On Saturday, I had a new experience. I raced in my first bicycle road race. The race was called "Devil's Punchbowl" and was held about an hour from my house in Pearblossom. A friend of mine told me about it and encouraged me to enter. I dragged my training partner into it with me.
We had to take our tri bars off of our bike and we would be racing with Women Cat 4, which is the least experienced group. Instead of age groups they break it up by experience. To move up to Cat 3 you have to either have a certain number of points or have had 25 race starts. This race consisted of a 16 mile loop with 1500 feet of climbing and we would do it twice, for a total of 32 miles.
We got to the race site and everyone seemed very laid back. It is a much different atmosphere than triathlon. Our group was last and didn't start until 12:36. This happened to be an extremely hot day- in the high 90's and we were out in the desert so it felt really hot. The officials were already picking on me before I started because I had a sleeveless jersey on. One of the rules is you have to wear sleeves. So luckily Erika had a T-shirt I could wear under my jersey and I was OK. This was a learning experience.
At road races they don't have any aid stations at all. You have to bring with you whatever you need or have a friend hand you drinks. Erika and I were trying to drink a lot of fluid before we started and then we both stuck an extra bottle in our jersey so we each had 3 bottles for the 32 miles, should be plenty. We kept seeing people drop out of the race because of the heat either cramping up or just dying cause it was too hot. A little unnerving when you see the Pro's drop out after one loop. We took our salt pills and drank our fluid.
32 miles- how bad could it be? It was time for us to line up. I hung toward the back, not sure of how the start would be. I didn't know if the girls would take off and be brutal right from the start or what it would be like. My goal was to complete the race the best I could, have fun, get experience and above all be safe. I did not want to get injured and I didn't know how dangerous this race would be so I told myself I would play it safe. With my Ironman in 8 weeks and Wildflower this coming weekend I can't get hurt.
So the start was pretty anti-climatic after I had built it up in my head. No gun, just a guy saying "Go!" And then everyone slowly started to pedal trying to clip in to their pedals. The group started at a very easy pace cruising out. Everyone was very friendly and this didn't seem too bad at all. I just may be able to stay with this lead pack. Erika was in front of me and I told her I would stay right on her tail. She started to push her way up to the front of the pack so I followed. There we were at the front of the pack feeling Ok so far. The climbing started gradually and the heart rate started to steadily rise up. One of the girls said, "Just so you guys know this is the warm up for the climb." I was hanging on Ok but my heart rate was approaching 170 and we hadn't made it to the climb yet. Erika had dropped back and I didn't know how far back she was. I kept pushing to stay with the group and then one bike after the other started to pass me as I dropped to the back of the pack. This "not so experienced group" were pretty good riders! Still no Erika- there she was hanging on to the back of the pack in a panic because her heart rate was 180.
She and I decided to ride at our own pace and work with eachother. We rode the whole race drafting off each other and talking each other through it. We saw girls dropping out and turning around. We didn't know how far ahead the pack was and how many were left in it but we were passing girls. I think we passed three at least and I don't know how many dropped out. A lot of people had trouble in the heat. We did Ok though.
On the second loop she got ahead of me and I couldn't catch up to her. She ended up placing 8th and I came in 10th. She ended up having a sprint finish with one of the girls who races regularly.
I was very proud of us! Our first road race- we got out there and did it. We finished in the middle of the group, not too bad! Overall it was good experience and I think great for our triathlon training.