The Tour de Donut was my first bike race, way back in 2009 (funny note: in the second picture in that blog post, the woman in the pink jersey right behind me is my friend Anne, who I finally met last year after "meeting" her in blogworld.). In fact, it was my first race of any kind. Daniel and I did the race together and had a good time despite a serious lack of training (sound familiar?). He only raced one more year, but it's become a tradition for me and this was my fifth year lining up. Barely. I didn't get around to registering until the day before. Logging into my Bikereg.com account at 12:48, I noticed that registration ended at 1:00. As I noted on facebook, it wasn't the last minute, but it was darn close.
Rather than try to scrounge a ride with someone else, I drove myself to the race because we had fun plans afterwards (more on that another day). Getting there plenty early, I got some crap from some friends who were astounded that "late Kate" wasn't running to the start line at the last minute. "Hey," said my friend from Alabama (or London, the accents are sooo similar), "You've got a reputation to uphold!"
After a group picture with my Metro Tri Club teammates and giving a big thumbs up to our photographer, Patrick, I squeezed through the crowd to the spot in the road where I'd left my bike. With 1,367 participants, the street was packed. The beginning of this race is the most intimidating part for me because I don't like riding in such a tight pack. Usually I line up way back, but this year I made myself move closer to the front.
Closer to the front, but not THAT close.
Thankfully, the race is now chip timed, but the minute-plus it takes to get to the start line is still frustrating. There was a neutral rollout for the first 2 miles at 15 mph, which meant it took even longer for the crowd to break up. My whole plan was to find a faster bike and share the work, drafting where I could and taking my turn in the front as well (although in my past experience with this race the guys have been fine with being in the lead but not wanting to follow a girl, which is just fine by me if they want to do all the work). It took me a few miles to find someone going the right speed, but finally a guy passed me and I hurried to get on his wheel. After a while I offered to pull for a while, so he dropped behind me for a while and then moved back to the front. We worked together until he pulled off at first donut stop.
In the first three years I did this race I though skipping the donuts was something of a travesty. They're the whole point of the race. But after a year eating 9 donuts and still not placing in the donut-adjusted standings (the race subtracts 5 minutes from your time for each donut you eat, so you can make a considerable dent in your time if you're a compeitive eater), I rethought my position. The girl who won my division last year in the donut-adjusted standings ate seventeen donuts. I can't compete with that, and it's no longer worth it to me to eat all those calories (and feel that sick) for nothing. I skipped the donut stop and was on the hunt for a new partner.
For a while I basically just latched onto groups and made my way forward until 2 guys flew past. That was the group I wanted! I sprinted ahead and caught up with them. They were moving at a 21-22 mph pace, and while I had to work to stick with them, it was a lot easier in their draft. I managed to hang with them for several miles before getting dropped, and then I was on my own for a few miles. The people behind me were going too slow, but there was a guy a ways ahead of me, so I pushed hard for a few miles to try to catch him.
I'd shrink the gap between us, then we'd hit a corner. Since I don't corner well I'd fall back again. I FINALLY caught up, latched on, and we hit an uphill where, once again, I dropped off. All that work for nothing! I was on my own again until I passed the 2nd donut stop and came across more riders. Once again I started the process of working my way up through small groups, but that's where the hills came into play. I'd pull ahead on the downhill (I know, that never happens! But I think it's bc I have all this mass working WITH me going downhill and those skinny people don't) and then they'd pass me on the uphills. I hung in behind some older guys for a while (yes, Luke, older than me and not even on life support), but they were slower on downhills and it made me nervous not to be able to see past them, so I did most of that on my own.
For a while I kept trading places with the same guy, so I decided it would be smarter to work together. I pulled for a while around 19-20 mph, then when he took his turn it was 17. I sat in for a few minutes, but it was driving me crazy to not go faster, so I passed him and went looking for a faster tow truck. Another fast group passed (hurray!), so I jumped on to the back of their little paceline. I was pushing to keep up but managing, until a HOUSE passed us. Somebody made a joke about getting in their draft, but as we started up a big hill the truck pulling the house stopped in the middle of the road. Much internal cursing resulted, but it turned out that the police had stopped traffic -- including the house -- for an ambulance. Coming to almost a dead stop on that big uphill killed all of my momentum, so it was bye bye fast group while I crept up the hill.
Not a mile later the house passed me again, this time coming towards me and taking up the majority of the road. It was a pretty intimidating sight, and I scooted over as far to the side of the road as I could and held my breath until it was past. Once again I was in no man's land with slower people behind me and unable to catch faster bikes. With about 4 miles left in the race, I rode it out on my own and finished strong.
Really, there are only a couple things I'd change about my race. First, I should have lined up closer to the start. Maybe with this year's stronger performance I'll feel like I belong there next year. Second, I should have used my big ring much sooner than the last 10 or so miles. Last year when I got my road bike worked on, the front shifter had been messed up and the guy at the bike shop said that he adjusted it but it might be going out. Rather than deal with replacing it, I've just stayed in the small ring for fear of not being able to shift back down (what happened before). It took me until mile 25 or so before I risked shifting into the big ring. Thankfully the shifter worked or I'd have been screwed on those hills, but since I stayed in the big ring for most of the hills I definitely would have used it for the flatter first half of the race.
Despite those minor issues, this was the first time in a long time that I've been happy with my performance in a race. My time for the 34 miles was 1:48:14, and 18.85 mph average. Giving my paltry mileage since Dirty Kanza and the fact that this is my road bike's second trip outside in 2013 I'm delighted with that. My MawMaw hip did bother me some in the second half, but it was never debilitating, just uncomfortable. I probably rode about 1/3 on my own and the other 2/3 sharing the work (though I did far less of the pulling than the guys did) and hauled ass for 34 miles. And I felt awesome.
Unfortunately I had to leave early and miss the awards because I ended up taking 2nd place in my age group! I'ts pretty cool to have a podium finish that's not a function of the limited numbers in my AG. :)
Women: 9/412 (by chip time...gun time puts me 10th)