Friday, May 29, 2015

Velodreaming: Track Cycling Weekend at the Cleveland Velodrome

Beth (Newell) Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb 2015
The Cleveland Velodrome held a Women's Track Cycling Clinic last weekend. The two-day event was hosted Beth (Newell) Hernandez,  U.S. National Track Team star heading toward the 2016 Olympics, and her husband/coach, Michael Hernandez.

17 attendees, representing local teams as well as out-of-town/state cyclists, participated in track training drills, speedy pace lines, and practice races. There were also plenty of off-the-bike activities: yoga for cyclists, nutrition discussions, Q&A with Beth and Michael about how to incorporate track cycling into training plans.

For me, this was the perfect way to jumpstart my enthusiasm for velodrome cycling. Lots of my cycling friends haven't tried it yet. Some have tried it and found that it was not for them. My take-away from this weekend is that track cycling can be one of the most efficient ways to build speed and power on the bike - for road racing, TTs, crits - even if I may never race on the track. But maybe I will.

I'm hoping to get more of my cycling friends and teammates to come out to the Cleveland Velodrome this year. See what it's all about, maybe give it another chance. I've learned some things from Michael about how to reduce the risk - and the fear - around track cycling. I've even set up a few dates for WOMEN ONLY to come to the track for some testosterone-free training and no-pressure riding*.

Because how cool would it be to see this many women at the track on a regular basis? Pretty freakin' cool...

*June 10July 15, Aug 19, and Sept 9. Check the Velodrome website for details and to sign up (it's free!)
This was about as close as I got to hanging with Beth at the track

All of us lined up along the turns

Hanging around the infield, waiting to ride

Michael Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb, 2015

4-person paceline drills

All attendees lining up along Turns 1 & 2. That's a 50 degree banked turn!

Kristen, Kelly, Beth, and me
Let's do this again!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How a little spark can turn into a roaring fire

Photo copyright Jason Baker, 2015

I remember the first time I heard about the Nordonia Duathlon, in 2006.

Leslie, a co-worker at the time (and a triathlete) asked me if I was interested in signing up. I had never heard of this race, even though it was practically in my backyard. The bike course followed roads I used all the time. But her invitation caught me off guard, and I couldn't have been more mortified. Hell no, I thought - run 2.5 miles, ride 10 miles, and then run another 2.5 miles? I can't do that. At the time, I was a barely-competitive cyclist, a sometimes runner, and, frankly, a big chicken.

Instead, I stood at the corner of my street, which was along that year's course, to cheer on those who weren't so inhibited. I shouted encouragement at Leslie chugging up that hill on her flashy new road bike. There were a handful of pro-looking competitors draped over their TT bars, sleek bodies flying past me. But there were also a lot of other competitors who looked like they pulled their creaky old mountain bikes out of the garage and dusted off the cobwebs just that morning. How were they able to overcome their inhibitions and just do this thing? That's when I started questioning my self-doubt. That's when I knew I would do the race the following year.

And race I did, for the first time, in 2007. And I did the race again the following year, and every year ever since (except for last year when I had a conflict with my Race Across America commitment).

I started to really like the challenge of duathlon. I worked at increasing my running speed. Through my training in time trialing on the bike, I increased my cycling power and speed. And then I worked to put them both together to find the perfect balance of how hard I could run without killing my legs for the bike, and how hard I could ride without killing my legs to be able to run again. And I even started working on my transitions, although I will admit that my transitions leave something to be desired (even though my more accomplished multisport friends have offered to help me with these).

And now it's 2015:

Yesterday's race was my best time yet, and I was pleased to be the first female over the finish line (and with a couple of my best friends - both highly motivated this year, too - not far behind me).

In early June, I will be competing in the Duathlon National Championships in St. Paul, MN. Angie will be there with me, and we will be competing for the opportunity to race at the Duathlon World Championships later this year.

Almost a decade ago, I was that person watching from the sidelines, too afraid to try. Something about the Nordonia race made duathlon accessible to someone like me, someone who had never considered this sport and didn't think herself capable of doing it.

The Nordonia Duathlon got me wondering 'what if?'. And that was all I needed to start this amazing journey.