Absolutely love the course of the Fox River Grove Criterium.
I registered for three races in the same day, per Sue's encouragement. The first one was Masters 30+. I was happy that there were only 9 people in the race. Come the hill I switched to my lightest gear possible, and practiced getting out of the saddle, a new trick I learned last month from the sprint training. I stood up all the way through the climb every lap, but while it wasn't too hard to pedal down I also wasn't able to go too fast. I wobbled a bit throughout the climb, keeping my hands on the drop as in sprint practice. My chains jumped a bit between the gears. I was the last to get out of the first climb but I was able to chase down one or two women ahead of me in the later laps and only got lapped once by the end. I was feeling more mentally tired than physically tired. Finished #8, which, is the second-to-last place but hey, I was biking with cat 3/2/pro riders! Being able to bike with uber-fast ladies was sensational.
While waiting around for the Cat 4 race a friend told me that my gears were too light going uphills. He said that I didn't look like I was suffering, and the fact that my bike was wobbling means that I had extra power that I was not utilizing. Really? I had always thought the wobbling was because my bad bike handling skills. I had more power? I had always thought the 3.2 power-to-weight ratio on computrainer was just a joke. What if I go into a gear that is too heavy and fall off my bike halfway through the climb? The "Big-ChainRing Theory" popular among the gentlemen most likely doesn't apply, as normalization to my weight (~100 lbs) should be required. But since I have a triple, perhaps I could try move up a few notches in my rear gear and see how it works.
Had my chains worked on and tried biking on the flats down the road for 20 min before the second race to spin out my legs. And then the race started! The moment I started uphill I I felt the significant increase in the leg-response-time, and with it my heart sank. Nevertheless I was on the incline so I had no choice but to keep pedaling. I saw Gia and the other girls speeding away -- "Damn it had I only had my legs in the first race!" But anyways I started focusing on my experiment with my gears. I cautiously went up 3 notches in my rear -- and miraculously my bike became very smooth and stable. It felt good and I was able to go in a straight line, although every pedal stroke was hard, as I could clearly feel the lactose built up in my muscles. I had to sit down when approaching the no-climb point. I got up the hill behind two riders and wasn't happy that I needed to brake when I followed them downhills.
My "moment" of the race then came, at the 2nd lap, when I "heroically" overtook the rider in front of me close to the top of the hill (at ~ 5pmh, suffering) and was able to descend without riders in front of me thereafter. The hill became increasingly harder afterwards, and I really had to push my cardio very hard, and just keep believing that I could keep pedaling until that yellow sign shows up. Once I left my big chain-ring up front and needless to say was having trouble pedaling down. But then I heard Sue cheering loudly and I thought "Come on! I couldn't have deteriorated so quickly. This hill is not that steep. There has to be a mistake! I only fell off my bike going uphills once in the past and that was it, it will not happen again!" So I randomly played around with my left hand then, for a moment, enjoyed the newly found power released by a lower gear.
I was getting quite exhausted but wasn't going to let go my first legitimate bid of not getting pulled from the race. I had a chance at the Monsters to finish with the pack, but crashed and didn't know how to get my free lap and finished #30. I was determined, and when I made it up the last uphill I knew that I did it, because I know they wouldn't pull a rider off the course now that she is already descending. I was able to put up a celebratory sprint towards the end.
I placed #9 in the Cat 4 race, just behind Gia -- which was my goal! Although I probably would have been able to stay close to the leading riders if it were not for the first race, but I knew I wouldn't be able to go faster Gia anyways. So yes, mission accomplished!
Pulled myself out of the third race - although I love to have more hill practice but I wasn’t confident how much I would further deteriorate after another 2+ hrs. I was exhausted, but so thrilled about all the adrenaline built up towards that yellow sign halfway up the hill. Going downhill was sensational -- my slow acceleration was compensated by gravity and spinning my legs out downhills through those sweeping wide turns was just mesmerizing.
I love the kind of the race that made me exhausted at the end, be it cardio, endurance, or mental strength. This race does it all. Love it.