The Tuesday night race series has begun, and it has begun well. I was worried about the race all day today because I knew I was going to have to rush away from class and hope the traffic wasn’t going to be too heavy to make it to the race on time. I had Hobgoblin do everything possible to help me get ready, including pinning my number on ahead of time. But as it turned out, I had plenty of time and was able to warm up for a half hour or so.
And then I was anxious, of course, about how I would do. This is the third year I’ve ridden in these races, and in both the previous years I’ve started off not able to finish the race and have had to slowly work my way up to the point where I could stay with the pack the entire time. I could only accomplish this steady improvement by working so hard I sometimes felt like I was going to die out there on the course. My first season I got so tired of working this hard I stopped racing in mid-July because I was burnt out.
So I was nervous. I was going to be racing with category 4 and 5 men, including Hobgoblin and other people who are clearly stronger and faster than I am. There was one other woman out there, someone who’s also much stronger and faster than I am. But when we got started I relaxed, and I was pleased to note that my first trip up the hill wasn’t that hard. I could sit comfortably the whole way. I’ve discovered that sitting on that hill is the best thing I can do; if I stand I expend more energy and tire myself out faster. But sometimes I panic that I’m falling behind, and I feel like I have to stand to stay with the group. As the laps went on, though, I found I could sit the whole way up nearly every one. In fact, sometimes I was passing other racers and sometimes noticing that other people were breathing harder than I was.
The race was 22 laps, 17 miles, and with each lap I told myself, okay, one more down — let’s see if I can do another one. I kept going this way until 5 laps to go when the sprinting started. It was a points race, which meant that certain laps, in this case the last five laps, awarded the first two racers across the line a certain number of points and the rider with the highest number of points at the end wins. What this meant for me is that the last five laps were hard. On the first points lap the field felt very tense and riders were doing foolish things, trying to get in the best position possible for the sprint. This made me nervous, as we’d already had one crash, and I didn’t want to see another. I did my best to stay away from squirrelly riders and kept on. Somewhere in those last five laps I noticed a teammate of mine off on the side of the road, throwing up onto the pavement, and then riding on. Yes, this was intense.
And I made it all the way to the end. Yay! I was afraid I wouldn’t, as at the very beginning of the last lap my calf muscles started cramping up horribly and I thought I might have to stop, but I did my best to stretch them out on the bike and kept going. I stayed right with the pack all the way through the last lap and crossed the line just behind the crowd.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this good on that course. The hill almost seemed easy. I was working hard though, as my average heart rate was 171, maximum 187. We were riding for about 41 minutes, and my average speed was 24.3 mph.
I hope my Tuesday night races continue to go this way, so I don’t have to experience that awful “I’m going to die out here” feeling again. That’s no fun.
You can read Hobgoblin’s account here.