Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Thank you Kyle for all you do. For being stuck on a ship, spending thanksgiving and Christmas on the flight deck for a steel beach picnic. For working long hours for endless days with not much free time. Sacrifices.

I knew I'd be alone this year for some major holidays, so I had planned a while back to head home over Christmas. Luckily I drew Christmas Eve as a bonus PTO day at work so vacation wasn't totally blown before the upcoming Panama trip in February.

I flew to Phoenix late on the 23rd and stayed with my sister and brother in law. Saturday I flew to Duluth, MN on a cheap charter flight with 1/3rd of passenger being below the age of 6. Birth control. Sat next to a super nice girl from Wisconsin who bought a 2nd beer for me after I'd been kicked non stop since takeoff.

I got the white Christmas I paid for as it had snowed right before I came. [although it has already melted]

Christmas was spent at my parents house. My mom had 26 relatives over for dinner on Christmas day. Craziness for sure. White elephant was the hit of the day. Silly Smith sisters.

Monday we went to Duluth for some shopping, food, and a Christmas light display called Bentleville [after the founder's name]. Pretty, but it's a pretty big use of energy. The biggest steel Christmas tree in North America. Monday was the last night so they had a fireworks show.

The best part was it was free!! Something like this in CA would cost 20 bucks to get into and charge ridiculous amounts for hot chocolate coffee and cookies. Yeah those were free too!! Half way around they had fire pits and gave out roasting sticks with marshmallows!! Did I mention it was free?! Seriously, sharp metal sticks and open flame fire pits and no waivers or restrictions? This cannot be 2011.

Tuesday was spent running, which I'll save for a different post. My parents made a delicious dinner and I got to see my old friend Kelly, who also has a husband is deployed. [to a much scarier place with the Army] I finished off the night spending some quality time with the dog on the couch watching The Cutting Edge.

Writing this from the blogger app on my phone. Excuse the typos. On our way to MSP for errands, friends and I'm flying out tonight. Back to the warmness of San Diego.

Thanks to my dad and mom for everything. I hadn't been home for 2 years and that was too much.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Giving thanks this year to my husband as he embarks on this 9 [now 8] month journey while I get to have the luxury of leading my regular [on land, and in the ocean, but only when I want to] life while he must float in the sea. Not fair. But that is life. And for that I am thankful.

I started writing this at Thanksgiving. That's what happens when your husband is gone. Rather than spending absolutely every free moment with him and "soaking" it all it before he leaves, skipping daily tasks of laundry/cleaning, now every day is full of something else.

That "something else" as of late has been training volume. Which has been welcomed, mostly. Granted, I'm not as diligent as I once was [as an Ironman in Training] now that I'm only training for a half Ironman. But I have a plan and I'm [mostly] sticking to it. Establishing consistency is now a thing of the past, and these base miles are somewhat flying by. I've been adding a bit of tempo work and learning to love Fiesta Island again. I do have a secret; her name is Noko. Without her, this winter training thing would be absolutely crazy, instead of just crazy. Somehow having her on the schedule allows me to peel myself out of bed when it's 39 degrees to head out on the bike. I know, I live in San Diego, this is not normal, nor accepted very well by those of us to have to get the ride in before work. Yuck.
Noko - starting up GWL. Burr. Let the climbing warm us.
Thanksgiving was good. Although Kyle-less it wasn't lacking in family. I drove out to Phoenix after work on Tuesday and had fun with the sis, her hubby, my mom, dad and then grandma+grandpa came for Thanksgiving day. Good food. Great conversation. So good to be lucky enough to have a supportive family. Good tv too, as I don't have cable, so I got my yearly fix of HGTV. [and cherry pie]

I got in a couple of good rides. Went to a local tri shop to ask about any group rides on turkey day. Dude mentioned a ride leaving from a location less than 2 blocks from my sis' place at 6:30am. Okay, sweet! Show up the next morning to approx 250 road cyclists. Seriously perusing the parking lot and there were NO tri bikes. I only brought Kermit. This is going to be interesting.

Road to south mountain. Everyone pulled over, grabbed a rock and started up the climb. I had done the route the day before so I knew what was coming. I started in the back as everyone looked uber serious, "kitted" out, and pimping expensive bikes. We are on a low grade and everyone around me is huffing and puffing. We have barely started to climb. Okay, so I'm in aero and just start passing people. The entire way up. WTF Arizona? This is barely a "hill" in San Diego. Was pleasantly surprised at my performance. And the rock? The faster riders are supposed to grab bigger rocks to even the playing field, and chuck the rock at a designated spot on the way up. Okay. weirdos.

Ride back was a Men's Cat 5 crit, without the cornering. It was kinda fun, till it wasn't. Managed to survive without a crash. Corners would have for sure added to the madness. Turkey day ride. Can't believe it has a website! If Meg stays in Phoenix, I'll have to do that again and remember to bring Cookie Monster.

Thanks to my family for being so understanding of my triathlon "needs" and having Kermit over for dinner as well. Drove back to SD on Friday night really missing my Mr. Driver. Ugh, long drive, but at least I "gain" that hour back on the way home.

Looking forward to more family fun over [white] Christmas in Minnesota. Haven't seen the brother or gramps in a while. Will have to break out the crampons for winter running. [yeah for more treadmill fun!! must prepare my ipod]

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Screaming Barfies

I had a dream. [not a surprise to anyone who knows me.] I was drinking out of moldy water bottles. Like nasty moldy. And I was swearing up and down about how amazing my immune system was, and about how I don't get sick. I had that dream. And I woke up with a sore throat in real life. GREAT! How all my colds start. And it lasted like 10 days. I didn't feel sick, I just had a cold. Runny nose, a little cough, and some sinus congestion. Nothing a bunch of snot rockets by day and NyQuil by night can't handle. It probably didn't help that I raced on day 5. In 52 degree water. In 45 degree air temps. That was the high.

HITS: There is a new triathlon series that had the first race in Palm Springs. I had the itch to race over Thanksgiving and checked out my schedule. I registered over the phone the Monday before the race. I switched my schedule at work [thanks Cory!] to be able to barely squeeze it in. 

Drove out on Friday night after work. Got to the campsite/race venue at 10:00pm. It was freezing. So instead of setting up the tent, I set up camp in the back of the Rav4. Kermit and I had a great night's sleep. Alarm set for 4:30am, as I missed registration pickup on Friday [remember I work till 7pm]. Wake up. OMG it's freezing. I do NOT feel like getting out of my amazing down sleeping bag, taking off the wool long underwear, and putting on spandex. 

Ride my bike over to the race venue. No line. No issues getting my packet. Rack my stuff in transition. Wait until the last possible moment to take off the down parka and sweats. Seriously I was the last person in transition before the race as they were kicking everyone out. The sprint started at 7am, and the Oly at 7:30, so I wasn't in a rush.

I watch the reaction of everyone "warming up" in the water. Not good. I somehow convince myself it'll be good for me, as I always yell at my students to get in and warm up. I may retract that statement for water under 55 degrees. It was more of a cool down than anything. I was wearing my wetsuit, a silicone swim cap,  neoprene swim hoodie, and the race cap. And still my face had never experienced anything quite like it. I'll call it the super duper ice cream face ache. Burr.

Interesting race as there was only 1 Olympic distance wave. Seriously?!! A mass start, this is AWESOME!! Pretty ghetto as the race director without a bull horn just yelled go. And we were off. Found feet. Drafted the entire race. Two loop course where you have to get out half way. Stayed steady with no effort or surges. Just sat in. Felt uninspired, and had no motivation to be the first out of the water, as I didn't feel like putting in any extra effort to go around anyone. 

Swim 20:57. 1st Female

Got on the bike with solid blocks of ice for feet. Literally, feet were chopped off during the swim by a barracuda and replaced in transition with bike shoes resembling rectangle bricks made of ice. Bike computer was dead and I didn't grab the Garmin. Had NO IDEA how much I was pushing or how fast I was going. Apparently there was a tail wind on the way out as was evident by the head wind on the way back. 

Felt like I was in no-man's land on the bike. I think maybe 4 dudes passed me, and with a vengeance. A vengeance of disk wheel mashers. Ate one or two gu's. Can't remember. There were a bunch of 90 degree corners with tons of sand, so I was unable to use my crit skills as I was having to brake hard before the corner. Saw a dude skid out and eat it hard. Course was VERY poorly marked. Almost no cones and I wasn't sure if it was shut off to traffic or not. Almost blew past a turn on the way back as I'm frantically asking/yelling at the cop, sitting in his WARM car which way to go. He ever so nicely pointed his arm in the direction I was supposed to turn. Road quality was crappy farm roads with a ton of dirt. Really glad I didn't flat. 

Bike: 1:10.xx 7th Female. Not happy. Winds affected me more than I wanted them to. Must work harder on Fiesta Island. 

Got into T2 with frozen feet. Still. Even with toe warmers on the bike. Shoved shoes on the blocks. Grabbed a handful of stuff [visor, garmin, salt tabs in tube, gu, and bib number]. Had a juggling contest running out. Here I am fixing the visor. And lifting my heels!!

First aid station had only Heed. Great! My absolute favorite race fluid! NOT! [Hating Heed, Any SDIT race, SuperFrog, etc - seriously not a fan] I looked at my running water bottle in transition and opted out since a) I was already juggling handfuls of crap, and b) they advertised race aid. 

Never trust a first time event. Really, you should just never trust race support. I'm a water drinker. I go through 2+ bottles on an Oly bike course. On my 3 mile technique run sessions at home I have the bottle. I can barely make a brick session without longing for water. I just got used to running with it through my IM training and race that now I can't live without it. And for some reason on race day, I thought I could. 

Feet started to warm at about mile 2. Just about the time 2 girls passed me at the same time. Man! I really need to get faster at running. Work in progress. Anyway, feet were heating up, and it wasn't good. Blood flow began to occur and it BURNED! I've experienced this in my hands, back in my ice climbing days in Minnesota. It's called the Screaming Barfies. Not kidding. Couldn't believe it was listed in Urban Dictionary.  Feet seriously felt like crap. Couldn't lift. Couldn't push. Just kept chugging along. Mile 3 was an aid station with water. Took a salt tab. Feet started to come around on the last lap. Was paying for the early speed. Random dude passed me and encouraged me along saying we had 10 min to break 2:20. Not sure I really cared at that point. Looked back just once and didn't see any ladies. Cruised into the finish line.

Run: 46.22 9th Female. Happy. But the course was short. And I worked hard. Stayed 3rd female OA and 1st AG. At a very small race. But hey, sometimes half the battle is showing up! They have a lot to do in race management and execution, but it was a race. And I felt I needed to race before Panama. Things are on track. It gave me confidence and also things to work on [cough] brick sessions [cough]. 

So that's it. This week was about rest, getting better, turning the corner and starting to build again. Rode Swami's with the big boys yesterday. Today was 10 run miles with Noko and Erin. Another big 2 weeks and then it's vacation! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Going Stag

Luckily I managed to have a date each year to prom. However, for the next 8 months, I'll be flying solo. My crime partner, husband unit, tandem driver, sherpa (and so much more) has left me for the big blue ocean. And I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. After Monday, my head is still spinning. But before I get there, here's a little update (or big) of what I've been up to prior to Kyle's departure:

Vegas: Had a blast in Vegas for our last real vacation before the deployment. Stayed at the Encore and the Cosmopolitan. Enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and yes, we even got 2 days of climbing in at the beautiful Red Rock National Park.

Halloween: Kyle and I had a last minute idea inspired by the bright pink vest I found that day while moving. Chris had a bright blue vest, and the "ice climbers" were born. Think super old NES game. Except we aren't brother and sister, and we actually had ice axes, not wooden hammer majoberinos. We went out in PB and then to another house party in Point Loma before I had to get to bed before my race the next morning.

Fearless Triathlon: got a comp entry from work because we sponsor the event. I was in week 3 of training and had done NOTHING the week before since we were in Vegas [taper right?] and went out the night before for Halloween [read: hungover]. Fearless is a double mini-sprint. [200yard swim, 10k bike, 2.5k run] x2.  Five transitions. Good times. It's kind of like a heart attack [not speaking from experience here] but it gets the heart rate pumping. Second swim is wetsuit-less, and man was it hard. My tri top, although it looks tight, it wasn't tight enough. I ballooned up like a marshmallow during that second swim. I was laughing at myself underwater at how much slower I was going to be on that swim. [It was like 1:30 slower - but for 200 yards - that's ALOT.] Bike and run splits were almost exactly the same. So I suppose that was a good thing. Run course ended up short according to my garmin, but I ended up running my fastest race pace, so that was cool, and the AG win [by 10 min] isn't too shabby either. It's a well run event, and fun because it's different. Try it out next year!

New House: We moved! I know, right before he deploys and right before our Vegas trip. It was crazy timing, but we found a place we love in OB. Sadly Kyle didn't get to enjoy it for very long before he had to leave. I still live with roommate Chris, which has been nice, since I can't imagine living alone right now. But I'm back in OB - after a 3 year hiatus in Point Loma - man the crap a house can accumulate after living in a place for three years. And 10 different roommates later [all in and out and left a ton of CRAP!] Fun times. Pictures of new place to come soon.

Joshua Tree: Got to head up to J-tree for a night and a half day of climbing [before we were rained out - sad]. It was great to be able to be in Kyle's favorite place with him before he left. He even got to sneak up there again on Veterans Day [I had to work].

Saturday was his last day here, since he had duty on Sunday and Monday they left. [duty is every 6 days and requires him to sleep on the boat.] It was a super busy day, dealing with getting his car put in storage, last minute shopping and errand trips, and packing/organizing. Not fun. Oh yeah, did I mention it rained all day? Anyway, after a stressful day, we had a very nice, relaxing, DELICIOUS dinner at a restaurant in OB called 3rd Corner. It's a wine place with yummy food. 

So that's it. Monday was probably one of the worst days I've had. I got in a car accident on the way to go say goodbye. Luckily I have some of the best friends ever. Thank you Dave, Erin, Chris, Chad, Frank, and my Mom and Dad for helping me get through that horrible day with a smile on my face by the end. I didn't think I'd be emotional over him leaving. I'm a pretty level headed person at this point in my life. But the stress of that accident and the fear that I'd not get to say goodbye was simply overwhelming. I did manage to get on the base, and I got that last big kiss and hug. I let out a good cry on Coronado as I watched his boat sail under the bridge and past me - into that big blue ocean. So I did what every dependasauras does and I went for a run and then a swim. 

Tuesday was the first full day. One day closer to his return. Tuesday was get car crap figured out, ride my bike, swim, and organize! I think I'm going to run out of things to clean and organize pretty quickly here. And today, I was back to work. I left my house at 6:30am and didn't get back until 9:30pm, which becomes a typical day for me:
Teach a swim lesson
Get my workout in
Volunteer swim coach for the Tri Club of San Diego
Somehow, all of that adds up to not a lot of free time. But I love what I do and I guess I have to keep telling myself that. Doing my best at keeping busy. 

I love you Kyle. Hurry back.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Married, Moving, Motivation

3Ms on the mind lately [yeah Minnesota company].

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to my amazing husband. We celebrated our anniversary weekend with Katrina + Chris at their gorgeous vineyard wedding on Saturday.

Sunday the celebration began with a torture fest around the Great Western Loop with Erin, Chris, Jake and Bethany. Somehow managed to find the motivation even through a hangover. We continued the celebration by reading and enjoying the ocean at Sunset Cliffs on Osprey Point where we got married one year ago.

I got him a sweet Lego Luke Skywalker watch that is still within Navy Regulations, as there is no way this watch is a "fad." He got me the more traditional paper - Halloween pumpkin cutout patterns. Can't wait to show off our skills on our new deck!

Finished the day by enjoying the deliciousness that is our cake topper. Erin so graciously made us a new cake for our anniversary - and it was just as good as the first time! Good thing I'm back in training!

Week 2 of training is in the books, along with finding a place to live, teaching swim lessons, going to PT [knee is feeling better every time] and work. It's hard to get a chance to enjoy the little moments with Kyle before he leaves in November. Finding the motivation to keep on going has been alright. Hard at times, but if I schedule workouts with friends, then I can't not more of that, please. Anyone in need of a training buddy over the long, cold winter, hit me up.

[fixing a flat on the backside of the GWL; Kyle and Erin were impressed by my self servicing skills - hello I work at a bike shop guys...I really do get up from my desk every once and a while.]

This week is more training, PT, packing & moving! Big stuff on Saturday if anyone would like to help - we pay in cold hard [beer] currency. Heading back to Ocean Beach - just over the hill from our current location. New place is 2 bed/2 bath house with 2 car [=25 bike] garage. Super nice, wood floors, updated kitchen, heater fan in the bathroom, large walk-in closet and amazing covered deck spaces. Pics to come eventually [with pumpkins].

Then it's VACATION!! Cannot wait to get away from San Diego for a bit with my man. Climbing, training and enjoying each other's company - so needed and so precious with the imminent deployment. Thanks for all the wishes. We survived our first it's about "damage control" [kyle's old collateral duty] during this 7-8 month time apart. Rosie better be right - we can do it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Surviving September

Not quite sure how the blog gets so far behind...but with all that I have to report, there just isn't enough time in the weeks to write it all down.

First - Yes, I finished my first Cat 1-3 race. Holy balls. The San Clemente Crit is no joke. Right from the gun [after I fumbled clipping in as if I've never done it before - such an amateur looking like an idiot in her first race] the race was all about survival. A short kicker of an uphill, then a sweeping downhill into a crazy right turn where the road is cantered the wrong way, to a LONG, false flat, into the wind, horrible backside. Couple more turns and it was around to the finish line. I had to now attempt to survive 50 minutes. Keep in mind, I'm used to the 30min FLAT Ontario Cat 4 races, and occasional 40min 3-4 race.

Stayed with the group for the first half, and then some clever team work had Patricia and I dropped and with the back pack with the teammates of the girls in the break. Great, now they aren't going to work to bridge it back up. FML. Patricia and I swapped pulls for the rest of the race. I think 2-3 girls ended up dropping out, but we told ourselves we were going to forge on. We got lapped on the final lap [we had 1 more to go] and they actually let us "finish" that next lap. So it was a successful failure.

Lesson learned [although I knew before the race]: You can't just fake your way through a small field in the Pro 1-3 races; especially without teammates [heck, even that wouldn't have helped.] I had survived the summer racing myself into shape. No weekly rides, no recovery rides. All I did in August was race. Every Sunday. I have to admit, it was fun, especially with the mostly good results. Next season there will be much more to learn [and hopefully more training] but I feel like I've finished this season with no regrets. I have gained confidence on my road bike. Confidence in pack riding. Drafting. Sprinting. Bike handling.

P.S. I love our (my) new wheels.

Second - My knee started bothering me after the Goleta Tri at the end of July. I pushed through it and tried to warm up well before racing, but inevitably would be bothered by it through the races. I ignored it for a bit, but this nagging hamstring, knee thing was bothersome. Went to the docs, got an MRI and basically the outside of my quad is overbuilt and is pulling my kneecap out, so it isn't tracking well. The inside of the knee and hamstring are then being pulled/stretched and that constant movement is grinding away. The inside quad is just plain weak. Started PT last week and those exercises make you feel like a weak weak, challenged, incapable person. Seriously, watching your leg fail epically at what seems like the easiest motion is scary. But that's what happens when you only work your body in one motion. So with multiple doc visits, ART, PT, MRI, X-ray, etc, I've been busy using that good 'ole Navy TriCare insurance that I oh so love. Trying to get the knee back on track [literally] before this Panama training starts to ramp up.

Third - Work. You'd think in our third year, we'd have this stuff figured out by now. I'm talking about the San Diego Triathlon Classic that we are the race directors for. So much crazy last minute, endless night work that I don't have time to write about it all. I can't believe that last year we were moving the shop and putting on a race. This year we were still "moving" the shop, trying to get things looking decent for the expo that we had in our parking lot.
Luckily the race went off seemingly well. Good feedback. It's great to be a part of something that so many people appreciate, but it is a very under appreciated job. I won't go into it.

Fourth - Husband. He's been in and out and in and out. His boat [ship] has been in final workup mode, getting certified and prepped for deployment. He has basically been gone for half a month, every month this summer/fall. It's super hard to get into a routine, only to be torn apart again. He got back the morning of the race [and unwillingly got duped into volunteering/take down, hey at least he got some Stone Beer out of it]. It felt like he just got back, and then he was gone again at the end of September and is still out till the end of this week. Then we'll have a month, and then he's gone before Thanksgiving for seven long months.

Anniversary is coming up. Looking forward to our friends Chris + Katrina's wedding on Saturday and our day on Sunday. No big plans; probably just watching the sunset @ Sunset Cliffs where we got married. [and maybe a bike ride, see next item]

Happy [almost] Anniversary Kyle! I love you.
With all my love, Rachel

Fifth - Panama Training: week 1 in the books. And it wasn't easy. With 2 PT sessions, 4 swim lessons, house hunting and a busy work week, there wasn't much time left for training. Somehow I got it all in. 3 rides, 4 runs and 2 "swims" although with a total of 1500yards, I wouldn't exactly count that as acceptable.

Sixth - Moving. SUCKS! Current roommate Chris and I have been looking for a month and a half and we've only put 2 applications in and for places that are okay, but we haven't fell in love with. We are looking for a 2 bedroom in OB; if anyone knows of anything let us know! My .6 mile commute is soon coming to an end.

Random: IM Kona was yesterday. So fun to track everyone. Especially my 71 yr old student, Susan Norman. She made the swim cut off by 13 minutes. Came in on the bike with 7 min to spare. And in the most Susan-esk fashion, passed her remaining competitor with a couple miles left, and finished with 2:30 to spare, at 16:57, becoming an Ironman World Champion. Couldn't be more proud. Saw her on the live video and it was super emotional with hundreds of people cheering her in.

Lastly: SOOOO Looking forward to our little vacation at the end of October. Location hasn't quite been decided. Thoughts about Ohio/Kentucky for his family and climbing, but we can't find any cheap flights. Also on the list is Vegas for climbing, camping, biking and yes a little strip time. We are still discussing other options as well.

Now that I'm back in full on training mode, the updates will hopefully be more frequent. Since my initial purpose was to track my triathlon journey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bars Bumping

Yeah not so much on the clubbing front, but on the bike racing scene. The announcer at most of the So. Cal events is Ralph Elliot of MGE. On the final sprint for the finish as the peleton rounds the last corner and the racers are ramping up for the sprint he has this super silly quote and I can't use it as a direct quote as it's almost impossible to hear what he is saying:

"Elbows brushing, bars bumping, lycra stretching, knees bopping, and we got a sprint going on here folks!" in this accelerating voice. I know it's not an exact quote, but it's close. And it really describes what happens as the craziness of a sprint finish develops.

Three weeks ago I went up to LA with Lynne who hadn't raced in a while for the Ladera Ranch Grand Prix. It was an interesting course and a bit narrow. I've been used to the wide open spaces of Ontario and got lucky at Brentwood on a narrower technical course so I wasn't sure what to expect. A nice field of Cat 3/4 women but a whole lotta breaking going on through the cornering. The final turn goes into a rounding false flat "uphill [not really]" section to the finish line. There wasn't a really good opportunity to try for a break but I tried anyway to no avail. A couple of other failed brake attempts by other teams [and one attempt at blocking - which is totally legal and I even complimented the girl] but nothing stuck.

Great, it was going to come down to a sprint finish and no one wanted to pull the last lap. I was sitting like 10 wheels back going into the final corner and knew I'd have my work cut out for me. Should've started sooner but I mis-judged how long the final stretch was [thought it was longer] and stood too late. Had to sneak up on the inside, but then found myself in trouble.

Bars bumping. Serious elbow brushing. Unfortunately, one of the riders [well known for lack of handling skills] veered super duper to the right and cut off another rider [Patricia] and myself. Think Mark Renshaw head butting:

Okay, not that blatant, because she probably did it without knowing, but it wasn't nice. And she wasn't the lead out man. Meanwhile I'm trying desperately to come up the inside and Patricia is as well. A spectator had his legs sticking out into the road off the curb while I was literally riding up the curb gutter. Thank goodness he jumped out of the way. I cannot believe we didn't take each other out. I was hanging onto my bars for dear life [evidence from forearm bruises the next day from riding in the drops] and throw my bike across the line.

 Coming up the inside, just before the girl in the center veers towards Patricia and I.

With the throw, I managed to edge out the "swerver." 3rd place. I still cannot believe Patricia and I stayed up.

Best podium yet? Maybe. $50 cash and a straight from the cooler, ice cold, Pyramid Hef.

Two weekends ago I was off to Ontario for my last women's cat 4 race. I had enough points to upgrade after Brentwood, but I wanted to finish out the season up in Ontario. 3:45am wake up calls aren't so awesome, however. Drove up there [without sherpa who was out to sea] got in a decent warmup and headed out for my last 30 min crit. No more faking it when I start racing with the big girls.

This race was different that the other 4 times that I've been up there. Not in the sense of scenery or course [as I've done that course 2 other times] but in the way I felt going into the race. I had confidence. I felt like I was stepping onto the starting blocks of a high school dual swim meet. I guess that's what racing and doing well will do to someone.

The pace was faster than before at Ontario, which made me less nervous, and surprisingly less tired. [I guess I do gain some fitness with all this racing.] My HR was in check for most of the race. One of the primes was a points prime and I went for it way too late, putting in a lot of "almost effort", like not enough to blow up, but just enough to not win. Lost the prime by half a bike and urged the girl to come with me as we had a natural break from the field. Quarter of a lap later, I look back and she's gone and the field is approaching. So much for the break.

I hop back into the field and no one wants to pull. So after a break I'm now leading the pack. Not optimal as I'd rather be resting [drafting] but if no one wants to work, fine I'll sit in front and go the pace I want to go [slow.] Thoughts:

[I cannot wait to upgrade.]

That scenario [I assume] wont happen again. If you start to slow, you'll drop back and the riders to the outside will circle around and life is complete. Or rather the usual cycling of riders and the constant effort to stay near the front and work your way up the sides. All this trying for breaks, break caught, no passing scenario must have to stop at some point.

Anyway, 2 laps to go and I'm sitting 3rd wheel, which I manage to stay in until the final corner on the last lap. I made the mistake of going too late in the previous race, and wasn't going to do that again. So I punch it and I'm gone. I slightly let up as I cross the finish line and learned a lesson [not the hard way] as the junior girl went blowing past me, luckily just after the finish line. Lesson: Don't let up! Everyone knows this! You cannot cruise your way to the finish ever again. All out. Balls out. No letting up until past the finish line. Again, luckily it went my way and the lead was great enough, but seriously. that was really bad on me.
Me sitting up as the junior girl on the left charging. 

Won my last cat4 race, and ended up 2nd in the Ontario Points Series. [6 race series throughout the season]
So I put in my upgrade request, which I think included 29 points or something of the sort. It was accepted, so I decided to race last Sunday at San Clemente with the big girls. A women pro 1-3 race. Yikes. Serious goal? Hang on for 2 laps. Super secret goal? Finish.

Race report to follow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Closet Criterium Racer

So I have this secret life. And I suppose it's not so secret anymore. So I may as well blog about it. It's been going on for a while, so this post is a wee bit long.

I'm a closet criterium racer. I have a road bike. And Mr. Cooke Monster [Parlee Z4] really likes to race. For cheap. And surprisingly more often than Mr. Kermit [Guru Crono], who usually gets all the glory.

Criterium: [from Wikipedia]  A criterium, or crit, is a bike race held on a short course (usually less than 5 km), often run on closed-off city center streets. Events often have prizes (called primes, pronounced "preems", and are usually cash) for winning specific intermediate laps (for instance, every 10th lap). A bell is usually rung to announce to the riders that whoever wins the next lap, wins the prime. Race length can be determined by a number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event's duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race and generally the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been "lapped." Success in road criteriums requires a mix of good technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while "holding your line" on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — and riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional "sprint" ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate hard from corners.

Got it? So I started racing last year, after Ironman. A week after Ironman I did my first crit...and it HURT!! After 6 months of only riding Cookie Monster to work and back and only having trained on Kermit, I was ill prepared. Not that the Ironman fatigue had anything to do with it.

Kyle and I raced a couple more last year but I wasn't really serious about it. I was burned out from IM and needed a break from cycling in general. If last year was about structure and training, this year has been about flexibility and fun. You can sign up for a crit an hour before the race begins! And generally they are between $25 to $35 to enter! And generally they are 30-40 minutes. Sounds like my kind of season.

In cycling there are Categories [Cat for short.] Not Age Groups like triathlon. And no, we aren't racing kittens. As a female, you start in Category 4. Some of the races I did were combined with 3, and in one instance it was a Cat 1-4 race. You can "upgrade" by placing in a race and earning points:

Number of Starters

My results this season:

Date  Race  Place  Starters  Points  Cash/Prizes won
8/7 Brentwood State Crit Championships 1st (45) +5, $80/$20 Prime
7/24 San Marcos Circuit 3rd (11)  +2  $15 (gave $5 to mechanic)
7/3 Ontario Grand Prix 14th (16)  0 Got stuck behind a crash
6/12 Dominguez Hills 2nd/5th (15) (Cat 1-4, non-USAC) N/A Wine
6/12 Ontario Airport Crit 3rd (17)  +2  Medal, saddle bag
5/15 Mid Season Crit (Ontario) 3rd (36)  +3  Medal, Dare Lion
5/7 Barrio Logan Grand Prix 1st (11)  +4 Trophy, Tortillas, $100 GC
4/24 Chuck Pontius 1st (16)  +4  $30?
2/27 Dare to Race GP 3rd (13)  +2  Medal
2/13 Roger Millikan 4th/14th (32)  0 (3/4 Race, scored together) 

So...that's a lot of racing. And a lot of crazy things can happen in a race. Here are some exerts.

Roger Millikan (aka Valentine's Day Massacre) 
I think there was a crash in every category that day. Seriously horrible beginning of the season racing. Tentative, crazy cornering, people not holding lines, crap racing. We had a bunch of Juniors in our race. Usually when the field laps someone, or before, the race official will pull the lapped racer and give them credit for the start. It's a safety thing, and should be done! Last lap, 2nd to last corner. 2 Juniors up ahead. Parents telling them to slow down and get with the pack to "experience a sprint finish" even though they were being lapped for the 2nd time. They take the inside corner rather than moving outside to be passed. Guess who took the inside line? Lynne and I. Slammed on my breaks to avoid taking them [and ourselves] out and then had zero speed out of the corner to attack the slight incline before the final corner. Had to battle. I had the perfect line and was f^*&@#. Crash in Kyle's race during the final sprint and he had to wobble across the line after narrowly avoiding the incident.

Dare to Race [Ontario #1]
A 2-girl break got away and we didn't catch them. I took the field sprint for 3rd. Starting temperature was 32 degrees.

Chuck Pontius
Kyle went up with Chris on Friday night for a road race on Saturday. I had to work and randomly decided to head up to LA after work and race on Sunday morning. Zero preparation and I was just hoping to hold on and finish with the pack. This was definitely a MAX heart rate race from start to finish. Luckily every time I felt I couldn't hold on and was going to explode, the pack would slow up just a bit. With a couple laps to go I was feeling ready. Had a perfect position heading into the final corner and went for it. Ended up 3rd in the 3/4 race and experienced my first Cat 4 win. Check out the video below. That's Kyle yelling dig, dig, dig! I'm on the left hand side in the blue helmet.

Barrio Logan
Awesome course [read: more than 4x90 degree corners] and I had some teammates. Lynne and I were working together the entire race. She'd go on a break, and I'd block, only to have the teammates of the others in the break work at bridging the gap [I'd consider that bad teamwork]. It was a field sprint, uphill [not my speciality] and hard work to win that race. Won a $100 gift card to Acqua Al 2 in a prime, a giant trophy [now prominently displayed at the shop] and some corn tortillas. Check out the MCS Race Report.

Mid Season Crit [Ontario #2]
Learned a thing or two about tire pressure at this race. Racing in the drizzle/rain is not a fun experience. My usual technique is to work the corners, as to not waste unnecessary energy coming out of the corner by breaking less before the corner and pedaling through. Well I pumped to the usual 112psi, and my rear wheel was skidding out of every turn. Had to back off and play it safe. In the largest field I've ever raced with. [approx. 50 ladies, half of which were doing their first race] Crash near the front on the 3rd to last corner [last lap] and it wasn't pretty. Had to slam on brakes and veer around. Got pulled back to the pack with a lot of hard efforts, thus having nothing left for the final sprint. Managed to get around a couple girls, ending up 3rd. And I won a D.A.R.E. Lion in a prime. I believe when I was in 5th grade it was the D.A.R.E. Bear. Not sure what happened to that guy.

Ontario #4
Number 3 for me, but 4 in the series. Getting a little sick of this course and the 7am start time. Went climbing at Malibu Creek on Saturday and headed over to Ontario for the race on Sunday. A slower race, this was mainly controlled by another team. After the primes, teams were slowing for those sprinters. I did a bunch of work trying to motivate the other riders to not let them rest. Was in position at the end, but didn't punch it early enough and the finish was very close to the final corner. Ended up 3rd. Seemingly a common placing at these Ontario races.

Dominguez Hills
Heard about this race at Ontario. Same day, and only 3 hours in between races. Drove over to the coast and had a quick breakfast and warmup before my 2nd race of the day. This is a non-USAC sanctioned race, so no points towards upgrade...just experience racing with the fast ladies as this was a Cat 1-4 race. The race was 15 min longer than Ontario, had actual "elevation" to the course, and still we ended up averaging 2mph faster than Ontario #4 in the morning. It took all I had to hang on to those ladies. Just when I thought I was about to pop off the back, it'd ease up. Then all engines go, again and again. Had absolutely nothing left for the sprint. Ended up 2nd in the Cat 4s which won me 2 bottles of wine! Holla!

Ontario GP #5
#4 for me in Ontario. Did this same course as Ontario #1. Although this time starting temp was 75 and rising. Had a team, Lynne + Amanda there so we were amped to race. None of the efforts really paid dividends and a break got away. I went for it on the last lap, gapping the field, only to get caught and catch on, and then only to slam on my breaks to avoid a horrible crash. On a straight section of the course. I endo'd [slam on breaks, rear wheel comes off of ground], both feet came out of the pedals, and somehow I managed to land back on both wheels, steer clear of the crash, clip in and then keep going. But of course by this time everyone is already gone. I couldn't believe what I saw and I coasted to the finish line. Ugh, almost felt like a wasted morning. Luckily we were on a climbing vacation and headed up to Holcomb Valley [Big Bear] after Kyle's race in 108 degree heat.

San Marcos
Circuit race [meaning the course is longer than 1 mile, coming in at 1.7 miles per lap]. Significant elevation change, advertised as a "big ring climb." Do we have to talk about Rachel's climbing skills? There was no big ring about it, I was shifting to small guy before the corner and spinning [and dying] up that hill. Pey-lih crashes like 2 laps in from someone cutting her off. Next thing I know I see her back in the race a lap later. Tough girl! Next lap after the downhill corner I hear a pop and my chain is hitting my front derailleur cage. Front derailleur doesn't budge. F@*&!!! I'm at the half way point on the lap and the neutral support is all the way over at the start. I limp my way back to the start, and climb the hill in the big ring. Stop for assistance on the hill and get back on after someone bends front derailleur. Was advised to head to neutral support to get my free lap [what?!] and rush there. Somehow in the time it took the pack to get back to the start line the mechanic had basically done a full tuneup on my bike. Apparently the front derailleur clamp broke and came lose. [It's a proprietary Parlee part and has been redesigned since my bike came out.  Awesome warranty department.] Anyway, he was able to patch it up enough to finish the race. There is a "free lap rule" for certain mechanicals that happen before the 3 lap to go mark. I hop back in, and now it's 3 laps to go. Wow, that rest really helped and now I'm feeling guilty. So I pull...for the remaining 3 laps because there is a girl on the break. Hit the last hill and punch it...a little too early. Blow up, but somehow get a second surge of energy to minimize my losses. 3rd in Cat 4, 6th overall, good enough for a $15 payday, and $5 of which I gave to the mechanic who got me back into the race. Oh yeah, I also rode to San Marcos from Solana Beach, where I was cheering for the SB Triathletes in the morning. Nothing like a 16 mile hilly ride to get you warm. What I didn't factor in was the hilly 16 mile ride after racing a hilly crit. The way back was not so enjoyable.

Brentwood State Criterium Championships
So I'm not quite sure how a race is given the State Champ distinction, but I'm not complaining, as it was located only 2 hours could've been in San Fran or something.  So I'm sitting at 17 points, 3 points from upgrading to Category 3. Anyway...There is something to say about the power of positive thinking...and a little luck. Want to know the pre-race meal for a State Champion?

Corvette Diner. Fried chicken strips and a chocolate, fudge, peanut butter, marshmallow malt. Also a bottle of Raspberry Framboise with dinner. Delicious!  Woke up early on Sunday morning [4:30am] and had a green tea and yogurt/fruit parfait from Starbucks on the way. Had a good feeling in the car ride, although I'm sure Kyle didn't notice, as I was little miss super crabby pants. Did a short warmup and headed to the start line of the 1 mile course. 40 min race and the goal this time was to control the race and stay near the front. I had begun to feel some fitness gains from all the racing and triathlon racing I'd been doing, so I knew I could push a little and still be there in the end [hopefully].

The course was super technical with a 170 degree turn and 5 other turns in the lap. Was top 6 for most of the beginning of the race. A prime hit and a girl jumped after, raced ahead, only to take a huge fall charging through the big corner. We were far enough behind at this point to react and miss hitting her. Racing resumes and another break happens...this time I catch on. There are 4 of us on a mini breakaway and I get to the front and tell the girls I'm here to work. End up winning a prime in the mean time. I signal for the girl behind me to move ahead as to ride the paceline and as I move over, she follows. WTF, this is a paceline in a break, do a little work. We get caught and I'm seriously contemplating why I race. I am now trying to recover in the pack and am finding myself in places I do not want to be [in the middle and in the back] I'm working too hard in and out of corners. I hear the Brixton girls saying they need to get something done, so I go by them on the inside and urge them to come on, let's get to the front. I make a huge pull on the backside straight away to get to the front before the next corner and tuck in behind the leaders for a little break. 2 laps to go and there's a crash on the backside, on the straights. WTF! Apparently a girl tried to split 2 girls who were in the middle. Hello!? If you want to move up, do not plow your way through the middle; it doesn't work like that. Crash implodes all riders in the middle of the field. Luckily I have positioned myself on the inside, but I was behind the crash. Slam on breaks, and the girl in front of me unclips and is on the median to the right of me. Other girl in front of me is slowing and almost doing the same. Crash is to my left. I have no where to go, and I'm yelling at the girl in front of me to keep pedaling!! The front of the pack is long gone and I've almost lost hope. Until this junior girl [who had been racing to the front and dropping off the back all day, zoom/drop off] races past me. I hop on her wheel and enjoy the free ride back to the pack.

Reach the pack. sit in. 1 lap to go. Breathe. Easily move my way back up the back as I'm using the corners to my advantage. I think the pace was a bit slower than usual having just witnessed a crash. I notice that one girl is leading the entire last lap. I'm sitting 6 wheels back in a strung out pack. Head into the last corner expecting a sprint immediately. No one goes. I don't go because I don't want to get side swiped and rear end someone causing a crash. I usually would wait until the 2nd or 3rd girl attempts the pass around the 1st girl and then get on her wheel and hopefully pass her. Well no one went. I hear the Brixton coach yelling at his girl, whose wheel I'm on, to GO NOW! NOW! So, wtf, no one is going, I guess I'll go. I take the outside lane and punch it. And don't look back. And I hate to admit this, but I think it was my first time sprinting in the drops. And it felt easy. It was awesome to cross the finish line knowing I had won. It was a combined 3/4 race, but scored separately. I got my final points to upgrade to Cat 3 and became the CA State Crit Champ!

Ontario is a race series. They have a point system and overall winners at the end of the year following the final race on Aug 21st. You only get the points in the category earned and you have to show up for the final race. I am currently tied for 3rd in the series and I'm going to wait until after that race to upgrade and then try and race San Clemente as a Cat 1-3 the following weekend. [apparently the race has a hill...yikes!]  Not that I have a plan this season or anything.

Kyle has been a great sherpa and race partner throughout the season. I raced one Ontario and San Marcos without him, but other than that, he's been out racing himself. He won a race in Arizona at the beginning of the year which was awesome for him and has been experiencing success in crashing and avoiding crashes as of late. His current bill is 2 helmets, 1 fork, and some skin. And maybe some pride. (pedal strike?!)

Crashing happens. More often in the men's races with bigger fields. Yes, the faster the race the safer it is. I've been in way too many close calls to count. And I feel fortunate that I have yet to be taken out. Unfortunately, it's not if, but when and I can only hope this doesn't jinx me.

So that's it...a very long report on my closet crit racing season thus far.