By Tina Huang -- Folsom - Two Bridges Circuit Race (W4) -- 09/12/10
After dinner with my teammates the night before the race, a few of us took a nice stroll around the course. I started to panic because all the climbs seemed ridiculously long (go figure, walking is a lot slower than riding, and you don't really have momentum on your side). I started to do my normal pre-race freak out, but luckily I had my wonderful teammates Kaya and Lina to calm me down. I guess I'm somewhat of a high maintenance teammate since I am overly anxious and pessimistic before I race. Kaya and Lina had both raced on Sat, so at least Kaya was ready to go to bed at 8:30. I have no excuse for myself except I have an incredible ability to go to sleep at ridiculously early hours. Unfortunately, my bedmate Lina didn't share the same super power but managed to deal with our crazy early bed time. So despite the alarm going off at 5:30, I was fairly well rested.
Kaya and I are both overly conservative with our time estimates before races, so we got to registration about 15 minutes before they opened. This gave us plenty of time to pre-ride the course and watch the city of folsom complete the race setup. The city of Folsom is really a fantastic city for closing down much of downtown for this beautiful race. For the first time ever, I probably did a warmup that was sufficiently long, which was especially good since they shortened the race to 25 minutes. I zipped around the 180s and sped through the climbs to really get a good feel for how fast I could take them. After a few laps, I was actually excited to race, which I'm sure Kaya found a novel experience. I know that you aren't supposed to have race goals around finishes, but I really wanted to end the season with at least 1 upgrade point. After about 40 min of warming up, I started to feel a tad of soreness in my legs, which made me a bit nervous that I overdid the warmup, but I was excited to race. The course looked super fun, as if it were built just for me.
Coming off the start I got a decent position, probably around the first third of the pack. I think I lost a number of positions as we went around, as I was still feeling out the rest of the field. I knew there were a number of triathletes in the field, which made me slightly nervous about their ability to take the 180s. As we came through the start/finish and around the 180 for the second time, I got impatient with everyone going single file around the turn and slowing down a ton. So I took the inside of the turn and gained about 10 positions such that I was second wheel coming around for lap 2. One of the girl's brakes were squealing coming around that turn, which made me realize that I needed to be really careful going around the remaining laps.
The second time around, I decided that I could repeat my performance from the previous lap and take the inside of the turn. However, this time, my wheel got caught in a crack in the sidewalk, and I went down. I was slightly stunned, but people were yelling at me to get back on, so I did. By this point, the field was definitely a good gap away. It didn't help that right after the turn that I went down, there was a downhill where everyone sprints making it difficult to stay on even under normal circumstances. As I was chasing, right before we got to the next corner, I saw another rider that had fallen off. I desperately wished that she would help me chase a bit so that I could have a slight rest. But I realized that she was moving further and further away from the field and that I would have to chase alone. For a moment I thought this would be the end of my race, but it was the last race of the season, and I desperately wanted to finish it. For what seemed to be an eternity the gap stayed constant, but I managed to catch back on right before the climb, which made me super nervous that I caught back on just in time to be dropped again. Luckily for me, since this was only the second lap, the field was still pretty chill so I not only managed to stay on, but I also had time to recover.
The next lap or so I stayed in the back trying to recover, but I knew that if I stayed back there too long, I would be penalized through all the 180s. So I worked my way back up towards the front of the field the next few laps. The field pretty much stayed all together through the rest of the race. It is possible that in the end, my having to chase for a quarter lap to catch back up kept me from doing my usual crazy kamikaze attacks during the race, which meant I was pretty well rested by the last lap.
The last lap the girls really picked up the pace. We managed to drop a few people, and at this point, I started to really hurt. I was now at what I thought was the back of the front group of about 10 or so, but I think as the pace slowed down a bit, some other people caught back on behind us. But now, all I could think about were the girls in front of me and how I needed to be in one of the top few positions coming around that last climb to the 180 if I wanted a chance at a good finish. I wanted to be second wheel coming out of the last climb, but the best I could do was 4th. As we went through the final turn, I sucked on to the wheel of the girl in front of me. I thought since I was 4 back, the best I could do would be a top 3 finish, but I was ecstatic for that. I stayed on her wheel for what felt like too long, but with about 200 meters to go, I knew I had to just give it my all. I'm pretty sure that it didn't even occur to me at this point to shift up since I'm used to sprinting on a track bike with no gears, so I just spun as fast as my legs could spin. As the finish line approached, I realized for the first time that I could actually win this thing. As I approached the line, I gave one final glance over my shoulder in disbelief that I had actually done it. Not only did I get my first upgrade points, I won my first race.