Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting back on track - Wilmington/Whiteface Road Race

After the fallout from the crash, and weeks of pain and expensive road rash care, and a disastrously horrible Killington I decided to skip Rochester. I needed time to get my head clear and let my body heal some more. I still cannot sleep on my left side, but it is getting better, and all of the road rash has healed (thanks in large part to Tegaderm, what a lovely product!)

So I had been monitoring my power numbers and general feelings on the bike over the past few weeks, and decided to take a chance on the Adirondack Race Weekend. I had done it last season and knew what to expect.

The first day's road race is billed as 55 miles (although my computer read 58 or so when I finished the race) which has us doing three laps of the main course, with three ascents of the hill leading to the feed zone, plus the final 1.6 mile ascent of Whiteface (just up to Santa's Workshop where the finish line is). I have wondered what it would be like to climb the entire 8 mile Whiteface after a race like this, but I think it might just be too much for me at my current level of development.

The word for the day: rain, and lots of it. It would affect the race quite a bit, as some of the twisty descents would have to be a lot less speedy if we wanted to stay alive. Not very warm either, maybe 60 degrees at the start. I went out with arm warmers, base layer, and a vest and cap. My number was pinned to the jersey beneath, and hence the vest would have to be removed at some point before the race finish.

Again they ran the Masters 35+ and 45+ together, with separate scoring. We had 50 pre-registered, but the official counts were only at 42 by race start. We roll out, and immediately I sense the antsy feel. Riders are already fighting for position even during the neutral start. I guess it's going to be that kind of a day.

Unwilling to force the issue, I allowed myself to be shuffled back. I know this course and I'm not in any danger here tailgunning as long as I make it back to a reasonable position before the climb. I do this, sort of. Actually, I was near the back at the climb but with fresh legs I got a chance to see how my improved form would work on the first time up. I worked my way through the riders, passing those who were on their way out, and even working my way past some of the stronger ones in the middle. I crested the hill in perfect position, about 8 wheels back. From this point on, there was a lot less of the ants-in-the-pants coming from the pack. Maybe the climb burnt off some of the jitters.

(starting to think this might just work out well for me)

Of course, there was a break up the road at the time, and few of us were willing to do much about it, and they just got further and further away as the race went on. We would generally keep a moderate pace, only going hard on the climbs. The few surges were pretty brutal though, stringing us out at 30+ at times. You had to be careful not to get behind the wrong wheels on the downhills though. Some folks were downright timid today, taking the "slower in the rain" idea way past the point of usefulness and into the "forcing myself and everyone behind me to burn a match to catch back on because I can't go downhill" realm.

And a very strict yellow line rule made it tough to move up at times and I was bitten by this on the second time up the hill. The rider in front of me has clearly used up his energy, and is destined to be never seen again. He's hugging the yellow line and a line of riders is passing him on the right. I'm screwed. I wait until there's a hole. I go. I work my way back up through these riders only to see the inevitable attack and stringing-out of the field in front of me and a gap appears in front of some rider ahead. The gap grows larger. I know if I stay where I am, my race is over.

I dig deep. I pass all the riders around me and focus on the back end of that shrinking field in front of me. Keep your form clean! Keep your upper body relaxed! Keep breathing! I put my head down and look at the road. I keep pushing and pushing. We clear the attack zone ( I mean feed zone) and they are still drilling it but I'm making progress. Keep pushing! Go! Go! Go!

Shut up legs!

I make it.

No sooner did I arrive at the back of the now-much-smaller field then I receive a hearty pat on the back. Turns out I had pulled two riders all the way back to the field with my chase. Hopefully they will remember this if I need a favor.

Now there are maybe 25 of us left. The final lap plays out as expected, with no real issues until we hit that awful hill for the last time. I wasn't in good position but it didn't matter this time. I had kept in contact for basically the entire climb, but the attack came again at the feedzone, splitting the field into two groups, with me chasing them.

I had to chase for the entire distance to the corner to the return road, and then two more miles into it when I got caught by a couple of riders (including, in the best stroke of luck, one of the guys I had helped earlier) who looked after me for a bit. I skip two pulls, then go to the front and drill it, bringing us back to the field (now only 19 riders) and home free until Whiteface.

Having burned such a huge stack of matches in my chase I wasn't sure if I could do much on Whiteface, but I was already pretty satisfied with my race performance, considering the crash and loss of form, and was really just thinking of this as a "first race back" kind of day.

They go, I try to follow. It's not going to happen. I settle in to my rhythm and just deal with Whiteface on my own. A few glances at the power meter revealed that I was still able to push threshold, maybe a bit more even.

But that was not going to be enough for me to hang with these guys, at least not until I can up my threshold a bit more.

I cross the line alone, 13th in the 35+. Possibly 25th overall, and the last of the men still standing in the peloton. Everyone else was either dropped or DNF.

Getting back on track. Yes.

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