Bike Racing is REALLY Hard

This weekend was a double race weekend for me and Marianne and many of the Pain Pathways girls.  It was great to be out there with a team sporting my new gear, even though I’m not technically official till next year!!

Yesterday, we headed to Winston Salem for a race I honestly don’t even know the name of.  From here on out, it will be known as Crit from Hell.  We arrived, Marianne-style, with several hours before the race.  It’s good for me to have someone like her with me cause if it were up to me, I’d roll in 30 minutes before the race started.  We pre-rode the course and I wanted to cry.  The course was about 1/2 a mile long.  From the start/finish line, we took off on on a gradual uphill with a quick left turn, a pretty steep, short, downhill (what goes down, must come back up), a wide left at the bottom of the hill,  a long flat wide (fun) backstretch, another left turn, and then hell.  After the left, we headed back up a hill similar to the short steep one we came down on the other side, followed by a long, 3-4% incline front stretch.  The front straightaway included potholes, broken pavement, cobblestones, cracks, bumps, you name it, in addition to its just-steep-enough-to-hurt-incline.  Considering the course was so short, we were climbing up the hill and grinding up the crappy road about once a minute, literally.

The gun went off and my entire race strategy went to hell.  I wasn’t ready for the whistle and it caught me off guard.  The girls jumped, and they jumped hard.  It took me a solid 3 minutes of hard work to get myself worked back into the group and be in somewhat of a position I wanted to be in.  In a 30 minute race, working hard from the get go is not the best strategy.  As Marianne warned me and as I have now experienced, 30 minute races are all out….balls to the wall….go for broke for the full 30 minutes.  Well, I did what I could to hang on to the lead pack and at some point, on the long straight grinder, I fell off.  I rode the last 10 minutes on my own which felt like an eternity, still riding hard, and working hard to catch the girls in front of me, which I knew would be near impossible.  With about 4 to go I caught the 3’s and 4’s who had dropped off the back much earlier on, in which two of my teammates were a part of.  It worked out great to have caught them as I jumped on the front and worked for 2 or so laps and sprinted my teammate to a 2nd place cat 4 finish behind me.  Though this race was included cat’s 1-4, we were all scored separately.  So, despite having fallen off the lead group, I still won the cat 4 race by quite a bit which was great.  However, I’m not sure 30 minutes in Hell was worth my saddle bag and frame pump prize.

Today’s race was the Carolina Cup, a circuit race that has been going on for almost 40 years in Greensboro.  My parents were so awesome to come and support and it was great to have them there.  Given my dad’s car racing background, I think he loved the idea of watching his daughter, somewhat, fulfill his “racing dreams”.  He had his stopwatch to time laps and all, so he was in hog heaven, which I loved to see.

Today’s race was 45 minutes on a 2+ mile course that took place through paved trails in Greensboro State Park.  The course was absolutely beautiful and perfectly suited for my riding style.  Long flat stretches, a few good climbs, some decent turns and a long flat/downhill finish.  Perfect.  Or so I thought. I was prepared for the gun today and was off the line in a jiffy.  Thanks to Marianne, this race took off like lightening.  There was an immediate left followed by a pretty short, moderately steep climb thereafter.  The first half of a lap the group stuck together for the most part.  At some point during one of the climbs, one of the stronger riders attacked.  Seeing Marianne had gotten on her wheel, I was ready to sit back and let my teammate have the break.  But, as I started to sit back, 2-3 other girls headed for the break too so I decided to get on.  I figured if it was a break of 4 or 5, it’d be better for Marianne to have her teammate in the mix with her to help her work.  So the 5 of us girls took off and never saw the rest of the pack again.

In the break, we were flying.  I signaled to everyone that we should try to work together and for the most part, we did.  However, about 25 minutes into the race we were still working really hard, almost the same effort we used to get off the front of the pack!  To be honest, by this point I was confused why were continuing to work so hard, getting tired, and in desperate need of a short recovery.  Not so much.  We continued to nail it and I continued to feel confused why everyone would continue to hit it so hard when we had over a minute and a 1/2 gap on the rest of the field.  However, I continued to hang on and take my turns pulling through the pace line, though I could feel the fatigue setting in.  With about 6 laps to go, I took my turn pulling up a decently long uphill stretch.  As I pulled off the front to rotate out, the strongest rider in the group was on my wheel.  She got up front and hit it hard.  I’m not sure if it was an actual “attack”, but it certainly was an increased effort.  Perhaps she wanted me out of the group, perhaps she didn’t realize what she did, perhaps it wasn’t much of an increased effort at all and I was just cooked….whatever the case, as I rotated through to catch the back of the pace line, I just couldn’t get on.  So I rode the remainder of the 6 laps by myself, which is almost harder than crushing it in the pack.

I finished 6th on the day as the group behind me never caught me and only cat 1’s, 2’s and 3’s finished ahead of me, so a good day overall, I guess.

As I discussed with Marianne on the way home though, this weekend was “not good” in my eyes.  Despite a 1st place and a 6th place finish, I didn’t finish with the lead group either day and that is “failure” in my books.  However, I am not one to make excuses, but I do need to remind myself of several things as I beat myself for getting dropped in both races this weekend.

1.  I don’t train for crit racing – or bike racing really at all.  At this point, I hardly even ride my bike anymore, nonetheless, train for 30-45 minutes of all out, threshold efforts.  These races are “C” races on my schedule and are used more for training and so I need to keep that in mind.

2.  I am not rested leading up to these races.  I taught spin class Thursday morning, followed by an hour and a 1/2 run, a 4000 swim on Friday, and a 3000 swim on Saturday morning…all within 48 hours before the race.  Though swimming isn’t leg-focused, I have to believe it zapped at least a little of my energy, if nothing else. It also takes more than 48 hours to recover from a long run and I can’t expect to have full “pep” in my legs for an intense bike racing following such an effort.  It’s just not possible.

3.  I also need to remember these lead riders have all been racing 3, 4, 5, 12 years (in Marianne’s case) and this is my 5th bike race!  Crit racing is very technical and very hard and it takes time to find your way with that.

4.  I think I slept 4 hours last night.  Can’t imagine that doesn’t contribute to lack of pep.

So in a nutshell, you can now see how my crazy brain works.  I can’t expect to not train for this type of race, come in not-rested, and race girls with 8x’s more experienced than me and think I can compete…but I want to!  I can’t help it!

These will be my last two bike races until after Ironman 70.3 in Panama in February so I have some time to recover from Crit from Hell on Saturday, thank god.  Off to hopefully get more sleep tonight than I did last night!  That shouldn’t be hard.

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