By: TSF Shauna Sweet
I have a tan bordering on sunburn, some ridiculously hilly miles in my legs, I'd be lying if I said my lower back was 100% ... I fell asleep last night as I was about to get off the bed to take a shower.
I'm keeping it classy here in Queensbury.
That was, without a doubt, among the hardest things I've ever done. The terrain was brutal, with climbs that made Morgantown seem like a welcome alternative. The winds across the ridgeline made me wonder if I shouldn't have sparkly red shoes and a dog named Toto. And for the first time ever in an event of this length, I was there to race it.
I raced my heart out and my legs out for 38 miles, and suffered the last 30, pedaling, but slowly drifting backwards. I prepared incredibly well, faced fear in the race and went for it, and made some very costly rookie mistakes that ended my day early.
It's tough to not be disappointed, but at the same time, I really couldn't be happier with how I felt on race day, and how I was riding.... If only the race was 40 miles long ;)
Those first 38 miles were a race, I rode at my limit, had some of the best descents, and most confident riding I've ever had.
Well, I didn't start confidently. The neutral roll-out from the fairgrounds hesitantly rolled, then surged, then stopped, then rolled. Used to fast starts where the goal is to GO and get separation, this was all at once weird, frustrating, and uncomfortable. I stayed toward the middle of the pack, toward the yellow line, as I watched people ride not behind a wheel, but overlapping and in between. Girls at the front were moving across the pack, not drifting back, causing slow-downs, and suddenly, I watched as five girls started to accordion in front of me, collapsing sideways, and at mile 7, a massive crash that split the field.
I jumped around several ladies lying on the pavement and chased back to the front of the group. And at that moment the ladies picked up the pace. Up and over the next hill, up into the next turn, up Meetinghouse Road, and as I expected, the group shattered. The space gave enough room to maneuver down the first dirt sector, and I let it fly. I followed a few ladies who were confident descenders, and it's always nice to have some insights on line choice! No brakes on a descent I only timidly rode on Thursday. It was like flying.
The next several hills and stretches into and through the next dirt sector are a blur. At some point, u was in with a group of ladies, and we were working together, catching riders in front of us, 30 second pulls... And then one woman took a pull up a hill that shattered the group. I stayed on her wheel and said we'd lost everyone, and she said that she was chasing back from a crash and a flat tire. She had no plans to stay with our group, and she rode off, but the group was shattered. I was on my own, briefly rejoined by some ladies, but then up and over a long dirt climb I found myself riding solo, the group again behind me. I came down the dirt sector, onto a long flat stretch into the wind. I was out there solo for a while. Certainly long enough to wonder if being out on my own in the wind was a great idea, and I didn't let up, but consciously decided not to push it. After a bit, I was joined by Tiffany from Artemis, and two other riders from the area who were totally rad chicks. One, a track racer, the other, a mountain biker, and it was beautiful to see their strengths play out as we road together, their power, finesse, and humor about this adventure we were on made the miles fly by.
But then, another series of hills around mile 38, and 2 ladies attacked the group. Not sure why, and the woman who was a track racer asked me what was going on. I didn't know, but I could feel my legs fading (I hadn't been fueling...) and I said id bridge her up to them, but then I was done.
And I did. And I was. The three of them rode together, and while I was on pace with them for a while, eventually they disappeared.
So, the bottom fell out around mile 40, and my day was a tough roll home solo, over hills, and through the wind.... Some post-race analysis thanks to some awesome Masters racers from NCVC and talking with Mark whose audible smile when i told him my "nutrition" over the phone may have revealed the culprit.... I didn't fuel myself properly, meaning, at all. And around mile 40 is where all my pre -race nutrition "wore off", and I found myself still with fitness, but out of gas. Racing cyclocross has taught me a lot about pre-race nutrition and hydration, but fueling on the bike is essential for races like these. The Skratch kept me hydrated, but the one gel at mile 52 was too little, too late.
Thanks to all of you. Thanks to Chris at Kelley Acres who is an awesome coach and has me spread excited about what I can do next. Thanks to Tom, Brooks, and Jim from NCVC who waited for me to return, regaled me with tales of their own race with two world champions at the front, and forced me to try a recovery shake. Thanks to Mark for being my rock through this crazy experience (one among many).
For the first time since crashing last fall, I was riding by feel, and not thinking. And if it took a race situation to do that, so be it. I'll take that feeling with me. I have missed it.
Ride on, ride hard. Face fear.