Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oak Ridge Velo RR

Women 1/2/3 Crit Start

Saturday morning came much too soon, since I met Ruth last night at Backyard Burgers for dinner. She’s a friend from high school who was here for a conference, and it was nice to be able to catch up. Unfortunately we had limited time because I was racing, but thankfully we had some time. I picked up Jonell at 5:30 and we hit the road for Oak Ridge. Our road race started at 11:25, pretty much the beginning of the hot part of the day, which meant we’d be on the road in the heat of the day. It was overcast when we started, and I hoped it would stay that way. I was doing the 1/2/3 road race, which meant 3 laps of the 15-mile loop (plus a 2+ mile neutral zone) and about 48 total miles. There was a hill at mile 11 that broke up the field and that we knew we’d have to climb a few more times. I missed the break that Parri and Cali made it into but ended up in a chase group with Anna, Valerie, and Lisa C. I determined that I’d do my best to help Anna or whoever felt best get the best finish and not worry as much about my final place.

Oak Ridge Road Race

At this point, I should probably explain how the race organizers had us race. They had two fields: Cat 1/2/3 and Cat 3/4. Cat 3s get to decide which race they want to race, which gives them a little freedom. But they have to decide before the race which one they want to do. I am a Cat 3 and decided at the beginning at the season that I’d do the 1/2/3 races so that I could improve every time. So for this race, I’d previously decided to do the 48 miles rather than the 32. But all of us women started together, and we essentially had 2 different races going on at the same time, on the same road, and the only way we could tell each other apart was by our numbers: The high 700s were supposed to be Cat 3/4s, and the low 700s were supposed to be Cat 1/2/3s. (They gave at least one person the wrong number, which is why I say “supposed to”.)

Back to the road race: I didn’t want to do that climb 3 times, and I told Val I was going to DNF. This is the first of the season for me, and it never feels good. But I did not feel great, was getting overheated, and was more excited about helping my teammates finish well than my own place. I did what I could by reacting to a few attacks (by Robin and Stephanie) but still ended up finishing by myself of the last little hill. Anna ended up in 5th place, so that was good. In the 1/2/3s race, Parri finished 3rd and Cali finished 7th. I was mostly glad I didn’t finish the race, because I just didn’t feel up to it. But I was also slightly upset with myself that I didn’t finish. 1) We all had to deal with the same heat and humidity, and I was the only one who couldn’t stand it. 2) Stephanie, who I’d been with that second lap, ended up catching Cali; I think that if had been with Stephanie, I’d have caught her too and maybe helped her some. Even with those reasons, I’m glad I didn’t finish.

This was not a fun course for me, and it’s probably the first road race I didn’t really enjoy. Stats: 32.53 miles, 1:46:23, 18.3 mph (42.1 max), 172 HR (198 max), 2503’ ascent, 2202’ descent.

Between the finish of the RR and the time we had to leave for the TT (about an hour), we had just enough time to eat lunch, put on our aero bars (and change wheels if we wanted) and rest for 20 minutes. Then we headed out again. The TT was supposed to have bee 10.7 miles, but due to traffic permit restrictions, they shortened it to just under 8. I found out about 30 minutes before my start time when I was asking Cali about the course and can honestly say I wasn’t surprised or thrown off or excited or anything—basically I was just happy to know that information before starting the race.

Oak Ridge TT (it didn't feel like this—it felt a lot more rolling than mostly up and then down)

It had been raining between the RR and the TT, and I decided I wanted to keep my aluminum wheels rather than riding on Carbon wheels, so it was just me, my bike, my aero bars and aero helmet, and my mind. I had a few goals for the race, none of which was finish-time–related but all of which would push me. It took me about 2 minutes to get up to the effort level I wanted to be at, and I did a great job of staying there but continuing to push. I got caught by the eventual 2nd-place finisher in the out section and the eventual winner shortly after the turnaround. When each of them passed me, I stayed with them (legally, of course) for as long as I could. This meant I had to push harder than I had been, because obviously they’d been going faster than I if they caught me. I did the best when Beth (winner) caught me. I know her and know how she rides, and somehow that made me more comfortable and determined to stay with her. I think I rode behind her for a mile or two before she finally lost me around a bend in the road, but I was able to keep up that effort level for the remainder of the TT. I caught a couple women on the back section, and that always feels good. I finished 5th of the 8 1/2/3 women in a time of 20:55. The winner finished in 19:16.

This was a very fun course for me. I had no idea it was going to be so rolling, so that was a big surprise. But I pushed over all the hills knowing that I’d get a little relief. This might have been my best TT effort up till now. Stats: 7.77 miles, 20:55, 22.x mph (30.1 max), 182 HR (194 max), 369’ ascent (309’ descent).

Oak Ridge Crit
Women 3/4 Crit Start

The crits were on Sunday. At the start of the 3/4 race, Anna was sitting in 1st overall for the omnium. She had Shelly, Valerie, and Jonell working for her and all the rest of us cheering and praying for her. It was quite possibly one of the most exciting races for us to watch, just because we knew what the outcome had to be for us to walk away with a win and what a win would mean to some of the other women out there. Anna rode well, Shelly made it very interesting, and after Amanda took the win, Anna finished in 3rd, retaining her 1st overall position. We didn’t know how we were going to match that excitement in our race later in the afternoon!

Thankfully we had plenty of time to chill, eat some lunch, and prepare for our race. Beginning our race, Parri was sitting in 2nd place overall, and maintaining that position meant a lot to all of us. But so did a win, so Cali and I were going to do what we could to win this race. We started with 9 women and rode 50 minutes. The first 10 were quiet, and then Stephanie started a few attacks. I went with her once at least, for a couple laps, and we stayed out long enough for me to get a prime. We got caught but jumped on the back to recover, and somehow I managed to snag another prime later in the race without completely wearing myself out. When they started counting laps to go, we were all still together, and Parri and I started talking about the finish. We were also working on making our way to where Cali had been riding (near the front, but not on the front, the entire race, in the best position possible) to let her in the plan. What happened, however, wasn’t what we planned.

Oak Ridge RR

Just before we crossed the line to start the bell lap, I found myself on the front. I didn’t try to pick up the pace, didn’t attack, didn’t really do anything different than what I had been doing, but I looked back and saw that there was a little (like 2 seconds) gap between me and the field. All I though was, If they’re going to give it to me, I’ll take it! I knew Cali was at the front and if she had to slow down everyone else, she could, so I thought I’d better pick up the pace and just work to stay away for the last lap. Within about 30 seconds (this all happens so fast!), Parri bridged that little gap up to me and significantly picked up the pace. Suddenly we had a decent gap on the field. We still had 4 corners and a hill before the finish line, but at that point, even without communicating this explicitly, we both knew we had this race wrapped up. She pulled me around the first two corners and up the hill, essentially burying herself to keep us ahead of the chasing pack. As soon as I could see my line around the 3rd corner, so quite a bit before it, I came around Parri and gave everything I had to get myself around the last 2 corners and to the line into the head wind. And somehow, I stayed ahead of everyone else and won the race. Even better, Parri finished 3rd and Cali 4th, so both of them pulled out super strong sprints at the end.

I had a gu around 25 minutes in and drank a bottle of water during the race. I think this was the first time I’ve done a “systems check” in the middle of a race. We usually race 30 minutes and this was longer, so I wanted to make sur ei was paying attention to what I was doing and how I was feeling. I just kind of ran through everything at 30 minutes: Legs? OK. Eating and drinking? Yep, bottle’s half empty and gu’s gone. Energy? OK. Paying attention to what’s going on around me? Sure am. Feeling good? Excellent. OK, then, I’m good to keep going. This took me as long as it took to go from corner 3 to corner 4, and it was a good mental exercise right at that point. In fact, in some ways, I felt like I was just starting the race again, I felt that good after having run through all that.

This course was just enough of a challenge to make you forget that it wasn’t technical. It was only 4 left-hand turns with a downhill on the long front straight and an uphill on the long back straight. We finished into the wind, which meant we had a nice tailwind for the little climb on the back stretch. The better position I had up that hill, the easier it seemed, even as the race continued (I think we did this loop 20 times); the only time it was hard was when it was just Stephanie and me, but even then it didn’t seem hard until I got back with the pack and realized how much easier it was with the group. Stats: 17.85 miles, 49:03, 21.8 mph (31.2 max), 175 HR (198 max), 682’ ascent, 195’ descent.

This was a great weekend for all of us—we all got in the cars happy. Anna won the TT and the Cat 3/4 omnium. Parri did awesome in all 3 and got 2nd in the 1/2/3 omnium. Cali rode smart in the RR and crit and was 4th in the 1/2/3 omni. I won the crit and was 6th in the 1/2/3 omni. Val finished 7th in all 3 races (hello, Miss Consistent) and was 4th in the 3/4 omni. Shelly had a killer crit. Lisa C cut significant time off her TT time from last year and was solid in the RR. Jonell cut a good amount of time off her TT time and rode an excellent crit. Todd saw some of the most nervous of us overcome their fears and go do what needed to be done on the road. We all made an effort to think through the race while we were out there. I think the only thing that could’ve made it better would have been having the other 4 Team Belladium women out there with us!

No comments: