After pre-registering and paying up $45, there was no way I’d back out of the race. But at 5am, as I headed west on I-80, the thick bank of menacing clouds looming over the pass made me think twice about it all. Was this really how I wanted to spend my day off from work?!?
As I approached the highest point of the highway, near Donner Pass at around 7000ft, men in reflective suits were frantically waving vehicles to the side of the road enforcing chain controls. I plodded onward, but struggled to hold my line because the snow was gusting directly into my headlights.
Cresting over the hill, the pavement became bone dry again and my shoulder tension eased. By the time I rolled into Granite Bay State Park at 7:45am, temps were hovering in the 50s and the sun was breaking through the clouds. I was lamenting that I hadn’t packed my flip flops.
The crowd of racers was sizeable, but as usual, the women’s field was a tiny fraction of that. Pro and expert women took the line together, and I jumped to the front on the starting straight. My legs felt fluid, my breathing was controlled. I stayed with a group of about 5 other women and I felt good. Some of the straight-aways were perfect for catching a draft, so I stayed tucked in at the back of the pack. But that lasted for the first ¾ of a lap and then I started going backwards. Each lap was 8 miles. My lack of pacing was evident in that my first lap time was 36 minutes and my third was a dire 41 minutes. Ouch.
My expectations were low going into the race. After all, it was a very early season race for me and I went into it knowing it was a “training race.” I was super excited to have my first race on my Marin Team CXR pro, a carbon hardtail weighing in at less than 23 lbs. My cardio seemed ok, but my legs just couldn’t sustain the pace. It was a fast and relatively flat course, benefiting those with a lot of power. One hour interval training on an indoor trainer just can’t prepare you for 2.5 hours at full throttle. And unfortunately, fast bike + slow legs = average pace. I’m working on changing some of those variables.
Since all the women were grouped together, I didn’t actually know who was in my category. A local high school athlete who I had met last year provided vital motivation. At 15 years old, this girl’s skill and strength on a bike are inspiring. By lap 4, the last lap, I regained my composure and tried to push hard, hoping to get her in my sights again. It never happened, but at least I made a good effort to the finish line. Thanks Meghan.
All in all, it was exactly what I had hoped for, a valuable training race. And to my surprise, I secured second place (out of 4 in my category). Kudos to Pam, mother of two of the cutest little girls, who captured 1st place (even beating out a Pro woman racer).
I’m not sure if it was a testament to my dehydration, fatigue, or just eventual nonchalance, but I somehow ended up pacing myself to Phantom of the Opera’s Music of the Night song on that fourth lap. Bizarre.
TBF Racing sponsored mtb race, Granite Bay, CA
Expert women, 2nd place
32 miles, 2,500ft, 2hr 36min