Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weak to week

Its been almost 2 weeks since my last post.  Its not because I haven't had anything to say.  Just the opposite actually.  But most of what I've had to say would have been negative, as my first season of Cat 3 racing was continuing on a path that was less than exciting.

I took in another race for climbers last weekend at the Tax Day Circuit Race in Idaho.  I had heard tons of great things about this course and how tough it was, but I figured even if I was going to get hammered by the competition, I'd be getting a much better ride than if I were to have stayed at home.

They started the Cat 3 with the Pro/1/2's.  So, here I am, lined up with the likes of Bissell pro Chase Pinkham and Olympic nordic combined gold medalist Bill Demong.  This race has over 5000 feet of climbing on a tough 7 mile circuit.  I had no business being there with these guys.  The weather was terrific however and we got on our way.

The race starts on a mellow climb up to the circuit.  This was the only part of the race I felt comfortable.  I was really just trying to enjoy myself and the fact I was surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world.  The rolling terrain was scenic and the temps were comfortable but I knew the pace was not what it shortly would turn into.

The first trip up the climb the inevitable happened.  The group turned on the afterburners and I got dropped.  What was really amazing was how quickly it all happened.  The speeds shot up and so did my heart rate and I popped.  I couldn't imagine I still had 6 more laps to go.  But I was determined not to quit.  I had driven too far and my ego had taking all the beating it could.  Showing another DNF for the season would be too much, so I'll settle for DFL.  Thanks to the mercy of the race officials, after I was lapped I was instructed to finish on the same lap of the leaders.  This cut my race down 7 miles and I couldn't have been more thankful.

So, I did get in a great 50 some miles in great weather.  My teammate, Heather Smith won her category and I won $4 on a Powerball ticket, so the race wasn't a total loss.  But my head hung low and I was really questioning what all the work I did this winter was for.

The next race in the calendar was this weekend's Antelope Island Classic.  I love this race because its in my backyard and on a road I often train on.  I also love the Great Salt Lake and riding around the island is one of the most scenic rides in Utah.  But the past few years I've done this race its been freezing cold and/or raining and hailing.  The race starts at the marina, heads out onto the causeway for a 14 mile out and back, then circles the inner 4 + mile loop 8 times then head out to the Garr Ranch for the turnaround for a total of 63 miles.  The causeway is dead flat.  The loop has 2 short, punchy climbs and one longish gradual climb towards the end.  Its all big ring stuff, but I was intimidated by the 8 laps we would be facing.  I've lost touch before on those punchy climbs and the thought of racing another race by myself was making me depressed.

On raceday, I was happy to get a great pep talk from my teammate and fellow Cat 3 racer Payton Nishikawa and I was uplifted by seeing other fellow sprinters there lamenting the same things I was.  The talk of all the other categories was about the causeway and the stiff crosswind was splitting the peloton and breaks were forming.  I really didn't want to be left solo on the first 14 miles so goal number one was to not get dropped on the causeway.

I accomplished goal number 1.  My next goal was to make as many laps as I could with the peloton.  I'm happy to report I kept up all 8 laps and even led some of the climbs.  This was huge.  Those punchy little climbs felt alot like a crit where I feel most comfortable.  I actually felt better out of the saddle and powering up the climbs versus spinning at lower gears like others were doing.  So, 2 goals down.  I was feeling pretty good.

My next goal was not getting dropped on the first climb out to the ranch.  I figured if I made it out to the ranch in contact with the leaders, I'd be in good shape.  With the help of a tailwind and some guts, I made it up the climb and out to the ranch with the group.  As far as I was concerned, I had had a successful race up to that point.  Then I started to think maybe I caouls make a run for a top finish.

We were slow coming back from the ranch.  I was enjoying the break but knew everyone else was resting as well.  Payton took a few pulls and made sure I didn't have to do much work.  With a little more than 1k to go, someone attacked.  Payton answered bringing the group with him.  1km to go and it was on!  I made the first selection but faded.  With 500m to go I was in contact but needed one more punch to bridge.  With the grade and 63 miles in the legs, I couldn't do it but held on to 19th place out of 30 riders, finsihing within a minute or so of the leaders.

I finally feel like I belong in the Cat 3's.  Antelope was a big confidence builder which was badly needed.  Up until this weekend I was wondering if I should be racing bikes but Antelope was fun and I'm really looking forward to the Bear Lake Classic coming up.  19th place may not look like much for some, but I feel like I really turned a corner on my season.

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