Thursday, July 30, 2009

August Races

Kelly asked if I was going to be racing soon and I thought it might be good to put a final schedule up.

-Timpani Crit (8/2/09) - yes!
-Patterson Road Race (8/9/09) - likely
-Suisun Criterium (8/16/09) - yes NO (found out it's only Cat 1/2/3, BOO!)
-Winters Road Race (8/29/09) - yes
-Vacaville Grand Prix (8/30/09) – maybe
-Giro de SF (9/7/09) - yes
-Folsom Omnium (9/12-13/09) - yes

I am SO ready to get out there next month and just race, race race! Ego has gone out the door. For the rest of this season it’s all about having fun and learning absolutely as much as I can for next year.

2009 began with me feeling like I just needed a ‘little’ break from things, but was so sure I would be able to get back into the swing of things in March. March rolled around and I thought was ready to jump back into triathlon training mode. Yet the motivation was still lacking.

Then Laurel came along and saved the day by recruiting me to the Early Bird Women’s Cycling Team.

While the prospect of racing was thrilling and exciting, I took a laid-back and cautious approach to all of this, which was not very typical for me. Often times my modus operandi is to simply jump right into things without much forethought. If it’s fun, why not do it?

However, as my posts over the past few months have indicated, I’ve been much more observant and introspective, and kept somewhat of a safe distance from becoming fully immersed with bike racing. I’ve thrown any and all expectations out the door and merely gone into every race willing to have an open mind, being ready to learn, ready to have fun and not wanting to crash. Four basic goals.

So in fact, 2009 has been more of a ‘break’ year. Letting go of what I thought I ‘should’ be doing (triathlon, training 2x/day, etc.) and slowly adjusting and contemplating what other directions I would like to go.

In taking this approach, I feel like I’ve come to fully embrace what it is I truly want without constantly questioning my decision. What I truly want is to go into this winter with goals in mind for next year. I want a winter training plan. When 2010 begins I want to know what races I intend to do (at least in the first 4 months of the year) and I want to have a plan to stick with. I FINALLY feel like I’m truly okay committing to a set plan and willing to put in the time.

The weight isn’t on my shoulders anymore and instead there is a lightness that comes with the confidence of knowing this is good for me and that I’ve taken the time I needed to consider it all. That I’ve taken the physical and mental rest I so badly needed after four long and hard years. It feels incredible.

(Oh, I also really want/need a new bike. Working on that one. If you know anybody with extra $ to share with me, let me know. ;) )

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blog neglect

July 007 Lake Tahoe, 6:30 a.m., July 18, 2009

I fully admit my guilt. I’ve been neglecting my blog. Is this what falling off the exercise and/or diet bandwagon is like for the New Year’s Resolution folks? You begin to neglect your commitment and the further and further out you get from it, the scarier it is to get back to it. That’s happened to me with swimming before.

You think “oh god, I haven’t been in the pool in 3 days. What’s one more at this point?” Then it’s a week. “Now I can’t possibly go back to master’s – I’ll be too slow for my lane!” Two weeks ago by: “Am I even going to remember how to swim?”

July 011 After the first leg of my relay swim.
Yes! I DO remember how to swim in open water!

Of course I will. But it’s been a similar thing with writing and the excuses flow even faster than all the topics I want to write about. “I can’t possibly blog now because there’s too much to write about. Where do I start?” “Don’t have enough time. This post will take forever.” “I haven’t even uploaded my photos from the Trans Tahoe Relay, how can I write about it yet?” Then I begin to become scared of checking my site meter because I figure nobody is even reading my blog anymore due to inactivity. “It better be one damn good piece that you write so you can make up for weeks of NOT writing, Sarah.”

So the endless self-feeding cycle goes.

There is also the issue of blog-volution. As we grow, change and embark on new paths in life, for many of us who only have one blog, those blogs also begin to develop and change. I began this as a way to record my triathlon adventure. When I first began this path 4.5 years ago (yikes!), it was all brand-new to me. My life was completely different! As I look back to old posts, it’s exciting to see how much my life has changed and evolved and it reminds me that I AM making forward progress.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about where this blog is headed. My triathlon future is uncertain but not being counted out. My cycling future is cemented and it is without any hesitation I can say that I continue to love it more all the time. After Sunday’s ride I realized that my cycling fitness is quite possibly the best it’s ever been and that it’s really fun to climb monster hills and go 27 mph on flats when you’re in good shape.

I’ve briefly visited this topic before when I pondered renaming my blog. But should I rename it? Or start a new one? Or just amend it slightly? And how can I make it more meaningful to ME? Writing my cycling race reports is quite enjoyable, as I learn so much with each one I do. Still, I wonder if there’s more I should be saying than simply recounting my experiences.

This is where this post begins to take a personal turn. There are a lot of big changes happening in my life right now – many positive, big changes. As we get ready for them, I’ve begun to think more about my strengths as an individual, as a friend and as an athlete.

If I could somehow use my blog to extend those strengths to others through the web, then wouldn’t that be awesome? People who read this and know me in person know how dearly I love teaching spin and cycling out on the road. Lately I’ve been hearing people talk to me about my ‘energy’ and how positive I am. But how can I extend that through my writing?

Should I share more spin workouts/playlists? Mental training? Be better about sharing what I learn all the time so maybe I can help others? Post more riding routes in Sonoma County and file them for visiting folks to find? More cooking recipes?

July 015 Mmmm tomatoes are finally here!!

This is all just stream of conscious writing here. I don’t expect answers. Simply writing about wanting to find ways to inspire and influence those who care to read this. If I wanted to write about my experiences solely for personal gratification and the memories, I might as well keep it private. I know it’s a way for friends and family to read up on what I’m doing, but as Facebook has grown over the past year, I see that friends and family tend to stay up on what I do through that medium (which is totally fine).

Maybe this all just means that I should learn how to write shorter posts so I don’t feel like each time I write it’s a time suck. :)

In any case, I just wanted to check in. Life’s been a blast lately. Had Trans Tahoe Relay two weekends ago (and THAT was an adventure I will be posting SOON!), went to Vineman the next day to watch Beth, Ron, Rocketpants and a few other friends finish. Got to hang out with Beth and James, as well as Rocketpants a few days later. Last weekend was packed with more cycling. And of course, let’s not forget that this little race called the Tour de FRANCE was filling up my mornings over the past three weeks! That was an incredible race to follow.

Life is good. The blog will continue, in whatever direction it evolves. For those of you out there with blogs that I haven’t been too up on – don’t take it personally. I would love to be reading more race reports, adventures, recipes, gadget reviews, travel stories and just general life stories from all of you. I really do enjoy it but the next couple of months are about to get REALLY nuts. So if I go away for a bit, just know I’m sending great energy to all of you and keeping you in my thoughts.

Oh – and don’t forget to turn the corners of your mouth up several times a day. It really WILL improve your mood!

July 017

Nothing better than cycling with friends and
stopping at the best bakery in Sonoma County for an espresso and a scone!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Goals for the rest of 2009

The Early Bird Women’s Cycling Team is having a “Team Camp” this Saturday. Woooo! Besides being excited to see all of these fabulous women again, I’m really looking forward to riding with them and all the things I will learn tomorrow.

Our team directors asked us to write down our goals for the rest of the year and share them with the team. Sharing them on my blog seemed like a good idea as well, so here they are. Maybe now that I’ve shared them with, well, everybody, I’ll be more apt to reach them!

My goals for the rest of 2009 and how I'll achieve them:

1. Continue to work on getting myself in better bike racing shape. This means working with my friend Tim on a cycling plan for the rest of my races and sticking to it. Additionally, I plan to achieve this through reading The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel. I read his Triathlete's Training Bible and it really made a big difference for me, mentally and physically. I like to learn about the things I'm doing and I know that if I read more about bike racing and understand more about how one trains for it (and races in it!), I will be much more inclined to want to stick to a training plan.

2. Lose 5 lbs. It's not that much but I think it's enough to help me out considerably up climbs as well as in crits. Doing this means really making a commitment to drinking less beer and wine (ugh!), eating less peanut butter (ugh!!) and sitting down every weekend to plan the week's dinners a little better. I know that if I do this the weight will come off, so I really need to find a way to hold myself accountable and stick to it. Any ideas on holding oneself accountable?

3. Race at least 2 more crits and 2 more road races through the rest of the season. It's not much in the bike racing world, but I've got a lot of other things going on outside of bike racing and I think it's a commitment I can stick with. I've planned out three of the races; just need to find one more crit. (Ohlone Crit, 7/25; Santa Cruz Road Race 8/23; Winters Road Race 8/29)

4. Ride two bike events that aren't races. This would be the Tour of Napa Valley 65 mile route (8/16) and either the Marin Century (8/1), the Auburn Century (9/12) or the Riverbank Wine & Cheese Century (10/11).

5. Continue to keep learning and taking it all in, being kind to myself when I make mistakes and remembering that this is all a new learning experience. Reminding myself that even little improvements are victories that should be celebrated.

6. Keep swimming and yoga in my training. It's hard to do but it's so important to me and I always feel better when I'm doing them.

7. Get more sleep. Achieving this means getting to bed earlier. Yikes!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Staying the Course

After entering the world of bike racing this year, I thought that my race reports would undoubtedly be much shorter. After all, there’s only ONE event to write about, right?

Indeed, there’s only one. But the miraculous thing is that I’m finding myself mulling over so many more things, that even days later, I continue to have little epiphanies and think “oh, I’ll have to include that on my blog, too.”

Here again, my ever-present challenge is brevity; saying more with less. I’ll keep trying.

Race: Cytomax Benicia Criterium
Date: Saturday, June 27, 2009
Field Raced: 3/4 (I’m currently a 4)
Teammates Present: Stephanie and Michal
Teams Present: Early Bird Women, Dolce Vita, Sugar CRM, NorCal, Colavita, MetroMint and a few others
Temp: At my race time (10:00 a.m.), low-mid 80s

Goals for this race:
1) Stay in the pack as long as possible in spite of how badly it hurt
2) Have fun this time
3) Practice cornering
4) Don’t crash

I would also like to say that the fabulous photos below were taken by Warren Lane and all of the Benicia Crit photos can be found at his website: Casadelane Photography. THANK YOU to Warren for sending me these great photos – much appreciated!

Stephanie and I take the line!
(Photo Credit: Warren Lane)
Taking the Line

As we took the line I was relieved to hear them tell us that we’d get a neutral lap to scope the course out and go through the turns. Earlier that morning I’d witnessed a crash on what looked like one of the hairier corners and was a bit anxious about how this would all pan out, especially given that the corners in the 2 Wheel crit were MUCH rounder than these. These were real street blocks with Bots Dots through the center, dips in the road for water drainage and just generally sharper turns.

In spite of the first lap being neutral, my heart rate was through the roof. I knew it would just take time to come down but I was so nervous. As we came up toward the line for the first real lap to begin, all I could think was “here we go. This is it. DON’T back down, Sarah. Just go with it and don’t give up!”

After two laps, my heart rate was even higher in mid 180s. This was not a purely flat course. The street with the starting line (1st street) was a gradual incline and it was about three blocks long. After a left and another right, we went up AGAIN, but this time a little steeper for another block. Then it would go down, down, down into the hairy turn from E. I street onto E. 2nd (which I came to love), another couple of rights and we were back on 1st street going up to do it all again.

See map:

Benicia Crit

The red line is the start line; we went north on 1st street then left and right on W. 2nd street, which is was more up! Basically heading away from the water was up; heading toward the water was down.

As we finished the 2nd lap, the officials were ringing the bell – the 3rd lap would be a Prime Lap. Oh no. Buckle the seatbelts and HANG ON!

I told myself that if I could just hang onto the pack for the 3rd lap, it would all be okay. I just had to stay the course and keep on, no matter what. Halfway through, I glanced at my watch – HR read 185. Wow. “It doesn’t matter, Sarah. Just HANG ON.”

We made the turn onto W. 2nd street to go up the steeper hill and it was there I began to fall behind a bit. Another woman passed and said to me “go on, you’ve GOT to go catch them.” Summoning every ounce of energy and strength I had, I got up out of my saddle, gritted my teeth and pushed, pushed as hard as I could up that hill. Cresting the top and heading right around the turn, I quickly shifted up and dug a little harder as we hit the flat and prepared to round the next corner.

Relieved, I had caught the back of the pack. My shoulders relaxed a little. It was all downhill for a bit. I could hang here, knowing that the next lap should be a little less fierce since it wouldn’t be a Prime Lap.

Except that as we came up to the line to begin the 4th lap – there was that damned bell – they were ringing it again! “Double Prime Lap, ladies! Keep it up!” yelled the race official.

I wanted to punch him. WTF? DOUBLE?

Knowing that I just would not be able to sustain a heart rate that was soaring in the 180s for another 25 minutes, I backed off my charge up the hill. At that point it was only one other woman and myself. Halfway through that fourth lap, I wanted to quit. The desire to just pull over, get off my bike, sit on the curb and relax was so intense it began to fill up all the space in my brain reserved for focus.

Sarah Pain 1

“NO! I am NOT QUITTING,” I told myself. Still, I hated being one of only two women off the back. But it didn’t matter. I came to race no matter what, and I had to stick with it.

After one lap, we managed to catch two other NorCal women who also had fallen off the back. The four of us worked together the rest of the race, and throughout the next 25 minutes, I began to see the entire field was completely strung out. Sure, I was still in the last group, and we did indeed get lapped by the race winners, but so what?

(Photo Credits: Warren Lane)

Interestingly enough, that desire to quit never quite went away. The four of us still raced and my average heart rate for all 40 minutes was 174. Translation: that was HARD and the intensity never went away! But as each lap went on, my focus became better. I started getting more comfortable with each turn and practiced braking less and cornering better. Renee from NorCal and I worked on taking short pulls. I worked on keeping my mind occupied with other tasks and not worrying about how uncomfortable I was.

Sarah Pain 2

Yet with 2 laps to go, it still felt like the race would never end.

Finally, though, we rounded that last right turn. I began to contemplate when to sprint for the line. Sure, I was almost dead last, but why not have some fun with it? Renee had the same thing in mind. I began to pick it up about 25 yards from the line but I think it was too soon.

About 4 yards from the line, Renee flew past me and beat me out for 30th place. I took 31st. Out of 34. ;)

As I previously mentioned, I’ve been thinking a lot about bike racing since last weekend. The biggest thing I’m learning is that it just takes practice. Lots and lots and LOTS of practice. So I’ll keep training. And practicing. And LEARNING! One thing that was absolutely awesome was that I walked away from this race feeling happy with how much I learned.

Additionally, I came to the realization that I’m actually really good at cornering. Corners don’t scare me, and, like going downhill, the more speed I can get and still be comfortable, the better!

What my body is used to is going long. Endurance. What I need to teach it how to do is to SPRINT! So that’s where my training is going to have to be a little more focused.

Ultimately, I walked away from the race feeling positive about crits, feeling positive about my experience and having a glimmer of hope that this could actually start to get really fun.