Jeff and I decided to make a road trip down to Alabama to participate in the Alabama State RR Championship on August 20th. We brought the kids and promised them a day full of fun! Since our races were separated by a big block of time, we knew it was doable.
The course was about 5.4 miles per lap and presented more like a circuit race. Jeff has done this type before, but I had not and was looking forward to more experience in road racing. The course profile was modest as far as climbing goes. I did not have any other Taco Mamacitas from Chattanooga with me, and so I was alone in the lineup. Jeff lined up in the morning and had a pretty decent day though not his best.
The clouds started rolling in at around an hour before I was to start, but I still made my way down the 2 mile or so ride to the start where we were subsequently told to ride back to registration due to a big weather cell coming in. I typically find many reasons to avoid road riding and rain is high on the list along with a lot of cars, possible thunderstorm, and being alone.
I was able to sit down at registration and hang out with some locals talking about riding and triathlon. We watched the rain pass, and I felt just as nervous as I did internally as I did down at the start line.
Soon it was time to head on back to the start line, and I gladly did so ready to get the show on the road. We had a long drive back to Chattanooga, and this was already delaying me a bit. The USA Cycling official asked us if it was ok if we only did five laps rather than six and everyone nodded. It started raining again much to my dismay. One of Jeff’s teammates had told me earlier, “Pray for rain. You will do well in rain.” He obviously didn’t know I had never ridden my road bike in the rain before. I have carbon wheels and hubby had already warned me that braking in the rain with my wheels would be tough.
The race started, and I immediately found myself in the back of the small field of 8, I believe. We had a cat 3 with us as well who was teammates with another. I was the only out-of-state rider as well. Should I announce that? Do I let them know?
The rain poured and we started the first lap. We were at a pretty fast pace right at the start, and there was an attempt by the two teammates with Johnson & Hayes making a break at the climb. It wasn’t successful and we continued in the rain.
I learned what a rooster tail was. It was miserable. I was definitely holding back saying over and over mentally, “Train hard; race lazy. Train hard; race lazy” I was sucking wheel and holding back and responding to attempted breaks from the small field, but we continued to stay together. We did drop one rider I believe, but during the 3rd or 4th lap, a rider told me that they were trying to wear us down. In my usual “I am new to road racing” fashion, I let her know I wasn’t from Alabama. She looked disappointed? Maybe she wanted to work with me? I did not know the usual protocol on working with someone on the road, and well, I guess my newbie-ness showed when I opened my mouth. Perhaps my riding did not show it, which is good.
During the last lap, I once again made a fatal error in judgment. I jumped out with 1.3 of a mile to go and completely blew up with everyone passing me at the final ascent to the finish line. I finished 5th out 7 in a sprint, but I can tell you there was no sprinting as far as I’m concerned. I had maxed out before the turn. Save it for the end, Beth. Save it for the end. Like Krabbe’ says in his book, The Rider:
Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast.
It’s too early. Always attack as late as you can, but before the others do.
Well, yes. I learned that. And I learned how to brake in the rain.