Up at 5:00, at Dana's at 6:00 and at the race before 7:00 and before the sun came up. This is the first road race for Dana and I so we didn't quite know what to expect.
To give you and understanding of the category breakdown, all the women were stuck in the same group for this series race. Pro, 1,2,3 and 4. Women start as a Cat 4 and after placing well in so many races you can request that USA Cycling (where you must purchase a racing licence) review your races and move you up to the next category, so Dana is a 4 but has to race in the same group as the Pros. For the men it goes all the way to Cat 5, which is me. I have 2 options to race in, Competitive 4 and 5's or Masters 35+ age group. Competitive was closed so I signed up for the Masters to later find out that the X-pro 1 and 2's ride in that group when they can't compete at the same level to beat every one up. Nice. I think there were 28 riders in Dana's group and 58 in mine (according to the on-line registration).
Dana's race report - Started behind the Mens 4,5 competitive group at 8:05, 60K distance, 6 laps (36 miles). She managed to finish in 15th place - even with a crash. Go girl! You could tell she was one of the strong ones but had an unfortunate turn of events.
My race started at 11:15 behind the Pro,1,2's and then the Elites 3,4's then us. 80K distance, 8 laps (48 miles). It was ridiculously hot by then, in the 90's, no shade, brutal. The course is rolling hills for a few miles, 90 right turn over railroad tracks (where Dana crashed), more rolling hills, a 1 mile down hill, a few bumps and the 90 right turn 1.5 mile 9% climb, then 2 more shorter climbs to the start. Nasty.
Our group stayed together until the hill on the back side at about a 30 mph pace. Once we hit the hill, the pack was destroyed. I stayed with the front group over the first hill then fell to the back of it over the 2 other climbs up to the start. It was a very fast pace and we had a long way to go (HR 197 on the back hill and 190 at the start/finish) I had to slow down and let the group go to keep from blowing up. From there it turned into a 42 mile time trial. On lap 2 I was mostly alone but in good spirits. I caught somebody at the top of the climb in the back and invited him to jump on my wheel and I pulled him to the start/finish line. He returned the favor by offering to work for me until his legs gave out was around at the climb on the backside again. That saved me some energy and great sportsmanship. On the 3rd lap the Pro's caught me and I jumped on the back for a few miles... again until the big climb in the back. (see a theme here). I yelled at Dana to have another water bottle for me for the start of the 5th lap, I was almost out and making an effort to conserve a little but it was hot as hell. Every time I tried to eat I couldn't chew with the dry mouth and my heart rate pegged. I'd get a few nuggets down and spit the rest out. I was way under nourished for the ride and didn't eat enough before. I felt really good on the 4th and 5th lap, and passed 4 or 5 people. People were starting to blow up and abandon the race. Between the heat, starting pace of the ride and the ridiculous hills it was tough. On the sixth lap I was starting to get tired, stomach cramps, feet hurting (I think because I was climbing in a strange position just to get the peddles to turn over) but lucked out when one of the dropped pro riders came by at a reasonable pace.. jumped behind him again, until the climb in the back. He seemed to be annoyed by this, kept turning around... not sure why. By lap 7 the legs were about toast and it was all mental to finish the race. The front of the Masters group was just finishing when I came through (not something you want to hear). Lap 8 was deserted. I had run out of water just wanted to get to the end. Areas where there were people watching were gone, 2 of the corners where people were stopping cars and flagging us there were missing... what the hell, did every behind me quite or something and I'm the last one out here? Someone passed me on the hill on the last lap and I was just waiting to look at their number to see if they were in my group... nope, another pro. Good because he was climbing way to fast that late in the race. I finished. Dana helped me to the car. My feet were killing me making it hard to walk but the legs were fine. I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position for a while and cry, I mean recover. No shade to be found...
They posted the results and I managed to finish 25th out of 58. I guess there were other people out on the course. I know a bunch of people abandoned the race so it pays to tuff it out. I said I would finish last before I quit. For some reason they also posted the riders who were Cat 4 and 5's in the results list. Mine was the best place Cat 5 rider. That made me happy. My avg HR was 174 (including the end of the race and stroll to the car - forgot to turn it off) with a max of 197, time of 2:43 minutes, 3750 feet of climbing. Technically it was a race but next time I'm riding a more flat course so I'm with a group longer. I think I'm also going to move over to the competitive group with the other Cat 5 riders to see what happens. It was a good first race learning experience.