I haven't stared at the bottom of a coffee mug since dead week in college. I almost took two showers, cold ones at that, to attempt a full body revitalization for the days race. I stared at Mara and quietly asked with my hoody almost covering my eyes: "It gets better, right? Like at the next race, if won't be so bad, right?" She just laughed.
I had spent the night tossing and turning and dreaming of cupcakes. I woke up at 3am and ate a granola bar to stave off the hunger pains. I didn't know how I was going to get to the race, let alone race it. But somehow someway, we got there. This course was hands down my most favorite. Here in town we have the Tuesday Night Championships otherwise known as The Sunset Ride. Now the local ride does 3 laps on a modified route, so as of late, I have been doing the RBC route for training and loving it. I know how many minutes the painful Ridge Road climb is. I know how many pedal strokes to get over the QOM to Rossmont is. I know where JT will be standing by his dirt yard. This one was going to be a blast.
Our team was down to 5 racers now after the crit after loosing Katie and Tammy to time cuts in the crit. Katie got a plate in her collarbone 3 weeks ago and Tammy has been suffering a quad strain for quite some time, so they get the Purple Heart Awards for their efforts period. Really impressive.
The Goals: 1. Make 3 laps - after 3 laps if you get pulled/crash/mechanical you will receive a prorated time and get on the GC. 2. Make 5 laps 3. Make the whole RACE to 9 laps 4. And get to race all the way into Redlands (Only the lead group gets to come all the way into town, so this was a Shoot For The Moon goal...)
The Race: I got on the bike to spin the legs out and jaw-dropping shock of all shockers, I felt ok. Borderline GOOD. Creepy. I got to the start and I was in the starting grid with some of the coolest pro mountain bikers: Lea Davison, Melanie Meyers-Colavito, and Amy Dombrowski. RAD. The four of us had a good laugh about it and got the ice cracked before the start. We had a neutral start out of town heading all the way back up to Garden. I made sure Lisa and I were in the the group near Mara and getting closer to the front of the group for the inevitable. I knew once on Garden it would be at least 10 minutes of all out max effort. Just as I predicted, the fire works were lit. Fighting for position, not even near the fire house yet, and the group was getting strung out. Turning onto Mariposa, where our ride passes every week, Nicky Wangsgard from Primal was on my right, got out of the saddle and WHAM her chain broke and she hit the deck, with a Webcor rider going down with her. RIGHT in front of me. I threw my bike down, jumped over the Webcor girl as Lisa flew past me and jumped back on my bike. Chasing. Really? Lap ONE? Out the Back?? Chase. Chase. Chase. Lisa got with another few riders and it took me about 7 minutes to latch on to their group. Phew. But climbing up Ridge solo on lap one was humbling. To the right were the Gangs, students from school with their parents. Perfect for a suffer-fest photo op. Side note: The tall socks. I always wear black tall socks, to hide my cankles - close runner up to Norms. But those would not have matched the SC Velo kits, so i special ordered white. My "fans" at the crit and even teammates said "We just looked for the tall white socks!" Perfect, now that I don't have a bottle-blonde rat tail to pick me out of the peloton!
Once with the girls, our group started to grow. We had Olivia Dillon of Peanut Butter 2012 join us who had flatted at the start. I quickly realized that the chase group, is well, a bit edgy, aggitated, and agro. Because virtually we have been dropped and want to be up THERE yet we are HERE with "them" whoever "them" is. This group was railing. We grew to about 15 with the addition of Erika who we picked up. We had three teammates in the group and tried our best to work to gain ground on the leaders. We figured we were the 3rd group on the road and the lead group was roughly 1:50 up. This was great news as we went through laps 1, 2, 3, 4...we weren't going to be pulled, we could make it all the way! The riders we were picking up were no pack-fill either. Strong riders that made our group that much more of a threat.
The course was playing out like the Truman Show as we rallied through. There's JT, his wife and Jack in the yard - each lap - cheering the same thing. The dog to the left barks super loud, we swoop right past Christie's house and see Mallory out of the corner of my eye each lap. heading down Dwight thinking why is there NOT a hay bale on Tricia's mailbox? There's always one. Ack, I can't stop staring at it! Quick look left look left! All these thoughts were just flashes in the pan but they stick out so large!
Now I talk a lot. But usually its about nothing or positive things like "good job" or "nice pull" or "just over the top" or maybe asking if a teammate needs something. You, something that will HELP the rider or situation. But some of these gals like to take a different angle. Like telling you what your doing wrong, to get off the brakes, to take different lines blah blah blah. I have done a really good job at blocking "noise" out this season but on this day I was tired and run down. Things started to get under my skin. Rookie Move #4: Don't ever question yourself!!!! I was riding good, fast and strong (in my opinion at least) and the girls telling me what to do were always behind me, I should have just given them the wheel. I like to learn, so I don't mind when other racers give me advice. But trying to figure out in my anaerobic state what they were telling me to do or not do was futile. And I still don't understand it!
Start of lap 5 I was pumped. I was doing my best to stay off the brakes but this meant I was pushing the limits. And I found just where those limits were! At 1:33:54 ride time, approximately 23.4 MPH, 30.3 miles in, I decked it and decked it bad! Now the only time I crashed on my road bike was on the diagonal railroad tracks in the rain. Alone. And the night before, I completely put a hex on myself by having a lengthy conversation regarding crashing. The consensus of the dinner table was that all crashes are 95% rider error. YOUR. FAULT.
And I concur. 100% my fault and very glad I did not take anyone else down with me. I was riding maxed out, pushing the limits and my front wheel hit a bump and washed out, throwing me straight down. I think Erika got caught up a bit, but i was sitting on the center line with my bike hanging upside down on the rock wall to my left. Funny thing: All the follow cars were driven by my friends and pseudo-Uncles: Ken Kramer, Matt Breyer, Sean Rooks, Mark Love, Uncle Greg Johnson, Mark Friis, all drove my and later told me they wished they had taken a picture. :)
I yelled at Lisa and Erika "just go!" in my best After School Special voice with some dramatic flair but they refused. We were on lap 5 and would get a prorated time and on the GC. That was a community goal for all three of us. But I felt SO BAD and I am sure that crash ripped the chase group apart. My hand was bleeding pretty steady from shoving it into my spokes and my knees super swollen from the impact and blunt force trauma into the asphalt. No road rash! But I took the brunt of the fall with the left side of my helmet and left shoulder. Collarbone? Check. Scapula....this one isn't working so well. Front wheel. Big NO. Bar tape shredded and dangling off like ribbon on a present. Down to the fire station we rode and my Redlands Classic was effectively over.
Such a mix of emotions. I couldn't believe the girls pulled out with me and stayed with me. I was miffed that my pilot error had ended our race. I was elated that my legs had felt great and that we were still racing, not just riding the race. Ramon gave me his officials chair so the firemen could poke and prod my shoulder, all coming to the conclusion I was intact. Phew. It could have been so much worse.
To Be Continued.... (sorry I just have to, too much to spew out at once. Plus, who reads a dozen paragraphs anyways!?!)