It's really too bad that you can't excise the stage race part out of stage racing weekends. Because I had a great Mt. Hood Cycling Classic weekend, if I remove the "Cycling" from of the equation.
I figured that after almost four mostly incident-free, and pretty successful, months of racing, that I would start having fatigue, incidents and mishaps that would create a more sustainable state of equilibrium in my cycling life. You can't win 'em all and you can't race as much as I do without getting a major mechanical or flaming out once in a while. I just didn't expect to have two major mishaps in a 24 hour period.
Now that I look back on the last two weeks, I should have seen one of these mishaps coming. I couldn't finish an interval workout two weeks ago due to nosebleeds and dehydration. This was followed by a sub-par effort on my part at the TTT. At PIR last week, my sprint legs were nowhere to be found. Developments and complications in my personal life caused irregular sleep patterns, thus leading to an over-consumption of caffeine, thus causing irregular sleep patterns...you see the pattern here.
I knew mid-week that something wasn't right with my body, but I had managed to stubborn my way through a lot this spring and figured I could stubborn my way through a 71-mile road race with 8500 feet of climbing (this was the stage that scared me...not the 18 mile uphill TT into a headwind or a very technical crit).
Friday: First, a quick plug for Mountain View Cycles in Hood River, Oregon. MV is owned by Julie and Wes Swearingen and its a great shop filled with great people. It's right smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Check it out the next time you visit HR.
The Friday race was an 18 mile time-trial from The Dalles to Hood River. Considerable climbing for a TT course, including up and over the Rowena Loops. Climbing, TT, 20+ MPH headwinds....lots of suffering to be had.
I was, sickly, sort of excited about it. I can time trial and climb and, although no one likes headwinds, since I'm built like a tank, I can usually mentally and physically fight my way through.
Kelly McKean (Beth's Veloce teammate and, ultimately, the GC winner) was my 30-second person, which I was really excited about. She's an awesome triathlete and a really remarkable climber. I figured that if I could keep her in my sights, I could clock a solid time.
I caught Kelly at the bottom of the Rowena Loops. That gap lasted all of 150 meters into the first climb. She went by me like I was moving backwards-while I was going by someone like she was moving backwards. Wow.
I caught her on the descents and flats between Rowena and Mosier, but again, she flew by me once we starting climbing up and over to Hood River. I was steadily gaining on her once the course leveled out and then....
You mean the softball-sized one in the middle of the bike path? Yeah, that one. I was suffering pretty heavily at this point and forgot the first rule of avoiding things that you don't want to hit...don't fixate your gaze on it.
I hit it square on and my back tire immediately blew out. I skidded, but stopped safely and got off to quickly to assess the damage. No derailleur damage, but I had 3 more miles to the finish and was on a vehicle-free bike path no repair kit. Gingerly got back on the bike and starting soft pedaling. The rims weren't hitting the path, so I figured that I could try and just coast downhill to the finish.
(Photo taken by Anne's husband Tim. Notice that my is bandanna not on my head. I was sweating so profusely by the time I reached Mosier that it had worked its way down my forehead, knocked off my sunglasses and was interfering with my ability to see. )
It was the longest three miles that I've ever ridden on that bike. Three of the seven ladies I'd caught went rolling past and my inner monologue was running "please don't ruin jb's wheels, please don't ruin jb's wheels" on a continuous loop.
I rolled through in at 1:02 something. I did some math and guestimating later that evening and figure that I lost at least 5 minutes in that last three miles. Without the mishap, probably good enough for podium, but we'll never know. But couldn't be too upset...I still managed to turn in the 24th best time (out of about 40 riders) and the wheel was fine.
Kelly and I both got dinged for drafting, which didn't end up mattering at all for either of us (she annihilated everyone on the second stage and, well, I didn't even finish the second stage, for reasons I will get into shortly), but was interesting considering both of us are experienced triathletes and were being very careful to stay out of each others way while leap-frogging.
Let me repeat: 71 miles, 8500 feet of climbing.
My longest race this year was the 50ish miles at Silverton. I can count on less than two hands the number of 60+ mile training rides that I've done since the racing season started.
Total terror. It was all I could do Saturday morning to manage my stress so that I didn't freak out my teammates. Here we are...two hours before start time.
Once the race got rolling, my nervousness subsided...somewhat. The first 15 miles are a descent into some little town (Dufur). Everyone was regulating their speed carefully, which was frustrating and caused a lot of braking and mid-pack shuffling. Sarah T. from Sorella and I went off the front for a bit, and after a while, we were joined by my teammates.
Then the climbing started. As we had agreed as a team, I went to the front and set a high tempo up the first climb. I felt OK, kept my head down and just kept pushing until the road briefly leveled out. Within a mile, we've lost half of the field. And there are several miles of climbing to go.
With about a mile to go until we could descend again, Amy Campbell from River City attacks. Six, seven gals are able to go with her. Anna and I can't make the jump and Sam is stuck in no man's land between the lead group and the chasers. I ride briefy with Jo and Beth, then get enough leg back to pull Anna and I up to Sam.
Then HV chased. And chased. And chased. I pull us up the climbs and rest on Anna's wheel whenever I can. For almost 45 minutes, we would get close on a flat or a descent, only to watch them pull away on the climbs.
There got to be a point when we couldn't see the lead group anymore and I started to look behind for help. Wasn't long before a group of about 8 women (including Serena from Sunnyside, Beth and Jo) caught us.
From the best I can recall, I was feeling OK when Beth and Jo's group caught us. Tired, but not feeling like I was going to blow up. I was into my second bottle of Heed, almost done with my Perpetuem bottle and had kept on top of my other nutritional and electrolyte needs while we had been climbing.
Within ten minutes, I went from tired, but OK, to completely not OK. I got really shaky and cold, couldn't pull through and Jo and Beth told me to go sit in the back and take a break. I think I tried to hold on for another five minutes, then it was over. Beth and I had a brief conversation about her dropping back to just get me to the finish so I could race Sunday, but I told told her to just keep going.
From the time where I got spit off the back of the chase group, the next two hours were a bit of a blur. Gunderson had already called it a day and twice rolled up in the sag car to see what was going on. I don't remember what we talked about, other than a sense that I felt pretty agitated.
Jeff and Sallyanne were waiting at the second feed zone, which was about four miles from where everything started to go haywire and crossways in my head. I do remember thinking that if I could just make it to them and take a break, that I would wait for Anne Linton or Julie Swearingen and ride the last thirty miles with one of them.
Didn't happen that way at all. I rolled up to Jeff, unclipped...and my legs immediately buckled and everyting faded to black.
I remember coming to a bit and realizing that my shoes, socks, gloves and helmet were off and Sallyanne was holding me up. Jeff, Sallyanne and Gunderson got me changed into dry clothes and into the truck. Then, I faded to black again. I'm not sure how much I slept in the truck, but when I woke up, I felt like I had been sleeping for days.
For the next hour, I alternated between wanting to throw up, burst into tears and sleep for a hundred years. Sat on a rock by the finish with my head on my knees line waiting for my girls to finish.
And they all finished. Sam at full speed, Anna with a huge grin on her face and Beth spewing obscenities left and right.
I fell asleep again in JB's car on the ride back into town and this time, when I woke up, I actually felt human again. By the time we got dinner on the table, I (aided by a bottle of Ninkasi Spring Reign and almost an entire growler of Double Mountain IRA) was in a good place again.
The best I can figure, I probably went down as a result of overheating/overtraining/exhaustion. In other words: EPIC BONK. I can accept and own that.
Sunday: I thought I'd wake up Sunday morning with a sense that I had been a huge wimp and should have toughed it out. However....not a chance. I pre-rode the crit course with Anna and, although that course would have been a blast for me, at no time did I feel any regret or longing to race that day. Instead, rode an easy hour with JB, watched the ladies race and demo-ed a Specialized Tri-Cross all over the lawns and curbs of downtown HR...happy as a pig in shit.
Post: All in all, despite all the chaos, it was a good weekend. Had a great birthday celebration, spent some quality time with my teammates and friends, made some new friends and participated in some great racing. And developed a crush on a new cross bike...one that may be worthy of a return trip to HR this weekend.
But holy hell, do I need some serious rest. And a few massages to work out this frozen pot roast feeling in both of my quads. My rest week likely to turn into a full month of leisure rides, a bit of track racing, some short track mountain biking and getting a master plan together for late summer/early fall. Because, shit....cross starts in just three months....