Thank you thank you, it feels good to be on this side of the tracks, finally.
Leaving 99 Crit Crusade --ACA sanctioned. 1Km loop, downhill to hairpin to back up the hill. 100 Feet higher, through the parking lot, back down the hill.
I entered the "Newbies" --it is a practice crit, after all. And a half hour of pain seemed plenty appropriate to get my first race out of the way. $20 And flashing my license later, I had a number.
We were the first race, which gave me the opportunity to do some laps as folks were gathering themselves and setting up the start/finish line. I warmed up on course for about a half hour. Lesson #1: A better warm up. Next week I'll actually bring the trainer and spin and stuff. I got a decent sweat, but I don't think the legs were quite ready. The butterflies were pretty busy at this point.
Couple last swigs of water, and I lined up. I sat maybe in the second row. There were probably 15 or so folks: a few women, a fixie (also a kitchen sink race), a Cervelo S3 with Zipps, you get the idea. Key piece of info from the announcements: they're letting us stay on course, even if we get lapped. The kind request is to pull ourselves with 3 laps to go if we were lapped. I set my mental bookmark for the '3,' Totally expecting to have to pull myself. Lesson #2: Plan on finishing the race. I mean duh.
Instead of "riders ready" all he said was "good luck, gentlemen," and then the whistle. I then spent the first half-dozen revolutions trying to clip in. And yes, I have no shame in blaming my PI toe covers; they get caught right under the lip of my cleat and get in the way of clipping in. No, this wasn't the first time that's happened. In the meantime, most of the field sprinted into the downhill section. Just like that, I was OTB. Lesson #3: Get in and GO! There is no slow rolling into feeling out the field.
Considering the low-key nature of the race, it was clear some folks were riding this as a warm up for a later race. The "field" was strung out, split up, strewn into individual TT efforts by the end of the first lap. At this point, I focused on the Sisyphean routine: up the hill, through the parking lot, gasp like a bass out of water on the down hill, hairpin, breathe, sprint up the hill again. A nice little incomplete recovery interval workout.
I got lapped on the fourth? Fifth? lap. By the S3. A few laps later I got lapped by the SS mountain bike. At this point I was oscillating back forth between almost puking at the top of the parking lot and barely catching my breath at the hairpin. My only repeating thought was "look for the 5, look for the 5." I even changed the display of the bike computer to show elapsed time; it was 16 minutes in. I had a while to go.
I passed through the start/finish, saying to the crowd, "I'm getting dizzy," --trying to make a joke about the short course. I realized as soon as I said it the people standing there probably took it as my medical condition, and immediately felt ashamed. I mean, of course I was dizzy with oxygen debt, but dernit it was a race, it's supposed to be like that.
Down the hill, hairpin, up the hill. Down the hill, hairpin, up the hill. All I tried to do was stay consistent, tap dancing on that red line between finishing and falling over. The image of a cross-country skier flashed through my head: the requisite "cross the line and collapse." I could have made a pretty good impersonation.
I lapped a couple folks, including the work-buddy who was out there with me. A pat on the hip, couple out-of-breath words of encouragement, and forge on. Down the hill, hairpin, up the hill. Down the hill, hairpin, up the hill.
There it was, five laps to go. Remembering the race instructions, I notched it up (as much as I could) for two last laps. With 3 laps to go I progressed in my head: Last time down the hill. Last time on the hairpin. Last time up. Finish line. Smiles.
Lesson #4: Finish the race. considering the small field, the nature of the event, and the relaxed atmosphere, I should have completed the race, or at the very least, ridden till the bell lap. As it was, I pulled off, and spent the rest of the day smiling ear to ear.
I DNF'd. I expected that. What I didn't expect was placing 6th. I looked up the results on Sunday, and there it is, 6th. Apparently I pulled off after some of the other guys, which though was before the end of the race, was enough to call it 6th. Heck, I'm just guessing. Maybe it's a consolation thing to not have to scribe "DNF" on a practice crit results. As I'm fond of saying in other sports, there's no annotation in the W/L column; so the results show a placing, I'll take the placing.
I hung around and watched the Juniors, then about half of the Men's Cat 4's to see what I was really up against this year. I think I'll do okay; there are some strong riders and some not-so-strong. That field was single file after the first lap, and broken up into three groups+stragglers by the third, then down to a lead group of four or five riders by the fifth lap. Lesson #5: Come back for more. I'm gonna get myself into that one this coming Saturday. I had a blast!!