Hopefully you read my last post so I can just cut to the chase.
It seems as though I have forgotten how to race a non-cyclocross event. In my defense it’s been a while, and now I have another person to worry about on race day besides myself (getting AKA packed and out the door on time).
Race day started for us at 6:30am, but for me personally it started around midnight because I didn’t sleep (it’s baaack…I knew the previous week was too good to be true). This was not a case of nerves- AKA woke several times during the night I couldn’t fall back asleep as usual. After a light breakfast I donned my first two layers, loaded up the kid and bikes and we hit the road. Wait- did I say “first two layers”? Yes. The temperature in mid-Michigan was a balmy 12 degrees, leaving pretty much everyone wondering what to wear. More on that later. Once we arrived in the quaint town of Hastings we dropped AKA off at the daycare center (like, a legit daycare for only $30), parked…and sat in the car with the heat on for a while. Then, I sifted through every winter garment I own in a feeble attempt to put together a warm yet race-appropriate outfit. Then I asked strangers in porta-potty line what they were wearing. Finally I decided on a base tank, fleece-lined multi-sport top and my fleece-lined long-sleeved jersey, layered over bib shorts, leg warmers and fleece-lined tights. I accessorized with a beanie, Buff, winter gloves, wool socks and my “marshmallow” booties. Next I loaded my bottles on the bike and put a couple gels and loose Honey Stinger chews in my back pockets. Time was running out so we hopped on the bikes and made our way to the start area. I rode a couple loops of a closed road and froze my
ass everything off. Yeah, the sun was out but it sure wasn’t helping! I decided I was wasting my time and made my way to the starting chute. So- can you identify my three rookie mistakes? If not, read on!
I weaseled my way to the front of our wave (all women, various age groups), and we all tsk’d in unison as a few fat bike guys missed their start and did the walk of shame past us. Next thing I know the whistle was blowing and we sped down a paved road and out of town. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of a gravel race start- would it be fast like a mountain bike race or a gradual ramp up like a road race? Well, it was pretty fast, especially since I had no warm-up whatsoever (rookie mistake #1), and all I could think about was how cold my face and hands were. As soon as we hit the dirt road I realized I was overdressed (rookie mistake #2). Around mile 2, in typical women’s road race fashion, one gal complains about the pace and whines “That’s why I hate racing with women”. I kept my mouth shut. About 30 minutes into the race my hands started to thaw and hurt like hell for another 15, during which time they were rendered useless and I could barely shift. On top of that my bulky gloves kept getting caught in the shifters themselves. Ugh. The pace remained pretty quick but many spots were traded on the hills. A group of 5 managed to get away by weaving through a really crowded section and we never saw them again. I attacked on some paved sections, particularly the downhills when everyone was riding a leisurely 15mph for some reason, and managed to drop some ladies on the Sager Road two-track. I was so caught up in the race that I barely drank- partly because there wasn’t a good time to reach for a bottle and also because its contents were frozen. At the halfway point I figured I should probably take in some calories and reached for my back pockets…wait, this jersey did have pockets, right? Turns out I couldn’t feel them through my giant marshmallow gloves. I sat up and tugged at the fingers of one glove to see if it would come off easily. Nope- my hands were way too sweaty and I’d never be able to get them back on. Ugghhhh. So my choices were to 1. Stop for a couple minutes to remove gloves, eat and lose 5 places or 2.) Skip eating and hope those Belvita biscuits I ate in the car really do provide 4 hours of energy. I opted for #2 and pressed on (rookie mistake #3- not taking time to plan out your fuel strategy). I don’t have much else to say about the second half of the race- I was definitely losing steam and struggled to stay with the chase pack. I started to unravel at mile 30 and everything bugged me- the fact that I was bonking even though I had food in my pockets, the hum of fat bike tires and even the way my number was attached to my handlebar. I was passed by 4 women in those last 5 miles,3 of them bridging the gap between me and a podium finish in my age group. Oh well!
I feel like my biggest mistakes were overdressing (because I hate being hot and feeling restricted by clothing) and not eating during the race. I should have known better.
All in all the B-R was a pretty awesome event and I will definitely do it again next year (hopefully it won’t be so cold again). I really enjoyed gravel racing and may seek out a few more races this spring/summer.