After a hectic school week left me with exactly 1 hour on the bike since my last race, I lined up for the second Root 66 race of the year, the Fat Tire Classic.
Now, Winding Trails holds a special place in my heart.
1. It was the location of my first and second bicycle race, ever (last race of the season in 2001/first race of the season in 2002). (either 2001/2 or 2000/1, can't remember)
2. It's a fun course.
3. I hate it.
At it's core, the Fat Tire Classic is a roadie course. Technically, it's the easiest course of the series. Some dudes ride cyclocross bikes on it.
But all that is not why I hate the course, just a symptoms of the course itself. I hate the course because it is absolutely unrelenting.
This race is truly a time trial on knobbies. You'll never see closer time gaps in a mountain bike race than on this course. And while they have added some cool, flowing singletrack in past years and even more this year, it's still fast.
So, traditionally I post this at the end, mostly because I think it's just not all that interesting. But I was to stress how unrelenting this course is.
Zone 3 is over lactate threshold. zone 2 is lactate threshold. Out of zone is the time after I'd collapsed after the race and forgot to press the stop recording button.
Anyway on to the race.
The race's start featured a sandy uphill to split the pack up. The best line was to the left, so UNH's Jeff, Uconn's Adam, Uconn/Team Motor's (?) Dan and myself camped out literally ON the start line, freezing and shivering, waiting for the first call to the line.
I was determined to not start as hard as last weekend, but I wanted the front. My plan was to jump the line, hopefully form a front group with 2 or 3 riders, and then work together from there.
So I jumped, kept a steady pace, ended up at the front anyway, checked back, and...I had a gap. The sand must have wreaked havoc worse than I thought. Anyway, the emotion that accompanies a gap quickly overcame me, and I started thinking, in a quiet, soft tone...
Thankfully, I held back the urge, and kept a consistent pace. Looking back about a mile in, I could see 3 chasers. At a mile and a half, two, and by two miles, one chaser...who was closing in. Ugh.
He worked his way up to me on a flat, offered to work together, and then promptly gapped me on the next hill. I need to work on my hill climbing-I lost all three spots last week on hills.
Anyway, that was the end of the glory. Throughout the race, I faded. 25 minute first lap, 27.5 minute second lap, and a 28.5 minute third lap.
On the third lap, I'll offer a qualifier. I chose to slow down to pace myself with the eventual Mr. 5th place. I'd planned to recover, let him work and kick past him at the finish. Instead, he plowed through a 50 foot mud section way, way faster than I had the legs to do, about a half mile from the finish line. So there went that plan. My qualifier probably isn't worth much in terms of time, but I'll add it anyway.
So my pathetic showing in the mud had me checking behind me, to see if I could relax a little and coast into the line. Instead, up came 7th place. Great. I tried to put in an effort, but realized how gassed I was pretty quickly as he pulled in behind me.
He caught me on the flat just before a quick uphill kick to the line, and tried to sprint past me. I did manage to recover some dignity by starting my sprint at the right point, just as he pulled up beside me. He let out this horrible, gutteral sound (I later learned was a leg cramp), and pulled across the line in 6th place.
At which point I promptly collapsed. My sprint to defeat the leg cramper was the nail in the coffin.
So lessons learned.
#1. Pre-ride the course at, or close to, race pace- In our pre-ride, we'd assumed about 20-22 minute fast laps, which put our efforts at about an hour. riding ~5 minute longer laps doesn't sound like much, but it adds up. So definitely get a feel for the length of the course
#2. Nutrition- I have pre-race nutrition settled pretty well. My in-race nutrition sucks. I need to force myself to suck down a gel just before and during the first lap. I think it definitely would have helped that 2nd lap.
#3. Calm down at the start-Even if the gaps there, I really need to relax and follow a few wheels the first few miles. I am really murdering myself on the starts.
#4. Ride more- 1 hour in 1 week= not good.
Next week is up in Massachusetts, before the series takes a break and it's time to return to the tarmac. Never raced it before, should be fun.
Here's the totals/averages for the race.