Monday, April 6, 2009

Hang in there!

Oh man.

What a good weekend.

It's been a very tiring, very long weekend, and I owe my dad, my mom, and all of my teammates huge thank you's. My dad got up at 4:30 both mornings in order to drive me to West Point and then back again- staying awake while I slept in the car on the way. My mom only came Saturday, but her cheering definitely pushed me to go harder. My teammates are becoming my second family, and without all of their advice and cheering and yelling before, during and after races, I doubt I could do nearly as well.

The first race of Saturday was dismal- it was freezing cold and wet out, and we got lost of the way there, leaving me with very little warm-up time. Karina got there at about the same time as I did, so we were in the same boat for the Team Time Trial. It was 7.5 miles of rolling hills and brutal wind, but it was so much fun. Karina led us out, since there was a corner and she's better at leading into them. Then, we were off. We worked well together, taking long pulls and working against the wind. The one shining moment was rocketing down a hill at 39 mph, in the drops, off the brakes. I was grinning ear to ear. When we headed into the final half mile, I hopped in front of Karina and yelled, "let's go!" and just gave it everything that I had.

We finished, and I looked at Karina and just said, "Man, that was fun." She told me I was crazy. We ended up 7th and got points for the team.

Then, froze for a few hours until the circuit race. It was cold, rainy, and I was in absolutely no mood to race. But I htfu'd as soon as I realized that my parents were willing to sit through the day, so I should be able to race and actually try to do well. I started towards the back of the pack, which was a mistake. When the race started, I was at a huge disadvantage, and the girls around me weren't holding lines and making it difficult and scary to move up. Before I knew it, we were on the windiest road that I had ever been on, and the back of the pack that I was in started to drift away from the main pack. Then, the hill. It was a super hard short climb, and it definitely separated the "men from the boys" (you know what I mean.)

Then, an insane downhill. My parents were waiting at the top of the short hill after it, and Dad was screaming "go harder! Catch that draft!" I listened and caught a girl, but then passed her. As I got back onto the windy stretch, I realized I had girls in my draft, quietly sitting in. I sped up, lost them, and grabbed a lovely girl from UNH (I think) that I spent a few laps hanging out with, working together. Then, Dad screamed (as I passed) "Karina's in front of you. Catch her!"

I finally caught her on the windy stretch with a couple laps to go, and passed her to give her a rest in my draft, saying, "hey, aren't you from that party school?"

For the rest of the race, we worked together, agreeing to cross the finish together.

It was fun racing together, but I'm super annoyed that I didn't stay with the pack. As Don said on Sunday, "you should have been with the pack. You had the fitness for it. What happened?"

So Sunday I was determined to not let that happen again.

Saturday night, Robbie and I were at a jazz performance that went til 11- his parents got us tickets for his birthday, and while it was great, I was totally exhausted when I got home.

Sunday morning came too fast, and I was totally beat. I wasn't the only one- Dad and I stopped at a rest area on the way and ran into Chris and his girlfriend getting coffee.

The first race was a 2.5 mile hill climb (!) ITT. Awesome. I was pretty psyched about it, since ITTs are like triathlon bike courses, which are sort of my thing... It was a ridiculous climb but it was awesome. I passed 4 people along the way, and wasn't passed until the very end by Sarah from Yale. I love her!! I sort of want to her be my best friend. She ended up placing second, so I don't begrudge her passing me. We were on a flat about a quarter mile from the finish, and her in front of me gave me someone to chase. It got bad when we were almost done and a huge hill came out of nowhere, going to the finish. I was in heavy gears and I was about to switch down, but a huge gust of wind came up and hit me squarely in the face. It kinda sucked, because I was so thrown off by the wind and hill that I took it slower than I could have. But the B women were congregated at the top, screaming and cheering the finishers on.

The ride back down to the start was terrifying. The downhills were a lot sharper than the uphill, and we had traffic to contend with. But it was totally worth it. I came in grinning. I wasn't sure how well I did or anything, but I was feeling great. I didn't expect a great placing because obviously most of the girls have more race experience on me, so when I was heading to the bathroom and Pat stopped me and said, "awesome job on the TT," I was confused. Then, I checked results and realized that I was 13th out of 44, and had gotten points for my team!

High fives ensued, of course, and I was absurdly happy.

I was less excited about the criterium, since corners aren't my friends, per se. But with Dad and Don both reminding me to stay with the pack and try to start in the middle, I was feeling ok about it. I admit, I got frustrated at being given the same advice by two people so many times, but I really needed it. The weather got a ton nicer, so I was hanging out in just bike shorts and a tank top, so my mood was great. I was still super nervous starting, but I made the goal to ride with the pack the entire time, and went for it, with Don and Dad's advice in my head the entire time. "Stay with the pack" was my chant for the first 3 laps, before I realized I was actually having fun and doing good, and could just totally let go.

Letting go of my fears of cornering and riding in a huge pack changed everything. I just didn't think about it and focused on staying on wheels for the first two laps. Feeling great, I started actually trying to move up, switch positioning, and actually be a bike racer. While I may have finished mid-pack, there were a few laps where I was at the head of the pack, which felt great. I think next time I can go harder and really try to do well, now that I know I can stay in the pack. I also know that I can start closer to the front, which made a big difference, I think. Dad spent the whole race right by the corner that was the toughest, and if I was falling back in the pack, he'd yell to move up. But mostly, he was just yelling, "All right! Stay with them!" or "Doing great Molly!" or "Hang in there!"

It was incredible. Riding in a pack really is more fun!

This weekend was a huge turning point for me- getting points in both time trials, finishing with Karina in the circuit race, and hanging with the pack on the crit just felt so good, and now I think I'm shifting from wanting to race in order to get better and just learn to race to wanting to actually do really well and win!

So while I can only race at Yale on Saturday and I'm missing the Dartmouth race the next weekend, I'm stoked to race at all! And I'm going to kick ass....


Don said...

"I got frustrated at being given the same advice by two people so many times, but I really needed it."

I sensed your frustration, Miss Molly, and I happily ignored it. And I'm glad I did. You did awesome. AWESOME.

Molly said...

You'd probably laugh at me right now, because reading that just made me have the goofiest grin on my face for a good ten minutes. Honestly, I don't think I can ever thank you enough for how much you've helped me this season!