I did my first truly competitive thing in almost two years on Thursday. (I don't count riding around as warm body in the ESG qualifier last month as a competitive activity. I was doing my civic duty. More on that in another post.) I did our club's monthly time trial. This one was a 5 lap 9+ mile time trial around FDR park. Under normal circumstances I would have just done the "unemployment ride", and gone into NYC and played chess in the evening as is my custom on Thursday evening. However since I'm doing the Empire State Games, and will be doing two time trials I figured I'd better drag my sorry butt up to Yorktown Heights and do our club time trial for practice.
Our time trial series attracts some pretty strong riders, and this event was no different. So here I am with my good friend and sometime rival Nancy, and a bunch of serious studs. I had skipped the time trial helmet, but some of these guys had the latest and greatest in aero-helmets. Nancy and I were the only women, and probably the only racers over 50. Somehow while I was out warming up, Nancy "volunteered" me to go first. With friends like that, who needs enemies. She claimed it was because she didn't want me passing her, but somehow I knew it would be the other way around. She's the one with the power meter, heart rate monitor, training plan and a coach. I'm the one who just goes out and rides.
I still have trouble with those standing starts at time trials. I was never fond of them to begin with but after getting dropped by the starter at the 2004 Empire State Games, I've become a bit of a head case. I'm still a bundle of nerves and feel like I'm having a panic attack. I need to get a grip. So I did manage to get off without falling over. I probably should have been in a slightly easier gear. It took me awhile to get up to speed.
This course is challenging because it's got hills and sharp turns on the two downhills. Chicken shits like me can't stay aero on the really fast downhill especially because sometimes there is a car in the other lane. So here is this blazing fast downhill that one can't take at full speed, and then the course flattens out, and then goes uphill. It was on the first uphill on the first loop where Nancy came cruising by me. Geez, I was hoping it would take then more then a lap to get me, but such is the life of a no-tech tri-geek on the comeback trail. Woo hoo! DFL here I come!
The second downhill is nasty little turn with an annoying bump in it. The choice is swing wide around the bump, or go on the inside where there about 8 inches of pavement between the bump on grass. I think I alternated between going inside and outside. The other problem with that part of the course is it goes immediately uphill, and doesn't level out until the start/finish line, so you have zero momentum into the hill.
So five times I made this circuit chasing Nancy who was now 3 minutes ahead, and being lapped by the studs with the aero-helmets and shoe covers. I was starting to wonder if I was going to be the first one start, and the last one to finish. Thankfully the last couple of starters did not lap me more then once so a couple of the guys finished after me even though their times were faster.
All I know is; damn that hurt my lungs and legs. I forgot what it's like to put one's head down and just ride as hard as you can with no wheel to grab onto. Each lap got a little slower. All I could think of was at least the time trial course for the games doesn't have the steep hills and the annoying corners. As they say "Rome was not built in a day." However my comeback as a bike racer is clearly a work in progress. For the next few weeks I will ask myself "what the hell have I gotten myself into?", but as my training partner Karen said, "You're making a statement for women riders." But will anyone be listening?