Today was my individual road race here at masters nats, the second event I’m doing just because I happen to be here for the main event (the tandem races). Given that I was overly rested and overly bored, I should have been motivated for a good, hard race.
That’s exactly what it was. I found out what I can do about as well as the strongest women in my field (climb), almost as well as the most fearless (descend—surprisingly), and what I guess I have to work on in my winter training (that’s my secret).
We rode 8 laps of a 5.5-mile circuit that had something like 850 feet of climbing per lap (do the math—that’s a lot of climbing in not too many miles). You started climbing right from the start line, dropped down a long gradual descent, went up a short little hill, down the fastest and straightest descent on the course, up a long ol’ climb, a hard right turn into a housing development that turned into lots of fun sweeping turns at pretty good speeds, then a longish painful drag, short descent, then a super fast descent (I consistently hit 45 mph on this section), and then the long 1.5-kilometer climb back up to the start/finish line.
I think we had 16 starters in our race. By lap 3 we were down to 8. It was a real girlie race, though. The first two laps we pretty much soft-pedaled up the climbs; maybe everyone was just looking at each other or just trying to save their legs. The funniest thing was these two Velo Bella riders who would sit in the group until we came to the descents. Then they’d launch off the front, get a gap, go screaming off down the hill…and then promptly stop pedaling when the road went up again. It was like clockwork watching them do this before the most technical descent on each lap (I have to find amusement in a race or the suffering gets to be too much).
On lap 4 or 5 on that long ol’ climb, a woman who is registered with one team but racing in the jersey of another put in a ferocious attack and I got popped. So did several others. Eventually I was racing for fifth place—the last podium spot—and I had the “virtual” medal for a while on the road. But the other woman with me sat on my wheel most of the last two laps. The last time up the climb to the finish, I thought I was saving something for when she would surely punch it near the top. But I didn’t save enough, or there wasn’t anything left, and I pretty much just watched her go. Clint, Dave, and Martin were all there about 300 meters from the finish, and if the volume of their words and encouragement could have made my legs go faster, I would have gone flying past her.
It was a hard race, no question there. But, for someone who doesn’t like going around in circles (even 5.5-mile ones), I thought it was a fun course. It was much better in person than it has looked on “paper” for the last four months on the race website. The climbs aren’t steep, you can rest on the gradual descent (at least the way old ladies race it), and the technical descending bit was something to look forward to each lap.
So I’m sad not to get on the podium, sad to disappoint all the people who thought I could do better, but really satisfied that I rode the very best I could in a good race. I even surprised myself in some of the corners and descents and being able to push it over the tops of the climbs.
Now it’s on to an drink-eat-sleep cycle to recover for the same course tomorrow on the tandem.