Thursday, March 27, 2008

TXBRA Pace Bend Road Race

I awaken slowly as rays of sun pierce the tent and highlight in little rainbows on the dew that has collected on the windows. Within moments I am sitting bolt upright and wiping at the corners of my eyes to clear away the long night listening to the drunken exploits of some campers down by the shore. I clear the fog from my slept-in contacts just in time to see that I have awoken exactly one hour later than I had planned, and precisely 45 minutes before the start of my very first road race.

After a brief moment to make certain I am dressed, I emerge from the tent to find our camping spot surrounded by cars, bikes and people. People who are already awake and warming up. I am not warming up; in fact I am not warm at all. While my fiancé sleeps soundly in the tent I forage in the trunk for my gear and head for registration. A line that appears to stretch longer than my start time looms in front of me, but I wade through the crowd and find my place in line. This is no worse than when I was racing motorcycles, and at least I won’t need to go back to the pit to fire up a generator and worry about having enough time to slap on some tire warmers…

Back at the car I beg, borrow and steal enough pins to hold two (crisp) numbers to my jersey. I’ve never done this before either so I enlist a woman standing with her husband and pray she does not draw too much blood. Luckily she’s done this all too many times herself and within minutes I am identifiable as #539 and ready to ride, if only I could make a final decision about layers and what to wear in an effort to stay warm without cooking before the checkers. My phone says it is 42 degrees as I rummage for tights. They’re at home. Minutes later I have used the free t-shirt to wipe dew off my bike, consumed a pair of bananas, filled two water bottles with Accelerade laced water and am lining up on the road for my start. Seeing as how I do not know how this will work, I decide to head straight for the back.

My plan, much like any plan I have concocted before a bicycle race, is to pedal really hard and go faster than other people. I also plan to do very little work at the front and I figure the hills will do a nice job of keeping the pack together for most of the race. After the start I sit around the back trying to figure out what is happening, where the road goes and where the hills are located. I also spend a great deal of time looking at other people’s bicycles and am fascinated by the variety of frames I have never seen before. I ask them about their bikes, but this only serves to confuse some of them. Others, I am relieved to find, have a great sense of humor and don’t mind a little conversation as we ride. Later, some of my joking actually caused someone to drop his water bottle, for which I felt very guilty, but quickly decided to work into future races as part of my plan. If I can accomplish this on the first lap I may very well dehydrate the field before the finish!

The plan, as it were, works perfectly. I feel great, I am pedaling and I am still attached to the main pack. I noodle through the field and find that I am able to carry momentum up hills, work when I want to and close any gaps quickly. Then, on the biggest hill at Pace Bend and on the final lap of the race I decide to do something without consulting the amendments to the plan. Somebody jumps out like gangbusters and makes a bee line for the front, so I get on his wheel and we’re off for a really fast, unexpected break at the base of the biggest hill on the course. Again, the plan works perfectly until we get to the top of the hill. This is when I find out that my legs have not been informed that the finish is actually a little further down the road and my lungs are asking me to please stop inhaling nails. Luckily, this becomes a rather humorous event as a dozen people pass me, all probably wondering if the loud bang was my heart exploding or a concerned citizen putting me out of my misery. I watch and laugh as they pass by, reveling in my own stupidity. By the time we reach the final downhill corner I recover enough strength to sprint my way to a 10th place finish. On the cool down I converse with everyone and we all agree it was a safe and enjoyable race. What better way to finish than with a whole host of new friends? I can’t help being pleased with this result and attribute much of it to the training I’ve been doing with the FCS / Metro Volkswagen team in Irving. They were nice enough to take my money and provide me with a really cool jersey, brutal training rides and refresh my eagerness to make my legs and lungs feel like they’re filled with lava.

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