Race Date: April 14, 2012
Everyone that's into cycling knows about the Tour of Battenkill…no need to explain the background and history of this race. Think of it as our version of Paris-Roubaix. Anyway, I went into this race kind of in an awkward position. I tapered for 70.3 nat's, which meant less miles on the bike, especially the week leading up to the race. Having to build back up after the race was tough because I was still recovering. Walking normally was a chore for a few days…running does wonders on your legs, as all of you know. Oh, I guess that's why cyclists typically avoid it at all cost (not in a bad way, I totally understand). My best bet was to recover well and ride with moderate intensity until my legs felt "normal" again. I had two weeks to do this; in the end, I think it worked out pretty well for the most part. After Battenkill, I think all the running was shaken out of my legs…it was truly an epic day.
If you've ever seen my bare right shoulder, it has a pretty neat scar. Shown below is the aftermath of crashing a few years ago while riding through gravel; ever since then I've always had a fear of riding through such terrain. For whatever reason, I got talked into doing Battenkill last year, and I remember swearing to myself that I wouldn't go back. But, I went back this year only to give myself another shot at this race with a better approach…not only physically and tactically, but mentally, as well.
Race: The gun went off and the neutral start began. Legs were feeling good, it was a beautiful day, everyone was enjoying the first five miles or so. Then the pain started to knock on the door. On the first climb of the day, a steep one, Canadian Veronique Fortin of TIBCO, attacked. For those of you that don't "know" her, let's just say that she's the Queen of Blue Knob (of the infamous Tour de 'Toona), let alone practically the Queen of all mountains. I aspire to climb like her one day…someday. Anyway, going back to Battenkill…of course for her, she was just testing the field to see who would go with her, etc. This caused a lot of pain on the field, causing the first split of the race. I was one of few ladies that attempted to go with her, but then immediately slowed it down a notch after realizing two things: one, we've got a long ways to go; two, there were two teams that had numbers. You get the idea. The rear end of the pack got shelled, but eventually got back on after a few miles of chasing. It definitely was a wakeup call for me and the other gals.
Fast forward to mile…48ish. This is when things started to really unfold. We got to a long, loose stretch of dirt and gravel. OMG. I think it was about 2.5 miles long (correct me if I'm wrong); I knew going into it that this part was going to make or break your race. However, I realized that a bit too late. I saw Marti Shea (if you don't know her, you should read up on her) head towards the front of the pack before we got to the stretch. I thought to myself, hmm…I should probably go with her. But instead, I decided to chill in the back thinking it couldn't get worse from here on out. Going back to not being able to recon the course the day before, I paid the price. The stretch was flat and people were getting shelled…that's how crazy this section was. No matter how hard I tried to ride through to get closer towards the front, I continued to fish-tale through, dirt and dust anywhere and everywhere. I felt like I was riding through a friggin' desert. Is there a special trick to this, or am I just an amateur when it comes to this stuff? Maybe I'll figure it out someday.
A little bit of chaos from then until about mile 58 I want to say, when my chase group finally caught back on to the lead group. I was a bit disheartened when I realized that a few key players were missing; to find out that five had gotten away. I'm not saying that if I had positioned myself better on that long stretch of dirt/gravel, that I would've made it with them, but the thought of the possibility was frustrating. So, I had to accept the fact that we weren't going to catch them with a few miles left. I had to settle with what was left for us. The finish wasn't that exciting, our group finishing together in a bunch sprint. My heart had been left at the mile marker where I found out the five girls had gotten away.
Reflection: Others might look at the results and say it was a solid performance, but in my eyes it was acceptable but not quite satisfying. It's definitely a good gauge for my fitness. Given that I've officially geared all my focus to cycling for a few months, I now know what to work on and tweak for my next focus race. I'm hungry. And no, not for food.