A couple days prior to the South Jersey Citerium, race sponsor, Matt Warner reached out to confirm that I would be in attendance. At that time, no one was registered for the women’s race and I had intentions of joining Glenn for the Men’s 1/2/3. However, it is difficult to advocate for dedicated women’s fields if no women register. This is a tough balance to strike, as I want to support promoters who offer women’s races by showing up but do not want to discourage other women from competing or ruin valuable upgrade opportunities. So I became the sole registrant for the women’s race and planned on registering day-of for the men’s race, depending upon how I felt after the first.
Ultimately, registration for the women’s race peaked at a total of 7. Team CAWES brought a squad of 4 or 57% of the field. Based upon the dominant presence of a team, I anticipated a challenging race of strategy. The wise Laura Van Gilder once shared with me that the difficulty of a race does not necessarily scale upward with the size of a field. In fact, races with small fields can be some of the hardest. That was most certainly the case on this particular day.
After chasing down several attacks by CAWES, I quickly realized that the hits would keep on coming unless I decided to take action. After a quick estimation of the energy expenditure involved with responding to continuous attacks versus a ~25 minute solo breakaway, I decided that a breakaway would be my best course of action. While the calculations encouraged a solo breakaway, I was nervous about the execution as I had never tried it before. After an internal debate, it was clear that a low stakes race was the perfect opportunity to try something new.
On the following chase effort, I noted a sizable gap on the field, gathered my wits and went for the counter. The course is essentially a track with four corners and a hill. After establishing a half lap gap, I took advantage of the visibility by keeping an eye on the field. To monitor pace, I selected a landmark and noted where the field was in relation to that point, throttling my effort to maintain a consistent gap. This was a particularly challenging effort without insight to power data, duration, speed, or heart rate.
The will to stop and drop back the field weighed heavily upon me until finally laps cards emerged with 6 to go. At that point an internal voice of encouragement pushed me onward, reaching a 1-minute lead in the final laps. It was a thrill to try something different and succeed. By the time I crossed the finish line I was completely exhausted and thankful to find Glenn waiting for me with a chair, water, and recovery food. Couldn’t ask for a better soigneur/boyfriend.