August 8, 2010

Catching Up - Cascade Cycling Classic a Few Weeks Late!

Sparks Grade - Heckled by the infamous Heidi Swift

The last three weeks have been a blur; a fabulous, wonderful roller coaster of ups and downs, smiles tears and at the end of it all, a hug from Ben.  And next weekend we get married… the summer of 2010 has been magnificent in a crazy, head-spinning, running to catch your breath sort of way.  High Cascade 100 Mountain Bike Race was yesterday – and I have a full race report coming on that one……. But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Picking up from where I left off – Cascade Cycling Classic – 6 days of humbling bliss.  I will spare you most of the details, as there were many, and attempt share the condensed version.

Tuesday: Prolouge – 2 miles of heart-pounding, leg-burning, cotton-mouth. 
People had told me about cotton-mouth before, but until that evening, riding around the Old Mill District with a heart-rate one beat from max, I learned the true definition.  Fortunately, the suffering was over quickly and when the times were posted, I was smack dab in the middle.  Given the competition (and the super speedy rocket machines they were riding), I was satisfied with finishing smack dab in the middle.

Wednesday: McKenzie Road Race – 75 miles of COURAGE. 
The race started just west of the Santiam Junction, descended to the Old McKenzie Highway, climbed up and over to Sisters, and headed uphill once again for a soul-sapping finish at the top of Three Creeks Road.  It was a long day in the saddle. 

At mile 13, just 30 minutes into the race, there was a huge pile up; girls hitting the deck at 41mph.  I was one of those girls.  I got off pretty easy; a couple of broken wheels, a full body’s worth of road rash and an almost-shattered spirit, but all my bones were intact.

After waiting for a second neutral support car and getting two new wheels, I remounted my trusting Trek, put my head down and kept the optimistic vision of catching back on. 
As I turned the pedals over and over, catching a few girls, encouraging them to get on my wheel, only to realize I was still riding alone, I almost gave up.  I started climbing up toward McKenzie Pass, chanting COURAGE over and over to myself, thinking of the strongest women I know and how much strength she has shown me, and how lucky I was to be riding.  I knew my chances of making the time cut were slim-to-none, but I had to give it a shot.  When I crossed the finished line, seeing the kind faces of my friends, I burst into tears. My emotions were uncontainable as the great Timmy Evans scrubbed out the road rash.  It wasn’t until later that I learned I had made the time cut by 2 minutes. 

With the support of Ben and Don, I got my bike and my head back into the game – Thursday was the Time Trial.

Thursday: Time Trail – 14 miles Out and Back
Getting to the starting line of the TT was the most difficult thing I had ever done on a bike.  I was scared, nervous and unsure.  I was almost last in the General Classification so I was one of the first women to roll down the ramp.  Five women started in front of me.  I caught all but one, finishing just 10 seconds behind her.  When the day was done, I finished in the top half – ecstatic.

Friday: Cascade Lakes Road Race – 72 miles of riding, 17 miles of racing.
With a borrowed front wheel and very vivid memories of sliding over asphalt, I was anxious and nervous as we waited to for the race to start.  The first couple of miles were uphill and I was determined to stay close to the front.  If the group split on the hill, I wanted to be up front for the descent.  The plan worked and as we made the left hand turn from Cascade Lakes Highway toward Sunriver, the front group was half the size it was at the starting line and I was in it.   The descent was fast, but safe and I was regaining my confidence.  As the road flattened out, there was another crash, which I stayed out of, but a couple of big names went down.  This caused the top teams to slow the pace and regroup – meaning the entire women’s field regrouped.  We were now 100+ women.  

The peleton was twitchy and I stayed near the back.  Not the best place, not the safest place, but the place I felt the most comfortable.  The group stayed together until Elk Lake Resort; when a group on the front took off.  I knew the course and I knew this would be a great place for an attack, but I was timid and was still sitting way at the back of the peleton.  By the time I saw them go, it was too late, but I tired with all my might to bridge the gap.  The road climbed from Elk Lake to Mt Bachelor and as it did, I got stronger and stronger.  By the time I reached the top of Sparks grade, I had passed the caravan.  I wasn’t winning the race, but I was passing girls as I climbed and felt like I was winning.  I couldn’t help but smile as Heidi heckled me from the back of the moto.  I crossed the finish line, downed a Coke and found my friends.  I was remembering why I ride a bike.

Saturday: Criterium – 50 minutes
In order to make the time cut in a crit, you have to get through the first 1/3 of the race without getting pulled, meaning you have to stay with the group for about 17 and 1/2 minutes.  That was my goal.  When I passed the clock, 30 minutes in, that goal changed.  I wanted to finish this race.  And I did.  I got the same time as the leaders, I rode a NRC crit and I didn’t get pulled.  I used up way too much energy by sitting toward the back, but I didn’t care.  My least favorite stage was over and I had finished.  In my book that was victory in and of itself.

Sunday: Awbrey Circuit Race – 67 miles (3 laps) of Grit.
It was tough, super tough.  It was hard, fast, 102 degrees and fabulous.  These girls race bikes for a living, they get a pay check because they ride fast and hard and aggressively – and in front of the hometown crowd, I am getting just as many cheers as the girl in the yellow jersey.  Ben and crew were at the base of Archie Briggs, Austin has written my name in chalk on the road, people I didn’t know where yelling my name.  And then there was the local triathlete that made me smile amidst burning lungs and screaming legs.  Don was there when I crossed the finish line.  He did a cool down with me; on his Trek Remedy.  I had just finished my first NCR race – take out Wednesday's unexpected date with the asphalt and I had done pretty darn well.  After a cold shower and big buffalo burger, I decided to do it again next year.