Yesterday was my first race of the season. Turtle Pond in Loudon, NH. I was pretty nervous going into the race - this was my first road race in the P/1/2/3 field. I have been doing a lot of riding, and following my training plan, but wasn't sure that I was going to be able to hang in with a strong field. As it turned out, I couldn't ;-)
Before the race, I chatted with some of the NEBC men. Scott B told me that it was as much a mental game as a physical one - don't get discouraged, and hang tough. Don't let yourself get mentally dropped. Don't give up. All great advice.
I headed over to the staging area to get ready for the race. My teammate Sally and I were riding down the road. "How are you doing?", asked Sally. "I think I'm dead." I replied. My HRM was showing 0 bpm. Sally laughed and asked if she should start CPR. It was a good light moment to help calm the Butterfly Olympics in my stomach.
On the start line, I positioned myself close to the front, knowing I would need a decent position to get myself up the hill. As we listened to instructions from the official, I looked down and saw that my HR was already in my tempo zone - 151 bpm. Definitely not dead. I was nervous beyond belief.
We took off and headed for the hill. I felt ok. I drifted through the pack towards the back, but maintained contact up and over (realizing that I was in my big ring the whole way - DOH - no wonder it felt so hard!). Over the top and we were off. I stayed mostly in the back of the pack for the first few miles, happy to watch my teammates and learn from what they were doing.
On the backside of the course, Sally attacked the field. It took awhile for one other person to counter, and the two of them were off. Brooke found me to tell me what the next team move would be, at which point I told her that I was basically hanging on by my fingernails. She coached me to move up through the pack to the middle and get on Nat's wheel, so I did that. Then she told me to be sure to move up so that I could again be nearer to the front going into the hill.
About halfway up the hill the second time around, a squirrely move by one of the racers caught me off guard. Shortly thereafter, I disengaged from the pack, watching them ride away from me. I could hear Scott in my head telling me to hang on just a little bit longer, but I didn't think I could, and I let go. So, over the crest of the hill, I was off the back and in for the chase. I could still see the pack, and worked as hard as I could for a few miles to be able to catch back on.
The follow car had passed me as well, but I was gaining. Chasing, gaining, chasing. The follow car moved out of the way as I chased close enough to almost reconnect with the pack. Chasing, chasing, connecting, right hand turn, pack surges, goodbye. After all of the chasing I had done, when the pack stepped on the gas coming out of the first right hand turn, I had nothing to match their move. They accelerated, and I never saw them again.
I wanted to quit. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to chase back on again. I was discouraged. It was cold, it was windy, but for some reason, I kept on going. Back up the hill past cheering friends and spectators for another lap alone. I didn't even continue to just ride - I kept "racing", putting out as much effort as I could muster (which wasn't much).
The mental conversation for the remainder was pretty amusing:
"You suck, but just keep going anyway"
"It's a nice day for a long LT ride - NOT"
"I don't belong racing in this category"
"I want to quit. It's only one more lap. But that's TWO more times up the hill."
"I think I'm the last person out here..."
After 2.5 laps of racing/riding on my own, I turned up Oak Hill Rd for one last climb up the hill. I knew I was almost finished, but I was so embarrased as my teammates, who had already finished (and Mary won - YAY!), were now coming back down the hill, all cheering loudly for me (thanks, ladies!). As I crossed the line, I was glad to have stuck it out and finished, even if I was Dead Freakin' Last (DFL).
Maybe I do have some mental tenacity afterall...either that or I'm just too stupid to quit ;-)