I regret I don't have photographs to enhance my report of Sunday's Big Ring Rumpus. This, however, was the one race I was not going to stop and smile for the camera. This was a race that I knew I could nail. And when I say, "nail," I mean actually do well in. And when I say, "do well in," I mean not suck at. As in no SAG wagon, no tears, no struggle, not clipping out and walking. Well, almost. But I can sincerely say it was not because of lack of ability, but lack of cooperation with my chain. It was mechanical. Not thanks to my ineptness, stupidity, back or medication reactions. Had it not been for 6 or 7 cross-chain incidents, I wouldn't have clipped out at all. I wouldn't have walked at all. I would have stopped at the Gatorade/water stop, however, as I clearly have a drinking/riding problem a la "Airplane" - I tried to snatch a small cup of Gatorade on my second lap, and instead, I wore it, as did my bike (which made for some interesting sticky patches).
Much was in my favor, compared to last year (recap at: http://ricalivestrong.blogspot.com/2010/06/let-livestrong-rumpus-begin-and-end.html). First, I'd done this race before. (Hence the fact that there is a recap.) So this was the first race that I knew well. It wasn't entirely recognizable, however, as last year the race was enhanced by a hurricane, making it a muddy mess and honestly, every turn looked the same. This year, I could see roads that weren't muddy slop - I could see the different terrains - gravel, dirt, fire road, sand pits, etc. It was sunny, but not too sunny. I'd foregone the attempt to stick with the D'Adamo Shift's plan to fuel up for the race, and I had my usual pre-ride coffee & carb (in this case, a blueberry muffin) and bananas. I wasn't getting confused (well, as confused) between how to shift my MTB vs. my road bike (I did pull a blonde moment on one uphill slope, hence a clip out thanks to a gnarly cross-chain - but surely, you can understand. I was distracted by a patch of pretty pink lady slippers!)
chickens during Kaparot before they actually woke up, and by then, they may as well have been chickens with their heads cut off. One was dressed, but had no socks and shoes on. The other didn't know where anything was. One realized their helmet was at Gramma & Grumpy's, which meant a 15-minute detour. The other didn't know their right from their left. One thought that getting dressed meant playing with the kitty. The other thought it was time to go back to bed. You catch my drift. In point of fact, by the time we left the house (after 5!) my son realized he'd left his helmet under our porch, outside, where the bikes were. What it was doing outside instead of in the house, on the rack I mounted next to the front door called the "bike helmet rack" is beyond me. It was madness.
The drive up this time was weird. I'll admit it. I was bitchy. There was no question. But can you blame me? I was up until 1:00 am getting ready, getting as much of the kids' stuff together as I could, doing my usual pre-race nervous insomnia thing watching Gilmore Girls & Real Housewives of wherever on my DVR and The Nanny until I fall asleep and then the insane asylum erupted. So the entire drive was me lecturing my kids on how irresponsible they were, how I hoped I would smoke them on the course, that I'd never take them to another ride again unless they showed me they had everything lined up in rows like soldiers, toting those barges, lifting those bales, etc. I think they slept through most of my rant, though.
Once we got to the Pilot Gas Station in Sturbridge, MA (holy hell, the tornado damage was ridiculous to see!), I got my coffee and muffin, and I morphed into SuperMom. All was well with the world and we cruised ahead. Now, we were behind schedule, but we had made up great time, and my GPS showed we were going to arrive at 8:36 am - WELL in advance of the 9:30 am start... I had in my head. Unfortunately, once we pulled in to the parking area, we heard an announcement that the rider meeting for novices was starting in 10 minutes... because, you see, the race started at 9:00 am. Amazing what one little number can do - I had it stuck in my pretty, blonde head we started 30 minutes later. So, the madness ensued... I was barking orders to my children like I was Lance Armstrong and they were my pit crew. "Ariella, get my shoe! Zach, fill my Camelbak! Where's my helmet?! Where's your helmet?!?! Where's my glove! Dang it, I broke a nail! Yes, you, it's your fault!"
Ultimately, all the pieces fell into place. Zach was able to borrow a helmet. Ariella was going to ride whatever class/distance/course she was going to ride. And I lined up with the other Clydesdales. Er. At least I thought I was. The sign at the staging area said "Clydesdales - Male/Female" (thank you, Maz, for remembering me, though I'm still gunning for an Athena class next year). Only, there's a tall, slender man on a cyclocross bike to my far left. There's a ridiculously cut fellow to my left, as well. There's a very, very tall, slender man to my left, as well. These guys don't look like the usual Clydesdale fare. I mean, sure, they might meet the weight requirement, but hell, they don't look like novices either. My friend, Glenn Raiche, pulls up behind me, and I shoot him this funny look. He doesn't look too happy either. Then the horror sets in: I know understand what "Open Class" means.
Holy crap. We aren't a novice class anymore. We've got sport and expert caliber riders in our class, now. I'll refrain from repeating the curses that flooded my already sleep-deprived, addled brain as I realized not only was I out of my league as the only girl in the class, the only obvious roadie in the class, the only marginally not a first-timer in the class, but I'm now racing against guys that could give my friend, Sean Drew, a Sport Vet Rider, a serious run for his money.
Mongo was not a happy camper.
But not to worry - this was my race. This was a roadie course. Granted, I was bummed when I found out I could have outfitted my Bianchi to ride it as a cyclocross race and as a Clydesdale - which would have, at least, put me in my Roadie Happy Place, shaved about 5-6 lbs off the weight of my machines, and been on a bike that is far more an extension of my body than my MTB. But, still, maybe I'd be able to keep up. Draft some guys, for once.
We start, and I'm with the group. For about 20 yards. And then I'm literally left in the dust. Again.
No matter, I am much more confident than usual. And, if I counted correctly, as long as I finished, I'd be in the top 10 and I'd earn NECS points. And I did really well, especially compared to last year, when I panicked when I hit any rocks or roots. This year, I flew over them. I gunned it. That is, until the bike jerked forward and tried to buck me off as I tried to shift down going up the first real hill. Please do not tell me that I sucked in my derailleur, or something equally dire and along the lines of what Sean would do!
I pulled off to the side to look at the bike. Did I have a stick stuck in the spokes? No. Did I break the chain? No. Did I run over a gremlin and its village come and fuse my gears shut? No. I cross-chained. And as a result, I dropped my chain. Damn. Bike grease on the hands, a few yanks and pulls, and I was back in business. I hopped back on and finished the clime and moved on.
I shot down a hill and turned to the left, nearly wiping out on the very loose gravel and sand. Next incline, and I can see Denis taking pictures, and, again, my trusty steed tries to throw me. Sunofabeetch, I cross-chained again. I had to stop doing that! Onward and upward, and I continue on. I decide to see how fast I'm going. I look at my cyclometer and...
Oh, crap. CRAP! Where's my cyclometer!??! I know I took it off at the end of Weeping Willow. I know I put it with my gear. And now, on the one race where I wanted to maintain a minimum speed of 14-16 mph, I left my cyclometer somewhere! Agh! No matter. I haven't been passed, yet.
I keep going, keeping a decent pace. I don't see the guys ahead of me, but I haven't really been passed, much, except by 1 or 2 people, maybe. And I think they were on their second lap. But no Clydesdales yet.
All of a sudden, I realize I'm back at the start. I'm starting lap 2. Wow - that was quick! Yay! 3 more to go.
I reach back for my Honey Stinger with Ginseng and I realize I have it in my center pocket. Under my Camelbak. I pull off to the side, just in time for a pair of racers pacing each other to pass me, and I suck in 1/3. I only brought one with me, so I want to pace it out. I continue on. A bit further on, I see a familiar face. It's Zach. I'm lapping Zach. Ha, ha. Sweet revenge. He's pulled off to the side, I don't pay attention up the slope, and I cross-chain. Blargh. So I make like I did it on purpose to see how he's doing. I honestly can't remember what his complaint was. I get up to him, say something encouraging, and tell him enjoy eating my dust. (Great parenting, I know.) I keep going.
I'm keeping a pretty steady pace (though I have no clue how fast I'm going). I'm getting passed, but what else is new? By my third lap, I notice that I've been passed by some of the same people a couple of times. And then I realize that as I start my final lap, they are already done. Crap. Well, fine. I see the Sports and Cyclocrossers staging, and some of the marshalls announce, "RIDER COMING, MOVE OVER! RIDER COMING" and they part like the Red Sea. Well, not really. They barely give me 3 inches on the skiddy, poison-ivy covered edge of the path. So I announce, "Laterne Rouge, coming! Watch out! Don't make me get poison ivy!" And I get a bunch of encouraging words from the guys who are going to watch me go off ahead and then will ultimately pass me.
The one good thing with getting lapped by guys of that speed? It's like a burst of air conditioning.
I charge ahead. I notice, though, that my left knee, which is my bad knee - has been since I was 16 - is bothering me for the first time since I was hit by a car while riding home in October of 2009. It's not painful, but I'm feeling it. I'm not, however, feeling any back discomfort, unlike my entire 2010 season. And I'm not nauseous or throwing up, which is a big improvement over Weeping Willow. But the cricky knee does slow me down a bit. But I plow ahead. I'm getting closer to the finish, and I realize, for the first time at an EFTA race, I might finish the course without being lapped by Sean Drew! Last year, Sean lapped me twice. This year, I haven't seen him yet. This is great! I may be able to cross the finish line and I'll never have to see his butt fly by... uh... crud.
There goes Sean's turquoise and black shiny ass whiz passed me on his 29er. And I've only got, like, 2 turns until the finish chute. Are you kidding me, Sean? I mean, have a heart. Fake a flat or something and let me roll through the finish ahead of you.
I try and catch up, but who the hell am I kidding? I still have to navigate the chute. I wave goodbye to Sean's rear end and focus on the chute.
Did I mention the chute is the hardest part of Big Ring Rumpus? The chute looks like a spider's web on grass. Last year, it was insanely wet, I'd never ridden on unmowed grass before, and I got so confused that I slid into a bunch of tape and got tangled up. The first time around, I almost went outside the lines, and made up my own entry point. I did re-navigate myself, but by the time I had, I realized I was going too fast and had to slam on the brakes to make a turn, and then I had to drop into my granny gear to make it up the slope around the trees in the field. My second time, I knew to drop into 2nd gear coming into the chute, and to drop into my granny gear approaching the slope. The third time, I thought I was so slick, that I decided to fly up. Only, A slew of racers whizzed by on my left, and I got caught up in a bunch of dead tree branches sticking out from the right - no, I didn't watch out for that slut eating tree. (RHPS fans, ya dig?)
This last time, though, I was flawless. I finished.
And found out I was about an hour behind the last guy. And 8 minutes behind my time from last year. (Though, I have to check to see if we had the same distance as last year - I think this year's course was a little longer and I'm not sure if we had as many laps.)
Either way, I came in 9th place. I earned NECS points. And, despite cross-chain related walks, I didn't have to walk any sections.
I did end up bleeding on my bike. (Benefit to a white bike - blood shows up on the frame easily.) I have no idea how, but I did. *shrug*
Without question, though, next year, I'm riding cyclocross. I need an edge, damn it.
But fun race, all in all.