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Me & the Boys

With Master’s Nationals over, I confess to being a little concerned I’d lose my training partners.

I know how tough it is to fit in consistent workouts with a 9-5, and while some of the guys I train with are teachers or have flexible schedules, most of them have wives and kids who really like to see them when their goal has been met for the season.

(Thanks, btw, wives and kids for letting your men come to the track. I feel very fortunate to train with them.)

Imagine my relief when I got this text from Affinity‘s Jon Chambers:

JC: U available to train Sunday?

We’ve had storms hovering, plus I raced Friday and training gets shuffled for these reasons. And while Sunday’s usually a rest day, (can I get an Amen!?), it’s also a day when guys like Jon can sneak away for a morning track session.

ME: What do you have going on?

JC: Not sure yet depends on what you have.

ME: This weather may shift things around, so maybe flying 200’s or rolling 500’s.

JC: Works for me.

Jon & Cam setting up for Masters' Nationals.

There was a little more to it. But that’s the gist. We’ve trained together quite a bit the past few years and can speak in shorthand. Our schedules haven’t meshed lately, so I was glad to hear from him.

Did I mention Jon’s racing like a champ? Just killing it every Tuesday and Saturday in the Cat 2/3’s and Master’s Men’s field. He’s a powerhouse who stepped it up a notch this winter. I hardly recognized him when I got back from Los Angeles in May.

It’s not uncommon in competitive sport to see elite women training with men of equal or greater ability. In track cycling, you often see top women racing with cat 2/3 or Master’s men to simulate the kind of speeds and action you’ll get in international competition.

Basically, you have to train as fast as you want to race. So if you’re trying to step it up; training with the guys, a motorcycle or exceptionally fast women are, in theory anyways, your best ways to go about it.

Today it was Jon, myself, Jon’s teammate, Cam; Bike Line Dale and Paul; Greg, the new Manager at Performance Bicycles and his buddy Ken. All great guys. I did flying 200’s behind the motor on Thursday, so I had 4 handicapped rolling 500m efforts, full throttle, two in race gear +4, two in race gear +6.

Three words: Big muscular effort.

We split into two groups: sprinters & enduros. Each of us (Jon, Dale & myself) took a turn at the front.

The speed difference between leading and chasing was remarkable: 6kph faster in the chase. I know I hit some of my best top speeds today. I also know the guys put the hammer down ’cause (and they’ll tell you this) no one likes getting beat by a girl.

Today’s training session was mint. Each effort high quality. For most of these guys, track time is a priority and they make the most of it.

And Jon is like a locomotive once he’s on top of a gear. Lucky for me, he doesn’t mind it if I sit a few bike lengths back and turn myself inside out trying to catch him.

There’s always some good-natured ribbing that comes with the territory. The guys like to tease me about being a girl (which, I am). I grew up with an older brother who used to pummel me for sport, so these guys are lightweights in comparison.

Gentlemen, in fact. Am I allowed to say we have a good time? And I certainly get more out of each effort than I would on my own.

This is something I’ve been thinking about because it’s new to me. I trained by myself a lot last year because it’s what I needed to do at the time.

I started the summer working with Andrew Harris on starts & OTB strength and did flying efforts with Chip Berezny and his crew on Wednesdays. Each session has been good in so many ways, this year better than last.

Then I found this newspaper clipping when I was home and thought, “Hah! This must be my destiny!”

Me & the Boys. Towsend, MD Invitational 1975?

I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get back to writing regularly, so I’ll start with right now.

I’m sitting in bed with my coffee. My dog Bruno is snoring at my feet; his fur catching the sun streaming through the window.

I just returned from Los Angeles where I spent the week training and posting times at the ADT Center in Carson. It was a really great trip, though hard to be away with Masters Nationals being held at my home track.

A lot of friends and guys I train with were competing this week, so I was bummed I didn’t get to see them perform live. We keep each other honest and motivated in training. And I’ve long realized the value of having good people with similar goals, abilities and work ethic to train with.

Good people help you show-up and keep you going, especially when the heat index is off the charts! Plus, it makes the work productive and the suffering manageable when you enjoy the company between efforts.

But between Facebook, USA Cycling & the event photographers, I kept on top of things & pieced together the action.

There was tons of excitement about Masters Nationals coming to T-Town. The one question I kept getting asked was if I were going to compete which means 1/There are more people interested in track racing then ever before; and 2/ They’re on to me and know I’m not a junior.

For the record, I turned 42 this year. I also signed a contract with Black Dog Professional Cycling, and as a member of a UCI Professional Trade Team, I’m unable to compete in masters events.

When I started this science experiment of one, my goal was to take the sport as far as I could go. To reach my potential as an athlete.

For a million reasons, I didn’t know I could be competitive at the Elite level until my late 30’s. The irony being it took success at the Master’s level for me to realize my potential in open competition.

I’ll write about my trip to LA, but I have to get to work, which today means over-geared starts, a road spin and getting settled and ready for 8 weeks of high intensity & volume.

So I’ll leave with huge props to all who came to T-Town to race, and beg forgiveness for not being here to cheer you on. I’m both proud and thrilled for everyone who shared their goals, aspirations or insecurities with me . . . then came out & rocked it.

Check out this article, featuring a bunch of friends:

MORNING CALL PIECE ON MASTERS’ NATIONALS

And if you have the chance and are looking for some inspiration . . . flip through the photos on USA Cycling:

USA CYCLING MASTERS SUPERHEROES

Where to begin!?

I’m writing this on my return flight from the Manchester World Cup. My teammate Cristin is two rows in front of me. We started the day with Bobby Lea, Kim Geist and Cari Higgins—also of the US Team—and Megan Hottman, of DFT Treads Cycling.  We left Kim & Bobby in Pennsylvania while Cari & Megan flew on to Denver. Cristin & I are heading back to Los Angeles where we’ll resume training Tuesday at the ADT Center.  

I flew to Los Angeles shortly after Thanksgiving to train with the new US Sprint Coach, Jamie Staff. Staff was hired by USA Cycling in July 2010 with the challenge of building an internationally competitive sprint program. Staff retired from competition last year after a career that began on the BMX track and ended with his winning gold at the Beijing Olympics as the starter for the British Team Sprint team.

At Elite Nationals, I learned Staff had an open door policy for now.  I did well at elite nationals—two gold and two bronze medals—so I took a few weeks to consider whether I wanted to pursue the sport at a higher level. If I learned anything in 2007, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to succeed at the world class level without committed support from an organized program.

We decided we were still game so I emailed Jamie to see if I could join his training group between the holidays.

That was three months ago. What started as a ‘try out’ has become a work in progress!

When I arrived in LA, 2009 elite national champion Cristin Walker was the only female sprint athlete training with Staff. She was doing road work and being groomed for next season. Staff has been straight up since taking the job that he’s got a long term vision and is building a program with the 2016 Olympic Games in mind.

New for London 2012, the Team Sprint is being used to qualify sprinters for the Olympic Games. Prior to myself and Tela Crane from Seattle joining him, Jamie had only one female–Cristin–in camp. When we arrived, he suddenly had enough bodies to field a team.

So we got to work. No promises were made. Jamie’s a high-energy, driven, process-oriented coach. We show up every day, work hard and give him our best. He gives us his best and expects our best. That’s how it goes.

By January, Staff felt we were fast enough to race the World Cup. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he saw this season as a chance to gain international experience, establish a UCI ranking and if all goes well, earn Olympic qualification points. At the very least, he saw it as a chance to get US women back in the game.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least! Cristin and I flew to China last month for the Beijing World Cup. It was my first elite international race since December 2007 and Cristin’s first World Cup ever.  Long travel, crazy jet lag, funny food, very little English . . . nothing like diving in head first!

We did well in Beijing: placed 11th with a respectable time of 35.954. We also scored Olympic qualification points our first time out! Last week we rode a 36.054 in Manchester . . . just 1/10 second off our best.

With Beijing, the travel and cultural differences take some getting used to. Manchester is an entirely different beast: sold-out crowds, non-stop loud music and cameras in your face. The stimulus factor is a 10+ and learning to concentrate and focus on your race is a cultivated skill.

We’d grown accustomed to going 2/10ths faster every time we rode together, so we were expecting a faster time in Manchester. Cristin and I also came home from China sick as dogs, though, and lost valuable training time between the two events.

Still, we’re ahead of schedule: Instead of waiting ‘til next World Cup season, we’ve got two World Cups under our belts. And, we’ve set a time we can only improve on and have seen first-hand the best in the world perform.

Plus, we’ve got a UCI ranking and have scored coveted Olympic qualification points. Whoot! I’ll post photos soon and do my best to explain what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games . . .

For now, I’ll just say this: Every pedal stroke counts!

Until then, cheers!

Liz

A Great Trip

I know I’ve been quiet, which has everything to do with going through another move in June. If you count relocating for training, this is the 5th time I’ve moved in 5 years. But we finally found a place that gets me closer to my friends in the Lehigh Valley and the track while Lath has a manageable commute, so hopefully . . . it’s our last!

I just returned from back-to-back race weekends in the Pacific Northwest. I started working with Jennie Reed last year — who was key to my doing well at the World Cup level in 2007. She’s an amazing coach and friend, so the trip to Portland for the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge and Seattle for the FSA Grand Prix presented by Nuun was as much an opportunity for good racing as it was a chance to check in with Jennie.

The Men's 30K Points Race at Alpenrose


The Alpenrose Velodrome is a little kooky. It’s shaped like a paper clip with tight turns that suck you into the corners. It requires a certain physicality to race it well, otherwise you lose contact with the track and get bounced around (you have to relax, let your body absorb the surface, and find the cleaner lines.) Point being: it’s not easy to get used to, but once you do  — it’s a blast. Kind of like a carnival ride.

There’s definitely a hometown advantage, as Portlands’ Kevin Metzger and Jen Featheringill dominated the sprints.

My best result at the AVC was 2nd in the Team Sprint with my partner, Seattle’s Tela Crane; and 3rd in the Keirin behind Dana Feiss and Monique Sullivan. Tela & I broke the track record in the Team Sprint and were celebrating our awesomeness before Dana and Jen Featheringhill dropped it a few moments later. It was pretty cool once I got over being bummed about not winning. Each of the women’s team sprint teams broke the track record, which says something (I think) about a new crop of sprint talent in the US.

The first two days of racing (the 500m & Match Sprints) for me were flat, not sure if it was the travel or adjusting to the track. I raced Tuesday night at T-Town then traveled Wednesday and was warned by Jennie that might not be the smartest thing to do (race before hopping on a cross-country flight). Well, that’s how you learn; and my form came around by day 3 . . . thank GOD!

We hit 60kph (36mph) in the Keirin final! That’s fast! Kudos to Dana Feiss for leading it out for two laps.

Both events are season marquee races for the Alpenrose and Marymoore velodromes, so the talent was deep, racing competitive and prize money generous. The promoters offer equal prize money for both the women’s and men’s fields (another bonus), so the racing’s aggressive across the board. Riders from all over the West . . . California, Colorado, Canada and Chicago come and they all seem to know each other well so the vibe feels like a big picnic with bicycle track racing going on around it.

Here are some pics of Alpenrose …The infield is organized chaos. We had glorious weather.

The Infield at Alpenrose

Women's Scratch Race

The Homestraight Grandstands

Our friendly announcing team

Our route: Oceanside to Sand Lake to Tillamook to Oceanside

Camille Hook, busting out the grin

I had some time to kill  before heading up to Seattle for the Fixed Gear Classic, and found out Sunday night that Portland rider Camille Hook had never been to the coast, or at least it had been awhile.

I rode a good chunk of the Oregon Coast after running in the Hood to Coast relay in 1997. IMO, it’s one of the most gorgeous places in the US, I had to go being so close. Canadian Travis Smith helped me coerce Camille into taking the day off  & we had a blast. It took us twice as long as we thought it would to ride a way harder route than we thought it would be. Closest I’ve been to bonking in a long time. It was epic.

40 Miles of wind, sand, hills and gorgeous scenery. Epic.

I’ve got a few Marymoor pics that I’ll upload once I’ve checked ’em out. It was an amazing trip. Special thanks to former pro cyclist turned pro accountant Marjon Marik, who let me stay with her in Portland  . . . and David and Ellen Mann, who gave me the ROYAL Treatment in Seattle.

And Walrod, I still can’t believe I ran into you and your family on Glisan! That was crazy.

Got some quality racing in, spend time with old friends and caught up with and met new friends in the sport.

I don’t know how many of you folks have been paying attention to women’s racing lately, so I’m going to share a few highlights…

Last week, Sarah Hammer (of the United States) set a new World Record in the Individual Pursuit at the Panamerican Track Championships.

Photo: © TeknoBike-Mexico

Then the following day, Sarah, Lauren Tamayo and Dotsie Bausch dropped a wicked fast time and ripped open a 3:19.569 to set a new World Record in the Team Pursuit in Aguascalientes, Mexico. For Sarah, that’s two world records in as many days . . .

photo by Benjamin Sharp

This is so freakin’ cool . . . . Here’s another great shot by Photo: © Wenceslao Rodriguez/ WRS IMAGENES . . . click on it to read the story. I’ve never seen Dotsie Bausch smile so large.

Photo: © Wenceslao Rodriguez/ WRS IMAGENES

Come to think of it, they all look pretty happy.

Then a few days later . . . T-Bird (aka Theresa Cliff-Ryan) lapped the field twice to win the women’s points race at Panam’s. She’s out of control. Let me say that again . . . lapped the field twice to win GOLD at Panamerican Track Championships.

Then, of course . . . on Sunday of this week, 17-year old Coryn Rivera won the women’s crit at the Amgen Tour of California . Here’s a pic of the finish if you missed this little nugget on the interwebs . . .

Photo: © Mark Johnson

Seems to me 2010 is cookin’ up to be the year of the girl. At least for the home team.

Just sayin’.

The analog blog

I spent February and some of March in LA this winter. It was good to get out of the cold, dark East and great to hang with my friend Stacey, who I stayed with before the ’07 LA World Cup.

Stacey & Molley Girl

Stacey & I share huge love for our dogs. She recently had to say goodbye to her sweet pal Molly (pictured right).  Molly was the kind of dog that barks at you and expects you to understand what she’s saying. Funny thing is . . . after living with and feeding her for a week or so, you actually could start to understand her.

I got a strange sensation riding along the Strand . . . not because the last time was there was in 2007, but because the first time I was riding that path was 10 years ago to the day.

In March of 1999, I made my first solo trip to the West Coast to race what was then called the California Spring Classic Series. I entered my first EDS Track Cup, then raced the Sea Otter Classic (Cat III road &  mountain), the Napa Valley World Cup on the mountain,and got spit out the back of the Visalia Crit.

I somehow convinced my boss at Runner’s World to let me take a month off and race my bike.  (thanks Ken!) I flew to California, rented a mini-van, floated between El Segundo at my cousin Cheryl’s and Pasadena at my friend Tony’s when I wasn’t traveling to races. It was me, a van, 3 bikes and a map of California. I was rider, mechanic, team manager and soigneur.

What I remember most from the trip was how much I learned in a short time, and how hard it is to race back to back weekends when you’re handling all the logistics yourself. Since that moment, I’ve been in awe of road pros. I’m pretty sure that’s when I realized the ‘arena sport’ nature of track racing was more my style.

I dug out the journal I kept while on the road and found this report on my first EDS Cup.

Race Report, EDS Cup 1999

Here’s a sweet piece that spells out everything you should know about carbon fiber bikes but were too busy to ask . . .  courtesy of Giant Bicycles & Bicycling magazine:

The Making of Giant Bicycles Carbon Fiber Bike Frames.

And in case you missed my piece on Bicycle: People + Ideas in Motion, check it out!