i had a whole pathetic, whiny race report from saturdays' criterium in the works. i am glad i never finished or posted it. like i said, it was whiny & pathetic. the race did not go at all as planned for me, it seems i have a major issue not with the turns, (i actually never even thought about them); but with getting off the damn line. like red river gorge, my race was over before it began and i came in once again, dead last. i was 3 for 3. but, as with every race, good or bad, i learned a bunch. but mostly, in saturdays' race - i learned that i can be a really poor pouty sport. i was furious, frustrated and disappointed in myself. it took me a while to shake it off, but i finally did - realizing that what counted was the fact that i was out there, racing my bike (albeit not very well). i resolved to do better the next time and to cut myself some slack.
yesterdays' race was going to be the day that the team louisville women really shone. it was a smaller field (not sure, but maybe 10) but best of all - it was a category 4 race. there were three of us racing - no other racer had any teammates, so we knew that we had an advantage in that we could work together - and we were not lining up with any kenyans or girls a few races away from turning pro. the plan was to get a least one of our girls on the podium, we hoped for 2 and had an absolute pipe dream about a sweep (that would be me up on the podium with them); girls can dream, can't they?
so, the team louisville girls all warmed up together on our trainers at the airstream, going through all our usual pre-race rituals - pinning numbers on, listening to tunes, talking tactics, etc; until it was time to line up. studies have shown that i have to be on that start line. literally on the line at start, even one bike back and i'm hosed. so i got out to the line first and just waited for the rest of the girls. as we all sat there (and i am working on perfecting the art of sitting on the top tube and looking calm, cool, collected with my game face on as my husband said my teammate looked; but i've just perfected the dork caught in headlights look), someone had wondered aloud if she was the oldest racer & so we were all laughing and having fun in finding out the age range of our little racy group (17 - 53 if you're interested). we were on the line for what seemed like an eternity & my heartrate was starting to jack up. my teammate (and we'll call her carol cause that's her name & she will play a huge part in the race report) saw me doing my calmthehelldownyogabreathingthing and told me she was going to stay with me to make sure i got off the line. we got the usual rules and regulations, the official walked off & blew his whistle. we start to roll, and while i had trouble clipping in, i kept peddling and lo and behold, i was still with the pack. i can't remember exactly what or how it happened, but i just knew she was there and my god, so was i - miraculously going through the first turn with the pack; and the next & the next with the pack. this was unprecendented. she soon moved up towards the front to work with our other teammate and while i just didn't have the confidence or the skills to make it up front, i was able to stay with the group and was overjoyed. (my husband later told me exactly where i could have made a move to get up front and as with every post race review, i made a mental note for next time).
there was one hairy turn on the back side of the course - it was narrow and jacked up. i lost the group almost every lap on the turn, but caught them by the next one. my mantra was don't let them get away. don't let them get away. i could see my teammates were riding smart. they were not pulling the entire group and i was with the group. i may have been on the back, but i didn't care - i was with them. and i was having one of the best races of all my 10 races; without a doubt, it was my best crit ever. i could tell that my teammates were rocking it and having an equally amazing race. on the 4th lap, we went into that wiggy turn ... i was further off than previous laps, but not worried, i knew i could catch them. the group was a bit strung out, i watched the pack go through, then i watched the girl in front of me go through the turn - she skidded out and crashed into the curb; i went by her slightly terrified by the sight of her crash and slightly, shamefully happy that i was now not last. (i also knew that it was the sort of crash from which she would just get up & get back on her bike).
now, i just had to catch the group in front of me - i had one corner to turn and a long stretch of wide open road ahead, i knew i would get them. i turned the corner all i saw was two riders down. and i mean down. i kept thinking that much like every other bike crash i have ever seen, they would get up and get back on their bikes ... but they were not moving. as i got closer, i saw one of them was wearing green and the panic just rose. i got off my bike and went to them, both women were unconscious - i didn't know which teammate it was until i got right up to her - it was carol. the whole scene was probably one of the most horrifying things i have ever seen. i bent down and said her name over and over, told her i was there and that she'd be ok. they were both breathing, but it was not good. it felt like an eternity before anyone came running over - when i finally saw people coming toward us, i yelled that they needed an ambulance and when some more people came to help, i moved off to the sidewalk and didn't know what to do. my husband yelled at me to get out of there - he knew i was going to lose it and he just didn't want me to see what was going on.
i got back on my bike and tried to catch my other teammate. i was so shaken up and didn't know if i wanted to be on the bike or sitting on the sidewalk crying, but it felt good to be riding with the group and with my other teammate, talking about what had happened - it seemed that nobody really saw what happened, much of the group was ahead of it, and i came upon it after the fact. by this point, the race was neutral (just roll around course, hold position) and everytime we came around, the scene didn't look much different until we saw our friend strapped on a board and loaded into the ambulance. we pulled out of the race at this point to go see her & we had heard that soon after this, the race was cancelled. (they ran the womens' race later in the day with the juniors - suffice it to say, the team louisville girls did not race). we could talk to carol on the ambulance before they loaded the other woman on - she had regained consciousness, but wasn't sure what she had been doing, didn't know that she raced the day before and took third place. it was a huge relief to see her talking after what i had seen just ten minutes earlier.
she was talking even more when i visited her in the hospital yesterday evening, she was trying to piece together a chain of events, but could remember nothing after the first lap. she has some serious battle wounds and a broken clavicle - there were other, far more serious scares throughout the day when some reports came back from the hospital, but thankfully, none of it proved true.
throughout the day, at the race - i just kept hearing how its part of bike racing; you race long enough, you're going to crash. in fact, in my husbands' race later in the afternoon - a race in which team louisville was working to sweep the podium and could have easily pulled it off - another teammate went down in that backside wiggy turn and broke his clavicle - almost taking my husband out with him. my husband avoided the collision and fought for 3rd place. it was a great, exciting race - but sobering to hear of another crash that had happened just one turn before the finish.
it was a crazy day of roller coaster emotions. i've got more to say about race venues, etc ... but i have a really dirty airstream from a weekend of racing that i've got to go clean up, and a friend to go visit.