Monday, June 8, 2009

Spring Prairie Road Race

Well, the week off of work starts out kind of blah... it's kind of rainy and cold out thus far, so I'm planning on leading today out with some moping, and then maybe following that up with some sulking. I have to stick around here because on Wednesday night I'm helping out with a drawing class. After that, though, I'm headed off to Minneapolis to join Cale, who's up there for work. I plan to hit the town on Thursday, and then Cale and I will be doing a short tour of some mountain bike trails. Definitely Levis Trow for a day or two, then maybe one or two other places. Depends on how we feel, and how much Levis we can handle.

This past weekend was the Spring Prairie State Road Race Championships. This past Monday I registered for the Cat 4 race and settled in for a long week. I still get really nervous. Luckily, there was a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of stuff coming up, so it seemed like I was planning and living a few weeks ahead. I tended to forget about the race, so I only really got nervous the morning of. But it was the same story then. Couldn't eat, couldn't really drink, so I just left it at that. Have I mentioned that I foam at the mouth? Not that I'm slavering it all over, but when I go to spit, it's foam. Kind of cool but definitely gross, right? This keeps up until a little bit after the race.

Anyhow, the race started with a neutral roll up the hill to the start/finish line. I don't think I did much of anything interesting the first few laps... I kept myself toward the front of the pack, pulled a little on second lap and observed. I think everyone was in preservation mode, because no one wanted to be wasted for the last time up the hill. I realize now that I was conservative, too. I had noticed some weaknesses in the pack (slow descents and slow & wide cornering) but I never tried to attack at any point. That, and unless I had some ladies come with me, it would have been pointless. I could have flown off the front like I was on fire, but everyone knew that a solo effort (for a cat 4 woman) isn't very realistic. The only thing I did was get to the front on the descents and drop and try to make the other ladies pedal to keep up.

On the last lap on the second (of four) side of the course, I dropped my chain and had to stop and put it back on. The field was about 200 yards away and I was sure I'd be dragging myself over the finish line, DFL. I think the pack slowed down a bit, though, so I managed to chase back on. I tried to sit in for the rest of the lap, taking it easy and trying to get my breathing back down. I really whipped out the pep talk, too. On the last straight, women started to come around me, and I was kind of stuck behind someone. At the bottom of the hill before the finish line, though, the pack really fell apart. At that point it became apparent who had some energy left and who had been faking it. Some women shot up the hill (or more like crawled, at this point) while others fell back. Luckily, I was tenaciously climbing my way to the top, picking my way through the women that seemed to be almost standing still.

Here are some shots of me coming up the hill on some of the previous laps:

(As an aside, I'm so proud of the way the kits turned out! I worked really hard on them and really wanted them to look cohesive and flattering in photos like these, and I think I pulled it off. I hope I don't sound like a braggart- I'll rejoice when I think my stuff turns out well, but I'll definitely admit when it falls short, too.)

At this point, though, a lady that I was coming around kind of wobbled into me. We locked bars/shifters and we both swerved as we took the hit and then untangled. We'd both lost a little momentum, but managed just fine to stay upright and keep going. At the top of the hill, I saw the leaders, who were just out of reach, and went into preservation mode. I dug in (in my little ring- I was exhausted!) with my head slightly down, eyes focused down around my front wheel so I could see (peripherally) if anyone was coming up on me. I had a little more to give if that happened- you know, that little jump panic can give you.

I wound up coming in third but placing second, since the woman ahead of me (in second) was in the master's category and scored differently. So second place on the podium it was. The third place woman wasn't around for the photo, but let me assure you there were more than two women in the race :) For this photo, they told us to give a victory pose. Being new to podiums, we both felt pretty awkward about raising our arms, so I decided to lend it a festive air. There's also one out there of us high-fiving.

There are a couple of things I would change if I could. First and obviously, I do so wish that my chain hadn't fallen off! Apparently, you shouldn't shift into your little ring while you're in the middle of your cassette? Shifting 101, here I come. Second, and this was a no-brainer, I should have been toward the front of the pack at the climb. I could have been in contention if I would have started up around the two women that edged me out. That would have been an intense climb, and an exciting finish! Well, you learn something every day.

Overall, I'm very happy with how I did. I'm proud of myself for not giving up- for chasing the pack down solo and then fighting for the finish while my legs were stewing in lactic acid. I think I did pretty well in the pack, too. I brushed up against someone on an earlier lap, and though our feet were rubbing together as we pedaled and our bars clashed, we kept it cool and it was no big deal. I also didn't give up any wheels, like I'm prone to doing. I would edge my way into the pack (if it was safe) and didn't let anyone push me around. Twice I think I let someone in ahead of me, but it was because they had just finished pulling, and at that point in the race, it wasn't that vital that I keep my spot, anyhow.

I have major respect for the guys that did the longer races. Four laps of the hill was definitely enough for me. The pros did 12 laps. Yes, that's 12 times up the hill! To give you an idea of how tough this hill was, rumor has it that a junior actually tipped over trying to get to the top. He was just slowing down so much that he actually fell over sideways because he couldn't keep up enough momentum.

Will I race some more road races or crits? Probably a few more. I'm warming to them, but I'm not so crazy about them that I'll subject myself to my nerves more than once a month or so. It's just not worth it to me.

A funny product of this race became apparent last night as I was walking on the sidewalk in Bayview. There was a woman waiting for a bus, and I tried to catch her eye and give her a friendly smile. However, she avoided looking at me... It was then that I figured out that I was used to the community from the day. The race was out in the country, I recognized people and I felt at ease. I had gotten into the Mineral Point Mindset (more widely known as a small town groove). While at a cycling event, you look and smile, say 'hi' or 'Good job out there!' if you recognize them from a race. It's a bummer that MKE's not hip to it, but at least I can satisfy my small town needs with the cycling community.

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