Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round #2: The Cytomax Benicia Criterium - next Sat!

2 Wheel Crit pre race

2 Wheel Criterium – Pre-race
I seem to be looking very tentative here…
…"wtf am I getting myself into??!”
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

What I haven’t said here is that I pulled out of my first crit (The 2 Wheel Criterium in Rohnert Park on 6/7/09) after 6 insane laps. Upon seeing the “6 to go” sign I thought “ugh. I can’t do it.” Then changed my mind. “YES YOU CAN. YOU CAN DO IT AND YOU WILL DO IT, SARAH. HTFU!”

But as the pack rounded the corner we began to string out and I found myself falling off the back. Again. This time, as I shifted up and prepared to step on it, I had a pit in my stomach as if I was about to puke any second, not to mention my right quad screaming in pain and in that instant, I just gave up.

It takes a lot for me to give up. But for 20 solid minutes, I was not having any kind of fun. At all. In fact, the idea of staying with it for another 20 horrifying minutes was in itself enough to make me puke.

I realize I’m giving crits a bad name here. It’s not that they suck that much. But I really had no idea what I was doing out there. Blindly, I just assumed people would be nice and keep a wheel open for me to grab! Naively, during the 2nd lap I attempted to make my way up through the pack along the right side and before I knew it, they had all jumped BEHIND me. NO! I didn’t want THAT! When I attempted to drop back, it was as if I could hear all the other women thinking “HA! ROOKIE GIRL! You tried to move up and now YOU’RE on the front, girlfriend! Mush! Mush!”

Sarah 2 Wheel 3

What a rookie I was.
Photo credit: Nick Gaetano

Mush, I did. Except it was a prime lap, which is a lap where they give prizes to the first three people across the line (they’re like mini prizes for people who may not win but like to attempt some sprints across the line midway through the race). As we rounded the second-to-last corner, my ears began to pick up a slight ‘whoooosh’ and sure enough, the Cat3/4 women began to surge past me and I was about to be chop liver if I didn’t hang on. Yet I had no ‘get up and go.’ So I did get up, but I didn’t really go.

Pretty soon I was off the back and going across the line a good 25 yards behind the entire pack. Mortifying and also disheartening. This was a local race and all my buddies were out there cheering for me and here I was, behind already – only in LAP 3! UGH!

Sarah By Herself 2 WheelI would guess that it’s usually rare to have a solo photo from a criterium.
Unless you’re off the front or off the back. Here, I’m off the back…
…and hurting as I try to catch up!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Still, I HTFU’d and used everything I had to catch the group again, about 2/3 through the third lap. I was pretty much redlining there, too. After two more laps of hanging on for dear life and still falling back, I’d had enough for one morning.

One thing that absolutely attracts me to this sport is the strategy that is involved. It is not simply telling your trained body to move it. It goes far beyond that. There’s teamwork, plotting, strategizing, and also practicing the art of being firm in your position or forcing your way in. I really like that.

What is not quite so comfortable is the element of high intensity that is involved with this. Not only must I refocus my training on teaching my body how to surge better and more often, but also how to be comfortable with higher intensity for longer periods. I am constantly preaching to my spin classes, “get OUT of your comfort zone! A little pain is OKAY!”

Now it’s time for me to start walking the talk.

I’m actually okay with that. As I said before, I wanted a new challenge. Not only a new racing challenge, but changing up how I train. This accomplishes both.

So, onto next weekend! I’ll be racing in the Cytomax Benicia Criterium. One thing that’s kind of cool is that I spent tons of time in Benicia all through high school, so it’ll be like racing on my old stomping grounds – nostalgia always adds a little bit of motivation, right?

As for what I learned from last time, I will attempt to be better at:

-Finding a wheel early and IN THE MIDDLE TOWARD THE FRONT
-Maintaining my position, EVEN IF IT HURTS
-Staying in a higher gear and not pedaling at such a high cadence
-Know that the pace is going to start out strong. Therefore, WARM UP FOR A GOOD, LONG TIME. This is crucial and I think a HUGE reason why I felt like such sh** at the first race. Definitely not enough warm up and I think I paid for it. It generally takes me about a good hour to start feeling great on the bike.
-Celebrate the little victories
-Know that if I fall off the back, just keep racing. Unlikely they will pull me off the course so I might as well keep riding.

Sarah 2Wheel 2 Next time, Sarah – STAY THERE!!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Okay! Let’s DO THIS!!


beth said...

you can do it! i'm so impressed you're going out there again -right back at it- i love it! i think if you follow your plan, you will do great. most of all, try to have fun!

Holly said...

Those are some FANTASTIC photos! You impress me with your intensity. :)

rocketpants said...

nice job! It takes awhile to get used to something new and bike races are a whole new game. One of the cycling coaches in the area said give something two years of hard training before start making serious goals. SEe how the rest of the season goes, you don't have to race crits if you don't like them. Lots of other fun bike stuff to do.

jameson said...

all i can say is keep it up... it's the same thing for me and mountain bike racing. i learn so much at each race and come back stronger and smarter each time.

just keep getting on that start line.

Lee said...

Keep pushing but don't forget it's supposed to be fun. I am sure you will ride more intelligently this go around since I have first hand experience watching you apply something learned in one ride to the next.

Can't wait to hear how it goes.

Kelly said...

i think another lesson (at least this is what i always tell myself) is if you dont keep moving up, youll fall back

Carolina John said...

Good luck sarah. sounds like a tough race, crits have always scared me.

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...

Rocketpants advice sounds good - for such an intense sport it must take a good long while to develop.

Way to step back and make your plan Sarah!

Jocelyn said...

eat the pain for breakfast. make pain your bitch!!! :) :) :)

PunkRockRunner said...

Love the pictures!

I was talking with my Cat 3 buddy last night and he confirmed that the Crit is his least favorite, most difficult and most rewarding race of them all (and he's been racing for years).

Basically you put it all on the line for the entire race and you MUST be mentally on board every second - or else.

So just like the Tri, you will learn something new each time and you will continue to get better and better until the podium is "Sarahville".

I wish we could come cheer you on but we're training for Death Ride. What was I thinking?

All the best!


Rainmaker said...

Those are some pretty cool photos, and I love your short little summary (in effect, a Rite of HTFU). I'm thinking of taping something similiar to my handlebars somehow - basically a variation on HTFU as a reminder during long races.

Nicely done!