I headed to the mount line, my cleats making that familiar click clack noise as I hobbled along. Rounding the corner out of T1, I saw the mount line. There was a huge jumble of athletes, at least 20 at the base of the hill trying to mount their bike. Some decided to walk up the hill and mount at the top, others were trying to mount at the bottom and still others were on the ground having fallen over due to the giant cluster **** of athletes.
I’ve never had to deal with a mount like this. I made a quick decision to mount at the line and got going up the hill, slowly weaving in and out of the walkers. I really wish they had all stayed to the right, people were walking their bikes up all across the road. Making those who had mounted have to weave in and out of them. I almost fell a few times and had to yell at a few of the walkers to MOVE out of the way. I’m normally pretty chill in a race, but I was not about to fall off my bike! I haven’t fallen clipped in yet and today was not going to be the day it happened. I’m hoping they have the mount line a bit more organized at the full, or at least instruct the walkers to stay to the side. I saw at least three athletes slo-mo fall in this area.
At the top of the hill, I was able to get going and pick of momentum, no more danger of tipping over. The ride out of Lake Sonoma takes you over a bridge, across the water and down a hill. The first 4-ish miles are all downhill with about 400′ of descent. I suck at descending. Give me a straight hill, that I can see where I’m going and I’ll let loose, but put me on a hill I’ve never been on, with lots of curves and you can bet your butt that I’ll be riding the brakes the whole way down. And that is exactly what I did. I think my speed topped out at 32 mph even with me riding the brakes. It was quite nerve wracking, but I got through it in one piece. No crashing!
After the first descent came the first real climb of the ride, and in fact the biggest climb of the ride. To say I am not so great at climbing would be an understatement. I live in a pancake flat valley, climbing and me don’t get along. This was the portion of the race I was most concerned with and the reason I rode the entire thing on my Cycleops virtual trainer (which was fairly spot on by the way!). The climb was quite steep compared to anything I had ever done and I was so worried, I’d be walking my bike up it. I went in to low gear and spun my legs out, my speed bottomed out at 3.5 mph, but I made it to the top, not super worse for the wear.
From then on we only had a few smaller climbs and lots of rolling hills. The rolling hills were super fun. The roads were buttery smooth and you could really pick some speed (well “speed” for me). I tried getting into my aero bars multiple times throughout the race, but each time had to get back out. My nerves were completely wrecked from my motel from hell and the panic attack I had in the swim. I couldn’t handle it, so I stuck with the drops and hoods for the remainder of the race.
I managed to force down 6 fig newton’s on the bike, which definitely wasn’t enough, but it was much better than I had done in Arizona. My hydration was on point and I was not cold at all. I had been very worried I’d be super cold on the bike with the cold air temps (46F at the start!) and cool water, but my Coeur Sports fleece warmers and extra aero top kept me plenty warm. In fact, I got kind of hot towards the end of the ride.
Most of the ride had a tailwind (score!) and nice roads, but there were a few rough patches of road and a few spots where we had to deal with a headwind or side winds, boo! The race director did an excellent job at marking all of the pot holes on the road with orange tape. Everything was easily visible and easily avoidable. All in all, I’d say he did a great job organizing this race, especially for it’s first run!
I was passed by about 700 athletes on the bike. All of the people I beat out of the water caught up to me. I am pathetically slow on the bike and frustration started to creep in. I managed to push it back, reminding myself to race my race, stick to my coach’s advice and forget everything else. I’m a competitive person and this is a really hard thing for me to do. I wanted to up my intensity and blow my legs out, but I knew I’d be SOL on the run if I did that. This was a training race, my only goal was to finish with a PR over my last race, which wasn’t too hard, because I did terrible in Arizona.
The course finally opened up into downtown Santa Rosa. I could hear cheers for the athletes on the course and came up on the dismount line. I slowed to a stop and pried my butt off of my bike and headed into T2. Bike time 3:39:30, 17.5 minutes ahead of my previous split.