It’s been a while since my last up-date. It’s hard to believe its been 10 weeks since I last raced too – that’s the longest I’ve not raced for (during the season) since I first discovered my love of racing.
My back injury is taking a lot longer to settle down, and I had some bad luck with illness. Then just when I thought I was hopefully good to go, a minor insect bite put me on some strong antibiotics when it started tracking in my blood stream. Once again I was faced with the hard decision of racing or not. I opted to be sensible, mostly influenced by my back pain. My confidence has been knocked quite badly this season carrying an injury for so long and I’ve not enjoyed racing that much at all as a result of the pain. It has been very frustrating to know I have the fitness to enjoy racing and to recover in stages races but to be held back by back pain.
It was with pretty low goals that I prepped my bike and bags on Saturday for the Auld Yins and Ladies RR, around 100kms in the wind with some climbs and the men. This is usually the race I most look forward to every year. In fact racing with the Vet men on any road circuit is the racing I enjoy most of all and I always have done, even when I was just starting out racing and spent the entire racing getting dropped, chasing back on but managed to hang on to finish just outside the top 20. The vets and women’s races is usually amongst the safest I have seen and its fast, and I’m sorry there’s no longer a proper Vets and Women’s series in Scotland, with just two races like this left in the calendar.
I’d not been feeling quite right on the bike for a while but had put it down to my back but decided to check saddle height for some reason. I wasn’t particularly impressed to see it had dropped at some unknown time. I decided to take a risk and raise it, rather than leave it at the height I’d been riding with it at and had clearly got used to.
I tried to eat as much as I could at breakfast, knowing I’d need the fuel today, forcing down rice porridge, a banana and one of Osmo Salty Balls (these are simply amazing as fuel on the bike!) finished off with a double espresso.
The morning of the race was stress-free after I picked up Gen and it was a nice short drive for once. On the way there I drank Osmo Pre-Load and managed a full bottle of Osmo Active Hydration to ensure I was properly hydrated before we set off. Despite being August, there was an autumnal nip in the air, the strong winds making it feel colder than it actually was and dark rain clouds loomed overhead. I decided to be nice to my legs, making up my home made embrocation of Natural Hero Hot ginger rub and baby oil – it keeps my legs warm and the oil keeps the worst of the rain off my legs.
My warm up on the rollers didn’t go to plan as I couldn’t get my garmin to work properly and I ended up pre-occupied with that instead of just warming up to feel…it’s a bit scary how reliant on technology bike riding has become, but the neutralised start helped get my legs going. We had a storming tailwind for the first section which was a nice start to the race and I was actually having fun in a race and felt much more like normal.
There’s an exposed twisty section of road which leads round to the main climb in the race, Flanders Moss. It kicks up a bit, turns right, then ramps up more before crossing a road and into a descent. Approaching the climb I was full of negative thoughts and basically decided I was getting dropped on the climb (my confidence in my form with my back has really taken a knock) and unsurprisingly with an attitude like that I did. A mild bout of cramp in my quads didn’t help either – i’m assuming the cramp is from my saddle height being correct and legs unused to being able to extend properly. But out of no-where came some positive thoughts and I worked hard and caught back on again. After this my confidence slowly grew. I knew all I needed to do was get up the climb with the bunch the next time and I’d be fine as the rest of the circuit is rolling so suits me not being a pure climber or sprinter.
I was happy to find myself comfortable in the middle of the bunch, moving up through the middle of the field, even though I’d not raced in so long. I was also happy with some contact I had with some of the vets due to some sketchy riding over rough tarmac and a few near misses with touches of wheels in front of me. The roads were also quite busy and there was a continual squeezing of the bunch and riders on or over the white line forced their way back in so I was quite glad I felt confident moving up through the bunch, with the occassional visit to the gutter on the left if there wasn’t space in the bunch.
As the race went on, my confidence grew. Not only was i have fun, but i wasn’t finding the race as hard as i’d expected, feeling more than comfortable in the bunch and able to climb normally. Whats better is I had no back pain at all! At some point i realised i’d finish with the lead bunch and i was more than happy with that. With two miles to go the pace went up and then settled back down again after attacks were caught. Coming into the last corner, i knew the sprint would go from there and i also knew i wasn’t in a position to contest the win with 7 other women still in the main bunch and all of them ahead of me. I picked my way round those who’d blown up, crossing the line 20th, 6th woman. Truth be told I’m predictably annoyed with the result as I could / should have done better (previous years I’ve placed 3rd both times as the finishing climb suits me) but looking back with such low expectations and confidence, I’m glad I made the decision just to have fun and enjoy it as its done my head the world of good.
Congrats to Chloe Fraser for taking 1st woman, with second and third place going to Gen Whitson and Julie Erskine in a photo finish.
Up next for me is the final round of CDNW at Great Budworth before (probably) ending my season with the Kinross Vets and Womens road race.