Thursday, June 25, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was getting sick when I did my last Indie Series race, on May 17th. I thought I was just overtrained, because I decided not to do a rest week before that race since the timing of the races was so close together. Anyway, I ended up with a wicked cough and skipped the following race, on June 6th.

I was more or less better on the 14th and started training again, but decided to skip my race on the 21st because it was in a location three and a half hours away, none of my teammates were going, I'd been working nights, etc. etc. Until last night, I hadn't been on a bike on dirt in about five weeks. I'm better now, and have another 'A' race on July 11th. I won't have a chance to do a Wednesday night race or even much casual mountain biking before then so, between that and some political stuff, it was really important to me to show up to last night's race.

I wasn't sure if I should put myself at the front or the back of the pack at the start line last night. Every time I've put myself at the back, though, I've ended up having to pass a lot of guys, which can be a lot of work. So I decided to start in the second row, which seems to be my best starting position - the guys in the first row frequently go out very, very fast and I don't want to do that, and since I catch them anyway as soon as the trail narrows, there's no point for me. I charged hard for pretty much the whole race. I was worried at points that I was going to blow up, but I've been doing a different kind of intervals lately and just riding a little faster in general, so I was able to hold my pace, more or less.

What really hurt me last night was that my riding was very sloppy. Pre-riding, it took me a few tries to clean a section that I've done plenty of times in the past, and near the end of the race I wiped out and fell into a thorn bush. Lucky for me, the thorns in the Pacific Northwest aren't very big or stiff. That fall cost me about a dozen places, though. I guess there's a reason people practice this stuff. More importantly, though, I only coughed a little bit when I finished the race, no more than I always do when I've just pushed my aerobic system that way, and my nose only clogged up once - again, pretty normal for me when I'm healthy. It felt really good to be out racing again, and I felt really fast. Part of my sloppiness, actually, is I think I was going faster last night than I have been. I think my fitness level is making promises that my handling ability can't keep.

One of my friends felt compelled recently to tell me his time on a route I use to train for cyclocross. He clocked himself door-to-door, using his odometer, so his time is rolling time only (clock stopped for traffic signals, etc.) and when I got my previous time of about 32 minutes, I was using a starting time and finishing time on my cell phone from the beginning to the end of the effort portion, so our times aren't really comparable. But it got me curious, so today I did the route using my wrist watch, which has a stopwatch, to time myself. I did the route in 30:33, so even if my cell was about to tick over to the next minute when I started last time, and had just ticked over when I finished, I beat my old time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pleased with myself.

For my Seattle readers and anyone following along at home with Google Earth, the route begins in Ballard at 24th Ave NW and NW Market St. It travels north along 24th, then east on 80th St. to Roosevelt Way, south to 65th st., and then east until it intersects the Burke Gilman Trail. According to Google Earth, it's 7.7 miles long. It's got a ton of climbing - I originally developed it as a hill interval route, and it starts with small hills that get larger and larger, before a little bit of a break and then what another friend named the "Oh, shit" hills. I use my granny ring on those, although I don't think I used my smallest gear combination today. I meant it as a training ride for cyclocross racing, and when I first figured it out it took longer and the little hills at the beginning felt like climbs. The big ones felt huge. If I move up a class this year or get much faster, though, the effort will take less time than my race, and I'll need to start using some other route.