I got up early on Saturday morning for the 2+ hour drive to Ware, MA. My googlemaps directions totally sucked and I got incredibly lost once I got off I-90. Some guy in an Audi decided he was going to follow me - joke's on him, I had no idea where I was going. Eventually I found my own way to get there, no thanks to my abysmal directions, and arrived with adequate time. It was cold. The race begins with a 3 mile gradual descent (that you then climb back up for the finish) and it was hard to dress properly knowing how chilly it was going to be on the way down. I hear that last year it was raining, so it was nice that at least the sun was shining down on us.
The majority of the 3000 feet of climbing on this course is in the first 34 of 65 miles. The field was pretty large, and I haven't ridden in a large pack in almost two years. I kept telling myself to relax and just work on positioning. I didn't want to be last wheel when we hit some climbs and people started getting shelled. For the first 30 miles or so that worked out really well for me. I was near the front and feeling very comfortable. One girl was off the front but no one seemed very concerned because it was so early in the race and very windy out. After about 30 miles we hit one longer climb and I started going backwards. C'est la vie, it was nice while it lasted. I ended up with a group of 5 girls who, well, I've never been stuck in a race with a group with such a poor grasp on how to organize a paceline. Seriously. One girl would get on the front and hammer her brains out, then yell at everyone else for not pulling through. I decided someone needed to organize things a little and started giving directions. "Okay, let's get a nice little paceline going and catch up to the pack! Come on, nice short pulls and then move over and drop back so the next person can pull through!" I moved over to let someone pull through and it was the girl who'd been dragging everyone else around. I motioned her through and she yelled, "But I've been doing all the work!" To which I responded, "It's OK, everyone's cool, just pull through and then get off the front and move to the back to recover. Come on ladies, we need each other, let's work together and communicate nicely, OK?" As everyone in the group started to organize we started making time on the pack. We had to go through a caravan of non-race related vehicles to get up there which was wicked sketchy. But, we caught the pack. I told everyone "nice work! Thanks for helping out!" Sheesh. Seriously, I don't mean to get negative here, but I know this wasn't anyone's first race or time riding in a group, you KNOW how to paceline. And what's with all the angry people? Maybe I've just been away from road racing for a while, but I don't remember my NCNCA peeps being so bitchy. Whatevs.
Anyway, we hadn't been back with the lead pack for very long before we hit another punchy little climb and I went backwards again. Long and short of it is - I had 30 miles of awesome in my legs, not 65. The second half of the race I spent working with a different, slightly more friendly and cooperative (although totally clueless on how to form a nice paceline) group of girls who'd gotten dropped well before me but worked together to catch me. That is, until we hit the last climb and I went backwards, again.
But I'd prefer not to think about limping across the line alone, off the back, but rather focus on the good. I had a truly stellar first 30 miles. My endurance apparently sucks, and I haven't gotten many long rides in since March, but I'm good for the short distance, which, really, is what's going to count come September. And there's plenty of time for long rides as we ease into summer, here.
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to follow up Saturday's sufferfest with a lovely Sunday that included mountain biking, sailing, napping, motorcycle rides, PBR, and ice cream.
Anyway. Happy Monday!