Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Racing with Team Velo Girls -- Cantua Creek Road Race

Team Velo Girls kicked off their road racing season with a great presence at the Cantua Creek Road Race in Coalinga on February 16th.  Team member Winnie Brehmer shares her report of the race:

Winnie (and husband Dan) in the last grueling meters of the Cantua Creek Road Race

You really couldn't have asked for a better day for a bike race, slightly overcast and warm.  We had a great W4 field, reportedly 27 women of all ages and experience levels, plus Mary our mentor who kept it all together for us.

The greatest difficulty pre-race was getting the bib numbers pinned correctly, which some of us had to try more than once.  Trainers, potty breaks, sunscreen, stuff everywhere, and all of a sudden we were lining up for the start.  Supposedly a neutral quarter mile, which not everyone observed as the ladies moved around in the pack for better position.  Whatever.  Then the race was on, at a quick but steady pace.  There was an early attack, go figure, which Tiina caught and I reeled in a short while later.  Wow, chasing the break was hard work, in the full wind!  Highest heart rate of the whole race, as I discovered later. (No checking the Garmin mid-race, except maybe once or twice to get an idea of miles covered / to go.)

Riding in the pack was easier than expected.  I was surprised to find that I was one of the more confident and steady wheels and managed to stay in the top third without much trouble.  The turn-around had me a little worried, and to my dismay one of the ladies went down in the gravel.  Everyone did their best to continue through safely and the first aid support quickly came to her rescue.

The rest of the race was pretty steady.  Sometimes slow, which left me antsy, and sometimes fast, which challenged my ability to close those gaps.  I watched our girls drop off slowly, which was difficult to see.  Then I lost my bottle with my liquid calories... dammit!  That was gonna hurt.  It messed with my head, and I couldn't get my nutrition right after that.  I fell from the front of the pack to the very back.  Struggling to regain my focus and composure, I was still at the back at the half-way point and fighting hard not to lose the other girls on the climb.  After the turnaround, the pace seemed to ease and once again I was sitting comfortably in the pack.  With only one teammate left in the main pack, I didn't know what to do.  In my weakened state of mind, all I could really focus on was sticking with Tiina.

Apparently there was a breakaway at the final turnaround which neither Tiina nor I really saw.  We relaxed in the back of the field and Tiina focused on saving energy for the finish while I was slowly being dragged down by cramps and fatigue.  I knew I needed to eat but couldn't get it together.  My head was gone and I was too tired already.  A mile or so from the finish line, the Pinnacle women organized an attack and took off.  The field splintered and Tiina chased, leaving me gasping and blown half way up the final climb.  I put my head down for just a second and was off the road.  Thank goodness I had worked on my bike handling skills enough to recover safely, but I was shaken.  I dumped some water over my head and shook it off, then gritted my teeth for the last 200 meters.

As I rolled past the other girls I thanked them all for a great race and they were equally kind.  "Nice work Velo Girl" one of them said.  At the W4 debriefing, mentor Mary made a point to say how awesome the Velo Girls raced today, and how Lorri did a great job of preparing us for racing.

Post race emotions were mixed, disappointed with how I let my position slip in the final few hundred meters, grateful to have raced strong and enjoyed the ride for the most part.

Special thanks to Oralia and her family for their hospitality.

And to Tiina for being a huge moral support in keeping me pushing hard when the fuel tank was empty.

And to my husband who set up my trainer, pinned my number, followed in the support vehicle, and whose presence alone got me up that finishing climb.

And finally to our coach and fearless leader Lorri who got us to our first race with the skills and preparation to race hard and race well.  

First race - DONE.  I'm officially a racer!


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