This weekend, George, Anne, and I headed down to Daytona, Florida for the RAAM Challenge Series 200 mile race.
This was intended to be a check-in race to see where my fitness is. Then, after this race, I have a period of recovery, and after Christmas a RAAM kick off training camp, and then Janurary begins real RAAM training.
The week before, we were experimenting with doing a really long ride. Not gonna lie, it wore me out. I was really struggling to recover throughout the week. I was trying to sleep more, but work was also stressful, and the combination meant that I just wasn't bouncing back like I wanted. Live and learn. Fortunately, I have a coach who is willing to look at our training and adjust it for the next time.
As evidence of my pre-race exhaustion--here's a serious blonde moment. I put my race bike inside the car. But, I decided to bring my road bike as back up, and we put it on the bike rack. And locked it. And I forgot my key to the lock.
Clearly, this bike was completely useless to me, since we tried to cut through it. At least I know it's a pretty good lock now.
I tried to ride it attached to the rack. Yeah, that doesn't work.
So, we arrived in Florida, went to the check-in and headed to the #1 rated resturant in Daytona on trip advisor--Don Vitos. This place was a gem. Goodfella's posters, GIANT plates of pasta, and George got accused of being in the FBI. If you find yourself in Daytona pre-race, please, do yourself a favor, and head over to Don Vitos.
The race started at 5am, so we were up at the lovely hour of 3:30 to get rolling. It's pretty dark then. My garmin file didn't load, so I didn't know where I was going. The race director said we could stick together for a about 10 ish miles and chat, plus our crew cars couldn't get to us yet. So....my "super easy and relaxed first hour" race plan was thrown out the window. I was riding with the group, talking to people, and nervous about getting dropped and not knowing where I was in the state of Florida. Eventually the group split up, and I found myself off the back with my car. After not following my race plan, and being totally alone off the back of the group, I was not in a very good mental place.
I try really hard to be very positive in my online presense--but I had close to no fun for 100 miles. I was miserable, unhappy, and my legs were tired. I am glad that no one can see inside my head. It was a bad place. One of the lighter moments was when I just started listing things that I hate. You should try it sometime. I also started writing texts and emails to people. They were ugly. I am glad that I had no internet access. AND, I started quitting things. Lots of things.
Eventually we made it to Sugarloaf Mountain. I was a little nervous, because I hadn't been doing any climbing lately. I turned onto the road, and George yelled, "This is what they call a mountain in Florida, you can see the top!" I saw it, and kind of giggled.
It was short, steep, and really really fun! A quick climb and descent, and I loved it. Fred and Rick who own RAAM were cheering for me at the top along with George and Anne. What a cool way to run a race.
Then I started picking it up. The conditions were windier on the way back, but I started to feel better. I fell back into the bad mental trap one more time, but was able to pull it together. About mile 175, I passed Daniela Genovesi, who was the other woman in the field. And not just any woman--Daniela is a RAAM solo champion. Amazing.
My last 20 miles were super fast. Like, the fastest I have ridden 20 solo miles in months. That's pretty cool, but twisted. Why can't I feel that good in the beginning?
In the end, I finished in 11:07, and my Garmin had my ride time as 10:50. I lost 17 minutes at stoplights and nature breaks. Mid pack and first female. Not bad. Not what I wanted, but I learned a lot.
I must say that I have some mixed feelings about this race. Glad I did it, learned a lot. I know what my weaknesses are, and I know what I need to work on. I think the best part of the race was spending 2 hours on Sunday talking with Fred and Rick about RAAM. It was like a private tutorial about how to succeed at RAAM.
My biggest regret is that I wasn't as nice to my crew as I should have been. Anne and George were SO good to me. They took care of me, and they treated me really well. When I was in a tough place, I mostly just ignored them. As evidenced from Anne's clothing choice after the race, it is just as exhausting to be crew as it is to ride.
I am beyond lucky to have supportive and loving people in my life. Even more lucky to have people who push me to be my best, and who accept me at my worst. For now, it is time to relax, recover, spend time with people that I love, and prepare myself mentally for the biggest adventure of my life next summer.