For anyone who's been following NROC racing news, you probably know by now that the Squiggy racing weekend got some unexpected last minute changes. Mother Nature played a pretty cruel joke on us by first dousing Tampa with torrential rain which flooded part of the race course before a weekend of perfect sunny skating weather. It was all we could do to stare at the "river" that used to be a bridge. As a result, the Sunday marathon got cancelled. A 10k race was added on Saturday before the individual and team time trials. As for Sunday, a group skate at Suncoast Trail was planned to ensure plenty of skating for the weekend. Big props to race directors JW and BH for reacting swiftly and making the weekend a success despite the unforeseen circumstances.
I wasn't particularly concerned or disappointed by the change of plans. After all, I barely had any outdoor miles under my legs and I had zero expectation for this race anyway. For me, it was merely an excuse to come to Tampa and support a great event before my team training camp began the following Monday. If you want proof of how unprepared I was for racing, here it is. I'm typically very particular about my pre-race meal. Without a balanced (and filling) meal the night before, there's no hope that I have enough energy for racing. My travel schedule certainly didn't help and I arrived at the hotel at 11pm starving. Dining options around the area had slim pickings. BO finally took me to a Walmart (one of the older ones with little groceries) and I picked up a tub of cottage cheese, some multigrain sandwich thins, and a bag of beef jerky. Sad little pre-race meal indeed that only reminded me how well I've been eating at home for the last couple of months.
All boohooing aside, I was in a great mood as soon as I arrived at the race course on Saturday. How often do we get to sleep in on race day with a start time of 11am? Moreover, I was just happy to see all the familiar faces of skating friends after a whole winter. I don't think I even did my usual warm up. I was THAT relaxed. As per instructed, everyone skated to the start line and I had an opportunity to skate with EP from Midwest. I last saw him at NYC100k and he's improved much! He was just a tad faster than me with long powerful strides that I could comfortably draft. I commented to teammate NCJ that he would be a good pace bunny for us.
My start sucked. The lead pack traveled at a good but manageable pace. I was near the end of the pack with a skater between me and teammate SL. I kept saying to myself that I needed to move up but didn't have the confidence nor strength to. Just as I predicted, a few slinky later, the skater in front of me gradually got gapped and I got tired too. I rolled to recover and could do nothing as NCJ skated past me with MC (Team Rainbo) in tow. When my legs finally recovered, BS (Hill Country) caught up to me and I hopped on. I was pissed off at myself for the disastrous state of my race and certainly was not in a pleasant mood. I took things easy because I knew that we would get swallow up by a big pack soon and if I couldn't get in that pack, then THAT would really be disastrous. Luckily, I joined the pack without incident and was relieved to see teammate BH in the pack. The pack was friendly and there were plenty of skaters from the open division. I was not the strongest in the pack but the speed was comfortable enough that I easily stayed in the front six. I did my share of work and stayed out of trouble. It did not take long before we picked up EP, NCJ, and MC.
I must have been really rusty with racing because I didn't even check my Garmin for elapsed distance (trust me, I was not familiar with the course to actually know where I was). All I knew was BH went up to the front just as it was about my turn to pull and told me to save my legs. Only then did I begin to pay attention. LS (Central Florida Speed) went up to the front and I started to get alert. NCJ was right behind me, followed by MC. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw EP accelerating next to the pack. I jumped into his draft without hesitation and NCJ came with me. Of course the pack wouldn't let us get away but I was in a great position. A turn later, the finish line was in sight and EP started to sprint. I sprinted in his draft like my life depended on it and pulled out as soon as I sensed him starting to fade. The trail is narrow and I picked my line carefully. I left just enough room on my left between me and EP and just enough room on my right between me and the grass to make passing difficult. I sprinted past EP and held on to my lead to win my pack's field sprint. I was in disbelief as I crossed the finish line. First time ever! Check out Rob Jackson's video here. I came 5th overall in pro women with a time of 00:18:55.842. Full result available here.
The team time trial was a no-pressure event. I saw this as a great learning opportunity for our team to mesh because we did not have much chance to skate together before as a team. Our team of four consisted of SL, JW, NCJ, and I. Before going to the start line, we decided on a few key points for strategy.
- Team stay together even though we had the option to drop one team member.
- Protect weakest skater by putting him or her in third or second spot in the pack.
- For the best drafting efficiency, JW would skate behind SL.
- SL would lead off the race.
- Short pulls of approximately 30 strides to keep the pace high.
Our start was a little unorganized as can be seen in the following series of photos taken by Marc Plaisted. Click on the picture for a larger image.
[blush] I got ahead of everyone and took a bit of time rearranging ourselves to the correct order. Ooops. Other than that, our race went according to plan. My first couple of dropbacks were a bit iffy before I gained enough confidence to remain close to the side of the pack. Once I got comfortable, I was able to get back into the draft quickly without the need to play catch up. I learned a few things about my teammates' skating style and this race gave me ideas of what to work on in the training camp. Amazingly, we held off Simmons 2 who started 30 seconds after us. We finished the race with a time of 00:19:08.761 (full results available here).
My Tampa training camp had only just begun. Days of skating and fun ahead!