Monday, March 30, 2009

It's been a loooong weekend.

First of all, racing in Women's B's is awesome! It's so much more fun than Intro, even if this weekend wasn't exactly amazing in terms of results for me. It was, however, a ton of fun and I learned a hell of a lot more about racing.

The three races were down in Philly, so Dad and I drove down early Saturday morning to get ready for my first road race as a B. It was chilly out and sort of dismal, but I was just happy that it wasn't raining, as per the weather report. I wasn't expecting any fantastic results or anything, for a few reasons:
-it was my first week racing non-Intro, so the race would be longer and much harder
-my legs were still pretty beat from the marathon
-it had been a super-easy rest week for me (see above reason), so I hadn't been riding outside or with people all that much (just once with George and Don)
So basically, I wasn't really totally race-ready, didn't have my game-face on, etc. But I figured, why not?

It was a ~12 mile race with a lot of hill, which I loved. Problem was, there was also a downhill with a turn at the end. My nemesis! Chris and everyone warned me, "don't brake on the downhill, be in the front of the pack or you'll have to brake and fall off the pack." Which, naturally, is what happened. This was exacerbated by the fact that I could NOT clip in for almost half a mile. I hate these cleats.

I passed people that fell off of the pack, but there was no one going fast enough to stick with and try to catch the pack. So I kept pushing alone for nearly 10 miles of the race. So naturally, I didn't do great, but I definitely learned that I have to push to stay with the pack and relax once I get there. If I had sprinted up the hill in the beginning to catch them after the downhill, I would have been ok, I think. I need to weigh the risk of blowing up with the risk of doing terribly by no pushing to catch the pack again.

Sunday rolled around, drizzling and gross out and cold as anything. First was the 8.5 mile team time trial, which Karina and I were really excited for. By the time we finished, we were totally soaking wet, but it was worth it. Once again, couldn't clip in for nearly half a mile, which sucked a lot. I think that we work really really well together, and I had an awesome time. The teams were staggered by a minute, and at the finish, we were only 3 seconds behind UVM, who started with a 4 woman team. We didn't do great in terms of results (missed points by 4 seconds!) but I think that we were at a distinct disadvantage, since most teams had more than 2 girls. In all, I think we did great but we can get a lot better. Since a lot of weekends have TTTs now, I think we're going to work on it more.

The crit scared the hell out of me. It's called the Rocket, with only 3 turns. It's only .75 miles long and it's flat. Cornering is still not my thing and it was raining. It was tempting to leave and not race but I decided to stay and get some practice in. I figured I'd do terribly. The race started, and once again, couldn't clip. It took until the first lap was nearly over, so by the time I got clipped in and could take corners fast (hard to take them when unattached to your bike), I had lost the pack. Luckily, a Colby girl had the same problem, so for the entire race, we drafted off each toher, worked together, and started nailing the corners. By the last lap, I took the corner at 26 mph, no brakes. Just flying around them, having an awesome time. We never caught the pack, and I think we should have maybe tried to sprint for it, but it was still a blast. We cooled down together and congratulated each other. I definitely got better at corners, and lost a lot of my fear about them.

After the races, Dad and I stopped and bought new cleats for my shoes. I think they'll help a lot.

So I learned a lot and had fun. And for the first time, I feel confident in my cycling abilities.

Of course, I need to improve in 4 major ways:
1. Mentally: I need to work on not being scared of corners and downhills, and not get psyched out before a race starts.
2. Nutritionally: For the love of God, I need to start eating better! I'd ideally like to drop a few pounds, which is tough while training so much. But I think if I could clean up how I eat, cut out the excessive junk food at night, and start really keeping track of my intake, I could be ok.
3. Physically: I need to recover from the marathon and focus on cycling. I'm going to cut back to 2-3 short runs a week, which should cut down on cramping. I'll ride a lot more though. Group rides, interval rides, and leg weight sets will be key.
4. Technically: Cornering and downhill racing and pack riding still need some serious improvement.

This morning I went out for an hour and did some start and cornering drills by myself in a parking lot at Johnson Park. Basically, I'd start, ride a loop around the parking spots, stop, repeat. Not fun, but necessary. The new cleats make a big difference, as does just taking the time to focus on something like starts.

I've come to a decision about the Half Ironman. I decided to not do any in May or June, but rather, wait until September and do one right near my house, just 2 weeks after the Skylands sprint tri. It gives me time to recover after bike season, start tri training again, get a wetsuit, do open water swims, and hopefully figure out my leg problems. After the marathon cramping debacle, signing up for a half Ironman only 2 weeks after the last week of bike season seems like a stupid idea. But come September, I'll be race ready and totally prepared for it!

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