Monday, March 23, 2009

Aren't We There Yet?! Banana Belt #3 (#4?) Race Report

After nine goddamned laps around Hagg Lake over three weeks, I can truly and wholeheartedly say that I have no desire to ever see it again. Or at least for 11 months. Say the words "Lee Hill" to me right now and I'm likely to start banging my head on the closest wall. I can't imagine anyone who has done 12 or more laps feels any differently.

Pre-Race: The HV ladies gathered at for a pre-race potluck at my condo. Two hours of gossiping and 15 minutes of "statergerizing" for Sunday morning. I won't reveal our master plan here, partly because it didn't work yesterday and partly because we will make it work in another race. Muahahahaha. We did bestow a new nickname on one of our new riders ("I deem thee 'Cardboard'") and learned the ways of proposing casual sex from a jedi well-schooled in the ways of dating. By the time everyone left, my belly and face ached from laughing.

The drive out to the race was typical pre-race neurotic Christy/Lindsay fare. We really should record the conversations that we have in the car, just so people will believe that we actually have said conversations. Its almost like a series of Seinfeld-like shorts...we spent at least ten minutes contemplating whether a "canoeist" would be a person who canoes OR a person that hates canoes. Christy also considered abandoning the race in favor of unionizing those poor buffalo ("Organize! Revolt! Or at least quit fattening yourselves up, you stupid suckers.").

It was cold for our race, but not raining. Our entire team, save our HoodRiver-based teammate recovering from an injury, showed up to race. Nine ladies in pinstripes. When we lined up, the field was so small that we comprised almost 1/2 of the combined Masters/4 field. It gave me the chills...the good kind.

This is a longer race report than usual, but it was a more interesting race than the first two, and more lessons were learned (at least by me):

Lap One: Angela, one of our masters riders, set the pace for the entire first lap. She did an amazing was fast enough that no one challenged the tempo, but slow enough that we were able to warm up and get positioned tightly together. Alice and Mindy did a great job of protecting Anna and I and keeping us close to the front--near Lindsay Fox, the strongest rider in the field and the one most likely to make a break stick.

(HV up front: Anna, LK, Christy, Alice, Mindy. Credit: Oregon Cycling Action)

The first time through that "damn corner" was the sketchiest of the nine times we came through over the course of the series. Two of the riders that had been leading coming down the hill practically came to a stop coming into the corner. Since our field was small and was communicating well, we were able to split around them, but it was dangerous and I think some words were passed around at the back of the field.

We took off as a team coming off the dam to see how the field would respond. We probably dropped only 2-3 riders, so we sat up again and let other riders set the pace for the rest of the lap.

Lap Two: Sallyanne took charge at the beginning of the second lap and she and Mindy pulled the field for almost three miles. Anna, Alice, Christy, Jen and I all took turns at the front. Lots of blocking on the hills so no one could attack.

(Credit: Jon Gornick)

Anna and I's pull was less of a pull, and more of a signal to someone else that they needed to take charge at the front. We led most of the way over the about 14 miles an hour. If someone else wanted to take charge, let them. I even heard someone kvetch "What the hell are those two doing up there?!" Um, controlling the race, sillies.

Jen and Christy's pull was the most memorable. They shot up from mid-pack coming off of the dam. The HV gals and Margi immediately started cheering for the Blond Ball of Hate. Everyone else looked at us like we were bat-shit crazy. Christy's pull increased the pace considerably and allows me to position myself close to Dawn and the Fox. The Fox is going to jump and throw down some hurt...I know this. It's just a matter of when.

And she does it on Lee Hill. God.Damn.It. Dawn is the quickest to latch on. I'm out of position, have to sprint to the top and am seeing plaid by the time we hit the downhill. Looking around coming through the finish line, I see that Margi, Robyn from Chinook and Mindy have also made the jump-all powerful riders capable of bridging to the front. We're only about 20 meters back. Margi and I yell at the five chasers to organize and we quickly catch Dawn and the Fox.

Lap Three: Of course the hardest lap of the nine would have to be the last one.

(The Third Lap Break. Credit: Oregon Cycling Action)

There are some attempts to organize the seven person break, but we lose one person to a blowout and Fox attacks again on the next climb. And the next. Then its just Dawn and I, working together but still losing time on every climb. I'm the bigger rider, so I pull the downhills and Dawn drags me uphill. Over the dam, we struggling with the headwind...tired as all hell and are switching every minute or two.

I looked back once or twice and thought Dawn and I had comfortably established a gap on the rest of the break coming into the last 2 miles. When we both struggled up Lee Hill for the last time, we allowed ourselves to sit up at the top and take 20-30 meters to shake it out and catch our breath. Then we started up again, but probably at a less intense pace. I was burnt and I could tell from Dawn's body language that she was struggling as well.

(The Oregon Cycling Action caption for this photo: "Lindsay Kandra (Hammer Velo) tries to stay in contact with the leaders on the last lap." To which I respond: "You ain't kidding.")

Big mistake. At the 1K mark, Robyn from Chinook goes charging past us. I can't tell if Dawn said "Oh, SHIT," or whether I said it loud enough for both of us. We took off after her. Dawn recovered better than I did and held on for 2nd. I had less than nothing left and Anna (coming out of absolutely NOWHERE after chasing for the whole lap after missing the break) edged me for fourth. Mindy was right on my wheel for 6th.

(Finish: Dawn Riddle 2d, Robyn Paulson 3d, HV 4-6th. Credit: Oregon Cycling Action.)

In addition to our 4-6th finishes in the Cat 4 race, our Master's riders (Sallyanne, Angela, Lisa) finished 1-3. Everyone played a significant role in controlling the pace and effecting the outcome of the race. We stayed (mostly) organized, communicated and worked so hard that a few of us almost puked at the end.

Absolutely stellar work all around, which was celebrated with champagne post-race.


Lesson #1: NO FIDDLE-FUCKING AROUND IN THE LAST 2K. Instead of having an opportunity to race for second, the physical and mental break I took at the top of Lee Hill pretty much sealed my fate.

Lesson #2: Being in small breakaway is hard fucking work. But having a good pre-existing relationship with the other rider/s makes all of the difference in the world. This is why I have been making a huge effort to get to know the other ladies in the never know when you'll need some one's help during a race.

So in the end, I think I'll end up finishing fourth overall for the series(UPDATE: THIRD!!!)...a series that a month ago I swore I would NEVER do. I'd eat my words, but they'd probably taste like race morning oatmeal and I don't think my weary stomach could handle that right now.


✌tothebikes said...

I love Hagg Lake and will probabbly do another 100 laps between now and the end of August.
Peace out, Angela

Anonymous said...

The Jedi thanks you for the shout out.

CBIGS said...

Aaaah, our fate is sealed. There is no way anyone else is going to voluntarily get in a car with the 2 of us now, unless they want to discuss kayakerers and cycleristisms...

Lindsay said...

Or get sucked into an episode of "You Can't Wear that."