Women's Midwest Road Race Championship 2016!

By: Lauren Conroy

I've been going pretty bat shit from not being able to bike as much as I used to. For weeks I would start days off by just sitting on my couch staring at my rack of 5 bikes. Going on bike adventures or training rides was my default. What do I do when I can't do that? I had to figure out other ways to be happy and excited.

Being able to race track Thursday was a huge relief. I didn't feel absolutely amazing, but I hung in there. I managed to get 2nd in the scratch race state championship. (New girl Rachel is hella fast) Luckily track races are SHORT. Road races are not. I was nervous about Sunday but I wanted SO BADLY to race my bike. 36 miles is a pretty long distance when you haven't biked that far in over a month. That had become my WEEKLY mileage. I woke up at 5:30 so I'd have time to get ready and bike from Pilsen to Logan Square to meet up with Katie. When I got there she pointed out her car. Someone had stolen two of the wheels off her car and the jack they used was still jammed into her car. I feel really terrible for Katie. That has got to be pretty much the worst way to wake up.

After having DNS'd 5 races during the Intelligentsia Cup, I did not know how I was going to cope with DNSing again. I started posting everywhere just desperate to get a ride. I didn't think this was going to be my most stellar performance ever, but I really wanted to see what I could do, and I wanted to be there for such a huge awesome event. Erin FB messaged me to call her and as I was biking she explained where she would be downtown in a few minutes. I booked it from Logan Square to downtown. It really warmed my heart to know that someone who had such a good shot at being competitive in that race, would risk being a little late in order to help me get there. I basically biked about 15 miles just trying to get to the race.

Warming up with Erin. Crystal was so chill she was taking photos ;)

The start of the race was a bit frustrating. We were two across, but the road was so narrow and having the middle line rule in effect there was essentially nowhere for anyone to go. I was next to a squirrely rider for a while and was just dying to be able to move somewhere else before we hit the gravel. I tried my best to stay towards the front because I had a good feeling everyone wasn't going to stay upright through the whole thing. I kept my front wheel far enough from the person in front of me that I felt I could maneuver around them if they suddenly went down. Unfortunately the rider behind me rode into my back wheel on the first gravel section as everyone was slowing down to turn. I faltered, but managed to stay upright, but I lost so much momentum. The pack was riding away and everyone who didn't crash was swarming around me. I kept trying to grab a wheel but they all had so much more momentum than me and I was a little shaken up from almost crashing. 

I rode alone for a while. I was trying to keep my pace between 22-24 hoping the pack would have to slow down in the gravel, but they gradually pulled further and further away. Eventually I blew myself up and had to slow down. After being alone for a while I started to think about just stopping after one lap. I was recently injured so no one would judge me, right? I could just quit. Who cares. I was totally sucking anyway. Then, during the second gravel section I came up on probably 6 different people with mechanicals. I remembered the feeling of wanting desperately to race but not being able to. I saw that look in their faces and I thought what about how you felt this morning? You're going to quit after that? So what if you got dropped. So what if you slow down. Finish the damn race. It is really hard knowing you can't do something that used to be so much easier.

This is strava's interpretation of my fitness. As you can see I was ramping up my training and feeling pretty great, but I went too damn hard and had a huge plummet from staying off my knee.

Eventually a group of 3 pace lining came up on me and I got on their train. We caught up to Tiffany and a few others and grew the train. I don't think I was paying good enough attention to my level of recovery though, because at one point I pulled off the front and started to drift back, and it felt like the group picked up the pace at the same moment. I lost the wheel and had just spent myself on the front so I couldn't catch it. They were gone. I was dying. 

For the next 15 miles or so I was all alone again. With about 10 miles to go I couldn't feel my left foot anymore. I kept thinking just finish this gravel section, and then theres a tiny bit of road, its so easy. Coming up on Morleigh and Nathan and having them enthusiastically tell me I was doing great, even though I felt embarrassed really helped. And then I saw Sarah and Bahar. They had been walking in the road after both having mechanicals. Bahar had her jersey off and was whooping and swinging it in circles and they were both cheering so hard it made me laugh so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes. It really helped in those final five miles. Just the ridiculousness of the situation, and the support that we all have for each other as women. As I was finishing I heard people tell me to sprint and I just shook my head because I was in so much pain. I hit my brakes as soon as I crossed the finish line and took off my shoe. But I finished.

Here is what my heart rate looked like. I was anaerobic for over 12 minute and set a new threshold heart rate max. So, maybe it was not my best performance in terms of results, but I think I gave it my all.

I was sad I couldn't stay with the main group. I was even more sad I got dropped from the chase group. The path to complete recovery is pretty frustrating. It is taking a lot of effort to not bike every day and try to slowly build myself back up. I'm really hoping I can cause a big upswing in that fitness graph before cyclocross. In the end I was so grateful to be well enough to participate and be part of such an awesome event. My finish wasn't as great as I would have liked, but it was way better than being on my couch.