Race report from Gina Lucania at the Tri Lakes TT over the weekend.
Literally. In the heat. 86 degrees to be exact. This past weekend I traveled up to Palmer Lake for the inaugural Café Velo Tri Lakes Time Trial. When I had mentioned it to the team, Vera responded that it was a very hilly course, which is not an ideal course for me, especially with time trials. Get me a relatively flat course, give me my racing legs and I will be happier than a pig in mud. Alas, it turns out Vera was right…
After Wednesday’s Cherry Creek Time Trial, I felt pretty good, but wasn’t holding high expectations. A bit of background: the past few months have not been ideal for training and/or racing. I’m still dealing with a knee issue and had some crazy sickness that sidelined me (no joke) for almost 2 months. I figured it was time to get back on the bike and see where my fitness levels were at. I haven’t been doing much training due to the crazy mess, but I’ve ridden some. As it turns out, “some” is not nearly what I needed on Saturday. I was able to sleep in a bit Saturday morning due to a start time of 12:25! We packed up the bike and the car and off we went to Palmer Lake. When we arrived at registration, everyone seemed so calm and collected; a good sign before you start a race! I set up my trainer and asked my boyfriend for my water bottle. Unfortunately, he forgot both bottles at home and we had to buy them from the lovely folks at Café Velo. Crisis averted. The wind had started to pick up and I knew that with the hills, heat and wind, I was in for a lovely ride. Headed up to the start line and off I went. I raced the SW 4’s and was the youngest rider in the category. All of the women were amazingly fast masters! I tried not to let this intimidate me 🙂 I was the 2nd to last person to start that day and I wanted to avoid being last on the course, so for the first few miles I used the tailwind to my advantage. About mile 3 I turned a corner and went right uphill into the wind. Only 12 more miles, I can do this!
The woman behind me rocketed past around 4 miles and there I was the last one on the course! The next few miles were downhill so I put my head down and gave it all I had. I started picking off women one by one and finally felt my racing legs come into action. The race directors warned us around mile 9 there was a quick right turn and to slow down to avoid crashing. I saw the signs and slowed down…with 4 cars slowing in front of me who were confused as to where to go and what was happening. I tried to maintain a decent pace but with it being one lane each way, it was inevitable that I had to slow to almost a stop. Not good! Coming into the turn I tried to pick it back up but there was the first of many climbs to challenge me. If I had to guess, I’d say this climb was about a 6-7% grade, so I switched gears and started cranking along. Now for all who know me know climbing isn’t my strong suit, so I was a bit fearful of what was to come and the impact it’d have on my legs later on. Got to the top of the climb and started descending into the wind again. I turned around and there was one rider that I’d passed hot on my heels. I tried to hammer as much as I could, but like waves in the ocean, the hills kept coming! I knew if I kept up the pace I would be dead by time mile 13 came along, and that is exactly what happened. She passed me and so did the other 2 women behind her. At this point, I was in survival mode and my goal was to get the best time I could for myself.
As I said, going into this there wasn’t much expectation other than to do well and challenge myself. I’ve learned through many races and many years of racing that the more pressure you put on yourself, the more detrimental it can be if things don’t go according to plan. Instead of telling myself “you need to win this” I simply set an achievable goal and try to beat that. I normally don’t look at my computer unless it’s for time or speed, but for some reason, I felt compelled to see what mile I was at! This is never a smart thing to do when you are suffering, trust me! I looked down and sure enough, mile 13. At least I have a good gauge for distance, right? Climbing for what felt like forever, I saw some people and 2 motos. I passed them and they complimented my awesome skin suit from Curve, which was very nice to hear! The moto turned onto the road and was behind me because I was the last rider on the course. Now I know I did not have the slowest time of the day, but let me tell you something, when a moto is right behind you because you’re the last rider on course, it definitely toys with your emotions. I kept plugging along and finally saw the 1k mark. I just could not get my speed past 18 anymore and attempted a sprint finish to the line. I’m honestly not sure how my legs were able to do so, but they say mind over matter! It was about 2 miles back to the car so I used this as an opportunity to cool down and collect myself. The moto came up beside me and asked if I needed a push back! I really must’ve looked out of sorts 🙂 I politely declined and kept on my way. I saw my boyfriend up ahead, decked out in his Naked team shirt and hat and he was there to greet me with a hug and good job. Apparently behind the moto was a truck that was also following. He pulled up to us and told me, “You were so inspiring to watch out there, fighting with each pedal stroke!” Honestly? That is what made my day.
All in all, it was a tough day on the bike. It tested mental and physical stamina. So what did I learn from this? Riding your bike is hard. There’s a reason for that. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! (Thanks Kelly Clarkson!)
Big thanks to our awesome sponsors, the town of Palmer Lake and Café Velo for a great race!