This weekend I did the Winter Park Hill Climb. Again. I survived it but I'm very unhappy with my performance. Last year my goal was to make it up the mountain and survive. I was happy with just doing that.
Last year I was happy with the ride until I saw that I got last in my class and then I was a little disappointed.
This year I had a more tangible goal of making it up the mountain in under an hour. However, this year I was disappointed the second I crossed the finish line.
Last year I looked forward to this race. I *trained* for it, I knew I was going to compete as soon as the schedule came out. I was psyched.
This year I focused on the time trial series. I only committed to doing the hill climb the night before, and then almost backed out that morning. I can't say I was really excited to do it. I remembered how much it hurt last year and I remember how embarassing it was to get last in my group.
But then the thoughts creeped in -- I am in MUCH better shape this year. I've been riding more, I've been training more, and I actually have a bike that fits me. At the very worst, I can't be slower than last year, so I might as well do it. If I could get up the hill in under an hour, I knew I could podium. That would be a hell of a way to redeem myself from last year. Might as well give it a shot.
Who knew I could be so wrong?
It was fun racing with Michelle and Melissa. It's always nice to know girls at the starting line. As we pushed up the first section, Michelle, Melissa, and I started together. Michelle took a line up to the right and I ended up getting stuck behind two girls. I made the fateful decision to let Michelle go rather than take a long line around the two other girls to get back on her wheel. I figured I'd catch up in a little while, no reason to kill myself in the beginning to stick with her. Michelle has been road biking for a long time and is no stranger to long climbs... she has just started mountain biking and is doing AWESOME but this climb more resembles a road climb than a typical mountain bike climb. I knew she'd kill it and I wanted to stay with her and try to keep her pace. I made my own pace up the hill and quickly realized that this is actually just as bad as last year. I didn't feel fast, it didn't feel easy, and my back started to hurt so badly that after the first mile I was ready to turn around, find Melissa, and send a message up to Chris at the top that I was sorry to let him down but I'd be laying flat in the back of the car until they were finished.
But I couldn't quit. Good thing? Bad thing? I don't know. Depends on my mood. I think in the end it's good that I didn't quit, but then again, if I wasn't going to give it a fighting effort to get in the top three, what was the point in even doing it? Why punish myself just to be really disappointed? I've already proved to myself that I can simply survive it, this year I needed to RACE it. I didn't do that. I slogged up the mountain, tried to not focus on how bad my back was hurting, and tried to stay ahead of Melissa. At one switchback I looked back and she was nowhere to be seen so that gave me a little boost that quickly burned me back out and my pace dropped even slower.
In a sad attempt to make my back feel better, I attempted the good old aerobar position from the time trials. That would work for about five seconds until another short incline would come and I'd be back in the painful upright position.
There were a few spots where I wanted nothing more than to get off and walk. I'd pass person after person walking up the steep parts but I kept on my bike so as not to give away precious seconds. My goal now changed from being on the podium to not being last. After one of these hills I heard Melissa come up behind me and that was the last nail in the coffin. I gave up mentally and physically because she was the only rider left behind me that I knew for sure was in my age group. Around this same time my new posse came rolling down the hill to give some encouragement.
Chris's new team had been cheering me on all along as they were heading down the mountain after their own finishes. At some point Jim B came down, turned around, and started riding next to me. We were joined by two other teammates/friends and I had Feedback boys on each side of me and behind me. It was so nice to have some encouragement and coaching up that last section and I definetely needed their company. I am positive that if they weren't there and I was left to my own motivation, I would've taken another 10+ minutes to get up that last part and I would've ended up last. Instead, they pushed me to pass a few girls, tried to get me to chase down Melissa as she passed (if she wasn't a friend, I may have had the killer instinct to try to take her down and pass her back, but I wanted her to do well and I didn't want to compete to beat her). They would tell me "you can do it, you can make this last part" to which I would respond "I can't do it" and they would laugh. It's probably a stark contrast to riding with Chris who is always positive and pushing and going fast. Here's his lame wife barely moving and complaining. Nice. Sorry guys. Usually I'm a more positive person :)
Eventually we made it to the top and I slogged up the last steep part to the finish line. I like having the guys there cheering for me and I liked it as Chris ran next to me the rest of the way up the hill. I was so mad at myself and so disappointed in my performance that I started to cry even before crossing the finish line -- and not because I was so happy that I finished. I knew I'd made a critical mistake early when I let Michelle go and I'd just blown the rest of the race. I knew I was slower than last year and that was a nice kick while I was down anyway.
After finishing, I got off the bike and made the mistake of trying to straighten up. That hurt. A LOT. I went and laid on a platform at the top and cried like a stupid little girl. Poor Chris had to convince me that I'd done well and I should be proud of myself. I knew I hadn't done well and I was really disappointed. Too many disappointing moments in the last month (including a negative pregnancy test that morning), I was mad that I'd let myself down on the one thing I had some control over. Oh well. Chris tries to convince me that it was just a bad day on the bike. Other people have blamed it on my new, heavier bike. I don't think it's been enough time since the race to blame it on anything but myself. I didn't give it the effort that I needed to give it and I'm mad about that. Oh well. I didn't get last in my class, someone passed the line about 12 minutes behind me. I should be happy about that. I also passed plenty of beginner men on the way up the hill. I should be happy with that. I'm happy that my friends did well. Michelle ended up winning our age-group, Bill won Clydesdales, Chris ended up only 6 seconds slower than last year and this year he took his single speed, carried up everyone's jackets on his back, didn't train at all, raced 175 miles just a week before, and crashed really bad the night before... he ended up doing super well with a huge gash in his elbow, back, and legs and probably a broken rib or two. I wish I had that kind of talent! Melissa ended up one place and about 3 minutes ahead of me. Erik kicked his own PR's butt, and Scott kicked it up the hill and competed in a harder class than usual. Mike and Jeanie did a great job as well... especially for not having raced mountain bikes in 4 years!
Anyway. Disappointing. I'll get over it. It's just a bike race. But I need to give it some serious thought and training before committing to do it next year. If I'm going to race it next year, I'm going to podium. I don't care if I end up being 9 months pregnant. If I ride it again, I will get a medal. Enough surviving. Maybe I'll race another race in the Winter Park series this year -- but I'm going to have to do well in that too. I can't deal with any more disappointment on the bike any time soon or I may never see another serious bike ride again. We'll see what the future holds.