After the sting of choking down 9 gigantic donuts last year to only come in 6th place and currently being at the heaviest I've been in a while, it was time to reconsider my game plan. Last year I had been pretty sure I was capable of beating the third place time had I not stopped for donuts; this year I decided to test that theory out. Rather than lose time stopping to shovel in sugar bombs, I planned to ride straight through.
I was pretty comfortable with my decision until THE BET. It all started when Bob took to the Team Virtus website to call out our teammates for their lackluster donut-eating performance last year...and it snowballed into something much bigger...or, I guess, smaller. Something speedo-sized.
|Wow. That just happened.|
Stepping into the growing heat and humidity at the race site, I was kind of dreading how the ride would feel. It's funny; running races are generally nice and early, but the most bike races don't start til 9 or 10. Thankfully, by start time the sky looked like it was considering rain. The thick cloud cover that had moved in was very welcome!
|About 1700 registered racers|
The Tour de Donut gets more fun each year, with more and more familiar faces. This year's included my Metro Tri Club teammates, Bob, blog friend Anne (who I didn't actually get to see until after the race...well, other than her hand waving), adventure racing friends Allie and Stephen, and an older gentleman I met while hanging out with J at cub scout day camp. And then there was my friend Kim, who despite being married to my ex-husband is one of my good friends and always comes to the TDD to cheer/take pictures.
|Waiting for the start|
Photo credit: Kim
Seems like every year I'm riding on my own, and in the past I've passed people only to be quickly repassed and left in the dust, realizing too late that I was only feeling fast because of the front person's draft. This year, I was determined to find the wheel of a faster person and hang onto it as long as possible. The road was so congested that it took just over 2 minutes to actually get to the actual start line, so the chip timing was a nice touch. Riding out of town was pretty slow with my first mile was at an 11 mph pace, but after that I picked it up and averaged 16-18 mph for the next few until finally hitting the 20's in mile 6.
The first donut stop was around mile 9, and it wasn't in a very convenient location. It looked like you had to ride out of your way a bit to get there, so I just skipped it and kept riding. Shortly after passing the donut spot, a guy passed me and I jumped on his wheel. He told me I was welcome to stick with him as long as I wanted, and I enjoyed a pretty effortless 21-22 mph in his draft for the next 6 or so miles (thanks, #1216!).
This year's Tour de Donut followed a new route, and in the weeks up to the race there was a lot of discussion/concern about the roads chosen and the amount of gravel on some of them. Seems like there are always several bad crashes, and people were worried this year would be even worse. I was a little concerned, but being the wimp that I am, I'm always pretty timid on gravel anyway. I figured I'd exercise my normal caution and might be slow but would probably be safe.
Right around mile 15 we hit the area of most concern, a section of road that was covered in thick, mid-sized gravel. Almost everyone around me immediately jumped off their bikes and began walking them across the gravel. I slowed way down, figuring I'd ride until I had to get off and walk, but I made it all the way through. I definitely attribute my Dirty Kanza experience with giving me the confidence to ride this section, though I was missing my more substantial tires. The biggest problem in this section was that the people walking stayed right in the middle on the smoothest line, but anyone I asked to move was really nice about doing so.
Unfortunately, I was so slow getting out of the gravel that I lost my tow truck, so I had to ride the remainder of the race pretty much on my own. My pace took a hit over the next nine miles, dropping to mostly 17 mph with a few 18's in there, but by mile 23 I was hurting. I'm not sure if it's the different positioning on my road bike vs my mountain bike or if it's just a matter of my very limited training on the road bike, but on Wednesday's and today's rides, my left thigh has gotten really sore. In addition, my light breakfast had worn off and I was hungry. I thought about grabbing that Honey Stinger but hoped that getting off my bike might help ease the pain in my leg. Plus, who wants a waffle when they could have a donut?
As I rode away from the donut stop, it started raining on us. So much for having that lady dry my glasses! I was a little nervous on the wet roads, but everything went well and the brief shower only lasted for a few minutes. My leg felt a little better, but it was still sore. My first mile after the stop was 16 mph, but the next few were pretty fast for me: 19, 20, 22. They were all over the place after that, and I was counting down the miles to the end at 32.
I'd been thinking that overall the course was easier than the old one, and then I hit the bigger hills in the last several miles. Ouch. Even worse was when I rode past the 32 mile mark painted on the road...and no end in sight. :( Yeah...the race was 34 miles this year. Those last two miles were rough, not because the course was difficult but because I was sore and DONE. In the last mile, this much older man passed me on a bike that looked even older and sounded creaky as can be. Because I have no pride, I caught back up with him and clung to his wheel into the finish. Thank you, Mr. Yellow Bike...my finish would have been even more pathetic without you.
I had a great time at the race, especially the first 15 miles or so. Drafting off of a stronger rider was definitely a good strategy (I did offer to take my turn in front, but he declined), and I'm happy I managed to use that for at least part of the race. I'm pretty disappointed in how much I struggled over the last six miles, but as more than one friend pointed out, that's where actually training might come into play. With my focus this year on adventure racing and mountain biking, I think I've only actually ridden my road bike five times this year: February's Super Century, women's ride day back in April, a half hour trainer ride, 20 miles this past Wednesday...and today. If you want to do well, you have to put in the work...and that's an area in which I consistently fall short.
Even so, my chip time of 1:56:59 was good enough for 8th place out of 111 in my age group (actually, my CHIP time is good enough for 7th place, but for whatever reason the standings are ordered by gun time) and 220/1438 overall. Oh, and my paltry 2 donuts still gave me 9th place AG donut adjusted....and you just can't overestimate how great it is to go home without wanting to have your stomach pumped.