Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2001 - Clueless

My heroes in New England cycling – Brenda Bahnson, Heather Peck, and Katrina Davis - made the trek each year to a fabled race in PennsylvaniaAltoona - where every stage was epic in length, the weather was insanely hot, and the crit was brutal and cruel, able to erase you from the whole gc. Ambitious and clueless, some Cat 3 friends and I decided to go. Hiroko got her local shop to loan us jerseys, Lisa’s mom made us mussette bags, we assembled all the water bottles we could find, and others rented a musty house on Blue Knob and volunteered to provide support. Blue Knob sounded sort of like a vacation to them…
I was a nervous wreck in a field of 100+ riders, not helped by the fact I had adjusted my own headset and messed it up. On the first day, after getting dropped and riding a 50-mile time trial in 90+ weather, I got heat exhaustion and spent a few hours throwing up and generally feeling awful. Brenda brought me Pedialyte, trusted friend of the depleted bike racer, but it was an ominous start.
Every day during the race, Hiroko and I would look over at each other, look back, see we were dead last, and ask “what are we doing here?” I was horrendous at field positioning. My goal each day was to make it as far as possible with the group. And every day I would get dropped and time trial in, usually picking up and dragging other dropped riders. They would say “you are really strong,” stopping before adding “and really dumb to tow us all this way.” Each day I survived felt like a heroic effort. I don’t know I’ve ever been as exhausted during a race as I was then. On Blue Knob on Saturday, I got dropped 10 miles in. The amazing thing is not that I missed the time cut (which I did) but that I barely missed it. Hiroko survived the crit. I had learned as much in one week as I had all season! When can I come back?

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