Race Report: Capitol Stage Race

Here’s a race report from Alli Greening, recounting her experience at the recent Capitol Stage Race.

I had quite a late start to my race season this year due to a major professional exam in late April. I started a low volume,  high intensity training program shortly after that. Then, two weeks in,  raced Mutual of Enumclaw stage race, an absolutely great race that I had no business doing!  

Two weeks later I did the Capitol stage race, in Olympia, which was another great stage race without the strong pro field that Enumclaw had- phew! It’s always rough as a cat 3 racing with 1/2’s, but bona fide pro’s make it a little ridiculous. Still, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, with a short prologue, evening crit, and 67 mile road race the next day I would do my meager weekly mileage over the course. 

The TT was only 6 km, a distance I never feel like I’ve gone hard enough over or have warmed up enough for. This was no exception, especially since I really didn’t get enough warm up, only a little over 15 minutes. Nonetheless, I wasn’t last, which is pretty good for me; even when I’m going well I often finish DFL in the TT and then have pack finishes in the crit and road race. I put on my compression tights and vowed to get to the crit in plenty of time to get a good warm up.

I arrived at the crit plenty early, and since the whole thing was close to home I had actually had a nap in my own bed (with the cats!) between stages and felt pretty recovered. I spent a few minutes getting things out of the car, put my skin suit half on, and then rolled down to sign in before I started to warm up. I was surprised that all the women were already signed in, the race wasn’t for a full hour. Then I turned around, and saw my entire field, minus me, lined up at the start! Whoa, WTF?! What was going on?! I yanked off my t-shirt and pulled up my skinsuit, and lined up at the back just as the official was “reading us our rights.” The word, “holy shitballs,” went through my head. The crit started. Suddenly my goal was simply to not get time cut so I could race tomorrow. I got dropped pretty quickly, as my shocked legs protested mightily. After I got pulled I went back to the car and checked my race bible again, trying to figure out what had just happened. It really said 7:45. I took it down to one of the officials, who didn’t have an answer for me either, he said he was very sorry, but didn’t know where my copy of the bible had come from. Everyone else had managed to show up on time. Later one of the women said there had been email communication about the change, which I either hadn’t seen or gotten.

Again, I put on compression tights and vowed to arrive in time for the road race the next morning. The road race was 67 miles, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had ridden 67 miles, much less raced it. Certainly not in the last 12 months! The best I had done was a couple of 45 mile training rides with some long, moderate intervals recently, which would have to do. The race was a modified out and back, with a loop at the far end. I was pretty sure I’d get dropped before the turn around and would simply ride backwards on the course to DNF. At the start everyone seemed a bit concerned about the distance, though I thought to myself that they would feel much better if they only knew how unprepared I felt! We started, and after a neutral roll out things heated up a little, but stayed together until before the first climb. Team Group Health had about half the field in their kit, and clearly had a plan. They started attacking and things spread out, eventually I got dropped, but at the top of the climb found a capable looking wheel to sit on. She subsequently turned out the most impressive chase back on I have ever seen! It was amazing to just be sitting on for it! I apologized and said if I’d gone to the front and tried to help we both would have still been off the back! As we rolled along a couple of the TGH girls who had attacked early made their way back to the pack as well. We rolled along, occasionally surging a little, until the turn around, where I thought for sure I’d get shelled as people attacked coming out of the turn. The turn was no biggie, and I realized as we started the loop I was committed to 67 miles, with or without the rest of the race. Gulp. We got quite fast and strung out for what felt like 10-15 minutes, but I was able to sit on and then we settled down a lot as suddenly no one wanted to work leading into the first, and gentler, of the two climbs on the return. Then it happened. I blew hard, the race went up the road and I was left out there, all alone, with a good distance and one and a half climbs to go. I could barely do more than soft pedal. I suffered up the stupid hill and then asked the corner marshal at the next turn how much longer this time trial was- he laughed and said only about 10 miles, some more descent and then a stout climb. I kept pedaling as the vultures started to circle above me and the wolves started to close in. I finished 15 minutes off the back, but it felt like hours. At the finish the pro 1/2 men were just finishing their own 90 mile sufferfest that they had started long before us. I was stumbling around in a stupor when one of the guys came up to me, in an equal stupor- I recognized him as an old friend I’d raced with in NM a decade ago, who I knew had since moved to Portland and turned pro. As excited as we were to see each other, about all we could do was grunt and making conversation seemed impossible. We vowed to try to see each other again before I moved out of the area later this summer. 

It’s now two weeks after Capitol, and I’m heading out to test my legs again this weekend, with two road races, probably the last I’ll do the the PNW. Today is only 44 miles, but promises to be a punishing course with lots of hateful little climbs and a longer one each of the 5 laps. Tomorrow is a race in OR, with a separate women’s cat 3 field, and a chance to see Josh, my friend from NM again.

Thanks for reading!