been racing at the pro level for.....5-10 years. Again...PERSPECTIVE has been my favorite word this season.
I've also learned more this season than the last two combined. And...........the secret is out of the bag. I've been coaching myself since March. I've learned a lot from the past 'coaches' I've had and I've been doing a lot of studying on training with power. I've used a PowerTap for the past 3 years and have looked at/analyzed my own data along with working with my 'coaches'. I do it all by myself now. I'm trying to save money (another step along my journeyis trying to live on less and less....) and I've really learned to listen to my body and have figured out what works and what doesn't as far as training goes. I basically went through every work-out I've ever done over the past 3 years and wrote down what worked and what didn't. I looked at my power numbers and how/why different work-outs were given in different power training zones. I've also come far enough along in my development that I've realized that I'm an all-arounder. I'm too good of a sprinter to be a pure climber (which is probably why most of my podium finishes are in crits) and I'm too good of a climber to be a pure sprinter (which is why I can drop sprinters and some other riders on climbs, but sturggle to keep up with the pure climbers). So...I need to climb more and I still know that my biggest weakness is time trialing. I'm pretty sure that the power I gain from both more time trial and climbing training will transfer over to everything else...in fact, I KNOW it will. So...I wanted to start being more specific in my training to FOCUS on time trialing, while still 'keeping' my sprint, build my high-end with intervals during the race season and do lots more climbing. So....I knew I needed to move......to the hills. The hills are where it's at if I really want to improve. So I made the financial sacrifice and I'm so glad I did. That's step #2 - (Step #1 is below :)....there are more steps to come along my 'path' of getting to the 'pro' level...so stay tuned!
I was really tired at the end of May and I was planning to move soon anyway. I chose to take a mid-season break from racing, get the move out of the way, put in some more base and then....get back to it. Again, another thing I've learned coaching myself is when to take a break and how to change your training and racing schedules when needed......I'm glad I made the choice I made.....still learning from mistakes....and keeping things in perspective. I've done a few fun things though the last few weekends and made some new friends. I went to MadCat Ladies night, had a great time and did some more networking (another step I'm taking along my path...)

One negative thing did happen during my little off-season....something last Saturday...I posted a public note on Facebook deliberately, and I'll just copy it here:

'I'm writing this 'letter' to every cyclist who shows up at group rides across the country. But mostly, this letter is directed at one individual. Last saturday I did the Coffee Republic Group Ride that rides from Folsom, CA up into the Rocklin/Auburn area. This group ride has been in existence for a very long time. There are many group rides in the area, each of them valuable to someone who races or just wants to get some high intensity in their training or practice some group/race skills. I choose this one because A) it's close to home and B) it's in the hills more-so than the River Ride in downtown Sac and therefore more valuble to the training I prefer. For those of you who have been riding a bike or racing for a long time understand what group rides are for, the general etiquette and the 'flow' of a group ride. They have a specific purpose, both for the racer and the non-racer. They also generally have a 'build' season that more-or-less corresponds with the racing season. In the off-season, they're not quite as intense, while in the middle of the race season, everyone is fit and the group rides are fierce; and as they should be. Learning the etiquette and flow of each group ride is essential to earning the respect of your fellow riders and keeping the rides where they should be. Everyone knows the drill. There's a common meeting area to socialize and get everything ready to ride for those who drive to the start, etc. Then around-about the 'start-time' everyone rolls out. Again, this is not always communicated verbally, it's just known. Some group rides are more structured while others are more laid-back. They usually have a known course that is familiar to all the riders and is communicated to those who are new. The idea is to 'hang' as long as you can, and over time as your fitness builds, you hang in longer and longer. It's race simulation and the pack-riding is also valuable. To the Elite female racer, I am used to being one of not more than 3-4 female riders in a group of at least 30+ male riders - many of them masters racers with a few Pro1/2 male racers. The intensity of the group rides in Northern California for me very closely mimic what a women's Pro/1/2 field is like. When I'm not racing (which was the case last Saturday) I put a group ride as a priority so as to not lose any 'high end' in the middle of the race season. I witnessed something Saturday that affected me greatly and has bothered me enough to write about it. Cycling is a beautiful sport and the bicycle is a beautiful machine. Respecting the sport, the bicycle and your fellow riders should be your main priority while riding if you truly love the sport. If you're out there because you have a chip on your shoulder, you only like to beat everyone around you because you have an ego the size of 'Lance' and you allow your emotions and anger to control you, then you simply don't belong in the saddle. You haven't earned your right to ride and you have no business showing up to a group ride, much less a race. It's that simple.The situation was this: The group ride had somewhere between 30-40 riders with two females (myself being one of them). The intensity of the group ride as it rolled toward Rocklin eased up nicely (there weren't any early really hard attacks). Then the climbs came - and right before we got to Sierra College Blvd, the pack split up and myself and 3 other guys began chasing and rotating turns. We could see the main group about 200 meters ahead of us and were about to catch on before the left hand turn that takes you to Virginia Town Road. We noticed two cyclists - one in an unmarked kit and one in a Safeway kit yelling at each other in tones that were filled with more rage than I'd ever heard before in the middle of a ride OR a race. We made the left hand turn, caught up to the gentleman in the unmarked kit, were about to make contact with the back of the main group, when the Safeway rider came dangerously weaving in and out of us to position himself next to the 'unmarked kit' cyclist he had been previously yelling at. He immediatley began yelling and poking his finger at him all while the other guy remained unresponsive - obviously quite willing to no longer be a part of the argument. Then....the unthinkable happened and I think that myself and the other cyclists around saw what was going to happen because we started yelling at the Safeway rider but.... it was too late. Keep in mind, we're still going 20-25 mph down a twisty country road. The safeway rider SHOVED the other cyclist off the road, into a ravine and we all watched as he endoed (sp?) over his handle-bars at a very dangerous speed. One cyclist stopped, and myself and another looked back and saw what we were afraid was going to be a continued fight. The two of us chose to keep going because I think we were afraid to be in the middle of such an ugly dispute. The 'victim' of the crash, I'm sure, sustained injuries. But...regardless of what happened, IT DOESN'T MATTER. If you can't control your temper and choose to put another person's LIFE in danger, then you don't belong on the bicycle. It's THAT SIMPLE. The example that the Safeway rider set for his team as well as his sponsors is repulsive. Technically speaking, this is assault and battery and had the 'vicitm' been killed - homocide. It's that simple. IT WAS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS. I expect to hear that the Safeway rider be removed from the race team, a public apology made and any financial/medical restitution made to the 'victim'. You may ask - 'Why is this her business??' Ladies and Gentleman, it's my business because I saw it and to do nothing would be morally wrong. It's my business because a cyclist who chooses to put someone else's life in danger because of unbriddled emotion also puts the rest of the group at risk. Cycling is a dangerous sport WITHOUT controlled tempers. It's my business....because I'm a fellow human being who saw a CRIME commited.I don't know the victim's nor the attacker's name. But I'm sure some of you do and I would encourage you to do the right thing and pass this along.Keep it safe. Keep it respectful.'

The response was immediate. The comments and e-mails flooded in. The support in the local cycling community for not putting up with such abhored behavior helps me feel hopeful. Everyone seemed to be just as appalled as I was and applauded my decision to speak out. I've been e-mailing with a member of the Safeway team, as well as other well-known cyclists in the area, to try to come up with ideas on how to turn this infamously-bad-rapped-group-ride into one that is safe for cyclists of varying levels of fitness as well as the motorists.

Next up...the Beginning of the End...the start of my Big Races for the 2010 season....Tour de Nez and the Nevada City Bicycle Classic! But now for some race reports!
5-29-31 Memorial Day Weekend - First 'Build' Weekend - I use the word 'Build' because another thing that I've learned is that to race at the Pro/1/2 level also means that you have to build your body to become accustomed to doing multiple race days back-to-back, recover, and keep going strong. I had gotten qualified to race on the track (see below) and since I was starting to feel like I was getting some 'form', there was a track race in San Jose the Saturday before the Memorial Weekend races in the same area...I thought this was a perfect opportunity to train my body to do 3 hard days back to back. I did well again in my first 'real' track race on Saturday and walked away surprisingly exhausted. The races are very short, but very intense and the whole effect on your physiology of track racing is very different from road racing. This is because you warm-up, do a relatively short, but incredibly anaerobic effort, cool down, legs up (for recovery), eat, warm-up again, anaerobic race...repeat....repeat...repeat.....Your metabolism has to work differently too. I did everything right all weekend though to aid my recovery. I ate right, made sure I was hydrated, did as little as possible outside of the racing scene, legs up, naps, rest, etc. Unfortunately though, I couldn't help what happened Saturday night before the Mt. Hamilton Road Race. I had a TERRIBLE night's sleep. All I remember thinking was 'I'm awake AGAIN?!?!' I woke up Sunday morning before the road race EXHAUSTED. I'm sure that effected my ability to perform on Sunday. That combined with the fact that the field was DEEP with pros (it was a Nature Valley Grand Prix qualifier) and so competition was stiff. Also, the course was brutal. It literally BEGINS on a 19 mile climb that averages somewhere between 6-7%. It took me 1 1/2 hours to climb it. I stayed with the main pack longer that I thought, but once Allison Starnes from Tibco attacked, and Peanut Butter (Shelley Olds and Kat Carroll) went with her...I was done. I did the majority of the rest of the race by myself. Things to keep me entertained along the way: an inordinate amount of caterpillers littering the road during the entire climb, the fantastic views taking in all of the lower East Bay/Penninsula, being 'assaulted' by a pouring down rain of bugs at the top of the climb, a few super fun and technical decents and then......the road the never ended. I had been warned about this race by my teammates. They said that the climb was only half the battle. The rest of the race is a series of rollers that NEVER SEEM TO END. And they were right....I caught up with a pro girl near the end and we came in together. We were both relieved to have someone else to 'suffer' with the remainder of the race. Surprisingly, I was riding stronger than she was when I caught her....and I had been racing alone for a longer period of time...a good sign for me?? Who knows at this point....

Like I said, I continued to do all the right things to recover for my third day of racing. A nice, long nap, legs up, food....the drill was becoming second nature. It's my lifestyle. All I think about when I'm racing is....'Is this going to unnecessarily drain my energy??' It's what I do off the bike now that determines how well I do on the bike....it's all the little things in-between that add up....and they did add up for my last race day. I felt AWESOME at the Morgan Hill crit. I had a fabulous warm-up, my body was incredibly responsive and I worked my a$$ off for my team. Tibco had attacked and there was a break up the road that consisted of several different riders, but ended with the two main contenders- Allison Starnes and Kat Carroll. My teammate - Mary Marroon - was in contention for qualifying for Nature Valley. Getting her in the top 10 was now a priority for our team. Every time I felt recovered during the race, I went to the front and helped chase. With two laps to go, there was still the two riders off the front that would we knew now would win the race. The pack was racing for third place now and I knew it. To discourage anymore 'fliers' and keep the pace high so Mary could end well in the pack finish, I went to the front again to keep the pace high and burned what would prove to be my last match.....I DNF'd.....and Mary finished in the top 10 and earned her place on the 'Pro Team' to Nature Valley. When I came around to my teammates for our usual 'post-race-chat' the looks in my teammates eyes left no doubt that I had earned their respect. Their verbal 'patts-on-the-back' were nothing less than genuine as well. I've never felt so proud of DNF'ing in my life....

Compliments of one of my favorite photographers: Veronica Lenzi

5-22-23 Women's Track Clinic - Step #1 - So....again....there are lots of things/steps that I've thought about as being necessary to take along my journey. One of the things that I've always lacked is a lot of pure power. Focusing on my time trialing and doing more climbing will help that. I've also heard that racing on the track will help. So, when the opporutnity came up to attend a track clinic at the Hellyer Velodrome that basically meets your qualifications for racing on the track in two straight days rather than three seperate saturdays, I decided to take advantage of that. I'm so glad I did. the people who put on the track clinic were so impressed with how fast we picked it up. A world champion watched me during my first 'Mock' Team Pursuit and said...'You're a natural...' I don't need to state the obvious that compliment really helped boost me mentally after in the middle of such a difficult racing season. Racing on the track is a whole other animal, just like mountain biking. When I was explaining to people about racing on the track, I kept telling them that the whole dynamics between yourself and the other racers are completely different than when you're racing on the road. There is a much greater sense of respect and commeradery between you and your fellow racers because of two things: 1-your number one concern is safety for you and the other riders around you, while winning becomes secondary, and 2-You spend a lot of time hanging out in-between the races getting to know each other. Having all the rules and constantly thinking about safety while you're racing the track has an interesting affect though - it makes you WORK HARDER to win.... and makes you a smarter and stronger racer because of it. Also, you have to QUALIFY and pass tests to race on the track. You don't have to do that in road racing. Again...safety....this is because racing on the track is so dangerous. You are on a fixed, single speed bike with no breaks going 30+ miles an hour handle-bar to handle-bar to people. 99% of what we learned that weekend were about rules and safety. If they had the kind of rules in crits that they have on the track, it would be a whole other race...and MUCH tougher. As expected, I could definately tell that racing on a fixed gear bike was going to help me build power. I also realized quickly that my natural ability for high cadence came handy when I decided to attack each time I did well in a race and went well over 130 rpm's....quite easily. The Hellyer Velodrome is far away though - San Jose. That combined with my main focus being on the road makes it difficult to do much racing down there. I'm going to try to fit it in when I can, but mostly, I'm using it to add to my set of 'tools in my bag' to get me where I want to be.....and...it's just a lot of fun! Remember, I love anything on two wheels ;-)) Naturally, I've added a track bike to my list.....
I did well my first two weekends on the track, took the test, and got my 'FastTrack' Upgrade to a cat 3. (Thanks Larry Nolan ;))

5-15 Winter's Criterium - A Race to Get Back in the Game! This was a very confusing weekend - a lot was going on. I was almost able to race the Sacramento Grand Prix.. and that went back and forth 3 times....it's a long story and it doesn't really matter. I ended up doing the new, local criterium that is on a really fun and technical course, but was in strong competition with other really big-named bike races going on that weekend, namely Scott's Valley and the Sac Grand Prix. As a result, the field was really small but I felt really comfortable getting back into the middle of the pack. My teammate said that I looked really good. Unfortunately, the small field size didn't lend itself toward many places to hide and I screwed up my position on the back-side of the final lap and ended up somewhere between 5-8th place. The USA cycling results show me as a DNF - but that's not true. I didn't go check my results after the race, I just did a cool-down lap and then left the course immediately to finish my training ride - another hour + or so. Again, at this level, you have to commit to putting in more time, which is why a lot of crits turn into training rides before and after. Below is a pic from the race....

I also had my birthday that weekend, family was in town and I helped build my new race bike...

Yea...she's a beauty...and a DEFINATE upgrade! I LOVE climbing on it and the aggressive compact geometry is still something that I value racing crits. The perfect bike for me :-) I took her on her 'Virgin' ride the morning before the Sac Grand Prix on Sunday. And the coolest part....I rode some of the same roads that the Tour of California were coming on just a few hours later up in Auburn. It was really cool to see the signs, course marshalls, lawn chairs, tents, etc. set up for the race that would be coming through on the same climbs that I was just doing. I headed straight to the Sac Grand Prix after my training ride....still on my new race bike...to do race support for my team. It was a lot of fun to be there and a cycling journalist (cyclelicious) took my picture just as my teammate was racing by and asked what I was doing there. I was yelling time splits etc at my team....

5-9 Berkeley Hills Road Race - A Race to Suffer Through Like I said previously, I hadn't raced since my crash at Wente. I knew I had lost some high-end and I was still 'coming back'. I knew Berkeley Hills would be more of a training ride for me, I just didn't know it would be that miserable. Everyone has those days on the bike where their body just doesn't respond...mine was doing that...and more. I felt like I was fighting my body, the bike, everything....the whole time. On top of that, it rained, was cold and very windy. It was also a very difficult road race with lots of climbing each of the 4 laps - and of course...more pros to contend with. Had I finished the race, it would have been over a 5 hour ride...and my body was toast at 4+.....another reason I know I need to 'change-up' my winter base-training. I've GOT to be able to do several 3-5 hour rides back to back....it's difficult doing that during the race season when you're trying to build intensity; so having that BASE underneath you, while still maintaining it with a few long rides a week during the mdidle of the race season is CRUCIAL. Again...more lessons learned. I DNF'd...and I was grateful it was over.....Below is a pic on one of the climbs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Race Report-Spring fever ends with a crash

The racing season is well underway and I've been racing with my new team - Touchstone Climbing - for about 3 months now and it has been an interesting spring.

What I've Learned: One of my main goals for the season was to learn how to race on a team. And I think I am learning how to be a good teammate. The beginning of the season was rough. I was mostly just hanging on for dear life until I would get dropped or come in off the back. I had to keep reminding myself why I came to California - to race with the best and hopefully get on a Pro team. In NorCal, racing as a Cat 2 affords you the 'opportunity' to race EVERY race with some of the top women in the country. That was why I came here - because I knew that Northern California was where the pros would race when they weren't racing the NRC. I don't think there's been a single race I've done as a 2 where a legitimate pro didn't show up. As a result, I had been getting a 'taste' of what the jump has been like from Cat 3 to Pro/1/2....demorazling. Now, I'm able to help my team out - chasing down breaks, being in a break, attacking, blocking etc. It feels good to at least be useful!! One of my other main goals for the season was to start training my time trial, as well as continue to add more climbing. As a result of focusing on those two things, my sprint has stagnated in its' development....but you can't work on EVERYTHING at the same time, and I knew that going into this year.
One of the other more 'critical' things I've learned racing at the Elite level, is that you can BE a Cat 2 working a regular '9-5' job and hang in, and with several years, begin to be more competetitve and hang in longer and longer each race. However, it's very difficult to be really competetive with who I've been racing against - essentially the top professionals - unless you can devote more time/flexibility to training and racing. I do the best I can with the time and energy available to me. For those of you who know me, you know that I'm slowly making changes that will hopefully afford me that luxury.....I'm not giving up. My 'numbers' are good - but at this point, if I want to really push the limits in my fitness, adding more structure isn't necessarily the answer - I have that - it's going to be putting more time on the bike.

What I still believe in: I am even more in love with the sport and the bicycle. The bike and the sport have given me so much as a person and I will continue to give everything to it. Being a cyclist and bike racer is what I do and who I am. I also still believe strongly in recovery and balance. One of the things that I feel is a strength of mine is my ability to listen to my body and know when I can/should push it and when I need recovery. One of the things that I've known for a long time that I need to develop is pure power. I'm a smaller rider (and continue to get smaller) and so having a lot of pure power is difficult. Continuing to train my climbing and time trialing has helped me build power a lot. But I need more. I'm still in love with the 'dirt' - so I'd like to start sprinkling in some mountain biking and I've signed up for the women's track clinic in May (which will qualify for me being trained on the track) which I think will help me develop some power....and also just because I love the bike! I've done mountain, cyclocross, road...and I've always wanted to try the track!

With those thoughts, I thought I would give a 'spring splash' of some race reports. Most of them were written by my teammates, but I will interject my personal experiences :)

4-25-Wente Criterium- After feeling really good from previous day's Wente Road Race (thanks to a nap and lots of food :), I was really excited to put forth another good effort for my team. Unfortunately I crashed out early. I haven't crashed in a really long time. I knew my time was 'up'. Strangely, there's been a lot of 'chatter' about all the crashes in the women's races this year....WAY too many. In this race, there were 3 (I think) crashes - and mine ranked the lowest as far as damage done. The bot dots on this course caused every crash....I never thought I would say this, but I don't ever plan on doing this race again. The Pro/1/2 women's races are generally safer - a lot faster - but safer. I decided to sign up for Cat's Hill this upcoming weekend - one of my favorite crits - because I know that I have to get back in the game. If you wait too long to race a crit after a crash, it 'messes' with you mentally. I've been resting this week, still in a lot of pain and limping to be quite honest, and so I have no idea where my form will be at. But that's not the point. The main priority is to get healed and the focus for this weekend is to get MENTALLY back in the game.

The above picture is 9:00 before the crash - at the start...

The above picture is probably a few laps before the crash....

Along with some scrapes on other various part of my body, the majority of lost skin was on my hip....

4-24- Wente Road Race- This race is very difficult. The terrain is mostly rolling, with some brutal head-wind sections and it's done on a loop - ending each time with a climb that obviously becomes the deciding section. You need to be a good all-arounder to do well at this race. Again, the 'pros' showed up and again, my goal was to try to hang in as long as I could. I stayed in longer than I expected and then worked with a group to the end. I knew that the finishing climb was to my advantage amongst the other 'players' and so I attacked it going into the final corner. I was ultimately outsprinted by one of them, but I am really happy with my finishing spot, how I felt at the end and my overall tactics played.
There was a break between the weekend of Menlo park/Apple Pie and the Wente weekend. The much-anticipated Chico stage race was cancelled and then moved to a different - and somewhat problematic location on the calendar. The word amongst the knowledgable is that there have never been this many changes/cancellations made to the NCNCA calendar. It's made it difficult to plan for/peak for/prioritize for races. Most of 'us' were excited for Chico because we have very mixed (mostly negative) feelings about Sea Otter and because it was A LOT closer. Ultimately, I decided to save my days off of work for later in the year when I knew I would be in much better shape and so I spent the weekend putting in some really good training rides. I'm happy with my decision.
4/11 - Menlo Park Grand Prix - I made sure I got a good warm-up in before this crit as I didn't get a sufficient one in yesterday (I was running behind). On the start-line - just as the rain started to come down, some of the previous men's field warned us about the second turn being slippery. And what happens?? A crash on the first lap going through that turn happened right in front of me. I was sure I was going to go down. But as the two girls who went down in front of me were sliding across the pavement, a very narrow gap opened and I was able to stay upright and ride through the narrow gap. Unfortunately, the group was already away and a few of us chased together, but ended up being two of us at the end. As my twitter post read 'Race report-menlo park-rain-1st lap-2nd turn-crash -chase-pulled-Paris Roubaixin'....yep -sooooo ready for summer'. I've never raced in so much rain before! The next day, my chain was rusted. The rain had cleaned everything off.

Maybe you can't tell - but I'm covered in dirt....and still smiling ;)

4/10- Apple Pie Criterium - I had signed up to do both the women's and men's Pro/1/2/3 crits for training. Again, I did my 'job' as a teammate for the women's crit and unfortunately a skipping rear derailleur took me out of the men's race early (I'd been having issues with this rear drailleur on my race bike for quite awhile, and ironically, it was the only component on my bike after the crash that needed to be replaced - guess it took it's final 'blow). Would have been nice to get the 'training time' in though....

4/2 - Copperopolis - (Written by my Teammate Mary Maroon) - Half way through Lap 2 on the back side of the course, a sole Metromint attacked the field. Nicole, after a brief pause, went with her. After a few moments, Kelly told Mary to bridge. When Mary came to the group, Metromint began to back out of the break. Nicole and Mary worked together to establish a break off the front while Heather P. and Kelly worked to establish the break from the pack . Two other Metromint began to bridge with Third Pillar in tow. This group of 5 began rotations and remained in tact until the last climb. Molly (Metromint) spun up the last climb on lap 2 well ahead of the group. Near the crest of the hill Mary left the break to join Molly. Mary descended the hill and waited for Molly. Some field neutralizations took place and Molly was able to reconnect with Mary on the first climb on the final lap. Molly and Mary worked together through the remainder of the course until the last climb. Molly attacked at the bottom of the hill of the final climb. Mary paced the hill and crested after Molly. The uphill finish was taken by Metromint by just a few feet. The finish was completely void of the tiny tinge of disappointment that can occasionally accompany a second place. Molly and Mary had worked together at Copperopolis a few years ago, struggling together, far off the back. Molly and Mary were both thrilled with the results after a day of good, clean, positive and well mannered bike racing.

(Me) - My experience was a little different. I got dropped on the main climb and then flatted. It happens.

3/27-28 - Topsport Stage Race - I hope this stage race stays around for years to come. Not only is it a tough stage race because they cram three stages into two days, but every single one of the courses are tough. The stage race is held very near to partly on the infamous Copperopolis road race course. The pavement is known for its' poor quality and the winds are brutal if you get stuck out there alone. The time trial course is on a rolling, rough pavement and windy out and back course. At this point, I'd only been training my time trial for a month and the course was very windy. I wasn't surprised by my 'poor' time and am looking forward to better 'times' in the future. The afternoon circuit race is particularly difficult in that it goes up along some rollers into the wind and then you come back to a tight loop into the town sqaure. The road race is done on the 'bowl' of copperopolis - again, crappy pavement and lots of winds. Mostly, I was excited to be there for my team during the circuit race and road race. I was able to cover lots of attacks and was off the front myself during the circuit race for most of one lap of the 5 mile circuit. It was kind of a kick getting time splits from the motto while I was off the front....

3/20-21 - Bariani Road Race and Land Park Criterium
I'm grouping these two together because it was the same story for me both days pretty much. I was really happy about this weekend. I felt 'On-Fire' all weekend with my body really responding well. I was able to be there for my team both days. In Bariani, with one lap to go, I was sitting on Allison Starnes and Tyler's (Luna) wheel while they were drilling the pace. The word came up through the peloton from teammate to teammate that I needed to make sure they didn't get away as Marley was up the road in a break and therefore had a really good chance at the finish. I covered every single attack made by both and the pack came in together just as Marley crossed the finish line for 1st place.

Bariani Road Race Report Written by my teammate Marley Smith - You know what they say about strength in numbers. Bariani was no exception for Touchstone that day. The presence of ten riders at the start line was sure to bring excitement and aggressive riding including attacks right from the start line. Everyone on the team took a part in covering attacks and working off the front with hopes of sending a few riders in a break that would stick. After a quick first lap that saw several accelerations, Touchstone's Gina Lowe joined a group of 5 riders for the first significant break of the race. After reeling in the break, the attacks and counter attacks, Carol Irving managed to sneak away with a group of strong riders from Third Pillar, Metromint and Wells Fargo in lap three that lasted until the KOM climb. Marley Smith launched an attack on the climb reshuffling the group and escaping with the company of only two riders, Molly Van Houweling (Metromint) and Cody Graf (Wells Fargo). They managed to work together for most of lap 4 with the pack hot on their trail with the help of Touchstone's efforts from within to keep things at a safe distance for the break to survive. Marley managed to get away from the remaining two riders on her heels again at the KOM climb and gave 100% to the finish line stretch with the group in a mad dash sprint seconds behind. Wells Fargo's Emily Kachorek finished 2nd followed by Beth Newell in third. Other Touchstone riders included Elis Bradshaw (5th), Vanessa Drigo (6th), Nicole Dolney (7th), Heather Nielson, Kelly McDonald, Marian Jamison and April Hamlin.

3/5-6 Merco Credit Union Criterium and Road Race (Criterium Report Written by my teammate Carol Irving) -Good strong racing at the crit on Saturday. It was great to have the Touchstone blue constantly moving towards the front.... a lot of work in a race like Saturday's. I think it was great practice for all of us. Unfortunately, both Rita and I went down in a crunch on lap 38 of 40 so that was quite frustrating. No free lap, thus our day was finished. Sometimes even the best wheels towards the front of the pack have mishaps. Once again, glad not to be the one carried off in c-spine. That was Jerika Hutchinson of Tibco, who was later cleared and released from the hospital. The race was neutralized and stopped for about 10 minutes before restarting and wisely resetting the laps to "5 to go". Ina out sprinted Shelley Evans for the victory, while her teammate Chloe Hosking finished 3rd. Mary popped into the top ten while Elis finished 12th and Vanessa also placed coming in at 18th. Both Marissa and Lil Heather finished with the field.

(P.S. - my nickname is Lil' Heather)

(Road Race Report Written by my teammate Heather Pryor) - The team worked really well today covering attacks from Columbia, Tibco, Colavita, Webcor, Peanut Butter and many more..We only had one crash and Nicole was one of the girls who went down. Luckily she was just banged up a little but nothing serious. Oh ya, and her brand new Zipp wheels did not get harmed! The crashed happened pretty close to the finish so that really broke up the field. Luckily we got Mary up close to the front of the field so she would be in good position to have her way with the sprint. Mary got 5th place!!! I was so excited for Mary and for our team working so well together.

2/27 - Snelling Road Race - (Written by my teammate Mary Maroon) -The wispered warnings from some of the Cat 3 mens field (Brain and John) claimed that the course was riddled with potholes and spikes and sea monsters with shives. (The previous day/mornings' rain was torrential). They must have been scared off by the Masters 35+ because most of that trechery was gone by the time the 1,2 Women rolled out. There was one really fanstastic puddle that made the race pretty fun. The rest of the course was dry and clean and, to be honest, I was really greatful for it. There were still a few crashes that occured that changed the dynamic of the race. Having been sick for a couple of weeks made the prospect of racing for even just 60 miles a little daunting. The first part of the race then, was 'all systems engage'. I took a lot of pride in watching my teammates attack and counter and cover. It was a really rewarding feeling and I wanted them to feel it for me too. After the crashes, somewhere into lap 3, the pack slowed. An affilitated racer was off the front. Half of the remaining feild was made of no more than 3 riders from the same team. The other half was one team. Up until that point, the smaller teams did a fair job of helping each other cover the attacks of the "other" team. At 1 to go, rallying the non allied groups was becoming difficult. The last lap was littered with attacks that had to be covered. With the remaining women we had, we did a good job. On the backside a second brake with 3 riders took. The leadout for the final sprint started well before the last corner and was 4 deep to me. After the first girl pulled off, I rode up a few more feet and went for the line. It must have been a good spot to go from because the other 3 girls did the same thing. I crossed the line in 11th place. While I would, of course, hoped to do better for Touchstone in the rankings, I coinsider the place "not too shabby" considering the circumstances.
(Me) - My experience of this race was somewhat the same as Cherry Pie. Tibco had just gotten done with their team training camp and they were using Snelling as the 'test'. They did the same thing we did for our team camp race in Folsom. They split the team up into 'Blue' and 'White' and every (what seemed like minute) someone yelled out 'Blue!' or 'White!' and one of the Tibco riders would attack. I've never done a race that fast before. I was stunned by the speeds they were holding - 24-28 mph - even up the climbs. I hung in for almost 2/5 laps and then finally got dropped.

2/7 - Cherry Pie Criterium - (Written by my teammate Carol Irving) - April, Elis, Heather N, G-Lowe, Vanessa and myself went to Cherry Pie. Mary was sick... bummer. While we didn't get the placing we wanted, we did walk away with some lessons learned. In a nut shell:
Not so good things: Vanessa got tangled behind a little crash at the 180 going into the last lap-no skin lost, but also ruined her chances for a good finish. Carol's bike was screaming and chattering and dropping chain the whole race which presented some challenges(on the positive, Vanessa always knew where I was), G-Lowe didn't feel good and pulled out in some of the first few laps. Good things: We all walk away with our health Beautiful day-short sleeves, not the usual Cherry Pie wind. Vanessa and Carol were able to stay in fairly good position throughout the race finishing with the front pack. Everyone recognized the importance of positioning and where on the course it was critical... remember the first step is recognizing it. Good experience racing with some fast riders and teams.
(Me)- My experience was that I made a critical mistake. This crit is fairly techincal with some important-to-know-road-conditions and I didn't pervew the course. As a result, I was hesitant on the first lap, which cost me the remainder of the race. Tibco put the hammer down and as a result, myself and others got gapped on the 2nd or 3rd lap and so we chased and chased until the official eventually pulled us. Unfortunately, of the 10 or so of us chasing, there was only myself and two other girls who were willing to work....I tried to attack a few times to shed some dead weight and encourage the other stronger/more willing riders to go with me...but no one would go with me so I just drifted back to the group.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Update-Let the Games Begin

The season is well underway. I had an interesting off-season. I learned some more of what to do and what not to do. Right now, the legs feel good, spirits are high, LT has been tested and the numbers look good. And the best news....Touchstone Climbing Women's Cycling Team already has a 1st place under our belt! We had an awesome Team Camp and we have a huge depth of talent and ability. I can't wait for the season to start...oh wait, it already did!