31 July 2015

Having never done a road race before, I showed up way too early (on purpose). My start time was set for 9:50 AM, and I probably left the house around 6:00. I got there so early, in fact, that had they not had a separate table for the Pro/1/2 men to register at, I would have been seriously in the way. Early was good though. It gave me a chance to wander around some, and see how those who were more experienced than me get ready. I got my numbers pinned on to my jersey, and went to watch the Pro/1/2 men's start.

After that, I kitted up, and tried to get warmed up. Probably should have done that sooner, as it seemed like no sooner had I started working my way around the lot, then they called up the men's cat 5 group. Not sure a better warmup would have helped too much though. I was obviously nervous as hell, my heart rate was up over 125 just standing still, waiting for our start. We got our last minute instructions from the race director, and our five minute warning. Then some poor guy had an impromptu flat, without even moving. Which seemed to bring out everyone's nerves. His misfotune was met with a mixture of groans, and calls of "guess you get to find out just how fast you can fix a flat". I'm honestly not sure if he got any help or not, I couldn't even see where in the pack he was, I had self selected so far back in the pack.

Then the start wistle blew. And damn were these guys fast. I expected it to be fast but not 19-22 right out of the gate fast. I tried my damnedist to hold on to the back of the pack, but only lasted about two miles. Then I got popped off the back like you used to pop the head off a dandilion as a kid. It's actually that dramatic, and you can see it in the Strava flyby I link at the end.

Then there were the first two hills. I expected them to be tough, but not brutal. I'm sure pushing it so far into the red to try and stay with the pack didn't help, but, damn. The Pro/1/2/3 women, who were slated to start 10 minutes after the Men 5 started passing me at just about the top of the second steep hill. It was actually a little amusing. The lead car for the women came up along side me, and I asked the girl in the passenger seat if I was about to get passed. Her only response was to laugh a little as they pulled away. Still, I was happy to have at least stayed ahead of them until I made it most of the way up the second major climb.

After those, we (look at me, sounding like I was still riding with someone) got a bit of a reprise. But not too much. A bit of a downhill, then started the 5.2 mile climb. It was more or less what I expected, just a little easier for the first half mile or so, and a few suprise steep spots. I supose the steep section shouldn't have been that big of a suprise. With several sections hovering around 2%, and a 4% or so average over 5+ miles, the slightly steeper average had to come from somewhere. Also, the big climb was where just about everyone else passed me. I say "almost everyone else" because the Pro/1/2 men didn't start lapping me until around mile 17. And their field got split up enough on their second 39.5 mile lap that they kept passing me, off and on, for most of the rest of the race.

And this brings me to the less fun part of the race. I almost abandoned twice. Once right before the pros passed me, and once about half way through. It started to drizzle some part way up the long climb, and that combined with the 1000 or so feet of climbing so far had me ready to quit. Thankfully the race volunteer near where I stopped mentioned that once I got over that ridge I could just make out through the rain, the climbing let up a bit. The second time I almost quit was after the rain really got going. I was soaked, to the point that my shoes were like lakes, and even the nice flat stretch that opened up wasn't enough to convince me I could keep going. Thankfully, an entire pack of Skratch Labs fruit drops were.

And really, the rain probably did me more good than harm. If it had been 95 and humid, I don't know how it would have gone, but it would have been a whole different kind of suffering. So at least the rain helped keep things cool. The only real downside was that I was hoping to use my weight to my advantage, and make up at least SOME time on the downhills. Unfortunately, my confidence descending goes right out the window once the roads are wet.

So, the big question, will I do more road racing? If you had asked me right after the race, I would have laughed at you. But once I had time to decompress, and drink an ice cold Coke, I was hooked. So while I won't be doing any more road races this year, I plan on hitting at least this one, and maybe one or two more, next year. That doesn't mean I'm done with racing for this year, though. I've had a burning desire to try Cyclocross since I went to watch the Mansfield Hollow race with my oldest last year. So I plan on doing at least one or two of those this Fall.