Racing and working, the endless struggle – Dana Stryk

 In Discussions, Training
I am a PhD economist with the State Department and provide both education and training to our diplomats.  Recently we started offering classes abroad at post – which is an amazing opportunity for me as an economist but huge challenge as a cyclist with respect to training and maintaining acquired fitness as I traverse time zones and cultures.
Jeff Cup:After some great training in Tucson in March, I went to Dubai and Doha to teach Data Analysis and the Economics of Energy.  Traveling with my bike was not possible so I was thankful for the 24 hour gym and jet lag which meant I was awake when the rest of the UAE and Qatar was asleep.  The experiences were amazing but….after 14 hours on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha without a single open seat, I arrived in DC less than 12 hours before Jeff Cup.  More importantly….I left about 90 degrees to return to winter.  My inner lizard (named Lizzie) really does not like cold, let alone the taunting of warm weather for about 2 weeks and then cold.  Lizzie and I decided Jeff Cup was a bad idea, got on the trainer and discovered we left legs and lungs in Doha.
Sea Otter:
Liz and I targeted Sea Otter as the first race.  The weather should be good and I would have enough time to gain back some fitness.  The first race was a crit on the Mazda Laguna Seca speedway.  About 40 women were in the field and the course– two almost 360 degree turns that brought the field to a track stand.  The field stayed together.  I popped off after getting pushed into the railing on one of the turns and I just decided it was a nice day to TT instead.  My fitness was ok but I was still not pleased.  The rest of the week was spent pedaling along 17 Mile Drive, ignoring the call to tee off at Pebble.
Tour of Page County:
Road Race:  Unlike last year, where people attacked throughout the race, the pace for three of the four laps was recipe-exchange inducing.  The field had some very strong women, but only a few seemed interested in racing more than for the final sprint.  I tried a couple of times to get away as did Sue (ABRT), Michele S. (Bike Stop), Laura (James River Velo) and a few others but…it was not a race until the final kilometer.  I finished 6th.
Time Trial:  I like the TT course and had a good warmup.  The roads were wet and I found myself nervous about the handling of my bike on the wet pavement.  I thought I was ok until my 30 sec. person behind me passed me.  We usually TT around the same pace, so I decided to use her for a rabbit.  Once the road sloped down I realized I was a big chicken and backed off.  Arrggh.  8th in the TT (my rabbit was 3rd…shoulda, woulda, coulda I guess)
Crit:  Sue from ABRT mentioned her plan to jump at the start of the race, which was my plan so…she jumped, I followed and after a couple of laps we had about 8, then 6 and then 5.  The rest of the field was broken up – with an eventual chase group forming of about 8.  I popped off the pack and chased back as a preme lap bell rang…I should have moved to the very front but…did not.  I popped off again, this time for good, with about 6 or 7 to go.  Now I needed to stay away from the chasing group.  On the penultimate lap, I heard Chuck yell…they are catching you…you have to bury yourself.  Even Mimi (the chief official) cheered for me at some point when I was in no-man’s land.  As I made the turn to take the hill for the last time, I heard Chuck yelling…stand…you have to stand. Obviously, he could see more than I could, so I sprinted up the hill, safely in 5th.  Afterwards, I saw the 2000 pictures that Sophie’s mom (RC Velo…junior) took (kid you not 2000) which allowed me to see the race unfold.  Good thing I stood and sprinted….
While I was mad at popping, I was happy that my fitness seemed better.
Argyle Time Trial:  I selected the 23 mile option.  Due to the lack of a road marshal on a turn, most of the juniors and women did a TT of variable length.  Wendy (Colavita and a name you all know) also did about 23.  Sue (ABRT) choose the 30 mile option.  Since I was the only W1/2, it did not matter. 

Time to fly to Mongolia.  Dulles to Bejing to 6 hours in the airport to Ulaanbaatar – 23 hours of traveling and I was in the capital city of Mongolia.  More indoor cycling.  Ulaanbaatar to Seoul to Tokyo.  At the Imperial Gardens, I saw hundreds of cyclists but it seemed in poor form to knock someone off their bike so I could ride.  More indoor spinning.  Lots of good food and great experiences but fitness dwindling every day.  Tokyo to Dulles to start the hardest recovery from traveling I have ever had.  The 13 hour time difference and 14 hours in coach…I wanted to cry when I thought about my race season.

So – what better way to reengage than…wait for it…the Tour of Tucker County?  I blame jet lag for my decision.  Not sure what possessed Chuck to suggest it. Hell must have frozen….
Tour of Tucker County:  You know it will be bad when the race director asks who is new and who has any idea of what is in store for them…56 miles with 2 climbs of note….and of course, ending on a nice ascent.  I told myself the last climb was only a Cat1…my legs have collected HC summits in the Alps and Pyrenees.  I can do this.  I did it but it was not pretty.  We rolled with the Masters men and I became reacquainted with God through a prayer during some of slight descents at the start of the race.  I soon realized that trying to maintain that pace would call into doubt my ability to finish so I slowed down and found another in my race with whom to work.  To be polite about this…she was unhappy that she would be off the podium and got into the car at the feed-zone.  Time for a 20 mile TT without water.  Once I finished, I must have been delirious for I apparently posted on FB that Mike Stearns looks good on a bike…most important lesson learned….secure cell phone in the RV before leaving for the start line….
Tour of Somerville:  I wish my legs had three races in them but after Tucker, I was so tired that I decided to focus on Somerville.  I want to race Masters Nats in September and thought this would be the better of the two races (Ft. Ritchie being the other).  I really liked Somerville last year, despite crashing in the final corner on the final lap and wanted to attempt to remain upright this year.  My goal for the race was to overcome my inner chicken and position myself in the middle of the group if not toward the front.  The first few laps I was again in the back…sprinting to maintain contact after the second turn.  The race had the same feel as last year – after the start/finish sprint out of turn 2 then slower for the rest of the lap.  Sue (ABRT) was also in the race and I tried to stay on her wheel.  At one point, Laura Van Gilder attacked and found myself in a small group chasing.  The bubble thought on that pic, “OMG.  I am chasing LVG.”  Midway through the race, Sue jumped when I was on her wheel.  After a momentary pause, I gave chase and the woman behind me shouted that we had a break.  I figured I would die before I would give up getting Sue’s wheel.  I caught it, we had a little break for half a lap and we were back together.  Racing while starstruck is hard to do!  A women went off the front with about 10 to go – she was literally caught with 5 meters to go.  I managed to finish with the pack.
Next up:  The French Fry Crit (McDonald’s Criterium) in Huntington, WV (Chuck’s hometown) Sat and Millers School on Sunday.  Hope the legs are there from Tokyo!  Chuck is racing the 3/4 35+ at Miller’s School – so we will be there all the day.  Look for the RV if you need a place to hang out.
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