I did the Pleasant Valley RR in MD on Sat. It was a first time event, they had a great turnout, good marshalling, neutral feeds, friendly and helpful promoters and volunteers, a few locals waving and cheering along the route, a decent course...all around, the event was actually pleasant, aside from the brain simmering heat. Note to self - don't wear a black helmet on a 95+ degree day. That may have contributed to the awful headache I got on the 2nd of 4 x 10mile laps which made me wonder if I was having an aneurysm or something (yes I'm a slight hypochondriac).
What's the first you thing you do when you arrive at a race, and before you register? Well, on the fourth trip to the port-o-potties and all of a sudden feeling REALLY sick to my stomach I started worrying that I must have a stomach virus or maybe food poisoning. "I shouldn't race. I feel sick." After a brief rational moment I realized it must be nerves and not some mysterious illness. I reassure myself (with my internal coach kicking in) "Just get out of the friggin' jon, to the start line, and then the upset stomach feeling will magically go away once the gun goes off". And sure enough it did.
We had a decent field of 43 women or so. It was an open women's race, but they were scoring the cat 3s separately for the series. I started near the front of the group but once we started going I suddenly was at the back of the pack. Damn. I'm a little sketched out by the size of the pack since I hadn't ridden in a group larger than 8 or so all year. And so as it goes with riding at the back, I got yo-yo'd all over the place and my quick brake grabs, overlapping of wheels made me think I was the freakshow at the back who didn't know how to ride in a pack. "Watch out for her," I chuckled about myself in frustration of my own lack of experience.
The group stayed together for the first lap until the only real hill, the one through the feedzone. At the end of the first lap those unsuspecting riders silly enough to reach for a bottle on a 90+ degree day, got dropped. The group split and in the end only those 10-15 or so that hung on during the split would finish. I and 2 others were caught off-guard but with a lot of hard work and battles with self doubt, we were able to close that gap after 15mins of all out TTT to catch back on because the group's pace had slowed up finally, thank god!
Once back in the pack, I took a few mins to enjoy the leisure pace of the group before questioning what the point of the "race" was. As I watched the race "unfold" the image came to my mind that the pack was like a sleepy lioness. She would let a little mouse go out for a little bit, while she would doze in the hot sun with half-open eye. When she felt the mouse was just about out of reach, she would stretch out her big paw and pull the mouse back in. This game continued on a few times and even I played it. In the end the frustrated little mice wanted to get away but knew they couldn't.
We get near the finish (which is at the top of the feedzone hill) and the pack all of a sudden is awake. I'm not sure what happened other than I was on the wheel I had marked as a likely winner and when she pulled off, there were only two others just a little ahead that had come around on the side. I tried to catch them but went too late. And so I rolled across the line 3rd overall, first in the cat 3s. Pretty cool.
Doing well in this race gave me confidence, finally, in myself, my training, and my little yellow adviser.