Four Races. Two Days.
Yikes… That’s a lot of racing. I fielded a question last week of “is that even safe?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, if you’re fit and know a little bit about proper recovery; no if you’re not and don’t.
So my weekend of racing started off with the street sprints at 7:30. They were a blast, but hard. This was my first time doing them, along with the first time of a lot of other guys. You start from a held position like a TT and go heart-in-your-throat all out for 350 meters. It was a double elimination. I lost, the first round, won the second, and lost the third.
The first I lost because of inexperience. I started with the pedal too high in the pedal stroke and the guy got a jump on me I couldn’t close down. The third I had a good start, but the other guy had a better one. I started closing the gap with about 50 meters to go and he must have seen my shadow or something because he kicked it and I didn’t have any more juice. I was half hearted in that race because I was getting anxious about making the mountain bike start. I think that mental “well, if I loose this one I’m done” thought might have lead to that loss.
I got to the mountain bike race with 30 minutes to the start. I was completely warmed up after a morning of warming up on the road bike and those sprints. I spun around a little bit to get used to the mountain bike again and lined up for the start. There were a couple of pros down from Durango - two Health Fx guys and one of the 3d Racing - that really helped separate out the field. Going into the single track I think I was about 10th position.
I need to rewind for a second. When I went to the packet pick-up on Friday to get my race number and such, I noticed one of the sport racers that had actually passed me at the last two races had upgraded (finally - he was putting in Expert times after all) to Expert. I saw that and commented “great, I’m racing for 2nd now.”
Ok, back to the race… At this point, the only guys in front of me are the half dozen or so pros and a few of the older Experts. I start cruising, but we’re going through a section of trail that’s backwards from how I’m used to seeing it. I would have almost preferred not to know the trail than to know it so well from the 12 hour race, because I kept trying to think what was coming up in reverse. Definitely weird. My handling skills weren’t the best Saturday. Washed out in some corners, missed two turns completely, just wasn’t feeling it in the technical sections, but was really on when I was just cranking up the climbs or in the fast flowy sections.
On one of those washouts, I look back to see if I’m about to get run over by someone, and the newly upgraded Sport racer is there on my wheel. Ok, so now we’ve got a race. I’m pretty sure I’m in the lead at this point, and now I’ve got the guy I was expecting as competition on my wheel. Tactics start going through my head. Every time we get into a twisty section I can hear him right behind me. When it opens up and I pick up the pace he drops back a little bit. A weakness! Every so often I was picking up the pace. When he’s passed me in the other races, he was out off of the front setting his own pace. I go with the hope that this mini attacks will hurt him and I’ll eventually ride off from him.
I was gapping him by a couple of bike lengths, but then he’d close it back. I knew he had to be working hard. Then the course turned up. I thought he was on my wheel, but them someone calls out for a pass and it’s one of the SS‘ers coming through. I’ve finally gapped him and other racers are coming through. Then we hit the double switchbacks. This is the first place I’ve got to see him on the climbs and now I’ve opened up about a 75’ gap on him. I keep pushing it knowing there’s another steep climb coming up. By the time we finish the climbing I’ve opened up about a 100 yard gap on him.
We have to go through that section again, and now I feel I’ve got a pretty comfortable gap working. I ease up a little bit and get into a comfortable rhythm knowing that I might have to be ready to attack again if he can close the gap down. He doesn’t. We come back through the climb again, and then time when I look back I’ve opened up a 1 - 2 minute gap on him. Now I start thinking about catching Jen - a Pro for Titus from El Paso who had passed me on the first climbing section. I could still see her at the top of the climbing section as I was coming up it, so she only had me by about 2 minutes.
I keep kicking it up, but I see I got into a lull now as I look back at my HR data. Part of it was being on new trail, but I just couldn’t close the gap down. I did catch one of the older Experts with a half mile to go. I rode up on his wheel and he asked what category I was racing in, when I told him he told me to go ahead and jump by me. After I passed him, I could see Jen off in the distance. Another 2 miles and I might have closed the gap, but she ended up about 1:30 - 2 minutes in front of me.
And I ended up with the win in the Expert 19 - 29 and a top 10 overall in the Experts! It was my first XC win, my first Expert win, and the first time I’ve felt “on” during a race this year. A large part of this was between my ears, but I’ll save that for another post - I still have two races to tell you about and I’m already over 1,000 words. :)
The third race of the weekend was a crit Saturday afternoon. We started at 5:25, just coming off of the heat of the day so I was worried about dehydrating. That ended up costing me. I drank too much water during my warm-up, and ended up with some horrible cramps 6 or 7 minutes into the race. That, combined with some first time crit racers who threw caution to the wind at the start and attacked on the first lap and I was out after 4 or 5 laps. That’s the first race I’ve had to pull out of this year for “engine” related issues. Lesson learned though: be smart about drinking before a super high-intensity race. Well, that and mountain bike racing and crit racing don’t mix well.
After curling up in a ball in the shade for half and hour ‘til the cramps went away (ok, so I wasn’t curled up in a ball, but I did sprawl out in the shade I could find for a bit until the cramps went away), I caught the B and A crits, some super, and hit the sack for some rest and recovery with hopes a come back in the road race.
This morning started off cold - 55 degrees with a wind chill in the upper 40s if you were headed east… Our race started to the east, of course. I was feeling a lot better going into this race than I did the crit last night. They started the women, masters (45+) and the C racers all together, so we had a nice big field to work with. We had a neutral start and were supposed to stop for five minutes after the neutral start to let the A/B race build up a gap, then we were going to go. Everybody was slowing to a start, then they motion us through saying we’ve got enough of a gap. After a moment of confusion, the field came back together and we settled in to the first climb.
Right as the climb picked up, there was an attack. I covered it and made the first mistake of the day. I shouldn’t have, because someone else would have. I ended up pulling through after I covered, then they counter attacked. I covered that for a little bit, but they kept accelerating, and I didn’t have any more in me. Actually makes me feel good that they viewed me as enough of a threat to try to take me out that early in the race. After pegging at 28mph on the climb, I sat up and waited for the chase group and got in with them to start working.
One of the riders with us was the 2nd place in the women’s Pro field in the XC race from yesterday. We had a few masters in the chase group that really knew what they were doing and pulled great, but we had a bunch of passengers. At one point, one of the masters pulled off the front and went back into the group and started yelling at the others to get up there and work or sit up! I was glad someone did, because I was getting pretty pissed knowing there was a dozen riders and only 4 or 5 of us were working.
We finally started shelling riders, but there was one C racer that just annoyed me to death. He sat on the group, then would go to pull through after 2 or 3 minutes of drafting and accelerate as soon as he got to the front. When he pulled of to move back, I told him to quit accelerating off the front when he pulled through. That pissed him off and he sat in until the next climb where he attacked right off the bat. I would have let him gap us by 10 feet, then hung him out to dry, but a few of the masters were trying to make up places, so they kept covering his attacks. My getting pissed at him and trying to make him work probably cost the two masters in our group 3rd and 4th place. That’s one of the downsides to racing multiple cats in the same race: there’s so many different things happening.
On the final climb, I put in an acceleration - wasn’t an attack. The other C racer had just done one of his sit on and then attack at the base of the climb moves, so I waited until he started to drop his speed and made my move. A couple of the masters came with me, and he managed to hop back on. At this point, we had another passenger that I had forgot about, a C racer who had got shelled off of the main breakaway. In the final 400 meters, I finally broke the first guy’s spirit and he sat up when I stood up and was hammering out a 30 mph+ sprint to the finish. I thought I had that place secure when I noticed the other guy who had just been quietly sitting on coming up on my left. Shit - I’m not going to lose the place sitting up on the line. I stand back up, get two or three more revolutions of the crank in, and throw for the line to nip him by inches.
I was somewhere in the top ten - I think 6th or 7th, but they haven’t posted the full results for the race outside of the guys who finished in the money yet. I think I managed 5th or 6th in the GC but I’m not sure. Had I finished the crit last night, I might have been able to place in the money for the overall.
I was hoping for a few better finishes for in the road races, but accomplished what I set out. A weekend of some super high intensity training with the added bonus of picking up a win in the XC race. Like I said, there was a huge mental aspect to that win, but it deserves a post of its own.
I’ve said before in reviewing their 12 hour race, but Gallup is one of the coolest places to go to bike races. Considering this is only their second year of promoting races, they’re doing a great job. The Mayor was out at the crit last night helping out like any other volunteer and gave out the awards for all of the road races. It’s great when you have races in small towns like that where they really come out as a whole to support the race. Some places (cough, Fountain Hills/Phoenix) can have NORBA National races in their backyard and not even mention it in the local paper, much less have the mayor out working as a volunteer at the race.
This next weekend I’m taking off from racing. I’m tempted to do the Summit Center Classic in Flagstaff, but I’d have to drive back Saturday night or risk the ire of a friend for missing her birthday party, so I’ll probably just get in some time on the mountain bike before my next race, La Tierra Torture in Santa Fe.
Here’s the race data for the XC race:
And for the road race: