Here's a picture (from here) of Sister #3 out of the "Seven Sisters" that make up Ridgecrest Blvd. (See this post for more pictures from Ridgecrest.) At the Mt. Tam Hill Climb bike race this morning, I encountered these fine Sisters after a few quick miles on Highway 1 and a long climb up Fairfax-Bolinas Road. This was my first "real" bike race, I suppose, although I did several of the Low Key Hill Climbs last year. This definitely had less of a low key feel about it!
When I arrived at Stinson Beach, I saw many people warming up on trainers and one guy was on his rollers. This race was open to riders spanning the general public to USAC Cat. 1/pro racers. I noted that there were actually a couple tri bikes there but was still glad I spent the time this morning to clean up my road bike for this race. I didn't want to make it too obvious that I was a newbie, and my road bike has better gearing for this sort of climb. Because the "public" category had been filled, I had signed up as a USAC Cat 4 woman, which I guess is where I belong anyway as a beginner. I reflected how at ease I am with the triathlon race scene compared with this morning. The race number was supposed to be pinned on the left, which I gathered from the people asking "left side?" at the registration table. After a fellow first-timer helped me to pin on my number, another new friend came and said, "Hmm, I think your number is upside-down." Woops! We got that straightened out and I made my way to the start area.
My blood sugar had been low-ish since breakfast and was 65 about 20 minutes before the race; I think my breakfast bolus was too high and I was still feeling the effects, even though it had been 3 hours. I did skip the Symlin this morning. Also, I had reduced my basal by 40% for 1.5 hours beginning one hour before the race, and had eaten a banana (unbolused). At the race start, I had eaten some more goodies (half a cookie and a mini-brownie--bike races definitely have tastier food than triathlons!) and about 5 minutes before the race, checked in with a BG of 75. I assumed the food plus anxiety would kick in soon and keep my BG's afloat. At least, this was my hope. Without a swim and run, I would be going close to all-out on this 12.5 mile race.
I was a bit anxious and tucked in the back of the pack after the race began. There were about 15 other women in our group and we had a lead car clearing the road for us. I have to say, those first few flat miles were exhilarating and just a little terrifying, as I paid careful attention to stay with the pack while watching the road for hazards and making sure I didn't cause any accidents. This part felt easy physically because I had a nice draft and the road was more or less flat. I wondered if the lead riders were dogging it but concluded that I was just benefitting from the draft. Our group of ladies was pretty mellow and once the order of riders was settled, nobody tried to pass on Highway 1.
Once we started climbing up Fairfax-Bolinas Rd., people quickly separated. I stayed with a few riders for a bit and then fell back a little. My heart was pounding like crazy, partly from being so hyped about the race but also from the climbing, and I felt like perhaps I should back off a little. I guessed my time would be over an hour and wanted to keep something for those Seven Sisters. Fairfax-Bolinas Road is a little-traveled, windy road that intersects the main route for the Alpine Dam Loop when it connects with Ridgecrest. I had been up this road once for the Race Across Marin in 2006, but had forgotten how long it was! It seemed to go forever, constantly winding up, sometimes exposed with views of the hills and the ocean below and other times shaded in the redwoods. I could see the fog still clinging to Stinson Beach and the ocean with bright blue skies everywhere else.
As I was nearing the top of Fairfax-Bolinas, I heard the Dexcom CGM beeping in my back pocket. I ignored it. I didn't even want to take the time to pull it out and I assumed that my BG was rising--my typical reaction to climbing or intense cycling efforts. I remembered that my basal was lowered and decided that I felt good, that I had eaten enough, and that I would not be able to sustain a 185 heart rate with a low BG! There were a few people there cheering as I started out on Ridgecrest--"only 7 more rises!" I was actually relieved to hit this part of the course, since there is only one "sister" that is truly steep, and I would get some breaks after each climb. My heart rate was high but my spark was fading a bit. Determined to keep track of each hill number, I counted but lost track around the 4th or 5th sister as usual. But I made it to the finish, eventually, in around 71 minutes. I was last in our division but I guess this only gives me motivation to keep at it.
I pulled out the Dexcom and was surprised to see that it was beeping because I was at 86, below my alarm level of 90. "Hmm, this must be wrong," I thought. The BG meter read 82. I checked again. 82. I was really surprised. I guess in retrospect it does make sense because, although I often include intervals of high intensity in my cycling class and on some long rides, I don't generally keep this up continuously for an hour or more. I was glad I had cut back the basal and felt a little bit of diabetic smugness for hitting the nail on the head (this time).
I hope to do some more road racing in the future. This may be dangerous for my bank account though, since I'm not sure how much life is left in my dear red road bike. Anybody want to buy me a new one? :) (Here's a beauty, for starters...)