Thursday, August 21, 2008

Racing for Dollars

Some people reading this blog will remember a TV show in Ontario called Bowling for Dollars. It used to be on Saturday evenings, and was filmed locally in Kitchener. I don't know if it still airs, but I do remember seeing lots of episodes (and for those of you not from Ontario, this was 5 pin bowling).

The past few weekends I have been participating in my own "Racing for Dollars" program. My own, because no one else knows about it ;).

Gate City Cyclone Crit (8/9)

Photo by Dave M.

The Gate City Crit was an awesome race for me. I felt good through the whole race, and moved easily in the pack - much more confidently than the previous week in Concord. NEBC was the dominant team (there were eight of us in a 16 rider field!), and we really controlled it from the start.

After an initial failed breakaway attempt by Eve M. of Sunapee (which I attempted to latch onto, but when she scraped her pedal going through the chicane, it caught me off guard, and I went too wide, barely missing a curb and hay bale), we ended up with a break off the front of the group that included four of my teammates. Those of us left in the chase worked to block, much to the frustration of the other racers with us. In the end, all but two of the original breakaway (both teammates) ended up getting caught, so it came down to a field sprint for 3rd. We sort of messed up the lead out, and I ended up about 5th or 6th wheel, crossing the line in 9th (but still in the money!!!). NEBC took first, second, fifth and ninth, all through some great team work.

I felt great about my performance afterwards, and thanked the team for their support and encouragement. Natalie, especially, provided tips and some blunt advice (I seem to recall the words "Cut it out!" coming from her at one point ;)) during and after the race.

Hodges Village Dam (8/10)

The day after Gate City, I was really excited to be back on the dirt after what seemed like a long time. I had been having some great results on the road, and was hoping to translate those into more success in the woods. When we arrived, only Cris and I were registered for the Women’s Expert 35+ race – sweet – that meant I was guaranteed 2nd! ;) (Cris went on to finish second in the race, and second in the state championship).

On the pre-ride, Cris and I were motoring through the first third of the lap, and having fun with the banked turns and off-camber sections of trail around the mud puddles. Yeah – great fun until I rode one of those off-camber-round-the-puddle sections, slid on a root, and went down INTO the mud puddle! Two miles in and my spiffy kit was full of mud, and my bike was, too. Oh, and I was a little sore, but shook that off to keep going, but a little more cautiously than I had been.

We lined up at the start, and I realized that now there were four of us in our field. And on the whistle, they all took off up the hill like they were on fire. On the first uphill into the woods, I got caught over-geared, and was dropped. Sigh. I put in a big effort, but wasn’t able to chase the leaders down. I did have another racer still behind me, so that motivated me through the first two laps of the race.

On lap three, things started to go downhill. First, I started getting lapped by the Pro/Semi-pro men, and not always in the best places. Mike passed me shouting encouragement as he went by, and then many more racers started to go by. One put me off the trail and another put me into a tree. Those incidents, and the fast pace from the start, wore me down. My head wasn’t in it, and the negative self-talk really started in earnest. As I crossed the line to start my fourth lap, Mike was there, finished with his race (he won, and was named MA State Champion!), encouraging me to go on. I really wanted to quit, but couldn’t.

You see, last week, I told Michele A. that there are only ever 2 valid reasons to DNF – one is a mechanical that can’t be fixed, and the other is a crash or severe medical emergency where you physically cannot go on. Checking that list, neither applied. I was eating my own words, and continued on. Everything hurt. I ran out of water. I had no food. Halfway through my final lap, I started thinking about food and water. At one point, I thought about stopping and sitting beside the trail. Not a good sign.

I rolled across the finish after 2:25 (the official results have my time and the other racer’s time reversed). I couldn’t talk, I was tired, and I needed water. But, I finished the race, and was third overall, and third in the MA state championships! And Michele – I hate me too, but I don’t think I suck ;).

Blount Seafood Crit (8/17)

I had won a free entry into the 3/4 race at the Attleboro crit (in a prime), and pre-reg'd for both the Masters race and the 1/2/3 race as well, figuring I would end up doing two of the total three options for the women. The decision about which two was made a bit easier for me when the promoter canceled the 1/2/3 race due to only 3 women being pre-reg'd for that race. That's how we can tell it is late in the season.

My 3/4 race, unfortunately, was disappointing. On the line, I knew that Cody H. and Cheryl W. would be my main competition. On go, Cody attacked, with Cheryl quickly jumping on her wheel. As they established their winning break, I was fumbling and bumbling my way into my pedal... Sigh. I worked really hard for the next two laps to chase them down, but with a headwind on the uphill and finishing straight, and not a lot of help from the group that was with me, I ended up having to settle in, and reset my expectations; I was racing for 3rd. With that in mind, I sat in a group of about 6, and tried to conserve for the final sprint. Rounding the final corner, I was sitting third wheel. As the first two started to wind up, I came around and sprinted with everything I had to cross the line. Disappointed, but still on the podium, and managing to capture ONE lowly upgrade point.

The Masters race immediately followed the 3/4 race, and with the exception of two who were too young, the field was the same. I vowed NOT to have the same thing happen to me in this race, and I was partly out for vengeance. I got clipped in right away, and directly onto the wheel of Cheryl and Cody, where I stayed for most of the race. After a couple of laps of riding in circles at 18 mph, I decided it was time for us to do some racing. With the pack all still together, and teammates Katherine and Michele doing a good job of protecting me from the wind, I came from the back of the pack on the hill, and attacked, hoping to get a small group to split from the pack. The move worked, and a group of 5 was quickly established - Cody, Cheryl, Inette R. and Carol D. Cheryl and Cody did most of the work in the race (which was fine by me). When they tried to come off the front, I slipped even further back in the group. Going into the final turn, I was on Cheryl's wheel. She started the sprint a little earlier than I really wanted, but I moved with her. Then she moved left, and I missed it - stuck in the wind still with a long way to go. I decided that I had to go for broke at that point, and put my head down. Unfortunately, Cody had gotten Cheryl's wheel when she moved, and was able to come up the middle and beat me by half a bike length. I did, however, feel MUCH better about the second race, and finished in the money for both.

3rd Womens' 3/4; 2nd Women's Masters

And in between all the racing? Believe it or not I actually did go bowling - in Houston! I was there for work, and we had a team outing. This was 10 pin bowling, but my team still won ;).

This coming weekend will see my final road race of the season - the Saco crit. It's almost time for 'cross here in New England, and I can't wait!

No comments: