Bulldog Bike Race

I promise I will blog about the Amazing Honeymoon in Switzerland. I must confess I have been too busy having fun since getting back to blog. Actually....I, like Abraham Lincoln, cannot tell a lie.... I was a major crab apple for a week after returning due to being sick. It would have reflected in my blogging. You all would have stopped reading. Tim says everybody quit reading my blog anyway because I never update it anymore;)

Despite seeing my husband very little this weekend, thanks to (in my opinion) his tortuous work schedule, I had a blast of a weekend. Saturday, I did something I never have done before......Drum Roll. A bike race. A real bike race. Not a time trial but a real bike race. Like the Tour De France or the Tour De California. A race where the riders are in a pack with formations that alternate. Riders launch attacks. They make breakaways and the peleton chases them down. It's all so exciting. There are only a few real differences between the Bulldog and the Tour De France.

1) I don't get a paycheck like those riders. I even had to pay for my own bike.

2) Bulldog is just a little bit shorter. 26 miles and a one day race. Versus the month of July. Actually it's just over an hour of racing. Really, what's the difference an hour vs. the month of July?

3) There is a division just for chicks at Bulldog and The Tour De France is exclusively for men. Can you believe that....a whole race for only men? Now you know why I relish dropping boys.

Saturday morning I headed up to Camp Pendleton early. My friend and teamate Raja and her husband passed me on the I5. I "drafted" them into the base. I was off to a good start. When the Marines put on a race they do it right. I have never experienced such a good port-a-potty to racer ratio. Raja and I set up our trainers and spun away for the next 45 minutes. I basically asked her how to be a road racer. She's been at this for three years now (with good results I might add). I always wanted to do a road race and finally it coincided with my work and travel schedule:)

Tim told me not to pull for anybody. Raja told me the same. She said nobody would break until the hill. Then somebody would attack. After that people would regroup. Other than my outloud conversations with Raja ....my voice over I pod with Beyonce and Pink playing . I don't think anyone knew I was a newbie. I looked the part. My pink bike and pink shoe covers made me look like a real road racer. Yes, pink shoe covers. A) to keep me warm and B) to reduce wind drag. ...You didn't know that was what slowed me down ?.....the buckles on my shoes? Gee folks, have some faith in me.

Soon we moved into the start area to be corralled for several nervous minutes before starting. Get this: women start last. Double dare you to get this. There is a mountain bike division (on the road) and the male mountain bikers are started before the females on road bikes. Want to know what I think of that.....I DROP BOYS!!!!

The race was pretty mellow at the start. Rhonda G, who had a baby 8 months ago and is still fast, launched the first attack. It was a little too mellow, so on the first little climb she stood up and rocked up the hill. I scampered up to her. I knew this wasn't the spot where the pack was broken but I didn't want to get behind. Rhonda's attack was shut down by the peleton. There were shouts that this was NOT where we were to hammer and it was stupid to start now. I'm used to 112 mile time trials so I was secretly hoping to race as much as possible. Rhonda is a true mom and commented she needed to get some racing in. She only had 26 miles to do so. Come on ladies, if Rhonda's going to the trouble to hire a sitter lets make it worth her while. Thank you Rhonda. I did as I was told though and kept my butt in the saddle. The race is controlled by the peleton and you better follow suit. We reached the top of the hill. I was at the front of the pack for a while. I know I wasn't supposed to pull into the wind but the group was riding conservatively. I knew I would be fine if somebody attacked. Besides I was getting antsy.

Finally we started to decend and turn left onto Stuart Mesa road. Somebody launched an attack. I later learned it was Raja. A drove of riders came from behind to get a good position for the climb. I was fine with that I certainly wasn't going to spend myself by pulling the pack down the hill. The Marines were out with slow signs making sure everybody went carefully around the corner. I know we would be all bunched up again soon. I didn't know how hard to go on the climb. Road racing is different than time trialing. You need tactics. I decided I would sit myself on the rear wheel of the fastest climber and try to hang on. I would make my move when Raja made hers. I scanned the crowd for Raja. She must have become stuck behind, I thought. Just be patient. Then I saw her on the left hand side 6 rows up. Shoot, how did that happen. I worked my way over to the side and climbed up to her. I thought that my making this jump would illicit a response. I thought one of those girls....you know the kind who goes to sleep sitting against the wall in a squatting position, would come forward and rip our legs off. No response. I was riding quite comfortably at the front of the climb. What now? I kept shooting sideways glances at Raja wondering what was up. I kept waiting. I slowed down ...nobody passed. I wondered should I conserve myself or make a move. Should I try to open up a gap on everybody? I wondered what cards these ladies were holding. I felt like I could go faster....but they probably did too. Shoot. I hate all this thinking. It's easier for me to just hang on with burning quads than to analyze and strategies. Should I bust a move or would I just be the idiot suicide bomber? It's one thing to think you might be able to go a bit faster....It's a pipe dream to think that you alone are stronger than the power of the peleton. I'm not a crack smoker. I really didn't have the courage to leave the field. I remained at the front of the climb with Raja. Side by side we climbed. At the top nobody passed us. Raja and I took turns pulling into the wind. I felt really weird about this. I was told not to pull and we were pulling the peleton....no help from anybody else. I know I shouldn't be out in front pulling but there was no way I could just wheel leach off of Raja. I mentioned somebody else could join us to Raja. Raja announced this to the group. After a delayed pause two girls came around us ....Finally, they want to work with us, I thought. We eased off the pull slightly. They stepped on the gas full throttle. They accelerated into the descent. Before we knew what hit us they opened up a gap. They didn't want to work with us. Raja and I didn't really have anytime to attack back. We worked together down the hill and basically did damage control. It seemed like they were a long way ahead.

When we started to climb we could see the gap getting smaller. Raja mentioned they were slowing. She suggested we ease the pace and organize with some of the girls behind us. I really wanted to keep pace lining just the two of us and reel in those girls. I thought we could do it. Raja's plan was a safer bet. The more people we had working together the better are chances of catching those girls.

Soon three others joined us. Raja instructed everyone into 30 second pulls, rotate to the right....although I'm guilty of pulling longer :0) Pace lining is the ulitmate example of teamwork and how the whole can be greater than the sum of it's parts. I owe a big shout out to Raja for directing and the other girls for joining in. I think we were all having the time of our life. We were flying. Flying past the boys too. We were closing in on the getaway girls. The energy was great. I think we put on quite a show. I knew there would be a point where it was every women for herself. It would be a mad dash into the finish chute. It would be at this point to pace line would bust up. I was told 1000 times not to take the final pull and be ready for the left hand turn to the finish. The race turned out to be 27 miles on my computer. At mile 26 I was in the front of the pace line. I was pulling my heart out. The gap was smaller between us and the escapees. I knew I could catch them but we were running out of time. After a decent sized pull I looked at Raja and said it's mile 26. I naively was hoping for the announcement it was every women for herself and pace lining was over. Ladies if you are wondering .....there is no announcement. I knew I should be on the left hand side and somewhere in the middle of the pace line. I wasn't and I had no clue how to get there now. Especially without essentially screwing somebody else. We had all worked so hard together it just didn't feel right changing up the rotation. Raja said "don't stop now." I think this was her way of letting me know now it was every women for herself and a mad dash to the finish. I didn't quite process that...(HR above 180 and two women in front of me) so I kept going and pulled my group up to the getaway girls.....Just as we approached the left hand turn, my pace line girls slithered up my left-hand side and into the turn. I had to brake to make the turn. I lost my speed...Note to self: don't let riders on your inside. I was in the absolute worst place to be....front of pace line and outside corner. It was my own fault.
Tim keeps asking me what I was thinking? I wish I could say I didn't know. Honestly I do know and my answer is so pathetic. I just couldn't be the one to disorganize the pace line. It felt like taking cuts in line in front of somebody who you respect. It felt underhanded. I'm not sure why I had such a hard time with this concept. I'm not that nice. I once bought a pair of shoes in about 30 minutes that a friend had been scoping for a year. I just swooped in and bought them. Of course I don't think I realized she had been interested in them. Maybe the other girls didn't realize I was that interested in the podium. =) I am however somebody who has issues cutting in the security line at the airport. I am going to have to work on these things.

15 minutes later when awards were handed out I felt a bit of a fool. I get it now. Duh ...This is a race. The whole thing may not be a race but the finish sure is. I ended up second in my age and 4th over all. I'll take it. I am not a sore loser. (Just perseverating slightly on my psyche). Those girls in front of me were there because they deserved to be. They played their cards right. I was slow on the draw. I will say that this was an exhilarating and thrilling experience. It felt really cool to be part the race. I will be out there again. In fact...I'm like a crack addict and I can't wait until next time. BTW...watch out ladies. I have a track record for getting things right on my second try.


Shan said...

Hmmm a crack addict that doesn't smoke crack...?! ;)

Nice work Jen! I think you did very well considering you've never raced this sort of thing before - it's definitely NOT about how fast you can go or time trialing for 26 (or however many) miles - it's ALL strategy, and unlike triathlon, it's ALL about working with the gals around you, or more specifically, your team.

You should organize a subgroup of the VB's to just do some bike racing, and then actually practice as a team, and designate people jobs based on their strengths. It's good that you were able to wrangle up other girls at Bulldog to help you pull (who were probably unattached from a team), but this is where having a team effort really makes all the difference!

Killer work out there girl!! :)

Popovich said...

Like myself and George (Hincapie), you have proven yourself - as the Best Domestique!! So get up in front the whole race, close the gap, and pull off at the end as a good domestique should!