I'm feeling very good this afternoon in that post-race haze of sore legs and endorphin calmness.
After a week of self doubt, doubt about the weather, and general doubt about my sanity, I got up at 5AM this morning, made coffee and oatmeal, got my cycling kit together and then headed down to Patterson for the early bird road race.
I was super nervous as I got there and paid registration. "Bike racers are much skinnier than I remember" I thought to myself as I tried to push the self doubt deeper and remind myself how many hundreds of races I have under my belt and that this is early season and I am good enough and people like me.
Anyway. I hate to admit it but I pinned my number to my jersey with slightly shaking hands and then slowly got my bike and myself put together with about 20 minutes to kill. I did the usual parking lot laps until I heard "Master's 35+ 4's and 5's to the line!" This was followed by the usual warnings etc. For some strange reason, nerves immediately turned into standing there looking around at myself about to start another bike race ten years after the last race (those cyclocross races last month don't count!) and I just sort of found it humorous. From that point on I was fine.
The race itself was okay. I was surprised how high my heart rate monitor was going despite not necessarily feeling like I was working THAT hard. But when the crucial two mile climb at 7% grade came, my heart rate maxed out and I soon found myself sliding off the back of the remainder of the pack (down to maybe 20 to 25 riders at this point). I was fine with that and just crushed the gears and kept a couple of guys in my sights.
At the turnaround I was slightly blurry eyed and had that over-taxed fuzzy brain thing going but that cleared up pretty quickly. I was VERY surprised to find that I pretty easily caught a couple of guys on the descent. I have always been a pretty timid bike-handler and I've actually been working quite abit on it lately and it's paying off! Anyway. We weren't working all that well together. Two of us were pretty savvy on pacelining but our companion didn't have a clue and was messing up our rhythm pretty badly. But we were moving along nicely and keeping the following riders and races off our backs with no problem.
Then I got a flat ten miles from the finish and my day of hoping for a placing not too far back from the middle of the field went out the window.
But that's racing. I, of course, didn't have anything with me and I ended up standing on the side of the road for 15 or 20 minutes before a guy stopped and gave me a tube and pump. We finished the race together and had a nice chat. Thanks Renzo! Much appreciated!
And that was that. I was very happy to survive. I was pretty happy to hang in easily on the flats and easy climbs. I was quite happy to competently and confidently corner in a group and on a fast descent. I was a little surprised to find myself slightly squirrelly in a pack (but then 90% of the guys were this being a mixed race of beginners and January and everything). All in all I'm very happy I pushed the doubts aside and raced today.
When's the next one!