Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Kern Commencement (aka. the survival of kern and hopefully the beginning of a new phase in my racing)
OK. Stage 4. I didn't sleep as well Saturday night. I was so keyed up from the day's events, that it was hard to fall asleep. Me and Susan kept chatting, and also that was about when I realized that the cabin had wireless...so I just had to check up on all the blogs, and my email, etc.! Silly internet addictions.... Anyway, I finally did fall asleep, and once asleep that was that. The next morning, we had to wake up at 4:30 because we were so far from Race 4. We left at 5:30, car fully packed, and I wasn't feeling so bad. Thank goodness for early morning cappucinos :-).
I was feeling good about the race, but a little worried. One of the problems with being new to bike racing and cycling in general is that I don't quite trust my endurance. That nagging negative voice in the back of my head kept remembering me getting dropped in the first (and so much easier it doesnt compare) stage race I did a month ago. Granted, I don't know why that little voice doesn't also remember that I got dropped because I dropped my chain twice and couldnt shift into my big chain ring...but it doesn't. It blames it all on my endurance...and gets me questioning things. This is where having a good teammate comes in. Susan (who also happens to be a therapist...) gets on me and banishes all negative self-talk. She tells me how strong I am, how she is going to blow herself up to help me do well, how I am peaking, how I should just not worry about it...and tells me that I am the one who convinced her to go to this race with the premise that "no matter what, we would have fun, and our main goal would be working as a team and finishing". So since that was my goal...I decided I better work on it!
WE get to the race, and I all of a sudden feel ok! I chat with some people, and then mee-wee-un comes over and strategizes with me about a plan. We have a plan! All of a sudden my race has meaning. I have to help someone else! I have to hang in there because someone else's result depends on me! All the nerves immediately vanished and I felt a purpose. It wasn't about me...and that made it okay to want to fight hard.
The race starts on schedule, and all went flawlessly except that I lost my gloves. I think they lost themselves, because in the earlier RR, my fingers on my left hand had fallen asleep because the pad in them is failing... :-) Turned out to be better to not have them. I found them riht after the race...of course!
We start climbing, and wow, my legs feel good! I mean, not fresh, but good! I was surprised about this. I'm spinning along happily and feeling like maybe I can do this! We get done with the first climb, and I enjoy the first descent. This is gonna be fun! Then we climb some more, and then comes a BIG descent ,about half way through the first 24 mile lap. I had just pulled at the front, and was now sitting in the back, when we round a turn and see the beautiful descent. Oh well, I think to myself, it will be ok, I'll be ok not taking this one at my normal breakneck speed...and follow. But around the turn, I see the good descenders up front start to get a big gap. ACK! My little brain is going, damn, I'm missing the break, I've gotta go! I pass one slow girl, and then another, and then I see my teammate. She is a good descender, and is not going to miss an apex..but i've GOTTA get by her! I yell to her to let me in, and she beautifully makes a hole and I scoot through, gaining time as I slide by and make up more time. I get by 2 other people and then I chase. Thank goodness for that 11 gear. I chased, and had to chase a little hard on the rollers that followed, but soon caught the break. It was a good thing I did, because that was teh key break that split the race. I ride up to mee-wee-uhn and tell her I'm back and she seems happy to see me. We're back in business...whew! She gave me her wheel so I could recover from my chase effort, and I settled back in and the legs were feeling good again.
We had some nice team-work around the backside...it was all good. We even got a rotating paceline going and going quite well! We passed some stragglers from the race in front of us, and we were having fun! Fun in a bike race...what a concept. This group of women was outstanding....funny, smart, silly, I smile just thinking about it. We continue working together quite well, through the finish line climb, and then start lap 2. Now things are stil going along happily...by now I know most of the people in our break by name, and we're doing well. Right on the first climb of the second lap, mee-wee-uhn gets her chain all tangled up in the derailleur! Now, I can certainly feel her pain here, and I didn't want the girls in 2nd and 3rd in the GC to attack her here (the 2nd and 3rd were on the same team), so I start telling stories about my dropped chains and how much it sucks. That seems to work..I stayed in the pack...tried to slow it a little, and other girls started talking about their stories, too. It worked..and soon she was back! Everyone was nice in this situation...and i was happy...
The second time down the big descent was truly awesome. It has to be one of my top moments on the bike...i was smiling cause I couldn't help it! I was back int he pack, but this is a pack of good descenders. We all started down, beautiful apexes...for a few turns I was happy to just marvel at the sight--what a great group of 4s (granted most are near upgrade)! Then I let loose...I have that great 11 cog...which allows me to get some serious momentum...and down I went. I caught up to everyone, and in my tuck, I did glance at my spedometer just in tiem to see it click from 49.9-50! Wow!!!! I don't even think I had to climb up the next hill! We were all excited about that afterwards.
The descent over, the rollers began again, and we again formed our paceline. One girl was struggling, and we knew she wouldnt sprint for the win, so we let her sit on while we shared the load. WE worked the backside quite well, but when the climbing started again, we had to stop wtih the pacelining. By this time, my legs were saying "ummmmm. we' have worked pretty hard for you these past couple days...when is this going to end," and I was not so happy. I kept drinking, and eating (I ate 3 gu's which is a record for me, since I'm not a good race eater...stil working on that), and hoping they'd hang in there. We all stuck together until about 2 miles to go, when a little gap formed between me and the three leaders. Dammmm. I tried, but the old heart rate would just not go above 179 (my max is 201). Legs burning at this point, but I tried and tried. Our plan was not going to work! I closed the gap mostly, but I got gapped again on the last climb to teh finish.
I saw them finish, and still wanted to minimize my time, even though I knew I was getting 4th. I make it a point to not look back...and I didn't want anyone to catch me (there was no one there...), so I wanted to sprint in. I downshifted, got out of the saddle, and went, but there were two racers from the 3's (who had an extra lap) right there in teh lane, spinning slowly! I made a big time wrong decision here...and went wide around them. I was so tired i wasn't thinking about the centerline. ACK. I'm such an idiot. I cross the finish line at the same time as I realize I crossed the centerline too. YIKES. I thought I would get disqualified, and after all that work! I crossed the line and had a complete meltdown. I am really not proud of it...I don't know WHY I am so hard on myself, but I am. Denise and Angie (my friends, who was there to support the Kalyra women) were there, and she tried to talk me out of my obnoxious crying state. Then mee-wee-uhn came over too, and this was sort of our exchange as i remember it:
Her: Sorry the plan didn't work
Me: I just couldn't hang on.. so sorry. You did awesome (she had won).
Me; I'm such an idiot
Her: No you're not!
Me: Yes I am
Her: No you're not...let me hold your bike (as I'm about to fall over)
Her: You are not an idiot...you were RACING your bike! You were RACING. Everyone makes these errors.
Me: Im an idiot.
Her: It is JUST A BIKE RACE. It was AWESOME!
Me: I'm glad you won...you won everything! Thats totally awesome! Way to go!
Her: It was a fun bike race
Me: It really was!
The official comes over and says that I will probably just get a stern warning because I wasn't trying to advance my position, and I didn't pass anyone from my own race in my little craziness, but that I should be careful about my finishing sprints in future races...
Her: Let's spin out.
Me: Ok, lets!
Me; Congratulations again, you were awesome
Her: Sorry the plan didn't work
Me; it was my fault...the old legs just didn't have it in them on that final climb!
(I'll leave it to the readers to figure out what our plan really was...)
Anyway, I finished 4th, and 4th in the GC! I went from 8th after the TT, to 4th after Stage 4. I was super pleased with myself, and my teammates sacrifice for me. She finished 9th in the GC. And I have a new found respect for how great it is to ride with team members, even when they are from other teams, and you just are working for a common goal. It was so awesome...all 4 of us top finishers were friends by the end, and looking forward to racing again together. We were happy for each others successes, and that was just special.
So there you have it. My Kern. As the photos start appearing on the web, I"ll add them to these posts...but for now, you'll just have to use your imaginations... I know I will never forget any of it!
Congrats to all: Marian, Julie, Sarah, you were awesome. Susan, you were a great teammate-saved my race! Liz, it was fun to work with and ride with you.
With dreams of future bike races...