Quick Trip to the NYC with my Pops (and two sisters, and one brother-in-law)
I spent the past weekend indulging in some of my favorite things not involving California: Hanging out with my Dad, going to baseball games, attending famous sports events, and visiting cool cities.
On Friday my Dad and I took the train from DC up to New York. I have to say, the train is a way better way to get to New York versus driving, although it is a bit more expensive. After we dropped our bags off at the hotel, and met up with my sister Amy, who had gone up on Thrusday to hang-out with some college friends, my Dad and I went up to Yankees Stadium to pay our final homage to the "House that Ruth built." (side note, this is the last year that the Yankees will be playing at the original Yankee Stadium, they are building a new stadium right across the street, and will start using that in 2009.)
We had pretty decent seats (this was my present to my Dad for his upcoming 56th - he's old! - birthday) in the lower level, down the right field line. This was my second time going to Yankee Stadium (first time was with Mike and Scott back in 2001), and it is pretty cool to think of all the history that has gone down there. Although I know that he is a die-hard Giants fan, I think my Dad is also a closet Yankee fan. (which goes further to prove me theory that there are no real A's fans.) We rode the subway out to the game, had some hot dogs, and enjoyed a nice Yankees win over the Blue Jays.
On Saturday, my sister Brittany and her husband Brian joined us in the big apple. Brian had tickets to the US Open for the evening session, so we spent most of Saturday wandering around the city, window shopping and being tourists. I also went for a four mile run in Central Park/Upper East side, which made the run more enjoyable then usual (still hate running if a sport isn't involved).
After eating at the Rockefeller Center, Brittany, Brian, and I took the Subway out to Flushing Meadows to the US National Tennis Center. My Dad and Amy went and saw the musical Mary Poppins. Last year was my first year going to the US Open (go find the old post about our attendance, and my appearance on Center Court) and we had a lot of fun, so I was excited to go again this year. We had improved on our seats from last year (where we were up in the very last row!) by one entire row! For the Saturday night session, we saw one womens match and then the mens match-up between two Americans, James Blake and Mardy Fish. I was rooting for Blake, but he got beat in Straight Sets. Turns out, we weren't that dissapointed that it was straight sets because the match didn't end until after midnight, and we still had to take the subway back. Because people had been at matches all day we were slowly able to work our way down, and ended up sitting in the second tier, mabye 30 rows up, versus our initial starting location of 100 rows up! If you enjoy really cool sporting events, even if you aren't a huge fan of tennis, it is really fun to go to one of the "grand slams" events. The speed and power of the tennis they play is amazing, and its fun to be in Arthur Ashe stadium, which is the largest tennis specific stadium in the world. If you are ever in New York during late August, early September, I would highly recommend going.
All-in-all it was a good time, and it's always good to see my Dad (and Mom even though she didn't come out on this trip). I took the train back today while everyone else was staying until Monday. I would have stayed, but while everyone will be barbequeing tomorrow, I get to go to work. Hooray! Plus I wanted to hang out with Lorena, who originally thought she had a cross-country meet this weekend, but didn't so - she was stuck home alone.
P.S. sorry for the less then stellar picture quality, but I forgot the camera so I had to use the one on my phone.
As in thoroughly cooked.
I think at my final race this season, the Chris Thater Memorial Classic, I learned what it feels like to be truly, utterly burned out. I've shown up to most of the races I've done this season with a big fire inside of me. But this weekend, instead of a burning fire, I felt like a big pile of ashes. It's been a long time in the making. I just tallied 42 races for this season, 31 of them within the last three months of summer. So I guess that explains it. I've never done anything close to this. The last couple weeks I've felt the fire trickling down to just the final little embers, so I'm not sure what prompted me to go to NY for a race like Chris Thater anyway. But I guess I'm a sucker to the NRC (National Races), big prize money, and a weekend trip to NY at a race hotel with my fun teammates. But because of the burn out, this was one of the mentally hardest races I have ever done, right up until the final two laps when it is naturally always fun.
Sure, racing is always going to hurt a bit (if you're doing it right), but excitement and passion go a long way to masking that pain. Not exactly mask. Convert it to pleasure. I usually love the physical burn. But burn is different than burn-out, and this race was just agonizing. I know it was more mental than physical (but I think burn out affects both), because in the end I finished well at 10th. I had nothing in me to even try to go with a break - which I would usually give an arm and a leg to get in - and seven girls got away without anyone from our team. Kristy had already used up her energy chasing earlier breaks that didn't end up sticking. I took 3rd in the field sprint, deciding that after torturing myself for 35 miles I might as well try to win some money for the pain. Jen also finished well at 14th. But really all of us felt pretty off. What a mental battle it was - spending the entire race convincing myself I was not allowed to pull out. Of course when you're wishing for a flat tire is never when it happens! I spent more time at the caboose than I ever have before - not a good spot but I had made a deal with myself to just get to the final five laps (which at 5 I changed to 3) and then race. I don't know how hot it actually was, but the heat got to me more in this race than it has all year. Right after finishing I was all lightheaded, woozy, nauseous and was told I was white as a ghost. From warm up to race to recovery, I went through 9 24oz bottles of fluid, and still hardly peed a bit the rest of the day. No wonder I was white and woozy.
Usually I can say that racing is really fun, but this time, really, it wasn't. But there are bigger reasons to race than just fun, and I am still glad that I went. At the end of the day there is something so fulfilling about knowing a that you pushed your limits. That you felt awful and wanted to quit but still succeeded. That you're growing and experiencing - and this time it was much more the mental/emotional aspect than physical. Although they are all so connected. It's funny that some things that feel so awful at the time can be the very best things to do. Is it true, for most athletes, that we process what we do like a big analogy of life? Every time I reflect, I feel that way.
Burn-out = time for change. Focus elsewhere for a while. Coaching cross-country, running, cross training, teaching, helping more at church. Rejuvenate, reflect, renew. Come back stronger.
How is it possible to be totally burned out, yet totally excited about next season at the same time?
Random Olympic Observations:
- -Events I have seen (this is what happens when your sleep schedule is all screwed up and you're awake all night): Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Cycling, Diving, Fencing, Field Hockey, Gymnastics, Handball, Rowing, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Track and Field, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo, Weightlifting, Wrestling. Not everything, but pretty close.
- -Olympians that Lorena has beaten this year at one time or another in a race: 8 (granted they have also beaten her more than vice versa...which would explain why she is not in Beijing!)
- -Gold Medalists in the Time Trial that Lorena was in a break-away with at the Nature Valley Grand Prix: 1 (Kristin Armstrong)
- -Usain Bolt ran a 9.69!?! That is insane. Also, if I was female, based upon my best high school time, I would have qualified for the final of the women's 100m, but I would have finished fourth.
- -I'm not down with China using 12 year olds in gymnastics. Cheaters.
- -The color commentators NBC has for soccer are crap (both men and women) The play-by-play guy is okay. Also, how in the world do you get a red card four minutes into the game - for a blatant elbow, no less. That is just stupid. Way to go USA.
- -Handball looks like one of those games, where you could get five random Americans together, and they should dominate. So I must be missing something.
- -Track Cycling is cool
- the most picturesque small town, with beautiful estates surrounded by rolling green fields, amidst Amish settlements and some of the nicest, happiest people on earth. I'm thinking back to some of the small towns that I have had to stop at en route on different road trips, and what a sullen and depressed feeling some of them have. Millersburg was the flip side of that coin. As if people just become happy and nice just by virtue of living there. I'd love to spend an entire summer living there. It was the perfect place to have a stage race.
(pic: recognize this man? Bob Roll!)
I can't say enough good things about The Tour of Millersburg! We stayed at an awesome host home (the wife happened to be a professional nutritionist and had all this great food for us), the volunteers were super friendly and organized, all of the courses were fun and with excellent road surfaces, Bob Roll came out and was doing the announcing (how cool is that to have Bob Roll, a Tour de France announcer for Versus, call out your name at a race? And then talk to you at length about tactics for the following stage afterwards?!), and everyone just seemed to be having a good time. It was fun to meet some new faces too. I was a little envious of team C3-Sollay, who even had the awesome opportunity to be hosted by an Amish family (read about it here). The best part of the road race was the huge groups of the Amish families out cheering in the fields along the road for us. I've never seen anything like it. They were great. They must have taken good care of C3, judging from all the attacks they threw out on the road race.
Team HPC p/b Altarum results were great and we picked up two podium spots in the GC - Jen in 2nd and me in 3rd with Leslie and Michelle doing a lot of work for the team, both spending a lot of time off the front. This was an omnium style stage race - based on points rather than overall time. It gives less favor to time trialists, unfortunately for Jen, but I think it makes the racing more aggressive and fun this way. Every stage matters and every place matters. It was great to get two podium spots, but a little bittersweet because Jen was leading in the overall points right up until the end of the final stage. She totally killed it in the 1st stage time trial and won! Our whole team tried our best to help her defend the lead, but she ended up getting beat by a single point on the final stage after Laura McCaughy of Juice Plus won two stages in a row.
(Pic: Jen Cheng, Bob Roll, Leslie Golenor)
Laura is not only one of the best sprinters, but she is also a crafty fox. I've never had so much fun getting beat by someone before. It also made me feel better to find out that she is an Australian national track champion in the points race. I already knew she is a better pure sprinter than I, but her track background made her difficult to out-sly as well. In the second stage, the criterium, Leslie was up the road for a long time in a solo break. She ended up getting caught right as we came through for the bell lap, and I counter attacked. The idea was to force the other teams to chase, have Jen in a good position in the draft while it strung out the field and make it easier for her to stay up front and finish strong. But Laura bridged up to me and that made it tricky, because neither of us wanted to help the other. So she would jump, I would catch up, she would slow down, I would jump her, she would catch up, I would slow down...and so on. Finally we got to a point that we slowed down so much - not wanting to lead each other out - that the field, hot on the pursuit, caught back up. We played a little more cat/mouse right on the finishing straight, and in retrospect I wish that I would have tried to jump sooner. But the truth is that she was watching like a hawk, matched everything I had, and there's probably very few scenarios where I really could have had her. And they might all involve flat tires. That's when I just admire and learn. She won, with me 2nd and Jen 3rd. Still a good finish and kept Jen in the overall lead.
The end of the third stage (road race) played out very similarly. Leslie up the road...brought back...I attacked...Laura bridged...people chased...Jen good position. The main difference is that I attacked a couple miles away from the finish, so since it was still so far to go, Laura and I worked together a little this time. I took a turn hot and inadvertently gapped her a bit so I gassed it again...but she isn't an easy one to drop, she caught back up, and we slowed again. She wouldn't pull through - smart for her, of course, but bad for me. The field came up behind us. There we were, flying in for the final sprint, and I'm trying to think tactics for how to keep Jen in the lead, but at a total loss for what the smartest thing would be to do. I still don't know what the ideal thing for me to do would have been. It's harder to think what to do for a team mate than it is for yourself. Since I am totally afraid of crashing right now, and am impatient, I decided to just continue to lead it out and hope Laura got a cramp and Jen was up front. Jen needed to be within two places of Laura to win the GC. Of course, there were no cramps, but Jen was up front. The only obvious tactic was once I saw Laura coming ahead of me, and saw Jen close behind me, was to make sure I myself wasn't one to be between Jen and her and ruin the point spread. Jen had a strong finish at 4th, but it was one place off to win GC. So close. Oh well.
Laura didn't need to do much convincing after the race to get me dreaming about track cycling now....
(Final Pic: Eating out at Wayne's Restraunt. The man in this picture is Wayne himself. He was a sponsor for the race, and so we ate at his restaurant. This marks the first time I have ever had the owner of a restaurant come out multiple times to check on us and our dinner, chat it up, and even come out and help bus our table - even when the restaurant was packed! Seriously, Millersburg is a nice place.)
Lucky in Life
Anna bought me this "Good Luck Bear" for my birthday last week. What a perfect gift! I could really use some luck. Also, since the Olympics started on 08/08/08, the same date as my 28th birthday, I'd heard a lot about how the Chinese regard 8 as such a lucky number. Good for me because I am entirely composed of eights:
-born on 8/8/80, at 8:08 a.m. (honestly, it says this on my birth certificate, even if it isn't true) and actually weighed 8 lbs 8 ounces
- I have 8 people in my family
- turned 8 on 8/8/88
-turned 28 on 08/08/08 (sorry to everyone who has heard this a million times. I take pride in some things that really have no significance whatsoever.)
Unfortunately, all that birthday luck made like a tree (and leaved? left?) for the road race nationals in CA the next day; I was hugely disappointed to get a FLAT TIRE - UGH in the final lap of the race. After SRAM changed the wheel, I was so shaky and anxious that I seriously could not get back on the bike. Fumbled all over like a drunk. It probably took me longer to get back into my pedals than it took to change the wheel. Totally ridiculous and wasted so much time. I put in a monster effort and luckily caught back on to the peloton at one of the last moments that it would have been even possible. Soon after I latched back on to the back of the field, exhausted, those up front started duking it out and drilling it. Of course gaps formed and I was still too far back. I worked my way up and ended up in a group of 5 who worked together to chase back up to the lead field - another huge effort that also somehow worked out and we latched on about a mile or two before the finish. However, two things were unfortunate to me at this point:
- a group of about a dozen had broken away
- I was totally spent from chasing back on twice and had nothing left to finish strong anyway.
I was bummed because this race was in my hometown of Orange County, CA and so I was stoked and have been looking forward to it all year. But flats, crashes, mechanicals, and mistakes - that is road racing. It gets old to have a month of racing filled with nothing but that, but that's life. I finished 52nd out of 100-something. The next day I was watching the Olympics women's road race and saw that Kristen Armstrong got taken down in a pile up crash and Amber Neben dropped her chain at a crucial point. Talk about disappointing! In the Olympics! Man. For some reason I am amazed that they are not immune to such mishaps.
It's not too hard to get past that though when I just remember how "lucky" I am in life. Perhaps my good luck bear did me some good in other ways (thanks Anna!).
-Anna threw, like, a totally radical eighties b-day party - complete with a rubix cube cake and a simon cake, eighties attire, eighties music, eighties themed pictionary, and even an 80's gift (Good Luck Care Bear and an Atari t-shirt)
-Susan Hefler and Spokes Etc. went totally out of their way for me and helped me get a new bike overnighted and built up just in the nick of time (midnight) before traveling to CA for nationals. After all the crashes and broken bikes, it's so great to find that there are people in your life who are there to help you back up. Friends offered help too. So nice. What a great cycling community out here.
-My new bike (Spanky 2.0) is SWEEEEEEEET! (the new '09 specialized tarmac sl2)
-I was surprised/happy/laughing during the nationals road race to find huge messages written on the street for me from all my adoring fans (a.k.a. Rob):
"Go Fru!!! Go Fru!!! Go Fru!!!" (fru = wife in Swedish)
"Go Lorena, Allez Allez Allez!"
"If you can read this you are going too slow"
-My sister Rachelle and her family came out to cheer for me at the race and were nice enough to act impressed anyway and take us out for Mexican food (the best!)
-One of my bff's from high school was awesome enough to have her wedding on the same weekend as the road race nationals (or vice versa) and it was great to celebrate her marriage with her and some old good friends
-Our good friends Ryan and Becca are awesome enough to live across the street from seal beach, making it all the sweeter to go stay with them. Rachel and Andrew made a long drive out to come hang out also.
This last picture is random, but so many people I saw in the last several days were openly disappointed because they were expecting to see more wounds and gore on me. I get it. I'm a little carnal too, that's why I snapped this picture of some wounds from the most recent crash before they disappeared. There. Satisfied?
If Luck be a Lady...
then she is one angry lady unleashing some pent up aggression. I JUST BROKE MY SECOND BIKE within two weeks of the first one!!! Granted, biking accidents are not exactly a new thing to me. But to have your two worst racing crashes and only two broken bikes within two weeks of each other...well, Lady Luck is going through a mean streak.
Below: One of the many good parts to my weekend - staying with Kristy's friend and old Colavita teammate Tracy and her cool dog Nuemo. Nuemo is a HUGE Great Dane and it is a good thing he is as chill and nice as he is enormous.
Friday I drove south to Charlotte, NC for a couple races. The first one was a big race, with $25,000 on the line for payout, $500 primes being thrown out like candy on most laps, tv coverage, and crowds lining the downtown streets. This kind of race is addicting. I always think of my psuedo-self watching, and how I would be so envious of those in the race. But I AM in it. I love it.
Needless to say, this race was hot from the gun and the field was strung out immediately. Unfortunately, I violated my first rule in such criteriums - getting to the start line early enough to grab a front position. It's a tricky little thing. Everyone is out warming up, and as soon as one person decides to line up, the start line gets swarmed...if you're not there when that happens and end up toward the back of an 80-something field without the luxury of a call-up, well, you start the race at a major deficit. In some races it isn't such a big deal and you can move up. But in a race like this one, it broke me. Not only do you end up spending more energy from being forced to slow down too early in the corners and then having to sprint back out of them, but then every time a girl in front of you can't hang on to the pace and opens up a gap, you have to sprint pass them and waste all that energy to regain contact with the field. Basically, I spent the first half of the race trying to move up and sprinting to close gaps that people had opened up, but eventually if you don't get out of that danger zone, someone is going to open a gap that you can't close and you will get dropped. Getting out of that danger zone when there are $500 primes multiple laps in a row was a little tricky though. I was surprised to see that I finished 39th out of 86 starters even after getting dropped - not something I am proud of, but reminds me how much the field got shredded. It was a cool finish, with Cat Carroll of Aaron's coming in on a solo break away victory. The race announcer said it was the first time in that race's history - men's and women's - to have a solo break-away win. It was awesome. Props to MABRA rider Leslie Jennings who sprinted through to bridge back to the field on the time that I could not, and ended up with a great finish - 21st and in the money. We were both there as the only representation from the Mid-Atlantic, so it was fun to get to know her better and bond with someone from the home turf.
The next day's race in Winston-Salem was pretty much the same women but not as much $ and hype. I had learned my lesson from the day before and got a good start. The whole race went much better as a result, even though I did ping-pong back and forth a bit between the front and the back. But with two to go, I found just the right gap to get to the front and ended up right on Colavita's lead out train of four. Usually they have the best lead out train and can just drill it single file to the finish for Tina Pic to win the sprint. But for some reason, they slowed up a bit and we started getting a little swarmed with one lap to go. It can get very dangerous on the last lap or two if there is not a team at the front drilling it fast and single file, because then everyone gets clustered together, shoulder to shoulder, and jockeying for position. The announcer started yelling "one to go, one to go, one to go, one to go, one to go...." over and over as we passed through for the bell lap. Everyone gets excited. We're going downhill, all out. Two girls in front of me clipped wheels and went down hard. I almost got around, but a bike flipped in front of me and I went flying over my handlebars, endoing onto the pavement. I looked around and saw this massive pile up of women and bikes everywhere. It happened toward the front, in the middle, at a high speed and had a huge domino effect. It looked like only maybe a dozen riders were left to contest the final sprint. My inventory of damage is a cracked bike frame (where the water bottle screws attach), more road rash and bruises, a sore neck, and an incredibly sore ankle. When my leg came down that impact was concentrated into a single little tooth of a chain ring piercing my skin into my ankle bone. The smallest little wound that makes me see white when I flex that ankle (a.k.a. walking) today.
The great thing about being a cyclist is that you get into such good shape that when you have an accident, your body repairs itself awfully fast. Yep, it works! The health, fitness, fun, friends, and pure exhilaration and adrenaline that come from racing outweigh the downside of the inevitable accidents. Crashing is like paying the piper for all the fun you're having. You realize quickly that road rash and bruises aren't really such a big deal. Although I do have to admit that hitting your head is a big deal, and so is breaking bikes, and so can be the emotional toll the next day. You wake up so stiff and sore and wonder at what point it will be too much. But then you realize while sitting around recouping that the number one bummer is that you are sitting around instead of riding, racing, going...and you can't wait to go do it again. The "what ifs" that come after not finishing a race can only be answered by going out and trying again.
So I am still going to race at Nationals next weekend as long as I can find a rig to ride.
Now, who wants to loan me a bike?! Hahahaha. Seriously though. 54cms.