At Powerman Alabama I was sort of ready to race but still had some niggling stuff and my bike speed was still very “early season”, if you know what I mean. In the two weeks between Alabama & North Carolina, the injury stuff settled down as I grew more accustomed to the new, lower saddle bike position. Also began to up my bike intensity threshold. I could tell because my heartrate would go up with less perceived effort. Then there was the strong TT last Wednesday. I knew I was ready for a very good bike split.
Just like last year, it rained most of the day before and through the night before the race but cleared in time. The morning was cool and foggy. We got there early and I grabbed a good rack spot and set out my gear, including the new LG Rocket helmet. That thing is fearsome looking. I do my usual warm up and bazillion porta potty stops and squeak in just in time for the start. The women started 2 minutes after the pros and 2 minutes before the 34-under men. With the pros off and flying, we had a clear course.
Run1. We start and Kerri Robbins shoots to the lead. Cool. I’m not leading this time. I drop in behind her and we quickly create a gap to the rest. After about a mile, I’m thinking the pace is too fast for me so I drop off the intensity a little and she runs ahead. By the end of the first lap, she probably has 10-15 seconds on me. I round the corner to the second loop just as one of the waves of the Miniman is passing through so I lost sight of Kerri until the end of the second loop. She hadn’t gained any. I try to transition quickly and find that I’m back even with Kerri at the mount line.
Bike. I tuck in behind Kerri at first and try to settle into a rhythm but find I’m fighting the draft, braking to keep myself from floating into her draft zone. So I make a move and go. As I turn onto Dairyland, I make a mental note to keep an eye out for the Union Grove turn since I missed that turn the previous week when I tried to pre-ride the bike course. In general, I’m feeling very strong and am pushing fairly hard. I find myself near a couple of guys and settle into a legal-distance group. Since guys tend to pick up speed downhills faster than I do, I’m really pushing it to stay with them. It’s nice to travel in a group whenever you luck into it, I think.
I see the volunteer with an orange flag waving us to turn onto Union Grove. Excellent! I made the turn I missed last week. Home free, I thought, just follow the volunteers with the orange flags. So that’s what I did.
I’m still out there hammering away wondering if I’ll blow up or hang on. Even on Chestnut Ridge, the rough surface road that I hated riding on last year was not problem (not compared to cyclocross)! By the time I’m half way or so through the bike I’m noticing that I haven’t seen any of the pro women yet and I’d actually caught some of them at Alabama with a 6 minute gap on the second run. Well, I thought, maybe I’m not riding as fast as I thought and they’re all having great races.
Later, on Borland, an official has a rider stand down. Wait a second, his bib number is 3 and he’s a pro. Why would a male pro be back here? He must have had other penalties or problems? Eventually, I’m heading back towards the school and my calves are threatening to cramp. I had taken some electrolyte capsules earlier at the first signs of cramp, but it never really went away. I try and keep my speed up but soft pedal a little to try and get the calves loose. I worry about the second run as I roll in to T2.
Run2. I take off onto the course and hope my calves hold out. Whoa. Not the only problem, I notice, as my asthma causes some significant shortness of breath. I try to relax my lungs and breath deep and slow. I get a mild side stitch. Not a good feeling. My calves eventually loosen and my lungs too. And the side stitch. By then, though, I’m pooped. I just want the run to be over. People I knew along the course kept saying “first female”. Yeah. OK, first amateur female. Got it.
My God this hurts. Am I moving? I don’t feel like I’m moving anywhere, by I hear myself breathing really hard. A female pro flies by. At that point, I’m certain I am NOT moving. The first pro female I’ve seen all day. Not sure how she got behind me, maybe had bike trouble and I didn’t see her on the side of the road? Not sure. Not thinking too clearly at this point. Finally getting near the finish. Oh, please, just get me there. Oh, this hurts. I drop into the track area and the pro that passed me is finishing. They’re announcing her as the winner. What?
Then I hear my name and that I might be the overall winner? What? I can’t think. Just need to finish. Something isn’t right. I see 2:25 something on the clock. Whoa. Something DEFINITELY isn’t right. Everyone’s congratulating me, but I can’t figure out what happened, but something happened on the bike course. How can I be ahead of all these women that I never SAW?
I figure I cut the course somewhere but have no idea where or how. I really thought I’d followed directions carefully, even though I don’t have the best sense of direction on these particular roads. I turn myself in immediately to DQ myself. I know, however, if I cut the course, I wasn’t the only one.
Later, my husband and I drive around and I piece together what happened. What I finally figured out is myself and about 3 guys that I know of turned left off Union Grove onto Albert, which drops you back onto Dairyland and back onto the course. We turned left there because a fellow with an orange flag was pointing that direction. I guess if I knew the course really well, I would stop and ask if the course had been changed, but I didn’t know it that well.
In the end, a lot of people made the same mistake and some realize it and some don’t. It doesn’t bother me not getting a first place, or whatever, but I really would have liked to know my bike split so I could see how well I was riding. I don’t have splits, though, because I used my personal timing chip and the Active.com registration didn’t provide a place to put in your chip number, so the RD didn’t know I’d be using mine. Since it was a Set-Up Inc race, I’d forgotten the difference in registration procedures and just used my chip as usual.
So that’s why I’m not listed on the results. I was there, though, and had a great race. Check out the event front page on brightroom.com. There I am!