The Carter Lake Road Race is a new race this year, and it is earlier than any race on the calendar. Normally, the Frostbite Time Trial leads off the season the first Saturday in March. Not this year!
Here’s what I wrote to my coach, Alison Powers, about my race today….
Today’s race was fascinating for me. I’m still playing it over in my head. I went into the race prepared to be alone, off the back climbing up the switchbacks towards the dam as the rest of the SW4 field rode off ahead of me. There were no age categories, so SW4 was my only option — and I was resigned to competing with gals 30 years (or more!) younger than me. I suspect I was at least 10 years older than the next youngest woman. Anyway, I wasn’t going to ride so that I was at the back, I just thought that would be the case given the field…and the fact that the climb is steep and relatively long. Not my forte.
Given the race is about 3 miles from the farm, I rode to the start. I packed a small backpack with a spare tube/pump, some shot blocks, a few extra gloves/hats so I would have options if the weather changed. I left my house about an hour and 45 minutes before start time. Registration went quickly and I had my numbers pinned on my jersey, the timing chip leg band secured to my left leg and was ready for warm-up with about an hour to go. So, I used the bathroom and helped my teammate, Cindy Vanover (yes, there were THREE Blue Sky Velo women racing today!!!) pin her numbers on her vest. I decided to pin mine onto my jersey and if the weather dictated more layers, I’d just pile them on under my jersey. I did that (because of poor planning) last year at the Frostbite TT and it worked out fine. With about 30 minutes to go, I started my warm-up. I was kinda warm from riding to the start but I wanted to make sure I was ready for some harder efforts and I wanted to make some final clothing/layer adjustments. I rode with Cindy thru a small neighborhood and then back out onto the main N/S drag. We were not alone — there was very limited riding options so everyone getting ready to race was doing this same small circuit. It was sufficient and I was able to push the pedals hard a few times. My original plan was to wear my BSV vest under my jersey, but I decided that I’d be too cold so I stopped and put my light weight BSV wind jacket on under my long sleeve jersey (over my GoLite base layer LS shirt). Perfect. I stayed with liner gloves and slightly larger outer gloves over them and, of course, I had on my trusty bootie covers. I opted for my mid-weight cap under my helmet and I had on my Pandana around my neck just to keep the chill off. I was just a tad worried that I get hot climbing up the face of the damn so didn’t want to get too comfortable at the start. As it was, I was a bit chilled — but not shivering.
Some last minute checks and I stowed my bag near the registration desk and Cindy and I headed to the start line. There were a bunch of racers! The SW3 group went before us and there were 10 or so riders in that group (Kathy Hix from BSV was in the group, as was Pam Leammons from Loveland). I found out after the race (from looking at the results) that we had 27 racers !!! Looking around there were a bunch of young women I recognized from last season. They all looked so YOUNG, skinny and strong! 😉 I don’t know that I would have taken a front row spot, but by the time I got to the line, I was at the back of the pack. I wasn’t concerned though — I felt things would start to settle themselves out at the switchbacks anyway. I felt OK (not great), and I was a little anxious to see how my training would serve me in such a talented group of riders. I wasn’t dreading the climbing– I was actually looking forward to it since one of my main goals for the day was to “play” with climbing while out of the saddle. There was a long approach to the hill though and we all left the start line as one big blob and stayed pretty much that way for the first couple of miles. Once we turned onto the Carter Lake road, things started to get interesting. I moved my way up a couple of rows – once by shooting a hole left between two riders and then by going up along the far left (this side was out of the wind) and watching for opportunities to pass. I didn’t want to be blocked in behind a slower rider because I knew that I needed to hold my momentum if I was going to do well on the climb. I needed to be able to go MY pace — whatever that was. So I stayed to the far left. Good thing too. A gal who was riding up ahead of me on the ridght dropped her chain (probably shifted under too much pressure…) and, of course, that had the ripple effect of slowing everyone behind her down momentarily. My teammate Cindy was caught up in that little incident. I think that was the last time I saw Cindy as a matter of fact…
As the grade increased I was able to hang with the group ahead of me. I had not expected to be able to do this . When we got to the ranger’s fee station some of the faster gals pulled away — but not as many and not as fast as I expected. I was still holding my own. No one passed me on the climb after that point (of course, you could say that all the fast ones were already ahead of me!) But, still. NO ONE!! I did pass a couple of other racers though. I used stadning out of the saddle effectively twice during the lower part of the climb to recovery without dropping my intensity or losing momentum. From my strava data, it shows too. I had a ton of PRs on everything “Carter Lake” — the climbing felt comfortable and it did seem to help overall. I was working hard on the climb — open mouth breathing and intensely focused. Even if I had it to do over again, I’m not sure I could’ve gone up that hill any harder today. And, at the top of the last switchback, I noticed that the gals behind me were fading but that there were two gals just a short distance in front of me. I kept digging and pushed all the way over the top and continued to push on the straight-away until I caught the wheel of the faster gal. She and I worked together all the way around the lake.
Several of the other gals who struggled on the climb recovered and joined onto our little train. There were probably 6-7 of us as we hit the north side of the lake. There are two short climbs from the north store to the start of the steep descent. I know this route pretty well and thought I might try an out of the saddle attack as we started up the second of those short climbs. I got out of the saddle and stayed up all the way up the first hill — but this was more recovery than attack. It just felt right. There’s a little dip between the two hills. I sat and caught my breath for a couple of minutes and as we started that second climb, I got out of the saddle and just pedaled away from the group. It wasn’t a flat out sprint, it was just a strong effort. No one came after me — not sure if they couldn’t match my effort or decided I was just a ‘fat, old’ broad’ not worth chasing. 😉 Most of them would be reading “Blue Sky Velo” across the back of my shorts for the rest of the race !! I flew down the backside (Strava has me tied with another rider for 5th out of 233 women on the descent!) and would’ve gone even faster if there wasn’t a head wind. I opened up more of a lead on my chasers. I kept the hammer down as I turned the corner onto Pole Rd and headed down the hill towards the Hogback. Right before I hit the Hogback (Co Rd 29) two gals working together overtook me. I got on their wheel and started with them up the Hogback. They were just a little faster than I was and I knew my limits — I couldn’t stay with them. I let them go and rode alone the rest of the way. I put a solid effort into the long grade. This is another part of the ride I know real well and I know how to pace myself up it to maximize my speed without blowing up. About half way up the hill, I thought perhaps I had taken it a little too hard. I did a quick “body scan” and decided that I could keep pushing — knowing that I probably wouldn’t go any faster, but by pushing myself I hoped that I wouldn’t lose any ground to my chasers. They had to be hurting too, right? I took a couple of glances back as I went up the grade and sure enough, the gap was about the same. They had not closed in on me. With a couple minutes of climbing left, I knew that now it was my race to lose. All I had to do was go as hard as I could — whatever that meant and I’d be able to finish ahead of them. I had confidence in my ability to descend at least as fast as they could so all I had to do was get to the crest of the last hill with this current lead. I got out of the saddle – very briefly – as I rode to the top of that last hill. My legs were rubbery and I didn’t trust them to support me so I quickly sat back down! I was trying to generate speed (not using it as recovery) and I’m glad I did it because it told me that there is a fatigue point at which out-of-the-saddle may not be my best move! The last descent was longer and slower than I expected it to be. I looked back a half dozen times and each time, the gap was about the same. There were 4-5 riders in that group…and they were ALL behind me. What a huge surprise that was!! I crossed the line strong and the group finished shortly after that.
I ended up finishing 12th out of 27 racers with a time of just over 53 minutes. I am ecstatic with that result — and I am pleasantly surprised by how well I rode the race. I feel very good about the moves I made in the race and how well I read my body. I didn’t ever go into the ‘red’, but I felt I got pretty darn close a couple of times while climbing. I was smart about using other rider’s wheels, about working with other riders when it made sense. The move I made right before the big descent still brings a huge smile to my face — that one will be a life-long memory. Just awesome!! As I was pulling away, your comment — “Yes, I think you will do well on short “power” climbs. You have a great acceleration and sprint and that power used with your new out of the saddle climbing technique will pay off big time! You’ll be at the finish more often to contend for the win.” was running through my mind. I didn’t win, heck, I was never in contention for a podium spot. It did, however, make a huge difference in the outcome of my race…. and it felt GREAT!!! 😉