Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Uphill Battle

Sunday's race was a really difficult one for me. Not the race itself, at least any more than usual, but everything surrounding it. I'd worked twelve days in a row leading up to it, including some long days and short turnarounds in the last few days before the race, and I was really tired. I also overslept a little, and didn't get out of Seattle until about half an hour after I wanted to. I still got to the race on time, since I budget some time to register and pre-ride, but I didn't have time to pre-ride the course and could only rely on information from a teammate who rode in the earlier race. (Thanks, Rachel.)

I got a first-row call-up this time, which has never happened to me before. The information leading up to the race was that call-ups were going to be based on MFG points, so I didn't expect it at all. What they didn't mention was that that only applied to people who pre-registered online, and since not very many people did that, the competition for those spots wasn't exactly fierce. I was nowhere near warmed up and I'm not a great sprinter at the best of times, so the start of the race felt kind of like being washed over by a wave I couldn't quite surf. After that, I at least made people earn their passes and I was starting to trade places a little during the second and third lap.

Don't I look like I'll make that guy earn it? Actually, I have no idea which of us finished faster. This is just the only picture of me I've found from the race. Thanks to Joe Martin.

The course had a brutal run-up. There's a saying that while races aren't won on run-ups, they can be lost on them. After the first lap, when I had no idea how long or steep it would be and raced all the way up to it, I took it a little easy on the paved section leading to it, on the principal that if I saved a bit I could pass the guys in front of me. That actually worked. Kind of.

I was feeling pretty good and thought I'd found my rhythm and figured the course out during the third lap, and I rode hard and made some passes. Then, coming into the final stretch, the guys around me really put the hammer down and sprinted for the finish. I remember thinking, "Why are they doing this? I'm going to see them again on the run-up anyway, and then I'll try to open a gap for the rest of the race and it'll be over." Unfortunately, it was already over - I had no idea the third was my last lap. There was no visual indicator for the last lap, and I can't be sure if I heard a bell or not during the previous pass through the start/finish area. It was a frustrating way to end a race, especially one that had had a frustrating start. I can't even be sure if I have a reason to be mad at the organizers - they're supposed to let people know when it's the last lap, even if they don't show a count or a time for the earlier ones - or if someone was ringing a bell and I just didn't hear it or tuned it out.

Honestly, I'm not even sure if that was my third or fourth lap. I think it was my third lap, but the scores indicate that most people did four and if I got lapped, I'd have known. The times are very, very low for a four-lap race. I finished 25th of 39 finishers, with another 9 DNF in my field. I thought I was 24th, but sometimes the scores posted on race day are off and get re-ordered later. I wish I'd known I was on my last lap in the final esses and the last concrete stretch. I might not have been able to hold off the guys I was with coming into the finish, but at least I'd have tried.

I'm now tied in the MFG series for 30th with two other guys, and I've come up with a goal for this year - I want to crack the top 20 in a race. If I don't do it at the MFG race on October 4th, it may not happen this year. But I think it's a doable goal, if I show up early enough to pre-ride, race my heart out, and do it intelligently.

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