"It never gets easier, you just go faster."Greg LeMond
After a lackluster race last week, I have to admit that I might have been in the process of psyching myself out for yesterday's crit. Last Wednesday wasn't just a weak race for me...it was a race where I felt weak. And there is nothing worse than looking back at the sum total of your training, seeing the obvious gaps, and thinking, I didn't leave it all out there on the bike. I only gave 75%.
In general, if the last pedal stroke across the finish line is not the single most painful, hard-fought crank of my life, I find myself wallowing in the notion that I might have done better.
So it was that I promised myself I would not let the track in my head - try harder, train more, intervals...intervals...intervals - determine the outcome of yesterday's race. The second of the series, I was ready to have a better race day. And I did.
I have a tough time racing in the evening because it is harder to control my blood sugar on the bike as the day waxes on. In the morning, I can simply forgo any fast-acting insulin, reduce my basal insulin, and hop on the bike armed with jersey pockets stashed full of Gu. Generally, it works. When I race late in the day, however, I don't have the luxury of forfeiting my fast-acting insulin, which increases the likelihood of going low on the bike. Last week, I reduced my insulin too far, and began the race with blood glucose readings in the mid 200s. Too high. I felt sluggish from the outset, and never really recovered.
This time, I adopted a new strategy, eating earlier so I could give myself the full amount of fast-acting insulin at my afternoon meal, and then slamming carbs about 15 minutes before race time. With my insulin and food dialed in, I began the race feeling a whole lot better! Add to that the fact that I was familiar with the course, and that there were twice the number or riders so that the race would not be dominated by any one team, and I was feeling much more confident.
Of course, not everything can be controlled. The forecast had called for rain and 15mph winds. It was damp and cool. The race was delayed fifteen minutes, thanks to a tornado warning. In my case, that was also fortuitous. I had not been granted a lot of warm-up time thanks to my work schedule and a late patient. The opportunity to take a few laps was a welcome circumstance.
I positioned myself at the start so I could take advantage of the inside corner on the first and second laps, when things really start to accelerate in a crit. I easily maintained position in the turns. By the third lap, the main peloton had split, and several riders were languishing on their own, unable to ride against the wind and maintain pace with the rest of the women on the course. They were swept up and easily lapped by the men.
There were four women who had pulled out front and, with five laps left, I was hoping to catch them. They were less than ten meters ahead of me. At every turn, I would find myself on one of their wheels...and then lose them on a long straightaway. Eventually, with three laps left, it became clear that there were three of us fighting for fifth. (Points, in this series, are awarded five deep.) Myself, Danica from DIVA and an unattached rider from Aurora, were now racing one another. I lead them for most of the remaining laps but, with the finish after a long, straight stretch, I knew I would need more distance than I had created. I rode the last kilometer as hard as I could. My heart rate was over 200...but, in the end, I was sixth across the finish. Danica's wheel barely edged over the line as my handlebars approached.
I wasn't disappointed. It was a good race for me, both tactically and in terms of speed and ability. I took a lap with Danica and the other woman, Tracy, as we watched the rest of the ladies finish. The three of us had gone back-and-forth, racing against one another for the entirety of the crit. Those kinds of races, where you are fighting it until the very last lap, are by far my favorite.
A couple of guys from the Mix Pro Team were there, waiting for their race to begin. One of them came over to me:
You should have had that. Here...come with me. Grab your bike.
I complied. He took me to a long, flat stretch on the side of the course.
Let me show you. You need to ride the straights better. You are giving up way too much ground. Start on my right side. Line your handlebars up here...behind my wheel.
I spent the next ten minutes getting a speed lesson from this guy...a lesson that was, yes, needed. I spend a lot of time training on hills and ascents in Colorado. I am a really lousy sprinter, which is a fairly essential skill in a crit. Mostly, though, it's a nice show of the camaraderie that exists among cyclists more generally. This guy certainly didn't need to devote his warm-up time to a coaching session and a total stranger. Very cool.
I made it home in a good mood, and in time for dinner. My daughter greeted me outside, helmet in hand, to see if I would take her out for a quick ride.
Did you have a good race, mom?
Yep. I did.