Saturday, March 16, 2013

Did I Have Fun?

See what you might be surprised.

Today was the first of two races in Sequim. Officially, the races are called Tour d' Dung #1 and #2. My initial thought was we must be going past a lot of cow pastures. But, apparently not. Oh, we did go by a few pastures, and I even got a whiff of some cow dung, but that's not what the race is named after. Sequim is situated at the Dungeness River with a view across the water to Dungeness Spit. There is also the possibility of catching some Dungeness Crab if one chooses to throw a pot out in the water. So, therein lies the origin of the Tour d' Dung.

Debbie had to race at 10:00am. I didn't race until 1:35. To avoid a drive starting at 5:00 or 5:30 from Olympia, we drove up last night to bunk with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law near Port Townsend. They have a wonderful travel trailer that makes for the perfect guest accommodations. We arrived about 8:00, chatted with them for awhile, then hit the sack.

Even though we didn't have to get up so early, 6:45 still came awfully fast. We threw our clothes on, and brushed out teeth. I even ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with yogurt and a banana. We were out the door by 7:20. Debbie hadn't had breakfast. Her preferred pre-race breakfast includes eggs, so we stopped at a restaurant Terry recommended called the Spruce Goose. It is at the Port Townsend Airport. I just had some hot chocolate (next week I will eat breakfast there too--they have oatmeal).

The drive from the restaurant to the race start was quick. We arrived at 8:40 (note to self--next week, sleep later). On the way there we had periods of rain, then sunshine. Each time we would get hopeful about racing in sunshine, we would be back in the rain. When we arrived, the rain had tapered off, only to pick up again awhile later. Fortunately, I brought my long raincoat and my rain hat.

We met up with Jean (there early too, as Ron was racing in the morning). Debbie got checked in and I got my registration switched from Cat 4b to Cat 4A. Debbie got on my trainer (an advantage to us not racing together) and started warming up. I went to help another teammate get ready as he had arrived a bit late.

Debbie and the rest of the 4b racers gathered behind the Cat 5 guys. This was a mentored race for the beginning Cat 4 women. The mentors gave instructions to the gals, telling them how the race would go and what they could expect from the mentors. By this time the rain had begun again, but it wasn't too windy...yet. The gals rolled out with us cheering Debbie on. Then, we waited. For the Cat 4 women (both groups), this was a 36 mile race--three laps around the 12 mile course. The laps were taking around 1/2 hour (of course, faster for the guys).

As the gals came around after the first lap, Debbie was right in the thick of things. We were so proud of her! After the second lap, she was still going strong! Way to go, Debbie!

By this time, it was raining in earnest and we were cold. Jean and I decided to go change into our kits just to add another layer of clothing for warmth! So, I had on my short sleeve wool base, followed by my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. Then I had my wind vest (it had my numbers on it) with my long sleeve jersey over the top. I finished off the layers with my wool coat and my raincoat. Yes, that was six layers! On the bottom I had my bib shorts, leg warmers, and pants. We were still cold (the rain was still coming down, and the wind was picking up), so we sat in Ron's car.

Debbie finished strong and went to the post-race clinic. Jean and I hooked up with Maria for some pre-race strategy. It was decided, if we had the opportunity, Jean would be the sprinter, and I would be the lead out. We had practiced this on Thursday. First Maria asked if I wanted to be the sprinter. I have to confess, I did not. I found out earlier today that if I win another 2 races, I will be required to upgrade to Cat 3. I don't want to do that (race distance doubles, and Cat 3s race with the Cat 1s and 2s).

By now, the wind was, seriously, gale force. We were not looking forward to racing in this weather. The team tents were getting blown over. We waited as long as possible before going out (we were sitting in Maria's car) to warm-up (HA! Like that would be possible!). As I was on my trainer in the rain and wind (the wheel hardly getting any traction on the trainer fly-wheel), I made a last minute decision to change from my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers, to my long sleeve jersey (still with the vest over the top). I changed while I was on my trainer (with Debbie's help). After I was redressed, I realized I had forgotten to put my heartrate monitor on. I made a half-hearted (no pun intended) attempt to put it on, but decided to forget about it.

I warmed up as best I could, then headed over to the start. Jean and Maria joined me and we shivered together until the official let us go. We were the last group of the day. That meant we would likely be lapped by the the Cat 1 and 2 guys. When that happens, the lead and follow cars neutralize our race (no advancing or jockeying for position is allowed when neutral).

Once we were racing, the pace was pretty easy (of course we had a tailwind at that time). I was a little nervous about the first corner because the guys had said it had the slippery-when-wet tar they use to patch cracks. We made it through without mishap. Coming into the corner, we had a pretty strong crosswind. As we made the corner, that cross-wind became an awesome tailwind. We still weren't going that fast. Jean and I were just trying to keep up with Maria. I'd get right behind her, then she would shoot through a hole and I'd be a couple people back. This happened several times. But, we were generally staying together. At one point, I got ahead of Maria, then got stuck behind a few gals and Maria went by me. Still, Jean and I were together.

Since every good tailwind eventually ends up becoming a headwind, we slowed considerably as we hit the full force of the headwind on the back side. But, that wasn't as bad as when we turned a corner and the tailwind became an even stronger crosswind. Talk about being blown about! One gal got blown into the grass on the shoulder. She, miraculously, stayed upright and got back on the road. Another gal who overlapped wheels wasn't so lucky. She went down. I don't think she took anyone with her. We continued on, fighting the crosswind--at times leaning nearly horizontal into the wind! At some point during the headwind/crosswind section we got neutralized as the boys came sailing by us. The problem was that we never saw the follow car. We did not know if we were still neutralized or if we were racing again.

As we completed the first lap, we finally just assumed we were racing. We picked up the pace. In the meantime, a breakaway of 5 gals (Maria was, fortunately, in that group) had gotten ahead of the rest of us. Just as we were getting back up to speed, we were neutralized again! Only, this time, the breakaway gals continued ahead, increasing their lead.

We got back up to speed, and I noticed Jean was having to fight the wind. I got ahead of her so she could hopefully draft behind me. Unfortunately, that was the last I saw her. We came into the massive tailwind section and I took off. Without a lot of effort, I was going 33 and 34 mph! Woo Hoo! At one point, I glanced back, because no one was passing me. I thought, great, here I am leading the pack again. But, there was no one behind me! I could see a group of 4 ahead. I wasn't sure if they were girls or guys that had dropped off. When I reached them, I found they were a group of gals--not the breakaway of 5 though. I stayed with them for a short while, working together, rotating to the front. Once it was my turn on the front, I was going along, pulling them behind me, until I, once again, glanced back and saw I was alone...oops. Oh well, onto the next riders.

As I made the turn back into the headwind, I could see one of the Starbucks gals ahead. I slowly caught up to her, then we slowly caught up to another Starbucks gal. The three of us took turns on the front. When we made the turn into the crosswind, I was taking my turn on the front. Even though the crosswind was nasty, I was still able to go faster than in the headwind. more Starbucks gals! From then on, I was alone. I could not see the breakaway group (I knew they were still ahead because I had not passed Maria).

I loved the tailwind section, and worked hard through the headwind section. I had no idea where, or even if, the follow car was still behind me. I was just riding. The rain had finally stopped and there was even some sun breaks. Quite honestly, I was enjoying myself!

After being passed, once again, by a group of guys, I could see another rider in the distance. Was it female? Turns out, yes. It was Emily of the Blue Rooster Team. As I came by her, I facetiously said, "Is this fun?" She gave a resounding, "NO!" I'm pretty sure she caught onto my wheel. I had a sneaking suspicion she would sprint at the finish. Sure enough, she did, and crossed before me. Since the finish was in the severe crosswind section, I could not safely get out of the saddle to effectively sprint. Besides, I figured several gals had already finished so it didn't really matter. I pulled back into the parking area, but there weren't that many gals there. Later, I asked Debbie how many had finished ahead of me. She thinks just the 5 and maybe one or two others (in addition to Emily). So, maybe I had another top 10 finish! We didn't stick around to find out, because it was too dang cold.

With all the wind and rain, did I have fun? Surprisingly, yes I did! I am even excited to do it again next weekend. Afterall, the weather can not possibly be any worse--yet, I still had fun!

Here is a photo of Debbie at her start.


Marsha said...

Very nice bit of writing...

Ron Jones said...

I heard the breakaway was a fluke because of poor race control during neutralization. Women jumped during that time of confusion. In that instance of neutralizing, the lead car is supposed to slow the field from the front not be way way ahead. I also heard the breakaway attached to the cat 1/2 field for a moment. That is not cool, but if not caught by official, no one gets DQ'd. too bad the race officials didn't keep the race equitable.