Monday, June 04, 2007

Tulsa Tough: Riverside

"Take a deep seat and a faraway look."
-- Carrie Cash, Xplane/Team Revolution, in reference to the corner of carnage.
(photo courtesy of Roger Meadows, Edmund, OK. Other photos)

After the misery of the Brady crit, I determined to use Riverside and every other road race this season to train and learn. At this level, brute strength and speed doesn't get you very far. You have to be smart and highly strategic, so I made a new plan. Pick key learning objectives to focus on during every race and make a few plans to stick to. Don't wing it. Learn to ask constantly, "why am I in this position right now?" "What am I going to do next?" until this is an automatically running process with rapid fire answers. I think this is the key to becoming a highly effective and consistently performing racer. So...

My objectives for Riverside were to 1. manage my matchbook, 2. keep track of my chosen wheels, and by that, I mean know who I want to keep track of and not let get away without me wheels, 3. monitor and perhaps take advantage of a breakaway opportunity, and 4. Ride smooth and clean, technical-wise. Despite a 14th place finish, these goals were all met.

The race started at 1:45. The top 10 in the omnium were called to the line and the rest of us lined up behind. The whistle sounded and we rode off. The pace was slow. I think because it was hot and we all knew there was a demanding hill we'd have to ride about 20-25 times. I tried to take the outside line on the hill b/c it was less steep and that worked real well for me. I tended to pass people up it and felt it conserved energy.

The back stretch of the course included a downhill then up again into the most technical aspect of the course: A relatively steep descent with an off-camber, more than 90 degree right turn. This turn had spelled disaster for several in earlier races and ours was no exception.

On the first lap, who should go down but one of the most experienced and technically adept riders in the pack -- Catherine Walberg. She hit something or laid the bike too far down and all the sudden she was sliding across the asphalt on her hip. Talk about striking a note of caution in my heart. Egads. She popped up though and headed for the wheel pit or whatnot to take advantage of the free lap and rejoin the race on our second lap.

On our second lap, we come to the descent and behind me I hear the tell-tale "POP" of a blown tire followed by the clatter of a bike. Someone bit it again. This time, we discover it's more serious because an officer flags us down on the backside and makes us come to a stop. We then are told to proceed slowly and in single file where we are stopped again at the bottom of the descent. As we wait we see them carry Pamela Hinton, another highly experienced and competent racer, off the road in a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance. Throughly cautioned now, the official deems it appropriate to do a restart and they call us back to the line and the new race is 50 minutes and I reset my computer accordingly for my plan was to resist spending any extra energy for the first half - NO MATTER WHAT - just as an exercise in discipline. Plan was to keep track of my wheels and monitor people's position, and for the most part, I succeeded in that effort. I did get shoved out in front once b/c I climbed too quickly, but that was ok. I just went slow until someone got tired of it and went in front. Besides, for the first half, a big group of women passed me on that descent b/c I was slowing a lot to practice my line on that evil corner.

Then, with 6 laps to go, they called a preem, and I stuck with Catherine up the hill into the descent and found myself at teh front on her wheel and her going for the preem. This was an opportunity. Maybe I could grab a preem, and if not, then I'd just hit it and maybe I could breakaway. So, I gave it a go. I followed her wheel, accelerated into the meager draft such a whisp of a woman offers, popped around and was a hair too late. Catherine got the preem, but when I looked back, no one had followed. Everyone was behaving just like they had on previous laps where they slowed way down into the headwind. So, I just kept going, hoping Catherine would grab my wheel and we could get something going. No such luck. I ended up on my own, but held it for 3 laps until the field reeled me in on the backside of the course. My legs were hurting something fierce and it was then that I lost sight of my wheel tracking objective. I should have just dug a little deeper and maybe, just maybe I could have held a wheel across the line for a better finish, but maybe not. I don't know, but I do wish I'd made more of an effort. In any case, when I rounded the corner, I did remember to execute a sprint plan. I followed wheels and ended up catching and passing two women for 14th place. Overall, I felt it was a very successful race for me in terms of meeting my objectives. Moreover, by the time I was by myself, I had found my line on that descent of destruction and was sweeping that corner properly and with very little loss of downhill momentum.

Oh, and you should also know that I got news last night that Pamela was released from the hospital later in the evening and is OK.

I also got to race with and meet PROMANgirl who writes the race reports and manages the blog for the Marin County based elite women's racing team in California. She was super nice and this was one of the weekend's highlights along with signing an autograph. Yeah.... I'm not kidding.

After what I felt was a disastrous finish to the Brady crit, this little girl comes up to me with her mom and wants me to sign my name on her arm. I told her I didn't win and maybe she'd like one of those girls to sign. She just looked at me, shook her head, and held out her arm. So I did it and told her to ride her bike all the time so that when she was bigger, she'd fly. So now, when I race, I also think of her and feel like I have a huge obligation to do my absolute best.

I'd also like to thank all the folks I met from the Tulsa area who supported me during the race with their cheers. You can't imagine how that helps when you're hurting like nobody's business. A special thanks goes out the trio who aided my recovery after the Brady crit and who came out to watch Riverside. You not only helped me get my body back online, but more importantly, helped me get my attitude revised for the next day. THANK YOU!

To the young man in the elevator who noticed I had my front wheel on backwards such that the bearings wouldn't roll optimally and who helped me change it, THANK YOU! I didn't know I should be able to read the Bontrager "B" from my bike. Now I do, thanks to you.

TULSA TOUGH is a very well run event and I am definitely going back next year.


LoupGarou said...

Awesome job Syd. You definitely are an inspiration to a lot of people just getting into racing. That was great to hear about the little girl asking for your autograph.

Keep up the great work and the great post race write ups.

oldmanandhisbike said...

I love reading your race reports; its like being in the event without all of the crashing and scar tissue! :^)
You amaze me with all the thought and decision making going on in your brain during a race. I am just thinking "when is this sh_t going to end" and singing Queen songs! :^)
Congrats on your finish and being a "crowd" favorite (autograph)!

Dad said...

I too enjoy reading your race reports. First because it educates me a good deal about a bike race, and secondly I am happy to see that a seed planted in a little girl running barrels on big, fast horses remembers what her father insisted on after every run -- mental replay. What was good? bad? so-so? How can I enhance my plan and run the plan better next day?

I truly believe that unless you master this technique to the point that when a plan is put into the subconscious mind all the body must do is react to the clues. That's when you're really cookin' and the consistency becomes nearly flawless. You do yourself proud and you'll get there sooner than you think.

It's great that the little girl wanted your autograph. That's an inspiring moment for two has found a heroine/hero and the other is humbled by the reminder that you're there partly because you're gifted beyond numbers of others with special physical talent. That takes nothing from all your hard work and study, those moments just always reminded me that God gave me more attributes than many, and less then some and I had a responsiblity to use them humbly.

I guess that is why I am willing to help these young folks who want to be rodeo cowboys...just maybe I can give them the boost they need to really chase their dream. Your comment to the little girl may be the beginning of dream ready to blossom. Again you've done yourself proud.

Thanks for the racing update and the run-down. Next!!! *L* Crazy business that competition stuff, eh?

Chris said...

Awesome race report Syd. Is there just a huge difference between Cat. 2 and Cat. 3, or are the races you are doing now just more competitive in general?

Danielle said...

Wow....I agree with Brian (Old Man). Reading your race reports is amazing...and probably as close to a road race as I will ever get!

Once again, awesome job.

mtb05girl said...

Good job in Tulsa! Sounds like fun. I might have to look into it for next year :)

Of course I'll be at Superweek. I'm still a 3, so I'm going to do that week, but I might also do a few of the Open races. See you then!

sydney_b said...

Dad, you're so right about how beneficial those early lessons were - from fear management to race competition review. That heritage is invaluable. And as far as inspiration, I only wish I'd had the presence of mind to get that little girl's name. I'd put it on my head tube so when I start feeling puny, I can think of her and dig a little deeper.

Chris, it is a whole different game. Riding in the 3/4s, at least here in the midwest, there are large differences in fitness, talent, and preparation, so brute strength and speed will get you a long ways. In my case, it got me to a cat 2 w/o having ever needed to do much in the way of field sprint finishes. Riding with the pro/1/2s, everyone is in good shape and many of the women have way more experience than me b/c they do crit circuits on the coasts and bigger cities where the competition is stiffer and the fields larger. Consequently, I have to really up my game and put my focus on learning how to leverage my strengths most effectively. The trick is identifying exactly what those strengths are. Since I'm so new at this, there's a lot of room for skill development. For example, my numbers favor a time trialist now, but I do have a lot of strength, and may turn into a much better sprinter with practice in that area. In the meantime, I'm putting my emphasis on studying tactics, strategies, and keeping my mind in analysis mode during the race. A smart racer knows how to use the strong one to her advantage and I want to be a strong, smart one. :)

Kevin, Brian, and Danielle..thank you for your encouragement. The best part of racing for me has been the people I've met, both online and especially, eventually in person.

Amanda, you should put it on your schedule. I think you'd like the event a lot. The coolest thing is they're all close together so you can ride to all of them and they're so well organized.

monkeygirl said...

and when you think of that little girl do you just bawl your eyes out, that was so awesome, she knew what she was up to.

bryan said...

You got a new helmet.

excellent report -- I've been keeping those lessons in mind on some of my rides. thanks for taking the lumps for me.

PROMANgirl said...

Hey there, it was so great meeting you! Thanks for introducing yourself! What are your plans for cross this year, will you do the USGP?
Good luck with your racing. let me know if you come to CA perhapa you can guest ride for us!