Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Art of Racing in the Rain...

Is a great book by Garth Stein that has nothing to do with cycling. The title, however, aptly describes today's adventure in bike racing.

Today was the second of the two-race series at Mason Lake. Whereas last week's race weather was delightfully dry (and sunny for the afternoon racers), today was not so dry (but, curiously, the sun was coming out a bit for the afternoon racers--they seem to have all the luck--well, they've earned it as they are the Cat 1, 2, and 3's). On top of the rain, it was the beginning of Daylight Savings. So, not only did we lose an hour of sleep, but we, technically, raced an hour earlier. The temperature didn't seem that cold at first, but with the rain it was definitely chilly.

Debbie and I arrived at the same time as last week. We checked in and said hi to fellow teammates. We got our new kits on Friday, so we were all admiring how sharp they looked. My choice of kit for today was bib shorts with leg warmers, short sleeve jersey with short sleeve base layer and arm warmers, topped off with my new vest. My race numbers were pinned to my vest. I wasn't going to wear the base layer, but I was glad I did. I was certainly NOT overheated!

I did my, now usual, warmup on my trainer. Debbie, Jean, and another gal named Jen (don't remember which team she is from) did their warmup out on the road. I had also seen my new friend Kirsten from last week. She was the one who had, twice, dropped her chain. She said her plan was to stay on my wheel today. I told her I was making no promises of a repeat performance.

After my warmup, I drank 1/2 of a bottle of Heed and ate three Shot Blocks. That seems to give me enough energy for at least a 24 mile race.

We lined up as before, moving up the hill as each of the two Cat 5 Men's groups began their races. The official gave the instructions and, without so much as the blowing of a whistle, just an okay-you-girls-can-go-now, we headed down the road behind the lead car. This time we really did go 10 miles an hour on the lead out.

This Women's Cat 4 Race field was much larger than last week. We had 38 (compared to 20) racers this week. Jean said it was the biggest Cat 4 group she has ever raced with. We were also fortunate to have two of our own OOA gals (Jen and Michelle) in the lead and follow cars, analyzing the race as it took place.

As we rolled toward the beginning of the actual race, I noticed immediately that this group was much more talkative. I heard one gal say she was known as the "Cat 4 Mother Hen". She was complimenting everyone for their communication skills. Most often word hollered at the beginning? "SLOWING!"

After the first corner and the beep of the follow-car horn, we were racing. Since this was the same course as last week, we first had to go up the hill. I think we went up a little faster than last week, but still not too taxing. Near the top, a couple of gals did a bit of an attack. At that point, even this early in the race, I knew this was going to be a different ball game from last week! I also knew I was not going to have a repeat performance. I did feel pretty confident (most of the time anyway) that I could stay near the front and finish well.

The rain was making my thighs freezing cold. Of course, the spray from the wheels of the bikes in front of me wasn't helping. So much for the nice, new, white kit (turns out it washes up just fine!)! There was also more of a head wind (still not as bad as the test ride). I didn't spend as much time on the front this race. The pace was faster, and I didn't want to wear out in the wind. Mostly, though, gals were doing more attacks, so I would end up behind a few. I still tried to stay within the first 6 or so.

Coming into the first corner, I managed to be on the front which I was happy about. I took the corner pretty fast, even though the road was wet. I went through the next sharp curve with a few other gals, but everyone did well. There were a lot more experienced racers.

I was definitely working harder on the rollers, but I still managed to stay near, and occasionally, on the front. Kirsten was true to her plan, but didn't just stay on my wheel. We took turns keeping ourselves near the front, pulling for each other.

The second lap was just more of the first. It was still raining. Good thing was, I wasn't cold anymore! When we hit the rollers for the second time, I had begun to notice a pattern with some of the riders. One, in particular, would charge past, but then really slow down on the uphill parts of the rollers. Kirsten and I were behind this gal as we were heading down one of the rollers and getting ready to go up another. I would not be able to go around her unless Kirsten did first. So I told Kirsten to try and pass her before she slowed down too much and we lost our momentum. Kirsten was able to pass and I followed.

At the 1km sign the pace picked up. Ai yi yi! Coming down the last steep hill, I managed to get to about 4th. We hit the 200 meter sign and I tried like mad to sprint, but was only able to do it for a few seconds before my legs said, "Uh...yeah...we're done...". Three gals sprinted past me. I ended up 8th. However, this was a series. Thanks to my 1st place finish from last week, I managed to take 1st place for the Series (due, in large part, to the gals who finished ahead of me, either not doing as well, or who didn't race at all, last week). For my prize, I got a bag of swag that I divided up with my teammates, Debbie, Jean, and Katie.

After we had all changed into dry clothes, we had a post-race clinic with Jen and Michelle. They shared their observations from their respective positions, and gave us suggestions of things to work on. One thing I need to work on is not pulling the whole group up to the leaders when I try to catch up to them. I need to do a "mini-attack" and leave the group behind. I'll do my best to work on that!

The next two races are in Sequim, over the next two Saturdays. I registered to race in a special Cat 4 beginner race, but Jen told me not to do that race. She doesn't think I will get any benefit, and it would be unfair to the truly beginner racers. The good thing is that I will get to race with Jean and Maria! We will make a plan! It will be awesome!

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