Friday, April 8

Redlands Classic, Aftermath

Now that the smell of Kettle Corn on turn two of the crit has dissipated, my bars have been re taped and my finger grown back together, and I have watched my massive bruises jump through a kaleidoscope of colors, it's time to close the RBC book. Although I can't stop eating, despite eating a massive bowl of oatmeal, a burrito, plus a banana, and some Nature Valley bars prior to Sundays race. At 10am....

After my epic bike fail I was worried about 2 things: The potential of a fracture to my scapula and Brian stressing about me yarding it as he prepped for his duel with Sunset. So I hid from him in the feed zone and then the medic tent.

I think this is a good time to introduce a complicated tangent to this epic: Brian's racing too. Last year I played super supporter to Brian and his composite team. Here in 2011, he rides for CashCall Cycling out of Irvine and had some big goals for Redlands. In November he and I sat down and sketched out our season goals and step one was competing in and completing Redlands. This race would act as a stepping stone and benchmark for the forthcoming season. We spent hours together throughout the winter silently climbing to Idyllwild, Oak Glenn, in the rain, in the heat, building on our unbreakable bond. Now at Redlands, we would be on parallel missions, but without the ability to physically support each other. We have a good system in place and each of us is well taken care of by our teams/directors/friends. And we would both be there if we could, and both want the other to reach as many goals as possible, so we tell each other to go home. :)

Paul Abrahams, Brian's manager/director pulled me aside after SDSR crit and said: "Joy, your a bike racer now. No more chatty patty, go change, get your recovery drink and sit down." Oof, time to take care of myself! So each stage of Redlands, neither of us watched the other race! Most stages he raced after me, so I would find him and his team, throw them all high fives and be on my way to recovery. And waiting for the news of how things played out!

Now when I crashed, the COM cars were on the radio ASAP, and all of a sudden, old friend Larry Longo announces at the start of the Cat 3 men's crit "Local Joy Duerksen has crashed out on the Sunset Circuit!" Hahaha For The WIN!!! Talk about freaking out! I think Brian's response was "She's a tough cookie, she can handle herself" as he paced back and forth! But everything works out, he knew I was fine before the start and had the ride of his life to date, finishing RBC 48th overall. That's a big deal because last year, he was 102nd.

I finally got to watch him race on Sunday! The Breyer's and I headed up to Ridge road where the suffering would be exquisite! It was awesome to see Brian and the local boys and the CashCall boys dicing it up!

Since my body has sent all of it's white blood cells and rejuvenating goodness has gone to bruise control and muscle fixing, I'm sick. Like home from work sick not riding my bike sick, overdosing on orange juice/garlic and lemon juice/dayquil sick.

Here's to recovery and rest, so we can get on with this bike racing stuff!

Wednesday, April 6

Redlands Classic, Sunset Stage

The Stage: Sunset Circuit Race 68 miles

I haven't stared at the bottom of a coffee mug since dead week in college. I almost took two showers, cold ones at that, to attempt a full body revitalization for the days race. I stared at Mara and quietly asked with my hoody almost covering my eyes: "It gets better, right? Like at the next race, if won't be so bad, right?" She just laughed.

I had spent the night tossing and turning and dreaming of cupcakes. I woke up at 3am and ate a granola bar to stave off the hunger pains. I didn't know how I was going to get to the race, let alone race it. But somehow someway, we got there. This course was hands down my most favorite. Here in town we have the Tuesday Night Championships otherwise known as The Sunset Ride. Now the local ride does 3 laps on a modified route, so as of late, I have been doing the RBC route for training and loving it. I know how many minutes the painful Ridge Road climb is. I know how many pedal strokes to get over the QOM to Rossmont is. I know where JT will be standing by his dirt yard. This one was going to be a blast.

Our team was down to 5 racers now after the crit after loosing Katie and Tammy to time cuts in the crit. Katie got a plate in her collarbone 3 weeks ago and Tammy has been suffering a quad strain for quite some time, so they get the Purple Heart Awards for their efforts period. Really impressive.

The Goals: 1. Make 3 laps - after 3 laps if you get pulled/crash/mechanical you will receive a prorated time and get on the GC. 2. Make 5 laps 3. Make the whole RACE to 9 laps 4. And get to race all the way into Redlands (Only the lead group gets to come all the way into town, so this was a Shoot For The Moon goal...)

The Race: I got on the bike to spin the legs out and jaw-dropping shock of all shockers, I felt ok. Borderline GOOD. Creepy. I got to the start and I was in the starting grid with some of the coolest pro mountain bikers: Lea Davison, Melanie Meyers-Colavito, and Amy Dombrowski. RAD. The four of us had a good laugh about it and got the ice cracked before the start. We had a neutral start out of town heading all the way back up to Garden. I made sure Lisa and I were in the the group near Mara and getting closer to the front of the group for the inevitable. I knew once on Garden it would be at least 10 minutes of all out max effort. Just as I predicted, the fire works were lit. Fighting for position, not even near the fire house yet, and the group was getting strung out. Turning onto Mariposa, where our ride passes every week, Nicky Wangsgard from Primal was on my right, got out of the saddle and WHAM her chain broke and she hit the deck, with a Webcor rider going down with her. RIGHT in front of me. I threw my bike down, jumped over the Webcor girl as Lisa flew past me and jumped back on my bike. Chasing. Really? Lap ONE? Out the Back?? Chase. Chase. Chase. Lisa got with another few riders and it took me about 7 minutes to latch on to their group. Phew. But climbing up Ridge solo on lap one was humbling. To the right were the Gangs, students from school with their parents. Perfect for a suffer-fest photo op. Side note: The tall socks. I always wear black tall socks, to hide my cankles - close runner up to Norms. But those would not have matched the SC Velo kits, so i special ordered white. My "fans" at the crit and even teammates said "We just looked for the tall white socks!" Perfect, now that I don't have a bottle-blonde rat tail to pick me out of the peloton!

Once with the girls, our group started to grow. We had Olivia Dillon of Peanut Butter 2012 join us who had flatted at the start. I quickly realized that the chase group, is well, a bit edgy, aggitated, and agro. Because virtually we have been dropped and want to be up THERE yet we are HERE with "them" whoever "them" is. This group was railing. We grew to about 15 with the addition of Erika who we picked up. We had three teammates in the group and tried our best to work to gain ground on the leaders. We figured we were the 3rd group on the road and the lead group was roughly 1:50 up. This was great news as we went through laps 1, 2, 3, 4...we weren't going to be pulled, we could make it all the way! The riders we were picking up were no pack-fill either. Strong riders that made our group that much more of a threat.

The course was playing out like the Truman Show as we rallied through. There's JT, his wife and Jack in the yard - each lap - cheering the same thing. The dog to the left barks super loud, we swoop right past Christie's house and see Mallory out of the corner of my eye each lap. heading down Dwight thinking why is there NOT a hay bale on Tricia's mailbox? There's always one. Ack, I can't stop staring at it! Quick look left look left! All these thoughts were just flashes in the pan but they stick out so large!

Now I talk a lot. But usually its about nothing or positive things like "good job" or "nice pull" or "just over the top" or maybe asking if a teammate needs something. You, something that will HELP the rider or situation. But some of these gals like to take a different angle. Like telling you what your doing wrong, to get off the brakes, to take different lines blah blah blah. I have done a really good job at blocking "noise" out this season but on this day I was tired and run down. Things started to get under my skin. Rookie Move #4: Don't ever question yourself!!!! I was riding good, fast and strong (in my opinion at least) and the girls telling me what to do were always behind me, I should have just given them the wheel. I like to learn, so I don't mind when other racers give me advice. But trying to figure out in my anaerobic state what they were telling me to do or not do was futile. And I still don't understand it!

Start of lap 5 I was pumped. I was doing my best to stay off the brakes but this meant I was pushing the limits. And I found just where those limits were! At 1:33:54 ride time, approximately 23.4 MPH, 30.3 miles in, I decked it and decked it bad! Now the only time I crashed on my road bike was on the diagonal railroad tracks in the rain. Alone. And the night before, I completely put a hex on myself by having a lengthy conversation regarding crashing. The consensus of the dinner table was that all crashes are 95% rider error. YOUR. FAULT.

And I concur. 100% my fault and very glad I did not take anyone else down with me. I was riding maxed out, pushing the limits and my front wheel hit a bump and washed out, throwing me straight down. I think Erika got caught up a bit, but i was sitting on the center line with my bike hanging upside down on the rock wall to my left. Funny thing: All the follow cars were driven by my friends and pseudo-Uncles: Ken Kramer, Matt Breyer, Sean Rooks, Mark Love, Uncle Greg Johnson, Mark Friis, all drove my and later told me they wished they had taken a picture. :)

I yelled at Lisa and Erika "just go!" in my best After School Special voice with some dramatic flair but they refused. We were on lap 5 and would get a prorated time and on the GC. That was a community goal for all three of us. But I felt SO BAD and I am sure that crash ripped the chase group apart. My hand was bleeding pretty steady from shoving it into my spokes and my knees super swollen from the impact and blunt force trauma into the asphalt. No road rash! But I took the brunt of the fall with the left side of my helmet and left shoulder. Collarbone? Check. Scapula....this one isn't working so well. Front wheel. Big NO. Bar tape shredded and dangling off like ribbon on a present. Down to the fire station we rode and my Redlands Classic was effectively over.

Such a mix of emotions. I couldn't believe the girls pulled out with me and stayed with me. I was miffed that my pilot error had ended our race. I was elated that my legs had felt great and that we were still racing, not just riding the race. Ramon gave me his officials chair so the firemen could poke and prod my shoulder, all coming to the conclusion I was intact. Phew. It could have been so much worse.

To Be Continued.... (sorry I just have to, too much to spew out at once. Plus, who reads a dozen paragraphs anyways!?!)

Redlands Classic, Downtown Criterium, Day 3

The Stage: Downtown Criterium. 60 minutes of rip-roaring fun on a 1 mile course with 9, yes 9, turns!

This is by far the most exciting stage to spectate at. The boards rattle, the announcer yells, the speeds arch over 32 MPH, it's pure fun. The local norm for a crit race is 45-50 minutes with 4 turns and maybe 30 women, but that would be pushing it.

This stage boasted 9 technical turns, 90 women and 60 minutes. I learned very fast at SDSR that racing a crit at this level is completely different than at the local races. Locally I can ride the front, get in breaks and be an active part of the race. At SDSR I played tail-gunner for the majority of the race with my heart rate redlined the entire time. It took me 40 minutes to get to the front of the race where Beatrice was. 40!

Today's GOALS:
1. Get off the back!
2. Make time (you had to complete 40 minutes of the race without getting pulled/crashing/mechanical in order to race on Sunday)
3. Race the ENTIRE race
4. Finish on the winners time - meaning being IN the group until the end

Quick and Dirty: All goals achieved, well #4 was slightly off, but not my fault and a whole other issue.

Pre Race:

I was tired. No, exhausted. Race time wasn't until 2:30pm so that gave me more than enough time to conjure up exquisite ways to NOT complete the event. And plenty of time to eat and eat and eat. That's the thing with stage racing, you get so hungry!!

Warming up was tough. Only because I can't focus. And when I am nervous, I talk too much, and wander, and talk. Bonnie kept reminding me to get changed and focus. I decided to not warm up in the pits because there were too many people I know there, too many people to hug and high five, and focus was far from happening!

Rookie moves #2, #3: Media director of RBC Scott Welsh put me on the FRONT row. FRONT. but somehow, I got shuffled farther and farther back. To the back, behind everyone and no longer on the front. 3rd horrible mistake: DROPPED CHAIN ON THE START. Completely entirely LAST going into lap one. Seriously? Step up your game and at least half way set yourself up for success. Here goes tail gunning for 3 laps.

But I got to the group. And I started to move up. I knew that Erika and Beatrice would be at the front and Mara would be safely tucked in the middle. Just get to Mara. Work work work. Use the group. Stay on the wheels. There she is! "Mara, I'm here!" shuffle shuffle, start working to the middle again.

As the race progressed, I was able to move farther up the group, and feel slightly better. i was staying near Mara until the "incline" where her climbing prowess would move her up 15 wheels and my job of surfing the group would begin again.

This hour was slammed with emotions. Along the course I had dozens of supporters. From Team Redlands teammates, to students, old friends, and coworkers, people were cheering for me! It made me slightly emotional, and moderately misty eyed thinking about what an awesome opportunity I had fallen into. And I wanted to soak it up, every lung burning second of it. I also thought, well its ok if I fall out of the race, I win for showing up. No, wrong answer. Finish higher, get into group. Try not to look at Scott on the corner. Stop showing your suffering like a whipped dog. Pretty sure the girls in the race were getting annoyed with whoever this "Joy" was that everyone was cheering for. Such an awesome experience.

The pace of the race was insane, and the attacks kept on coming. The primes were ridiculous. It seemed like every lap there was something to sprint for. Money, Peanut butter, sprint points, or bonus seconds. I found myself sprinting in the drops as if coming in for the finish, but fighting to hold on to 55th position as the field strung out single file, fighting for a jar of peanut butter. Just give it to them!!!! just kidding. It was awesome that teammate Beatrice won the prime with 3 laps to go!

High light of the race: Lisa Campbell was super stressed (as were we all) about racing an NRC crit on 9 turns. She had a rough go at SDSR 6 turn crit so I was ELATED to see her coming up the group with about 6 laps to go. She was in the group, and moving well and railing it. Coming in hot to a turn, we were side by side and I told her "Lisa you are riding AWESOME today!!!!" and she stayed in for the finish. Small victory for some, huge victory for us!

I think I finished 60th and moved up to 63rd GC. oof.

It was nearly impossible to sleep! My endorphins were raging, my quads were screaming, and my head was spinning! The race was replaying through my mind. Every railing turn, every crash, every wrong line replayed over and over. Then started the Sunset Loop of Sunday careening through my head. Every. Single. Turn. :)

Tuesday, April 5

Redlands Classic, Beaumont Road Race

Day 2: 75 Mile Road Race, 23ish mile loops, 90 degrees with moderate wind.

The Goals:
1. Finish
2. Make the time cut (if you finish outside of 10% of the winners time, you are cut and can't race the following day)
3. Have a blast!!!

The quick and dirty: All three goals achieved! In not the most conventional of ways.

The team headed into the road race at full capacity of 8 riders. Our job, beyond the above 3 goals, was to assist Mara Abbott since she was our GC rider after placing 9th in the TT on Thursday.

I was pretty excited about the day, having done numerous training rides on the route. I was even more amped about being in a peloton of over 100 women, stacked with national and world champions, Olympians, moms, full-time pro bike racers and a good handful of girls just like me. Trying our hands at the Dream.

Now flash back to San Dimas Stage Race last weekend. This race was stocked with HTC, Tibco, Peanut Butter, a whose-who of women's cycling. And I got worked. BUT...the race was only 56 miles which is on the short side so the pace was barn-burning. There was also just one hill at 14% or something lame like that, lasting about 4 minutes where the girls with the horse power would rip it and tear the rest of us apart. It was really, really, hard. One would think going into a 75 mile race I would be really nervous. But I knew a few things. The longer distance would temper the pace, until at the last lap. The climbs were longer and I can do better at a sustained climb than short punchy efforts. I also knew there was a long stretch to recover, eat and drink. We could make it!!

Lap 1: I decided to ride as close to Mara, Erika and Beatrice as possible. We were at the middle to the front of the group, staying nice and tucked in. My eyes were pasted open. Watching. Observing. Taking it all in. I was shaking with excitement and the opportunity to learn and grow as an athlete!

First time through the feed zone: Rookie Mistake #1: I dropped not 1 but 2 feeds! Thankfully I snagged the 3rd one. The feed zone is huge, and we had feeders about every 50 feet, but somehow two bottles grenaded out of my hands! I was extremely sweaty, the bottles were wet, but I had gloves on which I thought would prevent this from happening. The following laps i honed in on those suckers and grabbed them with a death grip!

I shoved myself as far up into the group as possible, so when the inevitable happened, and we were climbing at mach 9, I wouldn't fall to far out of the group. And it worked. I got in a group with Bea and Erika and we worked our way back to the bunch, with Katie and Lisa close behind so the whole group came through together.

On one of the climbs, i did something squirrelly (but completely safe and under control of course) , and someone - I think a homie - behind me yelled "Hey you Mountain Biker, hold your line" and I realized I was riding next to Lea Davison...hahaha, I hope she doesn't think they were talking smack about her!

Lap 2: First right turn out of the start/finish....Rear Flat! Super sweet. Throw the right hand up, and try to get to the right side ASAP!! Along with numerous official cars, there is a neutral support car and a car for each team. Our car was #5. I think the Colavita car tried to run me over, honking and speeding by. This was my first in-race wheel change and I was pumped! Super pro mechanic Chris Davison hopped out of the car as I shifted down and we made the quick switch. But now, to get back to the peloton. I started riding steady and the car came up next to me with a bottle out for a "feed". I grabbed the bottle which was solid in Chris's hand for a "super long hand off at 30 mph" which didn't go so well for me. I hopped to the back bumper of the car and rode it as long as I could, until the caravan took a left turn where I then jumped from bumper to bumper through the caravan. RAD!!! I tried not to red line it but it was really really hard! I finally made contact with the group after what seemed like a lifetime, and immediately started weaving my way through to find Mara. Found her! Relax. Check on teammates. Anyone need this bottle I got? Whose having fun? It was so exciting going through the process, I never stressed! I knew Michael and Chris would get me back to the group, I knew it would be ok. Plus, I needed every ounce of energy I had because the wheel I got only had a 23 on the cassette, the next two laps of climbing were going to suck! :) I knew it though, it was my wheel, I run Campy, so don't have very many options.

Climbing up the first climb, i was in the middle of the bunch, jersey halfway unzipped due to the insane desert heat, and OF COURSE!!! A bee jumps right in. It only stung me twice on the back, or at least once and I made its stinger get the back of my arm when I pulled it out through my sleeve. But seriously, total wiggle-worm. Stay calm, its just a bee, don't let it get to your face, focus, don't touch that girl 7cm away from you, phew, he only got me once. Geeze...what else you got!?!?!

I keep finding myself in no-mans land in road races. I get popped just enough at the last 5-7 miles that its just me. This time I sat up for one rider, who only spoke French and kept attacking me. that was awesome. I finally convinced her that there were riders coming, and sure enough, Lisa showed up with about 5 other girls. It sooooo much easier to get to the finish with people. And it was a hard lesson to learn, just sit up. Wait. Be patient. Up ahead I saw a the familiar jersey of teammate Katie doing the same thing and we were all able to come in together. Only 3:14 down on the main group! Success.

Highlight Real:
1. Lisa C rolling up to me with like 4 extra bottles and handing some off to take up to the front. Its a pretty big deal for "us" to go back to the team car and get bottles for the team and ride them up to the teammates. That was Killer!!

2. Looking out for teammates. I talk. A lot. And this race I had a purpose to talk! Check on my teammates, and really work on my pack riding skills. I would say to myself ok, you have three minutes to get up to Bea and see if she needs anything. Awesome. Our group on the way in had 9 girls, 3 of us with me, Katie and Lisa. It was so fun to be able to legitimately share food, bottles, support, to teammates with a common goal.

The day took its toll on many riders, probably because of the heat and crazy pace. The team was down to 7 riders for the next day, as composite rider Jessica Chong had a rough go of the road race and was beyond the time cut.

I believe I was 63rd on the day, moving up to 66th GC from 84th. Phew! Now the hard part....recover. Eat. Sleep and prep to race again!

Monday, April 4

Redlands Classic, 2011: Prologue

Stage Racing: Uncharted Territory

I must be trying to recover, since I finally have time to create a blog post. I was also able to go visit newborn Violet Hope and see how her Mama is doing. These things just can't take place when I am on the limit.

Let's get to business:
The Goal: To complete the Redlands Classic, 4 day NRC stage race this past weekend

The Opportunity: Ride as a guest rider with SC Velo/Empowercoaching Systems, Directed by guest director Michael Engleman, with team leader Mara Abbott who joined the team for the weekend as well, coming straight from Italy. The SC Velo team is a local heavy hitter with national champions and a lot of the horse power for in the local racing peloton, with Dotsie Bausch (just back form winning silver at the Pursuit Worlds Championships!) at the helm. We also had another local rider, Erika Graves from the NOW-MS Society join the team as a guest rider.
Bonnie, Michael and Dotsie, making a game plan!

Now of course I am a big part of Team Redlands, but we do not have the option to put a women's team in the Pro race, so I needed to race as a guest/composite rider for the event. SC Velo is stacked with awesome ladies and I was beside myself with excitement to be part of a team, working for a common goal, and doing something with a group of ladies I have really grown to appreciate. And these girls are hilarious.

I have been practicing racing the last few weekends, figuring out a sweat iPod warm-up mix, pacing myself during the time trial, eating well, sleeping more, and resting period. That's a lot to take in though. I used the Tour of Murrieta Omnium and San Dimas Stage Race as practice for all of these items and more and each of those were stacked with high learning curve, stress, success, failure, and a lot of fun!!! But nothing could really prepare me for Redlands. Nothing at all.

To keep this less annoying, I will do a report on one stage at a time. Because there is a TON to report about!

Day 1: Prologue 3.1 miles of basically up. A route I ride sometimes, and trained a ton on, making it a huge "home court advantage" for me going into it. I do not own a Time Trial bike nor do I plan on buying one. So I put clip on bars on the handle bars and went for it. Fortunately on this course, a road bike will do just fine.
Trying to be undercover, not really pulling it off!

Being the home-town girl I really really had to focus. I kept my headphones on during the whole warm up tried to not even look people in the eyes, which is extremely difficult for me to do! Bonnie Breese from SC Velo was my "handler" for the day meaning she would escort me to the start to get my bike checked by the USAC officials to make sure it was legal, and to give me water and a pep talk while I waited my turn. She was rad! Dotsie also stuffed my speed-suit with bags of ice as the sweat poured off my nose and down my back, it was going to be a scorcher!
Warming up alongside longtime homie Lisa Campbell

The start was rad. My buddy Ken Kramer got hold my bike at the start, Mark Love put my bike up there, and my friend Larry Longo was the announcer. So cool!

The race went well until the 3k sign, where I got out of the saddle for a little climb and realized "squish squish" my front tire was flat! Super! That is rad. No options. No spare bike, neutral support was behind me and you can't go backwards on the course. Soooo, one and only option....ride on!! So I rode the rest of the TT with a front flat which was pretty entertaining coming in hot into corners on a front flat and pretty tough getting out of the saddle and not wanting yard it on day one. I actually thought it was funny, just a little. I had tons of friends/teammates/students out on the course and the cheers and laughs kept me going! I wasn't caught (we start time trials every 30 seconds) and was pumped to learn I got 84/113. Now that's not amazing. But with a flat on the 3 largest climbs of the TT, I ain't gonna stress!

The other cool thing about being a local is that I had 5 trucks to pick from to get a ride down to the start. i will ride flat on a road bike UP, but not DOWN.

Day one a success. Because we made it through! Just starting the event got a lot of the nerves out but then the focus was turned to eating, laundry, eating, resting and finally sleeping.
Moderately chaotic homebase! Getting 8 ladies ready to race is no small task!