Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From 45 Minutes to 4 Hours! Barry Roubaix.

The much anticipated Barry Roubaix (BR) had everything a spring classic should have. Every since I tackled this race in 2010 I have looked forward to taking on the challenge again with hopes of setting up some good training prep to be competitive in the tough women's field that is always present. I was really disappointed last year when I was forced to sit the race out due to recovering from one of my 5 ankle surgeries and I was thrilled to get to take part in the race this year as a result. I was able to get the weekend off work and slotted my entry just in time before the race would soon sell out at the 1500 rider cap.
I was all set to go... until my training for it went downhill.
My first time was with a repeat bout of bronchitis and I took almost 2 weeks off the bike at the beginning of March. I recovered nicely from that just in time for some awesome spring weather that allowed tons of mileage the week I climbed back on the bike. That was good, but the result of the increased hours in the saddle and a seat height that was a inch too low, left me with a screaming overuse IT band injury around my knee. Given that my right knee completely locked up on my rides; I was forced to rest it the entire 8 days leading up to BR weekend. Bummer. Not exactly the killer prep for the "killer gravel road race" I was looking for.

Regardless, despite the smarter part of my brain telling me that I should continue to rest my injury to be safe for the rest of the season, I really didn't want to miss out on this fun event again. Besides, this is a minor set back compared to things that have hit me in the last year, so I didn't want it to totally take me off the starting grid!

With the reality of knowing I would be hurting on the climbs due to the inability to manage a full pedal stroke with that leg, I knew a high finishing out of the 22 tough ladies that signed up would be a long shot. Still, I really wanted to try and I really wanted to do well. In the end though, that really just wasn't meant to be. I would finish in 11th place and although I was disappointed with that placing number beside my name on the results list, I really can't be that sad about it. The race had everything that was perfect about a spring classic, and I had a good time racing out there for 4 hours!

(Taking off on the 62 mile race course with 200 of my best friends. Photo thanks to Julie Sroka)

After a quick prep to get ready to race since my travel mate and I were a little late to get to the venue, I lined up with the other 200 or so racers that were doing the long course of 62 miles. I was entertained by the "neutral" roll out as I quickly found out that the boys were anxious to show off their mild winter training fitness which must have included some MMA routines as well as I had a couple guys feel they needed to see if I would "give up" my line at all by bumping elbows. I was happy once we hit the dirt roads and the race sorted itself out pretty quickly. I felt pretty much like I hadn't rode a bike in over a week and I settled into a steady effort as I got to know a few riders around me. I knew I was pretty much off pace when fellow familiar competitor Bridget Donavan cruised up to me and steadily cruised right by me fairly early in the race as did several other girls. I was happy for Bridget to be killing it, but knew I would just be hanging out for a long ride on the day. After about 35' of riding the IT went into full flare mode as every pedal stroke and hill for the next 3.5 hours brought on a stabbing pain to my knee. Peachy. No powerful climbing from me! On a course that had lots of it... I just wasn't competitive with one leg.

(Dirt road after dirt road... a spring race paradise. Photo from Steve Balogh)

As was the case the first year I did BR, I somehow found myself in a pocket of soloness. I found myself working alone for hours and hours. Either I was too fast or someone else was too fast to work with. I spent 20 miles trying to catch a guy 100 yards in front of me to work with. When I finally caught him and informed his solo self of this, I noticed he had on a full blown race skin suite... and a fanny pack. Oh my. That explained A LOT of why he didn't smarten up to slow down a bit so we could work together for 4o some miles in the elements and the wind. It did, however, give me a little laugh to myself on the all different types of people that take place in mass events.

The promoters did a great job and added a really tough 2 mile off road sandy section to things this year. I think the course was a bit more challenging than 2010, yet I manage to cut about 16 minutes off my overall time. I had a personal goal of wanting to be under the 4 hour mark. I was close. I rolled over the finish line around 4 hours and 2 minutes. Ultra cross is just a bit longer than the 45 minutes of racing I'm geared to for standard cross!

The race had mud, misting rain, a little chilliness, gloomy skies, dead bull frogs scattered across the road that fell victim to the pack, worms stuck to cables, snotty noses from allergies brought on by blooming red buds, and the smell of all sorts of embrocation in the air. I loved every minute of it!

At one point I passed a single speeder as it was raining and I was covered from head to toe in dirt.
He commented to me, "is there any place on earth that you would rather be?"
I smiled to myself, and told him I actually thought everything about the moment was exactly perfect. I was right where I wanted to be.

I've come a long way to learn to love the moment, really love everything else that is happening around me, even though I may not be in the lead or battling for a top position.
After all, as my coach Mark later reminded me after I told him I was disappointed with my placing:

Six months ago I wasn't even riding a bike!