Sunday, September 25, 2011

What the Thrill of Victory Must Feel Like...

Did you ever wonder what it must be like for those Tour de France guys to ride into town to the cheers of adoring fans lining the barricaded roads?

I got a taste of that yesterday.

No, I didn't win some grand cycling race. I wasn't racing at all. And, actually, the cheers weren't even for me, but for the girl running close behind me.

I escorted the female relay team leader to the finish line of the 2011 Akron Marathon.

Me, Brandon, Brad, and Kurt waiting for our runners to arrive at mile 19 so we can lead them to the finish.
Every year, the Summit Freewheelers has the honor of leading-out the elite runners in every race category of the Akron Roadrunner Marathon. It was an exciting opportunity for me to be in the thick of the race, experiencing the adrenaline rush as the leaders approached Canal Park stadium in downtown Akron. The streets were alive with racers, spectators, friends and family making all kinds of noise for the racers inside the last mile of the race.

I led Shannon (don't know her last name, but she's with Team Isis) from about mile 19 to the barricaded chute leading to the finish line, announcing to the spectators that the female leader was approaching. And what an amazing runner Shannon is, powering up the hills, smiling the entire way, showing good sportsmanship when passing other exhausted runners. She looked strong to the end.

Shannon is super strong, having a great time.

Racers on High Street in Akron
Congratulations to Shannon, Team Isis, and all the participants in the Akron Marathon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The View from the Top

The 2011 Eastern Ohio Time Trial series (5 races in 5 months) ended today. I didn't finish as strong as I had hoped, but I did win the points competition for my age group. The photo, below, was taken from the podium. Definitely a moment to remember!

This was my first year of Time Trialing, and so I figured I would end the season with what I've learned from racing this series:
  1. I like races that are short, fast, uncomplicated, close to home, and low-key. This series was perfect.
  2. My best time was an average of almost 23mph, so I learned that I can ride that fast. I also learned that I can't ride that fast every time, and so I need to train better.
  3. A new bike doesn't guarantee a better TT time. It's really all about the engine.
  4. Take the tool bag OFF the bike before the race!
  5. A TT is a great way to identify both strengths and limiters. But especially limiters!
Me and Jackie post-race, pre-pancakes
42 degrees this morning at race time - brrr!
Jackie on the podium for her age group

The Points Champions for the 2011 Season! That's George Liolios in front, next to Brian (race organizer). Chappy is behind and to my left. Congrats, all!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning Fearlessness

Cyclocross season started last Sunday at Cascade Park in Elyria. Since Snakebite sponsors this race, I signed on to volunteer, as long as I could race, too.

The course was already set up when I arrived, and although I've only raced CX once, this one looked like a good time: a long stretch of meadow, a couple of steep, short climbs up a grassy hill (and back down again), some singletrack, some mud.

Before too many racers arrived to muck up the course, I rode it once to get a feel for the terrain, and to re-introduce myself to the bike I haven't touched since last year.

I admit: My off-road bike handling skills are fairly non-existent. As a seasoned roadie, I automatically avoid things like slop, tree roots, rocks, small children, and other obstacles that are part of the 'fun' of CX.

As I carefully picked my way over the muddy singletrack, my panic started to rise. I was OK on the steep climb -- I had figured out by then how to shift gears -- but not so good on the descent, white-knuckle braking (WRONG!) all the way down. The hill bottomed out to a swampy flat that didn't seem to faze anybody else, then continued toward more mud, more slippery, more anxiety.

I knew before I finished my practice run that I wouldn't be entering this race, although I had that infernal internal back-and-forth in my head ('I can do this/I can't do this') all the way up to the point that registration closed. Without me.

I could have done this race. I could have taken my time, hopped off the bike when the going got too hairy. I could have gotten muddy and proud of it. I could have finished last and not cared one iota.

But instead, I drove home that day a defeated woman. Defeated by my own fear.

A friend at work listened to my tale of woe and convinced me that my decision to bag the race was sound, based on my riding the course and taking stock of my abilities before calling it a day. But I'm desperate to race CX, because I think that it can be a lot of fun. With the proper amount of confidence and ability, it will be fun for me, too.

So now my goal is to get out there and get dirty, ride some CX terrain in a practice environment, fall off without anyone seeing me. My goal is to race CX this year, and to love every muddy minute of it.