Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Racing Season Has Begun - Tour of St Louis

The 2014 Racing Season has "officially" started as of Saturday 3/22 with the Tour of St. Louis.  I participated in the Centaur TT and Forest Park Crit Women's 3/4 races.

It's funny how perspective on the race, how I did, how I felt and what I could accomplish varies over the minutes, hours and days after the race is over. Here's my account, as of today....

While I knew I was getting up at the crack of dawn to do the Centaur TT, it didn't really sink in that I was "racing" until about 1 minute in to the TT. I started the morning by first focusing on getting my coffee into my body, my stuff in the car, my car to the parking lot at the start and finally my bike in the trainer. I know that I NEED a good warm up if I expect my body to respect me later. Yet somehow I got about 15 minutes of warm up.

I rolled around the parking lot with Big Ring and then headed over to the start line. Rock Solid Ron was there to hold us and that always makes me rest easier! I didn't know a few of the ladies we were lined up with and didn't know what to expect in terms of them providing "rabbit" incentive. I did know that with Big Ring starting 2 minutes behind me, I would be lucky to hold her off until the turn around.
For the first time in several years of doing the Centaur TT, I didn't start off too fast. I eased into a reasonable, yet high pace, cadence and watched my heart rate inch upward, rather than skyrocket. I was comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. At 1/4 of the way in, I realized the pace I was consistently seeing was lower than what I wanted to see. I'd push and bring up my speed, only to see that same low speed a few minutes later. I did manage to catch and pass my 1 minute lady, although it felt a little bitter sweet as I no longer had the hope of passing her to spur me on.

The turn around never seems to come soon enough. I started seeing the earlier ladies on their return and gave a few cheers where I could. I noted where I encountered Jen to do a pace check. I knew the turn around would be soon. What I did not anticipate was the awkward placement of a police car in the path of where I would have liked to turn. I was able to adjust quickly but I slowed more than I wanted. I soon saw Kate approaching the turn and knew it'd be seconds before she passed me. I also noted I was right at 2 minutes behind Jen.

I was able to pass a couple of other ladies on the return and was quickly passed by Kate. We had a pretty wicked headwind on the otherwise wonderful return route. Again, I noticed "that" number returning to my speed and tired to bring it up, but now I was fighting wind and fatigue. I pushed as much as I could at the end, passing another lady with about 1/2 a mile to go. By the time I finished, I could no longer clear the goop from my cold out of my lungs and I was wheezing significantly. I managed to finish with 35:00. Slower than last year's time by a lot but somehow good enough for 8th out of 15 or so.

Getting to the car, packed up and to the Crit was a race of it's own right. I had about 30 minutes to get it all done and had to fit a 5 minute wait for the porta-potty. One good thing about racing the crit so early-Good parking! I pulled right up to the curb outside of the last turn and set up my trainer on the sidewalk. After a quick costume change (into WARM and DRY everything), I hopped on the trainer to warm up. Jen soon joined me and thankfully encouraged me to get those few intervals in to prime the otherwise heavy legs for the work ahead. Focusing my energy on my warm up also seemed to help keep my nerves at bay. It's amazing what a good warm up can do.

With 10 minutes to our start time, Jen, Alice and I headed over to the start. We were able to take a lap of the course and quickly surmised that staying out of the wind would be goal #1.

I lined up behind Alice. I counted 21 ladies at the line (although there were 23 in the results!) Not a bad turn out! Cristel was back after taking some time away from crit races (4 years!) and this was my first time racing with Adrienne since her return to racing. There were many other strong ladies lined up, including Tara Flaig. Jen commented she'd need to stay near the front and I silently decided I should stay close to her and/or Alice.

With the start, it seemed 1/2 the field struggled to get into their pedals and I lost LOTS of places by being behind them. By the 2nd turn, when 3/4 of the field braked hard, I knew I needed to move up right away. It took another lap to get into a good spot but I knew once I was on Alice's wheel, it would be good.

Most of the race was uneventful. There were a few attacks and lots of trying to stay in a draft, out of the wind. I did some work pulling, or chasing an attack. Only once, I let an attack go without jumping, as I was tired from having pulled off from taking a pull. I quickly realized the work it took to hang on was greater than if I had just gone after that attack. I found that heart rate where things start to go fuzzy and knew I'd need to back off and rest if I wanted anything left to finish. I tucked in, rested and was ready to go by the next lap. I tried to stay out of the wind, knowing from bad positioning on one particular lap that it zapped my energy more than I could afford.

With 6 to go, Tara was suddenly getting a gap. I didn't see or hear her attack until she was away. My position wasn't too good -1/2 way back in the field (which had dwindled to about 14) and realized too late that no one was going after her. I moved to the front but didn't have the energy to try to jump and really just wanted to stay where the people were! We slowed considerably on the next several laps, obviously resting, preparing for the sprint finish. Just before the Chicane, Adrienne attacked and I found myself in a bad position. As I was catching on, two things happened. First, Adrienne sat up just before the final turn and the field swelled around her. For a second, it was like no one knew what to do. (I think we were also lapping a couple of other ladies at the time too, and that added to the confusion). Secondly, I found when I pushed hard on the pedals, the pretty little teardrop muscle over my knee (the one I would love to build up more!) decided it was DONE for the day and gave me a good squeeze in response. I relaxed as best I could and tried again. By this point, the sprint had started and when I pushed down again that little muscle said "No Ma'am!" My race was done. I watched those ladies sprint away from me with Jen taking 2nd place and Alice in 8th. I rolled in easy for 12th, just off the back of the first chase group.

Overall, I was pleased with my race. I felt good and met most of my goals. I learned things about my heart rate and recovery and listened to my body when I needed to. My biggest disappointment and greatest opportunity for growth surrounds my fueling and hydration. I believe I would not have experienced that cramping had I been able to eat something of substance in the hours before that race. I managed to eat only 1 bite of a granola/oatmeal bar before the TT, and about 2/3 of the bar on the way to the Crit. Instead of Gu or gels, I can stomach some fruit leather or fruit snacks. I only drank about 2/3 of a bottle of water.

My result reflected my poor fueling choices and doesn't really show what I accomplished. For the first race of the season, it's a good start and hopefully an indicate of more good opportunities ahead.

This is the only picture I've seen of me at this race so far. It was taken by Cristel's friend Marci. That's me on the left with the white shoe covers!

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