Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Century Ride

Last Saturday, David and I did one of the days of the 5 Days / 500 Miles through Spearman Expeditions.  It was my first 100 mile ride.  I followed a training plan that I had found on line and rode more bike miles than I ever had in my life during those months!

I wasn't sure, when we got up, if we would be able to ride or not.  There was a noisy thunderstorm that had moved through around 2am and sort of stuck around.  By the time we got to the starting site, the rain had died down and it was cool and just a little windy.

The first 30 miles was under an overcast sky with just a few little rain drops here and there.  There was a pretty good head wind as we headed south, but nothing that we're not used to here in Nebraska! Even though we had ridden much further in training, those last 10 miles before the stop seemed quite long.  Though, I've learned that there is a point where your body succumbs and things take a turn for the better! First SAG stop in Firth.

A gentleman noticed my Sheclismo team jersey and asked how Sydney was doing. Sorry, I didn't catch his name - but I told him that she was still kicking ass, as usual! :)  I also had another person recognize me from the article that I was in in the Omaha World Herald.  Talk about feeling like a rock star!  What a couple of great pieces of encouragement!

As we headed out from Firth, we noticed the clouds looking angrier but pedaled on.  There were two riders in front of us and pretty soon one of them turned around!  We wondered if he had mechanical issues...but it seems he just had better radar to look at...because a few miles down the road, it started to pour rain.

For five miles we got pelted with rain so hard it stung our cheeks.  We soon lost sight of the second rider in front of us, but never saw her in distress.  We saw her later and she had taken shelter behind a building.  The rain was coming in sideways and the wind was horrific.  I prayed a lot.  I tried to just keep sight of David in front of me and not get blown off the bike.  I felt doubtful that I would be able to carry on much longer, and then it stopped.

When we stopped for a train, another couple caught up to us.  We rode the last 10 miles to the lunch stop with them, chatting and pedaling.  Mark and Laurie were really cool - they have 5 kids and were riding all 5 days of 100 miles each, one for each child!  Totally AWESOME!!

The next stop was at about 60 miles in Filley, Nebraska. We were both totally soaked, and it was a good time to sort of re-group.  Knowing there was a chance of rain, I had brought a change of socks...I know I was thinking like a runner, but wet socks = disaster in my world.

After lunch, we headed toward Beatrice and God turned up the wind and brought out the sun!  It was sort of like riding in a clothes dryer.  But who's afraid of a little wind, right?  I admit, I was cussing a little by that time.  Really, with the wind...REALLY??  We dried out quickly and by the time we headed north, the wind was SSE and was more of a cross wind than a head wind.

In Beatrice I took a little tumble when I couldn't stop soon enough on a narrow passage.  David warned me, but I just couldn't stop soon enough and ran into him, dumping my bike a little to the side.  My right knee and elbow took a small hit.  Another rider came up behind us and led us through Beatrice on some less traveled streets.  Outside of Beatrice about 5 miles from the last SAG stop, I blew a tire.  My husband is the best at changing tires - I rarely get practice.  However - I did spend one afternoon a while back taking off tubes and tires to teach myself how to do it.  After all, I am a Woman Taking the Wheels

We stopped in Cortland long enough for a refill of water and a pit stop.  The folks at the SAG stops were so fantastic.  They were encouraging, and positive, I really felt like they wanted to see us succeed.  The last 15 miles were really tough physically, but easier mentally because we knew we were on our way home!  I have to say, this ride was harder than I thought it would be.  Our total ride time was 7 hours, but with all the stops it took a bit over 8 hours to get back to the start.  My bike computer registered 107 miles.

At the end, we were presented with beautiful medals by the race coordinator, Stephanie.  It was such a good feeling to do our first 100 mile ride.  Three months ago, I couldn't have done this ride.  But, I trained for it and completed the challenge.  Wearing my team jersey helped me to identify myself with success.  My fellow Sheclismas are strong, capable women, and each time I ride I feel like I am to!

Here's to many more miles!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Time Trialing with Team Solidarity

We made a team executive decision to vote with our feet (wheels?) and register for the Nebraska State Championship Road Time Trial en masse. Sunday morning, 6 strong and beautiful Sheclismas hit the pavement in the so-called "race of truth" -- 24 miles, solo. All photos courtesy of Dan Farnam.

 Of course, we at Sheclismo World Headquarters all know Sydney Brown is the fastest woman in Nebraska, but it was nice to have her bring home a medal for the team proving as much. She cranked it out in one hour and 47 seconds. So sleek and fast.

Emily Hoesly, who came into the cyclocross scene last fall, joined in on the team spirit and made it across the line our fastest Cat 4 in 1:11:07.

On my shiny new road bike, I was just 40 seconds shy of Emily's time, with 1:11:51. More on that new bike and my experience on my blog.

Allison Hunt came back to the road after a bit of a hiatus, and we're stoked she's rocking our kit. She came through the line in 1:14:21.

Newcomer Emily Grace, who's really the one responsible for getting us all to sign up -- she wants to try a bit of everything before she leaves the States for graduate Physics research in the UK -- threw slicks on her beloved Kona Jake and cranked out the miles in 1:22:43.

And Sara Nispel, who jumped in to register at the last minute, rocked her first time trial in 1:24:02. Note her amazing bar tape style.

Mega-awesome site planning by Greenstreet Velo -- we got to shower in the Yutan High School locker room. My goodness, that was welcome.

In true Sheclismo style, we celebrated our accomplishments with a little Bulleit. Bring on 'cross season...we're ready.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sheclisma in Italia

While on vacation with me and my parents in Italy, Noah was amazing about going to yet another museum or church to see yet another piece of art.  Both of my parents are history majors and all three of us took (probably too many) art history classes in college.  Italy is like Mecca for people like that.  Noah's type of vacation, on the other hand, is much more focused on spending as much time on his bike or running, enjoying the scenery and bike handling challenges that places like the Pacific Northwest or the mountains have to offer.  However, he finally got his once we got to Florence and spent a day riding through the Tuscan countryside. 

This was probably the longest and definitely the hardest ride I've been on, but also the most beautiful.  We started our day in the bike shop (Florence by Bike-go to them if you find yourself in Florence.  They were one of the few shops that had frames big enough for Noah, and had quality rentals, and  many English-speaking employees.) The guy working the cash register that day looked at us and asked, "Are you fit?"  Do you like climbs?"  Just looking at Noah, the obvious answer is "yes" and that must have been enough because he then proceeded to draw us a route that he said was "his favorite."  Once he'd started, I knew he wasn't just saying that-he talked us through each climb and descent, detailing how at this spot we'd "feel like our front wheel was climbing while our back wheel was still descending" or how "you can turn here and cut your trip short if you're tired, but really, you must ride all the way to Radda (town). They say Greve (another town) is beautiful, but Radda is the juicy part of Chianti."  "Your computer will say exactly 99.9 km when you're done..." (End of the ride, Noah's actually said 115-we got lost a few times).  As he talked, he got more and more animated and both Noah and I were pretty pumped upon leaving the shop.

The first hour of riding out of town wasn't bad-pretty flat and the traffic was surprisingly not scary.  Once we got out into the countryside though, the celebrated "hills" of Tuscany started kicking my butt!  These climbs were hard!  And steep!  And long!  I've never spent what felt like close to an hour climbing to then descend in a few minutes.  And then do it again!  I was struggling enough that Noah was worried I wouldn't be able to make it all the way out and back.  I insisted that I could do it, that I'd probably just keep getting slower and slower, but this was our day to ride bikes and I was going to ride my bike!!!   He said he'd trust me, but I knew he was nervous.  And stayed that way until we'd done about 75% of the ride.  Luckily for us though 1) the hardest climbs were at the beginning of the ride and got easier (we didn't know that until later), and 2) this was the day I finally heeded Noah and countless other riders who have suggested that I quit wasting my energy mashing in a high gear and shift down more often during climbs.  In Nebraska, I could smile and continue doing what I was doing-knowing that I was, yes, probably tiring myself out a bit, but thinking "hey-if this is a harder gear, then I'm working harder and it will make me stronger."  Italy didn't let me do that.  I needed that third, granny gear in front and made good use of it!  And finally felt the difference between how spinning more actually got me up the hill faster and less exhausted.  (versus just not being able to get up it at the beginning when I was trying to conserve that last gear, just in case I really needed it!)

I'm so glad Noah agreed to let me push through the hard parts and keep going because I feel like I learned a lot and, truly, that was the most beautiful place I've ever ridden through.  Although this isn't a race story, it's a story that progressed into pure joy on a bike-and that's what we're all about, right?

and now the pictures (it's a vacation story-you knew they were coming)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ponca Marathon, or You Get Three Different Races for the Price of One

While southeastern Nebraska finally got some much-needed rain Thursday night and Friday morning, up in the northeast, they'd only gotten a trace.

"What if it rains while we're out there," Rafal asked at the start line.

"Unless it's bad lightning, or it really becomes impossible to ride, we're going to keep going," Roxanne replied.

We started the race on dry and dusty trails, nevermind the looming storm clouds and occasional thunder. So dusty, in fact, that right after the upper road crossing on the first lap, I slid out so bad I nearly lost it in the loose stuff. Fun. fast. And through some bad luck for Anne, I'd put a bit of a gap on her, holding it steady by cranking up the climbs on my 1 x 10.

Crazy rooted descent. Photo: Jeremy Cook

Read the rest on Grindcore's blog...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ponca's Revenge: Take a Deep Breath, Face my Tire towards the Trail, and Race Bikes for the First Time

The air was warm and the scent of impending rain filled my nose. I felt metal and rubber underneath me. There was green and brown all around. Mindless race chatter and the rustle of leaves fades in and out of ears. My auditory nerves barely register the vibrations. To my right and to my left, I saw the women who would experience the course with me. The blood began to move faster with in my veins. Each breath shudders out of my mouth. With three rides of experience on a flat course, I was set to race a trail with inclines and roots. Fear kept fighting into my mind. Fear of failure, fear of shame, the fear that keeps us from greatness.

I watch as the other races are released in waves. Finally, it is my turn. We are given a 15 second notice. My hands shakily grip the handle bars and my knees feel weak. I angrily scold myself for weakness. A last the horn sounds and the group takes off. I am trailing behind. The first hill is before me. I perceive the confusions of the riders. In my panic I think of how to get around. I know that I will not be able to climb the hill unless I can build enough momentum to overcome the friction of the incline. The rider in front stops suddenly. I clumsily try to react and frantically grasp at how to dismount. The world tumbles around me and I feel the brush scratch my arms and legs as I roll. I jump up; my cheeks flushed and dart for my bike. I see support staff running my direction. I yell that I am fine. I grab the metal in my hands and run up the hill, determined to conquer the fluttering sensation in my stomach. Once the terrain flattens I remount. My heart is still pounding. I briefly pass the rider in front of me. I succeed in riding a more technical section before my nerves overtake me again. She passes me.

My mind races on how to calm down. I envision that this is not a race. My only concern is to enjoy the ride, to focus on technique. I am aware that I slowly getting further behind. My hands shake again and rounding a curve, I feel the bike give way, and I slam down on the dust. Upon remounting my feet are trembling and I am barely able to click into my peddles. Despite my attempts to be positive, shame slinks into my brain. I am still the little girl who was picked last for every team. The little girl who was told she would never be good at a sport. The girl who secretly cried at athletic failures while watching others succeed at physical feats. With a growl, I realize that today is the day that girl must be put to rest. That girl kept her training wheels on her first bike for 8 months out of fear. That girl trembled when biking on sidewalk next to traffic. That girl felt sick when looking over a high altitude into trees below. I bring myself to center. I remember I am a woman. This woman rides on the street with traffic in rain, snow, ice, or shine. This woman was invited to ride with a team and is wearing her first team uniform. This woman races bikes. I refocus on my technique and notices the beauty of the forest. In front of me I see a jersey. I am not so far behind anymore.

Each stride brings me more pleasure. I take in the scenery. The rain that my olfactory nerve warned me was coming, showers down. The water droplets bring hope and satisfaction. A marathoner passes me with an encouraging remark and a smile flirts with my lips. A few more marathoners pass, each offer motivation. I am really racing! I climb hills, round curves, and take descents. Sometimes I stay on my bike, sometimes I carry the bike. All the while I see the jersey in front. I am never too far behind The fear subsides. My heart now beats only from exertion. I make my final decent and finish the race. I cheer for myself at the end. I know I must celebrate this moment. I have come in fifth, which is last. That matters not. This is still my personal best.

I have learned much from this experience. I have learned that in the future, it is better to have a calmer start and a stronger finish. There is a great deal of training that I still need and technique that must be developed. But I will get there. The next race will be better. I will grow as a competitor. More importantly I have learned about myself. I fought my demons that have threatened my self-perception long enough. I have started to view myself as an athlete. I am ready to race again.

A Few Pictures From the Race

Riding Part of the Course Before the Race

My Precarious Ride to Ponca
(This chair is also responsible for a tumble)

Liz and Me Before the Race
(Thanks for being such a great bike mentor!)

Getting Reading to Race

Liz Post-Marathon and Looking Great!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Omaha Womens triathlon

On Sunday, July 3, 2012, I completed my first official sprint distance triathlon -- a 750 yard lake swim, 12.5 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. One right after the other without a smoke break. I've been training for this since mid January, thinking a new goal might rekindle my lost workout mojo. And, with newfound friends in Sheclismo, I discovered the thrill of biking and well, the thrill of biking. Running just sux. But, I've managed to plod one foot in front of the other and build up to 6 miles without much walking.

Race day was perfect - about 72 degrees, no flaming hail or tornadoes (we had to ditch the first sprint tri in Emporia, Kansas, in March due to tornadoes). The lake water was a balmy 68 degrees. I swam the lake last year as part of a relay team and the water was 58 degrees, so really, this was no big deal. I was surprised at the number of women in wet suits. Wet suits creep me out - way too restrictive and claustrophobic.

I was with Sydney Brown and Laura Kastens, which made it a party. And it was fun to see some friendly faces of ladies I've met through the TNT facebook group and other connections. My mom and my hubby Paul were there for moral support and photography. You can view a slideshow I made from Paul's photos here:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Create your own digital slideshow

We entered the water in 3 waves (or heats as we call it in swimming) at 3 minutes apart. The youngins went first, followed by the not so youngins and then my group - the majestic elders. The water was bracing at first, but the obstacles of finding a gap between other swimmers and literally plowing through gobs of seaweed quickly replaced any concern over water temps. In fact, after about 5 minutes of swimming, it felt great to be in the open water, occasionally popping my head up like a prairie dog to see where the next buoy was. I wandered a bit off course, but set my mind to getting through the swim as efficiently as possible. I relaxed and concentrated on stretching out, rotating and getting past other swimmers without being rude. Nobody likes to be kicked in the face.

After 14 minutes of lake swimming, I successfully navigated the buoys, made it to the boat ramp and ran to the transition area to put on socks, shoes, sunglasses and helmet. I had read a nifty tip about keeping a water bottle at your transition towel to wash off your feet and was glad to have that ready. With clean feet in my cycling shoes, I got my gear on and quickly walked my bike to the orange line. There ain't no mounting your bike before that yellow line. I was in a panic hoping I'd get my shoes into those damn clipless pedals without crashing. Fortunately, they clicked in after a few tries and I was on my way up the hill. Yes, that's right, as soon as you leave the transition area, you get to climb a hill. The first of many. There was also a charming old brick road. Charming if you are walking along, hand in hand, with your sweetie. A teeth rattling, bone shaking portal to misery if you are on a road bike with freshly pumped tires.

It's not that I hate hills. I just hate the ascending half. The descent is pure bliss. I'd huff and puff and pound my way up these things, getting passed by little girls and grandmas, but after rounding the top - I'd crank the gears up, get all aero and zoom past them like a wild Irish banshee (or how I assume a wild banshee might zoom). It was like this for 12 miles - and since it was an out and back route, we had to endure the brick road again, too. I noticed a cyclist down on that segment. She was already being tended to by several people, so I didn't stop, but it looked like a nasty spill. I found out later she'd had a concussion, but was treated at a hospital and went home that evening.

The transition to running is the most fun, if you like to run with cement pillars for legs. And we got to run up that hill right after the transition exit again. I focused on running the right way - on the forefoot rather than the heal and tried not to over stride. Thanks again for that running video, Syd. It helped! iPods are not allowed and that's usually how I get through my jogging, but I understand the need to not have them for safety, and really, my own gasping kind of became its own techno beat.

The great thing about this race is the camaraderie. As women would pass me, as a lot of them did, they always shared a "good job" or "keep it up." I cheered the gals who were already on their way back as I was still making my way to the turn-around.

There is one giant hill to climb near the finish. It was so, so hard to keep going up that hill. I focused on the street right in front of me and took it a step at a time. I was not going to walk. I was slow, but I was jogging. I had just enough left for a rush to the finish line. I could hear a woman behind me and I wasn't going to get passed with just a few yards to the finish. Crossing that finish line was fantastic! It was such a rush. I found Paul and my mom, then Sydney and a few other people I knew. I was keeping my eye out for Laura. I knew she wasn't far behind and sure enough, in a few minutes I saw her make her own personal victory across the finish line.

Every woman who crossed that line celebrated success. Sydney won first in her age group, I somehow managed to snag 3rd in mine and Laura bettered her sprint tri time by 10 minutes! I'd say it was an awesome introduction to triathlon racing. And a wonderful lunch with Laura's mom and step-dad at the Upstream Brewery made it complete. I'm already looking up geeky tips to help me ramp up training for an Olympic distance tri in September.

Sheclismo women rock everything they do!