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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back in Action, or Beginning with the End in Mind

Today I raced the Dunnigan Hills Road Race, Women's Category4.

All week I vacillated about it -- one minute I'm all over it, the next I'm bailing. Tuesday I was ready to ride the hell out of it, Thursday I was ready to not show up and never race again. I spent too much energy angsting over it, for sure.

I started the day by oversleeping, not paying attention the time, and just starting on my caffeine intake when Kameo arrived. Oops. Still in my glasses and bathrobe I ran upstairs to get myself together. I'd packed my kit and equipment the night before (good move, me), so I, popped in my 'tacts, pulled on my pre/post race clothes, applied sunscreen, and hustled downstairs.

Chris is a saint. Kameo loaded my bike and floor pump while he made me a PB&homemade peach jam sammich, filled bottles with water and Accelerade, tossed in a Bonk Breaker. A kiss goodbye and we were off.

The race isn't far from my house. Kameo & I caught up on our lives and I sucked down the rest of my coffee & ate my sammich. I loved this; we ride too fast to talk much, and we had much to discuss.

We arrived early, got our numbers early, warmed up early, waited a long, long time for our race to go off. While we were pinning our numbers to our jerseys a friend and accomplished triathlete came to say hello. We shared how we prepare for a road race.

J: I hydrate well and lay around with my compression tights on and my legs elevated.

Me: I drink too much, eat Nugget Deli food and stay up too late.

I finished well ahead of her. But how much better would I have placed if I adopted her habits?

So, Kameo knows freakin' everyone because she's raced so much this year, and generally you'll see the same people every race because of the category you race. I recognized a few faces, had some friends in the race, and made some new friends (I hope).

At the start I couldn't get my right foot clipped in (damn lack of practice) and I lost my position as a result -- second row to near the back. After the neutral lead-out we got down to business. Because we didn't start until after 10, the wind was up, and the flat portion of the ride had north wind as we headed left. The fast women went off the front right away, and I got into my gear and started picking people off.

This is a good time to tell you that I was nearly overwhelmed with the urge to hurl everything from Friday's lunch forward for the 1st 20 min. or so of this race. I also toyed with the idea of faking a flat or something so I wouldn't have to race. As these thoughts passed through my brain I kept my pedals turning, overtaking people along the way. But that urge to puke? That was really strong, surprisingly visceral.

So we hit some rollers and I find myself with J, so we started working together. I seemed to take longer pulls than she, and when we turned into the headwind paralleling the 505 I began asking for help. We came up on other women and worked with them as well. Eventually I rode away, since they were really slow and I needed to go fast.

There were rollers, some huge, some shallow, and I kept catching up to women from my group, working with them a bit, determining that they were too slow, and moving forward. About a third of the along I glommed onto a group of women and they let me work in. We had a rotating paceline/echelon depending on which way the wind hit. This was excellent practice for me. I can paceline all day, but echelon riding takes more concentration -- it's easier to cross wheels, for one thing -- and we don't get to practice this on our group rides much. The Velo Girls (3 of 'em) seemed to know what they were doing; one was incredibly strong and we had to yell at her to slow down. The other two women and I just did what we had to do. I especially appreciated the pacelining up the hills; something I've never done and found that I'm good at.

All during the race I was acutely aware of every pain, tweak, twinge I had. My feet, my hips, my back, my shoulders, my (healed) broken wrist -- at any given moment, while concentrating on my position and keeping my line and pulling through -- these pains made their presence known. I acknowledged that I hurt and kept riding anyway.

The last overpass before the downwind leg I got dropped -- my legs just wouldn't turn the pedals faster -- and my group left me. Nooooooo! The VeloGirls had something left and off they went. I eventually overtook the other two women, thought they were with me, but no, I dropped them.

The last 10+ miles were downwind, flat, and I time-trialed them. Except for the half-dozen times I had to get out of the saddle and stretch (the chamois in my kit shorts officially sucks). I kept wanting to let up, but my goal was to finish, and finish strong.

So the last 500 meters to the finish I shifted up and gained speed. I was gaining speed as I crossed the line. Damn, that was fine, hearing "Great finish!" and my friends cheering and clapping.

I rode to a T intersection, turned around, and rode back to my friends for a post-race hug. I had to lay down my bike in the ditch and sit down so I wouldn't pass out. Seems my Gu, my 3 bottles of water, my 1 bottle of Accelerade, weren't enough to keep my hydrated and fed. I was light-headed, sick-feeling, and various-muscle-cramping for hours after the race. I drank so much water I sloshed when I walked, and it wasn't enough. Finally I drank a small can of V-8 and immediately felt human again.

The muscle soreness I'm used to, but the cramping concerned me -- that ain't right. Note to self: Eat and drink more when riding 41 miles with fierce winds at high intensity in about 2 hours.

The official results aren't in yet. Kameo finished 2nd and stayed to watch until I showed up. She thinks I was in the top 25 of 50. Since this was my first individual race in 5 mos. I had no expectations of my results. My goals were to ride hard and finish strong.

Mission accomplished.

And it feels awesome!!!


  1. Hey, great story. Congrats on a well earned placing...YOu're an Animal!

  2. Again, you rode an AWESOME race! I concur with the wanting to hurl the first 10 miles or so! Winds were wicked that day...

  3. Thanks! Glad to know I wasn't alone re the hurling. And oy, the winds! How did you finish?

  4. Wow...love that. Brought home the experience of racing, something I'll never do (and I mean it!) You did great on every level, but yes, better fueling will aid you. Regardless, you are brave, you are out there in the moment, pushing...I envy.