I took a little trip to Augusta, GA on Wednesday to do some TT in the 40-44-year-olds in the USA Cycling Master’s Road National Championships. I signed up without knowing it was all categories together divided by age. Money spent and then thought, “Oh crap. I am a cat 4. I am going to get crushed.” I imagined former pros and cat 1-2 women in their perfect aero time-trialing position and matching TT bikes/kits/helmets. And the helmets. I saw in my head those really aero helmets (that I don’t own – I have a Giro Air Attack which is apparently “ok” for TTs but probably could save time with a more aero helmet. I do stare down periodically at my Garmin so it may not benefit me at all at this point until I can go more by feel. (When does that ever happen?)
The trip in the car alone was long. Atlanta traffic is unreal. I even thought I timed it right, but no… apparently, every day in Atlanta at all hours resembles the whole city escaping a zombie apocalypse and Walking Dead probably had no problems filming the traffic jams there at all.
I arrived and hooked up immediately with my friend Arden, yay! I was also going to be racing Arden, no! When I ride with her, I immediately am ready to suffer as my zone 4 is her zone 2. I need to do more of that. We checked in and went to check out the course together. Thankful for that because I do hate riding the roads alone, and I forgot Jeff’s Garmin radar thing that makes me feel a little better warning of a vehicle approaching. I know it wouldn’t keep a car from hitting me, but at least I know it’s coming right?
I probably went too hard riding the course. I am still unsure of correlating my heart rate to power because heart rate changes so much for me. I was nervous and excited and I’m sure my heart rate showed that on the ride. Also, the power was more in a z3-ish level maybe? I really liked the rolling hills. Reminded me of home. I also stopped to save a turtle on the ride: win-win!
Ran by Publix and made the first of some mistakes… drank some kombucha. I didn’t notice how much caffeine was in it. It was cherry and really good. But, I did not sleep much. In fact, the air conditioning was on 60 and I was still burning up. I do not want to entertain any thought of menopause, so let us not even go there, you hear me? I slept a grand total of 5 hours. Considering the nights prior I slept 5 hours 30 mins and 6 hours, I was tired. Still am today. I can’t seem to sleep before an event. Butterflies, delusions of grandeur, etc…
I had everything written out on what to do. Get up at 7 am. Check. I was up at 5:30am so go figure. Be at the race site by like 9am. My time to race was 11:14:00 and I was not going to be later than 11:04 to line up. Lessons learned from another time trial. I noticed when loading my bike that the front tire was low. In fact, it was 40 PSI. Oh heck no. Leave it and risk losing pressure. No. I can change this tire.
All rational thoughts went to the wind as they can tend to do in moments of mini-crisis. I found a tube that Jeff had bought in Alabama last week and decided to change it myself. I am, after all, a very capable strong and independent female who does not need help and can do it all myself, thank-you-very-much. It took awhile, but I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t pinch flat. Checked it twice both sides all the way around and could see the blue Reynolds strip clear as day. Aired up with a pump and suddenly a dreaded pop.
No. I felt my composure start to slip. Lots of self-talk.
You have another tube. Calm down.
Repeat. Took even longer. Finger bleeding now because I cannot do this without injuring my fingers at this point. Rechecked and it was ready to go.
Air up with a pump. You guess it. Pop! It blew again.
I was now 3 tubes down with the one that was low (assuming small leak) and out of options. At this point, it was 9:30. I had wasted a lot of time in the parking lot at the hotel. I found a random person in the parking lot thinking, “I do need help, after all, thank-you-very-much” and begged with money for a tube. He had a tube, and he told me to go to the race site and let Shimano do it. I guess now I understand what they do at races. I learn by needing things and experiencing mistakes more than any other way. I read everything published about the race, but I must miss minute details that don’t seem to apply at the moment. My friend also at the race site said the same. Use Shimano at the start line. Keep in mind I have changed tubes and tires many times. Bad luck? Fluke? Have forgotten how to do it right?
So, off I go to the race site with a flatted front tire wondering if I’d even get to race. I had a tube though!
I parked too far away really, but wanted to just get my run on and ran down to the start with the front tire and my tube and extra tire just in case. They fixed me up. The only guess they had was maybe using the tire levers to put the tire back on was doing something but no other explanation. I have one. MY LUCK. Apparently, I must experience all bike related tomfoolery before a race and just tried to calm down the entire time. I was deep breathing and just watching the clock thinking that the run to the Shimano tent counted for some warm-up.
I got back to the car and got my warm-up going. I abbreviated a few things but hit the efforts and was sweating like Jeff usually does – nerves, parking in the sun, and no wind = copious sweat and in a skin suit was weird. I noticed the couple that had given me the tube was parked in front of me, too. I thanked them again and said I was going to pay them after the race and off I went.
I had borrowed an aero bottle from my coach and had maybe less than a half left in it. I had everything ready and was there and ready to go. The USA Cycling official that scanned in my bike asked me how I was doing and I said great rather enthusiastically to which he replied, “Do you know what you are about to be doing?” I told him it couldn’t be any more stressful than the morning I had already had. I had already mentally suffered beyond any physical 45-47 minute effort. I can suffer. I had a baby without any medications so whatever. (I will add that is a lot different because with a bike the governor in the brain can shut it down. The baby is coming out no matter what and that’s why you go beyond pain).
And the race was off. I could see my rabbit ahead of me. 30 seconds ahead. I knew Arden was 60 seconds behind me. Goal: Arden wouldn’t pass. I knew if she did I would be mentally deflated. Immediately I noticed that my effort was too hard at the start (normal) and held back some across the dam. I had the 18 miles divided in my head into 4.5-mile segments:
Q1: 4:5 miles – dam, some rollers, don’t go too hard. I noticed a sort of cross headwind. I thought well I should be flying coming back then.
Q2: 4.5 miles – includes the “climb” biggest one on the course which was at mile 5 or so and average 2% grade for about 0.5 miles. Keep it steady. Save for the ride back. I passed the lady in front of me somewhere here.
Q3: 4.5 miles – so I read this is the hardest one, so I kept thinking, you have this. It’s not the hardest one for you! Not sure it worked so much. To have a cross tailwind, I would have never known it. This leg of the race was hard. My power should have been higher, but every time I’d glance down at my 10 sec power average it was lower than I had planned, but my heart rate was pegged out. At mile 14 or so, the first place winner past me, and it was amazing watching her fly by me making it look so easy. I tried hard to pace to go harder to keep her within reach but to no avail. I was locked into this particular effort and there was nothing extra to give. One quote from a song popped in my head “My only enemy is me, and even I can’t stop me.” Oh yeah.
Q4: 4.5 miles – the last leg. It’s almost over! The dam again and trying to muster out something just increased to what I had hoped for the entire ride. I almost caught the 2nd rider, but not quite. I remember that Arden was going to go all out at the end. I didn’t have anything left to even attempt a super hard effort. Just wasn’t my day for it, the stupid brain wouldn’t let me. Need to do more brain training because it’s holding me back.
I was glad to be finished. But, in the usual fashion, I forgot to check results at the finish and was just ready to get back to my vehicle for something to drink. I had had two sips on the race itself still remaining in aero position and didn’t sit up any during the race except for the turnaround. I tried to drive the bike and not allow the descents to be moments of rest, but I couldn’t keep my power up. It felt like I was though! I rode on the white line on some climbs thinking maybe less rolling resistance. Whatever it takes?
So, some notes. I had a compact crank and a 12-25. I’m beating myself up about this today. No, I did not know better, but I do now. I can guarantee you I will be looking at that next time. I have just about decided the best way to learn something is to experience it and remember. Who knows how much no sleep prior plus the flat tire issue all morning could have affected me? And it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention my body weight. There comes a point when I have to drop pounds if I want to make a huge gain (if I do it right). I don’t think anyone has to worry about me starving myself and dropping 10 lbs in a week. I’m not capable of that kind of discipline when it comes to food. I don’t drink alcohol much (it would probably do me good to chill), if at all, but I love food. I’m largely gluten-free and try to avoid dairy a lot, but other than that, it’s a free-for-all. I’m going to cut back on my very high caloric high fat almond pancake daily habit and see if that doesn’t knock 5 lbs off by Oak Ridge. I have some power… time to lower the weight a little bit just to maximize what I have so I can be a little happier with results because I’m still not there.
On another note… I do not enjoy watching the numbers increase every year on my birthday. I don’t enjoy the wrinkles or the comments about being older with young coworkers and all of that. I don’t like it when I go shopping for my daughter and the lady at the register asks me if this is for my granddaughter. Seriously. In my mind, I am just as youthful as I was at 25. In fact, I am stronger now than I have ever been. Age is just a number… right?
… and I saw proof of that watching the 50s, 60s, and even 70s race at Masters. I enjoyed it immensely and it made my heart proud to see adults who have kept on enjoying the benefits and love of racing a bike and finding a venue where people actually show up who are damn good.
Let’s put it in perspective. I am in my first full season of road racing. I raced 18 miles at 47 minutes and 24.1 seconds and placed 4th in a field of 7 or 8. We had a smaller field in the 40-44-year-olds. In the 35-39-year-olds, my time would have given me 10th out of 12. In the 45-49-year-olds, I would have been 8th out of 11. The 50-54-year-olds: 5th. That’s some fast women rocking it right there, and I have a TON of work to do to score a top 3 next year if I decide to do it again. When I do it again…
Also didn’t know the podium ran 5 deep. Live and learn.