In the week after my first race, there was a scramble of race registrations to make, but I had already registered for Black Hills, and because we raced in Richmond, I missed out on the route recon. It was probably best that I didn’t; the primary feature of the race is indeed a long nasty climb with the finish line up the top quarter of the hill — 7% climb with a couple of 10% bits.
So I signed up for two races; the Cat5 only field, and the combined Cat4/5 race, figuring the quickest way to get out of Cat5 was to double up as often as possible — pretty much the goal of the team as well.
Lets just say I thought I could do decent on the hill, I just hadn’t factored in race speed.
Again, the night before I got everything prepared, and again the morning before I stressed out making sure I had everything. Things I went looking for I had already put in the bags for the race. Next time I’m printing out inventory sheets; the whole point about preparing the night before is to not be stressed or rushed in the morning.
Though today my family was able to come watch me race; so it was also a little more hectic rolling out; at least Black Hills park was about a half-an-hour drive.
It was pretty easy getting to the park; the beltway and I270 at 7:30am are a breeze to drive and traffic was light. After a couple of turns, the roads go from suburban wide quickly to farm two-lane. The entrance to the park is almost a mile from the first parking section; we found a spot which was at the top of the hill and parked. Right after, Bob Cannon (a friend of mine from BikeArlington) pulled in with his son Jeremy (who is also a Cat5).
Charlotte’s first words were “Look! A Park!” And then “Charlotte wants to go play in the park.” (She keeps referring to herself in the third person).
We unloaded, and I wheeled down to registration (which was at the bottom of the hill) to get my numbers. The guy from registration suggested that I pin both of them on, and then just rip the Cat5 number off after the race.
I had to wait a minute while I watched the Cat4 race go off; the start line for the race is basically at the bottom of the hill, so pretty much you get time to get clipped in and then it’s right onto the climb. Once they were up and over the hill, I got my first climb up the hill — Not Fun. It’s an easy entrance to the climb, but there’s a slight left-hander then kicks up to about 8-9%, and the just after the finish line it’s 10-11%, until you make the right hand turn at the top. I knew this one was going to be just a little too long for me; that extra 100m makes all the difference.
I had a bit of a conundrum with my kit; I had worn my bib-shorts out to the park, but needed to put on legwarmers as I am not a true hardman yet. While pulling them on, the seam ripped on the leg. Since I didn’t bring but the one set of bib shorts, I made do.
Clay had arrived by this time, and he, being the harder man than I, was going without leg warmers; he even brought embrocation. These are all mysteries to me, especially since my wife forbids me to shave the guns.
After figuring I’d race with the gillet on, I pinned my numbers to it, then re-did it after my wife pointed out it was too centered on my back, and after the 4 race finished, Clay and I went out for a couple laps of warm up. The downhill section was nice and curvy, there was a bit of a mud issue on the inside line around the backside, and then there was this little kick up right before the start line, which I thought might be the place to put in a dig right before the hill — some place to try to move up. There were also a couple of places on the inside line where the road surface was pock-marked — that is it looked like someone took a cut out of the road. I made note of these on the second lap as places not to get stuck against the inside line.
After a quick pre-race bio break, I went and got in staging. I would be on the inside line coming out of the start line, one wheel behind Clay.
We got the pre-race lecture about the rules, especially the center line rule, and after a couple minutes, the whistle blew and off we went.
At the start, my primary goal was to get clipped in, make the turn, and not rub wheels/etc with anyone. This wasn’t too difficult. Then it became apparent that I was in the wrong spot. There was a rider in front of me that couldn’t get clipped in right. And because I was in the inside line, I couldn’t go around him on the left as half the field was storming up my left side. Then he tried to shift after getting clipped in… Same problem. At least the pack was still bunched up and I wasn’t losing too much in the way of position. He got his act together and I still couldn’t get around him up the hill.
Then I learned in person what I’ve heard Paul Sherwen repeat ad nauseum when calling a bike race:
You can’t win the (race) at this point, but you certainly can lose it right now.
We hit the turn at the top of the hill, and again, he had issues changing gears, and he seemed to pull out of his pedal. So I basically lost the race right at the start — I chose the wrong wheel to get behind, and I wasn’t quick about getting around him. I didn’t want to be an arsehole and cause a crash, but there probably were a couple of times I could have lit a match to go way too fast to get around him, just to brake and get rid of momentum. It would have sucked, but I would have been around the guy.
I stayed in with a group and we seemed to catch back on by the bottom of the hill, but by the top it became apparent we weren’t going to catch back on, and I basically went on a full on individual time trial for the rest of the race. Every lap though, Brian was out doing his warm up in the opposite directions, with words of encouragement the entire time.
I didn’t get lapped, but I got pulled off the route after getting the bell lap.
I was a bit bummed about being pulled off the course, but still enthused since I’d get credited with the race completion. This was odd though, because I was still ahead of the pack, and there were others that had been lapped and were not pulled off the course.
I wheeled around again after the race, Clay wasn’t sure where he placed — he figured about 12th, and we went off to find Brian, who we found down by the registration building. By this time Sean had arrived and provided some words of encouragement before we went off to stage.
I wouldn’t make the same mistake this time; there was no way I was going to be stuck behind someone on the inside line if I could could help it. I staged for the 4/5 race more towards the middle of the pack.
This time I made it up the hill and did not lose contact, but by lap 6, the hill was having an effect. I was on the back but still able to move up on lap 5, but lap 6 found my legs unable to keep on the wheel of the group. I caught back up at the base of the backside right before the left turn uphill, where there was an accordion effect… We bunched up, and then the front sped away and those of us in the back were snapped off the back. I burned the matches I had left trying to get back on around the backside, but there was no one to work with and again I was spat out the back for another 5 lap time trial. This time I took the bell lap and was able to finish on my own.
Though here’s what’s awesome about Veloworks-Spokes Etc. team… Every time I came around to the start line, just as every time I saw Brian in the Cat5 race, there was Sean offering suggestions and encouragement. I was not going to give up, and I was going to do my best to show that though I might fall off the back, that I, and the team, doesn’t give up. If I were the guy whose job it was to go off the front and get in a breakaway, this was the type of effort I would have to put in at a minimum. Also, if my job was to keep someone up front, and I blew up, I would need to keep around the race in case the A guy needed me in some sort of manner. You never know when you may be asked to work with another team member to chase the pack to get the A guy back on.
After giving the finish a hard 20 seconds sprint, I went to find Clay and Brian… Only found Clay, I think he said that he was in the front at the finish, but wasn’t sure of his placing. We went down to find the results. I was a bit dismayed — the Cat5 race had me finishing Last. Dead Freaking Last. Clay was 12th (I think) — I didn’t have my phone on me to take pictures. As we were walking away, the 4/5 results were posted. Clay in 4th! And I was 47th of 59. Which seemed odd; the 4/5 race had a wait list… And I swear I passed more than 12 people on my solo TT. I knew that there would be and will still be races where I get spat out the back, but two crappier than expected results were just a bit disheartening.
We saw Thom and Kim and I talked to Tina about her trepidation about being bunched into a race with the 1/2/3 women. I couldn’t imagine the pressure for that; the next race that went off was the Mens Masters 35+, and those guys are beasts, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be in a race with that group; I could emphasise with Tina — her race would probably be tougher than either of the two I just did.
I rolled back up the hill to find my wife and daughter… And most of the weight of my finishes melted away.
And the best thing that could happen from all this is to show to my daughter that you don’t give up, you give it your all, and you always always learn from your experiences.
Because of the weather, and the impromptu nature that my wife and daughter were able to come to the race, we hadn’t packed a proper lunch, and as tempting as the food truck was, we had a plethora of work to do back home (which entailed a couple hours in the yard, and me getting daddy time with my daughter after the two of them being gone for a couple weeks to the beach), so I wasn’t able to stick around for the women’s or the men’s 3/4 race. I will be there for future races though.
I went back and looked at my strava flyby’s… There were a great deal of riders that I passed; and the funny thing — I was gaining on everyone but the leading bunch up the hill. There was no way I was DFL on the Cat5 race; there were just too many racers that were lapped by the pack while I was never lapped, and on the Cat4 race, while I didn’t get lapped, I know I did pass more than 12 racers. I guess this is the bit where I have to remember this is Amateur racing, and while it’s a permitted and sanctioned race by the USAC, it’s still a shoestring operation relying upon volunteers.
ALWAYS THANK THE VOLUNTEERS AT THE RACE!
If those folks did not volunteer their time, the race would not happen.
- If you feel the guy in front of you is sketchy – Move NOW!
- Unless doing so in #1 is going to cause a crash or cause you to be an arsehole, get around that iffy guy.
- I’m going to need to spend some more time near the front of the group if I’m going to get on a podium.
- Which means I need to stop fearing being in traffic — I’m not sure when that will come.
- I wonder how I’d do in a time trial…
- I recover better than I think, I need to let myself get a little more into the red before leveling off.
- Doubling up is Hard.
And if you didn’t realize it from the post, I am on the most awesome TEAM. I could not have been luckier to have been asked to join — They know what you’re feeling, know what to say, and have been both inspirational and motivational. I will continue to strive to be BETTER.