"Caution: two miles into the race, there is a fast descent into a 180 degree turn into the main climb."
Great, I figured. So I was going to be dropped on the descent and miss the break in the climb.
I was really, really nervous and I have a history of not doing well on neutral rollouts downhill. Basically, I was 50-50 for actually making it to the start of the race with the field from a neutral rollout down a hill. I am never a great descender, but I'm much better once I get climb in my legs to get my jitters out. Well, let's just say I'm now 2:1 on getting dropped on neutral rollouts. I missed the 180 turn because no one was signaling, there were no signs, and I got too tight and nervous to be able to make the turn in time. What a way to start the race! Fortunately, they let me chase back on, but there went Big Match #1 while everyone else was settling in, comfortably neutral.
Cursing my coach and hating the race course, I settled in to the pack, but timidly: I was still intimidated by all of these P12 women. I moved towards the front and was on the front for the small descent on the back side, but allowed myself to be bullied backwards by the time we got to the Big Descent again. Fortunately, I put on my big girl pants, got into the drops, and tried to execute my very best descending technique. I even passed a girl or two and hit the 180 degree turn at the very back of the pack. Relieved, I shifted to start the climb, but my bike did not respond. Rather than thinking, I frantically flicked the gears and... dropped my chain. Cursing, I got off to put it back on. I'm sure at this point, the motoref was thinking: "Who is this Pedal Power joker??!" Someone in the pack picked up the pace and by the time I got back on my bike, I could already see girls falling off the back of the pack on the climb way up the road. Desperate, I chased as hard as I could. Apparently, it was quite hard, as it seems that that climb, from the dropping of my chain to the top, might be the Strava QOM of the day. There went Big Match #2, but somehow I was still with the thinning pack.
Lap 3 was rather uneventful, as we had dropped all the people who were getting in my way on the descent. I really need to learn to descend more confidently! During lap 4, there was big excitement, as the girl who ended up winning with a solo break attacked on the hill. I jumped on her wheel and went with her, but when I looked back, I saw I was the only one. Instead of thinking "Oh boy, this girl has 3 strong teammates to block back there for her, this is the break!" I thought "Oh boy, my legs are spent from my stupid technical difficulties using up Big Match #1 and #2. There's no way this will hold, I'll just ease up and slink back to the pack." Well, that was the winning break and I made the erroneous choice to miss it. Oh well. Live and learn. And hopefully gain experience and confidence on the way! There were 17 girls still around in the pack at the end of the 4th lap and I had learned that somehow, even with all my stupid cat 3 level technical skills, I was one of the better climbers. So after the last Big Descent, I felt a burst of confidence (I survived the fast descent into a 180 degree turn 5 times! And I didn't have to do it again!) so rode up to the front of the pack. I didn't think I had an attack in me (should have more confidence in myself) so I just hammered away on the front, driving the pace and hoping that some of those girls would fall off. When we got to the top, I looked around to see that there were 10 girls left. Excellent, my climb had gotten rid of almost half of them! At this point, I was content to finish with the pack, as I barely have the balls to contest a flat sprint in a W3/4 race and here the finishing sprint was on a legit downhill. (In an ECCC race in 2010, I was involved in a serious crash in the sprint finish when I was front and center. A girl clipped my bars and I ended up taking down half the field and breaking my shoulder. Other girls were really hurt too. It's going to take me a lot of years to get over that.) In the end, I ended up 9th of 36 in the elite women's field. Not bad! Although later, I found out that the winners got teddy bears and I am about as motivated by teddy bears as a 4 year old girl should be. Missing out on upgrade points and a teddy bear made me really sad that I didn't do the W3 race!
Ok, enough racing. On to the food! We have to stay energy neutral, after all. Today's recipe is a bit long. It's not hard, but there are a few distinct dishes, which is different than most of my "one pot wonders." This is definitely something that you can make if you're trying to impress someone! This inspiration for this recipe came from my visit to Northstar House in Ithaca. I decided to go with a dish with beets in it, in preparation for the race the next day, but their BBQ Cauliflower really stood out to me, and once I saw how great it looked (my cousin's husband ordered it), I knew I had to try to make it. According to the description the dish is "Slow braised cauliflower, tossed in house BBQ sauce. Served over polenta with kale & mushrooms." Today's recipe is basically just that, with the addition of some pinto beans with the kale and nutritional yeast in the polenta. Basically, while cauliflower makes a stunning main dish and is a complete protein, it's protein content isn't that high so I added in more complete protein sources to the side dish to make sure that this was a nutritionally balanced powerhouse. I also took some time to create my own BBQ sauce, which is smoky, sweet, and spicy-- all without any processed sugars! It takes a tiny bit of time to throw everything into the blender or food processor, but you'll be so pleased with the result that you'll never go back. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
2 (15oz) cans diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 (4oz) can tomato paste
3T maple syrup
3T liquid smoke
Food process until a smooth texture is reached. It'll be a bit lumpier than store bought, but it's so good! This will be more than enough for this recipe plus extra for future burgers, ect
1 head of cauliflower
BBQ sauce (recipe above)
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut a head of cauliflower into 6ths. Dip each piece into a deep bowl of the BBQ sauce, taking care that the sauce gets into the nooks and cranies. Bake for 30- 40 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, but BBQ sauce isn't burned.
2c polenta (yellow corn grits)
1/4c nutritional yeast
optional: 1/2c shredded cheese
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper to taste
On the stove, bring the water to a boil. Add all other ingredients and continue to heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat once all of the water is absorbed and the polenta is tender.
Sautéed Kale and Mushrooms
1 bag kale or 2 large bunches, washed and shredded
1 box (8oz) shiitake mushrooms, sliced (other mushrooms would work too)
1 can pinto beans (or any other white bean)
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
Additional BBQ sauce
Add all ingredients to a frying pan and sauté until the kale is wilted and mushrooms/ onions are tender. Top with extra BBQ sauce so that the leaves can absorb the smoky flavor.
Serve cauliflower steaks with the kale and mushrooms served over the polenta on the side. Top with additional BBQ sauce if you'd like. Enjoy!