Reverse of the Curse
I thought of that title all by myself.
I thought those words at the Baltimore Bike Jam last Saturday when I heard that eery sound of metal scraping on asphalt and the screeching of brakes that indicated there was a huge pile up crash right behind me in the race. Behind me. I felt like some crazy witch who somehow just reflected my Memorial Day curse to everyone around me. Not me this time. Not this year. But still all around me.

Last year I wrote about the curse of Memorial weekend that has been mine for the last five years in a row, somehow getting tangled up in some kind of accident (a couple pretty serious ones) year after year after year at this time. So coming into this historically cursed weekend with three races back to back to back made me go into them with my first priority being just to stay upright. That meant that I came into each race ready to fight like a mobster (is that even a saying?) to stay at the front of the peloton, even when it was obvious during each race that it would end in a field sprint. It was very surreal to hear that same dreadful noise of crashing eight times this weekend - all around me - but not me. Like the curse was following me around but I was wrapped safely in a bubble. At the Tour of Somerville a Colavita girl was riding right beside me when she clipped her pedal on the asphalt as we were carving through a corner - I clenched my fist in a cheer for her as I saw her correct the bike from sliding out - but then saw her back wheel skip again and send her into the curb and flying out the opposite direction from me. Ouch. Hope she was okay (along with those who must have piled up behind her). I pedaled away unscathed but slightly mortified at how closely we flirt with these disasters. I just kept thinking - NOT ME THIS TIME! NOT ME! - and pedaled closer up to the front where I would be statistically less likely to get caught up in such a wreck. But there was a lot of damage this weekend. Besides the scores of people who walked away with road rash and bruises, Anna Milkowski (Advil/Chapstick) broke her leg and my team mate Jenette hurt her bad back at Bike Jam, Heidi Goldberg (Kenda) broke her wrist at the RFK Crit, and my teammate Jen's s.o. Bill (Squadra Coppi) tore his rotator cuff in a pile up at the Tour of Somerville. That's a lot of carnage for one weekend. I'm wishing them all a speedy recovery! It hit so close to home that I keep thinking I should send them all get well cards and flowers. But I haven't yet. It's easier to think nice things than to go out and do them. Plus, Anna M. probably has no idea who I am so that would be weird.

Besides the Memorial Day curse, I also get a little antsy about injuries every time I start coming into good form in late spring. Because I've yet to race a full season without it getting chopped short from an injury. Right when the season starts heating up and I feel like I'm the strongest I've ever been, I get injured. The first XC mtn bike race I ever entered was in August, six years ago. I haven't raced in July or August in the six years since because I've always been injured.

So that makes me hope that this weekend was a sign of the summer to come - that I will finally have a year without accidents or injuries, so that I can for once enjoy all the work I've put into getting to this point. Although I love riding my bike and working out, so it's not like it's just hard work for the purpose of results. That happening is just gravy. Admittedly, it was very nice to pull out a win with HPC p/b Altarum (check it out for team results) at the RFK Crit and win the coolest prime I've ever seen given away at a race (a trip to Guatamala for the Gran Premio! Bega with City Bikes puts on an awesome race for the women, making the women's pro race the feature event of the day and top prize dollars), but the surreal part that left me on cloud nine was getting to meet Susan Haywood because of it. I was very surprised to see such a mountain biking legend at this road race and had to double take when I realized it was her. I know I probably sound like a big dork for writing this...but I'm sure everyone can relate at some level. To hear someone ride up to me after winning a sprint for a prime and say "hey, nice sprint", then look over, see the Trek/VW jersey, and realize it was coming from the mouth of one of the top women I have idolized since I got into this whole biking thing years ago still has me buzzing days later. She was even nice enough to talk with me during the post race lap. It's cool when you get to meet someone you look up to like that and find out that they are as nice and cool as you hoped they would be. It wasn't like my sprint was that amazing. She was just being nice. She's not only a star, but a classy one at that. Guess a few of my team mates and team director Susan Hefler are friends with her and it looks like we might get her to ride for our team at the Tour of Fitchburg. That has me more stoked than ever!

Anna always does a good job at team reports...she already did it so I won't repeat.

Here is a clip of the finish line sprint at the tour of Somerville. Our camera isn't the best, and some guy's head is in the way, but oh well. This is one of the most fun races - really, really fast from the gun, and the city turns it into this big festival so there are a lot of spectators cheering and plenty of entertainment/food/vendors to make it an entertaining event.
In this finish, I am the stupid one who jumped waaaaaaaaaay way way too early out of the draft and rode way out to the side of the leadout train. Teammate Jenette then followed me out to the side to try to save me and give me a draft, so we are the two riders off to the outside. Sorry for being overly eager and screwing up our sprint Jenette. I was worried about getting boxed in, and instead just messed it up another way. Timing a sprint is different at every race and I have a hard time with that. As soon as I jumped out of the train I accelerated past a few people and got all excited - then I felt the wind hit me like a brick, saw the finish line banner still as a tiny line way in the distance and was like "shoot...I take it back...let me back in! Let me back!" It was nice of Jenette to try to rescue me and she still had a good result, but she could have done even better if I hadn't gotten so antsy. Three of us from HPC still placed in the $$$, so still not a bad day.

Oh, one last thing about the To videour of Somerville that I thought was kind of funny. Where Jen and I parked on a side street and set up our trainers to warm up and cool down, we kept hearing all these knocks on the windows coming from this huge building right next to us. Get out of the car, hear knocking on the windows. Change clothes in the car (covered up important parts but still thought I was alone), come out and hear more knocking on the windows. Warm up with Jen and she notices the knocking on the windows. Look up and see a white sheet of paper in one of the top windows...it was moving around and I thought it had writing on it like someone was trying to write something to me...but I figured that was crazy and concluded it was actually just a paper towel and someone just cleaning the windows. But still, there was a lot of knocking from a lot of windows, and that piece of paper waving around. Strange.
After the race, Rob informed me that we were parked right next to the penitentiary!

Oh, Rob took a video of the finish at RFK also. It's pretty choppy footage of the finish because he got all excited and started jumping.

video

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On The Road Again

What a fun weekend! This time my races brought us out to Fort Ritchie, MD, the Big Apple, and Bear Mountain, NY. I was lucky that Rob did not have a soccer game this weekend, so I relished in getting to have him there to support me at both races. It's great. He drives me there and pumps me up with his hilarious pep-talks, gets my trainer out and ready, pins my numbers on for me, feeds me water bottles through the race, yells out time gaps (if I'm in a break), cheers loudly, takes pictures, and then tells me after the race that I am the best - no matter how I actually end up in the results. If I ever feel intimated by someone, or tell him that about how strong the other ladies are, he always turns it around until I am laughing at his ridiculousness. And if I place well enough, I'll even earn a post race massage to get all the lactic acid build up out of the legs. Wonderful! I don't know how I found him.
Here is Kate. She is warming up on her rollers, which creates all this static electricity and made her head look like a science experiment.

Perhaps all that static was what caused her to make a classic mental mistake in criterium racing...not realizing when we were on the final lap. Okay, I'm not actually sure if this is a classic mistake or not, but I've made it before too. I know that two out of two people is too small of a sample size to conclude that everyone has made this mistake. But it's probably fair to say that a lot of people have. Anyway...the leadout plan didn't work out so well as a result and we both pretty much botched the finish of the race about as bad as you possibly could. We were in a break away group of seven - two of us from HPC, two from C3-Sollay, one Cyclelife, one Artemis, and one Kenda. So we should have had an advantage over the three stray racers. But we ended up sixth and seventh. Yikes. At least Kate has a good excuse. I, on the other hand, was just kind of an idiot. I went into the race thinking that I wanted to do as little work as possible to get our team over the finish line first. The mistake is that I think I put the "as little work as possible" plan over the "finish line first" plan. I didn't really think about what a mistake it is to have that mentality going into a race until it was over and I was frustrated that we just got schooled at the finish line. No excuses - I gave it my all to sprint ahead at the end and got beat. It was just too little way too late. C3 put in the kind of effort and tactics necessary for a win, and they got it. Sonja and Janet from C3 Sollay worked beautifully together, layed the hammer down, and fully deserved the win. I just wish that I had given them a better run for their money. All of HPC - Jen, Anna, Kristy, Kate and I - were taking flyers from the start of the race to get it going, and when my attack came back into the field, Kate and Anna launched or went with (I'm not sure) a counterattack with a small group. After a couple laps, it was easy to see that this was the winning break and we needed to give HPC better numbers up ahead. Kristy helped launch me off on a bridge attempt (Bridging means making a burst of speed to break away from the main field of racers to get up to a break away group, hopefully without bringing anyone else along in your draft.) Bridging hurts!!! In reality it only took a couple minutes, but closing those last ten meters to get into their draft felt like an eternity. Once I was in the break away draft, my main goal was just to help keep the break away, but besides that do as little work as possible. I wanted my legs to be good for the long 56 mile race the next day at Bear Mountain, and not waste myself too hard at this one. The only problem is that I am not a pure sprinter. So letting a race come right down to the last 100m after the final turn is a terrible race plan for me. The way I win sprints is by wearing out the real sprinters enough before we get to that final stretch. So anyway...I think Kate and I both felt bad that we botched it for the rest of the team who helped us get away in the break. But in the end we had fun anyway and we're learning. And props to all the other girls who raced great and are riding strong. I really like all the ladies in the MABRA, even if we do bark at each other a bit during competition. It's fun that we're all in this together, pursuing the same thing. I liked what Beth wrote about it. This wouldn't be any fun without each other. It's fun to have a lot of people you like in the field, because even though I will always lament my own mistakes, it can still be fun to see others do well. Sonja Evers is strong as ever and I'm always happy to see her do well and pull out a great 1-2 for C3-Sollay with Janet, even at the same time as wishing it had been HPC!
Rob and I then drove straight out to NY for the best part of the trip - getting to stay with one of my best friends ever, Dana Broderick and her husband Ryan (and three lovely girls) on Saturday night in New York city. It felt like only a day had gone by since we were college roommates. I wish we lived closer Dana!
Saturday night we ate at a place called Max Brenner. It was like eating at a restaurant created by Willy Wonka. (Except much better than that cheap stuff). Chocolate paradise. It was amazing. If anyone ever needs to bribe me, con me, blackmail me, kiss up to me, beg my pardon, thank me - whatever - just click on the link above and you will find a multitude of ways to accomplish your task. Thankfully it was Dana's birthday, so I had a good excuse to try some of Max's chocolate goodness.
The next day was the Bear Mountain road race. FUN! I knew it was going to be good as soon as the race began and we started on the 45 - 50 mph descent, took a crazy hair pin turn, then started on a long climb back up. This is why I love mountain races! The funniest part was passing this huge group of Japanese tourists on the side of the road cheering for us like crazy and taking pictures as we rode past. One of the more random things I've seen during a race. We all smiled and loved it.
Another interesting part was on a descent where the two lane road all of a sudden narrows to one lane. Well, as soon as you start going really fast, over 40mph, the drafting effect becomes really magnified and you just start accelerating past people. Not a good thing to be caught passing on the side when the road suddenly narrows. I got squeezed off the road and took a fun little high speed trip through the meadow. Not my smartest move, but flirtation with disaster can be pretty exhilarating when you come out unscathed.In a nutshell, I tried to get a break away going by pushing the pace hard up the 3 mile climb on the last lap. I needed to have a few people with me to work with in a break because there were still 10 miles to the finish after the climb. Mission accomplished - we got a break of seven for a while. Unfortunately, I didn't have any of Anna's handy paceline invitations with me, and the rest of the girls for some reason didn't share my same urgent desire to stay away. Since not everyone was interested in helping the break stick by taking pulls to keep a fast pace, I stopped pushing the pace once the course flattened out and eventually over the next several miles girl after girl caught back up until we had about 20 up front. It was frustrating. Sprinting against 20 was still better than 55, but still a lot worse than 7. Especially on a fast downhill finish line sprint, where positioning is everything. My plan B at that point was to stick on Sinead's wheel, knowing that she is a good sprinter and could be a good lead out to the line. Well, I accomplished that and aggressively stayed put on her wheel during the last kilometer, but unfortunately that didn't turn out to be the winning tactic. It was an odd finish - I got 6th place by being on Sinead's wheel (she got 4th), but was boxed in on either side and never even sprinted. In fact, because the finish was such a fast downhill, even though we were going 40 mph, my last 10 seconds of power only averaged out to be 368 watts. Not much at all. Girls in the wind probably put out over twice that power, but in the strong draft that's all it took to hold my position, and there was no where else to go. Kate was pretty much in the same position and got 5th. Guess we teammates stick together. Altogether, it was a great race, really fun, and we placed in the money, but hindsight is 20/20 and it's kind of funny to race for 56 miles and have the top ten places decided in the last 200m. And so I can't help replaying the finish and thinking where I should have placed myself instead. It's what keeps me coming back for more.
Canadians took 1st - 3rd. No more losing to Canadians on US soil. That's my rule.
Here is my last picture. It is Anna, practicing her superman pose at Bear Mtn.
This is the longest post ever. I have a tendency to blab when I talk about racing. Anyway, last, but not least, the cherry on top of our road trip was coming home to Rob's sisters, Amy and Andrea (staying at our place for a while), and finding that they had swept, made our bed, baked cookies, and planned out meals for the entire next week! Wow! I want to keep them forever.

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Candrian athletic endeavors...

Lorena was in what ended up being the winning break at the Poolesville Road Race on Saturday, except her tire didn't want to cooperate. Flat tire, and have fun chasing! Thats two races in a row with a mechanical problem. Is Lorena's old Trek somehow sabotaging her new Specilialized in some form of jealous sibling bike rivalry? They do share the same bedroom/garage in our apartment? Who knows. She still got 12th. Next weekend we are off to the NYC for a race. Hopefully no mechanical problems.

And, because I know most readers of this blog are interested in my athletic exploits (I do have some, sort of), I will provide a quick recap of my saturday soccer game. We took a quick 1-0 lead and held it to halftime. The other team came out firing, and soon we were down 2-1. But have no fear, because I was finally playing forward in this game, and you know what that means...
I (finally) scored. Well, it was a only a four game scoreless streak, but that is too long. I mean seriously, as I used to tell Cuddy when we were on the mission, if I played in the Premiere league, I'd probably average a goal a game. He would get so mad when I said that, as if I was serious. Anyway, in the end, we drew 2-2. We are now 0-2-2. Our record may be another reason why I haven't posted about any of our games...but we are improving.

And because I feel bad about knocking Lorena's post about the bike drive off of the top of the blog...PLEASE DONATE A BIKE, if you have one (see below). That's all for today...

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Recycle Your Bicycle
GIVE ME YOUR OLD BIKE!
To anyone who has unused bikes gathering spiderwebs in your garage - The Potomac School Community Service Club is doing a used bicycle collection to benefit Bikes for the World on Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean, VA. Your unused bike will be sent overseas to be used as transportation for someone who really needs it. They are asking for about $10 per bicycle to help defray shipping, processing, and distribution costs. But, to make the donation super-duper-easy on anyone who has a bike they can give, I'll come pick it up for you and pay the shipping cost. Contact me!

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