The Housatonic Hills Road Race 2010 served up 54 miles, over 6000ft of climbing with temps and humidity in the 80s. With the crazy steep hill climbing, my goal was just to complete the race upright and hopefully not last. Housatonic is the Connecticut State Championship race, so it attracts some of the strongest riders around. I didn’t expect to be able to keep up with the pack, especially in the heat. Many, perhaps wiser, people did not even start and many quit after 1 loop.
The race begins with a steep uphill “neutral” climb. But, they let the cat 123 women go a minute or so before us, and the car setting the neutral speed was in front of them, so of course the cat 4 field was trying to catch up and hammered up the hill. I stayed to the back and figured I would either catch them later or I wouldn’t but if I hammered I would not be able to finish. I kept them in sight for most of the first loop, but I didn’t have anyone to work with, so I was really suffering. At one point, the men cat 5 (they left about 10 min after us) rode past with many of my Tarmac team members and I caught their draft for a few moments before the follow car yelled at me to get back. I really envied them only going 1 loop.
At the KOM (king of the mountain- the highest point in the race- you get a prize for getting to the top first in your cat), which comes late in the loop after climbing several endless and brutally steep hills, there were lots of people cheering and bells and I could have sworn I saw a man dressed in an all white suit and pointy hat blowing a gigantic red horn. I could have been hallucinating. A woman from Bethel rode with me for the last few miles of the loop. But, she told me that she was cat 123 and way behind, so she was dropping out.
As I began the second loop with the huge hill I had resigned myself to doing the rest of the race triathlon style- solo. I went as hard as I could without blowing up on the hills, hammered as much as I could on the flats and flew down the descents. It was a relief really, and I started to enjoy myself. The pro men passed me sometime in the second loop. They were on their last of 3 loops. I felt pretty good and was confident I would finish. I knew there were several women behind me, but I didn’t know if they had dropped out.
When I got to the KOM there was nobody cheering anymore, just a couple of guys in shorts packing up their car. I saw one guy put a long red horn in his backseat and yelled, “I knew I wasn’t hallucinating, it was you with the horn!” but he shrugged, put on a wicked smile and said, “What are you talking about?” I got a chuckle out of that, and the fact that I was almost done.
I realized I was significantly behind when I could see the marshals getting up from resting in their chairs to wave me on. The last few pro 123 men had gone by and it was just me and the few women who might still be struggling behind me. At the last intersection, the cops that had been stopping traffic had gone away and I had to stop and wait for cars to pass. The arrows and cones had been packed up, so I had to go on memory and turned downhill. I figured it was all or nothing at that point, but I did wonder how I would get home if I were wrong.
Soon, I saw the home stretch and blasted away. I felt really good. The race turns uphill to finish in front of the school. I pedaled triumphantly up the finish line, but everyone was busy with the awards ceremony. I wondered if they would even notice my number and write it down. All that work to end up with a DNF next to my name would be a drag. I wanted to shout out, “Hey, did you get that? Kate Marshall, finishing?” The only face I recognized was the friendly blond who was at registration. She looked at me with a smile of sweet pity, but it made me glad that someone noticed what I had done.