The bad news: I didn’t finish the race. The good news: I feel okay about that.
It was a cold, blustery day, just what one would expect for March, and it was only at the last minute that I unwillingly took off my jacket so my race number would show. There were somewhere around 18-20 racers in my field, including one teammate, a woman who is at least a Category 3 racer, or maybe Category 2 by now, which means that she’s won some races and has done very well. I recognized a couple other faces from other teams.
The first lap was fine until the bottom of the hill that comes at the end of the course (it’s around .8 mile long), when someone attacked and the pack took off. That set the tone for the rest of the race — there were lots of attacks and lots of slowing down and speeding up; I felt like I was always either hitting the brakes or accelerating madly.
I really suffered on the hill. I’d work my way up toward the front of the pack on the flat stretches, and then watch people pass me on the hill. A few times I had to work hard to catch up to the pack when we headed back downhill. Must do more hill work.
So, the race was 22 laps, and I hung on for 13 of them. I might have lasted longer, but on lap 13 the official rang the bell that indicates a prime lap — which means the first one across the line at the end of that lap wins something, possibly money or cycling gear. So everyone took off, and I spent that lap trying to keep up with them. By the time we reached the hill I hadn’t yet caught them, which meant it was over, as there was no way I could catch them heading uphill. I rode another lap on my own and quit.
Some of the other riders fell off the back at the same point I did, and they kept riding on their own or in a small group and finished the race, but I have a really hard time continuing to ride once I’ve fallen behind. I don’t see the point, really, as I don’t need to struggle along for miles on my own to get 20th place or something like that. And it’s so hard to ride out there on your own when it’s so windy. In the pack you can draft, of course, but on your own, it’s you against the wind. It’s no fun.
So I got a good workout — I stayed with the pack for about 30 very intense minutes — and I did better than I was afraid I might. The last time I rode in this particular race, I lasted three laps before I got dropped. This was better at least.
What worries me, though, is that our pace was pretty slow — 20 mph — which is a pace I should be able to keep up on that course. During the races last year I started off at 21 mph and worked my way up to 25. The wind might have been a factor, though, and the fact that we had a small pack. I could draft, yes, but there weren’t that many bodies to block the wind.
I also think that the races coming up could be a lot harder than this one was. I have no way of knowing, but other, faster women might show up next week who weren’t there today, and that would change the dynamic completely. I feel like if I rode with these same women again I could probably do better, but against a tougher field, I might not.
Anyway, that’s what happened. It was fun, and I’m looking forward to getting in even better shape over the next few weeks.