Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Hungry Dog Criterium

There are many race reports out there so I will share with you my point of view. Down the road racing may lose its novelty but for now, I'd like to share the exciting race day (and weekend) I had with the women of Team Fluid Cycling.

Waking up at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday was, for me, sleeping in compared to the morning before when I rose at 4:30 a.m. to load my bike and luggage in the car and met my teammates for the road trip to Mesa, Arizona. After a long day of racing on Saturday and dinner at a Mexican restaurant (La Parilla Suiza), we fell easily in to a slumber at our room. One by one we shuffled to the hotel lobby for breakfast, each with laptop tucked underneath our arms. While June and Monique caught up on work, Melinda listened to music, and I blogged. Ever present were our cups of coffee, our libation of choice. Scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, cereal, pastries, juices, and fresh fruit was available for us to eat. We could even make ourselves fresh waffles! Of course I usually prefer savory over sweet for breakfast unless there's pancakes!

When we were fed and happy, we sauntered back to our room and packed our bags. The start of our race would not be until 1:45 p.m. so it was nice to have leisure time to relax and enjoy the rest of our morning.

(Not starting a trend but covering up
my road burn from the sun.)
Finally after our luggage and bikes loaded up, we drove to the race location in Phoenix, AZ and walked to the pre-race check in. Then we pinned our numbers on to our jerseys and mounted our bikes on the trainers so we can pedal until we were hot, sweaty, and ready to hit the line for the 30 minute race.

I had heard that the race time dictates the speed of the race. If the duration is longer, the average pace may be slower with periods of high intensity followed by recovery like yesterday's race which was 40 minutes. Today's race is shorter so there's less time to recover before the speed cranks up and the combined field of Women Cat 1, 2, 3, and 4 means everyone else has more racing experience and are most likely stronger and faster. In other words, the race and competition are harder. Where yesterday's crit consisted of Women Cat 3, 4, 35+, and 50+ (and don't get me wrong, there were plenty of strong, fast women and typically, they are in the 35+ and 50+ age group). Note: the progression from beginner to advanced racers in the women's category is 4, 3, 2, 1, Pro and there are also age groups (the men's ranking starts with Cat 5.) For example, a Cat 2 who is over the age of 35 can choose to race in his/her category and also the age group category.
(click photo to view 2011 Hungry Dog Criterium album)
Fifteen women from all categories steadied their wheels at the start line. The officials decided that even though we would race together, the Women Cat 1/2 would be scored separately from the Women Cat 3/4 which is a good thing and so we would have separate placings rather than combined. This time I didn't feel the hot flash of adrenaline vaporize from my body out of nervousness and excitement. I only wanted to finish the race, stay upright, and avoid the same unfortunate event as yesterday. It would surely ruin my weekend if I crashed again.

The race official counted down 5...4...3...2...1...GO and like the firing of cannons, we shot off the start line. Judging by the rate of our pace you would think there was a prime (or prize) at the end of the the first lap--a date with pro bicycle racer Fabian Cancellara or something. I hammered on my pedals to keep up so I wouldn't get dropped on the first lap. From behind me my teammate shouted, 'Don't blow up trying to hang on to the Cat 1/2 women' who were leading the pack. After the first lap the pace slowed down somewhat.
(Smiling before the suffering began.)

I honestly cannot remember much about the 30 minutes I was out there. Everything was sort of a blur...I remember I was suffering but hung with the group until the last 7 or 6 laps. The course was a triangle, with two left hand turns and we pedaled around and around and around. The front of the pack would surge after an attack to reel in the women who made a breakaway before the pace slowed down so everyone can recover. During this time I was like the tentacles on a jellyfish, springing up to the pack when they slowed down and stretching away when they surged. I think I got comfortable knowing that the group would slow down and I'd catch up. Somewhere along the way I lost focus that I was competing in a race--a short race at that (even though every minute felt like a long time) and there was no room to space off. I also remember being mesmerized by the wheels spinning in front of my own and wondering if my tire will go flat each time I hit a bump in a turn. Finally, I gave it my all to seek shelter near the front of the group, passing my teammate but shortly thereafter someone launched another attack and the whirring of wheels ensued. June, my teammate sprinted past me as the pack slipped around the corner and everything faded away.

Before I knew it, I was off the back with two other women who I formed a paceline with. My lungs and legs were getting more and more exhausted and when I couldn't keep up with them, I fell behind and they rode ahead. Still I kept pushing on the pedal even though I was alone for the last five laps and in the last round, one of the women caught up to me. "I guess it's just you and me." she gasped through her smile and pulled ahead. I rode in her slipstream until we made the last turn and saw the finish line. She started sprinting while I stayed in my saddle, keeping my position beside her. When she started to let up I stood up and sprinted across the finish line. I heard the announcer call out my number as I passed by but had no clue where I placed. Turned out she was a Cat 1/2 so I did not move ahead in my category. Relief swept over me as I circled around the lap one last time. The race and suffering was finally over.
(June of Team Fluid Cycling takes 3rd in Women Cat 4)

When the results posted, my teammate June secured 3rd, I took 7th followed by Monique in 8th, and Melinda in 9th of the Cat 3/4. Now we can finally head home!

Similar to the way we came, we followed each other in our cars during the five hour drive towards Vegas stopping at Jersey Mike's Subs for a late lunch before we were on our way.

I experienced one of the best weekends of racing with my teammates, getting to know them on a personal level, and enjoying the gorgeous weather in Arizona. Even though I stepped foot at home tired and achy from the weekend, there is not one thing I would change about my adventure.

More about Hungry Dog Criterium:
Mason Ibas Photography
My Facebook Album (2011 Hungry Dog Crit)
Women's Bike Talk

(Time trial hill climb up Glendora Mountain Road)
Meanwhile John, who had been racing another state away in San Dimas, CA since Thursday, drove in several hours before me. The San Dimas Stage Race is a huge event, drawing in professional teams and competitors from all over the country. The three-day stage race began with a time trial and 120 riders in his category. He placed 18th in the time trial which was 3.8 miles of climbing 4.5 to 5.5% grade (twisted and steep road pictured to the right), 10th in the 42-mile road race, and took 4th in the sprint finish of the 35-minute criterium (average speed of winner was 25.67mph--that's fast). Many of the Cat 4 men either didn't make the time cut or for whatever reason could not continue the next day's race so only 66 would finish. John placed 16th out of the 100+ riders, only 50 seconds behind the overall winner of the weekend's event. I am so proud of him!!!

More about 2011 San Dimas Stage Race:
Cycling News Report
Photos by zone6images

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 San Tan Criterium

One of my worst fears associated with racing on a bicycle is crashing, especially in a criterium, or crit. Because this type of event involves turning corners rapidly and sharply yet safely with a large group on a short circuit (about 5 km) the chances of being involved in a crash increases. It requires requires good technical skills to stay competitive in the race and to sprint across the finish line often times in a pack. If you'd like to have a visual idea of crit racing, I've uploaded two videos: the first is of the Men Cat 4 finish and the second is of the Men Pro 1 race at Tour de Murrieta, CA.

Since the San Tan Criterium was my second bike race and I have not trained on a regular basis, my only hope was to complete the race and stay upright. To my disappointment, neither would turn out the way I had planned.

Saturday morning my teammates and I followed each other in two cars out of Las Vegas. Surprisingly our drive took less time than anticipated, about 5 hours with two stops before arriving in Mesa, AZ. The weather was gorgeous; sunny in the high 70s and hardly a breeze.

We checked in at the registration desk before warming up on the bike trainers for a good hour. The combined field of Women Cat 4, 35+ (yrs. old), and Women 50+ had over twenty riders (much more than the five or so last year) who would race together.

Finally it was time for us to line up at the start line. I thought, wow I am really here where many times I had seen others do exactly this but from the sidelines. I calmed my breath and the heart beating in my chest. The officials went over some rules of the race which was timed for forty minutes. They would not pull riders who get lapped by the field for falling behind and there is a free lap for mechanical issues down to the last five laps.
By Jeffrey J Siepker (click photo to view album)
And...GO! We were off. The race started off somewhat like popcorn coming out of a chute but after the first few laps we settled into a pace. Once or twice I feared another rider taking a turn too tight and cutting me off on the inside but other than the race went better than I pictured in my mind.

I was surprised by how easily I stayed near the front of the group because I somewhat expected to be dropped by the pack because my cardio conditioning is out of shape. The whole time I had managed to find someone to ride behind and shelter myself from the wind resistance. This tactic of pedaling closely behind someone's wheel (or a car) to break the wind I would otherwise have to push through is called drafting and doing so saves a lot of energy which I was conserving for the sprint across the finish line.

Near the end of the 5th lap, I felt really good about my chances of not only finishing the race but perhaps winning one of the top five places in my category, the Women Cat 4. Then as I made a right turn on to E. Jasmine St. my front tire skidded coming out of the turn. I looked down and notice the tire slowly deflating as I voiced my thoughts, "Oh no...you gotta be kidding me! I think I have a flat." The rim of the wheel must have pinched the tube inside.

Then we made a left turn on N. Rochester. One of the girls said I should go the wheel pit; race rules allow one free lap for technical mishaps to which I responded that I didn't have a spare wheel. She then told me to ask for Two Wheel Jones for an extra wheel.
By Jeffrey J Siepker (click photo to view album)
I nodded to acknowledge that I had heard and understood her replying, "Yeah...if I keep going like this I'm gonna crash." as we banked left turning on E. Julep St. I was on the inside of the corner (like the photos above) and in that moment, my tire which was completely deflated by then rolled under the pressure of the turn and weight of my body. In that moment I knew I was going down since I was already partway to the ground leaning in to the turn.

Next thing I remember, my head and left shoulder hit the pavement and my cheek...these darn chipmunk cheeks slid across the asphalt to a stop. In my mind I winced knowing I would have road rash on my face.

Luckily no one riding behind me struck me nor did I knock anyone else off their bike when my own went crashing down.

I got up, quickly inspected my bike for bent wheels or a dropped chain (which would prevent me from rolling it), and seeing it was still operable I started walking towards the registration and wheel pit area. Even if I got a spare wheel I don't think I would have a free lap since I was within the last five laps. I'd have to ride really hard to catch the group which was still possible since there were four laps to go. My right brake and shifter levers was crooked and would not be stable/safe to continue racing with and so I decided then to cut my loss. I'd have to tell the officials that I was done.

The realization that I was out of the race settled in. My chances of finishing with the group was gone--and now I wondered what else had I scraped up on my bike, kit, and body. More insult to the injury of not finishing at all let alone place in the top five.

I was in such a good position within the group. I felt good, I rode well, and I still had a lot of energy left for the dramatic sprint across the finish line. Gone. Gone because I had a flat. Gone because I crashed.

Besides the scrape on my left knee, shoulder, hip, and face (and the resulting bump from smacking the pavement with my cheek), my bike was fine except for the bent and cosmetic scrapes on the shifter/brake levers. My helmet has a dent and it was a good thing my kit didn't have holes ground into it so it is still wearable.

Out of the unfortunate incident, I was lucky to have teammates by my side. My coach Melinda and teammate June took care of my 'battle' wounds and thanks to the generosity of the owners of Two-Wheel Jones, a local bike shop, my ride is as good as new. It was Tricia Jones who has offered me a spare wheel during our race and her husband Travis who put my bike up on a stand and went through it--changed the flat, straightened the shifter and brake levers making sure everything was in operating order. I would have had to take my bike to a local bike shop but Travis (bless his good heart) fixed everything in the parking lot where we were. If you are in need of a bike shop while in Phoenix/Mesa area, please support:
Two-Wheel Jones Bicycles
1917 S. Signal Butte Rd. #106
Mesa, AZ 85209
Phone: 480-380-8222

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/twowheeljones
Many of the women I raced with who knew I had crashed expressed their concerns afterward and asked if I was okay. One rider who did not see me but heard me when my bike and I hit the ground said,"...(the sound) was spectacular!!". I gotta laugh at that; indeed the sound of a bike smashing the ground at 20 mph must have sounded grand. Next time you drive a car at this speed and take a turn, look down at the pavement and imagine jumping out of the car with only spandex on. Hopefully you never have to feel what it's like to hit and slide.
Monique, me, and June (I couldn't smile very big because my cheek was swollen)
Does this experience discourage me from racing again? Not at all. In fact I have another crit race today even though I am sore I will give it my best shot! Despite things not working out the way I had planned in yesterday's race, I took away from this a valuable lesson -- don't try to keep pedaling with a flat, more importantly avoid trying to take sharp turns (I've had flats before but never in a race and never tried turning). Slow down but continue straight forward and, if in a race or group, raise your hand and/or warn other riders that you have a flat so they'll go around you and stop as soon as you can do so safely.

On the good news side our teammate June (pictured above to my left) placed 2nd in the Women 35+ category and 4th overall in the combined categories, Monique (pictured above to my right) placed 4th in the Women 35+, and our coach Melinda finished the Women Cat 4 placing 12. I am proud of my teammates; we rode a great race and I had a blast!!

Read other blogs about 2011 San Tan Crit:
AZ Race Results: 2011 San Tan Crit Results
Bike Boy: San Tan Crit Results

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Celebrating Life with Family

Even though I'm reluctant about turning a year older, my family was eager to celebrate my upcoming birthday. The opening of gifts is a family event with Havi and Elgy's help untying the ribbons. I got a beautiful seaweed green hair clip with sparklies, the cutest dark denim low cut shorts and an equally hot rhinestone logo t-shirt, Nike + iPod tennis shoes (for the geek in me), and (for the cook) an electric tea pot..for now. Whatever did I do to be spoiled like this?

Then we drove to one of my favorite restaurants, Pho Kim Long Vietnamese Restaurant on Spring Mountain. Of all places why this restaurant for dinner? Partly because John and I have been customers since we were dating long distance before I moved to Vegas over seven years ago and also because this would be the first time John and Maggie will try pho. We ordered spring rolls and egg rolls and of course, dinner was delicious.

This visit was bittersweet for me as it will be the last time I eat there. For reasons I thought didn't make sense, they've eliminated the ingredients that make the Special Combination pho bowl authentic. What makes pho, pho -- the tendon and tripe. So now it's faux pho and there's tons of places where I can get that. My soup was still good but it's just not the same and that's okay. :-)

Our evening closed on a sweet note with frozen custard at what use to be called Sheradon's Frozen Custard on Eastern is now called Mr. D. We learned that the owners went bankrupt and the store was purchased by new owners though the menu pretty much stayed the same. John asked how business was doing now and the staff said things are picking up but there was a time during winter when the lights almost went dark so our visit was appreciated. As we sat in the car eating our dessert, it was nice to see cars of family after family pull up for a treat on this lovely Saturday evening.
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Bánh mì Vietnamese Sandwich

Friday my friend Wendy took me to a local restaurant for a Bánh Vietnamese sandwich. The filling of grilled beef and cured pork cold cuts, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cilantro sprigs and cucumber slices--and jalapeño, splash of soy sauce, and spread of pate on a french baguette with a light, crackly crust just makes my mouth water at the thought of biting in to another sandwich.

There's a website (http://battleofthebanhmi.com/) filled with resources from information about the sandwich to making your own. However, the "Locate Your Favorite Bánh Shop" directory lacks a listing for Nevada so I'm starting my own of the ones I've visited here in Vegas. All are reasonably priced from $3 to $5 per sandwich.)

Pho Thanh Huong
1131 E Tropicana Ave # D
Las Vegas, NV 89119-6630
(702) 739-8703
(conveniently close to my place of work; just a tad skimpy on the meat filing but I've asked for extra for an additional cost)

Hue Thai Restaurant
5115 West Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 221-4841
(see menu for large selection of sandwiches and boba tea dessert drinks)

Nhú Lan Restaurant
4300 Spring Mountain Rd # 101 (across the street from Pho Kim Long)
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 253-9699
(cheap and best I've had so far. The bread is light and crusty and the there's just enough filling.)

There are many more places to get Bánh sandwiches than what I have listed so I will keep updating this page when I try a new shop.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Simple Side: Broccoli and Peppers

Made this from the April '11 issue of Food Network Magazine and I would make it again. The recipe seemed rather bland for for the simple makeup of the ingredients but it works! Fast, simple, healthy, and delicious.

Broccoli and Peppers
Cook 1 pound broccoli florets and 1 sliced red bell pepper in salted boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool, then drain again. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 2 sliced garlic cloves and 2 to 4 crushed dried red chiles and cook 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and bell pepper and cook 2 minutes. Season with salt.

That's it! I didn't have dried chiles so I put in 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red peppers and used gray sea salt to season. Next time I may use garlic salt for added flavor. Hope you like this side dish as much as I do.
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Natural High

I heard that stars like Lindsay Lohan and Winona Ryder commit crimes for the thrill. The first thought that came to my mind was if adrenaline was what they were seeking, why not try downhill mountain biking or road bike racing? Of course these hobbies take time, dedication, and lots of work training. I suppose all of the effort involved in taking up such sport would make stars like Charlie Sheen turn to drugs or the high that competitive sports can bring naturally.
I know my adrenaline was pumping from the sidelines watching the Callville Bay Classic stage races. I can only imagine how the riders in the event must have been feeling--especially after the rush of endorphins upon crossing the finish line. If I wanted to know first-hand what it was like to be in that race, I need only ask a hot cyclist who took 2nd place overall in the Men 4 category--John.
He placed 3rd in the time trial on the first day, won the road race the second day (but was relegated to 19th when we crashed after the finish line and took out another rider), and took 7th in the criterium the third day. His overall time put him in 2nd in the general category.

I did not compete in this race but I have a lot of respect for my peers who did. They braved one of the most severe racing conditions I have seen from a windy day to rain and temperatures so cold, it was nearly impossible to shift gears--some riders had hypothermia. They all very well :-)

Here are photos from the road race and criterium:

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Vote for The UNLV Learning Garden Turf

This turf reduction project is very near to me and it needs your help to win the The Intelligent Use of Water™ Awards to fund it. If you have a moment, please click the image above or the following link to vote for The UNLV Learning Garden Turf. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 22. I've also placed a link in the sidebar on the right under my profile pic for easy access. The project is in 9th place but I think there is still hope that our university could win!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Flowers for Food

John brought these home today. I just love the bright colors of pink, yellow, and green!
This one is going in our bathroom. He says it looks like the flower is emerging through the snow of winter.
We watched an entertaining movie called From Paris with Love I think ... and enjoyed this sparkling French berry lemonade (which was purely coincidence.)

I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday aren't you? What are your plans for this weekend?
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Pearl Izumi ELITE Tall Sock

I wonder how many women would admit along with me to stealing our husband's socks--they always seem to be so comfortable!! Except John's foot size is several times larger than mine so the cuff of his sock rises to my calf instead of a few inches above my ankle. I finally picked up several pairs of my own of the ELITE Tall Sock. They are left and right foot specific with ventilation channels and mesh over the foot. I especially like the compression band along the foot arch. My Flintstone feet make for the worst model but I had to show you! No longer will I hear him say, "Those socks look absolutely ridiculous" now that the cuff height is just right for my size!
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Sunny Days

I rode outside early this morning. Although it was sunny there was a strong breeze...which, for the first half, was at my back. I pedaled with the wind hitting 30 m.p.h. at times (one of the many reasons for riding on the road and not the sidewalk, weaving around pedestrians). That's why the the type of bicycle I ride is called a road bike--because it's intented for riding on the road.
When I turned around for home, I had a head wind the entire way. The faster I tried to go, the harder the wind resistance. But I didn't mind...being outside sure beats riding the trainer inside. I was just glad to feel good enough to ride and feel the fresh air on my face.
Around me the trees were in bloom and shrubs sprouted little green leaves. Spring is definitely on its way!
When I arrived home, the girls were appreciating the sunshine through the shelter of the windows. How I would have loved to bask in the sun with them all day.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Swimsuit Season

It seems to me winter is really dragging on this year, wouldn't you agree? I cannot wait to be poolside which means I will need some new suits! Perhaps John will pick out a few for my birthday ;-P

I think I like this Blue Crush Beach...

...and the Peek-a-Boo Micro. There are so many cute ones, it wouldn't matter to me as long as they are Malibu Strings.
Of course I still have a few suits I've only worn one or twice so I'll have to dig those out. Oh hurry summer, hurry here!!

Lake Mead Marina Reborn

A couple Sundays ago I was riding my bike on the River Mountains Loop Trail passing the old Lake Mead Marina. In the years my husband and I had been boating, I never noticed the path which ran along the launch ramp so I veered off the bike trail to explore. The narrow but paved path eventually lead to a couple old fishing docks. Judging by how far below the dry ground was from the old dock, decades must have passed since the last fish was caught there.
When the paved road gave way to hard dirt and gravel, I stopped to take in the view (not wanting to get a flat either). I could see some heavy machinery digging and pushing dirt where there had once been shallow water at the end of the launch ramp. A dam was created at the mouth of the cove to hold back the water from the lake. I had passed a couple people walking the same way I was going so when they hlowad caught up to me, I asked them if they knew about the activity occurring down below where the Lake Mead Marina had been. The area is now a dry tub of dirt and it's hard to believe there use to be boats in their slips, a general store, restaurant, and people going back and forth. I remember when John and I went to launch our boat in March '08 and the Lake Mead Marina had been moved to Hemenway Harbor because the water level was too low. But even though the marina was gone, people were still able to launch their boats at this location. Apparently the water level dipped even lower, the launch ramp was closed down.

(Click image for larger view)
Anyway, long story short...all the digging was to make the launch ramp usable again which is set to open for Labor Day. I don't know how accurate this is; I have yet to find more information other than what the people I met told me. We shall see...
That day I had started my ride late--around 1:30 p.m. and didn't realize how much time had passed. On the map above I rode from starting point on far left and went clockwise. 49 miles in to my ride, it was getting dark and cold. I got caught in peak traffic and had not packed safety lights for my bike so I called John who was leaving from work to pick me up.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day and a great ride. :-)