Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Race At The Lake 1 (RATL - 1)

Well, I finally did it.  I (wo)-manned up and got in my first and certainly not last crit race!  And it was glorious....for 10 laps.

I had plenty of experience riding in groups and understood it was not about who was the fastest, but who was the smartest.  I felt confident in my bike handling skills and knew even after riding for 18 days straight for #30DaysOfBiking, I could hold my own.  Plus I wanted to see what Flo Rida' could do, so off to RATL hosted by the Summit FreeWheelers it would be.  They would run all the CAT women together (1,2,3 and the 4s).  Since, I am a rookie I start at 4 (not that I have any urge to CAT up, EVER, but eventually I will have to).  Of course, this is what when I watched my first crit race...
Needless to say RK is back up and racing stronger than ever!

I had plenty of rest and headed down about 8am.  My race was to go off at 10:15am, so I had lots of time so even stopped to make a deposit at the ATM.  I was less than 5 miles away from the race site when I realized I didn't have enough cash to register.  A 10 minute detour back to an ATM (that wasn't my bank) and about $6 in fees later I rolled into the park.  I got my gear all ready and watched the men's CAT 5 race and cheered for (2) of my teammates.  The field was huge, 55 guys!!  They only raced 8 miles, but the pace was brutal and they hammered over 24 mph average.  DaisyDuc's hubby is a monster on the bike and came away with 4th for Team Bicycle Hub! 

Daisy and I rolled out for a warm-up.  My legs felt heavy and stiff riding over some small rollers.  I checked my heart rate and it said 169bpm.  Ooohhhh, this was going to be ugly.  I was bummed I would probably get dropped and not be able to hang with the field very long.  We rolled back into the parking lot and too my surprise my mom was there!  I gave her a hug and chatted with her before deciding to pin my # on.

I soft pedaled back to my car and grabbed it out of my car.  I then locked the door and yep, you guessed it I realized my motherF-ing keys were inside.  I was so annoyed with myself at this point.  Maybe it was fatigue or nerves, but there they sat on my gym bag on my passengers seat.  I debated riding home and back (about 60 miles round trip) or getting a ride with my mom immediately to go get them and just skip the race, but my mom said that was dumb and she would just go get them and bring them back for me.  I felt horrible, but then Daisy, my knight in green argyle spandex swooped in and offered to call AAA.  I was so grateful and relieved my mom wouldn't have to go back to my house and I didn't have to ride there either.  I was still annoyed but needed to get my head together.  I road a few more easy laps around the parking lot as the CAT 4 men finished before taking off my warm-ups and staging.

I only wore my kit with arm warmers.  Kevlar and JE had warned me that after 2 laps I'd be plenty warm.  We rolled around 1/2 the course to the start. I was pretty cold when we got to the start.  It was a great start spot, right on a hill.  It would be 12 laps, about 15 miles, lap 4 was our preme lap (dont' quote me on that).  I lined up in the middle with SG.  EP and Daisy took the inside left, front. 

Cycling is a gentleman's sport, so you don't brake check your opponents or try to run them into potholes and barricades, however small tricks and tactics that do not involve endangering other rider's safety is common.  I was on red alert and although the course is 2 lanes and closed off to cars as soon as the bell went off the experienced CAT's jumped...and so did I.  This was not a no-drop group ride.  The main field hammered a little up the hill at the start and immediately dropped a few who had not clipped in quick enough and stayed on a wheel.  I got low and settled myself in about 5-6 riders back.  I wanted to stay near the front, in case of any breaks.  I figured there would be 1 or 2 on the preme laps and the last 2-3, but it was the start of the season and I was betting everyone would air on the side of caution and feel out the field. 
RATL 1 courtesy of WAS Labs Cycling

The course dropped down and wound around some corners and through the parking lot where we had staged and most of the other people were.  It was a rush railing left and right, my heart was beating at what I guessed was 150-165 and coming back down (I was already recovering from the start), and I knew I could ride at that rate all day.  We came around and back up the hill.  My legs felt heavy on the climb and I could feel my heart rate go up. I hung onto the wheel in front of me and let the girl pull me up to the start/finish.  Whooo hoooo!!!! 1  down 11 to go.

Each lap, I invested my time trying to stay toward the front, tucking into the pack and conserving as much energy as possible.  I was starting to fatigue from all the days of riding and thought, maybe I can't hold onto this.  I checked the lap counter as we came around -- 8 to go!!!  Oh man, I was hoping, I had already done 8!

I checked around, we had started with 16 and were down to 10.  I knew (3) of the riders were at least Cat 3s, and I was still there with them.  My teammate and beast on the bicycle, DaisyDuc was also still in the main field.  She looked like she was soft pedaling on the outside at times, fresh as a you guessed it, Daisy!  I on the other hand, was wheel sucking like it was my job.  She broke from the field on our preme lap.  I immediately sat up and reminded myself  "do not chase your teammate."  I started yelling in my head "Go Daisy!! Go!!"  The field picked up the pace a little but she took it uncontested.  I'm betting had she just kept pushing and going she could have gotten away and stayed away from the main field.  The girl can push some watts!!!

Daisy grabbing her preme - photo courtesy of WAS Labs Cycling

Lap after lap just kept going by and there I was still in it. There was only one breakaway attempt before the hill in the middle of the race that failed.  My legs weren't ready to give up.  Every lap I came around I felt better and better. 

The only mishap was a girl on my right was forcing me off my line left.  Daisy was on my left and we rubbed shoulders and handlebars a little bit.  I yelled "My bad!!" and we kept riding.  No one was moving us out of the race.

Oh and the other mishap,  I don't know what I was thinking but I thought we were on lap 11 and I wanted to be at the front coming off the climb, so I powered up to the front and pushed on the hill a little.  My legs were heavy but I knew I could suffer for 3 minutes.  I rolled up to the top and heard the official yell "Two laps to go!!!"  Wait what?!?!?!  What?!?! Say again?!?!  I couldn't ride like that for 2 more laps.  Immediately, defeated and sucking air the main field went around me.  I was caught up in my lap mistake for too long that when I decided I would still try to hang on, it was too late they were gone.  I should have just said "F$*K!!" and jumped right back on, but it was like a slap to the face.  It had shocked me and I had spent a lot of gas. 

What I thought was lap 11, photo courtesy of Joey & Janet Edwards

I rode my last 2 laps of shame alone, waving and smiling to my teammates yelling "I can't count!!"  I even lapped 2 girls right before the finish and encouraged them to get on my wheel, but they had one more to go and they waved me on. 

I finished 9th overall, 5th in the CAT 4s.  I was super annoyed with myself and all the absent minded mistakes I had made that morning (it continued on into the afternoon too, post-RATL). 

Daisy took 2nd in the CAT 4s.  I am guessing our average speed was 18-20 mph -- completely doable.  Overall, I thought I did a great job, suffering on and off, staying with the main field and paying attention, at least until the end of lap 10. 

TBH representing at RATL photo courtesy of The Bicycle Hub

The race was well run, the course was fun, and the weather was perfect.  It was very beginner friendly and I can not encourage enough women to give it a try if they ever were interested in crit racing.  Summit Freewheelers did a wonderful job hosting.