My "big day" finally arrived yesterday, and this is going to sound quite lame in comparison to, for example, the Amgen Tour of California, but it was the fourth race of the Molenberg SUB Ride and Stride Series in Clevedon (it's near Papakura, in case you were wondering). I raced at this same event last year - the day after Black Stump (if you've done Black Stump before, you'll know that racing a road race the next morning isn't exactly topping your list of priorities). Last year I was riding a borrowed road bike with platform pedals, wet clothes, and the most inappropriate pair of shoes I could find.
Still, when I came home and announced I'd placed 83rd, my mother acted like I was the next Christian Van De Velde. Which was cool, but not exactly accurate.
Yesterday, I took a vastly different approach. I treated this race as if it were my "pinnacle event" - and given how dry my season so far has been, it kind of was - basing my training around shorter, faster rides, along with my twice-daily pilgrimmage to North Head, making sure I had absolutely everything I could possibly need in the car the night BEFORE (this is largely the result of a huge learning curve I had at the World Triathlon Festival in New Plymouth last year, when I arrived sans race belt), and even eating properly in the lead-up.
At last year's event, as previously mentioned, I finished 83rd in 1hr 34.10.
This year I pre-rode the course two weeks earlier in the rain, in about 1hr 20. I had high hopes.
At the start of the race, I was disappointed to be boxed in by some girls on commuters. Once we were out on the road, I took my cue and broke away, sticking as close to the leaders as I could. About 600m into the race, I passed a girl wearing an Astana (Lance Armstrong's team, for those who don't follow professional cycling) jersey. As I was wearing my Garmin helmet AND jersey, I decided, somewhat subconsciously, that the grudge-match of the day was to be between her and myself.
She passed me back at around 14km, but I kept close and managed to keep her attack at bay. After the turnaround at Maraetai beach (which came about 3km later than memory served... and than what I practiced), she passed me again, but I was able to pull her back in on a hill - thank you, North Head. At 30km, thinking I had 5km left, I took off and maintained a steady 33kph for the ride back into Clevedon. 5km later, I was still on the road, wondering where the end was. I rode past an ecstatic Sarah Ulmer (she created the event and can be seen getting in amongst it at all five races during the year). It was an odd sensation to be cheered on in a bike race by an Olympic champion cyclist.
As it would happen, the course was actually 37.10km - not 35km as I'd believed. When I finished, I unclipped from my bike, and attempted to "walk off" my agony. After most races (even XTERRA, where I sprinted the entire 11km run), I'm good after a minute or two. Yesterday, it took me about ten minutes until I could walk normally. It hurt a whole lot.
After an hour or two, Jon Bridges, who was commentating the finish line of the race, announced that provisional results were available on the stage. I checked my event to see that I'd finished in 1hr 14.35, and placed 15th. 15th!! I've never been on the first page of results, at least since I was a swimmer. There were 164 entrants in my race, so I was quite pleased. And trust me, it takes a lot to make me pleased with a race. Doesn't happen often.
So that was my day. Of course, I spent between 6pm and midnight in the bathroom, "spewing my ring out", as John Campbell might say, but I kept reminding myself how well I'd done in the morning. I'm still unsure as to what caused the sickness, but it's all gone now, so I'm doing okay.
My next event is one month away (March 22) in Cambridge, before I contest the 90km R4 from Rotorua to Whakatane. The latter is pretty much a crazed downhill jaunt, where last year Monique Avery (winner of my age-group at XTERRA) maintained an average speed of more than 40kph. Nice.
I'm spending the rest of today floating at Long Bay. Peace, yo.