Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Silverton Race Report: Just Stupid Enough to Be Dangerous

Somewhere in a box buried in the back of my storage unit there is a photograph taken my freshman year in college. My best guess is spring 1996. Ten college runners, pretty and lithe and confident. Sisterly arms around shoulders and big, drunk all-American grins. But off to the right is another girl, sort of chubby, obviously out of her element, uncomfortable in her own skin and with an expression that unmistakably conveys "I obviously don't belong in this picture...and I know it."

Yeah...that was me. Before I traded in a conservative major, organized athletics and greek system friends for hanging out on the smoker's bench, cutting and dying my own hair and hosting leftist political organizers in my home just to piss people off.

Even through the pain and focus, I thought of that picture around mile 40 of the Silverton Road Race. Because, oh holy hell, once again I was part of a picture I definitely didn't belong in.


Silverton was my first race as a Cat 3. While I was dealing with the Great PIR Anger Management Debacle of 2009 last Tuesday, I also got an e-mail from Kenji that simply read "33 points." Point taken-it was time to put on my big girl pants and go race with the big girls.

The course itself wasn't that sustained climb and lots of rollers, but I've been climbing well and figured I was fit enough to keep me from getting spit off the back. It was the increased distance and overall speed which scared me.

I did have teammates in the race...Burns (unofficially) and Sam (officially). Here are Sam and I at staging. She's probably saying something in Kiwi and I'm pretending to understand what the hell she is talking about:

We had a big field...almost 50 total Pro1/2/3 riders. The course was three 18ish mile loops. (I am not sure of the exact mileage, as I had computer issues after mile 5). A descent followed by a sustained climb, sustained descent, then rollers. No flats. Jeff's advice for me: "Go with the break if you can and then ride like hell until you can't go anymore." Um, ok. Simple. Yet, in my mind, totally unrealistic and retarded. But in his mind--the best strategy is to always race like hell until you can't do it anymore.

My initial thought at staging...bigger crowd, easier to blend in. Great theory. But one that is completely irrelevant when your borrowed race wheels (thanks, jb) and your own brake pads do not get along. Even a light feathering of my brakes produced a skin tingling "SCRREEEEEEEEEE."

I spent the whole first lap cringing in mortified anticipation every time the pack slowed down. SCREEEEEEEEEEE. On the descents. SCREEEEEEEEEEE. I felt like a first grader on the junior high bus, complete with a nametag and Muppets lunch box.

I think that the pack was pretty much intact coming through the first lap and I had a feeling that something was going to happen on our second time up the long climb. I maneuvered my way to the outside of the pack and started moving up toward where Burns and a few of the Veloforma ladies were riding.

The pack-shattering attack happened exactly where I thought it would. Although I had to maneuver through about a dozen people before I had a clear line to where the action was happening, I made it up to the front pack without completely going red.

I initially got shelled near the top of the long climb, but the leaders slowed up enough on the first long descent that I was able to time trial my way back up to them. Then I looked around and immediately wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. There were nine women in the lead group. I knew five of them (six including Sam): Sue Butler, Alice Pennington, Lisa Turnbull, Lindsay Fox and a masters women who used to be on the national team. Dude. I was so out of my league that it was, in fact, funny.

The next 15 miles were a painful blur. The race became one of meeting small goals. Making it up every roller with the group. Pulling through as best I could on several failed attempts to paceline. Touching my blasted brakes as little as possible. Putting as many calories I could into my system without making myself sick. Telling myself how great I was doing, to just keep holding on until the attacks stopped at the front.

Just when I thought my legs weren't going to take it anymore, the attacks became less and less frequent. The break was away for good and, ultimately, the leaders held a steady pace for the entire third lap. Sam looked as grateful for that as I felt. They were chatting up front...and I was out of water and had just enough in me to occasionally ask Sam or the BBNS woman our mileage (according to my computer, we were on mile 21 and traveling at 3.5 miles an hour).

We stayed together until the final 200M. I was so fatigued that I somehow lost track of the positioning that was going on and ended up pulling most of the last half mile. Not that I cared. I wasn't going to win the race. I just wanted to finish it without blowing up. Or puking. Either was a viable option right until the bitter end.

I didn't puke, but I did blow up. But only 50 meters from the end. The sprint started, I stood up,..and my legs said, "Are you fucking kidding me? Sit down and SHUT UP." My knees buckled and I sat down, shifted down a gear or two and coasted through to the finish.

(The race report from the leaders' perspective can be found here.)

First Cat 3 race, first Cat 3 W.

My dad took these pictures. He was in the valley to officiate the 2A state track meet and swung through on his way home. It was great to have him there for moral support and fun to watch him try to decipher our modified bike-racer English.

I was so tired post-race that there was only enough oomph left in me to get me back to the car so I could start slamming water and cans of coke. I'd only felt like this once before...after finishing my first Half-Ironman, which involved walking thirteen miles in 95 degree heat while fighting nosebleeds and nausea for three hours. In other words....I was totally cooked.

I stayed like this for the next few hours, unable to eat and consuming the majority of my calories from Recoverite, licorice and soda pop. The diet of champions.

It took me a few hours to really appreciate what I'd accomplished that morning. I think I only got pushed to that point of appreciation through the enthusiasm of my teammates and friends...who made up for the energy that I was obviously lacking as we sat at HUB later that afternoon.

Now its three days later and I'm still feeling pretty cooked (but a few ice baths and finally getting my hands on some prescription allergy medication has helped immensely). And I have been thinking a lot about how to mentally manage the rest of the road season. I started this whole adventure just wanting to be a competitive Cat 4. Things have, remarkably, gone much better than that. My next step needs to be managing a new set of internal expectations and dealing with being a newbie for the second time in a single racing season.


mikey said...

This is so cool, I'm not even sure what to say. :)

Serena said...

Well done, congrats! You look great in your big girl pants!