I have NEVER raced a bike race before, and for those who know me, I definitely shy away from pack riding. I like to follow at a respectable distance...just in case.
Just in case what you ask?
Ummmm, just in case I run up the back of someone's wheel, or they brake and stop in front of me, etc. It's a trust issue. I trust myself. I don't trust anyone else when I am mere inches off their wheel.
Now, I've been lucky that the times I have practiced a bit of drafting I've done so with AMAZING cyclists. Professional athletes in fact. LMAO. So, I trusted them no problem. Hahahaha!
Back to the race...
I was told that I could use my tri bike as long as I stayed out of my aero bars if I was in a group. (No problem! That is the first thing I learned when I started cycling with other people!)
It was at that exact moment that it occurred to me -- I am going to be in a bike race -- I can draft!! It's not a triathlon!
I was so excited!! I have been getting so antsy to race -- I think it has something to do with being outside in nice weather -- I just wanted to RACE!
I had just finished a big training week and had done a hard 2 hour bike ride the day before, but I thought to myself, "What the hell! Just go and have a blast and have another hard bike ride!"
There were three categories to the bike race:
- "Elites" (men racing 90km)
- "Masters" (guys 40 and over - they were supposed to race 70km but it got changed I think at the last minute to them racing 60km like us women.)
- "Women" -- 3 of us: an Olympic windsurfer (SHE IS RIPPED PEOPLE), a multiple Ironman triathlete and tri store owner here in Cozumel, and.....me!! LOL!!! We kept making jokes about why our race was only 60km -- because we are the "weaker sex."
So, at the last minute, we were told that the Masters were going to ride 60km as well and that us three chickie-poos would start off with them. The "elites" started off before us, then we waited a minute or 30 seconds or whatever it was for our turn...
My two new buds -- both awesome women!!
My adrenaline started to kick in and as I watched the Mexican woman on the sidelines holding the checkered flag, I started to focus and got into take off position...lol. But seriously, I positioned my one foot on the pedal like I learned in Tucson to start fast once a red light changed to green.
My plan was to GO. To fricking go as hard as I could for 60km and not think of anything but "Push, push, push." Cozumel is a windy place and we would be starting in a head wind, then deal with a strong, gusty crosswinds to the turn around, and THEN at the final turn the wind be at our backs.
The night before the race, I talked with Mike -- and said, "I have no idea how to race a bike race!" He counseled me -- "If there is any kind of headwind, get in a pack, because if you pull out in front, the pack will get you." I was like, "Yeah, that is good advice."
So, my plan was to go out HARD and get in the front pack and hang with them and draft, draft, draft...
The race was about to start and my heart was thudding in anticipation...3...2...1...GO!!
I hammered myself and right away I was ahead of everyone.
I had a bit of trouble clipping my one foot in, but I have been biking all around Cozumel with my sneakers as well as my clip-ons, so it didn't make any difference -- I got it in soon enough and then I got into aero and started pushing the pedals as hard and consistently as I could.
It was hilarious - I had a police escort! A policeman on a motorcycle was just ahead of me and was leading the way. I kept expecting this pack of guys to come by me or maybe they were being tactical or something -- I don't know what they do in a bike race! All I thought was GO, GO, GO!!!
I soon caught up with some of the guys who left before us -- the policeman on the motorcycle beeped his horn and they all moved to the left so I could pass! LMAO! It was hilarious, I didn't know what to do before he beeped his horn, I was going to pass them on THEIR left like in a tri race, but I didn't have to swerve at all. lol.
Then, I caught up to these two other guys who were working together to share the load of the sidewind/headwind. I sneaked in with them and managed to draft off them for a while. I even managed to sit up and let my heart rate come down a little. (A little.)
Then, I felt bad that they were doing all the work, so I tried to offer to help pull them, but my Spanish is just about non-existent (so is my English when I am racing) and confusion set in and all I heard from them "Different categorio" or something like that.
Then I started to worry that maybe they meant I shouldn't be drafting off them -- so another official in a scooter came by and I asked him if it was ok to draft. (The tri shop lady I spoke with before the race, told me that drafting was fine and normal, but it was the triathlete in me getting worried.) He couldn't understand a word I said and sort of waved at me -- LOL.
So I sort of backed off a little just in case and worried that maybe I was going to get DQ'ed.
(I know, I am an idiot. My brain just craps out as soon as I race.)
So, now I see a guy on the right side of me -- just behind me. I can see his shadow on the ground. He was a hefty fellow too and I realized, he is using me as a windblock and drafting off me!
I kept pushing, pushing, pushing, but he was still there. So, then I thought, maybe he will take a turn and shield/pull me like those other two guys were doing...But when I sat up and slowed down a little, he did too. I was like, "Seriously?"
It was at this point I decided, "I have to destroy you." Yes I know this sounds ridiculous, but this is honestly what was going on in my head. LMAO!
I sat up again, and slowed a little. He followed suit. Then, I slowed down a little more. He did too. Then, suddenly, I shifted into a harder gear (I still don't know whether that means shifting up or down, so I say harder/easier, lol) stood up, shifted into another harder gear and pedaled my a$$hole off. And I totally broke him. LMAO!
From then on, I was totally alone for the rest of the bike ride. Me and the wind. I never could quite catch back up to the two guys who were racing the 90km (that I had drafted from before) -- I used them as a carrot though. They were always about 25m away.
Before I knew it, it was the turn around and I got to see who was behind me. There was no one -- I was alone.
The way back was brutal. It was on the way back that I realized the cross wind was sort of like a head wind at an angle, you know? Oh God it hurt to push in that. There were a few dark moments but I have been there before mentally in races, and I knew it would pass and it wasn't "real." I interpreted those feelings that yes I was pushing myself enough.
I also ran out of water. I only brought two bottles of water with me and 2 gels. The gels were the right amount, but I wish I had brought more water....but "Train heavy, race light," remember? LMAO!!
All I kept thinking to myself was "Push! Push! Push!"
I was just waiting to make the turn so the headwind would be at my back and then I could push as hard as I could all the way to the finish line.
It was awesome, the policeman on the motorcycle had to speed up when I got the wind at my back -- and he beeped his horn at traffic and cleared the road for me. Hahahaha! It was pretty awesome!
The finish line was a couple of guys standing by a car and waving their arms at me to stop. lol -- I stopped and then said, "Hasta luego!" (I hope I spelled that right, it means See you later!) And then they told me to stick around.
One of the guys asked me what my time was -- I didn't know for sure, because I don't know when the race started....I do know that I crossed the finish line at 10:17am. I know for sure that the race started after 8:15am -- one of the women told me afterwards that it started at 8:30m, but whatever! I always round up so I can make myself work harder/go faster for next time! :)
I was dying of thirst -- one of the guys gave me a jug of water which I promptly downed. I stayed there making small talk with a woman who spoke excellent English -- I really need to learn Spanish!!!!
Fast forward to the end of the race. I won 150 pesos! LOL! And got my pic taken with the other winners. Hahaha -- One of the Mexican guys that was part of the duo I had drafted from, told me I was a "strong rider" and shook my hand. I told him he was too!
I was dying of thirst and hunger though -- and the spin back to the condo is about 30 minutes, and by the time I got back I was STARVING.