Tulsa Tough | Race Recap
As a woman racer, participating in an event like Tulsa Tough is exciting because it is BIG. Competing in a field of 45-50 mostly strangers from all over the country is very different than going up against 10-20 people that you know and sometimes train with. It is also the only race with enough participants to support a Cat 3 women’s field (we always race with either 1/2s or 4/5s). I am nervous going into any race, but I carried a lot of extra anxiety into this one. I was hit by a car while warming up for a race in April, which set my training back several weeks and took away my late spring racing schedule. I worked very hard on the trainer for 4 weeks, but there is no substitute for racing. You get good at racing by racing.
I participated in the Brady Arts Criterium on Saturday and the River Parks Criterium – known for the soul crushing Cry Baby Hill – on Sunday. Saturday was my first crit of the year. I tried not to let my nerves show as we waited to get rolling. All of the fear fell away once we got started (flying is fun!), and I got into the rhythm of the race. It was fast and mostly flat with aggressive cornering and a lot of swarming. The heat hurt. My job was to keep a good position and go with any breaks that might form. I stayed laser focused on every wheel around me, did my job, and got tired by the last few laps. I wasn’t able to hold position in the last lap, but my teammate, Leigh Ann Fields was able to spring forward and go for the final sprint. She took 3rd in the race, and I was 17th.
Photo Todd Gill
I felt much more relaxed on Sunday. I took a less aggressive approach to my position in the peloton, willing to sit around 10th wheel most of the race. Wanting to conserve energy, I figured I could move up on the hill when needed. The first couple of trips up the hill hurt – badly. Lori McCarty surged in the 3rd lap, and I almost got caught falling off the back. She was reeled in by the 4th lap, and the race settled down a bit. From there, I tried to relax and treat it like a hill repeat workout. I hammered the hill, but not too hard, and focused on belly breathing and calming my mind on the downhill. Each lap, I was able to recover enough to be able to move up on the straight section and on the hill if needed and not feel too bad. For those that may be newer to racing, it is worth describing how it feels in the middle of a race. There is always a point where I question why I put myself through this. The pain is almost unbearable. I don’t feel happy or good about anything. There is always a mental negotiation with myself. Should I quit? No. Just take it one lap at a time. Try not to think about how much more time is left in the race. Just one more lap. Keep your eyes on the wheels; watch the front of the peloton for any moves; think about a good time to attack. Can you give just a little more?
On the last lap, the peloton was rolling 7-8 wide coming through the straight. As we took the corner at the bottom of the hill, there was a pretty bad crash. I believe 5-6 girls went down. It was loud, and right behind me. Your heart says – stop! Your race instinct says – go go go! So we went up the hill for the last time. Finn Taylor surged at the top, trying to create a gap. I waited until the last riser before the downhill to put in a dig. I hit the final corner at the bottom of the hill about 5th wheel and was able to sprint to the finish and hold my 3rd place position.
I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. The best part was the greeting I got from my racer friends in the staging area before the first race. Regardless of team, they were glad to see me, and I was glad to see them. I am grateful to my team, Pandemonium Cycling p/b Hodges Bend of Tulsa, for taking care of their racers all weekend. We were fed, iced, and treated like pros. Also, thanks to our sponsors, The Evolutions Group, Tensegrity Chiropractic, Elote Café & Catering, TMS Systems, Green Bay Packaging, Bruce Horn Family Dentistry, and City Cycles of OK for empowering us to do what we love. Lastly, thanks to Robin Farina and Revolution Coaching for helping dial in my training in the weeks leading up to Tulsa Tough. Leigh Ann and I are headed to Augusta next weekend for Masters Nationals. Wish us luck!
Brady Arts District Criterium
193 AP/219 NP
River Parks Criterium
206 AP/260 NP