By Cindy McNett

The Tour of the Hilltowns in northwestern Massachusetts lives up to its tough reputation.  The 57 and 97 mile course winds through the Berkshires, goes through 8 towns, and features grueling climbs.  The temperature on race day hovered around 100 degrees.

The women’s pro 1,2,3 division raced 57 miles and included the best of the best.    My expectations were to see how they ride, have fun, and finish the race.  It was a leisurely pace to start with, which picked up steadily.  I focused on staying out of the wind and out of trouble, but neglected to drink enough early on.  This would haunt me later.

After about 35 miles of scenic riding, with a 40 mph descent,  we reached the bottom of the East Hawley Hill Road climb.  As we made a sharp right hand turn, there was a disturbance in the rhythm ahead and someone swerved. The rider to my right tapped her wheel and in an instant was on the ground, catapulted over her own handlebars.  As a commotion ensued behind, two riders peeled off from the left and sprinted uphill.  Ahead loomed the biggest, steepest hill I had ever seen.  It looked like the stairway to Hell, complete with heat waves shimmering off the black, soft tar.  There was not a breath of air, except the labored breathing of the riders.  The field strung out into small groups as this hill went on and on.  I made an effort to catch people, but too quickly found myself in the “red zone” and overheating.  My decision to stick with two others no matter what was pivotal – we finally crested the mountaintop and worked very hard together for many miles to catch the leading group before the feed zone.  A bottle of ice water poured on my back enabled me to cool enough to continue working, as I had begun to see black spots and felt fuzzy.  We continued at a brisk pace into an arid headwind, heading back towards the start.  One or two would sprint ahead, and no one reacted.  We just reeled them in and continued an organized paceline.

About 5 miles from the finish sharp cramps seized up my legs, so I was done.  It was awful to see everyone just go, but there was little to do about it.  My goal changed from doing well in the standings to just making it back to the car and avoiding the emergency room.  Along the way were many remnants of the men’s fields who were barely moving, some even walking up the long final grade.

I wasn’t first, but I wasn’t last, and relearned the lesson again about dehydration and electrolyte depletion.  But it was a good experience, that I hope to repeat again next year with better preparation.  Congrats to all the 500 or so riders who raced this very challenging course on such a hot day.

Posted by: Dana | March 26, 2011

2011 Mid-Week Rides

Our mid-week  rides for 2011 will officially begin April 4th with a casual Monday night ride designed for new group riders and recovery for experience riders and a peppier, training ride on Wednesday nights.

Both rides will depart Payson Park, Portland at 5:30 the week of April 4th and April 11th and move to 6pm week of April 18th until fading daylight in fall dictates an earlier start.

For information regarding any of these rides, or the Saturday morning ride, please contact Dana McEwan.

Posted by: Dana | March 25, 2011

Socializing, PVC Style

The women got together recently to pick up their spring kit orders. To be honest, it was an excuse to get together and socialize. We did take advantage of the gathering to grab a team photo with approximately 50% of the members that made it.

Posted by: Dana | September 6, 2010

Ironman Louisville 2010 Recap

I had asked Erin Lopez to write up a race report from her Ironman Louisville. Here it is!

Sunday (Race day)-

I woke up at  4:15am and ate PB &J and downed 20oz of Gatorade. S. went to get food from Panera since they were making breakfast for the supporters and we planned to meet up at transition. I walked out of the hotel to the transition area at 5am and saw S. right as I was exiting the hotel. Perfect timing since I was in a elevator full of nervous triathletes that hardly anyone said a word.  So it was great to see a friendly face.  Transition area set and ready to rock at 5:30am. Began the ½ mile trek (it seemed longer) to the swim start and body marking area. The line was already formed for the TT swim start and we walked another ½-3/4mile to the end of the line and it was not even 6am yet. The swim start would be at 7am for the age groupers and 6:50 for the pros.

Swim- 1:14:40 total time/ 40th Age Group/ 730th Overall- 1:57/pace per 100meters

No warm-up was done because of the massive line so I was a little nervous about how I’d feel once I started swimming. Does running to the dock count?  I finally enter the water by jumping off the dock. I asked the volunteer if I could do a cannonball and she laughed and said “hurry and get in, the timing chip has already started.” I took the first 5-10mins to warm up and settle into a pace. Not too much banging around with anyone until the turn around point. At that point I got hit in the back of the head, timing strap was yanked off my ankle, and people were standing up because it was shallow. Once I made it around there I got a few more blows to the head and even got kicked straight in the face. NOT FUN! I was certain that I would be getting out of the water no less than 1:30, but to my amazement as I helped by one of the volunteers up the stairs, my watch read “1:14”. NICE!

T1: 8:02

I stopped to get another timing chip and got it reactivated. The volunteers were so nice in finding my transition bag so I figured that I gave the lady a hug. She smiled so big and sent me off to the changing tent. Put so much chamois butter on that if it was a normal day I would have slipped right off the seat, but seeing that the temperatures were already climbing into the 80’s at 9am, I would be ok. I tried to rinse myself off as much as possible as my once white tri-top was now brown after exiting the Ohio river. Um…gross! Downed some Powerade and donned my gear and off I went.

Bike:  6:29:57 35th age group/ 1039 overall- 17.23 mph avg. pace

It was nice and flat on the way out to the first out and back portion. Then it got hilly! There was one hill that it seemed like it took forever to climb. The other wasn’t too bad because I just bombed the downhill portion and was able to get up to 40mph. WEEEE! Soon after we passed through the town of La Grange and it was spectacular! There were so many supporters out there in the heat cheering us on and it was in the perfect place of the race as there were some lonely miles out there. S. was standing on the side of the crowd on my second loop through town and that brought a HUGE smile to my face. I tried to stay on schedule with my fluid/calorie intake which was 2/3 of a water bottle per hour, but I started to suffer from a pretty bad headache, which I know came from the heat bouncing off the asphalt.  I had a hard time eating anything solid but at mile 38 and 60ish I was able to eat pieces of banana. Headaches galore! HOT HOT HOT! At mile 50, I saw my coach on one of the motorcycles and I smiled and gave him thumbs up as I was just getting over the headache.  Soon after that I saw my buddy J. and he was not having a good day. He said that he was run off the road and his front wheel was bent into a taco shape. Knowing what a strong athlete he is and his goal for racing Kona, I told him to keep going and that he’ll be ok.  He continued on and soon after I saw him getting assistance from a bike tech in getting a new wheel. Thank God!

After a while I started to worry because I was drinking a LOT of fluid between the water and Gatorade and not once did I have to pee. Finally at mile 70 I had to go, which turned out to be good “pausing” point because I got my “special needs” bag in which I restocked my Gatorade and put on more chamois butter. Around mile 80 I started to see people drop like flies. Some already laying on the side of the road, others pulling off, and some leaving in an ambulance.  Then I saw J. again and thought “oh no!” He said that he was just hurting too bad and today wasn’t his day. He then told me to keep pushing and to race within myself.  He’s an amazing human being to have been racing on the “worst day of his life” (his own words) and keep encouraging others to push forward.  As the miles packed on I continued to see more people on the side of the road looking defeated and even more ambulances pass us by with athletes on the way to the hospital.  Before I knew it I saw the 100 mile marker and my spirits lifted and the pain seemed to disappear. This was now the time to start preparing myself mentally for the run.

T2: 7:37

I cannot thank the volunteers enough for their help. They were simply amazing! My personal volunteer emptied my run bag, held out my socks, and made me drink coke/ water, and shoved ice down my shirt. I thanked her endlessly and soon after I was off on the run. I kept my coaches words in my head that I had better keep my heart rate lower than 155 which is my aerobic zone or else I was blow up and not be able to finish. I had come this far, I WILL FINISH.

Run:  5:37:57 46th age group/ 1066 overall/ 12:53 avg. per minute mile pace

The run was as good as I could have hoped. Pain didn’t settle in until late in the run and I stayed focused on keeping my heart rate low even if that meant I was running an 11-12 minute mile.  I caught up to a guy that I was standing in line with at the beginning of the race with and he was hurting so I slowed down and asked if he was ok. He said that he should have followed my race day strategy by keeping his heart rate low because now his was shooting up with each step he took. I convinced him to run and our 2nd mile was a 9:05 pace. As the miles progressed we continued to run/ walk, but his heart rate would not lower so he told me to just leave him and continue on. Shortly thereafter, I saw S. and A. jumping up and down and cheering me on. They were so amazing! Seeing them so much on the run helped me push past the heat and mental pain of seeing people passed out on the side of the road. I ran every mile and walked through the aid stations to ensure that I was taking in enough calories.

The only “solid” type of calories/nutrition I could take in was oranges and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good…in the beginning.  At mile 22, it was a completely different story as absolutely NOTHING tasted good anymore. I couldn’t drink my Gatorade anymore because it was making me nauseous, chicken broth tasted like dirt (although it really didn’t), soda was too sweet and oranges just tasted like acid. Water was the only thing I could stomach and even that was hard to get down.

The run of an Ironman is an eye opener for sure. I saw a guy hunched over run-walking and then his legs went straight and he fell on the ground with wicked cramps in his legs. Another guy in front of me passed out WHILE HE WAS RUNNING and hit his head on the concrete…Grown men and women crying because of the pain, and some of the fittest human beings I’ve ever seen walking because they can no longer run. Matter of fact, I only saw ONE of the women pro’s not walking. I kept my aunt’s words in my head “race your own race, don’t pay attention to what others are doing”, and it helped tremendously. I talked to so many people along the 140.6 mile trek and they were all extraordinary in their own way.

For the most part, I was feeling ok as far as muscles and headaches go until mile 17. That was when my bad knee decided that it would stop working so I was reduced to walk pretty much that entire mile.  I kept telling myself that if I didn’t get under my goal time of 14hrs that I was not going to get my Ironman tattoo because I didn’t earn it. So I forced myself to run 5 minutes and walk for 2 minutes for the rest of the marathon.

Before I knew it, I began to see the lights and hear the sounds of cheers from hundreds of supporters at the finish line. I came up on a woman and asked her if this was her second loop and she said “yes” so I told her “let’s finish this thing running!” She smiled from ear to ear as we blazed through the crowds to hear our names… “Erin Lopez, US Coast Guard, You are an Ironman.”

13:38:14 total time. 46th in age group, 1066th overall out of 2,940 athletes.

So there it is. I can finally say that I completed an Ironman. This has been a dream of mine since I tore every ligament/tendon what have you in my right knee 6 yrs ago and was told by the doc that I would never be able to walk correctly again, much less run.  I wish I could remember his name so I could send him a thank you card. 😉

I want to thank everyone for their support and love throughout this amazing journey. First off, there are so many people that have helped me in the past 10 months that I could not possibly list them all, but please know that I appreciate it all. Coach Mark, you were awesome in keeping my behind in check and pushing me at all of the right times. My better half, I could not have done this without you. From going on training rides/runs in the freezing cold/rain, to setting up my trainer for after work rides, to swimming endless laps in the pool, you are amazing. My triathlon family- Sue, Don, Jim, Karen, Bob, Heidi, Kim, Amy, Christine, Alanna, and Mike…I look up to you guys so much. Thank you. Last but not least I would like to thank my family. I don’t think people realize how much support it takes to train for an Ironman much less complete one and without you guys it wouldn’t be possible.

Posted by: Dana | September 6, 2010

Tri For A Cure 2010 Video

Posted by: Dana | August 25, 2010

I Tri-ed, Tri For A Cure Race Recap

Photo by Richard Sawyer Photography.

Linda Braley is a recent member of PVC Women, joining the club after a few weeks of riding with the group.

More importantly, Linda is a cancer survivor. Recently she participated in the Tri For A Cure in South Portland, Maine where almost 900 women turned out to participate and raise almost $1 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation.

I asked Linda if she would mind writing a “race report” for us and it’s below. But before you read her account, check out the news story on WMTW about the event by clicking HERE.

Now, here is Linda’s account:

I finished the event 170 out of 731. Not too shabby! I didn’t do as badly as I felt on the swim, given I couldn’t catch my breath and wound up doing the side stroke 2/3 of the way, which made my legs more tired.  I’ve been training the crawl which is a faster stroke and less tiresome on the legs.

(Linda on the far right before the start of the event.)

Survivors take the water. Photo by Richard Sawyer Photography.

Linda getting her wetsuit taken off. Photo by Richard Sawyer Photography.

The bike, well, the wind was in my face the entire way.  I had a hard time catching my breath after the swim. My speed was not my best BUT I rocked on the bike, being the 5th across the line into the transition for the run.  The corner marshals were telling me to slow down in the last turns and I thought,  you just better get the “h—” out of my way as I took the corners in full tilt. Oh, I really was looking for that sprint finish I love so much and then to be DONE, but no.


(Linda after the first transition and heading out on the bike course.)

I did run/walk the run.  I just was gassed. And NO I can’t imagine taking it easier on the bike to save my legs as that’s the part I love.  The elite or simply stronger athletes, made some headway on this segment.  Overall I was really hoping (but concerned from dry runs) to be in the top half.

(Linda in the light blue PVC kit, almost at the finish.)

So, my final placing ended up at 170 out of 731 competitors.
I placed 7th of 64 in the survivor category.
I placed 32 of 123 in my age group.

Last but not least I placed 19 out of 731 on the bike segment!

BUT.  Now that the event is well, in the distant past, I wonder…  I could build up my running endurance, I bet I could build my swimming confidence,  I could get tri bars on my bike.  I could simply have a better winter this year.

HMMMM.  When is registration for 2011?

Now is the winter of our discontent…Made glorious Summer by this Daughter of Suffolk;  And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house In the deep bosom of mine furry head buried deep within the stem of my black Zipp wheeled fixed gear horse .

I’ve spent two years being away from the track and for me this weekend felt like I was back in elementary school after having been out for nearly 2-1/2 weeks with bronchial pneumonia during second grade. I was happy to be back, but I felt lost and out of place. Even the track had changed, the owners had changed, the rules at the venue itself had changed…and now they had decided to paint new lines that brought the pole line out from it’s original position. So all the old lines I used to take two years ago were now a thing of the past and I had no practice time there since. So I used the Marine motto; “Improvise, Adapt & Overcome”  and tried to do my best. The first race was the Flying 200 meter TT, this is a race of two laps. During the first lap you are building yourself up to speed to set up for the bell lap where you need to be nearly at full or close to top speed…..when you are near the 200 meter mark you need to uncork the rest of your strength and do a lung searing sprint over those final 200 meters at full speed. Your time is taken from the 200 meters to go line to the finish. My time was ok considering I haven’t done this in two years, but I knew it wouldn’t be good enough….and I could tell my asthma was rearing it’s ugly head. It kinda set the tone for the day.

When I had raced at this track two years ago, the track was in it’s infancy, as were most of us who raced there so to speak. Sure we had track bikes – but most of didn’t have a lot of experience or a lot of money to spend on all the new speed gadgets that are used in modern track events. So we winged it with what we had and usually had a great time…things worked out well then as two years ago I won the 2008 New England Track Championship.

But at this race now in 2010 Team Luhrs had made a fatal mistake leaving some vital modern equipment at home – my aerobars set up for my track bike and my aero helmet.  Susan who read the race circular which was a bit confusing didn’t realize that only the points race, scratch race (which ended up being scratched, no pun intended), and the flying 200 were to be raced without aero equipment. That left the pursuit open to use of any and all aero equipment and mine stuff was at home. As I mentioned previously, things had changed at the track and this would wind up being a very painful error.

When it came time for the 500 meter time trial and the pursuit, I was severely handicapped. The other racers who were in my league all were set up aero, and I had no choice but to go Merckx. Anyone who tells you that the aero stuff doesn’t mean anything should have been in my place. I don’t know that I would have won that race as I haven’t practiced with my pursuit bars on the track, but I know I would have had a fighting chance. This time I had to be content with third and the bronze.

The next event was the points race. I was so upset at that point that my asthma got worse, and I had forgotten to eat due the stress, so that race resulted in a silver. After that were the finals for the sprints. To add insult to injury while I was watching the men’s points race I all of sudden became very ill, my asthma went into a full blown attack to the point where it was giving me the dry heaves. Susan ran and got me my rescue inhaler and after getting that going along with some extra water my body seemed to settle down and I decided to try and go for it in the Match sprints – what would happen would happen. I was doing ok, but during the finals, the bike just didn’t feel right for some reason that couldn’t really detect – I’m thinking it had something to with the aforementioned medical episode, LOL ‘rolls eyes’ had me in a haze. It wasn’t until after I stopped to get some water after the ride for the silver that I realized that the front tire had been slowly losing air all though the course of the day and was now semi-soft. Shrugs!!! Geezes, and these were brand new never ridden tubulars. Luckily a friend of mine helped me fix the tire later, so I didn’t have to ditch it, but the race did not give me the result I wished.  I’m just glad that I didn’t crash or cause my opponent to because of racing on a semi flat tire.

I know there is going to be somebody reading this that will say, Ivy knows better – Yes, I do, and I’m not sure what to say about that. But all this has made me realize that we need to be more organized when I want to race track; I almost feel like I need a packing checklist – aero bars packed, aero helmet packed, gearing bag packed, etc. along with a reminder to eat, to use my asthma spray proactively, etc. When you have health problems it feels sometimes along with all the equipment and my medications you wind up bringing half the house with you. I guess the fatigue of all that weekend after weekend caught up with Sue and I. But I can promise all of you it won’t happen again. I’m proud of what I wound up accomplishing, I guess I should be happy about that -but I feel as though I let the team down as well as myself because of a greenhorn mistake.

~Ivy Luhrs

Posted by: Dana | July 6, 2010

Trek Across Maine 2010

Several of us had a terrific Trek Across Maine in June, 2010. Here’s a little video recap:

Posted by: Dana | July 4, 2010

Press on Women’s Cycling in Greater Portland

Biking: Riding packs acquiring a new look

Posted by: Dana | May 16, 2010

PVC Yoga

Some of us participated in a private yoga session with former PVC racer, Lisa Maxwell, at her yoga studio entitled Yogave in Falmouth.

Chatting and catching up before class began.

With so much fun in class Lisa took us through a little partner yoga, which was fun and a little different.

Leanne and Elizabeth demonstrating the partner yoga stretch.

I think I speak for most of us in saying we really enjoyed the private yoga session and hope we’ll be able to offer more in the future. Stay tuned!

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