Sunday, August 9, 2009

A full weekend before Saturday was over

I've successfully survived a full day of track racing. And whatever amount of tan that lost as a result of my limited training over the past couple of weeks, Saturday definitely made up for. It all started on Friday night, after a nice nap in the back of Austin Byrd's father's car on the way down.

I got set up with a place to stay about 800 meters from the track itself. Those that live there call it "The Stone House." If you can imagine, it's a two story farmhouse, made of stone. The current residents include two sometimes trackies and former Penn State ECCCer's, as well as two girls living their for the summer and training at the track, one from South Africa and the other from New Zealand.

So the first leg of the trip was the watching, learning, and having fun portion. After getting there, Andy, who lives in the house, volunteered/was assigned to babysit me, which he did handily all night. We made dinner, then headed to the track to watch the Friday night pro racing. I got a free pass by holding the Echappe Equiptment sign while he took the wheels in as a vendor (he works part time with Gabe it seems; Echappe is everywhere these days).

We were at the track until almost midnight, and it was good fun. I'm not sure if it was the big lights and slightly zaney announcer, or the world class talent, but it was certainly more exciting than the typical night at Kissena, much as I love the place. We sat up in the stands for a while, then headed down to the center of the field to mix and mingle as things were winding down. Andy knew pretty much everyone, and was the unoffical social chair, promoting the party that was going on afterwards. As a result, I got to meet almost everyone there, a few of them twice.

After the track, there was the party. During the road season, I think that we underestimate the value of partying the night before an ECCC race (just to be clear, I say this in jest). I made a ton of new friends, including one of the girls that I would end up racing against the next day. After an hour or two of more talking than drinking (some of you are disappointed, I know), I called it a night, and still got back to the house for a good 6 hours of sleep (only once disrupted by barfing sounds coming from the bathroom as the rest of the gang filed in around 5 AM).

On Saturday, I woke up, had my traditional pre-race big bowl of oatmeal, and headed to the track. I was pretty early, so after registering, I was able to get a good warm up and release some of the butterflies in my stomach, having never raced on so steep of a banked track. I also got used to my bike, as I had never ridden it before. I borrowed it from Kissena for the occasion, and it was not the one that I usually use, but it ended up being a little bit better, in my opinion, than the one that I've been using. I think that I'm better suited for a 52cm with a really high seat than a 54, since my torso is so short.

After my warm up, things started getting exciting. Andy showed up with the wheels, and a set of rollers, both of which I desperately needed. After Fitchburg, I've decided that it's never worth it to do a TT with crappy wheels and a regular helmet. My schedule for the day ended up looking like this: Flying 200m, 500m TT, match sprints, 16-lap points race, Olympic sprint. This meant that the first two times that I was on the track were time trials, so I sprung for Zipp 808's courtesy of Echappe for those two events. And then Austin (my ride, remember?) was nice enough to lend me his sperm helmet. I was rather amused that the retail value of my getup went from about $400 to about $3,000 in a matter of minutes, but it was worth the fraction of that that I paid to look good. Thanks Gabe and Andy.

The flying 200 was, okay. I did it in 16:00 flat. To be fair, the first time I did it a month ago, it was something in the 18 second range, so I'm getting better. But I still wasn't high enough up on the track or going fast enough when I hit the 200m line. I think I could get it to 15:00 or under with just a little technique work. Anyway, that put me at the bottom for the sprints, but that's another story.

The 500 was better. It's weird, because I was talking to one of the other girls, from Temple, who had never done this before, and all she could talk about was being held at the start. I don't know why I never have had a problem with that--it seems almost natural to me. Anyway, I still didn't get the best start. I probably lost a good second and a half to two, though it was better than in the charriot race last Wednesday at Kissena. But once I got going I thought I did pretty well. I still was a little shakey, I remember coming around turns 3 and 4 swerving over the red line a little bit. I could have held it a little more steady, but still I think I really like that event. I ended up getting 3rd in the women's combined (collegiate and USCF). I think it was 2nd for the collegiate points, which was the best I finished all day.

The sprints came next, which were more of a joke. As last place going into them, I had to race against 1st in the flying 200, which ended up being this out-of-competition racer who I had observed to okay in the pro field the night before. AND I picked 1st position, meaning I was obligated to lead for the first half-lap. She ended up jumping from behind me before we were even around the first lap and beading me by about 75m. The repechage was a little better. it was 3-up (the three collegiate women, if that says anything), and I tried to do the same thing that was done to me the first time. I was behind the other two. I surprised them, but didn't have enough to hold off Jessica from Penn State (the one I met at the party the night before). So I got 5th after she passed me coming into turn 3. But 5th is better than 6th, right? And it was a rush to be in the front for a while. To be honest, I didn't know that I had enough to race against any of the other 3 girls, so I thought it was worth it to go early, have fun surprising them, then take the 5th and sit and watch the semis and the final. It also gave me some time to run home to the Stone House, as I had forgotten my phone there.

Next was the points race, which was easily the worst event. Beyond my lack of training, I'm admittedly just not quite comfortable riding in a pack on a track bike yet. My mind is my biggest weakness in racing, and something that I really need to work on for next season. I didn't defend my territory and most of the girls take positions from me without putting up much of a fight. HOWEVER, doing that race did restore my confidence in racing a little bit. I was more comfortable in the pack as the laps went on because I could tell that the girls that were riding with me knew what they were doing, unlike some of the races at Kissena. I'm looking forward to taking some time off, then really focusing my training for next year...I think I would also be a little more confident if I felt fit, which I haven't since about May.

Anyway, after the points race, I took a quick cool down on the rollers (which are actually easier on a track bike, I've decided I'm a fan), and started to strip. Jess then came up, mid-change, and asked if I wanted to do the Olympic sprint--basically a two-person time trial, one lap per person--with the girl from Temple. The legs were pretty shot, but for the sake of sportsmanship and a little bit of fun and bonding, I said yes. So I put my jersey and shoes back on and hopped on my bike. I got position 1, so I only had to do one lap (sans TT equiptment, unfortunately, as Andy already went home), had a good time with Calyn (name spelling will be updated when the results come out), and called it a day.

24 hours later (and almost 13 hours of sleep), I think I learned a lot, and now I've definitely got the track bug. Kind of because it's a lot of fun, and mostly because the people are great. I was only staying in the Stone House for 24 hours, but I felt totally at home 5 minutes after I walked in the door. I barely showed up with a bike, and was completely hooked up with equiptment, advice, and support from the minute I arrived at the track on Saturday.

I'm a little bummed that I have to fly out of Newark the day of the Kissena collegiate races, but I could do the team sprint on Friday night...anyone???

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rockleigh Report

So Mikey, Isaac and I (Joe) made the trip to Rockleigh to take advantage of the break in the rain. I felt like I was able to put forth a pretty decent effort in the A field, despite discovering that pizza while delicious is not for pre race food. Because I knew I wouldn't be close to the front of the sprint I called it a race with one to go and just rolled in to the finish.

The B field seemed to take it easy for most of the race, usually traveling 3-4 wide. Though they did keep things lively with a crash right in the middle of a straight right in the middle of the race. This unfortunately put the unknown Columbia professor off the back of the pack, but being the true warrior he is he battled on for a solid bit more. Then when he was ready to pack it in I convinced him to instead take a free lap and jump back in with the field (rockleigh is a training race after all), he even flew the Columbia colors on the front for a bit after rejoining the field. Given that he had been dropped he was required to sit up with one to go. Isaac with a premonition of things to come did likewise (there was a gruesome crash in the finale). Mikey was the lone Columbia rider to battle it out to the finish on the day, probably finishing towards the sharp end of the pack.

We followed it all up with a ginger ride home, praying the sidewalls on our tires held out. Not Columbia's best day ever, but we flew the colors, and we'll be back next week.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Business in the front, Party at the back

Last night, with mist misting away in the tri-state area (Manhattan, northeastern New Jersey, and the Rest of New York), three of us decided to take a little trip to the first of Rockleigh's weekly crit series. Rockleigh is a Thursday evening race some 15 miles outside of the city with two fields: men's pro/1/2/3 at 6 pm and the rest at 7.

I, being the adventuresome female that I am, decided that it would be a good idea to give it a try, even though I would be racing against some of the fastest B men on my team and their peers. I knew I could have some trouble when my HR went skyrocketing trying to stay in Joe's draft on the ride to the race. When I got there, however, I was surprised to find not one, but two other women there to race. Score. Isaac met us there, and after a few minutes of spinups to attempt to keep warm in the May drizzle, it was off to the races.

For most of the race, there were two words on my mind. One was wheel. And the other was suck. And wheel suck I did. Now, starting in the back of the pack was not the best idea. I knew it wasn't when I was lining up, but I didn't have quite the confidence to shimmy my way to the front like I do with the WoB's (pronounced "Whoa-Bees," not wobs. Wob is a terrible name). So, the long and the short of it is, I ended up in the back of the field, with the rest of the sketchy cat 5's who can't take a turn at speed, so every lap was...speed, speed, speed along the finishing straightaway, brake hard from about 27 to about 17 mph, take the turn and then hit the gas out of the turn to keep up with the 4's (namely, Isaac and Joe) up front that took the turn at speed. Well, it turns out that I don't have quite enough pop in my legs to do that on every turn, so about 5 laps in my butt got dropped off of the back with one of the other women, a nice British triathlete.

I know what you're thinking, but her wheel ended up being surprisingly steady, and I was content to ride it for another 6 or 7 laps. We were doing well, her doing her time trial thing, and me doing my watching her a** thing, until we got word that the field was right behind us. As Rockleigh is a training crit, they let the sufferers keep suffering as the field continues to lap them. At that point, we had a train of 4 or 5, and I was at the back. We probably should have moved over, but since I was bringing up the rear, I wasn't going to lose my draft if they didn't. As the break moved past us, it had to slow a little, which incidentally allowed Joe, who was bridging, to catch up to them. It's always nice to have a teammate reassure you as they lap you.

We then proceeded to create many more problems as the field came up behind us. I lost my tri girl's wheel and had to try to maneuver through the peleton with many very large guys yelling at me. I was only there for about a lap and a half before some annoying Cat 5 moved out about 3 lines through turn 1, cutting me off at the back of the field and effectively relegating me to riding by myself for the rest of the race.

The final 5 laps or so consisted of me following this *^*%$#@, who continued to nearly knock me out by standing up and pushing his bike backwards as I was on his wheel. On the last lap we got passed again, with Joe looking strong in the front group. We only had about 500 meters to go when the peleton swarmed us, of course on turn 5. It's never a good idea to get passed by 40 people going much faster than you into the second to last turn of a race. But somehow, I survived. Unfortunately, since I couldn't contest the peleton, I couldn't put the moves on the guy I'd been wheelsucking for the past 15 minutes. Even though I didn't get to sprint him, I still busted out with a little acceleration in the last 100 meters, which completely cooked him. That's what he gets for not holding his line.

After taking my warm down lap (tri girl still going, she must not have known that being lapped didn't mean that she had to make up that extra lap), I arrived at the group of guys including Isaac, Joe, and Raymond Junkins. They were just chilling, talking about the race.

"How'd you do Joe?" I asked after a minute or so, knowing that he had to be in the top 6.

"Oh, I won," he replied casually. Oh, right, no big deal. Wait, just kidding, that is a big deal. Apparently there was a party at the back and a party at the front.

And then we rode home in the dark.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What it means to be a Columbia rider... wouldn't be a midweek ride without dodging Japanese tourist
riding the wrong way, with no helmets, while taking pictures in the
park. Or better yet, the swedes who roller blade, the wrong way, with
no helmets, down the center of the road, while staring down on coming

Oh but nothing beats our home grown New Yorkers, walking out directly
in front of your bike, while on their cell phones and pushing the
"speedster deluxe jogging stroller"... apparently they didn't realize
that model doesn't come with airbags.

[Additionally, there are the overweight deliverymen swerving around on their bikes that most definitely don't fit them...

And the paparzzi that occasionally snap a bunch of pictures of you in hopes that you might be some odd bit of royalty and make them a few hundred bucks...

And the triathletes snaking along on their their foldable bikes with carbon wheels and tt bars (true story)...

And the SUV's that think they are badass by driving around the Harlem Hill barrier at aound 45 mph and nearly killing everyone minding their own business on the west side of the park...]

Oh how I love NY

Commentary by Aimee Layton, with bracketed interjection by Shane Ferro

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Race report: PSU

Yeah, that's good, but what about this??

There's your shout out to the Men's C;s, although Rob has already posted that first one to the ECCC listserv, so if you are one of those that check your email every 5 seconds to procrastinate from the impending doom of finals, you have already seen it.

It's funny, because I feel like this weekend did the exact opposite of building us up (except in vertical feet). First, there was the TTT that was kinda flat, but not really at all. I was also pissed for that race and attempting to take it out on the false flats until I realized that that was hurting me a lot, and I might not make the 10 miles if I kept it up. I also made the smart move to get to the line early which 1) made my teammates late while they were looking for me and (2 in my rush I forgot my glasses, causing me to get dirty spray in my face for ten miles. And it wasn't really raining very hard, so there was none of the "kick it into your face, then wash it right off" kind of thing from Yale. Long story short, I ended up riding slightly outside Liz's draft the entire way as to ensure that I could actually see her and not slam into her.

I think the highlight of the TTT was our men's A team, which consisted of two A riders and a D rider getting his butt kicked so that we could finish.

Once the weather cleared up a bit, it was time to start the road race of doom. Hats off to all the climbers in the field. Not many people on our team were in that category this week (apologies to those of you that were that I may be skipping over--but I did offer you the chance to blog and tell your side of the story and had no takers). Something about living on a pancake of an island. The problem with road races is that they are really really really really long (one really for every lap the men's A's did). And you can't really see anything, so you just sit around eating cookies, doing space legs, making inappropriate comments, and making a fool of yourself on random tandem bicycles. And, in my case, dancing around to RIT's (?) music choices, most notably "Stacy's Mom." What a classic. Next year I propose that we buy our own team iHome. Dancing is something we really could use more of at bike races.

While I am not yet completely off the subject of the road race, I'd just like to say that I channeled Carrie a little bit in being pissed that our race was only 21 miles. It took me until about halfway up the climb to get warmed up (see: me getting dropped), but afterwards I was picking up speed and feeling good. I was ready for another lap. I could also have used another lap for training for Bear Mountain this weekend, but c'est la vie. I finished. Which is more than I can say of all the other road races this year (curses to flat tires and dehydration).

Now, on to Sunday, skipping over the mediocre small-town Italian joint and the smoke-filled first floor of the truck-stop Ramada, the crit. I had been looking forward to this all week. Now, when we rolled up in the misty haze, there were quite a few looking at the chicane sequence with timidity. I was either too confident or too stupid to notice how scary it was. Either way, it worked out in my favor. I pretty much figured that it couldn't get worse than this, and if it did, at least I knew that I'd have my favorite photographer/ER doctor to come to my rescue (if you were around for the Men's A bunnyhop-over-the-haybale scene you know what I'm talking about). Of course, I spent so much time worrying about what time I should get queued up for the start that I got to the line a little late and ended up in the 2nd row. Which put me in the 2nd group. I tried to play it smart. In some ways, that worked out well for me. When I was close to someone going into the chicane, I went to the outside of the corner on the 2nd turn, which saved me from getting caught behind Carrie's crash. At the same time, after about 5 laps when things started settling down, I wasn't quite smart enough to realize that two of the girls in my group of four had teammates up the road, hence, perhaps I should have done a little more work than I did to try to pull them back. But now that I think about it, if they were blocking, they weren't doing a terribly good job at it because we were going decently fast. There were a few obstacles over the course of the course--one being Army riding with a flat tire and try to pass on the inside coming into the chicane. I almost felt like pushing her into that corner that she wanted so badly, but was content to growl at her and promptly pass her again on the next straight away. The one time that I let her in front of me coming into turn 5, something pops off her tire and she goes skidding into my lane. Another match burned catching back up to the group. But at least I felt a little safer on the course. That is, until UVM (Emily, I think) kept clipping her pedal on turn 4. Props to her, though, for never going down. I was impressed, even though it scared the bejeezus (how the hell is that word spelled?) out of me every time it happened. Interestingly enough, I didn't even notice that it happened coming around the last turn on the final lap and nearly took all of us out. I was busy cursing myself for not being ballsy enough to make a move before the turn (which, now that I know that we all almost ate it, I guess that was a good move, last in a field sprint is better than eating pavement and getting a DNF; see DFL>DNF).

Anyway, that was that. There was lots more that happened, but I have a review session now. Plus, by not writing about anyone else, I can passive-agressively motivate other people to write about it. Right guys?

That being said, hats off to Dave Collier, with a wicked move for a 2nd place finish in Men's C's, and of course to Mags, who kicked ass without even wanting to. And a word for all of my WoB teammates, who raced like hell (in the good way)--did you hear that we got a shoutout from the announcer at our race for fielding such a large (and attractive) team??

I am going to go figure out how to write without parentheses now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Penn State: TTT T-minus 9 hours

And so the craziness begins. Since 3 PM, we've already had a wheel rack fall off the van, stopped on the side of the highway in the rain, been forced to eat Taco Bell for dinner, embarrassed each other thoroughly in the vans, gone to the wrong hotel, and indulged in Guinness cake. Should be a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is how we roll

Supporting child labor, one glass at a time...(Just kidding) More like getting up Churchill, one glass at a time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blood, Sweat, and Tony's Tears.

No photos this week, as our queen photographer decided to ditch the Northeast for the South. But plenty of stories. This weekend was a story of blood, sweat, and tears.

But mostly sweat.

The weekend for me started off with a commotion. I showed up for call time 15 minutes late with a paper due Monday still sitting on my laptop in that not-quite-close-to-finished stage. Then, I ended up in the dirty van with the boys through the traffic of weekenders trying to escape the city on the first really nice weekend of the spring. Around midnight we rolled into Fitchburg.

A mere 5 hours, 45 minutes later, we were up for breakfast and call time. Perhaps one of the most precious moments of the weekend was the look on every single teammember's face when the guy at the front desk nicely asked us to park our bikes outside rather than stacking them against the breakfast tables. Asking that of a cyclist on a race morning with <6 hours of sleep is just asking for a death stare. I would feel more sympathy for the guy if there was a better breakfast. But, alas, there was no fruit (no fruit!), at one point we ran out of coffee, and my glutard self was very glad that I had brought my own oatmeal.

Saturday started off really well. We got great results in the TTT, with the Killer B's taking the win in the women's field and the Men's B's and A's taking 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Everyone was really excited until about 11 AM, at which time the theme of the day was starting to sink in--it's really freaking hot. With highs reaching into the 90's during the road race, the majority of us were just in it to survive. (I did not, but that's another story for another day). The highlight of the day was probably Alex Bremer soloing in for the win in the Men's A race after hours upon hours of watching riders come through the feed zone in the blazing sun.

Saturday night took us to the wonderful world of Olive Garden, where we made merriment while attempting to ignore the annoying server girls that just kept coming back with thier outgrown roots and fake blond smiles. ... be continued when I have less than 20 pages to write before going to Penn State. Feel free to expand with comments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lux et Velocitas - Recap

I've spent a significant portion of the morning reading through the ECCC blogosphere, which perhaps shows my dedication to cycling, or alternatively shows my lack of dedication to academics. However, because of my blog-stalking, I came to realize that my own team is severely underrepresented in said blogosphere. There is no reason that Columbia shouldn't have its own blog centered around our well-rounded athletes (see our photo of the week competition for definition of "well rounded").

I am also jealous of the other well-written blogs out there. Mount Holyoke has a tiny team with some big attitude.

While I am ready to get our version of the story told, I also realize that I have a less-than-heroic weekend to relay. My racing this weekend can mostly be summed up with this photo:

About 5 laps into the Women's B race there was flailing and skidding and bikes strewn everywhere. No one is really sure what happened (something to do with our field being afraid of the potholes on the inside of turn 5 and needing to jet from the middle to the outside line without notice), but what I do know is that I went completely over the handlebars, and either Becca's or Anne's bike left a nice dent in my helmet. I like to think that my previous roller skating career was just practice for the crashing that I'll be doing as a bike racer.

The upside of this incident was that I got this really cool photo of it before the photographer had to take off and do his ER doctor thing with the people that went down harder than I did. Also, if you notice, going head over heels meant that I skidded on my shoulder/arm warmers rather than on my legs, meaning my decision to wear embrocation as opposed to leg warmers did not result in a bloodbath of legs meeting pavement. Not that the pavement could have penetrated my Vaseline-layer of steel.

Though I wasn't hurt, I was shaking rather violently. I have never been able to make a decent decision while running on adrenaline, so I chose to take a DNF rather than a free lap. Of course, as the field passed me, I calmed down enough to be ready to jump back in the race. About 15 seconds too late. So I had to take my anger and disappointment out on the roads of New Haven and the rollers, instead.

This comes after a day of suffering through the rain on Saturday. The ITT wasn't too bad (meaning I was only a minute and a half behind the leader, rather than the embarrassing 4 minutes from Army), but the circuit race was a bit of a disaster. As you can see from the above picture, riding on a flat road on a clear day is dangerous enough in the WoB's, so I had no desire to fight the pack for 45 minutes when soaking wet and unable to see more than 5 feet in front of me. So I made the decision to hang at the front, even though I took the risk of screwing myself at the end.

The first decent was awesome, as I decided to do something unheard of in the WoB's -- pedal downhill. I gapped the field by making about a 5% effort. Maybe this says as much about my ass as it does about my pedal power, but whatevs. Anyway, I did lots of controlling the field for the first 3 1/2 laps, but by the time we hit the last climb I was beat. One of the Yale girls launched an attack right before we got there, I put out way too much energy, gassed myself, and wheezed my way up East Rock for a wonderfully unsatisfactory 27th(ish) place finish. Bitches.

In other news, the team's got nothing to complain about. Mostly because Maggie is awesome, but also because of great crit finishes from Carrie (with yet another spectacular lead out from Nicole) and Dave, who came out of nowhere to sqash the D Uncertainty Principle.

And lets not forget what we learned this week:
  • Burned down diners are not out of the question when it comes to picking a restaurant
  • If you want to make new friends, hide candy around your van
  • Always preview the course
  • Be nice to the people at the front desk in your hotel. Always.
  • When someone cuts you off, throw a banana at them
  • When someone throws a banana at you, get out the jar of JIF.