I finished a road race! Yes, this is the first time I’ve actually finished a road race (as opposed to a criterium, of which I’ve finished plenty), and by “finished” I mean stayed with the pack the entire way. I’ve ridden all the miles of a number of road races (largely because the courses are long enough the racers do only a lap or two, so I have no choice but to finish all the miles just to get back to my car), but I’ve always gotten dropped on the hills. As you can probably guess, today’s course wasn’t terribly hilly.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My race report should really begin last night with my book club meeting (about which more in a later post), which was absolutely wonderful, but which kept me up until 11:45 p.m. or so, which made this morning’s 4:30 alarm highly unwelcome. As I’ve surely mentioned before, I don’t do well with little sleep. I tossed around the idea of staying in bed and skipping the race (thinking that it’s thrillingly self-indulgent to sign up for a race and then to spend all day purposely not riding in it), but I’ve already skipped one race this year because of lack of sleep and didn’t want to do it again. So I spent the whole 2 hour drive up to Warren, Massachusetts, dozing and feeling miserable. Watching it begin to sprinkle shortly after arrival made things that much worse.
But the rain stopped by the time the race went off and I was feeling more alert. The race was to be two laps of 20 miles each; I’d never done the course before, but I’d heard it wasn’t hilly, so I was hoping not to be surprised. I settled into the race pretty quickly, spending a lot of time in the middle or towards the front of a pack of 30 or so racers. A couple times someone launched an attack, but no one ever managed to get far in front of the pack. I spent the first 20 miles watching the course carefully and hoping not to be surprised by a steep hill or an attack I couldn’t follow.
I also spent the first 20 miles wondering why the pack seemed so relaxed. The pace was almost leisurely at times and lots of people were talking and laughing instead of focusing on their riding. It sometimes felt like a group ride rather than a race. One person said she thought this was because many riders had raced in a local race yesterday and so were tired, an explanation which made sense. So I decided I could relax a bit and enjoy the ride. There were no bad hills — the one long one had some breaks in it that made it easier — and knowing that made the last 20 miles more fun. I knew there was nothing scary out on the course, and I was pretty sure the pack wasn’t going to get away from me.
This left the final sprint, though, and I discovered that it’s an uphill finish — a very gradual uphill, but still, a hill. As I started to climb, I saw my heart rate go up into the 180s, and I could feel my legs protesting. I stood up for the last little bit, my heart rate hitting 187, and finished behind a front line of racers but still somewhere in the middle of the pack. I’m guessing I got something like 12th or 15th place; I will be able to find out for sure in a few days.
So, I’m happy with how it went. I would have liked to finish stronger, but the fact that I finished at all is enough to make me happy.
BUT, the race report is not over. I stayed at the finish line to watch Hobgoblin’s race and was horrified to see a bunch of crashes as the crowd of racers sprinted to the end. I couldn’t see Hobgoblin anywhere. I watched the people who crashed get up off the road and was relieved not to see him there, but I still had no idea where he was.
And this began a long search that seems farcical from the outside, but was frightening as I experienced it. The problem is that there were two locations Hobgoblin could possibly be — at the High School where we parked or at the Elementary School where the afternoon races began. We hadn’t made plans where to meet. I first went to one school and didn’t see Hobgoblin, so I rode the five miles or so to the other school and still didn’t see Hobgoblin or the car, so I waited a while and then rode back to the first school, and still didn’t see him. I talked to a bunch of people who promised to help me find him, and then I watched the afternoon races begin, because there wasn’t much else I could do. Then a group of women very kindly told me Hobgoblin was waiting at the other school, and one of them offered to give me a ride. He wasn’t there, though, and so we drove back, finally passing his car when we’d almost arrived.
It turns out Hobgoblin had done much the same thing I’d done — he’d looked for me at the finish line and didn’t see me, looked for me at one school and didn’t see me, then he got lost trying to find the other school, and then he drove back and forth a couple times more, never seeing me.
Everything was fine in the end, but all that wandering around and searching was no fun for either of us. We clearly need to plan where we will meet next time; this time around it simply didn’t occur to us that a plan would be necessary. Hobgoblin is fine, by the way — no crashes or trips to the hospital.
So, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.