Sunday, July 8, 2012

Racing? Seriously??

Yesterday was the Porcupine Hill Climb, which starts at the base of  Big Cottonwood Canyon and climbs about 3500 feet over 14 miles. I planned to sign up for this event, as the climb would be good for my preparation for LOTOJA. Plus, having accomplished the Mt Nebo Century, which was nearly twice as much climbing, I was feeling confident that I could do well. Herein lies my flawed thinking.

The Nebo event was composed of a group of enthusiastic cyclists, but few actual "racers" were signed up. In fact, I only noticed two female "racers", and they passed me and almost everyone else on the ride like we were standing still.

Fast forward to the Porcupine Hill Climb... I could have registered as a citizen, but my friend (this is same friend who got me to do Nebo, but then bagged out on it at the 11th hour) convinced me to enter a race category. I had already experienced racing with the Master's 35+ women's group at the High Uinta 10,000 this year. We were a group of seven, three of us not really racers at all; the other four, it turned out, were Cat 3 veterans. It was because of my interaction with these women that JB has forbidden me to talk to cyclists, unless she has approved the content first. All I did was try to have a little conversation, momentarily forgetting that we were racing. I saw that one girl's jersey matched a big group that does the MS ride every year, so I asked if she did that ride, or did she "race". She looked at me quizzically (and with a tad of scorn) and replied, "Aren't we all racers?". After my and JB's next pull, the girls pulled away, leaving me gasping for breath for quite a while. Apparently, riders like us are not welcome, and as we watched their small group continue at basically the same pace as us, but out of reach, JB decided it would be best if I kept my mouth shut from now on.

Anyway, I was coerced into signing up for Porcupine in this same group, the gnarly Master's 35+ women. My friend told me it would be better, as the citizens would be starting an hour earlier, when the canyon winds were stronger.

On the morning of the race, we rode for about 10 miles to the base of the canyon and studied the crowd. I didn't really recognize anyone, but I did notice that there were not any of the big guys I had seen at the Nebo event... these guys were skinny. As the start grew near, everyone got into position for the mass start, and unfortunately, I was near the end. When the race began, it took a few seconds for the front of the pack to move and for me to even start to coast out of the parking lot. Of course, I couldn't get my foot into my clip, and as we crossed the road about 100 feet from the start, the mass was already flying ahead. My legs felt like cement as I tried to stay in the pack, and when I backed off a little, the entire mass slowly moved further and further away. I didn't dare look back, because I wasn't sure if I was dead last or not... and I didn't want to know.

I told myself that some of these riders would blow up, and by the time it got steep, I would be passing quite a few of them. It wasn't quite that way; in fact, I think I only passed a handful of riders the whole way. One of them was that kid in the Specialized commercial that they are showing in the Tour de France; the one where the 11 year old is wildly sprinting down the dirt road, imagining someone chasing him? At least the kid I passed was about the same size, which looked to be about 3 sizes smaller than his bike. After that surge of confidence, I came upon another guy and passed him too; he said he was riding a lot slower than he did last year. Yeah right. It was pretty quiet for quite a while, no one in front, and as far as I knew, no one behind, although I still would not look. I went as fast as I could, but still there was no one in sight. It was extremely disheartening. What was I thinking?! Signing up in a racing class when I'm just another week-end warrier basically.

As I neared the top, I think I passed about 3-4 more people. They were probably recovering from organ transplants or something. One of the guys looked really fit from behind, which gave me a boost, until I saw his front side as I passed. He had a gray beard about a foot long and was maybe 70, 75 years old. Still, I pushed to the finish, even trying to pick up the pace a little. Fortunately, when I arrived, the party was still going on; a band playing music and breakfast of bagels and fresh fruit.

Before heading back down the canyon, I checked out the result board, which didn't have any of the groups sorted out yet, but it did have times. I saw my name at the very bottom of the list. Perhaps they hadn't updated all the times yet? I still don't know, but I do know that I am going to rethink this racing thing. It's definitely out of my league, and given the amount of riding I have been doing, I'm not sure if it will ever be in my league. I'll just have to find a venue that fits a little better.

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