Monday, May 2, 2011


By the numbers (or how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory)


This is my third time doing this race. I did it in 09 and finished 17th. I did it in 10 and finished 44th. Not exactly the most impressive numbers there.

Here's another set of numbers: 22 miles per lap with 1300' of elevation change. Much of it coming in two climbs with the first one being a steady 5 minute effort that happens beginning about 5 miles into the race. Sounds tailor-made for me, right?

Well, things didn't work out the past two years but this time I came more prepared. I have been closely monitoring my VO2max workouts and hill repeats of 5 minutes or more, looking for improvements and even spotting a few of late.

Hence, after making the decision to race masters this year (it seemed like the best choice for a good result considering how the 3/4 race played out for me last time) I also decided that there was only one way to get a good result on this day. I pretty much announced my intentions to the rest of the team guys in the race before we started. I would follow the wheels of the strong guys on the big climb. If they were not pushing it, I would go to the front and drill it. The hope is that by the time we reach the top, the field would be shredded and we'd only have a few left, then duke it out from there.

Things worked out almost exactly as scripted with the addition of a few attacks on the hill. Being first wheel or close to it I tended to just keep dieseling hard up the road and that was usually enough to slowly reel them back in, or sometimes other riders would come around and fill the gap. I actually glanced down at the PM (something I almost never do on race day) just to make sure I was not killing myself or going too easily.

5.3 watts per kilogram for the 5 minute hill. And you might have me to thank for that if you got shelled. Sorry.

I looked back at the top and tried to count the riders. It seemed like most of them were still there. Damn. Well, maybe I wasn't seeing straight.

My major card played now, I slotted in to the field for the flatter and downhill sections of the race. Things were a bit on the squirrelly side for a 35+ race so I had to leave a bit more space and tended to draft off to the side a bit to get more of a picture of what was happening in front. We strung out a lot. More than I expected, and the surges were fairly tough as riders tried to go clear with regularity, only to be pulled back or kept closely in view. I did notice that I had been wrong about my count before. Dead wrong. There were only 20 of us left and the race had begun with 51 riders. With only the strong left in the field, the second part of my strategy would come into play. My work was done on the big hill. Now I would sit in for the duration of the race until the wall, do my best not to be a hero. Let the other guys do the chasing, then make sure to keep pace on the inevitable wall attacks.

Again, the chess match played out exactly as scribed.

And, upon reaching the top of the wall, only ten remained. We regroup. We attack. We string out. We come back together. At some point soon afterward I think I hit my daily max power in one of these surges that brought us quickly up to 32mph on a flat. On a day where I figured on no sprinting that was 750w or something.

Stabel made a last-ditch effort to go clear with a mile and a half to go, but he wasn't really gaining much ground on us, so no real surge was necessary. He was pulled back before the final turn onto the finishing climb. Did I say climb? I meant cliff.

That stupid wall has killed me every time. I think they keep moving the finish line further up the wall every year. I got a free tow to the front by a rider and then made my move as the grade steepened. Only two riders in front of me and rapidly closing I had this one in the bag.

paper bag.

wet paper bag.

very wet, soggy, shredded paper bag.

why is the finish line so far away?

why does it seem like I cannot keep pushing? why is everyone sitting down and slowing?

I am about to die so I have no choice but to sit down, shift down and survive the rest of this wall. I watch three riders do the same, right in front of me. Dammit. If only I had ...

If only...

ehhh, screw it. I did my best. This wall was just a bit too steep and a bit too long.



I had a look at the final push to the line. I didn't set a one-minute record but came close to it. I did, however, count the duration of the push.

1:45 fully into zone 6. Total anaerobic for almost 2 minutes. No wonder I hit my daily heart rate max of 188 going over the line, staggering to the edge of the road and then staring at my shoes hyperventilating for what seemed an eternity.

Everybody's doing it! why be different?

4th is good. I get points. Happy.

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