On Candelas, Ice, and the Mind Game

As the freezing rain driven by decently crappy winds pelted my face, all I could think is “why the hell do I pay money to do this?!”

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so eager to hit the pre-register button for races, especially races held in the notoriously crappy weather months of March and April (and hell May, too).  But alas, I was registered for the CU Cycling Candelas Circuit Race, so I wasn’t about to let another $30 go to waste like happened with Frostbite.  I awoke in Cheyenne to several inches of snow and wind and cold temperatures, but reports that the race was still on (major props to the University of Colorado cycling team for their great communication about the event and conditions!  I wish all promoters were that consciousness of their racers!)

Started the drive down to Arvada, CO, and the weather wasn’t improving.  Pulled into the Candelas development and it was freezing rain/snow combo blowing sideways and the car said 28 degrees.  Roads were wet and I heard a male racer who had just finished talking about his brakes being frozen.  So what does this girl do?  Get her race number and pile on the clothes!  Felt like I was preparing for a winter cross race more than a road race.  I said screw it to warming up and just sat in my car until 15 minutes to go, when I rode over to the clubhouse that everyone was using as a warming hut and met up with the fellow 4 girls I’d be racing against in the Women 3/4 class.

I knew the race would be survival instead of going for a good result.  Right from the start I was dropped because my left pedal had iced up and I couldn’t clip in right away.  I sprinted and caught up with the group, only to spin off the back shortly into the climb.  This circuit race was mostly just one big hill repeat interval ride.  I was pretty impressed by the climb – Amber was not joking when she described it to me!  So I just tooled along, off the back.  I had my SRAM Force 22 group set installed last night onto the Ruby, and the gearing was noticeably harder than my old SRAM Apex (which was – blonde moment – not something I realized was going to happen when I got that group set, I was thinking 11 gears = easier granny one.  Not the case.  Ugh).

At the top of the hill we turned around and headed back down what would be an insanely awesome descent if it wasn’t wet.  I haven’t done really any descended at speed on wet roads, so I didn’t want to go too crazy.  I caught the 4th place girl at the bottom, but as we headed up for a second time she dropped me again.  So I pedaled up the hill, got to the top and realized I only had my granny gear.  Neither front or rear derailleur would budge.  Le sigh.  I unclipped my right foot and kicked at the rear derailleur (much to my worry… dammit, it’s brand new!) and managed to deice it enough to get a few harder gears.  Came to the turn around and realized I had frozen brakes.  Down the descent I granny pedaled.  4th place was off to the side trying to unthaw her drivetrain so I did manage to pass her.

Of course up the hill for the 3rd time she caught up and dropped me.  The whole race ideas of dropping out where in my head, and I tried hard to ignore my wet, frozen toes, and absolutely numb rear end.  I mean, who does this stuff?  My Garmin was reading 27 degrees, I heard the wind chill made it about 10 degrees, and it was sleeting.  I actually had a reason to wear my lobster claws… in a race that wasn’t cyclocross.  That’s not a good sign.  My bike was a frozen pile of muddy ice with only one working gear (that thankful/unthankfully was the easiest) and not really any brakes.  But I still pedaled up, and spun at like a cadence of 200 in my granny gear to the turn around and back down.  I had to coast the whole way, trying to make myself as small as possible against the icy headwind with no gear that could turn and sustain the 20-30mph speeds.  The Men 4/5 leaders had lapped me, so all I could hope for is that I’d be pulled and not sent on a 4th lap.  I rounded the corner into the finishing stretch, and someone told me to keep up with my smile.  I wasn’t smiling because I was necessarily happy, but more because I couldn’t believe sane people actually come out and do this stuff.  We’re all cray cray in the head…

And then it was over.  I finished down a lap, but I finished.  I coasted to a stop, jamming my foot into the curb to stop me from running into the officials.  I loudly announced I had a frost bit butt and headed to my car.  I felt relief as I started the car and turned on the seat warmers and frantically started stripping out of my soaking wet tights, legs warmers, jersey, jacket, base layer, cap, Buff, shoe covers, gloves, and shoes.

Today was about not giving up.  I could’ve woke up this morning, saw the snow in Cheyenne and went back to bed.  But I didn’t.  I could’ve turned around when I pulled into Candelas and saw the wet roads and sleet.  But I didn’t.  I could’ve called it quits after the girls dropped me soon into the race.  But I didn’t.  I surely could’ve coasted back to the car with no gears and brakes after the second lap.  But I didn’t.  I could’ve resisted announcing to Tim the USA Cycling official that my butt was frozen.  But I… didn’t do that.  LOL.  Life is such a mental game.  The mind gives up far before our bodies do.  And my mind is the biggest hurdle I face on the bike.  Just look at my bilat workouts on the trainer.  Look at the failed Laramie Enduro attempt.  My body wasn’t toast, aside from the achy knee.  But my mind, well, it was over it.

Could I have had a better result today?  Of course.  Having no hard gears to push on the descent cost me time and let my competitors get away from me.  You can’t prevent mechanical issues, especially when it involves half an inch of ice coating everything.  I wasn’t the first nor last person who came up short because of a frozen bike today.  But other than that, I am completely satisfied on how today went.  I resisted taking the easy road and just giving up.  At this moment in time, that means more to me than what is listed on my USAC results list.  This season NEEDS to be about savoring the moments, savoring the pain, pushing their the pain, and appreciating every moment that I am able to pin on a race number, tear myself apart on a bicycle, and live to say “why do I pay money for this again?  When’s the next race?!”  If I don’t have that… well, it’s not going to be a pretty season.

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