Brownstown, Pennsylvania, is a two-and-a-half hour drive from me. I headed up the morning of with three teammates, two cat 5s and my fellow 4, Tina. We got a late start, so we were running around like headless chickens trying to get numbers and pin them and get dressed and go to the bathroom (sorry if I flashed anyone during that bit). Ran out of time for a warm-up, so came to the staging area cold. The start was delayed by 15 minutes. That, combined with long lines at check-in, did not bode well for the organizational component of the race.
Rolled out neutral for about 200 yards, then it was 50 women on narrow country roads with center-line rule in effect. I was able to weave to the front just a few miles into the first 6.6-mile lap. Lost Tina off of my wheel, though. I need to work on getting through traffic with a teammate tagged on to my wheel.
The pace stayed moderate for most of the first few laps. I stayed near or even on the front and was able to stay with every little attack that went. Nothing split the group, though, and we still had most of the field going into the third lap. There was a group of U17 boys who were sitting on the front of our field and keeping everything slow, which was annoying. When we complained, one of them (douchebag in training) said, "I don't see you up here pulling!" But then when women tried to get on the front and pull, they ended up accelerating and planting themselves back on the front anyway.
The boys attacked and got a gap about halfway through the third lap. Someone behind me said, "There's a girl in that group!" There wasn't, by the way. But we tracked them down anyway. I sat second wheel as another woman took a strong pull. I told her to take a break and dragged the U17s the rest of the way back. The bunch came together again as we came up on the last little hill (all the hills on this course were little) of the lap, and I could sense an attack coming. I shifted back into my small chainring, and heard my chain drop. Someone to my left said, "Uh oh!" Fortunately, I was on the far right side of the pack, and was able to pull safely off the road without taking anyone else down. I got off and looked at my chain and knew that my race was over.
I wish I would have had my phone so I could have taken a picture of my chain. It simultaneously fell off the outside and inside of the chainring, and somehow wrapped twice around the axle. It took me a good 10 minutes to sort it out. And at that point, my race was over. At least I good still get a good workout.
So I hopped back on the course and started time trialing, just trying to keep my heartrate at or above threshold. I started sweeping up the stragglers. Course marshaling was not very good. I turned the wrong way twice while the course marshals stood there staring at me. At one corner, I actually shouted at the course marshals to ask which way and they still pointed me in the wrong direction. I also passed a tractor. So that was fun.
I finished the last lap and a half solo, passing about 10 people along the way. I was happy that I got to finish the race, and wasn't pulled off the course. But when the women's results were finally posted, I was placed 38 out of 39. I knew that there were names ahead of mine that I had passed. And the cat 5 men were all in by the time I finished, but never passed me. I couldn't figure out what had happened, until I got home and uploaded my Strava data. Turns out I took a wrong turn and did an extra half lap. Again, the course marshaling wasn't great. Course marking was also not adequate. I know it's my own fault for not knowing the course better, but c'mon. We're out here at our limit. It's hard to remember directions when you're trying to keep pedaling without puking.
I enjoyed the race course and didn't have any problem with the race while I was doing it, but now that I look back, it wasn't very well run. Hopefully the race directors gained some valuable experience, and the course will be better next year.
I was also really frustrated that I was taken out by a mechanical problem. I felt strong and I was in a good position near the front of the race. I felt in control. I felt like I could compete. But it doesn't matter, because I dropped my chain. And it's easy to say that I could have had a good result (or at least helped Tina to a better result) when I didn't have to stay with the group for the last 10 miles. Sigh. Maybe this weekend.
But my training is working, apparently! I am definitely stronger. And my handling is better, and my tactics are . . . well, they're coming along. And I did get a very good training ride on Saturday. And I did get to pick my line through all the corners. And I got some bonus training from the wrong turn. And I didn't crash or (more importantly) take out a bunch of people when I couldn't pedal. So . . . Yay?
Meh. I'm going to go work on my bike. Maybe change the chain. This weekend, Tour of Page County!