(May 4, 2019)
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in my first local Florida race (not counting when I did an XTERRA in Jacksonville about 15 years ago). Having lived in Florida for almost two years, I figured it was time for me to jump in a local criterium and have some fun battling it out with the locals.
I started the day out by joining a hard group ride that I normally do every Saturday morning called the Lodge Ride. There were a couple guys alternating up front on their TT bikes pulling the group along most of the way (with me tucked right behind them), so the ride ended up being more steady and less punchy than normal. At the end of the ride I found out that the race was actually today and not tomorrow from some people in the group. For some reason, I had thought the race was the following day…oops! At least I got in some good openers.
Fast forward a couple of hours and Eli and I were making our way down to Ocala. Thankfully the race was only two hours away and my race didn’t start until 3:50 pm, so we didn’t have to rush too much. The event was held in downtown Ocala, a nice little part of town filled with restaurants and breweries. The course included six turns, false flats, and a kicker climb on the home stretch. I’ve always loved punchy courses with lots of corners, so I knew this was going to be fun.
Spinning around before the race, I ran into one of my junior teammates, Mallory Bryan, who was also racing in the women’s field, which was a nice surprise. It’s always cool having other teammates present at races. I was also surprised to learn that her dad was one of the race officials and goes to many of the local races across Florida.
The race consisted of a combined field of women with the category 3/4 men, which is typical for a lot of events where the women’s field sizes are smaller. This also allows the women to race in a larger field size, and thus have more competition to race with. However in the end, all categories are scored separately. I personally loved racing with the men, as it added more speed and dynamics to the race.
The race started out fast from the gun, and pretty much stayed fast for the entire 50 minutes of racing. The speed would ebb and flow a little bit from time to time, but for the most part, I found myself just trying to hang with the front group and find a good position going in to the corners. I also found myself moving up a little bit every time we hit the corners, a sign that my mountain bike handling skills were definitely coming in handy. Needless to say, my legs were definitely feeling it a bit from the morning ride, but I was happy they still had some punch left in them.
About mid-way through the race, I noticed my rear tire gradually losing pressure, and soon after it was completely flat. So I rolled through the last couple corners, and stopped in the pit area just after the start/finish line where hopefully there was a spare rear wheel I could swap. Unfortunately, there were no neutral spare wheels or tubes available. Just as I was thinking the race was over for me, Mr. Bryan came down from the official’s trailer and offered me Mallory’s spare wheel to use. I couldn’t say no, and within a couple minutes, I was back in with the field.
For the rest of the race I just focused on maintaining a good position and closing gaps that formed on the backside of the course. Though I found myself nearly spinning out on the descents, I didn’t have too much trouble sticking the the group. With only a couple laps to go, there was a group of about 11 guys that gapped the rest of us. Unfortunately, no one could close the gap and it came down to a sprint for 12th. I ended up 14th overall and managed to take the win in the P/1/2/3 women’s field.
Overall it was a solid day, and I’m happy with where my fitness is at right now. Huge thanks to Eli for being my personal soigneur for the day, Mallory for the wheel, and TopView Sports for putting on such a wonderful event. I am definitely looking forward to doing another local race soon!
Thanks for reading! – Shayna