Today I again co-hosted Chicks on Bike Radio. April and I spoke with Kelli Refer, the author of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, and Susan Meyers, who wrote The Hamster Ride & 25 Other Short Biking Stories.
We had a great conversation about cycling, balance, friendliness, and life. Have a listen right here:
Women's racing is experiencing a huge boom and one rider that has long been at the forefront of it is Starla Teddergreen.
Starla began her racing career on the streets as a bike messenger in Seattle before moving to San Francisco in 2003. Known for her sprinting prowess, she worked her way up the ranks and in 2010 joined the women's professional team Vanderkitten.
Starla strikes a pose
The road to pro cycling wasn't easy for Starla. Growing up in a quiet northeast Washington town, she had virtually no opportunities for racing (besides the ones her somewhat disinterested sister occasionally provided). She soon found competitive outlets in running and soccer, but it was her move to Seattle after high school that changed everything.
With no experience, but with a load of her trademark enthusiasm, Starla found a job as a bike courier. Two wheels suited her well, and the excitement of the job led her to to explore Seattle's alleycat racing scene and, eventually, to the Cycle Messenger World Championships.
A move to San Francisco in 2003 introduced her to road racing and planted the seed for her future as a pro athlete. With her knack for reading a race and a fantastic sprint, Starla quickly moved up the amateur ranks, landing on the elite SugarCRM team for 2009. This led to her debut in the NRC Series as well as to a month of kermesse racing in Belgium, where she was able to sneak into the top 10 in what is known as some of the world's toughest racing.
2010 brought with it mixed fortunes. Starla began to mature as a rider, landing a spot on the Vanderkitten Professional team. A solid entry to the NRC Series was cut short when she ended up at the bottom of a huge finishing crash at the Tour de Nez. The hip injury that resulted was to plague Starla throughout the 2011 season. This didn't stop her taking home a few wins, but by autumn it became clear that, without intervention, the injury was not going to get sorted out.
In the winter of 2011, it was determined that Starla had a torn labrum and that surgery and a long rehabilitation period were required. This is where Starla's maturity really shone. Instead of trying to rush her rehab and bike training program as so many athletes do, she showed the patience and dedication of a real professional and by April was back on the bike. It took the better part of 2012 to be able to train and race without pain. During her recovery, she was able to indulge her enthusiasm for supporting women's racing by riding as a team mentor for the Early Bird Women's Developmental Team.
Starla digging deep
With the 2012 comeback season under her belt, Starla has high hopes and solid goals in 2013. In her own words, she wants to "win races and/or a race series, support a GC rider to victory, and stand out to be a rider with potential to race successfully in Europe again."
This weekend was a cyclocross double header, with two races on warm, sunny, October days: GPTB Heiser Farms and the traditional Cross Crusade opener at Alpenrose Dairy. Since I'll be away next weekend, I decided that I would do the double.
I'm flying fit right now, so I am trying to take advantage of my good form and do as much racing as I can. I'm also having loads of fun and really enjoying myself. Plus, as a cycling coach, it's good to stay in the game and learn as much about myself as possible.
It would appear these days that my LTHR is a bit higher than I thought, or maybe it's not. Let's have a look at this weekend's races:
Heiser Farm CX
This race was fast and relatively smooth, in terms of one's efforts, with only one dismount over a set of three barriers. With the first Crusade race of the season looming the following day, attendance was a bit lower than normal with about 30 riders taking the start. The competition, however, was still strong with all of the series contenders in attendance.
Let's have a look at my HR file:
Heiser Farm CX: Red is Heart Rate data, blue is speed data. The dashed red line is at 181bpm. Click the image to magnify.
At the start, I accidentally hit the wrong button on my computer, so I'm missing data from the first lap. However, the separation really began on lap 2, and that is where we begin our analysis. My average HR for the race was 181bpm. From the graph, you can see that, after the first 3 laps, things settled down a bit. At this point, I was in the main break of 4 riders. With 2 laps to go, my HR goes up again as one rider punctured and the rest of us fought it out until the finish. I came 3rd in that battle, but I gave it all I had, so I feel good about my race.
Lately I have been racing at a HR a few bpm above my normal LTHR. This could be for a few reasons:
I underestimated my LTHR (not likely)
I'm relatively fresh coming into the races these days as CX in-season is largely race-and-recovery
I've had some anxiety as of late and that raises one's HR
It's been warm and even a bit hot at some races.
It's not uncommon to have a "fresh" LTHR and a "fatigued" LTHR that is a few bpm lower. With the combination of the above factors, and keeping this in mind, it is not a stretch to say that my effective LTHR these days is more like 181bpm than 178bpm. The next day proved this again.
Cross Crusade Alpenrose Dairy
This race, in contrast to the day before, required a lot more short, hard bursts of effort. The course was hard and bumpy with several short ride-up sections, a set of barriers, and two run-ups. Here is the HR file:
Alpenrose CX: Red is Heart Rate data, blue is speed data. The dashed red line is at 181bpm. Click the image to magnify.
This time I hit the correct button at the start, so my data is complete. The start saw the highest HR as all 93 riders in my field careened down a short paved section and into a loose dirt and gravel s-turn. A short descent was followed by a steep ride-up that had everyone fighting for traction. After lap 2, when things began to separate, I got down to the business of making up as much time as possible. I missed the races at which I could have had the possibility of scoring call-up points, because I was busy racing MTB Marathon Nationals. Thus, I started in the last row. Other than a bit of pacing difficulty mid-race (which is easily seen in the data), and legs which were a bit tired from the day before, I was able to put out a steady effort. This netted me 17th on the day, just inside the points!
Despite having raced the day before and ridden to this particular race, I was able to maintain an average HR of 182bpm. The heat and a bit of under-hydration played a role in that, I am sure. That, and the crowd support was fantastic.
Here are some photos from the weekend:
The start at Heiser Farm
This is what I look like just before I have a great time
I have had a day or two to digest what happened last Saturday and I've finally had a chance to sit down and look at my data file as well.
It was a day where everything came together just right: The start was fast, but not too fast. The climbs suited my new lighter physique. The bike felt perfect and I was confident on the descents and singletrack. I had no mechanical issues. I had rested properly in the previous week. The distance and hot weather both suited me. I was able to stay focused for the entire 4+ hour effort.
All of those things are the ingredients of the perfect race. Together, they allowed me to do my best possible ride on the day. In terms of numbers, here is what that ride looked like:
Click on the image to magnify. Red is Heart Rate, blue is speed, and orange is elevation data.
My LTHR (Lactate Threshold Heart Rate) is 178bpm, represented above with the red dashed line. This places my Threshold Level (also referred to as Level 4) at 169-188bpm. Theoretically I can ride at 178bpm for about 1 hour. On Saturday, the data shows ideal pacing over the duration of the race. I managed to average 167bpm for the entire distance, keeping my effort sustainable over that period.
The nature of MTB racing is such that there are often times when you must exceed your LTHR in order to clear an obstacle, or stay with a rider you need to stay with, etc. Several times I bumped up against my maximum HR of 194bpm, but my training has been such that I was able to recover and maintain a high pace. During the race, my HR never dropped below high Level 2 (Endurance), even on the descents. It was a consistent effort, and by the finish I was completely spent.
The last week has seen two great lessons in pacing in two very different types of events (see the post on last week's cyclocross race here). One event was short and intense, while the other required more endurance and the ability to focus for a very long time. Happily, both yielded great results!
I came to Bend not expecting too much from myself. I haven't been myself lately, and my anxiety level has been really high. It's tough to concentrate like that, and for a 4+ hour race, it's a tall order to do so. In addition to all that, I hadn't touched my mountain bike in months.
None of that seemed to matter today. I put it all behind me. I felt great, rode well, and did my best ever National Championship result: 6th place.
It feels amazing. I just wanted to finish and I dared not dream of a top-10 placement.
The rest of the crew had pretty good days as well. Mark and Jeff just squeezed into the top-20 of their respective classes, and Chris (Specialized/Adventures 212) was running in a solid 15th until a cut tire dropped him to 20th.
My race seemed to last forever. The start was harder than I would have preferred (just about every one is), but I settled in on the first climb and started to feel better. The descent to Flagline was awesome, and that is when I began to move up in my class. I knew a lot of people had started at a level they would not be able to sustain, so I simply rode at my own pace and made sure to eat and drink regularly (a special thanks goes out to Chris Graham for doing hand-ups for us). One by one, the riders began to come back. I wasn't sure, but I thought I was in the top 10.
By the time I reached Tiddlywinks, just about everything hurt, including my stomach after the USAC neutral feed handed me a bottle of Gatorade (ick). I managed the descent without incident, and barely hung on while I climbed Funner to the finish. Desperate to know where I stood, I asked a checkpoint official where I was. He simply replied, "Oregon."
When I finished, I had to lay down for a while, the violence of the effort having taken its toll over more than 4 hours. Once I was told I had come 6th, I went back to the car and had a little cry by myself. I'm still not sure I believe it.
I didn't know if there would be any photographers out there, so I took some snaps myself:
Mark's car ready to roll to Wanoga and the race start
Prepping with my pal Brian Gerow
The tail end of the lead group rides under the highway
Somewhere in no-man's land. I decided I still had enough energy to snap a photo
Today I am in Bend, OR with one of my pro MTB racers, Chris Peariso (Specialized/Adventure 212), his wife Michelle, and my best bud NURD from California. We are all here to race the USA Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships, which take place tomorrow.
The course consists of some sandy doubletrack, some rocky climbing with sand, and lots of sandy singletrack, all starting and finishing at the Wanoga Sno Park. It has been very dry here this summer, and the trails have a deep cover of fine powder. Here is the not-very-simple map from USA Cycling:
We rode the second loop, which is one of my favorite rides. The last time I rode it early in the summer was one of the best rides of my life. It's all singletrack with a long descent followed by a (at least on the pre-ride) mellow climb back up to the finish. NURD, on his first MTB ride in Oregon and had a blast. We have since cleaned all the bikes, taken naps, eaten lunch, and prepped for tomorrow. Now all we need to do is relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Here are some photos from our morning out:
Aliens with large heads prepare to ride. From right: Chris, Michelle, NURD, Ak
Today I raced my first cyclocross race of this season, the TBGP Het Meer race in Vancouver, WA. I made a day of it by riding out there, doing the race, and then riding home again. It was a cool, overcast day and perfect for cross (unless you like mud).
The race consisted of lots of straight, fast sections, followed by some twisty, fast sections, followed by a mean sand trap on a lake beach. The drop into the sand trap caught a lot of people off guard, resulting in some spectacular crashes. I managed to avoid them:
I'm on the left avoiding the unlucky fellow who is now going the wrong way.
Once I got into the groove, I was able to ride the sand without any trouble.
I've been having trouble focusing lately, but CX racing is a good place to put life out of your mind for an hour and just concentrate on what you are doing. This is what I look like when I concentrate:
Notice the tongue (and the cute girl with the dog).
Despite all the craziness, I had a great race, ending in 5th place. I was able to start off within myself and finish strong, picking off one-by-one the riders ahead who had started too fast. I didn't have my Quarq on for this race, but I did record my speed and HR data. The graph shows a nice, steady cardiac drift. This is an example of good pacing. The red line is HR, with the dashed horizontal at my LT HR – 178bpm. Check it out:
red – HR
blue – speed
Despite a relatively open course, I was able to start easy, settle in right at my LT, and then push it up a bit in the last laps. This served me well and garnered me one of my best ever CX results – in the season's first race!
Chris is on track to have a great race at the upcoming Mountain Bike Marathon National Champs in Bend, OR in 10 days. I will be there to race it with him, and will post a report, perhaps even with photos, right here.
AES athlete and pro mountain bike racer Chris Peariso scored his first big result of the season with a solid 4th place in last weekend's Mohican 100, round three of the 2012 NUE Series. The full interview on Cyclingnews.com is right here: