The Art of Taking Risks: San Dimas Stage Race 2017
Words by Megan Ruble
On a ride last weekend I asked my coach, Rich, whether I should go to San Dimas Stage Race or my favorite local crit. Without hesitation he said San Dimas. He asked me, "What do you want to do with this? If you want to see how far you can go at this level that means seeing how you stack up at bigger races. You are not going to find that out racing with the same 20 women every week." He is always puts things in the right perspective and pushes me to leave my comfort zone.
The field was not as deep as the prior year, but women from ShoAir Twenty20, Conade Visit Mexico, Tibco, and Cylance would be there. Plus lots of Southern California women I had never raced with before.
Stage 1: Glendora Mountain Time Trial
I arrived at the base of Glendora Mountain Road Friday morning running late as usual. I'm a good climber, but it takes me a while to settle into a climb so I picked my packet up, changed my clothes, and tried to get in a really good warm up. After looking at the times from last year's race, I set a goal based on the women I race with at home. I wanted to finish in 20 minutes or less.
I was number 7 on the line, they counted me down and I was off. The course is 4.25 miles, gaining 1200 feet of elevation up the twisty Glendora Mountain Road, with grades between 4% and 6%. The first half mile is flat and fast until you turn left and you're climbing. I passed someone right off...weird. I focused and climbed hard. Up, up, up, I passed someone else (yay that means I'm not last!) and crossed the line at 20 minutes 50 seconds. It was 50 seconds past my goal, but I felt good about my effort and set a new threshold power.
Side note: the views are spectacular, which I only realized after I got to the top and was able to breathe again. I need to go back and enjoy the climb when I'm not turning myself inside out.
Stage 2: Bonelli Park Road Race
The weather looked perfect Saturday morning. We had 8 laps for about 56 miles. After some delay, we rolled out and the race was on. First, a straightaway through the start/finish, right turn into a headwind, left onto a rough road and quick right. Another right and we were on a gentle climb, it levels and climbs again through the feed zone – just make it to guard shack, don't run into the hay bales protecting the poles. Now for a screaming fast descent—WATCH OUT for the bumpy tree roots—and someone is careening across the road. As a bike slid in my direction I wanted to close my eyes, but, no, don't do it. Just keep pedaling.
The descent continues to another small riser, through a guard shack, right turn and another fast descent, it curves to the left and people jostle for position going into the screeching sharp right, another quick right and a fast straightaway onto Heckler Hill. Momentum gets you up the first steep part, shift, stand, and dig in. It turns to the left and you keep climbing. It's not long, but it's steep. And it hurts. Cross the QOM line and it levels. But now your feel it—your legs and your lungs burn as the leaders keep you pinned across the dam and you hold on for the short fast descent, relief. Now a hairpin up over a small hill then a lonnnnnnng straightaway through the start/finish.
On lap 4 I felt myself settling in. At the descent headed for Heckler Hill—a QOM this lap—suddenly, that sound that makes you feel dread to the tips of your toes. Crash. A gap opened. Now we had to chase. Up Heckler, descent, hairpin. We were going so hard. The women from ShoAir and the Conade Mexico pulled like freight trains. I just wanted it to be over. We finally caught the group just before the feed zone. The remaining laps were mellower. I don't know if people were saving themselves for the sprint, or just cautious after the carnage we had witnessed. All I knew is that I made it an 8th time over Heckler Hill and to the long straightaway. They started sprinting SO early, but I held on for a pack finish.
Stage 3: Crit
I almost went home early after all of the crashes the day before. But, I decided I was there to race and there to finish. I hoped my legs would have it after the hilly race the day before. We had 55 minutes on an L-shaped, 6 corner course. Nothing too special—a dip in the road on turn 3 and a slight uphill. With 10 fewer people the pack was small enough and the roads were wide. Illi Gardner from Folsom Bike kept the attacks coming and the pace high. I felt good and settled in easily not noticing the lap cards until 2 to go. I tried to get to the front of the pack going into the final turn, but that's what everyone else was trying to do too! I’m a nervous corner-er and fell back, but was able to stay in for another pack finish and keeping my GC spot at 13th.
What a great weekend of racing!
- I wanted to finish without getting dropped. I did that without much problem.
- Having said that, it's time for me to set better goals for myself. So often my goal is just to make it to the end. Well. I can do that. I've proven that to myself. Now I need to have the confidence to set myself up for the best possible finish. Reach for a win.
I recently read an article about taking risks. The question is: when presented with a perceived risk, will you go for it? Will you risk failure—blowing up and getting dropped—to go after it? It says "If you want to take more risks, you shouldn't judge yourself on whether you succeed, but rather on whether you have the guts to risk failure in the first place." I want to have the guts. I will have the guts.
Now someone lock up my peanut butter cupboard. I'm on a post-race bender.