(I got lapped in that crit and still won the Bronze Medal for 2010.)
(It's not all bad. A lot of people got lapped in that race. Some even lost two laps. It was like a track race)
The word among the wise is that three years seems to be the point where things start to come together. I haven't seen huge gains or anything over this last winter base season, but for the first time I was focused on doing intervals throughout base in addition to the usual low-intensity stuff. I also put in a bit more time than last winter, and seemed to be able to handle the load well.
I've also noticed a physiological change. My body just seems "used to it". By this I mean that hard efforts or longer efforts seem to cause me less disruption in terms of my sense of balance. This is all in keeping with the concept that, after nearly three years of solid training, I am finally crossing the threshold from beginner.
Today's race was going to be a tough one. Lots of climbing on 5 laps of an 8 mile course. Over 100 feet per mile in total elevation gain and nearly half of the distance covered on dirt roads which were still quite wet from recent snow and rain. Be prepared for a muddy slog. A cross race with smooth tires.
My kind of race? Maybe. I do fairly well on the straight hammer sections of cross races and go uphill fairly well, although there was a "wall" in this race that hit 20%, not my cup of tea.
The Masters were split up between 40+ and 50+. All together the field was still small, like ten guys total. Not bad odds of course.
Race begins. The first thing that happens is a bizarre dude wearing a time trial helmet takes off. Nobody really knows what to think about this guy. Is he one of those kinds of guys who will just take off and never be seen again? Is he just some bizarre dude who attacks early and then blows up? I don't want to take the chance and give a surge to jump on his wheel. I sense the pack line up behind me and the race is on.
Turn one. Onto the dirt and up the long climb. Bizarro dude is in the front but his pace is not really holding. I go around him and slot in, making a pace that doesn't put me in the red zone but pushes it just a bit.
I look behind me and see Bruce from Rogue Racing. I know Bruce. We've raced a lot. He's a beast. Of all the folks in this race he was the only one I really wanted to pay attention to. I put my head down and keep motoring up the hill, but still not all that hard.
We get to the top.
I look behind me again. Yes. Bruce is there. Only him. nobody else.
(I look again)
Really, nobody is there.
(At this point I am thinking either the field was just weak to begin with or maybe I am finally starting to show signs of improved form. The latter is possible since Bruce is a good standard to compare oneself to)
I ask him if he wants to try to stay away for good. He thinks it's a good idea. I think it's a good idea.
It's a good idea. I increase the pace by just a few percent and we commence to get to work on making this little breakaway stick.
In order to do this we need to make it up the "wall" five times. Here we are on the first time. Looking pretty good...
(I wonder how we will look after five times)
On lap two we looked back over our shoulders at the top of the long climb and could see the field way back there. On lap three we looked back and saw nobody. At this point we were starting to feel like it was a done deal. He's 50. I'm 43. If we just stay away for the day then we both win.
(still having some trouble processing that one)
At this point we are starting to catch some of the 4s. They left 5 minutes before us and we've been picking up stragglers and leaving them behind one-by-one, thinking we might have a shot at catching their main field.
We see the car.
We pass the car.
Only about 4 or 5 of them up there.
(really big grin)
We pass them.
(dirt eating grin)
They come back to us. It's going to be a bit of cat and mouse with the 4s I guess. not such a bad situation as long as the officials don't seem to mind.
Last lap. last time up the wall. Most of the 4s are way behind us. We've already lapped one guy from our field so it's been a productive day out there all around. At this point you can see just how muddy it was and just how much suffering was endured.
Endgame. I am way out of my area here, having precious little experience in actually dealing with the chance to cross the line first in a real race. Club races have helped though, and I have certainly had plenty of chances to work on endgame on tuesday or thursday night. I think attacking Bruce on the last little climb will probably just end up in tiring me out, and is not likely to gain much advantage, since he has the better chance on the ensuing downhill before the final corner into the finish. I choose to let him take the lead and gamble that I can get around him to the line.
On the final corner we had to brake. No choice, really, since it was just as sandy and cruddy as every other section of this race, but at least it was the same for both of us.
Unfortunately that left me in too big a gear with only 150m to go to the line. Bruce is far better at spinning up a big gear and making it stick. He gave me a perfect lead-out and I did manage to push that gear all the way up to 130rpm by the line but it just wasn't enough to get further than halfway up his bike.
But like I said, we both win. Life is good. I even won money. I also set a 2-hour wattage record. yikes.