Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Race Report: 2017 BikeJam Kelly Cup W4/5

Spoiler photo! Now you know how the story ends!
A Veloworks-Spokes Etc. teammate and I carpooled to the race and chatted on the way about how we planned to approach it. We decided to ride mostly defense, with her softening the field with attacks in the early stages then tucking in to protect me and lead me out to a glorious sprint victory. I called it a no-turn crit course as we pre-rode the course, because there were no turns except for a gentle chicane just past the finish line. The pavement was rough with a few major holes (one of which, I swear, I ran over on every single lap). The hazards were all well-marked, though, and nothing presented itself as particularly dangerous or crash-inducing. The final drag to the finish line was slightly uphill, but at a gradient so gentle I could take it easily in my big chainring. And the stretch just past the finish line had that right-left-right chicane around a park shelter then a downhill just steep enough you could really gather some speed.

Twenty-two women lined up at the start. We made note of the wheels we needed to mark--a rider from Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville who won the sprint at Jeff Cup and another from New York who took second at Carl Dolan. My teammate took off from the gun with just enough vigor to string the field out. They gave her space and she got a small gap right away. There weren't many individuals willing to put their noses in the wind to chase, and only a few teams showed up with more than one rider. My VWS comrade wasn't the only one who tried a solo attack, either; there were multiple women who casually floated off the front in the first half of the race.

In between attacks, the pack ran mostly at tea party pace. Digs from a few key players were enough to stretch the field but not break it. The woman from Blue Ridge that we'd marked at the beginning made a comment about how easy it felt--sort of boring! Hmm . . . Maybe the two of us can make things more interesting? With 7 laps to go, my teammate put in a genuine attack up the left side of the climb. I saw the woman from New York and the woman from Blue Ridge start to bridge up together. I knew I needed to mark that move, so I accelerated to get on their wheels. As I did, I looked back and saw that I had also gapped the field--this was it! This was the move! I shouted up the road that we had a gap and to go! go! go! The Blue Ridge rider heard me and dug in, and we both blew right by the other two. I caught her wheel and we accelerated down the back stretch. I heard "15 seconds!" on the next lap, and it grew from there. My breakaway companion asked if my teammate in the pack would disrupt the chase. "Oh yeah," I replied. VWS ladies have become pros at that this season!

As we took turns in the break, I was realizing that my companion was stronger than me. Her pulls were much harder than mine. Trying to match the speed she carried on her pulls was pushing me dangerously into the red. I started calculating my approach to the finish of the race. It was clear by 3 laps to go that first and second place were in our group; it was just a question of who could outwit and outride the other person. I started to ease off my pulls a little bit, trying to conserve some energy for the end. I allowed my struggle to show; I wanted to telegraph that she was stronger than me and I was doing my best. We took turns pulling the hill to the finish line, and I exaggerated my suffering on each subsequent round to project some weakness.

She took my bait and attacked me on the hill coming into the bell lap. I knew I needed to get back to her ASAP, because I didn't want a repeat of Bunny Hop where my breakaway companion completely rode me off her wheel. So I put in what was probably my biggest effort of the day and caught back on just as we started the downhill on the backside. She flicked her elbow for me to come around and take my turn. Haha! No. Don't think so. I just got the lead-out I was looking for.

I knew she was going to have to jump from the front, and she knew it too. It was my race to lose. She started her sprint near the barriers, but I was ready to accelerate with her. I followed her wheel and kept driving around her. I realized at that moment that I'd left it too late, stayed in her draft too long, and wasn't going to get all the way around her. I threw my bike at the line in a desperate (and kind of silly) attempt to get the win, but I did not. The race was already hers at that point and I came away second-best.

I played the game right, just left the sprint a little too late. Ah well. At least I got second in a different way this time! I think this was the first time I've been in a situation where I needed to time my sprint just right to win. I know if I had started my sprint just a little bit sooner, I would have come around her and won. I'm not sure where I should have started it, though, and how I'll know next time. Fortunately, I have this race video that I can review endlessly to obsess over how I could have done better!

I don't think the speed data from my Garmin is accurate. It seems a little high. It's based on the GPS file, not my speed/cadence sensor, because the wheels I was using don't have a magnet on them yet. This is my first try with using the fancy overlays for the data!

My VWS teammate won the field sprint to take third place and grab another double podium for the VWS ladies!

I'm grateful to be on a team where we can have fun with tactics and race plans in the women's 4/5 field--it makes the racing so interesting and fun!

As an aside, if you are reading this race report to decide whether or not you should race this course, I recommend it, especially if you are a beginner. The course isn't technical, the climb isn't steep, the roads are wide enough to move around through a pack, and the vibe is great. The only downside is the rough pavement, but it's not so rough that you need to worry about it; just stay relaxed and keep your head up and you'll be fine. The race (Kelly Cup) is part of a cycling festival (BikeJam) so it has a festival atmosphere with food trucks and an outdoor cafe and crafts and races for kids. Not many road races have an environment that encourages people to hang out and watch after their own race is done, but this one did. I stayed well after my race (the first of the day) to watch teammates race and to enjoy the vibe.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Race Report: Poolesville Road Race

Dirt don't hurt!
Poolesville is one of the longest-running (I think only Jeff Cup has been running longer) races in the MABRA region. It's notorious for a mile-long stretch of gravel repeated on each lap. As you can see from the photo, it was a little muddy out there on Saturday. Muddy, wet, and cold--perfect weather for a spring classic, but a month too late; my brain has already moved on (with the pro peloton) from Belgian weather to California sunshine! I think many MABRA women were in a similar mental space, because only 15 of us lined up to contest the 4/5 race (21 were pre-registered), including myself and 5 VWS teammates. And in spite of the fact that it's May and I expect a little sunshine and a little warmth, I Belgianed up, put embro on my legs, and went with bare arms.

We started neutral until the first turn, at which point two of my teammates regulated the pace at the front. We took turns attacking and countering, while Bike Rack and NCVC chased us back. The RCV racer picked up the pace going into the gravel turn, but everyone took it easy and kept it upright through the turn itself. The gravel had two decent lines, one on the left and one on the right. One of my teammates had done recon earlier in the week and said the left line was better. I followed an NCVC racer up that left line. She drilled the pace and we left the pack behind. Before we lost touch with the peloton, I heard a teammate call out "Flat!" So I knew that VWS was down to 5.

My NCVC companion kept the pace high through the gravel, and we briefly traded turns on the front once we were back on pavement. The pack quickly reeled us in. I looked around and realized that our A rider was missing, so we were down to 4 VWS riders in the pack. My memory gets a little fuzzy around this point, in terms of sequence of events. I know I attacked again at some point and was pulled back. I remember the racing felt hard, and I spent a good amount of time recovering in the back. I remember covering at least one attack.

The critical move came when one of my teammates attacked and got a good gap. A woman from the Bike Rack followed her. Nobody else did, though, and two of my other teammates went to the front of the pack and rode tempo. The peloton let them sit on the front; I think everyone was happy to ride an easy pace for a while. Off in the distance, I could see the Bike Rack rider with a gap on my teammate. When we came through the start/finish line at the beginning of our second lap of three, one of our male teammates mentioned that she had almost bridged up to the break. I was nervous about that; was she struggling? Did she have the legs to stay with the Bike Rack rider? Should we try to bring the break back and try to attack again later?

My teammates started to accelerate the pace on the front at the beginning of the second lap. They weren't chasing the break back; they were trying to shake a few more riders out of our group. It certainly worked! Our group went down to about 8 riders, and some of them were just barely hanging on. The pace picked up again on the gravel thanks to the same NCVC rider, and I stayed with her. Everything came back together on the pavement, and shortly thereafter I felt my handling get squirrely. I had a flat tire. I kept the bike upright and sashayed along as best I could on my rear rim until the sweep vehicle came along to give me a ride back to the start. I cleaned up a little, put on warm, dry clothes, and then headed back to the finish line . . .

In time to see my teammate win! She had stayed off the front for most of the race and dropped the Bike Rack rider on the last corner. A second teammate came out best in the field sprint to take third place. Another multi-podium for the VWS Ladies! Tactically, the real stars of the show were my two teammates who controlled the pace in the pack from the time the break went until the end. Without them keeping the pace slow, our winner probably couldn't have stayed away for over 20 miles with only one other rider.

I was disappointed to flat out and DNF, especially since I felt more than able to hang with that second group for the rest of the race (one teammate described the pace they were setting as "tea party pace"). But I was able to do my job in the first lap and a half, and the result came out exceptionally well for our team. It was a fun day on a challenging course, made more challenging by cold, wind, and wet. Out of 15 starters, only 11 finished--two flats, one broken spoke, and one broken rear derailleur hanger. Pretty epic race, if you ask me!

Next weekend, I'll be heading to BikeJam in Baltimore to race the Kelly Cup. It's a criterium, and I'll be bringing pit wheels so I don't have two DNFs in a row!
Trusty steed after the race. Notice the squishy rear tire.
Trusty steed after a bath. Much better!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Race Reports: Bunny Hop & Ride Sally Ride


I'll try to keep these brief, because there are three!

Of our cat. 4 group, I was the only woman registered for Bunny Hop on Saturday. Ride Sally Ride (Sunday) was the big team-focused race. My plan was to go to Bunny Hop and get as many upgrade points as I could. I want to be able to upgrade to cat. 3 with the rest of my team, because many of them are close! I'd never done Bunny Hop before (it was cancelled last year) but it was on a new course this year anyway. The race organizers had posted a video of the course, which made it look very technical with rough pavement. Many of us were nervous about how the course would play out, especially in a beginners' field with rain in the forecast.

We needn't have worried! The course was fun and safe (or as safe as bike racing can ever be) and it stayed dry in spite of occasional cold, spitting rain. It was in a derelict office park that's now used for autonomous vehicle testing. The pavement was fine, smooth through most of the course with only a few well-marked potholes and seams. The finish line was on a long, curving, exposed stretch that started out head-crosswind and ended with a tailwind past the line. Then there was a hard right turn with a tailwind and a slight downhill, a few sweeping curves into a short uphill, a right-left chicane and a hard right turn, then another gentle turn to the left about 300 m from the finish line. A somewhat technical course, and I wouldn't want to take some of those corners more than three abreast (almost never a concern in the fields in which I race), but it felt safe to me throughout my races.


Bunny Hop Criterium Women's 4/5
Scoping out the competition before the race, I had my eye on a fellow racer from Sticky Fingers. I knew her wheel would be trustworthy where many of the women were of unknown reliability. And I was pretty sure that if we teamed up we could get a gap on the field and stay away.

With so many unknowns in the field, I started the pace off hard to set an expectation for a fast pace. I settled in after the first turn and let the field come back together a little. I looked back to see if everyone was still there. I tried to keep the tempo high and encouraged the front 5 or 6 women to work together to force a selection. That continued until the first preme lap, which I used for it's intended purpose--to create a break! I took that lap hard and won the preme, then kept going at slightly higher than tempo pace to see how long I could stay away. Five or six women came back to me, and we started working together to keep the pace high and make that selection stick. When the pace slowed down significantly on the climb, I attacked across the road and got a gap. Stayed away long enough to get another preme, looked back and Sticky Fingers was on my wheel. Yay! This was what I wanted to happen!

We worked together for the rest of the race. I told her to take the third preme, and we kept our rhythm going until the last lap. I heard after the race that one of the chasing pack tried to bridge up to us and almost made it but blew up and drifted back. My Sticky Fingers compatriot took the front on the last lap, which ended up well for her because she was strong enough to ride me right off her wheel! She gapped me on the last climb and I couldn't claw back before the end. She took the win and I took second place a handful of seconds later.

Bunny Hop Criterium Women's 3/4
There aren't many 3/4 races now that there's a women's 5 field. I took the opportunity to double up and try to pip another upgrade point or two. The 3/4 race had only 6 women, with a few apparently scared off by the wind and the rain. My plan was to sit in and do as little work as possible, since I already had one race in my legs. Sticky Fingers had two racers, but everyone else was there as a single; no teammates to work for us!

As a result, the pace was really slow. No one wanted to burn matches on the front to keep it high. On the first preme lap, no one even bothered sprinting; the woman on the front of the bunch accelerated slightly and no one tried to come around her. She took the preme comfortably.

I didn't have high hopes for winning the race, so I took a gamble on the next preme lap and sprinted from the 200 m mark. No one else came with me, so instead of sitting up after the line I followed the advice of the crowd to "Keep! Going!" I had a massive gap! I drilled it for another lap then tried to settle into threshold. I don't think I'm very good at judging what that is, yet; I think I end up going too hard and running out of steam.

I stayed away for a few laps before an RCV rider bridged up to me from a gap of 7-ish seconds. I slowed down a little until she caught my wheel, then drilled it to pull away from the chase group again. Unfortunately, I drilled too hard, and couldn't catch her wheel when she pulled through. We both drifted back into the pack. I sat on the very back of the bunch and waited for a good opportunity.

The pace was still pretty slow on the last lap. I'd planned to attack after the chicane, where no one was pedaling because they were preparing for the next turn. There wasn't really room, though, because we were so spread out. So I stayed in the back and waited for someone else to jump. I'm not sure who jumped first, but I held back for a few extra seconds and then stood and accelerated, surfing wheels to come from 6th to 2nd. Podium number two for the day--a double double!

I enjoyed this race so much; I can't say enough good things about what a terrific crit Artemis Racing put on. I recommend it to everyone for next year!

Ride Sally Ride Women's 4/5
This was our big team race. We had 5 cat. 4s in the field and a solid race plan. The course is an office-park crit with three right-hand turns and two little stretches of elevation gain. It was cold and windy on Sunday, with a strong headwind after the first turn, a cross-headwind after the second turn, and a powerful headwind with a slight downhill on the finishing stretch.

We began attacking from the beginning, opening up gaps and forcing everyone else to chase. Every time they brought one of us back, another would attack. Meanwhile, our A rider was staying sheltered in the pack. I got in two good attacks, one of which prompted a bridge from a Rock Creek Velo rider. We traded turns for a long time before the pack brought us back.

On my second break, I was afraid I might actually stay away! As I came around with 10 to go and then 9 to go, spectators were shouting that my gap was growing and the pack wasn't working to bring me back! Besides the fact that it hurt a lot, it wasn't the plan for me to stay away! I was glad to see a teammate blow past me with 8 to go. I heard people shouting for me to grab her wheel, but I didn't have the strength and drifted back to the peloton.

Another teammate bridged up to the first, so we had two working together off the front. The three of us that remained stayed positioned to disrupt any chasing efforts, then came together with 4 laps to go. I confess I got a little excited and started ramping the pace up too soon, with 3 to go. Patience, Jamie! With 2 to go, our A rider was on my wheel, and I was on another teammate's wheel. She drilled the pace for a whole lap and started a second before pulling off. Our A rider shouted to me "GO! GO!" "Wait, what? Don't GO?!" I replied, because my ears had stopped working and my brain had turned to jelly. "GO! GO!" she said again, and so I did. I buried myself right up until the final turn, going as hard as I possibly could and shouting my body down when it asked to stop. I pulled wide out of the final turn and our A rider came past me with open road in front of her. She took the bunch sprint to complete a clean sweep of the podium for Veloworks-Spokes Etc.

As fun as it was to stand on the podium and win some premes, I had an even better time working together with my team. We executed our race plan to the tee and brought home a great result. I ended up in 7th, and my other teammate in 11th, but really we won the race. It was a marvelous team victory, some of the most fun I've ever had on the bike. I'm so grateful to be part of an awesome team!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kit Review: Pactimo rain jacket and changing kilt

Today I'm introducing another kit review (you can find my previous kit review of the SheBeest Petunia bibs and Divine jersey here), this time of the Pactimo Ultra-Lite Women's Rain Jacket and their Quick-Release Changing Kilt. I bought both of these items with my own money; this isn't a sponsored review (although if anyone from Pactimo is reading this and wants to send me stuff to try, I will not turn you down!). I purchased these items from Pactimo about 2 months ago. Since then, I've had the chance to use the rain jacket twice, once in heavy rain, once in light rain, and the changing kilt half a dozen times.

Pactimo Ultra-Lite Rain Jacket (Women's)

This rain jacket keeps water out, which is its primary function. It breathes better than most of the rain jackets I've used in the past, but it still gets very sweaty inside. That wasn't so bad in cooler weather, when I had a layer of warm fabric between the jacket and my skin. But now it's warmer, and the material clings to my arms and exacerbates the sensations of heat and sweat. A few weeks ago, when our team ride ended up feeling more like a team swim, I ended up taking the jacket off because I got so hot; I wasn't sure if I would get wetter riding with it or without it. I got much wetter riding with it, to the point that my jersey was flapping at my armpits, it was so saturated from rain. So I regretted taking the jacket off. I didn't realize how much it was contributing to my comfort until it was gone.

The fabric of the jacket is thin and crepe-y, almost crinkly. The fit is very flattering for me. I didn't notice the jacket flapping down hills or at high speeds. The tail of the jacket is long enough to reach halfway down my hips, and has a silicone gripper to keep it in place. That keeps the jacket from riding up, but it also makes it difficult to access pockets when riding. I got the clear model so that I can use it for racing (that way you can pull the jacket on and officials can still see your number through it), but I think I would only use it in very heavy rain, or if the rain is cold enough that I'll be uncomfortable if I get wet. For light summer rains, it will probably be easier to suffer through the wet, especially since my races aren't very long in duration.


Pactimo Quick-Release Changing Kilt
I feel ever-so-slightly silly for spending $30 on what amounts to a very nice towel (or one of these), but I really like my changing kilt. The material is light and airy. It feels high-quality. The hook-and-loop (that's the generic term for Velcro, if you didn't know) makes it adjustable. It has a silicone gripper along with the elastic waistband for comfort and so it doesn't fall down and embarrass you. On that note, be careful on windy days with this product. Learn from my mistakes.

The silicone gripper may be gimmicky, or overkill, or the kind of thing that a brand puts into a product to make it appeal to cyclists who could easily wrap a towel around their waists and change that way. Maybe I'm a sucker for buying one. But I love mine and use it at every single race and would walk around in this and nothing else post-race if I thought I could get away with it.

Overall, I'm impressed with the quality of Pactimo's products. I like the fabrics they use; I like their attention to detail; I like the teams that they sponsor; I like that they offer so many products that are cut for women (most companies just have a unisex rain jacket, which will inevitably flap around my narrow shoulders and ribs); and I like that they've structured their minimums for custom orders to be especially favorable for mixed-gender teams. They seem committed to quality, with a manufacturing defect rate well below the industry average. They also have 5-piece minimums for custom orders, so if you want to get your own fancy skinsuits or jerseys with a custom design, or if you have a particularly small team, that's a low barrier to entry for customized kit.

Two other things they do that I appreciate are a loyalty program and custom content. Their Pactimo Rewards gives you points for purchases, for referrals, for liking them on Facebook and following them on Twitter, for writing reviews of their products, and as a little gift for your birthday. Those rewards add up pretty quickly, to the point that I was able to get $20 off on my first purchase just for committing to follow them through social media and e-mail. Without that discount, I may have been less inclined to give their products a chance. They also have  a library of articles, videos, and podcasts related to cycling and triathlon. It includes coaching and training tips, beginners' guides, and interest pieces. I appreciate that they're creating content to help people learn and improve, as well as high-quality products for sale.

I like this brand. I support it. Pactimo comes off as serious and committed without taking itself too seriously. I appreciate that they are going out of their way to have a two-way relationship with their customers; they don't just make and sell quality merchandise (lots of companies do that), but also seem genuinely committed to creating value within the cycling community. I like that. I'm looking forward to purchasing and reviewing some of their shorts and jerseys in the future.

Monday, April 24, 2017

General update (because no races this weekend)

In MABRA land, this weekend is normally reserved for the Tour of Page County. It was one of my favorite races last season! Unfortunately, the race organizer had some personal issues arise earlier this year and wasn't able to put on the race the way he would want it. It will be back next year, but in the meantime there was no road racing for Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. this weekend (although a contingent did the Leesburg Baker's Dozen mountain bike race).

Since I have no race report for you, here's a few notables from this week:

The Whole 30 thing is going well, or at least pretty well. My cravings have come and gone in waves: day 3 I madly wanted bread; day 5 I longed for cheese; over the weekend I wanted a cold beer. I've probably been eating much more fruit than the program intends, but I'm also doing more and more intense exercise than the program prescribes. January would have been a better time to do this. I didn't feel I needed it back in January, though; I was moderate in my consumption over the winter holidays.

Anyway, I eat lots of fruit and lots of dried fruit and lots of bananas and lots of potatoes. I also found that some of the Clif energy food packets are okay for me to eat (no added sugar, no grains). They're effective and tasty, but have the consistency of baby food--it's a little weird. And they don't pack very many calories for the amount of space they take up in my jersey pockets. They provided a nice break from dried fruit, though.

Since I was traveling last weekend and I didn't feel like doing an 8-minute FTP test early in the week, I took an extra recovery week last week (the week before Easter, that is). I picked up where I left off this week, starting with the FTP test on Tuesday. I thought my FTP wouldn't increase by very much, since I'd had two weeks off, and the structure of my training had been spotty for a week or so before that. I surprised myself with an increase of 23 watts, though, which is a little over 10% of my previous FTP!

I could feel my new strength on this weekend's team rides, too. There were hills that we've climbed many times together as a team where I was able to hang and couldn't have before. I'm holding wheels that I couldn't have held this time last year, or even two months ago. My training is working, it seems! On Saturday's ride, I felt particularly strong. During Sunday's ride, my legs were a little overcooked, and I faded towards the end of the ride. The first half of the ride was ideal tempo training, though. I have one teammate who rides so steady, it's almost like motorpacing!

I also broke down and bought a Gatorade on Sunday. My legs were starting to cramp. It seems like the dried fruit wasn't quite enough for both hard rides on back-to-back days. And I'm not sure I'm going to make a whole 30 days (heh, whole 30 days) of this. I'm getting really tired of potatoes and bananas! But don't worry, Mom, I'm eating a lot (really, a lot); just not eating certain things, or drinking any alcohol.

From Carl Dolan (April 9) to Bunny Hop (May 6), there's no racing for me. There is a road race next weekend (American Velo Club's Road Race), but I have to go to a chemistry lab instead. That's a whole month with no racing! I'm getting antsy!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jamie's Diet

You guys. I'm trying Whole 30.

You guys.

Why am I trying Whole 30? Is it because it's a trendy thing that's popular on Pinterest right now? Because I'm a very trendy person. I'm hip to all the latest things.
I'm doing Whole 30 because I haven't felt entirely well for the past few months. I haven't felt bad, or sick. But I haven't felt my best, either. I've had too many moments where I finish eating (or drinking) something and I feel . . . icky. I was much more in tune with how I felt and my body's response to food, exercise, and my environment a few years ago. Partly it's because I don't do as much (or any) yoga and meditation, so I'm less in tune with my body in general. But I've also gotten to a point where I pay less attention to what I eat (and probably too much attention to how much of it I eat). And I drink too much. Whole 30 is my attempt to redirect some of those patterns.

What is Whole 30? If you haven't read or heard about it already, it's a pretty strict clean-eating regimen that lasts for only 30 days. It's also a registered trademark (except they spell it Whole30), so hopefully I don't get in trouble for this post. Like most trendy diets, it was "founded" by an attractive health/fitness professional (Certified Sports Nutritionist, probably also a registered trademark) who's good at self-promotion but whose qualifications seem to consist primarily of being certified, having written a book, and being a keynote speaker about some things.*

In general I'm skeptical about such eating plans (diets, that's what they are; let's call them diets). They are featured in the New York Times or whatever and everyone and their cousin does them for a few years, then they fade into obscurity. Remember South Beach Diet? Or Beach Body? Or Weight Watchers? Testimonials aside, there's little evidence that these diets do anything long-term, and they tend to rely heavily on pseudo-scientific concepts like "detoxification." In short, I think things like Whole 30‒ways of eating that have their own websites, apparel, and affiliate programs‒are silly.

So it's hilarious to me that I am trying it.

Silliness aside (or rather, my perception aside), it's not like these diets have nothing of value to contribute. They work for people, although maybe not the majority. Whole 30 focuses on eating moderate portions of real foods: meat, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies, some fruits, and lots of natural fats. During the 30 days, you eschew grains, legumes, dairy, all added sweeteners (no artificial sweeteners, no honey, no maple syrup), food additives and preservatives, junk foods, and (most importantly for me) alcohol. No cheat days allowed.

Except that I'm going to give myself the option to cheat on race days. In fact, I'm making a few modifications. I imagine (some people will say) this makes it not Whole 30 and I'm not truly committing to the plan and that makes me a weak-willed person. Whatever. This is my body and my lifestyle and I need to modify the plan so that it fits for me.

In addition to eating what I want on race days (only if I have the chance to go hang out with teammates and friends after the race), I will also continue to use Skratch hydration mix, which has added sugar, during races. I won't be using gels, though; instead, I'll be using dried dates and prunes for ride fuel. And I'll probably be eating a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes over the next 30 days; without them, I don't think I'll take in enough carbohydrate to fuel my cycling training.

That's my plan. Whole 30 for the next 30 days, with a few modifications for the amount of exercise that I do. Training and racing will proceed as normal. I'll track the effects of the diet in my training log, including my reactions to foods as I get more sensitive to them. And I'll share my progress and results with you.

*I realize this is the pot calling the kettle black, since I make my living as a certified fitness professional of questionable qualifications. Headmistress Hartwig, I'm just joking. Please don't sue me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Race Report: Carl Dolan Memorial/Howard County Library Spring Classic W4/5

These are the best "podium girls."
I got to be on the podium! Whee!

Carl Dolan was a nervous race, last year. There had been crashes the year before (lots of them, with many injuries). The women's fields, which started out separated by a minute, ended up coming together into one big pack when the women's 3/4 field caught the 1/2/3 field. Rather than neutralizing the fields to keep us separate ("Sort yourselves out, ladies!"), the officials allowed us to race together. It was messy, and stressful, and didn't end well. I think everyone managed to stay upright, but it wasn't one of my favorite experiences ever. And I was taking things way too seriously, so much so that it wasn't fun for me (or anyone else). As a result, I was nervous about Carl Dolan.

But I needn't have been! DC Velo, the club that puts on Carl Dolan, went the extra mile to mark road hazards and fill in pot holes. The officials gave us 90 seconds between fields instead of 60 seconds. And when the 1/2/3 field threatened to lap us, the moto officials stopped us and let them go by, rather than allowing us to all come together.

Perhaps more importantly, the positive racing environment that I felt at Jeff Cup continued for this race! Maybe it's because there's a critical mass of us that know each other well this year; maybe we're all more experienced; maybe it's down to smaller field sizes than what we had last year; I'm not sure why it feels so much better, but I think it's bigger than my own attitude and experience. I hope everyone feels as welcomed and supported in our 4/5 races as I feel.

Anyway, the race.

VWS had two women in the 4/5 field and two in the 1/2/3 field. The fields were separate, though, so we wouldn't be working together. That left the two of us vs. the peloton. We made a tentative plan as we warmed up, but mostly agreed that our goals were to ride safe, ride smart, and enjoy the racing. Carl Dolan features a two-mile circuit with one big climb going up to the finish line and one fast-ish descent going into a hard right turn.

Our VWS plan was to stay near the front and ride heads-up. There were attacks from the beginning of the first lap, which we took turns covering without needing to communicate very much. I looked around periodically to check and make sure my teammate was nearby; I knew if I didn't see her, I might need to cover the next surge. We tried an attack at the bottom of the sharp right-hander, riding off of our awesome cornering skills (I don't think they're that much better than anyone else's, just to be clear). But everyone attacks there, and nothing was going to stay away from that point.

There were a few surges up the hill where I had to dig deep to stay in touch with the peloton. I felt myself sliding to the very back of the pack multiple times! I attacked over the crest of the hill at one point, and stayed away for . . . not very far. Maybe the first quarter of the lap? That was the third or fourth or fifth lap; I'm not sure. I have footage from my GoPro, which I will consult (and post!). I don't remember the details of the race very well; it's all foggy in my brain.

On our eighth lap of ten, the moto officials warned us that we might be lapped and that he would keep us to the right so the 1/2/3 field could pass us. We waited and waited for them to ride by, but they slowed down just enough that they weren't coming by us. Finally, the moto pulled us over into a driveway to let them pass; his concern was that they would finally come past us right at the finish line, making a huge mess as two fields tried to finish uphill with riders attacking too soon and dying and other riders coming past them . . . It was a good choice, and I'm glad they made it. I know there were people in my field who didn't like the choice, but I was very grateful for it.

As a result of the neutralization and because we'd been lapped, the moto told us that we would come around and get the bell. In other words, we would be on our last lap after we crossed the line again. I expected very hard riding as soon as we got going again. And, just to make sure the riding was hard, I put in a hard dig at the sharp right hander (yes, where everyone attacks and no one stays away). I got caught on the climb, and managed to cling on to the pack as they came by. Then I re-positioned towards the front (but not on the front) of the pack and determined to sit in until the last possible moment.

On the back stretch of the final lap, an NCVC rider attacked. It was a good place to attack, too! She got a sizable gap on everyone, and no one seemed very motivated to chase; NCVC certainly wasn't going to chase down their own rider, and my teammate and I were both content to let the other, larger teams do most of the work to bring it back. I sort of expected her to blow up on the final climb, anyway. A Sticky Fingers rider and a Bike Lane rider did most of the work to keep her within reach.

Then we came around the last corner, and I can't remember much. I think I tried to stay out of the wind. A Phase Cycling rider attacked way too early, but I think that was part of their team plan. I remember coming around her as she faded. The pace was hard up the hill. I was barely hanging on, but I knew the pain would be over soon. I found my teammate's wheel and thought, "Oh! This is perfect! This is what we're supposed to do at the end of races!" I was hoping I could find an extra gear at the top of the hill and pick up places, but it was clear by the time we came in sight of the finish line that the only person I would be able to pass with my deteriorating legs was my own teammate. I counted the people in front of me, and estimated that we'd finished fourth and fifth. And that was a good result.

Turns out that one of the riders I counted was a leftover from the 1/2/3 field, though, and the two of us got third and fourth! We both got to stand on the podium together and represent our team. That was a really great, exciting result. We rode smart, we made good choices, we worked together without even having to talk to each other, and we both ended up on the podium. And we had fun!

I wish I could have had more left after that final climb, but I considered it a victory to make it up the hill in touch with the group I was in. Even without a final kick to the finish, I felt like I gave 100% in the finale. I'm very happy with my personal results and our team results on the day. We also had a fourth place in the men's masters 35+ and a fifth place in the women's 1/2/3!

And we had fun!