This race was so much like a Westlake Crit that it doesn’t seem to merit it’s own blog post, but I will write one regardless. From the moment I opened my eyes, I could feel the intensity with which my legs were trashed. Not only had I raced a fast (for me) 5k the day before, but I followed up the 5k with a sprint interval workout, doing 7x 1k time trials on the bike. It was supposed to be 10, but after talking to my coach, he felt 5-7 would be sufficient given I wanted to race the next day.
Now, Sunday morning, my boyfriend and I got into a fight that went something like:
Me: “I am not racing. My legs are trashed.”
Boyfriend: “You said that Wednesday, and you did a 23mph time trial.”
Me: “I know that I said that Wednesday, but I am in physical pain, not just tired.”
Boyfriend: “You will be fine.”
Me: “I don’t like going to races knowing I am going to suck.”
Boyfriend: “Then don’t suck.”
Guess who won the argument...
, this race lacked a separate women’s field so a couple of women raced in the A group, the rest of us in the B field. Racing in a men’s field is completely different than racing in a women’s field. For one, we are just hanging in the field, rarely attacking each other (although it does happen from time to time) and usually only if there is a women's prem. The other big difference is that turns are taken with higher speed and faster accelerations through them. In a women’s race, I can create separation in a turn because I tend to corner faster than most. In a men’s race, I am often in the back sprinting to catch back up to the field. If you are in the back, you have to get used to those turn accelerations, and you also have to deal with squirrely riders who lack handling skills or confidence in their handling skills sufficient to keep pace with the field. Westlake
Feeling the way I did, I started in the back of the pack with fellow female teammates, which was mistake number one. I should have just started with the front of the pack and kept myself from having to try to work my way through the field. The roads were a bit narrower than
, which made moving to a better position in the field a bit difficult. I was never all that close to the front, but I was able to get out from the back and away from those touching their brakes through the turns. Westlake
The course was 4 of about a 6 mile relatively flat loop on roads that I ride multiples times a week. As soon as we got to the first turn after the neutral start, it was business as usual. I talked to my male teammates offering my help if they had a plan in mind, but all of us seemed just to be hanging in the field. At times, the field was going so slowly that I felt like I was back at the Tour of the Valley Road Race with the sounds of “Slowing” echoing through the air, but at other times, the accelerations seemed pretty hard and a little long because I was unable to hit many speeds on the high side of 27 mph. I had no problem staying in the field, but there were two guys who almost got an earful from me about braking too much going into turns and the other about being fidgety in the field. Hold your freakin’ line dude! (Ironic given my latest race, but that will come later).
Sure enough, on a perfectly flat, rather wide, no debris or pothole section of road, 2.5 laps into a 4 lap race, someone hit someone else and created a cascade crash in front of me. If I had had about three more feet, I probably would have been able to avoid it, but I couldn’t quite stop and ended up in the ditch. I quickly got up, checked that my brakes weren’t rubbing and got back on the bike trying to catch the field that was speeding away trying to take advantage of the crash.
Here is where I could tell the difference between normal Marie and sucky Marie. I was about 20 yards from the field and just couldn’t bridge the gap. I didn’t have the time trial in my legs to get back up to the field. I tried to work with a couple of other guys, but they both petered out. Then, my teammate Zac passed me with a strong group of guys, but my failed attempt to TT it back to the field had left me completely depleted and unable to latch up to their line and ended up just waffling in the wind. A few minutes later, another teammate, Oleg caught up, and with a little recovery, I was able to work with a few of those guys through the next lap and a half of the race to get to the finish. I knew that the two of the other women who had started in the B field were still in the field, and I was just bummed that I didn’t even have a chance to contest the finish.
We did work pretty hard on that 4th lap, a few miles in the 25 mph range, but when it came to the finish, I just sputtered across the line. I don’t like the fact that I made a stupid mistake of not paying more attention to where I was in the field. I know better than to hang out in the back, but that is where I was and that was what caused my finishing placement. I don’t like losing, and I wish I could blame someone else’s poor handling skills, but the bottom line is that I know enough about racing to know that the safest place in a race is not where I spent most of my time in this one.
I should look on the bright side: despite absolutely destroyed legs, I had no problem hanging in pre-crash. My bike is seemingly fine as is the brand new never had been ridden Zipp 404 that my boyfriend let me use for the race, but no one has ever accused me of being “Little Miss Sunshine” so don’t expect it now.