|Thank you Cassie Fetzer for this photograph... of course you couldn't take one where I got to smile...|
I didn't have any high expectations, so my goal was to ride well and find ways to enjoy the day. Because of the course rerouting that went on a week out, we no longer got to enjoy a mostly flat first half, instead we were hit with a familiar climb just 4 miles into the race. And like I expected, the little jitterbugs on bikes, decided to lift the pace on the first hill and I was dropped off the back as they topped the climb. But I hammered down the hill and was in sight of the leaders as we hit Kriby. I have no doubt that I could have put in a big effort and most likely closed the gap, but we were only at mile 6 and we still had 44 to go. I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of 2 or 3 behind me and I forced myself to slow down and get caught so we could share the load and stay out of the strong headwinds we were dealing with. It literally went against everything I've ever done in a race situation. I mean, the idea of a race is to go as fast as you can, right?? But in years past, I would always do big efforts and find myself fried for the next climb and I would just watch the leaders ride off, never to be seen again. And while I wasn't riding with the lead group at this point, my group of 4 grew to 10 as many as we reeled in riders along the way. Each climb we would lose 1 or 2 but we kept moving forward and picking up stragglers along the way. We even started catching a few singles from the Cat4-5 riders who had been dropped by their groups. They were forced to ride most of the day by themselves, battling the winds on their own. So when we rolled past and told them to jump on, they just didn't have the legs for it any longer and they were left behind. I knew exactly what they were feeling at that moment, because it had happened to me so many times over the last couple years. I always let my ego and my self confidence write and story with an ending that always left me getting caught and passed by the fields behind me. And with about 6 miles to go, I finally felt the cord starting to break and I knew my time with the now group of 5 was soon to be over. About that time, we closed in on Johnny Mac and Aaron Bovalino, two of the nicest guys in racing. So instead of killing myself to try to stay with the other 4, I again sat up and decided to ride to the finish with these two.
As I crossed the finish line, I was extremely pleased with the way the race had gone. My legs started to fade right around the 2 hour mark, which made sense, as that was just about the average "long" ride I had been fitting in over the winter. My legs just weren't used to the extra time in the saddle and it showed. I was hoping for a finish time around 2:40 and I just missed my mark, but I felt like I had been competitive with a lot of people I would have just watched as the rode off from me the last few years. By slowing down and riding with others at mile 6, I managed to race faster than I would have on my own. It may have been the best decision I've ever made... well that or helping myself to a second helping of everything at mom and dad's for Easter. :-)
I hope to see you all going "slower" at Greene County next week!!