Friday, 4 July 2014

Tour De Waterloo!

Our first cycling race of this year! and Garima's first ever cycling race!!

Parichit's Race

I had the option of registering for the Tour De Waterloo or the Centurion Horseshoe Valley. The Centurion course is beautiful and hilly but having done that race last year (in mad rain and missing the start!) I went for experiencing a different route instead. 

My original plan for this weekend was to do a long cycling race, and not get dropped from the lead pack. Having decided to do the Guelph Lake Duathlon the day before, my legs didn’t really feel like signing up for a 75 mile at Centurion or the 133 k distance at Waterloo. So I opted for the medium distance (76 km).

I dragged Garima along with me on Sunday in case she wanted to go for a bike ride in the area or sign up for the short distance (46 km) race. The problem was that she doesn’t own a road bike, only a TT/Triathlon bike, which is generally not allowed in road races. Once we got to the race venue and asked the race organizers for their consent, Garima went ahead to register for the 46 km race (I did get a sticker shock of paying $125 on the day of the race for her, which was a flat fee regardless of the race distance. Ouch. Planning would be a better alternative next year!).

Her race started first and before she left, I gave her a few tips: do as little work on the front as possible, sprint after turning, and do whatever you can to stay with a group!

My race mantra was more or less the same!

As my race started, I made sure to have the bike in the small ring up front because I knew we climb up a steep section in the first few hundred meters. Good move as people tried sprinting up even in the first neutral 2 km!
Once the neutral zone was over, the pace immediately shot up. I did my best to stay in the group but my legs were not ready to wake up just yet!! My HR shot up into the 160’s just to stay with the pack and my legs felt awkwardly heavy. I was beginning to doubt this back-to-back race strategy (I’ve heard some people rest between such things. Who knew?)
Anyway, I hung on…I tried to keep Adam (a friend from other Duathlon races and who also raced Guelph the day before), in sight…but he was way up ahead. Needless to say, this pace was hard (~43/44 km/hr, I think?) and the group was too big. It was full of people fresh with energy and pushing it on. There was too much of an accordion effect at every turn and I wanted to move up as much as I could, to minimize all the corner sprinting. In one small kicker of a hill, I shifted to my small ring and after the hill was over, I wasn’t able to shift back up. That lost me quite a few seconds and when it eventually did shift, I redlined for a good 2-3 minutes to catch up again.

I kept drinking regularly whenever I could see clearly up ahead amidst butts and calves, and ate a L’arabar around 40-45 mins into the race. Then a funny thing happened after 30 kms…my legs woke up! It seems my legs only get into their groove after I have my first dose of big carbs during ANY race.
Quite a few corners...
By that point, I had caught up with Adam and still within the lead pack. Corner sprints came easy now, no problems. HR dropped down to a sensible 130-140 BPM and I stuck on. Lots of rolling hills later, I found myself within the lead group whittled down to about 30 people. Adam got dropped somewhere in between when the leaders put in a sneaky effort on a false flat to thin out the group and I lost company. I was now surrounded by team jerseys and people working for their teammates. I was one of the few loners that didn’t belong to a cycling team. It sped up a few times but it never felt like it got out of whack where I would breathe hard consistently. Probably upper Zone 2’ish/ Zone 3 effort.

Scared of dropping my chain, I never shifted back to the small ring (ever since the incident in the beginning!) and nearly got dropped on a steep little hill, which came on unexpectedly hard. Hard thing with road races is that you need to keep up the tempo and sprint right after cresting a hill because that’s where you lose the most time (learnt this very soon!) if you want to stay in the group.
Rolling terrain but steady speed!
The first time I looked at my average speed, it said 38.4 km/hr after the first 55 kms and I couldn’t believe it. From then on, it became harder as people started ramping up speed. I misjudged one turn and ended up on a really rough side of the road just 2 km from the finish, mostly potholes and gravel, which had me putting another solid effort to bridge back up.
In the home stretch with less than 1 km to go, I was bang in the middle of the pack and trying to move up to the front. Although I have never done this in reality before, I have seen in plenty of cycling races to know how to make sure you’re in the front to avoid any mishaps or miss the chance to sprint at the finish.

I should have probably studied the last corners of the course better…but didn’t anticipate to be going for the winning sprint, so in the last turn, I screwed up. I got boxed in while turning by 2 guys on either side, and had to brake for an extra few split seconds. By this point, the finish line was only ~300m ahead. I maxed out my gears and cadence to sprint and catch up, but it was far too late. I lost all of my 3 seconds to the leaders in that last corner. Damn. I would probably not have won anyway, but it would have been nice to have at least contested the finish!

After the finish, I was far from exhausted. My average HR was 144 BPM, which is less than even my 90 km Welland Bike ride last weekend. I was well hydrated, my legs were fine and could have probably gone on for a good number of extra kms. Tells me I should’ve worked harder! Well, at least I met my goal of doing as little work as possible and finishing with the lead pack!

Discounting the neutral zone, we averaged 39.1 km/hr over ~2,000 ft climbing through rolling terrain. I didn’t feel like we actually climbed that much, though...the computer may be wrong, who knows. The whole thing was over in 1h58min and my official rank was 26 (first bunch of 30 people within 3 seconds).

Met up with Garima and then got some surprising news from her. Read on!

Garima’s 46 km Race

After all the madness in Guelph triathlon on Saturday, Parichit started prepping for Tour de Waterloo which was his main race for the weekend. He had asked me if I was interested in doing it during the week when he registered but I made a silly face with a "...are you serious?? I'm gonna be dead after the Guelph Olympic tri!".

Anyhow, on Sunday morning I made an impulsive decision to pack my bike along and try doing the shorter distance (40 km). The main reasons behind this change of heart was that I was feeling pretty good after the Guelph race and the fact that I didn't want to sit idle while Parichit was racing the 76 km bike race. I am not exactly a patient spectator and I usually can't sit still in one place for too long. So we showed up in Waterloo where I registered for the 40 km race. Parichit was giving me instructions on what to expect in a cycling race, i.e. drafting (w00t w00t....finally I get to ride just along and let others do the work!).

My race started first and I was pretty nervous about being surrounded by all these cyclists (who were not very appreciative of my triathlon bike...sorry guys..I only got one bike!). As per Parichit's instructions I pedaled my way to the front riders. 5 of us broke away pretty early and I was able to stay with them for a bit. But then 3 of the guys just took off on a uphill (man I need to improve riding uphill), leaving me and another guy behind. After a few minutes I asked him if he wanted to share the load so we took turns being in front. A third person caught up to us and decided to stick with which was great. The three of us rode the rest of the race together taking turns in drafting behind each other. One of the guys was very familiar with the race course and was almost giving us a tour guide...I have never been in a race where I was able to chat while racing...this was becoming even more fun! When we were very close to the finish one of the spectators yelled "First Girl!" and I realized she was right. 

So I finished my first cycling race with a humble podium spot as 1st female and 6th overall! A great ending to an amazing day...why can't all my races by so awesome? :D     

...Saw some mad bikes here!

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