This past weekend I continued my foray back into racing and participated in the Balmoral Metropolitan Championships race weekend. The event consisted of a criterium on Saturday, followed by a hilly road race on Sunday. After all of the improvements I have seen in training, I was keen to see how they would stack up in a racing environment. Here goes…
My criterium did not start until lunch time so I had all morning to develop some nervous tension. The nervous dogs were baying, howling, yapping at my feet.
“You’ve never ridden at Murrarie!”
“They’re riding it in reverse!” (the few times I have been there I have always ridden it in the ‘traditional’ direction).
“What if your wheels aren’t on properly” (I have a new set of race wheels and am still getting used to changing them and making sure the carbon brake pads are on and the different gear ratio is not bothering my derailleur).
I received an encouraging text from Coach Liz.
“I feel dreadful!” I wailed (well as much as writing can sound like wailing).
“Are you healthy?” asked Liz.
“I think I have a bad case of the dogs barking,” I said.
“Oh, well that’s OK then,” she replied, being one who is very knowledgeable about mental canines. “Good luck and have fun!”
I decided to be especially prepared and swing past the bike shop for a last minute gear check. However fate had other plans as I had forgotten to pack my Garmin. And as every rider knows, if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen.
Driving back home to collect my Garmin meant that a stop at the bike shop was going to be cutting it too fine. In fact I was now beginning to think that getting to Murrarie was going to be a challenge as it was a 20km journey from where I had parked at UQ and time was marching on. I decided to go the longer route, reasoning that once I arrived at my destination, I’d be pretty warm. In the anxiety of making it there, the dogs had given up barking at me, deciding that a nice nap in my mind kennel was a far more appealing proposition.
The crit started and I was taken aback by a lack of order within the group. A few ladies were making their aggressive sides known by elbowing people out of the way and it was then that I decided that making a move up to the front of the peloton and staying away from the argy-bargy was the ideal situation. Again, as seems to be customary for women’s races, the pace kept slowing, and I decided that after the last crit I had done like that, that I would ride positively. I put down a few attacks that didn’t stick, however, it did fulfil my objective of getting the pace up. Unfortunately my positioning was a bit off in the last lap and I got boxed in when it came time to sprint. However, I was happy that I had ridden hard throughout the race, and ignored the elbow slayers.
On Sunday, I made my way up to the country town of Kalbar for the Metros Road Race. I knew that I had to contend with the Kalbar “wall” and I was fortunate to get there early enough to actually see it – and everything I had heard about this monster turned out to be true. It was a long steep climb that topped out at about 14% gradient and went straight up, so there was no relief, and no hiding from the effort that was about to come. Strangely enough, I was feeling quite calm. I knew that getting up this hill was going to be a tough assignment, and that I just had to give it my best shot. Before the race, I got to say hello to fellow teammate, Bridget and to my friends – new and old – Loralie and Caro.
We rolled out and the race began on the very first hill, about five hundred metres from the start. Feeling as old as my forty seven years, I marvelled at how strong everyone looked and felt a bit panicky.
“What if I can’t keep up?”
I thought of some of the tough hilly rides I have done of late and how it always takes awhile to warm up, so I told myself to keep the faith and just hang in there.
Then – “The Wall” – and it was every bit as hard as I had anticipated! The bunch was splitting, reminding me strangely of the Starship Enterprise being attacked and shattering into a million pieces. I was hanging in there with the second bunch wondering if my heart was going to explode out of my chest. After I had crested the top it was time for a big breath, because it was time to hit the fourteen Kalbar rollers, which are oddly called the “Dirty Dozen”. I was still at the point where I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to complete the race. I looked at my Garmin.
“Ten kilometres,” it read.
“Far out,” I thought. “There’s no way I’m going back to Coach Liz and telling her that I couldn’t do it and pulled the pin at the ten kilometre mark!”
I looked at my heart rate skirting 189 and had a mental shift.
“If this is what it is, then so be it!”
By this stage, I was working hard with fellow UQCC member, Megan, and Gold Coast rider, Andrea. I was surprised we could still see the front bunch. Then I was even more surprised when the front bunch started coming into focus. Due to having ridden these hills in the Ipswich 160km, I knew that the last half of the “Dirty Dozen” had a bit of descending, so we floored it and by the eighteen kilometre mark, Megan, myself and KPCC rider, Mandy had bridged the gap and were in the front split.
“Wow, we have chance here,” I thought. Then a few attacks started coming which were able to be shut down. It was going to come down to a sprint finish!
However, it wasn’t to be, as although I’d done a pretty good job of positioning myself, I just did not have the legs to sprint at the end. Nevertheless I was pretty thrilled with my efforts in my first road race of the season over what had to be one of the toughest courses I have ever ridden. Bridget did a great job of sprinting for third, which I was pretty pleased about.
Probably the funnest part of the day was sitting down with some of the other riders, regaling stories about the horror that was “The Wall”. Bridget, Caro, Loralie, Jon, Bradley and I munched on carrot cake and found solace, not to mention, a good laugh in the sharing of our mutual pain experience. Jon later described his climbing moments as the “Metros Chainsaw Massacre” and I don’t think he was too far off the mark! Caro told me about the ducks she saw. I told her that I hadn’t seen any ducks. She mentioned something about, “chewing stem”. Sounded about right and oh so pro!
To sum up, that Metros Road Race was one of the toughest events I have done so far. I haven’t decided what is next on the agenda, but I sure hope it not only includes hard work, but the camaraderie that comes out of riding together and sharing goals. Looking forward to seeing how much I can improve for what is next!