Arrrgggg….that was hard by Trina Jacobson
Back in October I had this to say about spending time in the hills: I was mostly prepared for [a hilly] ride and had a new perspective on why I should spend some time in the hills: Every time I do something, it becomes more familiar. As something becomes more familiar, the stresses and fears subside. As the stresses and fears subside, the real work begins.
Well, I have been climbing more, but I was still stressed about the San Luis Rey Road Race. My friend snapped a photo of me at the start line where you can see the stress oozing out of my ears.
As the race started and the group made the descent safely and together, my fears subsided despite the presence of the lithe climbing legs of Jessica Cerra, Xterra national champion; Julie Cutts, repeat podium appearances; and Tracy Tilton, recent Vleeshuis Road Race winner. Then, reality set in and that reality is that I am no climber, so what does a non-climber do in a road race that finishes on a hill? The answer used to be: ride as conservatively as possible, hold on as long as I can on the climb, and drop anchor as soon as the peloton was out of sight. Now, the answer is: everything possible for the team.
Before the race, team captain Pam Schuster laid out a simple plan to help teammates Becky Seigel and Jenny Rios as much as possible. No other specifics were given, but I knew I’d figure it out when something happened in the race.
Nothing much happened in the first lap and I was still concerned about the climb at the end of the lap. When we finally reached it, everyone was a little anxious to see who would control the climbing pace but I was able to stay with the group half way up. Then, there were a few surges in the pace which promptly spit me out the back. No surprise…it’s happened before. Just ahead I could see 2 riders, so I kept them in sight the rest of the way up the climb and after making the U-turn I caught up to them and the 3 of us worked together to get back on.
I thought as we arrived, “We got back on! Ok, I’m good, I have bottles full of Gu Brew, I have Gu Roctane. Drink. Check on Becky!”
I figured out what my job was. Going through the feed zone can be chaotic and this feed zone is right after a U turn and just before a descent, so it can be extra chaotic (I’m not sure as I was never with the group when I got to it). So, I took Becky’s empty bottle and gave her my full bottle knowing it’d be easier for me to take a feed alone and off-the-back than it would be for her in the group. Then I went to the front to ride in the wind. If I’m there, then Becky, Pam, or Jenny didn’t have to be.
I did this 4 times: checked on teammates, rode in the wind, covered a few moves, got dropped on the hill, got back on – GOT BACK ON!
The 3rd time up the hill Becky was up front and in the wind, so I went up there to get in front of her and found myself on the font going up a hill (what the….?!). I had to make this good, so I rode at a steady but super uncomfortable pace in the hopes that it was just enough to deter those climbers from putting in any attacks or if they did, it’d have to be harder than they were comfortable with. When we hit the steeper section, I blew, but I felt great about my race to that point, so I wasn’t at all disappointed. I even got back on after that to be of some help in the flats.
My teammates all made the top ten, with Becky in at 6th. The last lap was pretty miserable for me, but I kept pedaling and I finished. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that hard for that long…ever. I had all kinds of aches, pains, and general crankiness in the days following, but I have a lot of pride in being able to help my teammates in a road race.
After hearing my story of the race, someone made the analogy to Jens Voigt. I do NOT claim to be anywhere as hard as The Jens, but I did reply, “I didn’t have to tell my legs to shut up because I didn’t hear them.”
Trina Jacobson is tired, lives in San Diego, and coaches with Crank Cycling. Her racing team is SC Velo/InCycle.