Here we go again. This time, up at the "waistline" of dawn (vs. the butt-crack--in other words, didn't have to get up quite so early) to drive out to the first of two Mason Lake races. This is the course that Debbie, Manek, and I test rode a couple of weeks ago.
Today the weather was much better than our test ride weather. It was cloudy for us in the morning races, but it cleared up to blue sky and sunshine for the afternoon races (but also added a little bit of wind that we didn't have in the morning). It wasn't toasty warm but, afterall, this is just the beginning of March!
We got to Mason Lake County Park about 7:45ish. Plenty of time to check in (they just had to check us off the list), visit the restrooms, and prepare for the race. The Cat 4 Women (sadly, no Masters Women category) raced at the odd time of 9:43.
After yesterday's missed-start debacle, I was determined to finish my warm-up with plenty of time to spare. I put Tessa on my trainer and did the same warm-up as yesterday. If you want specifics, here they are (if not, just skim over this part). It is: 10 minutes easy, 1 minute high cadence, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes high cadence, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes hard effort, 2 minutes easy, 1 minute hard effort, 1 minute easy. A total of 21 minutes. In the hard efforts, my heart rate gets into the 150s. The recovery is back down to the 120s. It is a good warm-up. It was designed by our top Woman Cat 1 racer, who just so happens to also be the top BARR racer in all of Washington this year (besides getting an awesome trophy, she gets free entry into all races, AND her race number is 1).
So, I finished my warm-up with time to get the rest of my gear on and make one more stop at the restroom before lining up with Jean and Debbie and the rest of the Cat 4 women. There were about 3 or 4 groups of guys that went before us.
When it was our turn, we moved up to the start line. The guy gave us instructions (the lead car will keep the pace to 10mph until after the first corner, don't cross the yellow line, and you can take the whole lane if you are between the lead car and the follow car). He also mentioned that after the 200m sign on the second lap, we could use the whole road to the finish.
They counted down from 10, blew the whistle, and we were off (like a herd of speeding turtles). Jean told me she was clipped in (she was worried about that--one reason I like my two-sided pedals--I can clip in on either side). Although we were clearly not racing, we were also not going 10 mph! Jean and I both commented that was the fastest 10 mph we had ever gone!
We made the first corner. Okay! Now we are racing...well...okay, it was a hill. We took a, seemingly, leisurely pace up the entire first hill (don't get me wrong--it was fine by me. In the test ride, I thought I was going to die after that hill!). We got to the top. I was near the front amongst the first 5 or 6. The pace was still pretty slowish. We were basically doing a double paceline. I thought to myself--this is just like a team group ride (only slower)! Where is the sketchy moving around? Where is the yelling of, "Hold your line"? This all seems quite civilized to me! And, it pretty much remained that way for quite awhile. One gal shifted and dropped her chain. That was a brief moment of excitement (turns out she dropped her chain twice--I say, get that sucker fixed!).
Then, a couple of gals picked up the pace (not really a breakaway by any means). I stayed with them. We were now in a single line. The front gal peeled off. I stayed on the wheel of the gal in front of me. Then, SHE peels off! Now, I am on the front! Wait! I'm not supposed to do this! I'm supposed to stay NEAR the front, not ON the front! But...I'm not working hard...there really isn't any wind...okay, I'll just sit here and wait for someone to go by, and catch their wheel. Doop-de-do...nice day for a bike ride...
Finally, someone pulls up next to me, but she doesn't pass me. After awhile, I say to her, "You know, I think there are a bunch of bikes behind us!" She agrees with me. We keep on riding.
After another bit of time, a gal does go by me. She looks like she knows what she is doing, so I decide to stick with her. Now I get to draft for awhile. Then, she peels off. I'm back on the front again. In my head I hear Jen's voice telling me, "Don't spend so much time on the front." But, again, I'm not really working hard, so I stay on the front. I know they are all drafting behind me, but I don't feel like I'm expending much energy, so I figure, what the heck? At least there is not much chance of crashing!
As we came in to the first real corner of the race, I was still in the lead which suited me just fine. For a beginning Cat 4 racer, I am good at cornering. I was able to take the corner without worrying what was happening around me. No wild braking or people not holding their line. Same was true of the next corner. The next corner is really more of a sharp curve after a nice downhill. Well, weight always wins on the downhill, so I was still in the lead into that curve.
The rest of the loop was a bunch of rollers. I got to draft for some of those miles, never off the front by more than 3 or 4 people. As we finished the first lap, I thought to myself, okay, I feel pretty good--much better than I did when we practiced. Still, I think they are going to push it on the second go round. Will I have enough to pick up the pace for the second 12 miles? Apparently, yes. The pace did increase. There was a bit more moving around. Going up the first hill, a bunch went by and I did not want to get stuck in a slow group, so I worked my way to the outside and followed the front group. There were two gals that had gone off the front about 5 bike lengths. I decided it would be best to go catch up to them (one was the gal I was trying to stay close to). Of course, once I caught up to them, they slowed down. Again, they peeled off and I was on the front for the umpteenth time.
I knew I wanted to save some energy for the rollers, so my method for not having to lead for long periods of time was to just surreptitiously slow down until someone passed me and took the lead. Then I would draft until that person peeled off. Fortunately, it worked and I didn't have as much time on the front.
Coming down the hill into the last curve, I decided I would try and stay to the outside, after the curve, for the remainder of the race. I remembered the guy saying at the beginning that we could take the whole road after the 200m mark. I wanted to be able to use the other lane and not get trapped at the finish.
I totally missed seeing the 1km sign. Next thing I knew, we were passing the 200m sign. I moved into the other lane and sprinted out of the saddle for the finish. As I was sprinting, I noticed no one else had moved over. I was sure I had heard the directions correctly. I passed the two gals I had been with the whole race and crossed the line first. I had hoped to finish near the front, but I had NO PLANS OF WINNING!!! When I got back to the start area, Eric asked me if I won. I said, "I think so".
Everyone congratulated me, but I didn't really believe it until I saw the results on paper. Check out the photo below. See? My name IS first! What a SURPRISE!
Jean finished 7th. She would have been right behind me, but she got boxed in at the end. Debbie thought she finished second to last, but she actually finished 14th--ahead of 6 people! I think the three of us represented OOA pretty good! Now we will see what happens next week on the second Mason Lake race...