Sunday, March 9, 2014

Today I Am a Sheep!

Another day, another race. Today was the first of a three-race series at Mason Lake. After coming home yesterday in a torrential downpour, and waking up to rain this morning, I was not super excited about today's race. At least my legs weren't really sore. I packed my wind vest to wear under my jersey (I did not order the new Team vest this year--I only raced in the vest once last year). It would, at least, protect my core from the wind which would most certainly come with the rain. 

As Debbie and I were driving to Mason Lake in the dark, I noticed it was no longer raining. Debbie said the weather report had rain, tapering to showers. Okay, but that's still rain. I could only cross my fingers that the rain would hold off long enough for us to race and get outta there! 

Our race was scheduled for 8:37. We arrived at about 7:15. This being the first day of Daylight Savings Time, it was still dark out. When we arrived, it was kind of strange, because there was hardly anyone else there. We were not the first race. Pretty soon a few more people started to trickle in. We checked in, set up our stuff, and prepared to warmup. Jean and I were on our trainers. Geraldine and Debbie were going out on the road. 

We finished warming up, and headed down to the start. Today there was supposed to be a separate Cat 4 Beginner's race that would be shepherded by a couple of Cat 1 riders. Unfortunately, there were not enough pre-registrations to run both races separately (we had just 22 total). They combined the two, but the Cat 1s were still going to ride with us. Kelly and Joslyn were our Border Collies (I mean--mentors). Kelly is a former pro, having raced all over the world until she decided to settle down, and have a couple of kids. Joslyn is a Cat 1 amateur racer (she liked the steady paycheck of her regular job instead of being broke and travelling the world as a Pro). The mentors would ride along with us, and give us tips and suggestions to make our racing better. Of course, they would not be actually racing against us. In fact, Kelly had a rain bike complete with fenders. 

We got rolling. After corner 1 we were racing. Just after turning the corner, we headed up a rather lengthy hill. It was okay. The pace was pretty slow. Once we got to the top of the hill, the mentors started barking out commands (uh...I mean...sharing their wisdom). We were racing "too comfortably", the race was "stagnant", this would be a good time for someone to "move up to the front". To me, it was early in the race to be burning matches. I wanted my legs to get settled in before I asked them to do a ton of work. Plus, there was a headwind (still no rain, though). I did my usual plan of staying near the front. I was even on the front for awhile. Not long though, as my new mantra is to not burn myself up on the front, so I can save something for the sprint at the end. Besides, everyone was being very careful. Most of the gals were riding nice and steady. If one got a little sketchy, the mentors quickly barked at them, and brought them back into the herd. 

We negotiated Corner 2, came down the hill, and into the roller section. I practiced sprinting away up one of the hills. As I went past the front gal, I heard her say, "Is she attacking?" Since my lungs would not likely be able to sustain a solo attack, and no one joined me, I sat back down. That will be my next thing to practice (getting a breakaway going with a small group that we can maintain).

Coming into the second lap, I had just such an opportunity. Geraldine was in front of me, and I was on her wheel. There were two pace lines on either side of us, and a wide open aisle up the middle. I told Geraldine to go on up the middle. I went with her. We popped out at the front and Geraldine said, "What do I do now?" I told her to "Go! Pedal hard!" She went alright! I could hardly keep up with her! In fact, she was gapping me by a good wheel length. I wanted to rotate with her, so we could widen the gap from the group. All too soon, she was tiring, as was I, and four more gals caught us. But, we still had a good size gap on the rest of the group. Three of us were gassed, and the other three kept telling us to keep it going. If the three who were rested had pulled us other three, so we could recover a bit, we might have been able to stay ahead of the group. As it was, the group caught up. Oh well, it was a good try. Maybe next time we can be more organized.

The Collies kept making us sheep work. They kept wanting us to do a rotating paceline. Clearly, several gals didn't really know what that was. Quite honestly, the only reason I knew what it was, and how to do it, was from last year's practicing with Michelle, Lauren, Jen, and Jo. They took all of us newbies (and not so newbies) out and we did rotating pace lines...slowly. Not at race pace. Trying to do this at race pace, with gals who didn't really know how to do it, was not working for me. It was not very efficient, and if felt like I was not able to race my race. I understood why they were trying to do that, but it seems like there might be more basic skills that should be mastered first by the lambs (newbies).

Finally, a breakaway of 5 managed to get away from the rest of us. I was not with them. It was unfortunate because, had I gone with them, I would have broken free from the bonds of the shepherds, and been able to work with the renegade fast sheep. Oh, it's quite possible I would have been unable pedal my little hooves fast enough or hard enough to keep up, but I could have tried! 

At that point, I just did my best to stay near the front of the remaining group. All 4 of us OOA gals were there. We came to the 1 km mark. Coming down the last hill before the 200m, we were still all together. I reminded Jean to remember to sprint at the end. At the 200, we were a train of Geraldine, Jean, me, and Debbie, all near the yellow line. Once we were able to take the whole road, I crossed over the line, but waited a bit until I felt I could sprint the whole way to the finish (they had drilled into us that it was a long 200m). I was already in the right gear. I went into the drops and sprinted past the remaining group of gals and crossed the line in 6th place. Jean came in 9th. Debbie crossed in 10th, and Geraldine came in 14th. All very respectable results for the Cat 4 OOA women! Funny thing, as I had passed Geraldine, I hollered, "Sprint Geraldine!" When we got back to the parking lot, Geraldine came up to me and laughed, saying, that was her sprint! I told her I was very familiar with that feeling! She did a lot of work for everyone. That means, come sprint time, the mind is willing, but the body is not! She did great! We all did great! 

We had a debriefing with Kelly and Joslyn at the end. They did admit that the things they were trying to get us to do may not always work. It is not possible to really know how a person is feeling. If you want to make something happen, you might have to do it yourself. Sheep are like that sometimes. For me, I'll take the guidance, and use what I can. But, in the end, I have to race in the way I am capable, and be my own "woolie" self! Here's the results sheet.


melody said...

Great reporting! I love the sheep, hooves, collies etc. A great sense of adventure, humor and hard effort. You are awesome !
Love ya

Colleen said...

Thanks, Melody! Baaaa!