Saturday, September 29, 2007

Free Meeting!!!

Finally got back to goal weight, so I didn't have to pay. It's been slow taking the weight off this time. Though I have some interesting observations.

1. The weight seems to have come off in different spots then in the past.

2. Some of my skinny clothes still don't fit.

I'm not sure whether I want to try to get down enough to fit into the skinny clothes, though I'd like to fit into the Tommy Bahama capris. Those were too damn expensive!

I will probably maintain current points level for the time being. I wouldn't mind losing a few more pounds before I leave for vacation since I know I will eat more then normal. I certainly will be drinking more wine then normal. Can't help to do that when in wine country.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes!


Last year at this time I still feeling the affects of three slow to heal broken ribs and the immense sorrow of losing my dad suddenly. These two events had made it very challenging to train to walk the Nike Women's Marathon for Team in Training. There had been some weeks where my training for the week simply consisted of showing up for the long group walks. Mentally it was hard to get myself out the door to go for a walk. However 2006 was the year I wanted to finally add the marathon piece to my Team in Training resume, and complete the Triple Crown. So come hell or high water, I was doing a marathon!

The long walks were difficult at times. I was slower then the other women doing Nike, so often I would have nobody to walk with until I'd regroup with one of the coaches for the second part of the walk. Thank goodness for my iPod. Music helped keep me sane on the lonely walks. The other issue was I had trouble with my feet. I had an annoying pain on the outside of the right foot, and lingering plantar fasciitis in my left foot. There were the annoying shin splints that made it hard to run earlier in the year, when i was trying to tri.

The day before my 20 miler I walked into Jack Rabbit Sports in NYC, had them look at me on the treadmill, and switched to a completely different shoe. I was so desperate that I made this huge change, and then went out and walked 20 miles the next day. That's about as close as one can get to breaking the cardinal rule of nothing new on race day. But then again, I don't always follow the sanest path. Fortunately my insane gamble worked, and the pain in my feet was easing.

Now it's almost year since doing Nike, and in less then a month I will be doing it again. I'm hoping to go faster this time. If my training walks are any indicator I should be able to easily beat last year's time. It's been interesting trying to balance cycling and walking. Last year I didn't have that issue. This year I've had to try not to over train. When you're walking 3 days and riding 3 days it's easy to go overboard. I was glad when the Empire State Games were over, because then I didn't have to fret over getting bike miles in.

Another thing that has helped this year is, I've lost most of the weight I'd put on last two years. Returning to Weight Watchers has helped a lot, even if they don't quite know what to do with people like me who can ring up 9 to 11 activity points in a day. (They suggest 4 activity points a day, 28 for the week.) It took awhile to get the metabolism going again. I was starting to think I'd never get back down to goal and would have to set an "old lady's" new goal. However patience paid off. 18.6 pounds down! 1.4 will put me back within 2 pounds of goal so I can stop paying!

I've had two good long walks so far, but I've had to do the last miles alone. Last weekend I did 15 miles. I had company for 10 and did the last 5 by myself. This weekend I again had company for 10, and had to do 7 by myself. The 17 miler ended the same way the 15 miler began last week. Walking in the rain! I think my last mile was the fastest because I was worried about my iPod and cell phone getting wet. I sure never had those issues 25 years ago when doing long runs in the rain.

Last week I picked my "Race Music" play list for my final 5 miles. It's got music that I've liked to listen to before races over the years. It's a mixed bag of rock, classical, new age, and jazz. It was what I was in the mood for last weekend. This weekend I was in the mood for something a little more spiritual so I opted for Handel's Messiah. How many people train to oratorio music? Actually I find Messiah very uplifting, and some of the choruses have good tempo for my walking pace. I could not have timed it better though. As I was completing my last mile the "Hallelujah" Chorus came on. "Hallelujah, Hallelujah! I did it, I did it!" I got through the 17 miles at a consistent 15 minute pace. (My apologies to Mr. Handel.)

Two more long walks to go. 14 miles next week, and then the big 20 the week after. Then the week after that John and I leave for a week's vacation in San Francisco and wine country.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thanks to Volunteers!

Tonight there was a dinner for the cycling volunteers for the Empire State Games. I was invited even though I only helped a little at the criterium when my race was done. Though I guess volunteering to subject myself to four days of Open Division racing for the sake of having a Hudson Valley women's team was something.

It was nice to meet a number of the people who were out there each day making sure the riders were safe. I met the people who would blow a whistle when I came down the snaky descent on Cat Ridge Rd. This was their way of letting people down the hill know that riders were coming, or in my case most of the time, a rider was coming.

I was talking to one woman and we introduced ourselves. When I told her my name was Polly she said "Oh you're Polly on the Lightspeed. I was the one on the corner who was cheering for you, and you told me your name." I told how much I appreciated her cheering for me as I came by each time. It turns out she rides a Lightspeed too, so it was an easy way to spot me, and cheer. Thanks Mary for cheering me on in my lonely moments of riding OTB. (off the back)




I was not the only one at the dinner who had raced. I also got to meet Pat, who is 73 years old and did the time trial. In some ways she reminds me of Sister Madonna, the 74 year old triathlete who I want to be like when I'm in my 70s. Pat shared her story about Mark taking her out on the time trial course and building up from 4 miles to the complete 10. Her time was 32:43. My time was 28:32. 4 minutes seems like a lot of time, but considering the twenty year age difference and she just started doing time trials this year, I thought that was damn good. If I only 4 minutes of my time in 20 years I'll be thrilled. I've already lost well over 4 minutes on my 10K run time from 2003 to 2005. I don't even want to think about much more I will have lost when I start trying to run again in earnest.

Special thanks go to Mark Lalloo and Marlene Perez for gathering all these wonderful people to come help out. Without volunteers, races don't happen. So next time you're racing remember to say thanks. If you're not racing, then give something back by being a volunteer.

I guess I'm going to have to ride some extra miles tomorrow because the party ended with this:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Post ESG Thoughts and a Few Pictures

Today we did our Team in Training walk from Kensico Dam Park. It's funny, I've lived in this area for over 25 years, and this is the first time I've actually driven my car up here. A few times in the 80s when I ran marathons we would run from Eastchester to the dam and back for our 20 miler. I also did the first Danskin Women's triathlon in New York. It finished at the dam. I hadn't been back there until a few weeks ago when the Empire State Games opening ceremony took place there.

The Games had been pushed to the background as I became chess geek for a week, and I refocused on my walk training. However Hudson Valley's hometown massacre never quite goes away when you have guys like JP looking for women for 2008 already. I'm guilty of that too! I'm looking to retire from Open competition and go back to winning medals in Masters, so when I rode with Lynn on Sunday and Monday, I'm thinking "young fresh blood". When I mentioned racing at Empires in 2008 to Lynn she tells me JP said the exact same thing.

I got a "Certificate of Athletic Achievement" from the Westchester County Executive for participating in the Games. Woo hoo! If he only knew what I went through for four days. Maybe instead of mailing out certificates to all the participating athletes they could have taken the postage money and spent a couple more dollars on our uniforms. Sorry I'm being a little snarky, but geez the home team getting their butts kicked kinda sucked. As Mark aptly pointed out, our guys know the Bronx River Parkway, and how did Western come back from 5th place and win the team competition short two riders? *sigh*

Here are some pictures from our club time trial, and the "Tour de Torture" (ESG road race) taken by Jodee Novak. Great shots. I can't believe she took the road race shots from the top of Oak Brook Rd. I'm actually smiling in some of them.

USI Time Trial:
Oh crap this hurts!!!

































Empire State Games Road Race:

Are We having fun yet?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Learning the Ropes: Gimbels Ride for Newbies

For somebody doing their first Gimbels ride it can be a pretty intimidating experience. It becomes even more so if the person just moved here recently. The wonderful thing about USI is we really try to take care of newcomers. So even if one of the hammerheads brings someone new out for the ride he will make sure that someone from the club will look after that person. This past Sunday I was the go to gal to make sure the newbie didn't end out in Albany instead of New Rochelle. Since I was doing Otto's route I was a perfect candidate to show Lynn the ropes.

Lynn just moved out here from Michigan a few weeks ago. Like any cyclist moving into a new area she found herself a bike shop. Where there's a bike shop there is always a salesperson who can hook up the newcomer with all the group ride info. So why start small when you can do the infamous Gimbels ride? The ride was featured in the July issue of Bicycling as part of an article on 25 wildest group rides in America. Yep, it can be pretty wild, but Otto's route is the sanest of the three routes. It's where most all newbies begin their Gimbels career.

The trick to mastering this ride is knowing the roads, and knowing where people will attack, and where they ease up. Fortunately since the number 1 rule of Otto's route is Wait for Otto at the top of "American Can"* hill, it gives people on that route a chance to catch up. The other two routes have no rules. You get spit off the back, you're on your own. You better know where you're going or have a map handy.

*Different parts of the ride have names based on where they are, topography, or landmark. This hill is so named because it comes goes up past what used to be the corporate headquarters of American Can Corporation.

I've kept a number of newbies company in their inaugural Gimbels ride, and I tell every single one of them the same thing. "When we get stopped at a light in North White Plains roll up to the front." By moving up to the front one can avoid the chaos in the middle and back of the pack. Also if one doesn't climb so well, when we get to the "bridge hill" and start getting passed by people who can climb one won't be OTB (off the back). I learned early on that to have half a chance of surviving the ride you need to stay near the front. When you're doing Otto's route it's not as essential as when going regular or long.

If your idea of a huge group ride is 20 riders then Gimbels can be rather scary since on a nice summer's day the initial group can number close to 100 riders. That mass does divide up according to route and then sub-divides as people get spit off the back or break away off the front, but heading out of North White Plains on Rte 22 it's a mass of cyclists. The pace at that point is still such that most people can sit in comfortably, even those without the best of cycling skills. Since Rte 22 is not in the best of shape one has to be wary of potholes. The Gimbels veterans know where most of the potholes are so they know to stay left, right or center in certain spots. Despite holes being called out, there's always someone who ends out overreacting when trying to get around one of the craters. At times this causes one rider to bump another. Skilled pack riders are used to the jostling and bumping, but in a pack this large there are those who aren't so skilled. Sometimes a rider will panic when bumped, go down and take somebody with him.

I've been bumped and jostled a number of times over the years, but after an accident it can take time to get used to the pack again. July 4th was my first Gimbels ride since my accident last year. It was difficult psychologically riding up Rte 22 with all those people around me. There were times I thought I'd have a panic attack, but I just tried to keep smooth and avoid the holes. Even though I do more pack riding then the average triathlete, I still am more comfortable being in time trial mode. The combination of trying not to be in the thick of the pack, and making sure I won't get spit off the back I try to get to the front by North White Plains.

After the North White Plains train station we finally got stopped at a light so I told Lynn to move up to the front. We were able to stay up near the front heading out of North White Plains. One thing I had neglected to tell Lynn was to be in an easy gear after we crossed the reservoir and climbed the "bridge hill". She was having a bit of trouble getting out of the big ring to climb the hill. I was afraid I was going to lose her there, but she managed to recover and get back to me by the time we were heading down the other side. Lynn has an advantage in that she's young and fit. I'm two years older then her mother. Enough said.

After the bridge hill faux pas, I made sure I warned her about appropriate gear changes. The next necessary gear change is the climb up American Can hill. It doesn't matter how many times I climb that hill it never seems to get any easier. Though in comparison to "Tour de Torture" last month it's nothing. Fortunately we get a respite at the top waiting for Otto. Some people will roll easy down the other side and let the rest of the group overtake them. Lynn opted to do that.

My goal in cycling is to still be doing a ride like this when I'm in my 70s and have the "youngsters" in their 40s and 50s waiting for me. Some want to be like Mike. I want to be like Otto. Otto is 74, and still rides his bike 200 miles a week. He rides all winter. I'm a wimp in the winter. He also still rides pretty damn fast on the flats. I've watched him blow by younger riders to move up to the front where somebody will push him up a hill. My yardstick for seeing how I'm progressing fitness wise is Otto. When I can get up the hill ahead of him then I know I'm just about back in shape.

The next tricky part is what we refer to as the double whammy. It's two hills on Purchase Street. Neither of them are steep, but it's a spot where people like to attack and if you're not alert you'll get dropped. Otto's group doesn't attack, but I've gotten dropped there when I'm not fit. If you're not with the group when they crest the second hill you better hope they hit the red light at Anderson Hill Rd, otherwise they're gone. From the crest of that hill down into Rye it's pretty much all downhill. On the regular and long rides the pace is very intense. It's also where there tend to be accidents on the ride. I've seen some pretty scary accidents along that stretch of road. There's also a sprint that's contested before crossing over I-287. Most of the time with Otto's group nobody sprints. But Roberta took off so I decided to chase her down. Woo hoo! I "won" the sprint! Big whoop. Only means something when you're racing a bunch of people for the sprint on the other routes.

Though the part of the ride that scares me the most is going down Highland into Rye, and making the two right turns in the middle of town. With Otto's group it's not so bad. We take the two corners in a reasonable manner. In the larger groups you have hordes of riders weaving around cars and taking those corners going very fast. When I've been in my finest condition those two turns either make or break me. If I can get through them with the group I can hang on. If I'm gapped off, I have to bust my ass to try to get back on. If I'm having a good day I can get back on. If not, it's a lonely ride down to New Rochelle.

Even if I do get back on there's one more difficult spot. Again it's sort of nothing hill heading up to Rte 1. However somebody always attacks there, and if I've expended a lot of energy trying stay with the group through downtown Rye, it may be the proverbial straw. If I survive there then I'm not so concerned when the sprint occurs at the Rye/Mamaroneck border. After that it's an easy roll down to New Rochelle. Though when the weather is cold people race down to there to get the hot cup of coffee.

By coming with me on Otto's ride Lynn got to experience all these little topographical challenges without 50 testosterone fueled guys hammering through them all. For a newbie coming from the Midwest where there aren't so many cars and crazies on the road this ride can be unnerving to say the least. A few weeks on Otto's ride gets the Gimbels rookie used to the course. Lynn has youth and fitness going her way so it shouldn't be too many weeks before she's ready to have Tommy or JP take her on the regular ride. Mental fortitude will be the determining factor.

The regular ride has gotten much faster since I last did it, so I'm not sure I'll get back to that type of speed. Even if I do get back to that speed, I'm not sure I'll be able to hack the insanity. I think the older you get, the harder it is to come back psychologically after an accident. Also there are just too many stupid riders out there. We had two of them on Otto's ride. Neither of them can ride in a straight line. In a small group they're easier to deal with, but I couldn't believe it when one of them tried to move up by cutting through the group diagonally. I called him a f#$%ing moron. I don't do that very often, but when someone deserves it, I'll let them have it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Racing By The Numbers


Doing the laundry yesterday I was removing my race numbers from my Hudson Valley jerseys. Looking at my assigned numbers I found a bit of irony in them. Seven is a holy number, so my friend Jeannie always tells me having a 7 in your race number will bring good things during your race. I didn't get injured or sick so that is a good thing. Number 72 was my number for the first three events. If you add 7+2 you get 9 which is the number of points I scored for the team on each of my DFL days.


This is my team time trial number. We were team number 13. Lucky number 13? I'm not superstitious. In fact I like the number 13. I wore it in high school at times. Though in this case I'm not sure being the first women's team sent out, only to be passed by 4 of the 5 following teams is considered being lucky.

I can play math games with this number too. 13-1=12 which is the number of points I scored for the team in the individual time trial.



With these kind of numbers it doesn't make me want to rush out and play the lottery.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Team Time Trial: The Last Shall Be First......

...to start.

I enjoy this event because I actually get to sit on a wheel, and be with someone. Since we're only a two woman team we have to stay together. Second rider across is the determining factor. It's not like 1992 when I was riding with two much stronger and younger women. Gretchen and Sherri took off after a few warm up rolls on my wheel. Though Janice is probably a stronger rider then me, we had similar times in the individual time trial, so we should not have trouble staying together.

Our only problem; barring a major miracle or massive mechanical failures from the other teams, we're coming in last. Even Long Island with their slow third rider (the one who saved me from the "last place grand slam" by finishing 16 seconds behind me in the individual time trial) can beat us. One of their riders who I've raced against before at previous Games said, "You're the only team we'll beat." In major league sports that would be serious "bulletin board material" to get a team pumped up for their opponents who would have the nerve to say such a thing. She wasn't be arrogant or nasty when she said it. She was just commenting on the chances of her team in this race. Unfortunately she was right, and all the motivation in the world could not change it.

The other aspect of this race of this race that I was looking forward to was the course itself. They were using the portion of the Bronx River Parkway that is closed for "Bicycle Sundays" in the spring and fall. I've ridden the route hundreds of times since 1983 when I first started riding a bike again. I have many fond memories of "Bicycle Sundays" over the years. John and I have met many good cycling friends out there, and before we started doing the Gimbels Ride we thought we were hot stuff. A group of us dubbed ourselves "The Bronx River Racers" because we could speed by all the casual weekend riders. After we took our lumps in our early attempts at the Gimbels Ride, we learned we weren't such hot stuff. Maybe being a "Bronx River Racer" wasn't something to be proud of.

I had not made it out for any "Bicycle Sundays" this past spring, but given my history with the road it would not be a problem. Between riding and driving that stretch for the last 24 years, to say that "she's familiar with the course" is an understatement. When I think back on my decision making regarding Open versus Masters, part of the draw to the Open was being able to do the Team Time Trial on the parkway.

Despite my detour to my house to pick up my orthotics, I had no problem making it up to White Plains via the parkway before they closed it to traffic. It gave me another chance to check up on the construction spots. Fortunately there's only one place where it goes to one lane. The police actually closed the parkway at 8:30. That allowed us to actually ride a part of the course for a warm up. Janice opted for the wind trainer. I stuck to my normal routine of riding on the road. After Thursday's little mishap, I'll pass on trainer warm ups.

The great thing about using this course is that it makes for long laps. So instead of having to do lots of laps of a short loop, the women had two laps and the men three laps of a 13.5 mile loop. This meant there would not be as much passing, and not trying to remember what lap we're on. It can get a little crazy out there when you have 18 teams going off at two minute intervals. Each team has it's own support car following behind, so between all the riders and their support cars it can't get a little hectic when one team overtakes another team.

Each region has two 5 man teams and one 3 woman team. The trick for the coaches is figuring out which riders they want on their A and B men's teams. In the men's race it's the third rider across that stops the clock. The coaches have to decide the right mix to maximize their chances. The riders have to agree on their strategy in terms the order of the riders, how long each rider will be at the front, and what to do if they lose certain riders to mechanical issues. So before the race starts the various teams are huddling to work out their strategy.

There wasn't anything deep or complicated about Hudson Valley's women's team strategy. Stay together, stay together, stay together, and don't drop each other was the game plan. We would figure out how long each of us would pull once we got a feel for each other out on the course. How's that for advance planning?

They send the teams out in reverse team standing order. So Hudson Valley's A Team was number one, followed by Western A, Long Island A, Central A, Adirondack A, and New York City A. Then the whole sequence would repeat again with the men's B teams going in that same order. Finally after the 12 men's teams go off, it's the women's teams turn. Once again Hudson Valley would lead off as team number 13. I thought that number was appropriate given all that we've dealt with. As were waiting behind the last few mens teams to go somebody made the observation that we look rather alone there, with just Janice and me. It's a contrast seeing a two women team standing on line behind several five man teams. It's sort of like looking at a grape sitting next to a apple. Both are fruit, but one is bigger then the other.

The other thing I like about a team trial is one foot is on the ground. No one is there to drop me! If I fall at the start, it's my own damn fault, and perhaps a sign from God that maybe I shouldn't be racing. So after the countdown from the official, and no signs from God, we were off. Janice took the first pull, and then I took us up the first hill out of White Plains. We didn't have a set time that each of us would spend at the front.

There were a couple of things I had to get used to as we took our first few turns in our pace line. One I had to make use of the curves in the road. When Janice was at the front she would cut a straight line which would mean she'd actually end out in the other lane. I'm so used to blindly following the road around the curves. She reminded me to cut the curves. The first time she did this I thought she was pulling off already.

The other thing I had to get used to was how close she stayed to me when she pulled off. I know when I'm in a pace line I have a tendency to move too far out when I pull off. Janice doesn't so I had to get used that. Given my post-crash discomfort level with pack riding, I had to deal with that aspect. I also found myself staying a little further off her wheel then I should have been. However I was sitting on my aero-bars most of the race. I only got off them when I was climbing. I didn't even want to think about how close she was to my wheel. I tried to stay as smooth as possible.

It wasn't too long before the Western women came up on us. Our team car honked to let us know when we were being overtaken. In a team trial event when a team is overtaken they pull over to the left, and let the overtaking team pass on the right. That totally goes against the grain of my triathlon mindset of stay right, pass left. But then again, team time trial goes against the triathlon mindset of no drafting. So basically I had to tell my inner tri-geek to "stuff it!"

When the men's teams overtake us it's pretty impressive to watch and hear. Most of the guys have disks so we hear them coming before we see them. There is also the beep of Gemma's car horn to let us know someone is coming. After Robin's unintentional "snarky" remark about beating us, I really didn't want to get passed by Long Island, but they did overtake us, sans their third rider. They spit her off the back fairly quickly. After they went by I said "Damn, I didn't want them to pass us." Janice told me to try to stay close to them. I didn't really see what good it would do even if we could stay close. We had a four minute head start on them based on start order so now we were at least four minutes behind. Maybe Janice is a prophet because as it turned out Robin's chain snapped, so they had to stop and swap out her bike. I didn't see this happen, I heard about it after the race was done. Sheesh, their team car had a spare bike on top? Are we at the Tour de France? Actually some of the men's teams use radios to communicate with each other and the team car. That's a little intense for me.

We had two sets of wheels in our car so were prepared for flats, but a major mechanical like a broken chain would have been a disaster. For me to switch bikes I would have needed a second pair of shoes also with the correct cleat. Having a team car is nice because now and then they pull up next to us, give us encouragement, and remind us to drink water. Drinking on the tri-bike with no aero-bottle is difficult for me. So I'd do it when I was sitting in back. So every time they yelled to drink, I'd reach down and grab my bottle and take a sip.

We got through the first lap, and my legs felt pretty good. I find that I get stronger as I go along in this event. I remember in 2004, I started feeling better as Dale was feeling worse. Janice wanted to try to pick up the pace a bit on the last lap. I was game to try. On the first lap we had managed not to get passed on the turns, or in the construction zone on the northbound side. On the last lap we wouldn't be so lucky in the construction zone. I'm not sure whether it was good or bad that the construction zone was on a hill. The guys couldn't go quite as fast as they would on the flats, but on the other hand neither could we, so it was probably a wash. Janice and I got as far over to the left as possible without hitting the barrels. I got a little closer to one of them then I would have liked to, but since I was not down on the aero-bars it wasn't a problem. The guys passed us, and after we got back to two lanes their car went by.

One of the bad things about being the first team to start is knowing just how badly you're getting beat. At some point during the race, the Central women who started 6 minutes after us caught up, and just as we were cresting the hill into White Plains for the last time the Adirondack women (8 minutes behind) caught us. The only team not to catch us was NYC. They had started 10 minutes behind. However if we had to go a few more miles they would have caught us too. None of this came to me as any great surprise. As I said before, only a major miracle or a few catastrophic mechanical failures would change anything. As it was, there was a mechanical failure but nothing like having a spare bike to take care of that problem.

After we finished we rolled back to the parking lot. It wasn't long before everyone was in, and they posted the final standings. Western, the team that everyone had left for dead after being short two riders for the entire Games came through with wins in the men's and women's team time trials. In the team standings they shot up from fifth to first. Long Island shot up from fourth to second. NYC, who had started the day in first ended out in third.

Alas, Hudson Valley having started the day in last place remained last. So much for the home field advantage. So much for having a women's team. They did the same thing in Rochester with no women. Despite our presence not doing anything to improve Hudson Valley's chances this year, I still felt it was important that Janice and I were there. How sad would it have been to have the team trial go off with only five women's teams, and have the home team be the missing team? Pretty sad in my opinion.

I only knew a few of the guys on our team. Many of them were from Dutchess, Rockland, and Putnam counties. With most of them staying home instead of on campus you lose the camaraderie of hanging out at dinner together, and shooting the breeze about the day's race. I don't know if they cared whether Janice and I were there or not. It would have been nice if we could have contributed more. However even Adirondack with their two women team couldn't do better then fourth despite the fact that they came in 3rd in the women's team time trial and the one woman won two golds and a silver. I think it comes down to having good time trial teams, and racking up as many points as you can in the individual races.

Here are the final team standings:

1

Western 1738
gold
2

Long Island 1668
silver
3

New York City 1641
bronze
4

Adirondack 1575


5

Central 1540


6

Hudson Valley 1425



Ultimately my choosing to represent Hudson Valley wasn't about the guys and helping them in the team standings. It was about making sure the home team was represented in the women's open cycling division. It was about trying to be an example to other women. It was about participating in the Games at home.

For many athletes they have to fight tooth and nail to make their region's team. I remember my niece's disappointment in just missing making the Adirondack women's ice hockey team back in 2004. It would be her one and only chance to play ice hockey at the Games. Any girls or women want an easy way to make it to the Games? Become a cyclist. You may have to move to a region where there aren't many women trying out for cycling. Cycling may be an easy ticket to the Games, but it isn't an easy ticket through the Games.

By the time I finish 4 days of racing, I'm physically and emotionally exhausted. I remember at my first Games in 1992 being so spent that I burst into tears after the team time trial. It was a combination of our women's team missing a bronze medal by two seconds, and just the stress of competing at such a level for four days. As I was talking to friends after today's race I found myself getting a little emotional. I was close to crying, but I had to remind myself that this wasn't about medals. This was about participating, and representing the home team.

Next year the Empire State Games return to Binghampton. Hopefully if I'm there next year it will be because the Cheetahs decided to make a road trip to do some masters racing. I'll show up at FDR Park next June and do the qualifying race so that we can keep the numbers from dropping. Just maybe I can actually try to race instead of being a warm body. Maybe I can simply be an emergency alternate, instead of on the team. Maybe pigs will fly soon. :-)

Another Faux Pas

I've had technical and racing glitches in every race thus far. So why should the Team Time Trial be any different? This glitch started when I went back home after the criterium. I wanted a nap in an air-conditioned room, wash my jersey and warm up suit, and I wanted to get rid of the gear that I wouldn't need for the time trial. I figured by leaving the road bike and all the associated gear at home it would make checking out easier the next day. I didn't need 700 wheels, road shoes and helmet. I had the 650 wheels, tri-shoes and aero-helmet back at the college. All weekend I had been very careful to make sure I had the right shoes for the right bike. It worked perfectly until the last race because I forgot to take the orthotics out of the road shoes.

I discovered my mistake shortly before midnight when I was packing up my gear. Yes, I know. What was I doing up at midnight packing for a race that started in 9 hours?? It's called; to paraphrase a line from an old "Who" song, "Polly can't sleep at night." I really didn't want to have get up early enough to drive home, pick up the orthotics, and drive to White Plains for the race. I can't go home now because they probably wouldn't let me back on to campus since it's curfew. I figure I can try my running orthotics in the shoes, but I'm not sure how well that would work. My running shoes are in the car. So here it is midnight, the ESG security people are getting the last of the kids to go to their rooms, and here I am wanting to go outside. I can see it now, "Um, Clarence I can't do the team time trial because I broke curfew. Sorry about that. Tell Janice she can go back home."

Fortunately there is an advantage to being a mature adult. When I say "I know it's midnight, and I'm not supposed to be out, but I need something from my car. I'll be right back.", the staff isn't going to give me a lot of flack. I got the orthotics, and talked with the people for awhile. Then needled me a bit and said "Time for bed!" I tried the running orthotics in the tri-shoes, but simply standing there I could tell there was no way I was going to survive 27 miles with this set up. The running orthotics are 3/4 length, and the cycling ones are full length. My toes were hanging over the edge and resting on the bottom of the shoe. They were starting to hurt, and I wasn't doing anything.

I thought about a test ride, but somehow I knew I couldn't go outside again, and riding a circuit around the corridor of the dorm would surely get me booted from the Games. I saw a kid get the boot yesterday. They don't mess around with dorm rules infractions. I've made my mark on these Games as the masochist master rider taking one for the home team. I did not want to become the oldest participant to be booted from the Games for inappropriate behavior in the dorms.

So I was just going to have to suck it up, get up earlier and go home before heading to White Plains. Before going to bed I tried to pack up as much stuff as possible. I decided I would check out in the morning and save myself a trip back after the race.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

DFL in White Plains, but all over the ESG website.

After Friday's race, nothing could hurt quite so bad. When I woke up Saturday morning I felt very tired. Wen the alarm went off I debated the merits of getting up and going over to the cafeteria for breakfast versus staying in bed a little longer and eating a Clif Bar in the car on my way to White Plains. College cafeteria food or sleep?? Another one of those no brainers!! I didn't really fall back asleep, but just lying in bed for an extra 20 minutes felt pretty good. Finally I pried myself out of bed, pulled myself together and made my way down to White Plains.

It's funny staying at the college for races in my area, though for Thursday's and Friday's races it was a smart move. I probably saved about 25 minutes in travel time not having to deal with rush hour traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway. For a race in White Plains on Saturday it was really not necessary, but I didn't want to break the ESG rules regarding campus housing. Coming to White Plains from Purchase felt a little strange. Despite my familiarity with White Plains I still wasn't a 100% sure where I was supposed to be going. I followed the directions in the cycling information packet. They sent me to a parking lot that was closed. I finally went and parked by the train station and rode my bike over to the staging area.

Criteriums usually scare the crap out of me. I hate the tight turns and the pack makes me nervous. I had skipped the Masters criterium at the 2005 Games in New Paltz. Competing in the Open I have no choice. However I was actually looking forward to doing the event this year. It was one of the events I had intended to enter if I had done the Masters Division. I thought it would be exciting to do a bike race in downtown White Plains, and I pictured big crowds watching.

So I was wrong about the big crowds. What can I expect early on a Saturday morning? When I got there the Master's men were racing. It was pretty intense. I warmed up on one of the side streets with some of the other women from the Open Division. I decided I did not need to warm up on a trainer like the guys. Rolling around on the streets would be fine, and once the masters men were done I could ride the course. While waiting around for the guys to finish I got interviewed for a video on the Journal News ESG website. He was asking questions about the Tour de France doping controversies and how it impacted cycling at this level. I was featured quite a bit on the video. (Look for ESG Special -Doping Controversy) After watching the video I decided I need a speech coach! All the ums make me want to shoot myself!

Riding around during the warm up helped me get a feel for the corners, and plan my strategy. Strategy sounds impressive, but all it means for me is knowing where I want be when the field laps me. Finally it's time to line up. The official goes through the usual spiel about it's a points race, and that one loses 20 points if they get lapped once, and may be pulled if lapped twice. The word may caught my ears because at the Binghampton Games the official said "will" and sure enough I was pulled after being lapped a second time.

Before the race Gemma said to me, "Whatever you do, don't get lapped." Yeh, fat chance of that happening. I was in really good shape in 2004 for the Binghampton Games, but still I eventually got spit off the back, and lapped twice. Here it is 3 years later, and I'm nowhere near the condition I was back then, and she expects me not to get lapped? Maybe she was just trying to get me motivated. No problem! But I'm a realist. It wasn't matter of if I get lapped, it was when I get lapped.

I was hoping I could make it around a few times with the field, but perhaps that was too ambitious a goal. Maybe a more reasonable goal would have been make it to the fourth corner with the field. I was already getting spit off the back on the second corner. By the third corner even the woman I beat in the time trial had dropped me. *Sigh* it was going to be one of those days. Since it was only a .55 mile loop it didn't take long for the breakaway to lap me. I'm not sure on what lap they caught me, but I knew if the officials pulled me when I got lapped again it was going to be a short morning. When I got lapped the second time I looked at my odometer. 4.25 miles! Cripe, my warm up was longer then that. However as I approached the start/finish line I didn't see the official step out on the course and blow his whistle, so it appeared they were letting me continue for the time being.

The spectators were great. A lot of USI people were out there as marshals. When I would get on Mamaroneck Ave. this one woman would yell out "Go Lightspeed!" On another lap she yelled out "Go Empire State Games!" She reminded me of spectators on the NYC marathon course that would cheer you by what ever was on your singlet. So when I came around the next time I told her "My name is Polly." On the next few laps she would yell "Go Polly." I saw the photographer who had done the video of me, and said "I told you I'd be easy to spot." He got some great shots of the race and the interviews.

This is a good action picture of me taken by Matthew Brown of the Journal News . The casual viewer doesn't have to know that I'm seriously OTB (off the back.) and DFL. For all they know I could be leading the field. (In my dreams!)

I knew my race was over when the woman who just lapped me got whistled off the course with 4 laps left for the field. At this point i had done about 9.5 miles. It was exactly was I was hoping for, but better then what I was entitled to since they could have yanked me long before. I lost track of how many times I actually I got lapped. I know it was at least 4 times, but I really didn't want to know. When they posted the standings they had me down for -60. Ouch and I thought my -40 looked bad in 2004!! Fortunately when they posted the results on the website, they listed the points we scored for the team, not the points from the race. So instead of a -60 it had 9 next to my name. Ah yes, the 9 more points the guys got by having me there instead of nobody. Whoopee! Hudson Valley's brief stay in 5th place was done. Even though there were only 88 points separating 3rd from 6th things were not looking good for the home team.

I was interviewed again and the reporter put a piece in his daily blog about my opting to do the Open instead of masters. He didn't quite get the story right since he made it sound like I was the 3rd person on the team. Oh well. It was still good to get something out about our sad women's situation. Who knows if people read this stuff or not.

I was going to leave after my race and go down NYC and play chess. However it's hard to walk away when there are still races going on. I rode around with Dale and Nancy as they were warming up for their race. I then watched them race. It was the first time I actually have watched Dale in a race that I was not in. Usually she's way in front of me so I don't see what's she's doing. It was pretty impressive watching her hang with the 55+ men. It gives me a greater appreciation of what's she accomplished this year. I'm envious of her discipline and focus, but I have to remind myself that she's free to train all year around. She doesn't also doesn't train for other sports.

It was a little difficult for me to watch the awards for the masters races. I was happy for Dale, Nancy, Karen and Liz. USI had a good showing. However seeing that empty podium spot in the 45-54 women was a little sad for me. It shouldn't really matter since third in that field would have been last in that field. I've won enough medals where I had do more then just show up. But there is something very cool about getting up on that podium and receiving a medal. I guess it's being able to act out the Olympic fantasies I had as a kid.

So one more race left. It will be another DFL day. The team time trial; where you're only as strong as your second rider. I'm the second rider. The one person I beat this weekend is the 3rd rider on the Long Island team. One just has to look at the results from the individual time trial, and it's easy to see where this is all leading to.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Inner Wimp (Wise Woman) Wins Battle of the Mind

I had another crappy night of sleep, and woke up this morning with my stomach doing back flips. It was probably a combination being outside too long yesterday, and nerves. This case of nerves wasn't like the feeling I get before a triathlon. The pre-tri "I'm ready to kick some butt in my age group" nerves is nervous energy. This morning was the "OMG, I've got to go climb all those damn hills at least 3 times!" nerves. I was truly anxious about this race.

I ate a very light breakfast of two slices of whole wheat toast, pineapple chunks, and a cup of tea. Not exactly the "breakfast of champions", but it was what I could handle at the time. The stupid elevator was out of order still so on my way to breakfast I had taken all my gear so that I would only have to carry the bike down the 4 flights of steps. I'm glad my bike is light, and I was hoping by the time I got back it would be fixed.

I got out to the start about an hour before te scheduled start of the first race. Guys are on wind trainers getting warmed up. I like to warm up before a short race, but for a long race like this I just want to ride around the parking lot a few times just to loosen the legs. For me the first five miles is my warm up. People were getting rather anxious because they were behind schedule and changed the start order. They opted to have the Masters 35+ and 45+ men go after the Open men, and before the Open women. That was fine with me. I didn't want them blazing down my butt almost immediately.

The only bad thing was there was more standing around in the sun. There wasn't a ton of shade, but we all crowded in. I don't know what it is about the Empire Games, but no matter what the weather has been like all summer it seems to be hot and humid on the day of the road race. This wasn't as hot as Syracuse in 2002 when it was 96 degrees, but it was very humid.

Finally it's time for the Open Women's field to take off. The head official gives us the final instructions and warns us about the dangerous turns and descents and the potholes. Yada, Yada. Been there, done that, know this course. Let's get the show on the road. The first few miles is a neutral start where the field rolls along. I figured I'd just sit in until things got going. At one point I thought I was going to get dropped during the neutral roll. We were going down a hill and I hit 36 on my odometer. The pack was starting to pull away. I did get back on, but as soon as the pace car sped up I got spit off the back. It was a good thing the pack was in sight when we made the second turn onto Bogtown Rd, because there was no course marshal there. I was afraid I'd forget the turn on the next lap. Fortunately by the time I came around again one of my fellow USI tri-geekettes, Flori was posted there.

So began my lonely lady of the road routine. It was going to be a long morning. It wasn't too long before the break away group of the masters 55+ men came by. A little later Nancy caught up with me. She wished me luck as she went by. Again it didn't really matter what field I was in, I was going to be going it alone. Though in the masters I would be done after two laps. The other problem with the Open is technically I can't work with masters riders. Even if I could have hung with Nancy it wouldn't be allowed. I did get a number of the older guys ride up to me and invite me to work with them. I told them I was in the Open and could not do so.

The one good thing the race being down here is USI was the promoting club, so I had lots of familiar voices cheering for me. Though on my first lap somebody yelled "Go Gloria!" I said "It's Polly, not Gloria!" Under my breath I was saying "Gloria wouldn't be this far behind." This course had a number of killer hills. The worst was Oak Ridge Rd. Climb a hill to get to it, make a left and then it's straight up. The feed zone was on the first section which is the easiest, but as it gets steeper and steeper. The hill has 3 parts to it. Each part is steeper then the previous one. At the top, make a left turn and it flattens out though still an upgrade, and just when you think you've made it to the top, BAM! another short but steep hill. This road is interesting because there is a tree in the middle and traffic goes to the right of the tree. When I did the course in training a few weeks ago I took one look at that and opted to go against traffic. That side wasn't quite as steep.

I knew sooner or later the Open Men would pass me. I was just praying it wouldn't be on Oak Ridge or the screaming descent. Fortunately it was on a straight away so I simply pulled over to the grass, stopped and let them go by. One of the trailing vehicles stops and a guy asks me if I'm in Open Men. I said "No! Open Women." I'm not sure if I was more annoyed or if he was more embarrassed. Short hair, not much in the boobs department, helmet, sunglasses, and far off the back of the women's field, I guess it's an easy assumption to make. But you know what they say about assume. Make an ass out of u and me.

One of the ways I know my attitude about this race is different was when two trucks decided to stop in the middle of Hardscrabble Road. A moving van and had pulled into a drive way, and a UPS truck stopped right in front of me. Had this been a triathlon where I was trying to smoke my age group, I'd would had been seriously pissed. Here it was an opportunity to take breather. Several Masters Men cam up on me and actually crossed the yellow line and went around. I decided I would pass on that idea, especially when the UPS guy was holding up his hand. I simply stopped, and passed when it was safe to do so.

The other challenge on a course like this is balancing the whole drinking thing. On the first lap you can't receive new bottles or anything. I had a large bottle of water and a smaller bottle of Hammer Heed. By the time I got to the feed zone I was just about out of water, but still had a decent amount of Heed left. I dropped off my water bottle, assuming (there we go with the A-word again.) I'd get another large bottle. I was given a small bottle, but was not ready to part with the Heed bottle. I had to be judicious in my drinking so that I wouldn't run out before the third trip up the hill.

After I had gotten my water I saw the NYC coach, Billy Montgomery. Billy and I go back a long time. He would always give me crap on the Gimbels Ride, and at first it upset me. Then one day when he was announcing a race I did in Prospect Park, afterwards he explained that he was just ragging on me. After that we become good friends, and it he's got to be one of the funniest guys in the peloton. He's always making crazy black jokes, telling funny stories, talking trash, and getting people to laugh. So today when I saw in the feed zone I said "Hi Billy, I love you." He says back to me, "Okay, stop with the niceties and start racing." You have to understand at this point I'm going about 5 MPH up this damn hill. So I yelled to him in jest, "F$%k you Billy." Somebody comments about having too much energy, and some of the Long Island people our ragging on me about what I said. I'm thinking to myself, "Oh crap! This is a bike race. This is not Gimbels where everyone trash talks like that. This is the Empire State Games. I can't be talking like that. What if people don't realize I'm kidding around. Are they going to report me for unsportsmanlike conduct. Am I gonna get DQ'ed and get zero points?"

I found myself at times talking to Dad, and discussing the fact that he and Uncle Ernie inspired me with their long rides. I said "I hope you and Ernie are riding with me even though it's been awhile since you all have ridden." When one is by herself it's easy to start talking to herself. I certainly didn't have any riding company. Every time somebody came by and offered a wheel I played it straight, and passed. Though I'm not sure I would have been able to hold on. Also riding with people may have increased the possibility that I wouldn't be far enough behind to justify them pulling me.

As I was getting close to the end of my second lap I saw Mark and said. "I hate you Mark!" Shortly after that I crossed the finish line and the official said "you got two more laps to go." I'm thinking to myself "Oh God, are they really going to make me do this two more times?" The inner-wimp was talking louder then the inner-competitor(masochist). I knew on this third lap the men would probably pass me again. Unfortunately a big group of the 35+ masters passed me on the screaming descent. There really was no place to pull over even though the wanted me to do so. Even riding the brakes I still had a lot of speed, and there was no way to stop quickly and pull over, so I just stayed as far to the right as possible and out of their way.

On this lap I also got caught by the women. One woman was off the front, and then a few minutes later the second and third women came by. Later another 4-5 women passed me. I figured this was increasing the odds that they'd pull me. The break away from the men's open passed me on another descent that was only a mile or so from the feed hill. I knew they'd be through the feed zone by the time I got there, but I was concerned that the field would overtake me while I was getting bottles. There was no way I was not taking two bottles this time around. I was totally out of Heed, and had very little water left.

I get to the feed zone, and my back is killing me. I drop the one bottle and Gemma hands me a new one. I drop the other, and I'm really wobbly. Dave gives me the other one, and the two them are pushing me as I get the second bottle in the cage. I have no energy to make any snarky comments to Billy. I'm dying of thirst, and I have these two fresh bottles, but on a hill this steep I can't take a hand off the bars to drink. I'm thinking to myself, "Just get to Maggie and Mary. You can drink up there." I'm also thinking, "If I have to go up this hill a 4th time, I may have to walk up it!"

Mary and Maggie were up at the top of the last steep hill by the park. Every time I'd come up they would be cheering for me. It was a good spot to have friends cheering. Each time I'd come up I'd say "See you in an hour." The third time up I said something to the effect of "I hope I don't see you again up here."

The last hill has a tree in the middle of the street. We had the choice of going on either side of the tree. The first time I had ridden the course Nancy and I went to the left against traffic. To the right looked longer and steeper. Just as I get near the hill four guys come up on me. One takes the road to the right. I hesitate a moment to wait to see where the other three guys are going. They take the left, and then I follow. I was glad it was only four guys and not the rest of the open field. Once I got to the top I could cope with getting passed by a large field.

As I made my way down to Hardscrabble Rd., I was wondering what was going to happen when I got back to the finish line. The masochistic side of me was saying "You want to do the 4th lap to say you did it, and have the distinction of being the last person on the course." The wise wimpy side was saying, "You're dying on the hills, they may have to give you an IV, just let them end your misery." Every hill I climbed on Hardscrabble the wise wimp was screaming louder then the inner-masochist. When I got to the junction of Hardscrabble and June Rd., Mark was still there. I told him, "If they don't pull me, I'm sending a hit man after you!" He tells me, "Don't worry, it's been taken care of."

As I approach the finish line the official tells me I have one more lap, but I can stop and finish one lap down. The key word was finish. I stopped, and verified that if I stopped on this lap I'd would simply be last, get the points, and not be DNF. When he said yes, that was good enough for me. As I walked over and sat on the grass I heard one of the officials say "Number 71 continued on." Number 71 was the woman from Long Island that I beat by 18 seconds in the time trial. When I heard that I started thinking "Damn, I'm such a wimp. She went out for the fourth lap. Maybe I wasn't that far back, I should have gone on."

As all those thoughts went through my mind, Nancy came over and gave me a hug. She was wearing her bronze medal. I told her what I was feeling at the moment. She assured me that I did the right thing, and that I did a good job. She said that as she passed me during the race she was thinking about what a hard race it was going to be for me. As I continued to be down on myself she reminded me that I had started training late. She was right. Once again I was my own worst critic.

I rode back to the parking lot after the men finished. I got talking to one of the guys from Long Island. It turns out number 71 was a good 15 minutes ahead me, so it wasn't like I was going to catch up with her and have company for "La Tour de Torture". Also the officials were a little confused as to whether she was done or not, and whether or not she was the last woman. As it was when the standings were posted they had her listed as down a lap also. I'm not sure what that was all about.

Mary and Maggie came back to the parking lot, and said they waited for me. I told them I was given the option to finish down a lap. They agreed that it was a no brainer, and that I made the right choice. Later on when I spoke to John he too told me I was smart, and to stop beating up on myself for stopping when I did. "Hello, Polly! You're 53! You didn't start training until April! You haven't been doing a lot of hills! You're still over your racing weight! Cut yourself a break!"

Got that out of my system, and enjoyed a very nice post race lunch with Maggie, Mary and Karen. Nothing like a good meal with the girls to help put everything in perspective.

The Hudson Valley guys scored pretty well, so we moved out of last place in the team standings. From third to sixth it pretty close. However it's going to be up to the guys if there's any chance of bronze. That would be nice since I wasn't scoring any medals on my own. Again if I had been in the masters I would have been fourth. Fourth place sucks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

10 Mile Time Trial - Not Quite DFL

It's official I'm becoming a neurotic competitor again. Last night I kept waking up every hour thinking "Is time yet?". I also had one of those crazy race dreams where stuff goes wrong and when you wake up, you say; "Phew it was only a dream!" In this dream I was walking around with my bike and the tire fell off the rim. I don't notice until someone points out the fact that I'm missing a tire. It was a sew up tire and I'm panicking because I have to glue it back on, and it's going to be hard to corner with wet glue. Mark is telling me I won't be able to corner right. He's drawing me diagrams of how I will have to negotiate the turn around on each end of the course.

Then I have this realization of "Wait! This has to be a dream because I have clinchers on my tri-bike, not sew ups." It's funny how real these dreams feel, and there is such relief when you realize that it was only a dream. Through out my sports "career" I've had many of these dreams. I do recall having them in college sometimes before ice hockey games. I'm not sure if I had them in high school. It's a good sign that I'm having them again. It means I'm starting to think like an athlete again.

Even though my start time isn't until 11:11, I still get to the site around 9:20. That gives me time to do a little bit of riding on the course. For the rest of my warm up I'll borrow someone's trainer. Riding a wind trainer is not my favorite thing to do, but we're parked in a field and we can't use the race course once the race starts. It's rather hot and there isn't any shade in the parking lot. Some teams have tents set up so that they can stay out of the sun. We don't. At one point I'm sitting on the ground in the shadow from a car. Hey, if it's good enough for the dogs, it's good enough for me.

Time trials always make me nervous because of the standing start. Even more so after getting dropped in 2004. Maybe I should have been more nervous about my warm up on the trainer. I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly the thing is tilting, and the bike, the trainer, and me all fall over. Sheesh! Talk about looking like a dork. Fortunately I was fine, and it was only my pride that took a few lumps.

Deborah Cohen a local who was out taking photographs caught the aftermath. Thanks for sending me this picture!Somebody needs to provide some comic relief. I guess I might as well be the one.

My start wasn't so full of pratfalls despite the fact that I managed to drop my chain and make a mess of my hands putting it back on. This was about 4 minutes before I was scheduled to start. I was getting a little crazy, but Gemma kept telling me to calm down and that it would be okay. I was happy to see that Ed was the starter. He does the starts at our club time trials, and he has steady hands. That made me feel better seeing him, and not some lady my height trying to hold me up.

I've ridden this stretch of Rte. 100 many times. I've done it with Team in Training, I've done it on long rides, and I did it a few weeks ago with the Cheetah Chicks. (Karen and Mary) When the Cheetahs did it a few weeks ago, we were doing a pace line. One might say the Cheetahs were cheating. :-) Today I would have no wheels to suck. It was me and the wind. Actually there wasn't much wind, but it was pretty hot. Wind or no wind, it's always easier to sit in.

Not being in top shape, and not getting out of my comfort zone much makes it harder to know how to pace myself. The club TT from a few weeks ago wasn't a great indicator. I figured I start out a bit easy and see how I felt as I went along. It's hard not to get pumped up when your friends are yelling your name as you go by. That would get me going and after awhile I have to dial it back a bit when I found it hard to breathe. Mary was on the megaphone trying to keep riders and spectators close to the grass. Every time I'd pass her spot I'd hear her yelling something about me through the megaphone. People who didn't know Polly sure did with Mary announcing my coming.

I suck on the turn around. The way this course was configured I'd have to do 3 U-turns. The first turn around was a little hairy. I decided that it was too hot not to go without water, but I didn't have any of my aero-bottles so I was going to have to reach down and get a bottle. I figured the best time to do that would be after completing the turn, and before I got back down on the bars. Good plan, but poor execution on the first turn. I came around the turn, but had not quite gotten straightened out so when I went for the bottle I slid out a bit and almost hit one of the cones. I decided for the second turn I'd wait a little longer before going for water.

I was wondering how long it would be before the woman who started right after me would catch me. Some of the other women who were starting after her said she was fast. They weren't kidding. She went blowing by me before the second turn around point. I wasn't too surprised since she started only 2 minutes after me. Her final time was almost 3 1/2 minutes faster then mine. Ouch! I still wish I knew how old some of these women were. After the last turn around two more women came blowing by me.

I learned from my Binghampton experience that these Open women are much better time trialists then the competition I get in Masters. I remember in 2004 expecting to finish somewhere in the middle. I was rather shocked by my next to last finish that year. I blamed some of it on being dropped and losing all that time picking myself up off the pavement, but truth be told I'm racing against Cat 2s and 3s in some cases. These women are hardcore racers, not a tri-geek pretending to be a bike racer.

My time was 28:32.79. It's not my worst time, but certainly off from the 26:23 from 2005. I did manage to avoid last place by a scant 18 seconds. I was 26 seconds behind Janice. We contributed some points towards the team standings, but the home team is sitting DFL. It doesn't help when we don't have a full women's team, and we're not talking power houses here. Even though Adirondack is also short a women on their team it didn't seem to hurt when they're top women finished first and score a hellava a lot more points then Janice and me.

Karen and Nancy both won Bronze medals in their respective age catagories in the Masters. I think in some ways I'm glad not to be in the masters category. My time would have placed my 4th over a minute behind Nancy. I'm not sure how well I would have been able to deal with getting smacked around by the masters women. That race I would have also been next to last. In the Open it's easy to deal with being back of the pack. In Masters where I'm used to being front of the pack it would have been harder. Perhaps in this year of trying to come back it's better to be in a division where there is no pressure because there are no expectations. The goal this weekend is to finish. Whether the points I collect will help the Hudson Valley team remains to be seen. However it does feel good to pin on a race number and go out and compete again.

Well tomorrow is another day. This will be the toughest day for me. It will be interesting to see if I get yanked early or whether I will have to slug it up those hills 4 times around. The inner-wimp side of me will be begging to get pulled. The inner-competitor will want to suck it up to the bitter end. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I just hope I can stay clear of the psycho guys when they lap me. At least I know I have more the enough gears for the hills.

So one race down, three to go.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Empire State Games - Opening Ceremony

Greetings from Manhattanville College where I am staying for the Empire State Games. I checked in nice and early this morning so that I would get there before the bus loads of kids arrived from all over the place. When Dale and I drove up to Binghampton in 2004 our timing sucked. We got there after the buses and the line was out the door. This time I walked straight up to the registration table got my room key and ID. Piece of cake!

As I came downstairs there was another cyclist waiting for the elevator. She had a Team in Training duffel bag. I said "You do Team in Training? So do I!" She asked me if TNT had gotten me interested in cycling or if I had already been doing some cycling before hand. I told her cycling and triathlon came long before TNT, and that I completed the Triple Crown last fall. I almost get the impression that TNT got her into cycling. Hmmmm, maybe I'll have to recruit from TNT for next year's Empire Games. Though looking at her, she didn't look like the stereotypical TNT newbie that the serious endurance athletes sneer at.

As I was waiting for the bus to go to the Opening Ceremony it was fun watching the kids from the various team sports interacting. Lots of posing for group photos, and lots of giggling. It's funny every time I talk to someone they just assume I'm a coach. I got interviewed by a reporter at the pre-ceremony cookout. She asked me if I was a coach, and I when she found out I was not only an athlete, but a local one staying at the dorm she was interested in that. As I explained to her, I just like taking in the entire Games experience, especially since they are in my home county.

Among all the people at this cookout I actually found one of the guys from my bike club. He's the one that helped organize and select the bike courses. He'll be the one I may be cursing at on my 3rd trip up those damn hills on Friday. It was nice having Mark to hang out with since the kids are too engrossed with each other, and don't want to talk to somebody who's older then their parents. Mark wanted to get reporters attention and get them to come cover the cycling events. We did manage to get photographed, and interviewed for the local paper's website. The picture came out better then the one taken with my "point and shoot".

The other amazing coincidence was running into my friend Judy who was working at the Opening Ceremony as a volunteer, and is competing in the masters division in swimming and running. I had no idea she was even competing, and what were the chances she be volunteering in a spot where I'd actually see her? Judy is an inspiration to me. She's a leukemia survivor and the first person I'd met with the disease when I started doing Team in Training. She's done very well with an experimental course of treatment. Every January 1st when I see her at Marty's New Year's Day party I just continue to be amazed. I think it's great that she's competing in two sports here, and I hope she does well.

The Opening Ceremony includes a torch run, and lighting just like the Olympics. The first time I attend in 1992 I had no idea they actually did that so it was very cool, and I got all goose bumpy. 15 years later I still think it's cool, but I don't get goose bumps. This time I tried to take a picture, but it didn't come out all that well. That's what happens when you wait until the same day to buy a new digital camera!

My fireworks pictures were interesting at best.

After the fireworks were done we piled on buses and went back to Manhattanville. I got myself organized for my first race of the Games. I was a bit neurotic as I made sure I had the right shoes and right helmet. It would really suck to get there and discover I brought the road shoes, not the tri-shoes. I guess I would have had to borrow some regular Look pedals. It's much easier to get one's stuff together when there is only one sport to deal with. However after several "paranoia checks" I was confident I had everything set. Stay tuned to see how my competitive comeback starts off.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Show Time is Almost Here!

The Empire State Games are coming to town tomorrow, and I'll be there. It feels strange getting ready for these games because they're in my backyard so to speak, but I'm packing to go away. I'll be staying in the dorms at Manhattanville College which is only 20 minutes from home. I could have opted not to stay on campus, but it's part of the Empire State Games experience. I always enjoy meeting athletes from different sports and areas. The one advantage of being so close to home is if I forget anything, I can jump in the car and go get it. Also I can go home after a race and do laundry. Normally after a day or two of racing my team jersey is standing on its own, and I have wash it in the sink and hope it dries by the next day. I remember in 2004 in Binghampton my teammates and I were trying to blow dry our jereseys so that they wouldn't be too damp.

Since this is my first real competition in over a year, I was reminded just how much I have to think about in terms of my equipment. Once again I'm back to dealing with two bikes and all the different stuff needed for each type of bike. My equipment list looks something like this:

1 time trial bike w/1 spare set of 650 wheels.
1 pair of triathlon shoes with Look Keo cleat.
1 time trial helmet
2 pairs of triathlon shorts.

1 road bike w/1 spare set of 700 wheels.
1 pair of road shoes with regular Look cleats.
1 road helmet
2 pairs of cycling shorts
2 pairs of gloves

OMG! I've reverted to total geekdom! Woo hoo!!! It's all coming back!

That list doesn't include water bottles, pump, nutrition, etc.

The other day I was looking at the cycling roster, found it amusing because in addition to listing our region, it also includes height and weight. Geez if I realized they were going to list that on the website I might have left that blank on my application. I'd rather they had put my age down. At least everyone would see that I'm older then everyone else. I'd rather play the age card then the fat card when I'm getting my butt dropped off the back of the pack.**

** Sorry Cheetah Chick's. There I go with negativity in the form of self-deprecating humor. However humor is going to be what gets me through this along with a lot of prayer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Went Over $5,000 in Fund Raising Today!!

Last year at this time I was agonizing about what to write for my annual Team in Training fund raising letter. Sometimes it takes me a long time to put into words what I want to say. Even before my bike accident I was having trouble coming up with what to say. The inner procrastinator was winning the war of words, but finally on July 31st I sent out my letter. People were awesome, and despite the lateness of my mailing I still was able to raise over $7,000 before I went to San Francisco to do the Nike Women's Marathon.

This year I decided I had no excuse not get the mailing out in early June. I actually banged out the letter in one evening over Memorial Day weekend. I guess being by myself in a hotel at LAX can cure even the worst case of writer's block. So after returning from a weekend of playing some pretty marginal chess games, I was ready to launch my 10% better campaign. I decided I want to raise at least 10% more money then I did last year, and I wanted to reduce my walk time by 10%. Since I like nice round numbers I decided $8,000 fund raising, and a time of 6 hours 30 minutes for the marathon were challenging, but doable numbers.

Today the two donations I received put me over $5,000. My goal of $8,000 is looking more and more realistic since I've still got the rest of summer, and early fall to go. I have a number of activities in the next few weeks where I'll get a chance to ask for donations. Seeing people in person is a great way of bring attention to my cause.

Though much of my training lately has been focused on the bike so that I don't totally kill myself next week, the walking is coming along fine. We start our official training this weekend, but I've been doing a lot on my own. I also got a head start by doing some longer walks with TNT'ers getting ready for the Anchorage Marathon. Also I did some nice walks in Budapest and the Jersey shore.

PS. If anyone would like to contribute go to: http://www.active.com/donate/tntwhv/PollyWright

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Glory, But Lots of Guts

My bike club, USI (Unione Sportiva Italiana) puts on the Hudson Valley Empire State Games qualifying race every year. This race is used to determine the members of the men's and women's cycling teams to represent Hudson Valley in the Games. The men's team consists of 10 riders, and the women's team consists of 3 riders. For the qualifying race we attract a decent sized men's field to compete for those 10 spots. On the other hand, trying to get women to do the qualifying race, and then be willing to go to the Games and race for 4 days is like pulling teeth.

I thought with the Games being in Westchester County that we'd have more women who would want to represent the home team. I can understand not wanting to travel to Rochester, Buffalo, and other nether regions of New York State to compete, but this is Westchester County. The criterium is in downtown White Plains. How cool is that? The last bike race in downtown White Plains was a pro race in 1989. Our club has wanted to host a race in White Plains for years, and now it's happening as part of the Empire State Games.

For the qualifying race there were 5-6 women who signed up. However of the 6, one didn't start, two had no intention of going to the Games, two were just riding the race as warm bodies, and one who was willing to go if others would go. The average age of the women's field was probably around 50. For riders over 35 there's the option to compete in the Masters Division where the races are shorter, the competition not as intense, and the option to do one, two, or all three races. So if time trialling is not one's thing there's always the road race or criterium to choose from.

My intention this year was to do the time trial and criterium in the masters division. I've been pretty successful in the three times I've competed in the Masters. I have three Golds, two Silvers, and a Bronze. In 2005 I won gold medals in the two events I competed in. Anyone who read this blog in 2005 might have come across my accounts of those two races. This picture is from the awards ceremony after the time trial. (I'm not sure where the Bronze medalist went, but she missed the presentation.) The silver medalist is Susan; the one who I sprinted by in the road race the next day.

In 2005 I had dreams of repeating my performances in 2007 in my home territory. Little did I know about the major detour in life that would take me out of the competitive athlete lifestyle for about a year. Accidents suck, but life goes on. I had tempered my expectations about the Games this year, and figured I be happy for any spot on the podium in the time trial, and a field finish in the criterium would be satisfactory.

Sometimes I do some crazy things because I feel very strongly about doing what I feel is right. When I rode (note: not raced!) the qualifying race in June I told the Hudson Valley cycling coach that I would go into the Open Division instead of the Masters if it would help filling the women's roster. I was hoping he'd get three women without me since my training was way behind previous years. But I also felt that it was embarrassing if the home region couldn't even field a women's team. Also by not having a women's team it costs the Hudson Valley cycling team big time in the points competition. (Members of the team score points for what ever place they finish in each race. If you don't have a full roster you get zero points in that event. Even coming in dead last scores points. At the end of the four days they total up all the points and award team Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.)

Sooooooo, to make a long story short, Janice was willing to do the Open if others would. So we have a two woman team made up of two 45+ masters women who won medals in 2005. Mark and Clarence could not talk any of the other women into doing the Open Division with us. At least by having two of us we can do the team time trial on the last day. But it still embarrassing that the home region can't field a full women's team, and the team we have is two masters riders. I think Janice is in much better shape then I am this year. In 2005 I beat her in the time trial. Hopefully we can keep a similar pace in the team time trial.

So what will it take to get some younger female riders to want to compete in the Games? Some of the regions like NYC, and Western have no trouble getting women riders, and good ones at that. There are many women who compete in triathlon who are good cyclists. It would be nice if we could get a few of them from this region to take up bike racing. One person told me most triathletes don't like riding in a pack. (The way some triathletes ride, they shouldn't be in a pack.) For me, riding with the pack and getting strong enough to stay with younger and stronger riders helped me become a better triathlete.

When the Empire Games go off next week, I will not be raking in the medals and basking in the glory of being up on the podium. I will be riding until they tell me I can stop, and scoring a few points by coming in Dead F$%&ing Last for Hudson Valley. As we say in triathlon; DFL is better then DNF, which is better then DNS. My training partners think I'm a little nuts, but just maybe those few points that Janice and I score each day will bring a team cycling medal to the home team.

GO HUDSON VALLEY!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

OMG!! I Forgot How Much TT Hurts!

I did my first truly competitive thing in almost two years on Thursday. (I don't count riding around as warm body in the ESG qualifier last month as a competitive activity. I was doing my civic duty. More on that in another post.) I did our club's monthly time trial. This one was a 5 lap 9+ mile time trial around FDR park. Under normal circumstances I would have just done the "unemployment ride", and gone into NYC and played chess in the evening as is my custom on Thursday evening. However since I'm doing the Empire State Games, and will be doing two time trials I figured I'd better drag my sorry butt up to Yorktown Heights and do our club time trial for practice.

Our time trial series attracts some pretty strong riders, and this event was no different. So here I am with my good friend and sometime rival Nancy, and a bunch of serious studs. I had skipped the time trial helmet, but some of these guys had the latest and greatest in aero-helmets. Nancy and I were the only women, and probably the only racers over 50. Somehow while I was out warming up, Nancy "volunteered" me to go first. With friends like that, who needs enemies. She claimed it was because she didn't want me passing her, but somehow I knew it would be the other way around. She's the one with the power meter, heart rate monitor, training plan and a coach. I'm the one who just goes out and rides.

I still have trouble with those standing starts at time trials. I was never fond of them to begin with but after getting dropped by the starter at the 2004 Empire State Games, I've become a bit of a head case. I'm still a bundle of nerves and feel like I'm having a panic attack. I need to get a grip. So I did manage to get off without falling over. I probably should have been in a slightly easier gear. It took me awhile to get up to speed.

This course is challenging because it's got hills and sharp turns on the two downhills. Chicken shits like me can't stay aero on the really fast downhill especially because sometimes there is a car in the other lane. So here is this blazing fast downhill that one can't take at full speed, and then the course flattens out, and then goes uphill. It was on the first uphill on the first loop where Nancy came cruising by me. Geez, I was hoping it would take then more then a lap to get me, but such is the life of a no-tech tri-geek on the comeback trail. Woo hoo! DFL here I come!

The second downhill is nasty little turn with an annoying bump in it. The choice is swing wide around the bump, or go on the inside where there about 8 inches of pavement between the bump on grass. I think I alternated between going inside and outside. The other problem with that part of the course is it goes immediately uphill, and doesn't level out until the start/finish line, so you have zero momentum into the hill.

So five times I made this circuit chasing Nancy who was now 3 minutes ahead, and being lapped by the studs with the aero-helmets and shoe covers. I was starting to wonder if I was going to be the first one start, and the last one to finish. Thankfully the last couple of starters did not lap me more then once so a couple of the guys finished after me even though their times were faster.

All I know is; damn that hurt my lungs and legs. I forgot what it's like to put one's head down and just ride as hard as you can with no wheel to grab onto. Each lap got a little slower. All I could think of was at least the time trial course for the games doesn't have the steep hills and the annoying corners. As they say "Rome was not built in a day." However my comeback as a bike racer is clearly a work in progress. For the next few weeks I will ask myself "what the hell have I gotten myself into?", but as my training partner Karen said, "You're making a statement for women riders." But will anyone be listening?