Let the racing begin!

Let the racing begin!
A feeling of relief after my first ever crit- 11th place out of 26 girls.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Race- CHECK... First Crash- CHECK

And so it begins. After months of training (been on my trainer inside since October) I have competed in my first criterium as a member of the MS Racing team... and I LOVED it!

Pre-race training & jitters:
So I have been training HARD since October. As soon as it got cold out I turned my basement into my cycling torture room. I committed myself to HOURS on the trainer- some days reaching 3 hours. Kept myself occupied with movies, television and the radio (most of the time the TV and radio were on simultaneously). Thanks to some good friends, I had a good and solid training program. When January came around, I asked my friend Mark to help me out and coach me. Being a cyclist himself and owner of Start2Finish Studio I knew I was in good hands. The intensity of my workouts quickly increased and with that came the massive amounts of sweat. Yes- it's true, girls DO sweat. I might be one of the abnormal ones, but being in a basement for hours having your hear rate in Zone 3 will cause a waterfall of sweat. Lets just say at the end of all my workouts I looked like I had gone swimming with my clothes on. It was SICK!

The week and days leading up to my first race (Gaper's Block Criterium) I was really nervous and somewhat questioning myself. Could I really do this? I mean I bought my bike only a year ago and now I was going to try and race it- what the hell is wrong with me? I quickly snapped out of it once I thought again of why I am doing this. I needed to prove to myself that just because I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, it didn't mean that I couldn't reach new goals and set bigger and better dreams. MS isn't the end all be all and I wanted to make sure that not only I knew that, but other people affected by the disease new that as well. This is my way of saying "SUCK IT" to MS!

Race 1 Recap:
Let me just say thank god for my friend Elle. She came out with me to the race. I really needed someone there with me to kind of calm me down and make sure I was on track with everything (like putting my number on correctly). When I got there I jumped on my trainer and warmed up. I was pretty quiet during the warm up. Trying to focus on what I had learned in the women's clinic on cornering during a race and most importantly not crashing. During the warm up Elle and I came up with 3 goals:
(1) Stay up - i.e. no crashing
(2) Stay with the pack - for those of you who are non-cyclists this means just staying with the group
(3) Finish the race

All seemed pretty realistic but the one I was most nervous about was #2. Last year during my first ever race (Willow Springs) I got dropped 5 miles into it after pulling a muscle in my leg. I finished the race but it left a bad taste in my mouth about racing. But I pushed that out of my mind and just focused on it being a new race and a new day.
It was finally time for the race. I approached the start line. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest- it was like high school swimming all over again. I looked to my left, looked to my right and saw the other 25 female cyclists focused and ready to race. They blew the whistle and we were off....
The race started slow, no one wanted to jump in the front. When we approached the first corner I was about to crap my pants- all I could think of was not to crash and take out the rest of the girls. We hit the corner and it was like a knife through butter- easy as can be. The girls picked up the intensity and started a pace line. I was at the front of the pack peddling away and holding my own. We kept the pace line going for a steady 10 laps and then the final 4 lap countdown began and the intensity picked up. The front of the pack picked up the speed. At one moment I looked down at my computer and we had hit 28mph (let me just emphasize that it was a windy day and this was with the wind at our back). I kept with the lead pack all the way to the end and sprinted to the finish to come in 11th place out of 26 girls. Not too shabby for my first ever criterium. I had completed all 3 goals that Elle and I had set and I felt like I was on top of the world. It was a great feeling! I was hungry for more...

Race #2- the crash:
It was bound to happen so I guess I'm glad I just got it out of the way. I got ready for the race just like I did on Monday. Elle came out to support me again which I again, am so thankful for. She even did a little song and dance for me to get me ready for the race :-)

I approached the start line- 21 girls in all for the race- the whistle blew and I was off again. This race was a little different then the one on Monday. There were a lot more experienced riders and they were picking up the speed quickly. At one point I looked at my heart rate monitor and hit a new record max of 197. Before I had only hit 187.
We had about 6 laps to go and I was in the front back. We were approaching a turn when the girl in front of me hit her brakes (as she had been doing the WHOLE freaking time). I knew better then to stay behind her the first couple of times I saw it happen but I did because I didn't want to be at the very front of the pack. As soon as she hit her brakes before the turn, she swerved to the right, my front wheel hit her back wheel and it came right out from under me. Before I could say "what the (fill in the blank)" I was bracing myself for my one on one with the cement. I hit, and I hit hard. I think going into the turn we were at about 19mph- not too fast but it was up there. When I hit the ground, I didn't really feel too much. I closed my eyes and hoped that I didn't take out anyone else along with me.... unfortunately that wasn't the case. One girl flew over me, bike and all. She ended up jumping back into the race and coming in 10th though- shes a stud. Me on the other hand, my bike was going two different directions, I had a hole through 2 layers of clothing on my right elbow, a massive lump and bruise on my butt and bruises and scrapes on both knees.... I decided to call it a day.

I quickly called my coach and told him the news. I felt like an idiot and was disappointed in myself. He cheered me up and told me it was ok and to bring my bike in tomorrow and we will check it out. I felt like I disappointed him and myself. On the way home all I could do was replay the race in my head. I was angry and determined to do better. As soon as I got home I texted Mark: "I'm racing Friday as long as my bike is good- I'm hungry and want more!

Race #3- the double sprint:
After going to see Mark on Thursday, I got my bike fixed and pimped out with some new racing tires and a shorter stem. NICE! Mark also checked out my newest collection of bruises and scrapes and I was as good as new. I was ready for the next day's race.
Unfortunately no one was able to come out on Friday so it was all me in the pre-race prep. Warmed up a little longer then usual to get my knee and hip ready for the race. They were in a lot of pain throughout the day. Spent some time riding up and down the road doing some sprints and working on cornering with the new wheels and the new fit. All seemed good- I was ready for the race.

The whistle blew again, and we were off. It was a lot smaller group then the other two races, 12 girls in total. The race started out VERY slow. No one wanted to take the front of the pack. On the third lap I was pushed to the front and led the group for a lap and then fell back cause the front is NOT where I wanted to be. About 6 laps into it the Cat 3 girls pushed ahead and I, along with 8 other girls were dropped. I worked with one girl to keep the lead pack in sight. At one point I saw another girl fall of the lead pack and I was determined to catch her. With 3 laps to go, I pushed ahead. The girl was about half a lap ahead of me and I knew I could catch her. Two laps to go, I was almost there. One lap to go and I was closing in on her. I dropped the girl I had been working with for the majority of the race and was on the sprint to the finish. I pushed past the girl I had been trying to catch and crossed the finish line to find out the that officials had told us the WRONG lap number and we had 1 more to go. WTF!!!! I was spent. The girl I had originally beat past the finish past me and at the last corner the girl I had been working with for the majority of the race, was now with me at a deja vu sprint to the finish. Over all I came in 8th out of 12. Not the best, but some great experience and a decent race after my crash on Wednesday.

What's to come:

The first couple of races are out of the way and I am eager and excited for some more. Still planning out my race schedule but for sure I know I will be doing the Tour of Elk Grove and a non-race event known as the RAIN Ride (163 mile bike ride across Indiana in 1day). I'll keep everyone posted on whats going on and what's to come.

I'm excited and thrilled about this new part and adventure of my life and I hope to inspire others (with and without MS) to conquer their dreams and reach for the stars. Anything is possible and I hope to prove that.

xo xo xo