Well, after 5 hours in my comfortable, air-conditioned office with plenty of cool water and temperatures outside hovering 20 degrees lower than yesterday, I have finally come back alive.
The oppressive heat of Madera was sitting heavy on my brain, and it just lifted like a stiff, velvet curtain. Ahhhh.
My 2nd trip to Madera had an entirely different focus than my first. Last year, I just wanted to try and finish a stage race. This year, I wanted to improve my TT, manage my hydration better, and work on pack management and positioning in both the crit and RR. Also, this would serve as a mini fitness peak that I will build from for my real peak. So, in essence the weekend was one big training block.
For most of the crit, things were going really, really well. I moved up all the time, all over the place - through the middle, on the outside, only burning matches when necessary and stealing a lot of wheels. I was feeling great about the race, overall. Then, with 4 laps to go, there were 2 hard surges at the time of the preme - maybe the preme and a subsequent attack? Anyway, I survived the first surge, but not the second. I did pair up with Julia from Dolce Vita and we minimized the damage and stayed only 1 turn behind the pack. But, they pulled us with 2 to go and penalized us 3 minutes! No way were we down, nor were we going to be down 3 minutes. Oh well. They were overly generous with me last year, so I guess it all balances out in the end. As I was chatting about the race with Hernando, my rear tire BLEW like a gunshot. I guess it was a blessing I was not hammering a sprint on that thing.
The TT was HOT and painful - just like last year. I did approach it with better hydration. I think the only time I was without water bottle to mouth this weekend was when I was peeing or pedaling like a banshee. Otherwise, I was sucking down the fluids. I did 33 minutes. I thought I had done 36 minutes, so had a 3 minute improvement over last year. But, I mis-remembered. It was 33 last year, too . I guess if I was more on the ball, I would have written last year's time down ahead of time. Bummer. I've been able to consistently TT 20.5 mph for an hour in training at home - even with the wind. I guess the heat and crit take a lot more out of me than I know. Sorry to all of you to whom I mis-represented my improvement - I didn't mean to!
Yesterday, I had no desire to road race. The only consolation was that I figured no one else did either. So, I started despite an overall feeling of heaviness and lethargy. We had a mentor with us, which was cool. She gave us lots of good pointers. I was very assertive and made sure I had shelter for the time I was in the pack. Things were pretty mellow overall, though there was one hard effort when a Velo Bella rider went off the front 5 miles into the race and for some reason, the pack felt like it needed an all-out, single-file chase. How about a nice, slow reeling in? No rush, right? I survived that onslaught and made it through the horrible pavement section. I moved up to 2nd wheel just before the hills, knowing I would need every advantage. But, I just didn't have any hard effort in my body yesterday. It was dreaming of hammocks and tropical beverages. No way was it going to be dragged kicking and screaming uphill. So, I popped. I limped up through the feed zone, tossed a bottle and picked another one up from Rick and headed for lap #2. Last year, I put myself in seriously scary heat-stroke land finishing the road race. I decided I would not push myself to that level of deficit again this year. So, I chased at a manageable pace for the lap looking for someone to work with. I knew there were a couple behind me, but suspected they had already pulled off. I could not catch those in front. So, I pulled out. That's not something I usually do. But, with no new lessons to be learned and nothing to gain but a serious hydration deficit, I pulled myself out of the race. I drank my chocolate milk and we bee-lined for a late lunch.
Thanks to Rick for all the support and encouragement this weekend. It was nice to have my honey along for the adventure this year. Thanks to Sabine for recommending The Vineyard, which provided a most-excellent and tasty Saturday dinner. Thanks to the teammies for emails, phone calls and text-messages of support. And, thanks to all the ladies (and guys) out there who made it a fun and safe weekend!