Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pescadero Classic Road Race Report

My original plan for 2009 was to focus on bike racing from January through August and increase triathlon training gradually in June, and then more so as I got closer to racing with Triabetes at Ironman Arizona in November. In January, I joined a group of women cyclists called the Early Bird Women's Developmental Cycling Team--a team for women in their first year of USCF racing--in hopes of fully pursuing this goal. Well, plans changed on Feb 1 with my accident. While I have improved vastly, the rehab and conditioning is far from over. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever fully recover. So, it was with some anxiety that I signed up for the Pescadero Classic Road Race on June 13. I continued with the Early Bird Women, although I was pretty tepid about ever racing a bike again in those first several weeks in February. Here is my report for my first official USA Cycling race event of 2009 that I completed--about 4 months later than originally expected.

Name of race: Pescadero Classic Road Race
Date: June 13, 2009
Category raced: Cat 4 in a Cat 3-4 field combined with 35+ 3-4 field
Weather: rainy before start, cloudy/damp but not cold, westerly light/mod winds
Field size: 45?
Early Birds present: Stephanie D., Beate H., myself
Other teams: Poggio, Metromint, Velogirls, Roaring Mouse, Dolce Vita, ...
Individual goals: feel in control of my safety, experience a road race, work hard, try working with others if there is an opportunity
Team goals: support each other

Short Story: I finished the race in one piece and am happy for the experience. I wasn't expecting to be fast but a problem with my front derailleur didn't help the situation.

Very Long Story
(mostly appreciated by family members & best for reading when you are stuck in line somewhere. You've been warned):

I pre-rode this course last weekend to give me some confidence on the reputed technical aspects, and felt comfortable that the descents etc. were nothing I did not routinely encounter. Part of the appeal of this course for me was that, with the hills, it was likely that the riders would get strung out, and I would not feel stressed riding in a pack. Because of my current fitness level, I expected to be dropped from the main pack at the first climb.

After a belt in my car (with only 52k miles) inexplicably broke Friday evening (what's up, Mazda?), I thought I was doomed! I had been feeling pretty anxious all day and it just pushed me over the edge. Fine, I would just go for a ride and race another day. But thanks to my teammate for stepping in at the last moment, I was able to get a ride to the start early Saturday morning. Driving down the coast, it was rainy, foggy and generally not looking so great for a race. Once we arrived and warmed up, I discovered it was actually not that cold and was happy to see that at least the rain had let up.

There was a neutral promenade from the high school to the race start. I thought, "Promenade, easy pace," but realized I would have to pick it up a little to avoid getting dropped before the race even started. We turned the corner on Stage Rd and I guess there was some signal that the race was under way. The first few miles were flat and I was able to stay with the pack. I enjoyed it and felt comfortable. I noticed most people around me were not in their drops. There were a few other riders in the back with me and there was one gal behind. I was working pretty hard at times to stay with the pack, especially with the early sprint prime; it would have been easier if I tucked in a little closer. Once the road started to climb, I was dropped along with a friend of mine, who was doing her first road race. I gave her a quick how-to on getting back to the pack but it sort of fell apart and we were both on our own.

I knew there was one gal behind me and thought, "Well maybe I won't come in dead last." Or maybe we could work together to try and get back to the pack, just for the fun of it at least. I was coming down the first descent and shifting to my small chain ring in prep for the steeper climb ahead, when my cranks locked up. I looked down and the chain was jammed somehow in the front derailleur cage. Somehow, I loosened the chain and got in my small chain ring. "Hmm. I hope that's solved." I was a little concerned I would be stuck in my small chain ring, but was able to shift back up on the next descent. Turning onto Highway 84, though, I realized I had a problem. I could not shift to my small chain ring. This would be okay on 84, which is a gradual uphill climb, but not on Haskins Hill. I was hoping there would be a mechanic at the feed zone. I had no idea why my derailleur wouldn't shift down.

Being stuck in my big chain ring on 84 was probably not a bad thing, because it forced me to keep up a faster pace. There was a lovely tail wind for most of it and I felt strong and happy. Turning the corner onto Pescadero Rd., I ground my way up the initial hill and caught the attention of a friend of mine who was supporting his team, Dolce Vita. "Chris! My bike won't go into the small chain ring!" He tried to adjust the derailleur but it was stubborn about working properly. Finally, he got it to work okay, and I took off. I rounded the corner for the climb up Haskins but to my dismay, I was still stuck. I pulled over to see if I could just put the chain in place; at this moment, one of the men's large peletons came charging up the hill and I stepped off the road. They were taking every inch of the road (right-side, anyway) so I was sort of glad I hadn't been riding at the time. The cables were still moving the derailleur so I was able to drop the chain in place, and continued up Haskins. The climb is through redwoods, and was shady, moist and cool. I was a little flustered from the chain thing and lost my focus. I think I forgot I was racing for a little while there.

Once on the descent, the roads were mostly dry, but I still took a somewhat cautious approach. Some of the turns are tight but most are not too bad; but I knew that another group of guys would probably be passing me and wanted to be sure to hold my line tight on the right side of the road. Sure enough, I heard someone call out "Left side!" followed by 4 guys in a paceline just screaming by me, insanely fast through the turns. It was a little nerve-wracking as a larger group came by. I just hoped they were being careful. I felt like I was a little too cautious on the descent due to passing racers; once I was through the first few miles, though, I picked it up, effort-wise. The rest of Pescadero Rd was a sort of rolling descent with a bit of a headwind. It seemed like it should have been easy all the way to Pescadero but it took some effort to keep the pace up.

view from a climb on Stage Road

Taking the corner onto Stage Road for the second lap, I got some sympathy cheers but joked with a couple people that I was off the front, of course! I was trying to figure out if the pro/1/2's were still on the course, and calculate where they might pass me. When I got to the first climb I stopped to move my chain to the small ring. This was annoying more than time-consuming. Who wants to stop during a race? At the next climb, I devised a new method to move my chain--I just unclipped and pushed it over slightly. It seemed to work but then I noticed some rattling. Was my whole derailleur going to fall apart? I got off and inspected and discovered that the cage was broken on the right side--snapped through completely. So it could move my chain to the right, but not to the left. I was impossibly behind at this point and trying to remember that I just came out here to gain the experience. I continued up 84 and made the 2nd and final turn onto Pescadero Rd.

I thought I would try my kick-the-chain technique but this time the chain fell off instead. Argh! I got off and tried to put the chain on 4-5 times until fixing it. My hands were covered in smudgy grease and I just started to lose it emotionally. Getting myself in a position to do this race was a mental challenge and it just seemed like a disaster to me at that moment. But wait! I recognized those exaggerated emotions as a sign of low blood sugar! I may have been frustrated but, really, was it so bad? I popped a chocolate GU and after 10 minutes asked myself, "Are you still losing it?" When the answer was, "No," then I figured I may have just had a bout of frustration + low blood sugar, which can really wreck havoc on the emotions!

I didn't want to bother with another small-big-small chain ring transition so just rode the flat part of Pescadero Rd in the small chain ring, cruising along at a sad 14-15 mph. Alas, I was finally at Haskins again. Another 1.6 miles and I would be done! Well except for the 10 miles back to the cars. As I was climbing, the pro/1/2 men came by, which was fun to watch. Shortly after, the main pro/1/2 women pack came on by, followed by a couple small groups and solo riders, who were encouraging me on. The 1k mile and 500m signs were both missing from the first lap, which I didn't realize until I was about 300m from the finish. Hallelujah. I crossed the line at the top, and was directed to keep on going back to Pescadero, where Beate & Stephanie were probably wondering if I had come to another terrible fate.

Diabetes management (Diabetes primer: BG = blood glucose, or blood sugar. Bolus = insulin dose taken by pump. Basal = background insulin level delivered by insulin pump 24/7. Basically insulin causes BG to drop & glucose to go into the cells (muscle/fat); carbs cause BG to rise, and exercise can cause BG to rise or fall depending on intensity, duration & insulin levels. Usually exercise causes a drop in BG without adjustments in insulin & food, which is why I carry so much extra sugar. BG in non-diabetic is from about approx. 70 (fasting) to approx. 120 (after a meal)):

5:30 AM: BG 80, breakfast, PureFit + small banana, calculated bolus to bring BG to 160, 1.1 U insulin given 1U:17g insulin:carb ratio, 70mg/dL:1U correction factor.
7:23 AM: BG 302, 0.6 U, trying not to overreact; I didn't want too much insulin on board right before a really hard race effort.
8:11 AM: BG 289; hungry, ate 25 g carbs
8:36 AM: BG 345; somehow was hoping to get away with 25 g carbs & no insulin?? 40 min before race start, took another 0.5 U
8:55 AM: BG 359
9:09 AM: BG 372, 0.5 U. Yuck, not a good place to be.
9:15 AM: race start

For the first ~70 minutes, I drank water only. Once I started to feel hungry and could feel the BG coming down, I started eating a GU every 45 minutes and alternating Vitalyte and water. I finished with a BG of 169. Basal rate started at 0.55 and went to 0.45 a couple hours in. I was really sloppy with my hydration and only drank 1 1/2 bottles. I forgot how race anticipation can really drive the blood sugar up before a race. Usually I have to increase my morning basal rates race day but hadn't really established a routine for road races yet.

What went right: I made it to the race, thanks to a lot of help. I was able to ride, even if briefly, with the pack; I could feel what it is like to be in that situation again. I figured out how to deal with my crappy mechanical situation so that I could at least finish. I dealt with bad pre-race BGs and felt okay BG-wise for most of the race. I took a few moments here and there to remind myself, "I do this because I enjoy it." Pre-riding the course was very helpful, especially considering my mechanical issues.

What would be good for next time : Think through BG management better. Continue to work on my fitness/rehab goals so that at some point in the future, I can stay with more Cat 4's. Go to more group training events where I can practice some racing skills and get more comfortable with that.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Swim Low Psychology

Due to a rare thunderstorm, I had to skip my morning outside swim today, and decided I would drop in on the evening Master's team. My blood sugar was 133 and rising after eating a GU; by the time I got in the pool, I was up to 165. "Great!" I thought, "I should be good to go for an hour." I decided to leave my meter in the locker because of my rising BG and because, well, I just didn't want to bring it. Also, if my blood sugar is low enough during a swim to get out and check, chances are I will be done for the day anyway. I usually can't tell if I'm low while swimming until I'm really low (somewhere around 40), and I don't like swimming until I am back up to a normal level (whereas I might be able to walk for awhile if I get low during a run). I can usually tell I'm low only by watching my times start to slow on the pace clock, or else I will just have a sudden thought, "I'm low. Um, I'm really low."

Well, I guess it's clear where this story is headed. I did the warm-up and some gal joined my lane who should have been 3 lanes over (in the faster, and only, direction). But anyway, I proceeded with the workout for about 35 minutes, and was feeling some pain where I broke my collarbone as well as pain in a my right shoulder that has resurfaced from last year to join in the injury party. I started thinking, "I hate this pain!" and feeling really sad, like it might even come to tears. It did occur to me that my response was a little over-the-top. I mean, there is some pain there but it usually doesn't make me want to cry in the middle of a swim. I tried to swim a couple more laps when I suddenly had the feeling, "Oh no, can I make it to the wall?" I got out and ate a chocolate GU, but still wasn't convinced that I was low. Maybe I didn't eat enough during the day? Or maybe I have been overdoing it this week? I tried to do a few more laps, and paused for about 5 minutes in the water. I thought, "Come on GU, do your thing," and then, "What would I recommend someone else to do?" I was wishing I had my meter handy so I could just hop out and settle the issue right away. If the BG were normal, I would feel better, mentally, and dare to finish the workout. I had another GU on deck but this was already a 2-GU workout and I was hoping to not make it to 3. I do not like to abandon a workout over low blood sugar, but decided I would give diabetes the win on this one. "Fine! I'll get out." After showering, I got to my locker and tested, twenty minutes after eating the GU: 74. Although I'm not usually relieved to see a low BG, I was happy that the reason I felt so horrible was easy to explain, rather than some sign of an impending downward spiral into over-training and weariness.