Early last week, Julie sent out an email to figure out who was planning on going to Attleboro. Normally I ignore those emails since I'm not too interested in road racing these days, but for some reason, I felt like doing a crit. Maybe holding the bake sale at Wells ave got me in the mood, maybe I've just been hanging out with roadies or something, but I decided that was a good idea. I was already planning on a rollerski race on Sunday, so why not get into the swing of two races in a weekend already?
Saturday morning rolls around, Giulia and Julie pick me up, and we start down I-95... except that its closed, thanks to an oil tanker that apparently went boom and made big flames. The cop blocking the exit wouldn't tell us why the highway was closed, at first he wouldn't even say that the highway was closed, just that the exit was closed. Some people love their jobs, you can just tell...
After winding around some neighborhoods in Needham and Dedham, we got back on the highway and made it to the race with just enough time for a 10 minute warmup. Luckily we could warm up on the course, because I haven't ridden my road bike to do anything other than commute for about a year. The race goes off, I get into my pedals on the first stroke and find myself near the front of the pack. We go around some corners, I'm terrified of the girls around me and my heart is pounding, so many people! All turning together! On bikes! Bikes are dangerous! After a lap or two I can finally relax, I play with moving up and back and back up just to see what it feels like, note some of the sketchier handlers, and start to get bored. We didn't really have a plan, Julie just said to cover anyone who goes off the front, attack if I feel like it and she'll try and counterattack. Ok, I'll attack then, that sounds like fun, plus then I don't have to deal with other people trying to ride me into the sidewalk.
I go up the hill faster than the other people and use my mad "watts" to put like a two second gap on the field, and they catch me on the downhill. I guess I have to work beyond just the hill? I try this a couple more times, mostly out of boredom of riding slow, the pack is starting to get strung out, Cathy is up front a lot, also driving the pace a bit. This is good, its getting to be more fun. A Colavita rider goes off the front, she dangles by ten seconds or so for a couple laps. Then coming through the start/finish, I see an NEBC rider on her wheel. WTF? How did she get up there so fast? Shit, someone's gotta shut down that break before it becomes a break, and the other girls are somewhat stuck midpack. I sprint hard, and then realize that this was a lapped rider. Why was she on the Colavita girl's wheel? Doesn't she know the rules? Mad that I just sprinted for no reason, I sit in the pack as we reel in Colavita. A prime goes, I sprint for it but end up fourth. Apparently not riding ever means you have no legs to sprint. I'm not surprised. An attack ("attack", in 3/4 racing...) goes just after, I go with Cathy and the tall girl in blue and we string it out some more. Our higher than "lets just sit in a pack and ride in circles together" pace has dropped most of the sketchy handler people. This is getting to be fun.
Things kind of blur for a while, then its four to go, I know I want to spread things out enough that its not just a pack sprint, although Julie might like that, we didn't talk about it much. I pedal my bike up the hill on the inside, suddenly find myself at the front so I go hard across the top, its spread out again. Then Cathy is at the front again, my legs are hurting. It bunches up a bit more, then its last lap and I suddenly find myself on the outside of the field going up the hill. I don't like this spot, its not a good one, but I figure I'll just go really fast up the hill get around people. Then the girl ahead of me swerves left, hard, bumping with the girl next to her. Choice words, major slowdown, and I'm stuck behind it. Grrr. Make the corner, get around those girls, sprinting hard, I get back near where I want to be, still on the outside though. The really tall NEBCer decides to take the third to last corner way wide, I am apparently too small and quiet to register with her, I use my mad curb hopping skills to... ride up someone's driveway, through their front lawn, back into the pack, albeit back of the pack. Somehow there is a small gap between me and the front of the pack, we're on the downhill, I'm sprinting hard again. Still in an outside position, I don't like this outside thing, its how my last crit ended badly, all race I've been hitting the apex of the turns on the inside, going from mid to front in a move, but I can't now, and my juice is just about out. Final corner, pedaling through it, no power to be given. Weak attempt at sprinting while two weak girls whoosh by, and then its over, legs burning, out of breath like a cross racer.
Overall, I had a great time. I like racing with teammates, Julie ended up 3rd, Lizi was close behind after a sweet leadout (I hear), and Giulia was somewhere up there too. Would have been fun to be able to sprint, but I never claimed to be smart, and I spent most of the race sitting at the front or in the wind stupidly. Thats what you get for never road racing... Maybe I'll have to break down and do another race.
Climb to Mountain Top Rollerski Race
Saturday night I drove to Weston, got there, slept, woke up, drove to Rutland for the first NENSA rollerski race of the summer. V2 generously gave NENSA some matched skis, so that competitors can race together without somebody having faster skis than someone else. I warmed up for a while, and discovered that those nice NENSA bibs that are wind proof and full-body sized and so nice in the winter are... not so nice in the summer. Ilke and Katrina Howe were the real competition, although Keely Levins was there too, as well as another girl on Marwes who was somewhat pushy at the start.
We start out and Keely is leading, with Ilke and Kat just behind her, and the Marwe girl behind me to the right of that column. I want to get out of the wind, but on the first climb Kat is getting gapped, so I don't want to get behind her, but there isn't really room between her and Ilke. Ilke said I was boxing her in there, which is good, given the speed with which she took off at the top... geezum I wasn't ready to actually race! So as she takes off, I realize I have to go with her, or I'll never see her again, so I take off next, gapping Keely and Kat. I chase for what feels like forever, but is only a km or two, and finally catch up and we work together taking pulls trying to our age and experience to stay away from the younger gals. I'm working hard, it feels like a pretty maximal effort, despite my HR being somewhat low. This is a long, 7km false flat, and I can tell that my muscles are tired. It is taking a conscious effort to keep good form, and I am sweating a lot despite the cool 72 degrees. In fact, I'm projectile sweating, with the sweat coming off my head in giant drops to land on the pavement and make a splash. I'm a little worried about the how much I'm sweating and not having any water and knowing that soon I'll be going uphill with less of a breeze, but thank god some volunteers were handing out water 500m before the climb started.
We turn onto the climb, and I'm thinking that I really could have used just one more downhill before going up this thing; I drove it prior to the race and it is one hellacious 4km climb. I saw some guy walking a mt bike as I was driving, it was that steep. We start V1ing, and Ilke immediately has a gap on me. With a hill this long, you just can't bury yourself in the beginning, you have to ski your own race, so I let her go and just start counting off strides to each side. I'm switching every twenty, keeping everything in motion with my breath, and I find that I am slowly reeling her back in after about 5-10 minutes. The climb keeps going up, though, and I find myself working harder and harder to keep the same tempo. The pavement changes from nice new pavement to old cracked pavement, and each crack is throwing off my balance, kicking my rhythm off its track, the internal radio is blaring Lincoln Park but its stuck on the line "but in the end, it doesn't even matter..." which is less than motivational. My HR isn't that high, but my legs are screaming, the road flattens out a bit and I try to V2, it works, surprisingly, I check behind me and don't see anyone. Then it kicks up again, and now I'm really hurting. I'm faltering, staggering, not skiing smooth at all, Ilke is peeling away from me like Charlotte Kalla from Virpir Kuitinen.
I give myself a mental kick and get my movements back in tune with my breathing, this kicks my tempo back up and keeps my skis moving. Back on track but its way too late, Ilke is at least a minute ahead, skiing strong, knowing shes being chased and very motivated to stay away. I finally see the 200m left sign, and that was like manna from heaven. It flattens out here, too, so I can finally V2 and use my arms primarily, since instead of legs I seem to have mozzarella string cheese, thats been left out too long in the heat. I cross the line 50 seconds behind Ilke, a minute or two ahead of Keely, and Igor is standing there with some water. I down the whole bottle before I realize how thirsty I actually am, I go for more as I start cooling down slowly. Tough race, but rewarding to have worked that hard. Very glad I went up there!
Josh Dillon, Ilke's boyfriend, was nice enough to take pictures with my camera. He was also filming the race with Ilke's flip, doing the double handed thing, hence the blurriness.
The mid-men's pack on the first hill.
Women's "pack" first hill. I'm on the skiers' right, in the front, black shorts red boots.
Ilke has much better pictures from her flip on her blog. I'm the one on the skiers' right in the front (black shorts, red boots).