Usually Chris comes along when I race, but this weekend he's up in the Sierra, flying his hang glider and having multiple airgasms. So I was on my own for this event.
A bit of history: 5 years ago Velodiva (Her Bikeforums.net name) did this race as her first bike race, and invited me along. I didn't own the Diva then, I was on my Specialzed Dolce Comp, so I borrowed a Fuji Pro carbon bike from the LBS. I bested V by 1:01 minutes -- huge shock to both of us.
Since then she's gone on to win District, State and National track championships in her age group (60-64). Last year she and Hermes went to Portugal for the Worlds -- I believe she was 2nd or 3rd in her division. To say that she's fast is an understatement. I admire and envy her. Someday I'd like to be that fast.
My training this season, especially since we bought the TT bike (aka Slice), has focused on this race as my peak race. And despite the inevitable setbacks (missing the last 40K TT practice, etc.) my plan has yielded results.
I started planning earlier in the week for what I was going to take with me, and envisioning my race, from the warm up to the event. I decided this year I was going to podium. I know I'm fast, I'm focused, and full of that New Jersey scrappiness that defies defeat. I checked my time from 2 years ago (the last time I did this race): 53:41. My best time was from '08, with a borrowed TT bike: 51:03.
Wednesday evening, after TT practice, I calculated the time I'd need to finish Esparto at 23.9 mph, my avg. time from practice: 45:33. That seemed daunting but I embraced it anyway. I also had a kind of mantra to help me cancel the negative thoughts I often get preceding a race. I sang it over and over from Thursday (when it first found me) and during the race. "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better and better." It may seem corny; however, I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to psyching myself out. Just like a pointy helmet and a skinsuit give one an aerodynamic advantage, thus did my mantra give me a psychological advantage. So the negative thoughts were there but the mantra kept them from being in the forefront of my consciousness. That allowed me to recognize body stress and relax, and to stay fast and focused on my goal.
So last night I woke up a couple of times. OK, that's kind of normal. When I finally pulled myself out of bed I packed my stuff that I'd laid out the night before, ate my oatmeal, blueberries, chia & maple syrup (my regular breakfast), packed the extra bottles of water and Nuun and some dried figs and a Muscle Milk (light chocolate, my favorite) and actually left ahead of schedule.
Chris left his saddlebag and frame pump for me. But I couldn't find the skewer for the trainer. Crap. Not a good sign.
I got good parking, saw Hermes(Velodiva's husband) and Velodiva, got changed, pinned on my number (upside down), and started setting up the bike & trainer. Hermes, knowing I'm used to having a bike slave, came over to offer his services. He had a spare trainer skewer and saved my bacon. The guy who parked next to me fixed my number and loaned me his floor pump when my frame pump didn't cut it. Bacon saved again. Thanks, karma!
My warm up was full of distractions -- I wanted to log 10 mi. minimum before the race, and I had plenty of time to do that. I just couldn't stay focused. Those negative thoughts were creeping in...so I got busy with my mantra. It helped. I logged over 12 miles including riding the streets and showed up at the start with 2 minutes to spare.
And off I went, in a big gear, standing to get going fast. Into the wind for a couple miles, on rough, "slow" pavement, watching my speed be slower than I want, my cadence meter not showing rpms, my heart rate too high to maintain over 45+ minutes. My head is full of all this stuff as my legs go around and around and the wind blows and I'm thinking I should just give up because I won't be fast enough.
Then -- my mantra kicks in, I turn the corner to a quartering tailwind (wind from the NW, I'm headed east), I get my breathing right and work to maintain what speed I can. The pavement is rough, in aerobars it's teeth-chattering rough, and slow, and there are lots of repairs to ride around. It's wide open around me, the few prune and almond orchards are either below the road level or too far back to afford and windbreak.
My M.O. is to divide the TT into 3rds, and deliver negative splits. But when I hit 6 miles I can't really ramp up my effort as much as I want. The wind seems to have turned, my legs complain and feel heavy, my breathing is labored. I start to doubt my podium result. It's only 8 miles into an 18 mile ride and I'm whining like a baby. Why did I even bother to get out of bed?
Then -- mantra time, and rollers present. I speed up on the downhill parts. And I pass 4 of the 6 women who started ahead of me. Since we started at 1 min. intervals, and the woman in front of me no-showed, I had a 2-minute target out there. I zip around her and the others as though they were standing still, and because I hate being passed (very demoralizing, unless it's the district TT champ) I kept the pace high. I need the confidence-boost that passing people gives me to help me stay on target.
I slow too much for the turn-around but, dammit, there's gravel and dirt everywhere! Did no one think to sweep it? What's wrong with these people? Geez!
And hills, speed-sapping, pain-inducing, mantra-reciting hills -- 3 of 'em. Then drill, baby, drill, until I see the "5 miles to go!" sign. From there it's a countdown. My speed picks up, I feel like I own this course, made it my beeyotch, increasing speed as I go, a tenth of mile, then another and another, and when I see the "100 meters" sign I give the pedals everything I have. blowing like a racehorse across that line.
I rode on about 1/4 mi., then turned around. There was a small gathering of people just past the finish line, so I went back to see if I needed to be there. They were waiting for friends/spouses/SO's, so I had a conversation with a lady in my group before I turned and started my warm-down the couple miles back to the parking lot.
Velodiva passed me then, and her momentum carried her well past me, so I didn't catch up right away. When I finally caught her we chatted about the race. She passed everyone who started ahead of her but me. And she was worried that she wasn't fast enough to beat me. Even Hermes, who'd kept her apprised of my PCSD results, had reiterated, "She's scary fast."
As ego-gratifying as it was to hear those words, believe me, she'll eat my lunch any day. I held no illusions that I'd be faster than V -- in fact, my podium expectations were that she'd be first, I'd be 2nd or 3rd.
No results when I got back to the parking lot so I changed, drank a lot of water, the Muscle Milk, put Slice back into the car. It occurred to me again that normal people have no idea how much work it takes to be a mediocre bike racer. I stretched, talk to V & H some more, we agreed to meet at a Starbuck's in Vacaville for a caffeine infusion before their long drive back to the peninsula.
I walked over to the registration table as the results from the last few groups were posted. Holy crap! I crushed it in 49:11, good enough for second place! Of course V took first, a mere 59 sec. ahead of me. Third place was 1:00 behind me.
So we had a parking lot podium and showed off our T-shirt prizes (pics coming). I'm very pleased to have achieved my goal and end the season on such a high note. Life's great, mostly, and today it's especially sweet.
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