Tuesday, August 30, 2011

52 miles is a lot!

On race day, I drove down to Capitol Forest and got in line to get my number and goodie bag. I bumped into a couple of teammates, which was nice. I rode around on my bike a little, but I'd already decided not to have a real warmup. I knew the race was long enough that I'd warm up, have a couple hours of strong riding, and get tired within the span of the race. So warming up first would just be moving the race further back in that sequence, and there'd be more tired riding. Most of the following is from the post I made on my team email list, with some comments in italics.

I had a really great race! The start was rough, but whatever. I put my bike about a third of the way back in the bike pile. It was a Lemans start, so we ran around a cone, picked our bikes up, and started racing. I was mostly just trying to stay in the team kit crowd, vs. the baggy shorts crowd - I didn't want to start too hard and blow up on one of the big climbs. Then I couldn't find my bike! Whoops. I actually still got started ahead of a fair number of people, but there was a ton of traffic for the first hour and a half or so. I'm having fun with Strava, and aside from one fifteen-minute period, it doesn't look like it really slowed me down. But I hate being in that much traffic, and was composing the Litany of Excuses - I can't see, the sun's in my eyes, my sunglasses are too dark, it's dark in the forest, there's someone's rear wheel in the way of me seeing the trail, there's sweat in my eyes, there's a stick in my rear wheel...

The last one actually had me worried, but the mechanic at Aid #1 trued it enough for the remaining 38 miles, and I got started again. Only lost a couple minutes, I think, and I didn't stop to refill water bottles, which I hadn't touched because I was trying not to crash my bike and get run over. Lots of people were in line at Aid #1, or just hanging out, and I didn't experience very much traffic from there on.

I set a new record on the climb up to Aid #2! I took just over ten minutes off my previous time. Certainly there are people faster on climbs than me. But they're something I take special pride in, so that makes me happy. I also caught a fair number of people. There was an extra 200' of climbing after aid #2. Surprise! (I was. Totally thought it was downhill to the turnaround from there.) I climbed it, I think I caught one or two more people, and then it turned into a really beautiful rolling descent. So I rolled and descended. Or something. Some flat singletrack, a tough fire road climb for a few miles, an aid station, then more, easier fire road climbing. I climbed pretty hard on the tough part, didn't think there was anything left afterwards, and so I ended up in the Pain Cave Pete (my teammate) had predicted on our Facebook page. My butt was numb and hurt. (Isn't it supposed to be one or the other?) My knee felt funny. My handlebars felt like they were in the wrong place. It wasn't steep enough. It was too steep. Etc.

Finally the intersection where the GL6 Super-D (the local advocacy group, Friends of Capitol Forest, promotes a race here every year. Greenline 6 is a trail that descends about 1700' in about 6 miles in this particular section.) descent starts showed up. Yay! That was totally fun. I got a new tire the other day, and I think it was channeling Kim. (The teammate I prerode portions of the course with. She's really fast in technical singletrack and on descents.) I even passed someone on the more
open, dusty section. I contemplated visiting Aid #1, decided I didn't need to, and blew by. Of course I immediately started wondering how much trail was left (about ten miles,) and how long it would take me. I thought it couldn't be that much, got some semi-useful information from a rider who was together enough to have something counting miles in a visible spot, and kept going. I was starting to get excited. I'd been hoping to beat last year's median time for Open Men - 6:15. But I passed Aid #1 at less than five hours, and started thinking, "there's no way there's an hour's worth of riding left." (Maybe not an hour. But 55 minutes or so.) So I crossed the line at 5:47:55.3. I make a habit, lately, of sprinting finishes. The finish was too far away along a paved road for that to be practical, so I channeled my inner triathlete, got way out on my bar ends, and spun as hard as I thought I still could. I still got out of the saddle at the finish line, but there wasn't a lot left. Anyway, that was good for one position higher. My two teammates who were competing were already done, and greeted me when I found my way back to the finish line.

I had a couple strategy things in mind for this race. The biggest thing I wanted to do was eat enough. That didn't go as well as I'd have liked, but I managed to do a lot better than at Stottlemeyer. When I cleaned out my car and jersey pockets afterwards, I was able to figure out that during the race I consumed six power bar gels, one power bar, and three scoops of Gatorade. That comes to 1100 calories. I can probably tolerate a little more than that, but I think my planned rate was close - I just needed not to have missed the first hour and a half of eating. By the end, I was pretty hungry. So I may try for a power bar every two hours, instead of every three, in races this long. On this course, at least, I think there was an okay opportunity to eat a bar around two hours, and certainly I was in a place where I could eat at four hours.

The plan for the race was not to sweat the first section, from the start line to Aid #1. I thought traffic was likely, and I knew the toughest climb of the race was going to be the one from Aid #1 to Aid #2, which took Kim and me close to an hour when we pre-rode. Then, I'd get a chance to recover on the descent, and I'd hit the fire road climb hard. At that point, the hard part of the race would be over - I'd try to keep out of trouble on the GL6 descent, and do the last section of GL6, from Aid #1 back to the finish line, at whatever pace was left in me, anywhere from surviving to standard-length cross-country race pace, depending. In general, I think I did okay at following this - I just got more screwed up than I'd have liked by traffic from the start line to Aid #1, and the stick in the spokes messed with my head, although after the mechanic trued my wheel, I was pretty much over it. I set a new record on the big climb, so I was pretty happy about that.

In future, I think I need to be stronger on hour-long climbs. I'll have to find some close to me. I think I had two problems with the last sections of the two big climbs - I wasn't expecting them, and in training, my longest climbs typically run about a half hour. I do have a longer one, Tiger Mountain from the bottom of Preston Railroad to the peak, that I can do. So I may have to include that in more of my visits to Tiger.

Overall, I'm really happy. The ride was lots of fun, not all of it masochistic, my equipment all did its job, even when faced with extra challenges like a stick in the spokes, and I beat my goal time. I also learned some, so I think I can be stronger next year, and maybe also do something really obnoxious to my bike so I can find it when I start.

Finally, the GPS track. Note that the GPS track my phone records is a little jagged. I think the mileage is correct, but the elevation gives me a little more credit than I deserve.

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