Race #2 of the season is DONE! That was a hard race. Chris and I headed south to Rochester, WA to race IVRR. I had heard the race was lots of fun with some big hills, and you know I love hills. If you have read my past blog posts from this winter you will see I had hard time finding motivation to get some good training in with the terrible weather....it sort of showed. I was very nervous before the race, it was the first race with some big hills, and this is where we can see how everyone climbs. My figure is this: if you are somewhat a solid climber than you will go to a race where there are hills, if you are not a hill climber than you will not go to a race with large hills. So I entered the race thinking/knowing that everyone was a solid hill climber.
My lady teammates included Tara, Lisa, and myself. At the line up the officials let us decide if we wanted to race the 1/2/3's together or separately. Majority of the peeps said race together. So there was probably a group of about 25ish between the categories. I was warned the first hill was pretty steep and the 2nd hill was more gradual. The race began and when we hit the first hill my legs yelled at me telling me they were stiff and I didn't do a good job warming up. All that anxiety gets to me pre-race that I can't warm up properly. The 2nd hill I managed to stay with the group as well, it was good and my legs felt better. For some reason I had a really hard time staying on peoples wheels, I don't know if my mental game was gone, or if I was a little timid because of the pouring rain we had, so the road was wet. Even on the downhills I was getting passed by ladies. My head wasn't really in the game on some of those sections. The decents were scetchy and I was scared. The images I had flashing in my head were when on the team ride we had those 2 riders go down....I now decend with a lot of caution, I don't want to fly off my bike.
At the start of the second lap before the first hill a women (who is a 3 and eventually went on to win the race) decided to make a solo break away....so she did and no one in the pack really did anything about it we just sort of let her go, so I decided to try and chase but then really I just didn't care enough to try and catch her, so come the hill a couple of the 1/2s in the group took off, caught her, and away that group went. A group of about 10-12 of us were able to get together and try to chase, but we just didn't have what they did, so we did our thing. There was a point where I thought I wasn't going to be able to keep up with the group we were moving pretty fast and my legs were burning. I just kept telling myself how much easier it is in the group than by myself, do your best and stay with the group. By the 2nd hill I was able to stay with the group on the climb, and even be closer to the front of the group. But come the decent I just didn't have the mental capability to push myself down that hill...I was terrified.
By the start of the 3rd lap I was tired and mentally really breaking down. Thank goodness for teammate Lisa who gave me a good mental head talk. It was obvious that everyone in the pack was getting tired too, because we were going pretty slow, and it felt SOOO nice!!!! Now that's a pace I can handle. Then the first hill came. I felt okay going into the hill and decided I could kick it up a small notch and pulled myself up the middle....turns out it was a little bit much and I moved to the right side of the road and almost everyone passed me on the left. My muscles were hurting, my butt was even tired! When my butt is tired is when I know I have been working hard. Maybe I was working off the 10,000 calories of sugar I ate in 5 days this last week. Once down the hill the group did a pretty good job of getting a paceline together and working together evenly to move forward. Of course there were the ladies in the back that wouldn't pull through, but what do you do? Come the 2nd hill I told myself "slow and steady Courtenay, slow and steady" and that's just how I climbed the hill. It didn't matter if I was in the front or in the back, just climb slow and steady because at the top is a raging downhill. That's just what I did, slow and steady and it got me to the top.
After the big hill was a nice long flat section before the end. We were pace lining through and I could feel the anxiety and energy from everyone in anticipation of the finish line. Then I was informed that Lisa got a flat tire. I was SO bummed for her! She worked hard throughout the entire race and didn't deserve a flat, especially with only 3 miles to go!!! As we were pacelining through I realized that I was now in the back of the pack with Tara and no one was going to let anyone move forward. So I turn to Tara and ask if we were close to the end, and she said something on the lines of yes. I looked up and saw orange flags and people and was thinking where is the 1k sign? I also realized the group was staying in 2 lines and there was a lot of room up the right side of the road, so away I went. I took off up the right side of the road passed most of the ladies and popped behind a women once we hit the 200m. I figured that I could try and use her draft and pull around her. Well I couldn't quite get around her, but I did get a great draft and had a great finish sprint to the end. I finished 5th.
I am very pleased with my 5th place sprint finish but for some reason I feel very humbled with the race. I struggled to get up the hills and stay up towards the front with the ladies and my head was a thing of mush. I don't feel like I deserved 5th place, even though I feel I did put in a lot of work. I think I still have the mentality of I don't think I was the 5th strongest pers on in that pack so therefore I didn't deserve 5th. But I guess it really matters if you still have that sprint in you at the end. Which I did, I suppose. I still struggle with the tactical side of road racing. Perhaps it's being "smart"? I am just not sure. I am stuck in this place of I love racing my bike but I don't understand a lot of road racing, and I don't want to make any ladies mad, but in that same time by being nice and not wanting to make ladies mad, I think I do make them "mad" "frustrated"...I don't know.
I really enjoyed having teammates in the race, and all three of us worked hard and climbed somewhat well. I am dissapointed with the way I was climbing. I feel like I could have climbed better. I guess all those days when I decided a mountain bike ride could replace hill repeats, I was WRONG! I think I am going to put my mountain bike aside until May and focus on my road bike and road racing. I will do one mountian bike race in 2 weeks and that's it until May. I also have to remind myself why I race road. I enjoy the challenge, it's good for my fitness, and Cyclocross.
I feel that racing road in the Spring does a number for the fitness, racing mountain bikes does great for the technical skills. Put the two together and you have one strong Cyclocross racer. Goals. Move forward, because I have goals for my next Cyclocross season, and achieving those goals starts now.