Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frank-ly, here's what I think:

I wrote this as I was sitting in Carbondale, Colorado on my aunt's cattle ranch, in awe of the land, the wilderness, the 6000 feet of altitude, the lightning storms, and most of all, the amazing life I am so grateful for. What has come of the last few weeks of racing? Some missed marks, some lessons, some near misses, and some so-so results. Overall, some victories that may go un-articulated, but I will take a risk here, and share some of my thoughts, because now's as good a time as any, to do it. To those of you who read this. Thank you.

I am on my way to my potential as a bike racer. Only I will know when that day, year, month, race, comes. I imagine it will be in the next few years.

A bit about my big picture: Why do I do what I do? Why press on? In a sport so brutally competitive, and full of suffering, where the chances of winning are slim for most of the competitiors?

"Never more than 30% of the peleton is a major factor in a bike race. As a matter of fact, there are never more than 5 or 6 riders in a field of 100 who are strong contenders for any race, including the Tour de France." (Carl Cantrell)

So why settle for being pack fill? What's the point? Is it settling, or is it being a true competitor?

I do it, because I respect myself and my competitors more every time I race.

If I wasn't doing it, and the rest of the 70% of the peleton wasn't doing it, we wouldn't have bike races.

I have a dream that all women can look one another in the eyes and recognize how powerful each other are. Can we all just stop talking smack for a minute? Why do we love Elis Bradshaw, Karla Kingsley, Kim Anderson, Carrie Cash, Starla Teddergreen, Morgan Kapp, Dawn Neisser, Sabine Dukes, so much? They are models of women in sport, of mutual respect between female competitors, that we all can look to. Kudos to all of you!

I have a dream that all adults will reclaim their sense of play, and remember that playing is the way to learn more about themselves. Michael Hernandez is a great example of this. He has brought a sense of play and fun to the sport that no one else ever has. Thank you Michael.

I have a dream that all young people are treated with complete respect. I will continue to hold out that young people are models of wonderful human beings, and that their brilliance and power is our present, not just our future...(as if the future even existed).

I have a dream that all athletes discover along their path, that real competition means to have our competitors at their best, and that winning isn't just winning, no matter what. Crossing the finish line first, too often reinforces an ego that fosters the inability to look across to those you have "beaten". If it weren't for those of us who come to the starting line, to play, to race, to compete, the "winners" would be riding by themselves.

A true victory is one that combines the crossing of the finish line with a genuine advancement in the inner world of the athlete.

Lance said: ...."winning only measures how hard you've worked and how physically talented you are; it doesn't particularly define you beyond those characteristics....If you're willing to examine failure, and to look not just at your outward physical performance, but your internal workings, too, losing can be valuable."

Do I want to WIN an actual bike race? Of course!

I want to win, now, more than ever.

As I chase my dreams, I invite you to re-examine your own dreams, and walk the path that leads you in the direction of those dreams, no matter how small your steps.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back to Cali from Colorado!

If it weren't for Auntie Emma, lots of things would be different in my world. She is a friend, a mentor, and runs me more than I run my kids in P.E. Class! The first day of my visit to one of my family homes, Ty Bar Ranch, in Carbondale, Colorado I was making 120 breakfast burritos for a Tour of the Mississippi Cattlemen's Association coming through. Tables were set up in the barn, and we served 55 retired ranchers and their wives breakfast in the barn...That was cool. They were so smittin' with the whole thing, they wanted to take Aunt Emma home with them, but I would not let them!!

The next day we were off to the Rodeo, where I got to see something I never would do in P.E. class, called Mutton Bustin'! Imagine a big 'ol wooly sheep, running around in a pen with a 5 year old person attached to its back! Yup, you have to be only 5 or 6 years old. After that, you must retire from Mutton Bustin', 'cuz then, you're just too darn big. They do have helmets on, thank goodness, but geesh, it looks really hard to do!! Those sheep just run and look like they are super bumpy to ride! Please do not try this at home...and just because I write about it here, does not mean I think it's a cool idea. It was simply the first time I saw it, and was a little taken aback!!! Folks will do what they do, and sometimes we all are witness to it. How we respond, is up to us!

Mutton busting at a rodeo in Denver, Colorado

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Superweek 2008-Wrap Up

First big highlight of Superweek was local Nor Cal phenom, Karla Kingsley (pictured above) winning on her first day racing!

Second big highlight of Superweek was Dolce Vita's awesome sprinter Starla getting 4th place on the last day of the series in Evanston!

I raced the last 5 of the 7 days of criterium racing for Pro 1/2/3 women. $1000 purse each day paying 20 deep. Dolce Vita teammate and sprinter, Starla, along for the Superweek experience. 50-60 women on the line each day. Teams to contend with were Verducci Breakaway Racing, Team Revolution, Kenda Tire, Hub Racing, Mesa Cycles, America's Dairyland, and a few strong independent riders such as Skylee Armstrong of Bicycle John's. 50K crits, that were taking about 90 minutes to do. Some days were hot, others were not. The racing was fast and strong, but also swarmy and sketchy too. So, not a whole lot of strung out fast racing, but certainly enough talent to be challenging.

Day 1: Bensenville Crit in a Park-on-a-bike-path-, up and down driveway aprons on two parts of the course, yukko.....Hot and humid, like breathing thick warm soup compared to 3ooo feet of high desert air in Bend, Oregon. Teammate Starla out due to pinched nerve causing her left arm to NOT WORK. I had not eaten enough in the morning, nor on my 3 hour drive to the race, and went into some debt about two thirds of the way into the race. Basically a bad day at the races for Miss Laurel. Hammer Gel was not cutting it. I dropped out with 7 laps to go. Hmmm, impressive, huh? Tomorrow's another day. I actually love long criteriums, so looking forward to it.

Day 2: Shorewood Criterium, finally a real crit course. Fast and somewhat technical. Very good course with a long sprint. Although they shortened our race significantly, which always sucks. Starla racing with me. We worked together well. The race was neutralized once, due to a horrible crash. Starla and I found each other with a few laps to go, worked together most of the last lap, then she found another wheel two thirds of the way through the last lap, to get 7th place. Sweet racing Starla. I was 30th, but pleased with our efforts together.

Day 3: Ripon criterium. Hot and windy. Starting on time, and keeping our race the normal distance, YES! Great, great, great course with 3 little power climbs in it. I was very much looking forward to it, as I love these kind of courses! It was mostly a race of attrition. Starla was in with me for awhile, then needed to bail due to her arm not working right...geesh, brave girl to get out there in the first place with a bum arm. I stayed in, sitting in about 15th with 2 laps to go...it was strung out pretty well, a few folks went down with a lap and a half to go, and I chased the main field for 12th place. I was very pleased.

Day 4: Waukesha Criterium-No Starla today, she was taking care of her back and her arm. A great fast course. I was sitting in about the top 15 with 11 laps to go, it was nice and fast, and strung out. Then, a Revolution rider attacked off the front to chase a small break, and crashed herself in a corner, breaking her hip in two places. The race was neutralized for about 40 minutes or so. We sat on the line passing the microphone around introducing ourselves, and telling jokes, because they would not let us ride around the course. Finally, they started us again. I have to admit, when they told us 8 laps to go, I had lost a little punch with the neutralization, and with the fact that I knew the crashed rider had really hurt herself. I finished mid field, 32nd place. A lesson in re-collecting focus when stuff like that happens.

Day 5: Evanston Criterium, great course, great weather, no crashes!! YES!! Starla racing with me again, YAY! We raced well. With 3 to go, Star and I were at the front, 2 to go, at the front, last lap swarmed a bit, we lost one another, but she stayed forward to get 4th place, and I was 19th place, just in the money. Overall, a good race.

Great Superweek, looking forward to next year.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Victories of the Inner World at the Cascade Cycling Classic

Well, I didn't finish Stage 5 of Cascade today.....and I ended up having a great ride in the high desert of Bend, Oregon instead. I feel satisfied with what I came here to do. I believe the demons I came to slay with this event went down in Stage 2. The slow TT on Day 3 represented that, and I was lucky to get to dance around in my specialty at the criterium Friday night. What a great feeling to actually hold my head high (not higher, mind you) amidst a bunch of folks who can't even look me in the eye because I'm not kicking their ass. Due respect and compassion to every one of my competitors. If my write ups were about them, their names would be here. This sport is amazing. The strong get stronger, whether it's those left on the bike or off the bike. I love cycling for that reason, and will continue to do it as long as there's more to build in my inner world with it. Another victorious adventure with bike racing.

My SouthBay Wheelmen Teammates did a really good job finishing the entire stage race. They are such an incredibly sound bunch. I absolutely loved supporting them, and getting to work for them when I could.

Morgan Kapp was an awesome 22nd overall in the General Classification of 61 finishers, Kelli Jones was 58th overall, and Jennifer Reither was 45th overall. STUDS!!!

I am looking forward to getting to some plain 'ol criterium racing in the Midwest.. with my AWESOME teammate Starla!

More later....

Thanks for checking in.

Oh geesh, by the stickers on my bike......Still in the bike race- Cascade Cycling Classic Stage 3 and 4

This will be brief: A VERY slow day on the TT bike. 83rd out of 84 riders. First
I was time cut, then I was not. Raced the crit: 49th in the crit of 82
finishers. Overall GC placement: 75th of 82 riders.

The results for the morning time trial were posted at the sign-in spot for the
criterium. It looked as though 6 of us were time cut. (greater than 25% back
from the winning time for the TT). BUT, the officials rescinded the time cut.

I was literally back in my civilian clothes after having warmed up with my
teammates, thinking I was not going to race the crit, when they rescinded the
time cut. Our team director comes running over to the warm-up area, and yells,
"Laurel, get dressed, you're racing!!! They rescinded the time cut!!" I know who
argued with the officials, for the 6 of us who were cut in the TT. Go figure.
Some of the officials are soft that way. Who knows why they decided to let us
race. This is America, not Europe. We all know that. We live here, not there.

So, we all got to race the crit, tonight 20 minutes into the race,
I was caught inside of a 12 person pile up in one turn..meaning: I was upright
after having t-boned someone who had gone down in front of me, and about
to get smoked by people ripping through the turn from behind us.....
and everybody around me was on the ground.
One of my teammates went down super hard.... we all went to the pit,
officials put 12 of us back
in BEHIND the pack, my teammate who went down hard needed more attention, so she
sat out two laps, and was put into the middle of the pack again...Anyway, my
pack chased very hard for awhile, then got pulled at the 33 minute
mark.....within the time cut (which was 20 minutes of the crit), which means
those of us who chased our asses off will race tomorrow.

The crit was fun and fast, and awesome, very technical. My other three teammates
finished with the main field of about 50. Overall, a good, but weird, up and
down day. Whether it's an up thing or a down thing...it's all bike racing. The
main lesson: Let it go. Whatever it is....it's bike racing.
There's another bike race tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or next lifetime.

Bringin' up the rear loud and clear....Great day on the bike...Stage 2 Cascade Cycling Classic

Hot, but not all day, because we climbed and climbed to cooler land.  86
starters. 78 miles. Oh my body was sore from the tip-over, bike pile-up
yesterday. I was grateful for the medical tent at the finish though yesterday,
because one of the guys gave me a big bear hug, and my back went pop, pop,
poppity pop, and I felt much better.

O.k. more about today. It was SUPER DUPER fast for the first 30 miles or so with
a few rollers that split things up a bit, until a couple of breaks got away with
Webcor, Tibco, and Aaron's represented, then it was chase, attack, chase, attack
for a little while, then the pace simmered down until we got past the first feed
zone at about 40 miles, then there was all of this crazy wind, and it was fast,
and close to the edge of the road for awhile, where there were rocks flying, and
people tapping their brakes, blech.

I must say there were some times in the first 60 miles that I fought harder than
I think I have fought in a long time to get good position, and not get
caught in the wind, and hang INSIDE the pack, not just on the back
.....although I was there too...

I was a bit behind on the the first QOM, but there were several of us, including
my teammate Kelli, who is GREAT to work with! So we chased back on to the main
field. Then we plowed through a little town called Sisters, which meant the
final climb was in reach.

The guys at the bike shop told me that if I can make it to the base of the climb
with the field, I'll be good to go, and will not get time cut. So, when I got
to the base of the climb with the main field, I wanted to climb more than ever.
It was my kind of climb...about 10 miles of gradual 3-6% grade. I would pull
some people in, then they would get ahead, then it got a little steeper toward
the end, and a few really pulled away from me...(like Emily Zell, and a few
others..she might have been having bad day, but whatever.).

Overall, I felt great about the work I did today. I placed 73rd out of 84
finishers. I am sitting 71st of 84 in the GC going into the TT tomorrow. My
teammate Morgan got 26th today, and is sitting in 23rd overall! My teammate
Jenn cramped really severely today, and it was a slow go up the climb, but I am
sure she will be back in the game tomorrow. She's very strong. Kelli and I
worked together some on the final climb. Great team!

It was great for me to feel like myself in a road race.

Tales from the Back of the Female Peloton-Cascade Cycling Classic Stage 1

Hey Gang,
It was a hard, hot day. 80 miles. 88 starters. Lots of strong women.
SouthBay Wheelmen (Morgan..team leader, Jennifer, also very strong rider,
Kelli at her first stage race, and doing GREAT, and myself). At about 40 miles in, my
teammate Jennifer Reither got a front flat, so I waited to get her back to the
group...ouch. Back in the group, hammering toward the QOM which sits at about
mile 47 or , dropped on the QOM climb only to see them waiting as a group at the
top....WTF? They're waiting for me! Cool! Maybe NOT. A rider from the Pro men's
field had gone down up the road, and had to get airlifted out. He rode through
the center of a cattleguard, which you are NOT SUPPOSED to do, because
they are not joined in the center, they just have one 2 inch wide
crack for you to ride right into, and it was not covered...
although supposedly there was a cone there...hmmmm...

Anyway, we stopped for what felt like 4 years....but was only actually about 30
minutes. Then, there were all kind of breaks of 4 and 6 riders that they had
to re-form before they let us go. Fortunately, I was not separated by the
minute I was down from the group, nor were the women behind
me....whew...o.k...got lucky today on that part of the race.

Then, there's the last 30 miles, much gradual downhill, lots of wind, some very
fast racing going on.....with 12 k to go, #@&%^)@*&#%^*&#% 15 or so riders go
down when a rider (who will have to go unnamed) responded to someone's sketch by
literally jumping laterally!!! So, I was riding with Jennifer, and we were
sitting pretty in the pack, and whammo....dominoes, I managed to come almost to
a stop before getting smacked from behind, knocked down, and stuck at the bottom
of a pile of three riders on top of me, including Jennifer. We get up, untangle
our bikes, get back to chasing, and I bring her up to Kelli, right as we are
going over a little roller....and I can't hang on their wheel? WHAT? I almost
cave. I could not believe it. I just keep going, and some riders whiz by me, and
I can't get their wheel either.....WHAT? Am I blowing up? I guess so?
It was frustrating. But, very, very motivating. I just couldn't believe it.

Anyway, I keep hammering. At the 10k to go mark, I look at my front brake, and
it's slammed up against the rim! OHHHHHH sugar. I open it up, and am relieved,
to keep hammering on my own. ......well, I am out of the rolling caravan,
so....yup, a STOPLIGHT, that I can't run because it's a super busy one....

I finally make it to the finishing hill, which is about 1 mile long, ..and sort
of as steep as that one coming out of Sausalito back to the city...yea...it's
all kinds of fun, and then, I make it to the top eventually for 77th place out
of 86 finishers. Two women were not able to finish that crashed. Anyway, a rough
day, tomorrow's course looks harder... Yay. Will let you know how it goes..