Race: Wente Vineyards Road Race
Location: Livermore, CA
Date: April 24, 2010, 12:15 PM
Weather: Sunny, moderate winds, hot--sunburn weather!
Field Size: 50
Category Raced: 4
Personal goal: Start at the front and stay there, be ahead at the start of the hill, test my climbing, work it on the descents/flats, test my pack comfort level! Race!
I was looking forward to this race as a test of both my fitness and my pack riding comfort level. The group rides I've been going on have been ridiculously hard at times and I figured I could at least put a
similar effort into this race. They have also really helped my comfort level riding fast in a group. I tried to view this race as more or less like another group ride. I felt relaxed and at ease before the race. We arrived with plenty of time to get ready and I had a good warm-up on my trainer.
With the big field and the early climb, I knew I wanted to be on the front at the start, so I made an effort to position myself well. The promenade to the first turn was mellow and I enjoyed riding next to one of my teammates, Stephanie. We were just one or two rows back and riding together and I ended up being surrounded a little. She asked if I was okay and I realized I was totally comfortable. Cool. Pretty soon we hit the hill and I just tried to work it as much as I could. I fell back some as the group started to splinter but was holding some ground. We hit the feed zone while still climbing, and I looked for Laurel, our team director. Yeah! There she was. There was a short downhill section after the feed zone and finish line, which was very welcome. I saw my teammate Yuko ahead and also Alissa, who cheered me on to go go go. We hit the second part of the hill and I just kept it going at a steady pace. I held back a little because I just didn't want to burn it all up on the first lap. Well, I guess I should say, I was going very hard but not trying to sprint up the hill. People were sort of scattered at the top and I finally caught another gal. We worked together and then saw Yuko. We were starting to descend quickly so I yelled loudly for her to get going and hop on! We picked up a few others here and there and had a group of around 5 or 6 through the descent. I was really happy with the descent on this course--it was fast and not too technical, other than the couple of sharp turns that were marshaled. (Hello hay bales!) I pulled down the descent until the left turn at the bottom, and then we started rotating a bit. Another gal in our group pulled through the next descent and I was happy to follow in the draft!
We hit the flats and a gal in our group organized us into a rotating paceline. We were closing in on the chase group and worked in the wind, finally catching them. People started to relax a bit before we caught them, though, and I had this memory from group rides of being that close but still getting dropped. I said, "We're not there yet!" and we had to work a little after the next turn to get fully attached. Well, I did, anyway. We went up a short climb there and the draft was pretty awesome. Descending on the other side, I felt comfortable riding in the mix and moved around our group--I think there were maybe 12-15 of us at this point? Anyway, I pulled a bit but also rode in the pack and felt totally comfortable doing this. A lot of times in the past when riding in a pack, I have this little voice that is expecting disaster to strike. But it was gone. I just felt like I would on a normal ride. I think being more confident with my own riding has helped considerably because then I am able to focus better on the situation around me. Also I have gotten more accustomed to having to having to brake ever so slightly when descending in a pack to control my speed. This is something that has unnerved me in the past.
We hit the climb the second time and I more or less stayed with people but was also thinking, "Hey I pulled for y'all, do you have to hammer it up the hill?" But oh well it is a race and all's fair in love and war and bike racing? Hmmm... Anyway I dropped back a bit and was definitely off the back at the beginning of the descent. I had the group pretty close in my sights and advanced closer down the descent. At that left turn at the bottom, I was pretty close but again knew I was not safe yet. I thought, "It's now or never, Anne, get moving!" and just worked as hard as I could to get back in. We went through the next descent and flats again. Briefly I thought about organizing Yuko and a couple other women who were also at the front a lot into a break if they were up for it. We had a group of about 8-10 riders and I was feeling pretty dehydrated and a little crampy and knew I didn't have a lot to give on the final climb to the finish. So if we took everyone to the climb then I knew I would lose a lot of places; I was a little afraid I would completely blow up if I put in a hard effort at that point. I was able to control the pace by staying at the front a bit there. No one wanted to pull so I just kept it easy for myself. I tried to stay ahead of Yuko, hoping she could rest a bit before the finish. We finally hit it and I felt like my goals had been met at that point. I just didn't want anyone from behind our chase group to pass me so I worked it up that last hill with a little caution since my calves were cramping.
I was really happy with this race because it was the first race I have done since before my crash where I was really racing with my mind fully engaged. Prior, I have felt like I was either in observation mode or just riding with something nagging at me to stay out. It was super hard and there was a point about 3/4 of the way through where I thought, "Really? Does this have to continue?" But I felt comfortable in the group and was really happy that we were able to catch the chase group and that I stayed with them more or less until the final climb. I was so happy to find Yuko and to work with her. I knew she would do awesome on that final climb! I probably should be more patient when the pace slows in the pack and not take the front so readily; on the other hand, I didn't want our group to be caught from behind. When another gal said, "You really love to pull!" I did not take this as a compliment! It's true though! Also I definitely need to pay more attention to hydration. I didn't even drink one full bottle...maybe 1/2 a bottle? That really caught up with me in the end. I think with more hot weather races, I will also try using salt tabs or something similar.
Here's a link to a photo taken on the climb! I think I am grimacing but maybe it looks a little better than my super-serious marathon face? You'd have to ask my mom and aunt, who have been the most frequent recipients.