In which I blow up spectacularly on the last hill, maybe a minute from the finish.
This race is so close to home for me, I could have ridden to it in less time than it took to drive. I didn't ride, though, because I had to return a teammate's sandbags (I'm always sandbagging) for the team tent. I was more careless than usual in my race prep as a result, and ended up forgetting my jersey. N00b.
A teammate lent me a jersey (size X-small), so I didn't have to ride the 1.1 miles home and back to get mine. I warmed up about 15 minutes on the trainer. It was uncomfortably hot, but the occasional breeze kept the temperature bearable. I got about 10 minutes on the course, which gave me a chance to take a look at some sketchy pavement in the second-to-last turn. I had been apprehensive about the pavement, which a teammate had reconnoitered earlier in the week, but the race directors took good care of that within the constraints they had. It ended up not being a problem.
I knew the race was going to be hard because of the heat index. It was only 30 minutes, though. I figured I could survive for 30 minutes. I got a great start and led the first lap, fast on the downhill, nice and easy on the uphill. Other women came around me on the second lap, and I let them. I stayed in the front half of the field the whole time, keeping an eye out for significant attacks. I wasn't in danger of getting dropped on the climb, but it was really uncomfortable for me every time. I was able to re-position on the downhills without having to work very much.
I was wrong about surviving for 30 minutes. I made it about 28 before blowing up. I was sitting third or fourth wheel coming around the second-to-last corner into the final hill. My teammate asked if I could lead her out, and I said yeah, I think so. The pace didn't even increase very much, just a slight acceleration; I didn't have to stand and stomp the pedals to keep up. But the road was so hot and so unprotected. It was out of the wind and we were moving too slowly to generate a breeze. Something in my body said, "Nope." And my brain went along with it and said, "Nope." I think I might have even said "Nope" out loud. My body told me to stop and I listened and gave up. Barely pedaled up the rest of the hill. Came around the last corner ashamed and tired. Another woman tried to come around me and I accelerated just enough to hold her off for 15th or 20th or whatever. Pulled past the finish line and into the shade to dry-heave a little, with my legs shaking. Poured water over my head and got back on the bike for a cool-down lap.
I'm disappointed that I gave up so close to the end. It's not like I was going to die if I dug a little deeper. My body was on the edge, but it was my mind that shut me down.
Lessons learned: it's standard operating procedure on hot days for cyclists to stick socks or pantyhose full of ice down the backs of their jerseys, so the ice rests on the neck and cools the whole body. I probably need to do that. I struggled with heat exhaustion on a really hot ride on Thursday, too, so I need to be smarter about managing that; some of the lingering stress from that dumb move might have impacted my performance today. And I've read that women have higher basal metabolic rates between ovulation and menstruation, so that might be impacting my ability to cope with heat.
But the biggest thing is my mental toughness. I don't have enough of it. When the race gets really uncomfortable, I'm liable to pull the pin and give up; I don't care enough to hurt that badly. And maybe I never will really care enough to push past that kind of pain, and I'll join the Cat 4 For Life! club. But probably I'll get frustrated that other people are beating me, and I'll get stronger. Mental skills training will be added to the training schedule, in upcoming seasons.
My teammate ended up on the podium in fifth place, though! So still a reasonably good showing for the VWS women.
I don't have any pictures of me from the race, so in lieu of a race pic, here is a picture of the sandwich I made for myself afterwards:
And I still feel pretty nauseous from the heat. I'm gonna go lay down for a while.