This is the summary I sent my coach after today’s race.
Where to start…
I guess Friday afternoon is as good a place as any to start this saga (and, I’ll warn you up front, this is likely to be very long). Val, Kathy and I had a 30-40 minute conference call Friday morning where we put our race plan together. I already shared it with you, but I’ll repeat it so when I look back at this entry years from now, it will all be here. After some discussion, it was decided that I had the best chance of winning as it would likely come down to a sprint. I don’t totally buy into that, but I accepted it because I felt that neither Kathy nor Val really wanted the pressure on them to go for the win. We talked thru both laps — our goal on the first one was to stay at the front and do as little work as possible. Let the other contenders pull us around if they wanted to, but we would ride very conservatively. Then, on the second (and final) lap, Kathy and Val would attack and cover attacks. I would take the wheel of my competitors if they covered the attacks. I would do my very best to keep my nose out of the wind and the rest of me off the front! Then, if either Val or Kathy attacked and no one chased, they would try to open a gap and go for the win if they felt like it. If we were still all bunched up at the end, Val & Kathy would lead me out as much as possible and then I’d sprint to the finish. And everyone lives happily ever after.
Late Friday, Rob Winter emailed me that the organizers were concerned about parking. Apparently there were over 700 racers signed up! So, at the last minute, I offered to drive our Suburban and carpool with both Rob and Val. I had the front mount board from Tuscon. It meant getting up a tad earlier, but I probably wasn’t going to be able to sleep in anyay. I turned in relatively early, about 9:30pm. I put on bruise ointment and took Ibuprofen before turning out the lights. I woke feeling a bit stiff at 6am. By the time I got ready, had my bowl of oatmeal & raisins I had loosened up some and was walking without much of a limp. I picked up Rob & Val and we were at the venue just before 8am. As usual, I like to get there early because something always comes up. This morning we had to pick up our timing chips even though I’d stopped at Rocky Mounts in Boulder last night to get my race number etc. UGH! It was a good 10 minute walk from the car to the registration and by the time we got all that taken care of it was about time to warm up. In hindsight, I think I may have started my warm-up a bit early. I know I was nervous because I still wasn’t sure which way my calf muscle would go once I started using it. Lucky for me, it loosened up and felt better as I rode. I didn’t bring a trainer as I wanted to warm-up on the dirt and start to get mentally ready for riding on the dirt. Feel the gravel slide under my tires, get the feel for my 25mm tires and how they hugged (or didn’t…) the corners. That was a good decision. My warm-up also lacked structure — partly because I didn’t know what terrain would be available to me for my warm-up. I rode up a slight grade to Hwy 36, turned around, rode back to the car and repeated that a handful of times. That little stretch did have all the elements I wanted — two corners (one each way), both uphill and downhill, and loose gravel. So, although it wasn’t structured, I knew what I wanted to accomplish during my warmup and the only area where I had any concern was ‘intensity’. My warm-up lacked intensity and it concerned me that if the racers in my category took off like bats out of hell, I might be left behind sucking air. Only time would tell. I got a good position for the start as did my teammates. When the race started, there was a bit of a surge and folks clearly working to get their spot in the pack. I was content to let a handful of gals go ahead of me and I started making mental notes on my competition. Before the race, I had ‘marked’ Ruth Alexander, Terry Peterson and Laura Dickinson as my main rivals. Of course, that was before Maurine Sweeney registered day-of. Strong CX National Champ last year in her age group. There were also a couple of gals who I did not know, one of them looked comfortable on her bike and rode in a manner that caught my attention. I added her to my “Watch” list, That was Cindy Brown in a red jersey. Another late adder to the list was Erica Brann who I know but who was riding stronger than I expected. As we headed out the first couple of miles, I reminded myself of the game plan and started picking wheels to follow that would not result in me being dropped or in a heap on the side of the road or in a ditch. There were a couple of wheels I would not have taken if they were the last ones on earth. OMG — a few of the gals couldn’t ride a straight or steady paced line if you paid them. I stayed as far away from them as possible!
My first real test, personally, was on the two hills up to the Grange and Nelson road. In my head, your voice yelled out to me, “Do not burn any matches racing up this hill. Let the others do that and then overtake them at the top”. Well, I got the first part down, but I did not overtake them since that would have put me in the lead. I actually had to brake going down Nelson Rd to avoid taking the lead. I really wanted to keep my current position where I could see my biggest competitors and be out of the wind. I also wanted to watch each of them as they rode on the dirt sections to guage how comfortable they were with the ruts, pot holes, rumble strips, loose gravel, and tight corners. I didn’t see Ruth on this strecth at all, but it seemed to me that the rest of the gals on my Watchlist were comfortable on dirt and none of them seemed the least bit intimidated. So, I didn’t really have an edge there. We were all about the same — next was to see how well everyone climbed. I suspected that I’d be the weakest in this category — but I was proved wrong. VERY wrong. There were a few inclines on our way out to St. Vrain and everyone did about the same on those. But, it was a different story on the numerous short climbs on 9 mile return trip to the start. I’d have to say Val was probably the strongest climber and I was right in there at second or third. I was up the hills as quickly or quicker than everyone else on my Watchlist. Ruth Alexander spurted by on my left one time, but she quickly faded behind me again once we leveled out. Laura Dickinson was proving to be a very strong rider and she was doing a lot of work on the front. I was hoping that she was working REAL hard and wearing herself out. Val & Kathy both took turns on the front too. I had to keep telling Val to let someone else do the work and to slow down. Afterwards, she commented that she couldn’t go slow enough… I told her that until someone else felt they needed to come around and pick up the pace she needed to find some way to either slow down or get off the front some other way. Kathy did it once by moving to the left, sitting up and making a show of stretching. Clever.Several times both Val & Kathy inadvertently offered shelter and rest for my rivals. I don’t think they realized (or thought about it). Overall, Val did a super job of being my wheel during the first lap. When the pack was all together, she actually took my wheel some too. I just stayed tucked in and picking/changing wheels as needed to stay in the top 4-5 riders. There were a couple of times, I flew off the front and created a gap so that I could take a corner quickly and safely. One of these was the dirt downhill that ddmps on to St. Vrain. The other was the big downhill before the last turn onto the finish line. More on that in a minute…
First, there was the paved climb up Nelson where Sue Lloyd dropped me in 2012. This was another place in the race where I took stock of my performance vs my competitors performance. I was beside myself, honestly, because I rode at the front of the group and I didn’t give an inch to anyone else and I did it without burying myself!!! Actually, since I’d been conserving energy to this point, I was able to climb the hill and feel relatively OK when we got to the top. I recovered quickly and was ready to push up the steep hills on the following dirt section. No one was making any real moves. There were a few very small efforts off the front that were brought back without fanfare. We navigated the ‘S’ turns safely and then I bombed down the hill that is right before the final right hand turn and the finishing stretch. I did not want to be with the pack at the bottom of that hill. That would have been a perfect place for me to get left behind. So, I was aggressive and took the turn a couple of seconds ahead of everyone else. Then, I was able to climb without going into O2 debt and still be with the gorup as we finished up the first lap.
As soon as we turned the corner and started the final lap a few gals turned up the heat. I forget who it was, but I remember Laura Dickinson and Cindy Brown both being in the mix. Val and Kathy were still right there too. It was awesome that all three of us were able to mainatin contact with the lead riders. Val made a couple attempts at attacking. She didn’t get off the front very far as her sprint is pretty weak, but it did force the others to exert and catch back on. Kathy and Val both rode at the front a fair amount. I had to keep on them to let others do the work. At some point, Cindy Brown went off the front and no one gave chase. I didn’t notice it when it happened — only when we caught her again. My bad !!!! Erica Brann pushed the pace a couple of times and on a couple of the paved sections a few of the riders up front tried to start a pace line. Val bought into it the first time and pulled off my wheel leaving me on the front!! DUH!!! Not much I could do at that point, so after a nanosecond pull, I was also off the front and working my way quickly back into the pack (where I told Val that we didn’t want to engage in that because it helped our competitor and didn’t really benefit us). The next time Peg Halberg tried to start it again, Val just kept riding and didn’t bite. (YAY!).
Val may have had the move of the day though — right after the dirt segment that dumped us onto St Vrain again. Cindy Brown went off the front and Val covered the attack. I was riding in third position at the time. They were pulling away pretty quickly and I had to decide just as quickly whether I stay or whether I try to bridge. My body decided for me while my brain was still working thru the options. I jumped and started off after them. The gals on my wheel didn’t or couldn’t repsond and I was on my own. I had to work hard for a minute or two to catch them and as I rode up to them, I suggested that if we worked together, the three of us might be able to stay away. All were interested and we started rotating pulls. It was gorgeous. Smooth, efficient and everyone worked equally. The only thing negative I could say about it was that we were rotating in the wrong direction (based on the wind). But, I was not about to bring that up just then. I looked back several times and it was obvious that the pack was trying to reel us in but there was no organization and everyone was burning matches by the handfuls. 😉
Once we turned back onto the dirt we were 9 miles of uphill from the finish. I braced myself for hard work and told myself to ‘prepare to suffer!’. My mindset was still to be patient and not expend any more energy than I had to and to keep a few riders in front of me. Terry rode along side or near Val & me for much of the race. Early on I pegged her strategy as marking me and or the other Blue Sky racers. She executed that very well. She rode the dirt with confidence. She surprised me a couple of times how assertive she was about getting or maintaining her position on someone’s wheel. I was able to move her off of Val’s wheel a couple of times, but a couple other times she held tight. Terry made a couple of strong moves on the approach hill and the two steeper hills (or one hill with the false summit…) before the ‘S’ turns. One on the lower portion where I went with her as soon as she increased the pace and rode side by side until she let up. She repeated that on the steeper hill and again I stayed with her and actually pulled ahead at the top. I think by this point the group at the front had dwindled but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. All the players on my watchlist except Ruth and Erica were still in the running. Val was right with me but I hadn’t seen Kathy in a while either. The uphill grade was taking its toll. When I was still at the front as we entered the ‘S’ turns, I felt confident that I could take the race. I bombed down the final descent and was easily the first one to make the corner for the home stretch. One pesky hill left. I powered up that hill with everything I had and as I crested I heard Laura Dickinson call out behind me “On your left”. REALLY???? Like she thought I’d move right and let her pass? All she had communicated to me was that I should NOT move right, and perhaps move farther left (which I did!). She was moving faster up the hill than I was though and she made her way past. I grabbed her wheel as it went by and formulated my plans for the finish. I would stay on Laura’s wheel until the last green mailbox and then come around for a final sprint. Laura did not make that easy. She was hauling at top speed and I had to work to stay on her wheel. In the end, it played out just as I had scripted it and when I came around she had no reply. I sprinted away and in that short couple hundred meters got a 5 second gap. Sweet victory!
THe best part of today’s race was the ‘team’ element. It was fun to plan with my teammates and it was exciting to race with them and to see our plans become reality. It made the race go by very quickly. All three of us were just bubbling over after the race. I missed the podium presentation because I was cooling down – worried my calf might seize up — but we went afterwards and picked up the prizes. A real nice Boulder Roubaix jersey and a rock-trophy. I gave Val the jersey and Kathy the trophy. Figured that was only fair since I got the ‘Win’.