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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You lose some, you win some

A month or so ago, I saw a brief blurb in the newspaper about the Great McKendree Bike Chase.  It caught my eye because it wasn't too far away and--even better--was only $15.  I love racing...but those race fees add up.  I was hoping that the Chase would help me make a decision about riding in the crit, another upcoming local bike race. 

If you don't know (and I barely know and had to look this up to explain it), a criterium, or crit, is
"a bicycle race held on a short course (usually between .5 and 2.0 miles in length) and often run on streets in the heart of the city center.  Race length is determined by total time or by number of laps.  A criterium's duration is shorter than that of a traditional road race and the speed and intensity...are appreciably higher." ~http://edwardsvillecriterium.com/?page_id=2
Let's count the ways this does not play to my strengths:

1. It's fast, and I'm a chicken.
2.  It includes lots of turns, and I'm slow on turns
3. Because of the short nature of the course, you're riding a lot more closely with other riders.

All signs indicate that I'd be a better volunteer than participant for this event, but since good sense has rarely interfered with my decision to do a race, I'm still toying with the idea.  Enter the bike chase.

Wade was kind enough to let me invite myself to ride along with him, and since we left at about 6:30 that morning we arrived in plenty of time.  My cheap $15 registration was now $20 since I'd neglected to register online in time.  Oh, well.  The t-shirt was a nice suprise.  I'd actually wear this one.

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We met up with Mike from the tri club, and the three of us did a quick pre-ride of the course before the pre-race briefing.  Rather than being an out and back or big loop, the race was 6 laps on a 3-mile course.  Though the route map has been posted online for probably a month, I neglected to actually look at it, so the  hairpin turn at the cul-de-sac came as a surprise.

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What the map doesn't really show you is that you start at the bottom of a hill.  Lovely.  Another fun detail was the sharp right into the stadium and onto the track for a half lap before you ride up the pedestrian ramp and then back out onto the road.  The pre-ride was a HUGE help; otherwise all of that would've thrown me and had me crawling through some of the turns.

We got to the race briefing on time but somehow just as the director was finishing up.  There weren't too many people there, maybe 25 or so. I scoped out the other women and noticed there were a few others on road bikes then took the opportunity for one last bathroom stop.

This time, instead of hiding in the back of the pack, I lined up towards the front of the start line.  My goal was to stick with the lead group of guys for as long as I could, and I did that with no problem for the first couple of miles.  I was trying to look ahead of me as I rode to see if there were any other women in the pack, and I was a little worried about one rider with long hair until I saw the hairy legs. :)  I managed to hang in there with the lead group until the hairpin turn...I just can't keep enough speed for those turns and can't make up the lost time fast enough to catch back up.

Leaders leaving the neighborhood on the first lap.  No pink jersey in that group.
Oh, there I am making the turn.
Coming out of the cul-de-sac neighborhood we were riding into a bit of a headwind, and I had planned to be at the back of some other riders to stay fresh.  Since I'd lost the pack, though, I rode pretty much the rest of the race on my own.  Riding the out and back section of the course was pretty nice because I could see that there were no other women very close to me, but I kept pushing because I wanted to keep it that way.

We had to take a sharp right turn into the stadium and then ride up a short ramp to get onto the track.  That was cool.  The ride up the ramp at the other end made me a little nervous, and by the time I got to the top and back out on the street, I wasn't carrying much momentum into that hill that started the lap.  Even so, the second lap wasn't bad at all.  There was a downhill a few blocks later that was awesome.  I love my bike.  I'd shift as high as it would go then get low and fly down the hill.  I kept gaining on people who were pedalling.  That was fun.

Wearing down
By the end of lap three, though, I was feeling shaky.  I definitely didn't eat enough that morning--just a Clif bar on the way and then a GU right before the race.  I started to worry about bonking, but there was no way I was going to blow the lead I had built.  Luckily, I managed to catch up with a guy and draft behind him.  That was a big help.  Unfortunately, I passed him as we rode on the track.  I am always passing people I could draft behind when I'm not faster than them, and then I get to watch them ride on past me shortly after instead of me hanging on behind them.  One of these days I'm going to learn.

Finishing lap 4 was a great feeling...just two laps to go.  Or...were there? As I rode that lap, I couldn't remember if I was on lap 4 or lap 5.  I thought it was lap 5, but what if I was wrong?  What if I lost the race because I couldn't count?  As Mike passed me coming out of the neighborhood, I called to him, "What lap is this?" but he couldn't hear me.  I asked the man at the top of the ramp, and he checked and announced to me on the loudspeaker that I was heading into my final lap.  Yes!

That last trip up the hill was a slow one, but I made it up thinking This is the last time I have to ride up this hill!  I know I had slowed way down over the last couple of laps, and this last one was no different.  I was still pushing, but I felt like I was pushing a loaded wheelbarrow.  I didn't there weren't any women who were close to me, so it was hard to keep up my intensity, but I was really worried about somebody coming from behind me and beating me right at the end. 

Coming into the stadium, though, that was so great.  Instead of riding a half lap on the track, you rode around to the other side to finish...and when I finished, the only other girls standing around were volunteers.  That's right...I won!  I was so excited.  My first win ever. :)  And yes, it was a small race with only a few women, but hey...I was bummed to come in last of a small group, so I'm going to be happy that I came in first of a small group.  The men's winner was 9 minutes ahead of me, and I was 7 minutes ahead of the woman who came in second. 

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Me and my medal.  No, I didn't sleep in it.  Yes, I kind of wanted to. :)
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With my tri club friends who were nice enough to wait around with me.
Being as I spend the majority of the race riding along, it didn't really help me make any decisions about the crit, but I'm still awfully glad that I raced Saturday!

20 comments:

  1. Winning and beating the next person by 7 minutes is pretty freaking awesome! Congrats! You and your medal look so cute together :P

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  2. Super!! You are brave. There are a lot of crazy things I will do but a road bike crit is not one of them. Kudos!!

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  3. Great effort/results! That medal is sweet. Well done

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  4. Nice job on the win! I know what you mean about the crit. It looks like fun but I don't like riding in crowds or crashing.

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  5. Wow! Congrats on your first place Kate! You continue to impress me :)

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  6. Kate!! Fantastic! You crushed it! Congratulations on your WIN!

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  7. You find the coolest events! Congrats on the reosunding win!

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  8. WHAT A GREAT RACE! Congrats on the win! I think the shirt is cute, too.

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  9. That is so awesome! You won the race! Way to go! I am so excited for you! Wow!
    As far as the Crit??? I am guessing you will do it because you like challenges my friend! There is a 4 day bike race here in the fall and the fourth day is a Criterium on Church Street. I love watching it but it does look tough. If you don't keep up with the car and get lapped you are out!
    Congratulations again! Show that medal to your students!

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  10. wow Kate!!! you are super kate!
    I am very impressed!!!!
    congratulations on your win!!!
    nice pics also..love the ones on the bike

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  11. Another Super job Kate. But is that thing really a stadium? I was expecting something like Soldier's Field.

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  12. I think most of the credit should go to your coach and mechanic. He looked pretty good leading the pack around the first lap.

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  13. I had a great coach/mechanic/chauffeur. If only you'd brought your domestique hat, maybe that guy who won wouldn't have beaten me by 9 minutes. :)

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  14. Woohoooo!! I got your comment on my blog and had to rush over to read (what's up with the no biking??? Email me!) ... I have such limited internet access being on the road, so sorry for my long delay in not reading your posts, but I was THRILLED to read this! Congrats on a fantastic win! You are definitely speedy bike woman, so happy for you! "Sounds" like you're riding well...you have me curious!

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  15. Woot for the win! You were an animal out there. WTG!

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  16. Winner winner winner!!! that is so awesome.


    Although, that course map thingy sure does look like an electrical diagram.

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  17. Congrats!!! I feel the same way about my medal. Pride is justified as a result of pushing yourself so hard and then succeeding. Some advice: (As one of the guys who finished 9 min ahead :) ) the key for us was working together. Finding a buddy to get out of that headwind and take turns keeping the pace up is the key. Riding in the draft is so much easier and taking turns at max effort benefits everyone in the group. Pack riding confidence comes with experience and crashing is less likely to happen as confidence grows. This was a great event and I was so happy to be part of supporting cycling and *any* event in a small town. The McKendree folks and volunteers did a great job.

    Congrats and hopefully we'll see ya next year!

    Jeff
    BTW: If you are looking for a fun cycling event benefiting lupus -- my jersey is from last year's event, check out wolfride.com or register here.

    Happy cycling!

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  18. Great job, a well deserved medal.
    I like all the pictures!

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