Friday, May 30, 2014

Driveway Austin Bike Series- My First Attempt at a Crit

        Last night was my first attempt ever at a crit race. I use the word, "attempt" purposefully, because it was definitely not a huge success! I volunteered a few weeks ago at the Driveway Austin Bike Series after finding it on Google. I had seen my first crit in Charlotte when we were there in April and it looked like fun, so I went to check the process out and earned a free race in the process. Not only that, but I met some awesome women cyclists who were really enthusiastic about the Half the Road screening, so it was a great time all around.

        Fast forward a few weeks, and it's time for me to suck it up and give it a try. Since I only ever race triathlons, I had to make a few modifications to my bike. I took off my hydration system and made sure to just have a water bottle in a normal cage- no big deal, I needed to wash that bottle out anyhow! Then, I carefully marked my aero bars with some paint to ensure I could put them back just right, and took them off as well. It was crazy to remember how wide my handlebars are on my bike without all of the extra stuff in the way- no wonder my shoulders used to get so sore!

Bryce pinned it on the wrong direction at first, but I fixed it!
         Bryce came home early from work so he could go with me, so at about 3:45 we loaded up and drove down to the track. He has probably been more excited about this than I have, since motor sports racing, especially on oval tracks, is definitely his thing.  I was just kind of nervous! I haven't ridden in a pack before- not really- just some casual group rides that didn't involve a lot of drafting, and definitely no turns. or sharp corners. Still, I took solace in the fact that if I wrecked, my bike frame would just get scratched since it's Aluminum, so hey, let's do this.

        I got to the track, signed up, bought a license, and pinned on my number. Then I took a look at what was ahead of me. We were doing a counter-clockwise loop and I had about 20 minutes to warm up and get a feel for everything before our Women's Open race started at 5:00.

My track-side support team. :)

         The Women's Open and the Junior race run at the same time, so while most of the more experienced women didn't spend too much time on the track- many of them ride to the race track anyhow, so they're already warmed up- I did find myself surrounded by some very speedy kids! I took about 3 loops around the track to get a feel for the corners, hills, and the one climb on the back side and then decided I should probably conserve some energy since I was going to need it! The track is really cool- it gets used not only for bike races, but also go karts and other auto racing. There is a lot more out there than is feasible for a race like the one I was in, so they create different loops for the series and cone off the rest. Ours was a counter-clockwise loop that had a couple of s curves, one major drop, and one climb that didn't seem that bad when you looked at it, but my legs begged to differ.
The course for the day.

        I gave Bryce my phone so he could take "a few pictures" (which ended up being about 30- he's a good helper) and then cruised around to the starting line. Everyone was already lined up, and since I was very self-aware of my novice status, I planned on starting in the back anyhow because more than anything I was afraid that if I wrecked, I'd take someone out who has a much nicer bike than I do, and I would feel like a huge jerk. The women started first while the kids held back, and it was very sudden! Just kind of, "Ok ladies, 1-2-3, go!" Everyone else already knew that's how it worked, but I definitely had to spur myself to get going. At first I was doing great! I stayed with the pack, even down the steep hill- where we hit about 31mph- and then around the bend to the climb. In fact, I stayed with the pack the whole first lap and a little in to the second. However, by the time we go to the climb the second time, the writing was on the wall. I was dropped!

Part of the course. I think Bryce walked almost the full lap.
         I was a little sad, just because I wanted to race and not just ride, but the women who do this every week are bad asses. This is their sport and they train for it all the time. I am successful at endurance events, but am brand new to sprinting and whew- what a workout! I decided, hey, I paid my $15 license fee, so I was just going to keep pushing as hard as I could and make sure I didn't fall too far behind. The good news was, it took 5 or so laps before I got completely lapped by the leaders, so although I did eventually go a lap down, I didn't become completely annoying lap traffic. The most fun I had the whole time was cruising with a cool little girl who also got dropped by the youth pack. She said she'd crashed the last time she raced, so she was a little nervous. I told her we could just race each other and that made her feel better, I think.

Part of the women's field- sans me- coming around a bend.
         What I enjoyed the most was getting a lot of practice in with cornering and turning. At first, I was nervous to take anything too sharply or quickly, but as I went around and around, I learned to trust my bike- and my new tires- more and gained some confidence. It's not a skill I necessarily need in triathlons, but it is good to have for any cyclist all around. Being aware of your bike- its abilities and limitations with speed, turning, weight and balance- allows a rider to be more aware, and most importantly, more safe when it comes to riding, especially in a group!

The finish line.

    Another cool thing was hearing the tickets for my Half the Road screening announced as a Prim during the race! It was so great the first time I was out here to receive immediate and enthusiastic support for my efforts- so much so that one of the teams bought 20 tickets and has been giving them away as prizes for the past few weeks. There are now only about 20 tickets left for the whole theater and it is going to be so much fun seeing the movie with a huge group of women and their friends who are passionate about cycling and being a strong community of supportive riders. I also got a good laugh from the crew at the start/finish line, because after they rang the bell for the last lap, they waited on me to go through (about 1/4 of a lap back from the pack) and gave me a little jingle on my way through to pick my spirits up. Even though I was smiling the whole time, they could definitely still see I was tired!

My instagram-worthy shot of the day.
   Crit racing is not for me, but that's ok. I think I technically DNFed because I never finished the last half of my last lap because I didn't want to be in the way of the next group coming out on to the track. However, when I went to say goodbye to the women I volunteered with last time, they told me I was 3rd overall in Women's category 4 racers. We won't talk about the total in my group (shhhhh) but I can proudly say, I wasn't dead last! I had a great time, and most definitely a great workout, but my heart is definitely in triathlons, and although I wish it wasn't the case, I can only focus on training for one or the other.

               Sprint workouts are an excellent thing to add to my training, though, so I won't say I'll never be back out there! I definitely have a higher degree of respect for the all out power it takes to keep up with the pack now. I thought my average racing speed of 17mph and my ability to push well in to the 20-25mph range regularly would be enough, and that is definitely not the case. There is a lot left for me to learn! If you are looking for a great, fun way to learn something new or try a new sport involving your bike, head on out to the track. There is always a great food truck, craft beer that supports charitable causes, and an awesome group of fun people to meet. Congrats to the awesome women who won our race, and thanks for letting me be a part of it. I hope I wasn't in your way at least!  

Can't wait to see everyone on Tuesday for the Half the Road screening! I have some awesome prizes to give away for those that donate to Austin Pets Alive, check it out below!

Don't forget- coming up on June 3 is the showing of Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls, and Power of Professional Women's Cycling. Reserve your ticket today!


Austin locals- contact me about this great deal and help out Austin Pets Alive!!

  Don't forget about my Reason 2 Race! Help out pets in need!

This blog is following my training as I get ready for the Athleta eSprit de She event season. Three events happen in Texas, the Duathlon in Dallasthe Katy 5k & 10k, and the Cycle Tour in Austin. I'll be doing Austin and Dallas, come join the fun! Enter Comp Code EDS57 for the chance to win some cool prizes!

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