Saturday, February 24, 2007


Anne's Race Report - I don't like the cold. When Amy, Vanessa and I pulled up to the parking lot the grass was white with frost. I didn't want to get out of the car. The car had individual seat warmers. I like that. We reluctantly padded out across the crunchy, frozen grass to registration and then we stood in line to pee. We located Jess and Lisa already warming up and appearing unphased by the arctic conditions. After much debate about appropriate wardrobing issues we were suited up and ready to warm up, but first, we waited in line to pee. We mounted our trusty steeds and headed right out of the parking lot in the direction that other riders were heading, riders who looked like they knew what the hell they were doing. We followed, for about 100 yards, looked at each other and began to renegotiate wardrobe. We were going to need more layers. We returned to the parking lot and got in line to pee. We met our new teammate Jamima, she was in line to pee. Is it hydration or nerves? Gawd, I love the smell of port-o-potties in the morning.

It was exciting to line up at the start with five teammates, I felt proud looking over at a sea of Touchstone blue. The race got under way after the 3-mile leadout and Jamima powering to the front of the pack, where she would remain for the majority of the race. The road felt crowded and difficult to move through and there were moments when I considered quitting cycling and joining roller derby, these girls were intense. Vanessa and I were trying to stay together and move through the middle but we were struggling to gain any headway in the field when Amy pulled up on the outside and said to me "hop on my wheel." Did I mention that I love her. It was very early in the day and we were trying to get a sense of the rhythm of the race, the sudden surges followed by frightening slowdowns when there was an unexpected schism of the field. It reminded me of the scene in Titanic when the boat suddenly splits in two and you think "there's no way that's how that would happen, I mean come on, James Cameron bugs me" but there it was right in front of us, a giant fissure fracturing the field in two with four of caught on the wrong side of it and at a point when I was still half expecting riders to be fixing their hair. It just caught us off-guard, in the middle of reaching for gu, and assessing computer glitches and the front 30 were pulling away fast. I made a decision to take off after it and hope that Vanessa, Amy and Lisa would respond and come with me. It was astonishing how quickly the pack gained ground and it took me a fully anerobic five minutes to finally catch up to the tail of the pack. I no longer felt cold. Looking around I realized that Amy, Lisa and Vanessa had not made the split. Shit. I could see Jess up towards the front and Jamima setting the pace and I told myself to stay focused and hold onto the pack. I started noticing the other teams and thought, gratefully, I'm glad we're not sponsored by Tri-Flow, I mean really, why is that in such large font across their jersey? Tri-Flow? It makes me need to pee.

The group seemed to settle down a bit after the first lap and I actually started to enjoy the race. I mean this course had it all. An assaulting head-wind on the front side, a few tight sand-covered corners, an unpredictable group of unfamiliar faces and of course that stretch of permanently dibilitating rough pavement before the final turn . What more could a girl ask for? Just when I thought things were going to get really interesting, the group was neutralized for a significant portion of the third lap to allow a large group of male racers to pass. I was genuinely impressed by the graciousness of the women during this portion of the race, cheering on the few guys struggling to keep pace with their own group and reminding each other to be careful on the narrow road while this was happening. Okay, I won't join roller-derby. The last stretch of rough road saw a lot of jockeying for position. I was trying to move to the inside of the turn because Lisa had warned me about getting blocked out if I was on the outside. I made the turn and started to move up the inside lane but was pushed off the road into the dirt momentarily by another rider. I managed to stay upright and get back on the road and could see Jamima in the middle of the developing sprint. I tried to push up the hill and felt like I was gaining ground before just running out of race. I wasn't sure how many riders crossed the line in front of me but it was an exhilarating finish and I was happy to congratulate those powerful women in front of me. The MetroMint girls were celebrating and were very gracious finishers. Jess pulled up next to me and we both agreed we were relieved to have a safe finish under our belts. We rolled back toward the finish line just in time to see Vanessa cross having worked her heart out with her solo attempt to catch the pack, followed by Lisa and then Amy smiling her way through her own hard-fought solo effort. I wanted to shout "we're the king of the world" even though James Cameron still bugs me.

Finally, it was great fun to see the Women's Pro 1/2's and men's master teams head out on their race and try to offer some inexperienced support to them in the feed zone. And, the whole trip to Snelling was worth it knowing that Jill won her race, getting to see Pat in action and of course Scott's phenomenal win and $10 purse. Congratulations, Touchstone!

Jess's Race Report - It was brutally cold and I was tempted to start the race with my big puffy down jacket. Fortunately, the cold air lost some of its edge by the time the gun went off at 8:30 -- late as usual. This was by far the biggest race with the W's Cat 4 field split into two groups. Fortunately, the 3-mile neutral start gave us a moment to calm any nerves. Unlike last week, we had six teammates present and were one of the largest teams, if not the largest. Exciting, especially knowing we had an ex-pro Ironman athlete on our side -- welcome Jamima!!

Despite being the Paris Roubaix of California, the scenery was quite beautiful with rolling hills, vineyards, and blossoming orchards. On the flipside, there were brutal cross and headwinds, dirty corners and sections littered with tacks thrown down by locals. (Is that supposed to be funny?) About halfway through the first lap, the field split and I barely made the break to stick with the lead group. A few seconds later, I was relieved to see Anne come up next to me too; Jamima was somewhere up in the front pulling strong. I didn't realize Anne and I were it until I looked back a few minutes later to see an empty road behind. Shit. What's Plan B? So off we went with the pack of 20 or so round and round. Things stayed pretty calm and chill for most of the time. On the last lap and nearing the last two bends, I found it pretty hard to make my way to the front of the pack--the road sucked and I just haven't tapped into that aggro gene that racing seems to require at these critical moments. Fortunately, because I was sitting in the back for a lot of that last lap, I had a little bit left for the final sprint up that last riser. While I couldn't get into position to lead Anne out (I was not only BEHIND her, but also on the OTHER SIDE of the pack), she managed to dig deep despite getting pushed into the dirt for a few seconds and blow by half the field.

Great race -- lots learned. Also, great to be out there supporting the men (Ken, Dave, Scott, Andrew, John, Sean, Mark) and elite ladies (Pat, Jill, Holly, and Maria).

Vanessa's Two Cents - 1) This is the best report EVER! 2) Heated seats rule 3) James Cameron does bug! 4) It was a brutal day out there at Smelling (typo intended)!

Those things said, I am totally proud of all of us, especially Anne, Jess and Jamima for sticking in there and pulling out great results. I really think that we are learning and evolving and hopefully that will mean some great races down the road. Being out alone on that road, without another racer in sight, reminded me that this sport is about teams. It was so upsetting to fall off and not be able to get back up there to protect Anne in the roller-derby pack. I was there to do a job- get Anne to the end for a win! And I thought about how good it would have felt to have been able to do that job, to see her cross that line in front of me in blazing glory! I thought about how a team makes you stronger physically and emotionally. And I thought about how much fun it is to be part of a team. I stuck in this race, chasing the pack just always out of reach (OK, waaayyy out of reach) because at the end, I wanted to be able to tell Anne "I tried to get back up there to help you!" I didn't stop trying even though the race was over for me (and believe me there were moments I wanted to stop, like say, when I realized my heart rate had been above 185 for 30 minutes..); I didn't give up because I knew somewhere up the road maybe just maybe I could still be of use to Anne or Jess or Jamima. I didn't give up because I knew that somewhere close behind me Amy and Lisa were still fighting the wind like me, alone, in PAIN... I didn't give up because I knew that after the race, I'd be able to share my experience and learn about your experiences. All of us, together... And I didn't give up because I knew Amy had chocolate chip cookies waiting in the car- a slow death in the ditch on the side of road in Snelling or slow recovery in back seat with heat and cookies, chatting with the team. You do the math...

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