Upon reviewing my performance at Texas Road Rash, it is fair to say that I skated exactly the way my training predicted I would. The condition for both elimination race on Saturday and marathon on Sunday was perfect, warm sunny weather with a good dose of wind thrown in (welcome to outdoor racing). This means I had no weak excuse such as blaming the weather, heh.
Unlike last year, we had a decent size field for the elimination race in pro women with a total of seven skaters at the line. Looking at my competitors, I knew pretty quickly that I was not in this race to remain in the final round. I set a goal to not be eliminated in the first round. We had two free laps before elimination began at the end of every lap. That meant I had a four lap race ahead of me to accomplish my goal. My start was not sharp and I was at the very end of the pack behind Texas Flyer's BH. She showed signs of getting gapped too. After we completed the first free lap, I made my move. I accelerated on the outside and tried to get in front of BH. When I found that I had more speed to move up further, I continued my acceleration until I was at the front of the pack. It was not intentional but turned out to be a great move. I realized that chances of all six girls passing me before the first round of elimination was much lower. I pulled hard in the straights and glided the corners causing the pack to jam up. My "strategy" worked and BH was the first skater eliminated. Unfortunately, I did not have much left in the tank in lap 4. Even though I put up a good fight to sprint at the line for the second round of elimination, it was not to be. I left the track with a huge smile on my face because I achieved exactly what I wanted to do in the manner that coach SZ would approve. I proved that I had what it takes physcially and mentally to get away from the protection of the pack for an attack. This is a huge step in my development as a skater. 6th out of 7 is not stellar by any means but it was a race that I am proud of.
After the race on Saturday, I skated part of the marathon course for my pre-race warm up. There are plenty of road snakes made of material which turned slippery instead of grabby in the unrelenting Texas heat. I felt good, perhaps a bit too good. It reminded me of how I felt pre-race last year only leading up to a huge struggle on race day. I consciously dialed down the intensity despite how much the legs wanted to push hard.
When I stood at the start line on Sunday morning, the only sure thing in my mind was a determination to end the race with a smile on my face. I want to skate a race to be proud of, whatever that means. I did not start well. My top end speed simply wasn't enough to stay with the lead pack long enough for packs to form. I rolled to recover and was picked up by the seven skaters pack of Texas Flyers. I knew that the Flyers would be there to do their coorperative team skate and they have some strong skaters in the pack to ensure a solid finishing time.The drawback is that I risk a field sprint with BH. Memories of Houston beckoned. I shared the workload and did some strong pulls to earn my place in the pack. The same could not be said for other skaters of the pack who did not skate as coorperatively. At one point, when the lead pack of the half marathon passed us, the pack broke apart momentarily. Non-Flyers, including myself, hopped to the other pack hoping for a faster ride. I skated with them for a bit but the vibe just wasn't right. I rolled and returned to the pack with the Flyers. Just as I suspected, it did not take long before we all met again. However, some had wasted precious energy in that little episode and not all of them were able to hang on to us for long. As far as the women's race went, by lap 5, I knew that there were four girls ahead of me, at least three behind me, and one in my pack. Not a bad place for me to be but I had to play my cards right to beat BH.
During the last lap of the race, an opportunity landed on my lap like a gift wrapped with a bow. Our pack just passed DS from Adam's Inline heading into a right hand turn. I was in four place of the pack with two of the stronger skaters from the Flyers (RM and TR) pulling the pack and another skater ahead of me. As soon as we rounded the corner, acceleration kicked in and the pace picked up significantly. I went with the flow sensing that the five Flyers behind me (including BH and another two strong skaters) were getting dropped. I faintly heard yelling and screaming but I just went with it. I got gapped from the three guys ahead of me and DS eventually cruised ahead of me as well. I was on my own and it would not be easy to hold off the pack on my heels. The long downhill stretch was up next and I thought for sure I would be outnumbered and get caught. I kept pushing like there was no tomorrow. There was still a gap between us. The long flats into the headwind was brutal and my eyes only saw DS ahead of me like a rabbit. I wanted to bridge up to him so badly but it just wasn't happening. All those solo repeats that I've been working on in the last month finally kicked in. It felt exactly like my typical Sunday morning training, me and the headwind. I did not let up even for a single stride. When I spoke with CM from Texas Flyers after the race, he said that they were undecided about chasing me thinking perhaps I would eventually slow down and be caught. I had zero intention to give up my slim lead knowing the amount of energy I already exerted would put me at a huge disadvantage in any field sprints. Once DS and I made the last right turn toward the finish line, I picked up my pace once again. I really really really wanted to take him at the line and it did not seem like an impossible task. Alas, I gave it my all but was just 5 meters short.
My finishing time for the race was 1:33:34.335, just over 3 minutes back from the three pro women ahead of me. I came 4th in the pro women category and 5th overall including the pro masters (official results available by distance or division). I felt strong during the race but did not feel challenge by the speed of my pack. It is still very early in the season and my interval program had barely started. It's no wonder I did not have the top end speed I need to get in a pack that pushes me to work hard and where my competitors currently belong. Compare with last year's race which I worked really hard to stay in my pack, I cut my finishing time short by about a minute. Although weather condition certainly play a part, I think I have increased my cruising speed in the last 12 months. These are positive signs that I am on track for my training program. Although I felt a little bummed out that I was not in the pack with the other pro women, I believe I raced a good race based on my condition at this point of the season. If there is one thing I take away from this weekend, my motivation for training is coming back. I now have a firmer grasp of why I train the way I do and how my upcoming training will build up.