Heidi’s Folsom BP Criterium
The first race of the season is always an overly nervous experience. Several days before the event, my mind starts being consumed by it. Have I trained enough? Am I fitter than last year? Everyone else has been training just as hard or harder. Will I be able to keep up with them? Those thoughts are followed by attempts to chill out by reminding myself that the race is really the start of something and that the end result doesn't matter as much. Despite that simple truth, I rile myself up too much thinking about how things might shake out.
This year, my thoughts about the first race were just as much about myself as my new team. Really, it's my first time on a team after several years of being a "solo opportunist" of sorts. So, the nervous anticipation for myself was compounded by thoughts of hoping I can keep up with my teammates and hoping I can work with them to do something special for one of us. I had to remind myself that I'm learning a whole new racing dynamic, wanting to be helpful for others, even if I'm just using the race to take a gauge of my fitness.
This race, being a 1/2/3 field, was fast and full of surges. Attacks happened early and often. We did our best to take charge of the peloton and not be followers, which meant we were on the front in the wind, working to reel in those riders. We took turns working hard and putting out some huge efforts without the luxury of a draft, until we were fried. I learned, among other things, that one huge benefit of being on a team is hearing, "Get in, Heidi" from a teammate after taking a big pull on the front of the pack. I had two awesome friends there, making nice holes in the wind so I could recover. I can only hope I was able to repay them in kind.
We may not have won, but we had a blast and made ourselves proud. We bonded, we fought hard, and we found out that we race well together. That's why I wanted to be on a team.
In the end, I think we surprised ourselves a bit by working that hard and still being able to contest the final sprint of the race. We were able to recover at race pace and have enough in the tank to finish strong. The three of us placed in the top 11 of a field of 25 racers after practically killing ourselves for 50 minutes of really intense riding. While the end result was not the real goal for this race, it did show each of us that the fitness foundation is there. The training is paying off. It gave each of us that big first step toward being fully confident. We now know we can turn it up a notch and be the ones that make it happen.
Now it's time to take it forward into the rest of the season.
Photo courtesy of Dale Tapley Photography