Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fort Hood State Road Race (Age Based)

Afternoon races are tricky. All the women race together just after 1:00 PM but are scored separately according to different age brackets. This year I moved up to the 35+ group, am I really getting this old!? Hard to believe. Kim is in the age group above me and Kate decided mountain biking was a better Sunday choice (such a wise lady).  My legs felt like lead weights after yesterday's two laps into hell, but I felt fortunate enough that we were only being "forced" to comple one single lap of monsterous hills.

As we lined up to start the race I noticed the top three girls from the day before were not attending. Perhaps the lack of payout turned them away, as the age based championships are not as prestigious as the skill based championship. With or without them the course would be challenging enough. I only recognize a handful of the ladies lined up so I knew it could be tricky keeping track of who was in which race.

The start was tame and we kept a meager pace the first parts of the loop. It became obvious quickly that only a select few were willing to work while there others were content at the back coasting along at not even a fat burning pace. Shortly after the second of the two big climbs we began some friendly attacking to see if we could shake off the weaker girls. Unfortunately everyone was fit enough to hang on so it would come down to a field sprint. We turned down the final stretch and an ATC firey red headed beauty took off. I jumped on her wheel because I know she is super strong and won the cat 3 skill race. She didn't commit and sat up. I fidgeted a little, not wanting to make the same mistake I made yesterday, and hit my brakes also. Then she decided to try again and I remained on her wheel. Again, she hesitated and I lost my patience. ZOOM! Time to goooooo, another freakin ~1k-ish sprint drag race. I saw a shadow on my wheel, I figured it was Solymar again since she loved my wheel. I  could not let her around today. Phew! I was able to hold them off. I crossd the finish line and no one had come around. So glad it was only one lap! Kim snagged her age group win, GOLD!!! Such a great weekend for RIVER CITY MARKET RACING! David did spectacular in his race and Celina clinched the texas cup win! Super power couple!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fort Hood State Road Race (Skill Based)

Try to find the silver lining when you do not find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Competitors get nervous before a race, it is normal. Greg Lemond use to get so nervous before an event that he would vomit. Mostly I just end up with repeat visits to the restroom but today it was worse. I was in tears, curled up on the bed, wondering why I do this to myself. Because I LOVE it! I love racing, I love riding, I love competing. I just get pre race jitters, and this was a State Championship road race with 3500 feet of climbing (I am not one of those skinny climbing mountain goats). There is a big payout and some very fast ladies preregistered.
Fort Hood military base. Got to see all kinds of cool stuff...
The night before I had received an email from a veteran racer in San Antonio, whom I have a great deal of respect for, that gave me something to think about. He suggested that I take off from the gun and hope the girls will stare at me dumbfounded and not chase until it was too late. Since I am a good solo rider and not as great on climbs or flusters of bursty attacks I thought it just might work. A Gamble, a roll of the dice. I discuss this plan with Kim and Kate. We decide we have nothing to loose.

Getting ready

At the start line it is hot and all the big players are present- except for Kat Hunter who was sitting out because she had been sick all week. We were lucky to snag Doug and Beau to feed us halfway through. I didn't enjoy racing with an extra water bottle in my jersey pocket at HHH, it rubbed my spine raw.  Today's race is 66 miles, a two lap race. As soon as the official blew the whistle I took off. Lauren was immediately on my wheel. Mandy toted the herd up to us about a mile into the race. WE were ALL together. The gamble did not work. Crap. Plan B: conserve as many "matches" as possible. Do not put my nose in the wind. Follow Lauren. We shortly arrive at the first monster hill where a small group of 6-ish grabs a gap. The downhill is forgiving and we all regroup. Phew.  We stay together until the next significant hill where I am sitting on Lauren's wheel and helplessly watch a small gap grow between her back wheel and my front wheel. It grows from 1 inch to 7. Then a foot, then a bike length. I turn myself inside out but cannot do much as I watch a small group of 4 crest the hill, just out of reach. Lauren, Mandy, Meredith, and Sammie. They remained in sight for some time while 5 of us organized a chase group. Kate and I were both there. The moto official would give us time checks every once and a while, and it was continually growing. Half way through the lead group was at 4 minutes ahead but Sammie had fallen off. The boys successfully got Kate, Sarah, and me fed but failed to collect our discharged water bottles. Kate would not be amused with this because her water bottles must come in a set of two. This meant she would have an orphan camel bak bottle if her discharged bottle was not found and collected. Tragedy averted though, as I was able to locate the lost bottle on Sunday morning. :-)

My feet were on fire! We still have another lap?!?! This is bullshit. I must suck it up because all I have to do now is finish to collect my freakin $50 payout. We all seem to be in somewhat the same boat so we trudge on. After the first big hill on lap two we see Sammie and collect her. So 3 remain up the road, their gap still growing, and we now have 6 in the chase group (2 RCM, 2 ATC, 2 randoms). There are no attacks until the last mile. Typical race slows and we look at each other, waiting for someone else to lead out. Kate attacks with Solymar practically licking her back wheel. The speed is up  and as soon as we catch those two I go and Solymar quickly attaches herself to me with Sammie also in tow. We have a gap on the other three and I know I cannot hold it to the line (we are still just under 1k),  I also don't want to regroup, so I try to shake them off and am unsuccessful. They come around me and I am a sitting duck. Sammie takes the sprint for 4th and I get 6th. Kate is right behind me for 7th. Kim is there at the finish line with a big smile, looking all cute. She worked plan A with us at the beginning and called it at one lap to have a little for the Age RR Sunday.

Kate and I collected some $$ and a little satisfaction for tackling a hard course. Kim was circling around in the parking lot on her bike in her favorite green wedges. The parking lot was soft dirt, and her front wheel turned causing her to have to catch herself so she wouldn't hit the deck. In doing this, her foot slid off the pedal and the teeth on her big ring carved up her heel! OUCH!!!! YCMTSU! I love you Kim!
"…but these are my favorite…"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pedal Rio Medina Gravel Grinder

I absolutely love gravel grinders: long, grueling, death-march rides where shear bull strength and determination outweigh strategy. The longer the course the better. I classify myself as a diesel, with plenty of fat reserves to maintain energy for extended periods of time.

Over a year ago I traveled to Kansas to race in the Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel grinder and this year I had fun with my team during the Castell Grinder. I was happy to hear that a good friend of mine was putting together a benefit Gravel Grinder ride for a boy scout troop less than an hour drive from my house! Well the flyer said "ride" but we all know when there is a start/finish line and someone says "Go!" - it is a RACE!

I made sure to trade shifts at work so I was able to experience this torture on a mix of dirt and pavement. Jeff and I arrived in Rio Medina less than an hour before start time and I nervously loaded up the course on my Garmin. I was trying to hide my limp from a stair climbing workout that trashed my calves a few days before. There were some fast people here! I mean seriously FAST! And I was the only girl doing the full 67 miles. Gulp. I ride over to Andy and make small talk where he informs me that his secret weapon is a frozen coconut water that he will consume halfway through the ride once it has melted. "This isn't my first rodeo", he tells me. I quickly reassess my hydration situation once I see he is also wearing a camel bak… I have three water bottles (two on my bike and one in my jersey pocket). There will be 2 water stops along the course but both require you to get off your bike which will cost time. I don't plan on stopping.

Ready, set , GO! Doug and Juan assume the pulling roles for the first few miles until we hit the first gravel section. I am uncomfortable but know (hope?) I will settle in. My calves are on fire. At mile four we come across the first cattle guard and I ride directly over a cactus. Thankfully my tires are stone so I don't go flat, but it was enough my mess with me mentally. I see JT come up beside me and hear the unmistakable sound of a flat.  Someone in the pack says "one down". Warren is riding next to me and we both know the monster hill is coming up. This is the hill that I predicted would split the pack. There it was, at mile 10. As soon as the hill came into sight a fluster of activity happened and the pace increased. I split my gut to try and keep up but did not make the selection as the strongest left us behind.  My eyes were crossed but I guess there were about 7 up the road at this point. I resolved to chase and just hope the lead group would attrition. My favorite riding buddies, Nathan and Doug, and myself found each other and started working to make it up to the leaders who remained in sight. We quickly saw one of the leaders standing roadside with a flat. 6 left. After a few miles we were joined by a group of three that had been chasing us (Jack, John, and David). We started a nice rotation but Jack must have done too much work bridging and he was gone. Then we lost John to a mechanical. David would stay with us.
Soon we saw Warren standing on the side of the road, with a flat. 5 left to catch! The lead group was loosing horsepower! And we could still see them! The first water stop came quick and we sailed past it. No time to loose. It was starting to hurt but we kept pushing. I started to take longer pulls and hoped it wouldn't cost me too much. We saw someone else on the side with a mechanical…WILL BLACK! It's on now! With new energy I kept motoring and didn't realize our group got smaller. Doug was gone. Maybe he stopped to help Will. Nathan, David and I got to the the last water stop and there was talk about stopping. We could not afford to stop - I saw someone from the lead group that had fallen off. It was Tim. We rode up beside him and he informed us there were just 3 left (Andy, Rob, and Jeff). I could see them! We had the 6 mile rolling climb left and then another 10-ish in a headwind. Once on the climb I noticed Andy was not doing well and had fallen off. At this time I did not know he had dropped his prized coconut water on the route. After passing him I noticed that I was alone. Then I saw Rob. He looked back and saw me coming, and I just settled in to a pace that I could sustain. Rob stayed with me and we finished the climb together. He told me only Jeff was up the road and I strained to see him- a tiny little spec up the road. He was too far for me to catch and unless he cracked, there was no way I could get to him. So now I focused on not getting caught because I knew somewhere behind me were stronger riders (Will, Warren, JT…) that would be chasing after they fixed their flats.

Jeff finished first, alone, off the front. Man he's riding strong. I came in a minute or two behind him with Rob. I was so ready for a nap but was so happy. We averaged over 20 miles per hour! The boy scouts were there grilling hamburgers and handing out cokes. Sanaa did the shorter grinder and was the first to finish that!