Racing, Come Hell or High Water

O2Fitness athlete Heidi reports on her epic road race in the race a few weeks ago:

On Saturday, April 9th, I raced the Turlock Lake Road Race for 45+ miles with a group of very strong ladies, including a current Masters National Champion.  I’m really more of a short burst, criterium racer, but Julie suggested I do this race as a make up for a weekend that I was sick.  The course is flatter, which suits me better.

My lack of consistent results in road races typically has more to do with tactics and gearing, because I’m super impatient.  I try to do too much too quickly, kill my legs using too macho of a gear selection, and sometimes I bonk outright.  So, I set some simple goals for myself – use the opportunity to make some changes to address these issues, stay with the main group for at least half the race, and have some fun racing with people I really like and admire.

Then, the torrential rain hit.  NOAA’s “chance of showers” was a total downpour overnight and into the morning.  I crawled out of bed with trepidation, dealing with the internal argument of “I don’t want to do this.”  Fellow racers’ posts on Facebook had similar undertones and I joked back with obvious sarcasm that I was excited to race.  “Just take the start,” I told myself.  “You drove down to Turlock from Reno and paid for a hotel.  Make it worth the drive.”  Off to the start I went, with my vest on under my jersey in a vain attempt to stave off being soaked.

I used the first lap to practice some things Julie told me – keep the gearing light, make sure to consume some calories, and conserve energy.  The weather likely limited the attacks, but I managed to keep up with everyone when they did happen, even after getting pushed off the road on one very wet turn.  In the rather steep rollers on the toughest section of the course, I reminded myself to spin more and hit the legs less.

The race amped up on the second lap and two groups of two went off the front, including the National Champ.  I moved to the front of the main pack and did the work to bridge the gap to the first group.  It was a great test of my fitness.  From there, we reeled in the next one and were all together with about 10K to go.  Then, my brain suddenly went from “just stay in there” to full-on race mode like a light switch was flipped on.  I wanted to be in a good position when we got to within 3K of the finish.

At 3K to go, I was in the perfect spot… then I wasn’t.  Two cars on the road hampered the group’s speed as we were winding up for a sprint finish.  Once they were out of the way, we ramped up again with the National Champ on the front.  I was on fifth wheel, or so, and jumped as hard as I could with less than 1K to go.  I managed to pass a couple people and nipped one at the line for third place.  My first time on the podium at a road race.

 

Glee over the result gave me the opportunity to assess the race with Julie’s voice in my head.  I quickly took note of the things that went well to file them away for next time:

·        Mentally, don’t ever count yourself out.  You never know how a race will unfold.

·        Be patient and keep focusing on the race tactics.  Your mind eventually goes into instinct mode and things just flow from there.

·        You do the training for a reason, especially the VO2 and Anaerobic workouts.

·        Oh, and core strength comes in handy when racing in the rain!

 

It’s also great that since then, I’ve been less reluctant about riding in not-so-perfect weather.  Truly bad weather, like that of April 9th, puts a mildly bad day in much-needed perspective.  I decided to start actually using all the bad weather clothing I own and get outside to train.  You never know what the weather will be like on race day, so I figure it’s an extra training bonus to be ready for anything Mother Nature throws at you.