Race Report by: Shauna Sweet
After The ‘Kill…
Following Battenkill, I had a whole range of emotions. I had set that race on my calendar as a challenge to myself, as a goal, and ultimately, I didn’t have the race I wanted.
Driving away from upstate NY, with two thermoses full of great coffee and looking forward to see my family, I had nearly 7 hours in the car to think. Without much on the radio, my brain was on full volume through western Massachusetts, past Boston, and through New Hampshire across the Maine-NH border. I oscillated between confidence in my fitness, a sense of accomplishment for having truly *raced* the race, even though my legs quit about halfway through, and utter disappointment with myself for my performance on race day.
And I also was struggling to be OK with my own disappointment. Before and after the race, people would say to me that I need to ‘just have fun’ or ‘this is supposed to be fun’ or some version of ‘if you’re not having fun, then why do it,’ and I don’t disagree. Of course it’s supposed to be fun, and I have never said it isn’t. But I also don’t think enjoyment is incompatible with expectations of wanting to do well, and disappointment when on race day, whatever mix of luck, preparation, nutrition, peloton, weather, doesn’t work in your favor. I want to compete, not just ‘complete’ events. And perhaps for the first time in my life, I feel like I have the fitness to be able to step to the edge of that cliff of competition, and jump. It’s terrifying, and awesome. And terrifying. And it makes me want to push harder.
Carl Decker, pro mountain biker and sometimes blog writer and philosopher wrote a piece for Velonews recently that really resonated with me, about racing, fun, and ultimately being on that mental and physical edge of control sharpened by skill, fitness, and speed:
Realistically… how “inspiring” and “fun” a track is usually doesn’t make much difference in the results… And honestly, in the moment, racing isn’t supposed to be fun. If done correctly, it should strike a balance between fear and suffering. Practice is fun. Surprising yourself or your friends with a good result is fun. Later, recounting your prowess or heroism in the race is fun. But in the moment — in the race — if you’re having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
But I love being on that edge where sh*t just hurts. It's terrible. And it's also fun, though maybe only in the telling. Which brings me to the Tour of Page County…
(If you’re interested, you can also read more of Carl’s thoughts on Velonews.)
The Weekend Begins…
Maybe I should start by saying that when not suffering during the races, everything about ToPC was fun. The weekend was a chance for several of us on the team to race hard and rest hard, which would mean lounging upside down with our legs up in a log cabin tucked into the woods in the Shenandoah mountains about 15 minutes outside of Luray. There were 4-dollar hamburgers and towers of breakfast hash. Spending time with the team is always super fun. Seeing ladies that I typically don't see outside of CX season and having a chance to catch up is great. Doing the occasional road race gives me the opportunity to see folks that aren't inclined to play in the mud.
We would also meet some fantastic folks while volunteering, and have a chance to cheer on friends while course marshaling.
It’s awesome to contribute to the community and to the ToPC because so much energy goes into fostering the relationships that make the ToPC possible. We enjoyed some amazing weather, some questionable weather, and some not-so-nice weather, and ultimately finished the weekend cheering folks as they raced through Downtown Luray, pleasantly tired and slightly sunburnt.
Let’s Get This Party Started!
I arrived to the cabin on Friday night around 8 pm, after a 12-hour drive from Sanford, Maine that morning. I was greeted at the Cabin by Erin and Coach Bernie, who supervised my 45-minute roll-out session. Going into Battenkill my right knee was giving me problems, and following an impromptu 60-mile ride on Wednesday through the back woods of Maine, and a full day of driving, my knee was a bit worse for wear. A huge thank-you to Jose (@stretchmoves) for helping me to work through that pain with recommendations on stretching and how to tape my knee for additional support through the weekend. I knew I wasn’t going to get on the trainer to get any sort of openers in that evening. I told myself my knee probably appreciated the extra day of rest. I had been very conscious about hydrating even while driving through, so at least I had that going for me. My in-race nutrition still needs work, but pre-race, especially when recovering from and getting ready for big rides, I’m very conscious about getting enough water. It’s served me well in CX, and so I feel like I’ll just keep a good thing going.
Megan, Angela, and Deirdre arrived at the cabin a bit later in the evening, greeted by Erin, Coach Bernie, and me rolling out on the floor in my pajamas. And with the party officially started, we all went to bed, alarms set for 5 am the next morning.
It’s tough to write a race report several days and two races after the road race. What I remember from the road race is staying to the outside of the pack, being aware of my relatively poor pack position, but being mostly concerned with staying within the front group rather than making any sort of moves, and being aware that there were some shaky wheels in the bunch.
The first two laps of the race were stop-start, and not particularly fast. I imagine there were some negotiations happening at the front between the women on the stronger teams. Beginning on the third lap, though, the pace picked up and the group started to thin. Angela, Erin, and I were all reminding each other in those first laps to drink, and after Battenkill I was aware of needing to eat every 45 minutes, even if I didn’t feel hungry. Having folks looking out for you and wheels that you know is awesome. I stayed hydrated. took the gels on schedule. My legs didn’t take a hike. I still felt good halfway through.
Lap 3. I was still attached to the group, not moving up in the pack, but staying with the pack, having to ride around a few folks when the accelerations would happen up the hills. I remember wondering where my legs came from that day. A day-long car ride isn’t ideal race prep, but I felt steady. Some of the accelerations through the 3rd and 4th lap were intense, but there were attacks without counters and none of the attacks managed to stick. On a few of the harder efforts, the group split apart and I chased back on. There were a few chases when I made a mental note that working smarter and not harder should be a goal for me. I realized after I would chase back to the front and make contact, which I was super happy about, others would also catch back on. But had good legs, and the efforts felt good without being overly taxing, so I went with it. I certainly enjoyed the efforts more than I did riding in the pack. The course with its rolling hills was terrain that I really enjoy. The descents were not overly technical. The hills were enough to force some efforts, and it was overall a course that favored hard-recover-hard-recover, which is a great way for me to ride.
The 200m to go sign seemed to appear out of nowhere, and I suddenly realized I should probably attempt a sprint, or at least climb the hill with gusto. I finished 5th in my category, everyone in that lead pack within seconds of each other.
Stay Tuned for the Next Chapter of...Tour of Page County!