I skipped the criterium last week to nurse a sore calf muscle — from racing the week before without any warmup. Today, when I woke up, I decided that if the weather and work cooperated, I’d give it a go. I also promised myself that if for any reason, I was unable to get properly warmed up or if something didn’t feel quite right while I was warming up that I would NOT race.
About 2:30pm I started checking the clock in the lower right hand corner of my computer monitor. I could feel little butterflies starting to expand their wings and tickle my insides. Each time I checked in with myself about whether or not I wanted to race — the answer came back a quiet, “Sure, let’s give it a go.” At 4:00pm I left my computer and headed off to change into my bike shorts & Blue Sky Velo jersey. Everything went smoothly and I arrived at the race site about 35-40 minutes ahead of our start time. Another process change was that I pre-filled out a race form and had my 2 race licenses in a small ‘snack’ baggie inside of my cycling shoe — so I wouldn’t forget to take them with me to registration!
The only hitch was with something I didn’t have much control over — the registration line was long and slow. Getting registered for my race gobbled up half of my warmup time. However, I still had the other half — about 10-15 minutes. There were plenty of folks riding the course already so I just slid right in and started going around and around. Everything felt good. After 2-3 moderate laps, I did half a lap at close to race pace. Everything still felt good. Looked like I was going to race!
There was a slight delay as the race committee waited for the EMT to arrive. Good to have an EMT on site — as there was a crash during one of the races last week. No one was seriously hurt, but had there been the EMT would have come in handy! Our group initially waited at the start line but were sent off for a couple more warmup laps. Finally, the EMT arrived and we headed off on our “neutral” lap. I was situated in the middle of the group as we crossed the start/finish line and began racing in earnest. The pace picked up, but I was able to keep up without any problem on the first lap or two. After all, at this point it was just us women. Then the men’s group caught us and the race changed (as expected). Although I can’t be sure, I think most all the women gave the extra push to jump onto a wheel as the men’s group rode by. I know I did — and there were 10-12 women in front of me who also did. We jostled around a bit as everyone found a place to ride safely and preferably out of the wind and turbulence of the edges of the pack. I made a few poor choices as far as picking which wheel to follow and where to ride in the pack. I got boxed in a couple time on the corners where I would have preferred to take a tighter, faster line. It seemed that with each lap I found myself a little closer to the back of the pack. And, as anyone will tell you — it is MUCH harder to ride at the back of one of these packs! A rider at the back is subjected to much greater speed changes and effort swings. It takes a lot more energy and it is much harder to find a rhythm there. Well, that’s where I was today! That is, until about 5 laps to go when I couldn’t bridge back to the group after being stuck behind a slow-cornerer. UGH! Truth be known — I’m not sure even if I had bridged that lap whether I could’ve done it again the next time around! I spent the rest of the race just trying to hang on. I no longer had the pack to protect me from the wind, or provide me with a slip stream. I did work with a couple of other women who also fell off the back about the same time I did, but it was clear to me that we were not going to be in contention today.
It is hard to tell, but I think I either got lapped right at the end, or would have if the race had gone on much longer. I rode hard and gave it a good effort but man, the race felt fast — faster than either of the other two races I’ve done. I was certainly disappointed with my finish, but not with my effort. I’ve still got a lot to learn and strategies to try. Bottom line — I’m having a blast being part of it all.
When I came home and uploaded my ride data, I had to smile. Two of my laps today were my fastest of any of the three races, and 4 of my top 5 laps happened today. My peak speed was 32.4 mph, and I had one lap speed of 28.3 mph (at a heart rate of 164). So, I was right — it was a fast race today! Kinda wonder what next week will bring. I plan to be ready, warmed up and on the start line again!!! My track buddies, Michelle and Cathy both managed to stay with the guy’s pack. I think Michelle might have even won the women’s (SW4) category!