Or how a tri-geek plays at Race Tactics 101
I just had the two most amazing days of bike racing. Even though cycling is my strongest event of the three sports, compared to pure road racing cyclists I've always thought I sucked. I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself. After all I'm training for three sports, and the women I've raced against just train for bike racing. The other problem with bike racing is it's by catagory and not by age. Even if I do find a race with a Women's Cat 4 field, most of them either are 20 years younger then me, or race all the time. Many times I have to race in a field with women who are not only 20 years younger, but are also Cat 2 or 3. I inevitable get spit off the back, and end out doing the race as a time trial until I'm mercifully pulled from the course.
As I mentioned on 7/27 I was going to the Empire State Games (ESG) to compete in the Masters Division. So off I went on Thursday morning with my two bikes, and all the associated shoes, helmets, clothes, etc. that go with each bike and event. I forget that time trials are Gear Geek Conventions. Even pure cyclists who take their time trialing seriously have all the toys. The guys are far worse then the women in this area. I think I was the only woman in the masters division wearing a time trial helmet, but there were a few women with tri or time trial bikes.
10 mile Time Trial
I had some mental issues that I needed to overcome in these two races. The first was dealing with the time trial start. The start has always made me a little nervous. For me it has always been a little bit unnerving being clipped in, and having someone trying to hold me upright and somewhat balanced. Last year's fall at the start of the ESG totally spooked me, so I was a bundle of nerves when it came time for me to clip in and wait. I get in the pedals and I'm rocking back and forth. I start freaking and hyperventilating. The starter tells me to calm down. I tell him I just don't want to be dropped like last year. Finally the holder gets me nice and steady. 5,4,3,2,1....and I'm off!
Number 83 was a no show so I was chasing a "ghost". I was disappointed I didn't have someone in that spot right ahead of me. I like to see if I can do a "Lance". The no show was someone I've passed in previous time trials. Oh well! I do time trials strictly by PE. I don't use my HRM, and I had forgotten to reset the computer after my warmup. I could tell roughly when I was getting to the turn around. After I got through the turn around, I could see that #82 was within sight. I wasn't sure I'd actually catch her, but I was going to have fun trying. I didn't quite catch her, but I crossed the finish line about 10 seconds afterwards. 26:23 for 10 miles. New PR for 10 mile TT. Won the gold medal. One mental hurdle down, road race anxieties were next.
31 Mile Road Race
I tend to have two anxieties when I'm doing road races and criteriums. The first is starting in a big pack with strangers whose bike handling skills may be suspect. The second is what is going to happen when the first attack comes. Will I be able to stay with anyone? More importantly, will I be able to stay with my competition? The masters women regardless of age catagory race with the masters 55+ and 65+ men. Usually on the first major climb the guys go, and the pelaton breaks up into little pieces. The same thing happened in this race, but I made a determined effort to hang with my competition. My competition being the same woman who got away with the guys in 2002, and cleaned my clock by 4 minutes. This year was going to be different. I was not conceding anything this time around.
Having overcome the first two anxieties, I had a new one to deal with. What happens if I can't get rid of her, and have to duke it out to the finish? Though that anxiety was based on the assumption that she wouldn't get rid of me first. That brought up the alternate anxiety of What happens if she attacks me on one of the climbs? Damn, I felt like I was in the Tour! I actually had to think like a bike racer, and play the tactics accordingly.
And play them I did. When she attacked, and got ahead of me I worked with the other riders and got back to her. When we regrouped I tried to not kill myself when my turn at the front came. I wasn't going to launch any attacks. I was content to do my share of the work and then rest. The guys were very respectful of the dynamics going on between me and Susan. They were not in contention for medals in their age catagory, but they knew Susan and I were going for gold in our catagory. They were willing to help either one of us, but they weren't going to launch any attacks of their own. When the final climb came they backed off, and let Susan and I go it alone. Here's how it played out:
Once again Susan goes up to the front, and starts pulling away. I'm trying to stay close but she's getting further away. I glance behind me to see if my "boys" are close behind. They aren't. In the meantime Susan looks back at me every once in awhile, and sees she putting some serious distance between us. I'm thinking to myself, "Hmmmm this is going to be tough unless the guys come back."
I crest the hill, and look back one last time. The guys are nowhere. They've decided to let the ladies slug it out for gold on their own. My mind is going a million miles a minute, and I'm thinking, "Okay you won yesterday, so it won't be the end of the world if you don't win today. This has been a good race, and you hung close......Time out! Okay let's see what you can do on your own. At least make it interesting. She didn't descend all that well after that last hill. Maybe you can catch her. Go for it!"
The real hills were done, there was a screaming descent coming, followed by little rollers, and flats. I am usually a major chicken $h!t when it comes to descents, but having done the hill once already in the race, and several times in practice I knew I could really air it out. I had no one around me, and no oncoming traffic so I let it rip. I hit 47.6 MPH at some point but didn't see that until after the race. As I coming flying down the hill ,and back to the straight away, I can see that I'm closing in. The question is can I catch her after the traffic circle 1K from the finish.
I come around the traffic circle. I'm totally focused on Susan, and not worrying about the turn. I'm not always real confident cornering, but again I stayed focused on my quarry. I finally come up on her wheel with maybe 500 meters to go. I'm thinking to myself, "Okay do I sit here, and make like Tour de France sprinters and go around her at the last second? Do I go now, and try to hold her off?. Is it too soon?" I then decided, "The hell with it, do what you did yesterday in the time trial!" I put my head down, and blew right by her. I wasn't going to look back. I figured if she came back around it was going to be one helluva finish. I just didn't want to know about it. After I crossed the finish line I looked to either side, and didn't see her. At that point I pumped one fist and shouted, "Yes!" I have not mastered the two handed fist pump. On the official results they had us down with the same time so I guess it was awefully close at the finish line.
I was really pleased with not only the physical effort, but psychologically I was right on the ball. When the concession speeches started in the head, I just banished them. I think I caught her by surprise at the end. I don't think she was expecting me to come back like that all by my lonesome. I was glad I got the chance to chase her down on my own, and not have to depend on the guys to bring me back again.
I felt I rode a smarter race then she did. I suspect those solo attacks off the front did her in after awhile. I had a little more in the tank when I had to go solo. But then again, I'm a triathlete, and I'm used to going solo. Though I'm not used to it coming down to milliseconds.
I use visualization a lot in my triathlon preparations. I listen to a guided visualization frequently, and I have certain pieces of music that help me get pumped up. I had listened to my race music play list on the way to the race, and replayed Tour de France coverage in my mind during the race. When the guys responded to one of Susan's attacks and pulled me back I felt like I had my "disco boys" helping me. When I went around Susan before the finish I thought about Lance taking off near the end of that one stage that put him back in yellow for good. Those mental images do help a lot.
July has been an amazing month for me. Just like it had been for Lance. I need carry these good feelings over to August as I get ready for Nationals in two weeks. But damn I don't like how July is ending for me. I feel like crap and I think I'm getting a frigging cold. I'm not panicking yet. It's the forced taper.