Crazy weekend bicycle racing

Okay, now I’m tired. I did my super, awful, horrible, extremely long race yesterday, and then I got up this morning and went out to race again. And I got two top ten finishes!

Yesterday’s race, The Tour of the Battenkill was the hardest ride I’ve ever done. I’ve been on more difficult courses before, but I’ve never worked that hard for that long. The course was 62 miles with some long hills and something like 10 miles of dirt roads, and it took me 3 hours and 30 minutes to finish. Much of that time I was working as hard as I could.

I started off in a pack of something like 40 racers, and we rode together for the first five miles or so, until we got to the first dirt section (the first of eight). At that point somebody in front of me crashed; I don’t know what happened exactly, but I was far enough behind it to be able to swerve off to the left and ride around the fallen riders. It always feels cruel to ride around people who have just crashed, but that’s what you do, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it. I found myself a bit behind the main pack at that point, but with some effort I caught back on, and on we went.

Things were fine for the next five miles or so until we came to the first big hill, at which point a group of about six riders opened up a gap on the pack. I left some slower riders behind me, and as I crested the hill, I looked around to see who was left to ride with. I’m not entirely sure how things happened, but eventually I ended up riding with three other women, one of whom was my teammate, and then we caught up with two women from the front group who were starting to fall back, and the next thing I knew I was in a group of six and there were four riders up the road. That’s how things stayed for a long time after that. Eventually my group of six got a paceline going (where riders ride in a line, and one person leads for a while before moving to the left and dropping back to take their place at the end of the line to let someone else lead before they, too, drop back, and so on), and we rode that way for miles. For a little while the leading group of four stayed within sight, and we tried to catch them, but we just couldn’t do it.

The race stayed that way until one woman dropped away on a hard hill, and then another woman’s chain fell off and she had to stop to fix it, and I was left with a group of three other riders.

I think the hardest part of the race was watching the miles go by, slowly. I was happy to get to the halfway point, around 31 miles, but that left me with another 31 to go, which would take me over an hour and a half. Hitting mile 40 was great, but there was still another 20; hitting 50 was wonderful, but at that point I was beginning to get seriously tired. Around mile 55 my calf muscles were threatening to cramp, and around mile 60 my quad muscles were going. Thank God I only had two miles left at that point. I was still with the three other riders, including my teammate, going around the last corner into the finish line, and I would have loved to finish ahead of at least the riders on other teams, but I had only enough left to get me to the finish. Still, that got me 8th place, and let me tell you, I’m happy with that. Once I stopped riding, my muscles let me know just how unhappy they were, and I realized that I hadn’t had enough to eat or drink on the ride. So when Hobgoblin, who had just finished his own race, bought us cheeseburgers, I ate mine as fast as I could, and it was probably the best-tasting burger I’ve ever had.

Oh, and 8th place was enough to win me some prize money, so I came home $20 richer. The scenery we rode through was gorgeous — upstate New York hills — but, sad to say, I didn’t see much of it. I was too focused on staying just behind the rider in front of me and on looking out for potholes to take a moment to glance at the hills and farmland. Perhaps someday I’ll ride up there again, and this time do a more leisurely tour of the area.

Last night I tried to decide whether to ride in this morning’s race, which I had already registered and paid for, and I thought, well, I might as well try, and if it doesn’t go well, I can always drop out with a very good excuse. So I got up this morning and set out on my warm-up ride. I felt okay — a little wobbly on the small hills near my house, but okay. When the race started, my plan was to stay in the pack and draft as much as possible to conserve energy. That’s basically what I did, although at one point when the field was riding a little slowly I launched a short attack, just because I felt like I could. The further I got into the race, the looser my legs felt, and the more I thought, hey, this isn’t so bad! And then the last lap was there — surprisingly fast, only 45 minutes into the race after yesterday’s 3 1/2 hours — and I found myself in a decent position at the bottom of the hill leading into the finish line, so I passed a few riders on the hill and ended up in 9th place.

Phew! I’ve never raced two days in a row before, although this something a lot of bike racers do regularly; I had always thought I would be too tired the second day, but the truth is, it wasn’t so bad. If I tried to race tomorrow, things might not work out so well, but tomorrow is a rest day. And I need it because now I’m tired!

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Crazy weekend bicycle racing

  1. Congrats–that’s wonderful! You must be seriously exhausted, though (or at least I would be!). That’s great you’ve placed in the top ten both days, as that must be a huge sense of accomplishment! The second race must have seemed like a piece of cake compared to what you did in the longer one. I really admire you, and to think I sometimes complain about riding the stationary bike at the gym!:)

  2. Congratulations on great races both days! I think this calls for TWO cupcakes!!

  3. Congratulations Dorothy! You are magnificent!

  4. Wow!

    And really, that’s a great time for 62 miles with dirt in there and all :)

    Did it not rain?

  5. Two good races and some prize money from one of them, woo hoo! You mentioned no mud so I guess it didn’t rain? I’m not surprised you did so well, you always do better than you expect particularly on races that worry you :) Congratulations are definitely in order though!

  6. Dang, lady! You’re an inspiration. I remember that you were anxious about the long race, but it sounds like it turned out so positive in the end; congrats.

  7. Dorothy, I am seriously in total awe. Do you know what I did this weekend? I spent 15 minutes on the Total Gym on Saturday and felt all puffed up and proud of myself. On Sunday, I tried to move it to another spot in the house and dropped it on my left foot and thought I’d broken it (the foot not the Total Gym). Today, at lunch, I got in my car and drove the block and a half to the library. I managed to climb the stairs, however, and not use the elevator. You really are an inspiration!

  8. “Phew” is right! I am so happy to hear that you made it alive and well through Saturday’s very scary-sounding race. And I’m amazed you went out again on Sunday. It seems you’re really beginning to give your do-I-really-want-to-race? monster a bit of a shake. Oh, and brilliant writing here. I rode right along with you without ever touching a pedal, and the cheeseburger was delicious (but the leg cramps I can do without).

  9. Well done on your prize money place and on your sheer endurance riding back to back.

  10. You’re amazing! Your detailed description of your race is just riveting. It felt like a movie clip. Congratulations on your accomplishment in both races!

  11. I’m quite late on responding to comments here!

    Danielle — thank you! It’s funny how a race I was once really nervous for now seems like no big deal. 50 min. is really short compared to 3:30! Yes, I certainly did feel a sense of accomplishment after that weekend — and it took me quite a while to recover.

    Debby — thank you! I certainly ate a lot after the races, if not two cupcakes :)

    Litlove — thank you!!!

    Bardiac — no rain, thank goodness. The course conditions were as perfect as they could be, as a matter of fact, with the dirt roads all dry and packed down. Apparently they are sometimes very dusty and hard to ride over.

    Stefanie — thank you! The conditions were great, as it turned out. It threatened rain on the ride up there, but nothing came of it, for which I’m very grateful :)

    Emily — thanks! It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done — twice as long as my longest previous race. I hate the anxiety before a race, but afterward, I feel differently about the whole thing :)

    Grad — thank you :) I hope that foot is healed up nicely. It’s funny that I still tend to think of myself as a lazy person. I don’t do a thing I don’t want to — I just happen to like riding my bike a lot!

    Emily B. — thanks! I suppose I’m not really considering giving up bike racing right now, although I’m doing my best not to think about it too much at all. Thinking about it just makes me anxious. So I sort of pretend I’m not racing anymore, except for those days when I do race, if that makes sense.

    Jodie — thanks! I now know I can race two days in a row, which is good.

    Arti — I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And thanks :)

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