Those of you who know me are aware that I like to make a big deal out of my birthday every year. I have never worked on my birthday, and usually do something special for myself. This year, hitting the "fabulous forty" milestone was no exception, and the Birthday Jubilee began in an excellent fashion on Saturday.
Sterling Road Race - Women's 1/2/3 - 6th (21 starters)
Last year at Sterling, I had a good race; finished 5th in the Cat 4 Women's race. This year, I was nervous - had to race in the 1/2/3 field, which meant 46 miles vs. 23, or, more bluntly, SEVEN FREAKIN' times up the hill! ACK!
At our team meeting, Brooke asked how everyone was feeling, and we discussed our strategy for the race. I didn't comment (nor let on that I was coming off of a rest week) - I wasn't sure how I was going to do, and didn't want to commit to something that I couldn't follow through on. After all, my last performance with the team wasn't exactly so stellar...
On the line, Nat put her arm around me and gave me a pep talk. She told me that I DID deserve to be in this group, to stay in the front of the pack, and not to psych myself out like I did at Turtle Pond. The talk helped, and I really did hear Nat a few times during the race - THANKS!
With nerves calmed down some, we rolled off to the start of the race. I worked to be in the front of the pack, and moving about in the right places - something I am usually not very good at. When Brooke told me to get on Mary's wheel, I did. In other places, I got on other wheels. I was proud of myself for being in there, and not being in the back.
About halfway through the second lap, I was feeling great. I started to drift back to find Brooke, and tell her that I wanted to initiate an attack. Suddenly, Brooke was off the front - so much for telling her now! The pack chased and caught, and then the women in the front started playing cat and mouse. Perfect time for me to launch, so I did. I went off the front at the Rte 12/190 intersection, and stayed away until the overpass on the hill. When Brooke came by, she told me to get back in the pack, and I managed to do just that - YAY!
The next time up the hill, the plan was for the team to attack, which they did. Unfortunately, I also got dropped. The follow car and neutral support went around me as I dropped off from the group (with Mark B. providing encouragement as he passed). I could see a good group just ahead, and KNEW that I needed to be in that pack to survive - as Nat told all of our group in the clinic, that wheel up ahead was my lifeline! Instead of negative self talk, I decided that I would not get dropped, and chased for all I was worth. As we entered the first right-hand turn, I was about to re-connect with the chase group, but got squeezed by the support car! After he finally moved over, I was able to reconnect.
Beginning the next lap, I was easily able to maintain contact with the group as we climbed the hill. As we headed under the overpass, I maintained my speed/effort/cadence and pulled the group for a bit. I moved to try to get someone to pull through, but there weren't any takers, so I continued on (I have zero patience for cat and mouse games remember). A gap developed, and I just kept moving forward, anxiously looking over my shoulder waiting for the group to close the gap.
Going into the final lap with a still visible gap, I went into full on TT mode. I knew the group wasn't far behind, but I didn't want to get caught at this point in the race. It certainly helped to have 4 teammates in the group (thanks, ladies!). At this point, however, the Pro Men started going by. Every time I looked back, I could see people gaining on me, and worried that my group was going to catch me. This was the WORST as I turned the final corner for one last grunt up the hill. I knew there were racers behind me, and worried that I was going to get caught - NO! I pushed - my legs cramped, my back cramped and I let out some sort of sound that should only come from a dying animal. But - I. Did. Not. Get. Caught! And, it was the Pro Men behind me!
I am still over the moon and awestruck with my 6th place finish in a 1/2/3 race! Rebecca won with Mary finishing 3rd and Brooke (8th) and Nat (9th) helping to round out the top 10! I really still can't believe it. And when asked how it all happened, I still think it was kind of by accident - but I'll definitely take it!
And newcomer Clara Kelly won the Cat 4 women's race! Standing at the MTB race on Sunday, I overheard one of their competitors complaining about the Sterling race being tough - because there were so many NEBC women who were out there attacking! Great job, ladies!
After the race, the team had a meeting to discuss how things went. OK - really they brought strawberry cupcakes and sang me Happy Birthday! But we did discuss the race, and were all happy with the results. I had to leave to get home, and get ready for the PARTY!
Of course, every birthday needs a party. Especially birthdays that end in Zero! I had a great time celebrating with good friends, eating delicious BBQ, drinking tasty margaritas, and of course, eating Texas-sized, non-chocolate cake!
Mike ordered the tasty concoction shown above from Concord Teacakes. Two layers of yellow cake with raspberry filling in between, covered in butter cream frosting. Of course, Mike said he needed a cake for 20 people, but I think what we ended up with would have fed at least 60! We'll be eating cake for the next two weeks...
Philip took some great pictures you can see here.
Birthday Race - Brialee Bramble - Sport Women 35+ - 1st (5 starters)
After the results at Sterling (and all that cake), I wasn't really expecting much at the MTB race on Sunday. When we got there, Mike and I got on the bikes to do a warm up lap, having been warned that it was a little messy out there. They weren't kidding! The first part of the course was really dry, but full of rocks, roots, and my favorite, bridges. This was going to be a more technically challenging race than Winding Trails ... Then came the wet spots - there was mud, there was water, there were stream crossings. More importantly, there were places where you just couldn't see what was going to be underneath your tires... Several of us agreed back in the parking lot that this wasn't going to be a race that was about pure speed - riding smoothly was going to be more important.
Since my race was in the last wave of the day, I changed back into my regular clothes to go out and watch Mike's race. He looked strong from the gun (and had also raced Sterling the day before), and quickly settled into 3rd place, where he remained for about 2.5 laps. The front 3 had a gap of about 3 minutes on their next competitors, but they were all really close, so it was a real race for the win.
In the 4th lap, I saw Mike come through in first, having overtaken both the second and first place racers! He looked great, and I cheered for him to continue doing well. As I waited for him to come through and finish, I saw Jeff M (the second place racer) DNF - he had flatted on the course. Bad luck for Jeff, but Mike went on to take his second win in the Expert Men 40-49 race in the Root 66 series!
With only 30 minutes remaining before my race, I ran up to the car to change back into my bike clothes and get ready. My legs still weren't feeling great, and I still didn't have many expectations as I stood on the line with 10 other Sport Women (6 under 35 and 5 in the 35+ category). To calm my nerves, Jean C came over to tell me that Wayne had overheard two women at registration lamenting "that Cathy [woman] is here - and she's fast!". No pressure after hearing that ;-).
When the whistle blew it was a sprint to try and get into the woods as early as possible. I entered in 4th, which I thought was good. Of course, then there was mayhem with one rider going down, and another getting caught in the mess. We sorted that all out, and as we got onto the access road, I took the lead.
I'm a reasonably OK technical rider, but this course presented a lot of challenges. I led the pack until a particularly nasty mud section where I was passed. She was a better technical rider than I, and after trading places a couple of times, she passed and went on to win her category, and the overall Sport Women group. In the second lap, I was passed by another [younger] racer, who also was better technically than I was. Knowing there were two riders in front of me (who weren't in my category), I worked to try and stay ahead of anyone else who may be coming up behind.
My third lap was my best, from a technical standpoint. I had FINALLY figured out the lines I needed to take, and where it was just easier for me to get off and run (although I ended up with a bad case of swamp foot from doing this ;-)). I managed to cross the finish line 5 minutes ahead of the second place racer! Sometimes there is an advantage to being old[er] and on my 40th birthday, this was one of those times!
So, it was a wonderful Birthday Jubilee! And to anyone who thinks I'm about to settle in now that I've reached 40, I'm only just beginning!