Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipe for a Bad (Good?) Race

2 weeks of no riding
1 week jam-packed with activities
12+ hour workday the day before (on my feet all day)
Restless night's sleep the night before
Poor nutrition

All this should have added up to a crappy race, but it didn't turn out that way. When I woke up yesterday morning, I was so exhausted I could barely force myself out of bed. The last thing I wanted to do was race at all, let alone for six hours. I knew I was going to go, but I thought it would be a similar experience to Cannonsburg. Earlier in the week, I had decided to try to ride 10 laps, which would best my lap count from last year's race by 2, but the closer the race got, the more unlikely that seemed.

I puttered around the house for a couple of hours, gathering gear and equipment, but not feeling very motivated. I checked the weather forecast and it was not promising. It seemed I was going to spend a long day racing in the rain. As soon as I got out on the road, though, I felt a lot better. Although it had started to cloud up a bit, the sun was still out. I was humming along the highway, finally fully awake, listening to Weekend Edition and feeling pretty good.

I arrived at Ithaca just barely in time to register. Jake flagged me down and I parked next to him and Cameron. The sky got more and more ominous as the start time approached.

The first lap went pretty well. My legs felt decent, the course was in good condition and the hills were small and manageable. I realized near the end of the first lap, though, that I was hungry. Why was I hungry already?

I thought back on my nutrition that morning. I had eaten my normal breakfast of oatmeal. Then I had a Kashi bar for a mid-morning snack. And that was it. Now it was the time I normally eat lunch. No wonder I was hungry.

I finished the first lap in about 33 minutes, which was close to the 30 minutes I was shooting for. I ignored the growling of my stomach as I blew by my pit area.

By the end of the second lap I was plagued by the foot problems that have defined my cycling experience. This one was different than the foot issues I have on my road bike—this time the side of my foot was aching. My back was also sore and I had forgotten to bring along my good friend vitamin I. Still, all in all I felt pretty good.

I stopped after the second lap and got some food and took my shoes off for about five minutes. When I got back on the trail, my foot was back to normal, but it would continue to act up throughout the day.

My legs felt really fresh until the sixth lap. Then I started hurting a bit. My lap times were all between 31 and 34 minutes and my stops after every other lap had been pretty short. Even so, I was starting to wonder whether I would be able to get my 10 laps in, especially as I got tired and began riding slower.

I decided that as long as I finished my ninth lap before six, I would make myself go out to get the 10th, no matter how tired I was. The good thing about a course that short is that you can almost always talk yourself into another lap as long as you still have time.

For my eighth lap, I had slowed down considerably and it took me about 35 minutes to finish. I had planned to keep going without stopping again, but I thought I had enough time left and I was gassed, so I stopped for about 10 minutes before starting lap 9. I was watching the clock the entire time, wondering if I was going to make it back to start another lap, but I was seriously slowing down and doing a lot of coasting.

After a 38-minute lap, I crossed the line at 5:50. I dug into my suitcase of courage as I rolled past the pit area for another lap. The last lap was painfully slow. My legs were beyond dead tired. Every time someone needed to pass me, I would pull over and put my foot down and actually stand there for a while resting. (Earlier in the race, I would pull over and quickly and get back on the trail as soon as I could.) I even walked up two of the climbs, which are normally nothing to get over, because I just had no climb left in me.

At one point, I actually waited for a minute for someone to catch up with me so they could pass. Unfortunately, I realized as the rider passed me that it was one of the six-hour women I had passed earlier. I would live to regret that decision. The only other thing of note that happened was that, due to sheer exhaustion, when I pulled over to get out of the way for one rider, I forgot to clip out and ended up falling over. That was the closest thing I had to a crash in the whole race, believe it or not.

I pulled into the finish line from my 10th lap at about 6:37. That meant my last lap took about 47 minutes. I came in 5th out of 7 women solo riders. I was pleased with finishing 10 laps, but was extremely irritated that the 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishers all had 10 laps. And that girl I pulled over for came in 4th. If I had just ridden a bit faster and/or taken shorter breaks, I might have been able to pull off third.

Still, it was a good race. I'm happy with my willingness to stick to it. And the weather actually ended up being perfect. With the exception of a few sprinkles during the first lap, the rain held off and during the last several laps, it was actually quite sunny.


Laurie said...

Awesome job, Andrea! Congrats on meeting your race goals!

Glen R said...

Fantastic job out there! Pushing yourself to exhaustion is mentally tough but the rewards are huge not just from a mental stand point, but from a training standpoint.