I used to do horse shows. Lots of people bring their expensive horses and expensive equipment and show off the skills they've spent hours, weeks, months, years perfecting.
Bike races, it turns out, are kind of like that. Except a better workout and not so many belt buckles. And faster.
We showed up in Palmdale on Friday night, hit the Motel 6 immediately and got to bed by 11:30. The race started the next morning at 7 am, so we were up at 5 the next morning. After several wrong turns, we made it to the course to enjoy Santa Barbara's techno jams in the dark, freezing desert. My bike computer said 24.8 F. Jesse thought he was going to die, and he made sure everyone knew it.
Women's C's were off at 7:15, with a powerful peloton, 12 strong. I think four of them were B's. The course was a ~10 mile loop, C's did two laps. Half of it was a big climb, and half a long easy descent, with a mile long flat section connecting the two. We rolled easy for a few minutes on the flat draggy bit, and then split into two groups. I stuck with the first group for a few minutes, but was the first to be popped off on the long climb. At that point, I figured I was in for a very long solo time trial. I decided to eat the energy gel in my pocket, which was totally gross. Warm mandarin orange powergel felt a lot like a momma penguin was puking into my mouth:
Near the top of the climb, a Stanford girl caught me from behind. I stuck on her and followed her down the hill. On the flat, I told her I'd work if she wanted to try to catch whoever may be so far up the road that they were invisible. I took a pull or two, when a girl from Occidental college rolled past us like we were standing still. Stanford was in front, so I yelled, get that wheel! She turned around and said "huh?" And I was all for christ's sake. So I came through and put in a big effort, getting us within a bike length or two. I told Stanford to come through, and promptly dropped myself. Goddammit. I. Am. An idiot. Stanford and Occidental rode off into the sunset together.
After spending a few minutes desperately trying to catch back on, I resigned once again to spending the next lap on my own. I put my head down and made it back up the the finish line for the second lap. I caught Occidental girl on my way up; she descends like a rock but I guess it's hard to push rocks back up hills. I considered waiting for her so I could follow her down, but decided to try to make it on my own. I passed a couple Men's D's, who left a few minutes before us, and that was a big ego boost to get me over the hill. I think I scared Mason with a big 'Rooooooooooooooooollll on you Beaaaaaaaaaaaars" as I passed him on the climb. Sounds like it helped though as he dropped a couple guys on the climb himself.
So now I'm all alone, coming down as fast as I can with my gears all spun out. Sure enough, near the bottom of the descent Occidental comes barreling past again. NOT THIS TIME. I managed to grab her wheel and tucked in behind in her ample slipsteam. After nearly falling over in the only corner on the course, I followed her up a draggy climb, and then came around. I told her to help me catch Stanford, but I guess she was cooked from the climb before and couldn't hang on. To my extreme surprise, I was able to bridge up to Stanford on my own. I caught her wheel stealthily, hoping she wouldn't notice me until she'd pulled me to the finish. When my idiotic broken water bottle cage started to rattle, she looked back and saw me clinging to her wheel.
The road was dragging up, and Stanford slowed down to what my frozen bike computer probably would said was 10 miles an hour had it been functional. I figured she was waiting for me to come around, only to follow me in. So I gathered my remaining strength and unleashed a mighty attack, the likes of which she had clearly never seen. Or maybe she was just tired. At any rate, I made it past and she didn't seem interested in following with any speed. I kept riding until someone told me I'd passed the finish. I guess there was another C up the road with the B girls, because I got second.
The next day were the time trials. Joanna cooked up a scheme to get me riding with her against the A's, leaving Anna and Denise to kick around the C's by themselves. Joanna and I warmed up a bit, and it became clear that I would be doing a lot of sitting on her wheel. When the race started, I was able to take some pulls until the little hill - she had to wait for me on top. When I caught back on, we were nearly to the turn, I thought I was going to barf, and I sucked wheel for most of the rest of the race. I think I came through twice after the turn, but I did what I could. We ended up bringing up the rear in the A category, but Denise and Anna kicked ass and won in the C's.
Finally, after gorging on frosting covered cookies and veggie chips, I had the individual TT. I rode down the road to warm up, and my legs felt like cinderblocks. This was going to be ugly. I took off down the road, and after what felt like 30 seconds, the guy behind me with the disc wheel and pointy helmet passed me by. I then got caught up trying to do some calculations to try to figure out how many people should pass me. If Katie takes 40 minutes to do the TT, and it's 11 miles long, how many people will pass her? Assume the fastest rider finishes in 29 minutes, riders start every 30 seconds, and a normal distribution of times. The standard deviation is 3 minutes.
Then I gave up and started singing this Queen song instead:
That helped. I finished in about 39 minutes, by my clock. I'm still not sure how I finished, but whatever. I rode as fast as I could.
- Cal > Stanford
- Always bring cream cheese frosting to the race
- Don't lose your license
- Don't pull your competitors up to your other competitors and then drop yourself
- Denise snores!