Only a few of us made the trip out to east Tennessee for the state road race: Kat, Parri, Cali, Todd, and me. The field was small, too, with only 15 P/1/2/3 women starting (and 12 finishing). Our race began at 12:30, and we were to ride 2 laps of the same 21.5-mile loop. We’d checked out the course profile and new there were a couple decent climbs and some good places to attack (or to expect attacks), and we were all pretty ready to race.
My race didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped. I knew the climbs would be tough for me, but I thought I could conserve enough and stay with the group—I had high hopes of being able to help my teammates as much as possible. I made it through the first one around mile 6.5, but I did not make it with the group through the second one at mile 11. About halfway up, I hit the proverbial wall and my legs pretty much said, “That’s all you’re going to get from us at this pace up this hill.” So, sadly, I got dropped. I kept the field in my sights for the next couple miles, but through some of the twisty, hilly areas, I lost them. I still kept telling myself that they were just around the next corner or that I’d be able to see them at the top of the next rise, and this definitely motivated me to continue despite the fact that I would be by myself for the rest of the race (or so I thought).
I knew a few others had been dropped during the first climb, and I also knew that there was at least one field (the pro men) behind me that at some point would get close enough to me for me to see them. I didn’t want them to pass me, but I knew there was a possibility of that happening. Thus I had to look behind me every once in a while. Just before the end of the first lap, I noticed two riders behind me and knew they were women since they didn’t have any vehicle escorts. I debated (not long) between slowing slightly to let them catch me and continuing on at my pace hoping that I was faster than they were. I opted for the latter and continued on, fully expecting to be caught soon (almost as a rule, two are stronger than one).
Surprisingly, it was nearly 7 miles before I was caught by only Beth (I found out later that Alli had DNFed). I was so happy to see someone, to have someone to work with, and to be reminded where my strength and ability comes from (my mind does crazy things while I race, and I wasn’t happy or focused when Beth came; still, I asked, “How are you doing, Beth?” Her reply, “Thank Jesus, I am doing OK,” was a reminder I needed to focus not on my own strength or disappointment but on doing my best and pleasing Him). Beth and I worked together for the next few miles, and her strength made me stronger. Then we hit that same hill I’d been dropped on earlier, and she was climbing better than I was. She encouraged me to climb with her, and I encouraged her to continue by herself. She did, and I rode the rest alone.
At that point, my one goal was to not get caught by the pros. I had yet to see any of them or their lead vehicles, and I really wanted to not get caught. Then, at 2:22 (I do not know how far into the race this was except that it was after mile 32), I got stopped by a train. Truthfully, it was nice to be able to get off my bike, collect myself, and chill. I was planning to talk to the referees at the finish if I got caught by any other women, but since I was the last to finish (everyone who’d been behind me DNFed), I didn’t have to worry about that. But that train stop did mean that, within 1 mile, almost 1 kilometer, from the finish, I got caught and passed by the lead group of pro men.
I ended up finishing 12th of 12 finishers, disappointed that I wasn’t able to help Kat (4th), Parri (6th), and Cali (7th) but happy that I’d ridden hard and focused (for the most part). I rode smart while I was with the group, and I was ready to help then if necessary. Hopefully eventually I’ll grow some climbing legs!
Stats: 2:18:38, 43.02 miles, 18.6 mph (38.2 max), 172 HR (193 max)
Lap 1 (until I got dropped): 35:07, 11.71 mi, 20 mph, 163 HR
Lap 2 (until the lap line): 31:19, 9.82 mi, 18.8 mph, 178 HR
Lap 3 (final lap): 1:12:11, 21.48 mi, 17.9 mph, 175 HR
So the first lap of the course (half with the group) took me 1:06:26, and the second lap by myself took me 1:12:11, just under 6 minutes slower. Not that I ever want a positive split like that, but at least it wasn’t a bigger difference between laps!