Friday night was one of the smoothest night-before-Psycowpath-race experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. My friends at Elkhorn Valley Cycling club know the routine, and they’ve got a few folks very comfortable manipulating csv files, so that made my job pretty simple. I know it, I’m not a good delegator by nature. But as Rox would tell you, I need to delegate, because otherwise I can fantastically mess things up. I was nearly packed and in bed by 10pm. And despite the betting pool odds, no one called at 10:30pm begging to register.
Saturday morning, 5:45am, coffee maker switches on and begins grinding my Kona blend, and its piping hot coffee at 6. Start munching on grapes, pineapple, and a bit of whey protein mixed with orange juice. Throw a few things together, mix bottles with my latest fuel: Infinit. I add lots of ice since it’ll be hot, throw ’em in a cooler for safekeeping and good to go. Rox drops me off at the short bus, and the crew is ready to go.
Much thanks to Chris W for driving up, heckuva guy. Rafal, Sarah, CWolf make for good travelling company and we arrive with time to spare. Check in. Eat my baked sweet potato. Watch the marathon & Cat 3 start at 10am, I even got to push a few riders up the gravel climb. It’s harder than it looks, and now I have much more respect for those scantily clad obese folks who sit alongside the roads of France every July just for the opportunity to push their favorite sprinter up the mountain.
Back to the shade, more water, electrolytes, a Lara bar. Suit up, ride the course with Jesse Bergman at 10:40 or so, very slowly, just to get it back into memory. Stretch the hamstrings again. Still feels like I have shin splints from Wednesday’s intervals. Shin splints from a bike ride? What? I still don’t believe it; anyway, its more of an annoyance than a riding hindrance. Besides, I’m armed with the confidence of those awesome intervals I completed last Wednesday.
At noon the gun goes off, and my first few pedal kicks (almost 8 feet!) I lose peripheral vision of my competitors. Easy tiger. I don’t want to lead up the gravel hill, into the wind. That’s Kevin’s job. Kevin played it cautiously too, however, and we both ended up behind Stephen Jarrett. Not sure how he was doing, haven’t raced him for months– but I’ve never seen him slow. Ever. John Rokke was right behind us, and I figured he would be my best “marked man” to try and stay close to.
Top of the gravel climb, Kevin jumps to the lead and Rokke jumps as well. I’m happy to be fourth into the singletrack, on the lead train, already with a small gap on the others.
After a few minutes I finally got a chance to look down at my HR: signigicantly in to z5, over 180bpm. And I looked on a flat portion after a downhill. Hmm. “These races always start fast, I’m used to that, it’ll calm down soon as these guys settle in.” Rokke was doing fine, I think I can stick with him.
Nope. 25 minutes later, the pace was holding steady, and my HR was still over my LT of 177. In fact, I hadn’t seen anything below LT for the whole first lap– even in what I thought would be my “recovery sections.” And my handling just felt, well, sloppy. Not dialed, not concentrated. Bike handling would only get worse as I continue to peg it. I really didn’t have that option anyway. So after the first mile of the second lap, I started to back it down to a more sustainable mid z4 pace. Wasn’t long before Jesse Peterson came by, as expected. Ten minutes later, I couldn’t muster continued power to keep Jim Winklepleck off either. I should’ve marked him from the start instead, and paced a more reasonable first lap. I knew I had a strong gap over GB Larry Kintner, Brandon Harpster, and Sean Craig, so I fell into z3-4 cruise mode and tried to punch it on the climbs. Race file is available for your viewing pleasure here.
Just to be upfront about it: much congratulations to John Rokke, you’re faster than I accounted for on Saturday. Jesse, Jarrett, Kevin, I expect nothing less. Winkepleck, you’re marked for next time.
Reflections? Maybe Thursday would’ve been a good day to take off instead of Friday, to get better recovery from Tues/Wed build workouts. This week will be 100% to plan, in preparation for Dakota 50. Pacing will be key.
Looking back over past race files for comparison, obviously fast starts and hard charging first laps are the norm. In mountain biking, often the game is to get a gap and keep that gap. Ponca, which I’d say I paced quite successfully, first 20 mins were at avg 168bpm. Not much fade there, even after 3 hours of racing. There’s a lesson in there I bet. Interesting, Swanson had a similarly fast start; averaged 179 for first 30 mins, 182 for first 20 mins, then I faded quite similarly. Just a week later at Krug Park in St Joe, my racing felt pretty good. Fast start, as expected, but I managed some negative splits in my later laps to fight off some chasers and finish third. At Krug, avg HR for first 20 mins was was 175 and first 30 mins 172. Maybe I should start learning something from all this data I collect? I keep telling myself to start hard, mark the leaders, and someday soon it will stick. I’m already anticipating 2011 winter training. Oh yes. TT work, my friends. Tasty.
Race day closure…. Even after some jalapeno poppers at Stanton’s Wolf’s Den with namesake Chris Wolf & others, and downing a Red Bull, I managed to fall asleep on the floor of the sprinter van for an hour or so with my legs elevated. Sunday, I am wide awake and the legs are still sleeping. That’s ok though, they’ll need the rest for Dakota 50.
Saturday night was capped off with a couple’s baby shower and one of Rox’s coworkers throwing a bbq. Always nice to meet new folks and explain my beat up, bloody, shaven legs.