Today was my 10th race. It was on the Key Peninsula at Longbranch. Maria, Debbie, and I had gone out to the course a week ago to pre-ride. It was a good thing, because I would have definitely been in for a rude awakening. I'm not saying pre-riding made the actual race any easier, but at least I knew what to expect.
We always have these grand designs of what we are going to do. Sadly, it seldom pans out. As for my own performance, I did, pretty much, how I thought I would do. I am fully aware that I suck on the hills (literally, as in I am sucking as much oxygen into my lungs as possible and still not getting enough--which brings on the wheezing like a donkey).
In addition to the multitudes of hills, this race had another feature--one I have not experienced in any of the other road races. There was no neutral roll-out--no time to settle in to the race (mentally and physically) before we started racing. And, it was an uphill start. It was a go at the whistle. TWEEET!!! We're racing...uphill. I'm going slower and slower. Almost everyone has passed me. Even though I did my usual warmup, my lungs had not had a chance to get in the game...enough. Sucking wind big time ...thinking, if I could just...*wheeze*...go...a...little...*wheeze*...faster! I got to the smooth pavement section (ahhhh) and thought I could go faster to catch up. Yeah, they went faster too. Coming up on the first turn, I knew they would slow down to take the corner as a group. Here was my chance to gain a little ground. Since I didn't have anyone around me, I could take the corner faster. Oh, I took it faster alright--so fast that I almost ran out of pavement on the far side! Maybe that wasn't a great idea.
Fortunately the next section was a fast downhill. I hammered to catch up and managed to get back and even get around some of the "Mosquito" girls. Whew, back in business...until the big bad hill where I was promptly spit out the back again. At least I passed one gal who had come to a complete stop (the easiest kind to pass) in the middle of the hill. Don't know what that was about. It didn't seem like she had a flat.
This hill takes nearly four minutes to get up (we timed it on the pre-ride). That was the end of my time with the main group. The follow car also passed me (no surprise there). I still had hopes of catching back on on the downhill section. Nope, that did NOT happen. However, I could see ahead that there were 3 gals who had also been dropped. New goal--catch up to the dropped group!
I would gain on them on the downhills, coming ever so close, but not quite close enough before another hill would slow me more than them. After this one steep hill, I could now see the group ahead was 4. I thought I could see two OOA kits (Maria and Heather--I knew Debbie was behind me). I kept trying to catch up. I was getting a little closer, but still not close enough to be with them.
We finished lap one. Now back up the long long hill. This time I knew I could catch the group of 4 on the downhill. I caught up to them and could see they were working together rotating off the front. I sat in for awhile to catch my breath, then joined in the rotation. I would get ahead on the downhills only to continue to fall behind on the uphills (unfortunately, as awesome as I am descending, I am suckier at climbing--in other words, my downhill to uphill ratio is not good). At least I stayed with the group.
I have to say, the second lap was not as much of a wheeze-fest as the first lap. I guess my lungs finally came to the party. On the third lap, my lungs were doing okay, but my legs were starting to tire. I did a little more coasting downhill. Even coasting I could still get ahead of the light girls. About half to two-thirds through the third and final lap, Maria and I tried a bit of a two-person breakaway. I would hammer on the downhill with her right behind me, then she would pass me on the slight inclines and I would draft behind her. This section is almost all rollers, so that plan worked pretty good. We did get ahead. Too bad there was that big hill after the bridge. They caught us on the hill. I was, once again, spit to the back. I worked to catch up to Maria, but that wasn't happening. A car pulled out between me and another rider. The car was going pretty slow. As we came to a tight corner, I thought, "Oh great--I'm stuck behind a car!" The car finally sped up and passed the rider in front of me. Then, I passed her and, once again, caught up to...the car. I yelled for them to go faster, but they didn't. Finally, just after the 1 km sign, I was able to pass on the right AND avoid the guy who had been dropped from his race! I came across the line a short ways after Maria. I don't know where Heather was (I think behind me). I may have got 11th or something around that. The average, with all the hills was 18.7. I really need to work on my hill climbing!
But, for now, the race bike is hung on the hooks in the garage, and I will leave tomorrow for my "Long Way to the Cabin" Tour. Stay tuned as I will be posting from the road!