Tuesday, August 6, 2013

London Summer Cross Series: Week 3 The Grass Crit

The evening was a very warm. The temperatures were in the 90’s. This is very unusual for a country where summer normally consists of one week of weather in the seventies. I was already covered in sweat after a long and crowded train rides from Egham to East Croydon. Once I had arrived at East Croydon station, I still had to bike another three miles in London rush hour traffic. Cars, trams, and red double decker busses were rushing past me.  In that moment, I was really missing biking in Lincoln where there were so few cars in comparison. It takes a good deal of focus to stay calm in this sea of metal. I finally arrived at the race site, a little frazzled and quite sweaty, not the ideal state to be in before a criterion race.

This time the crowd of bikers is much smaller. I am guessing the idea the doing a grass crit in this heat has encouraged several of the racers to stay in tonight. Before the race begins, we have a chance to get in a practice lap. The course is fairly simple. It is mostly flat with a few sharp turns and we are mostly riding long stretches on grass with one small section of gravel and another of trails.  Also, the entire course is in direct sunlight, so there will be no shade. This type of racing does not highlight my strengths. I am not much of a sprinter and my cornering needs improvement. So this is the perfect opportunity to practice these skills. My goal is to feel spent by the end of the race.

We line up at the starting line and we are told, to no one’s disappointment, that we will only be racing for 50 minutes instead of an hour tonight. I spend the first lap peddling furiously and I was able to keep up with the back of the pack for a while. Then the heat starts kick in followed by nausea. I tried taking a small sip of my water and instantly regret that choice. By the time I start the second lap, my stomach was making a threatening churning noise and I have sweat pouring down my body. I look down at my gears and realize that I have been riding in way too high of gear for this type of terrain. This is the moment that I decided that I am going to use this race as a chance to practice pushing through the pain. I told myself that if I am really going to get sick, I can pull over at anytime, but until then, I am going to push through and make the best of the experience.
At the start of the race

Thinking Too Hard About a Corner and Making a Funny Face

Focusing on My Goals
With a new resolution, I force myself to sprint the straight sections. My legs are gradually turning into jelly. I do not think I really care for criterion racing, however it is helping me gain new skills that I desperately need to advance in the sport. I am not sure how many laps, I went around, my only focus was on trying to maintain a strong pace. At around 40 minutes in, my second wind kicks in and I am able to use that to finish strong. At the end of the race, I pulled my bike off the course and collapsed on the grass, relieved that the experience was completed. I feel much more spent after this race, so I have achieved one of my goals.

My favorite picture, taken near the end of the race

Next I went over to the stairs for the awards and I have come in third place. There were only three women participating, but after the effort I put out, I will take my win. I think I may actually try to do crit races more often to develop my sprinting and cornering in race settings. Though this race was not my strongest performance, I was still able to walk away a better cyclist than when I started with greater knowledge. Sometimes this is the best reason to participate in races.

The Winners

And here is the video from the race where I am still known as Isabel.


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