Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kearsarge "Hill Climb"

I've been doing a fair amount of procrastinating in terms of writing this recap because I walked away from this race feeling extremely frustrated for a few reasons. A couple of weeks to reflect has dulled the sting so onward with the post.

Earlier in the week I had completed a strong interval session on Laurel Street in Marlborough and walked away thinking that I had made significant progress on the steeper grades. Laurel Street has one section of about three hundred meters that kicks up to 24% two thirds of the way up the climb. The goal was to ride hard to that section, managed the steeps while working on power, then going full gas on the upper slopes that level out to 9%. I was especially pleased when I uploaded the ride and saw that my perceived effort level actually matched the times on the intervals as I had ridden a negative split workout. Everything seemed to be lining up nicely for Kearsarge on Saturday morning. My form was still intact, I was confident following Greylock, and the weather looked spectacular. An added bonus of the race was a five hundred dollar sprint prime at the base of the climb four and a half miles into the race. I was totally primed for that prime!

Saturday morning I was up before the alarm and immediately could tell that I had good legs. The dark roast was ground, brewing, and filling the air with glorious aroma by 5:30. I lallygagged around the house for some odd reason and got way behind. Somehow I had managed to think that the race was starting at the same time as Greylock a couple of weeks prior and had no urgency in my preparation. As I was eating my breakfast it occurred to me that I needed to get it in gear or I would be in danger of missing the race. I charged to Warren as fast as Mary's new Prius would let me and I ran smack into my next complication, I didn't know where I was going! If your a fan of rookie mistakes this is your post! I got to the race site with mere moments to spare before the registration table was slated to shut down with allegedly no exceptions. I was still quite cheery and heavily caffeinated following a pot of dark roast so I set about setting up for my warm-up. Looking at my watch it was unfortunately apparent that I was in for a truncated warm-up. Given the elevation profile of the race I wasn't overly concerned. Clearly these hill climber weren't going to take off from the gun so I would be able to use the first four and a half miles as a warm-up before the climb. I still managed a seven minute ride on the trainer and was easily able to get my hear rate where it was going to need to be on the climb later in the ride. I packed up the car and headed to the start area for final instructions.

The only unfortunate part about this race was the waiting that went into the start. The race director was adamant that everyone needed to be at the pre-race meeting and that we stuck to the time schedule to the second. There was a considerable amount of standing around at the starting line, somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes, that essentially washed away my warm-up. Despite all of these complications I was still confident that I could race extremely well. There was the mildly daunting site of several bike racers on the starting line. Non-typical hill climbers were crashing the party for that five hundred dollars! The Sunappee racing squad was represented in full force on the line as well as a few other sprinter looking fellows.

At the gun I had the rare pleasure of being in the perfect gear and immediately clipped in and shot to the lead. A paceline quickly formed and the tempo was hot from the gun. Within the first two minutes of the gun the first attack came from the Sunapee team. This was the selection that I was looking for so I instantly jumped and found a back wheel and hauled myself back to the front. I was so confident in my recent form that I was racing like an idiot. Given that there were four or five riders from one team I should have quickly dispatched my dream of winning that sprint. However I was so stubborn that I was sure that I could take down a whole team if the road tilted in the right direction before the sprint. Attacks were coming literally left and right and I was desperately chasing each of them with the same fury. My lack of a proper warm-up was undoubtedly rearing its ugly head and my body was quickly heading into the red zone. I felt like I was trying to race a track mile cold in the old days. Despite all of the frenzied feelings that were firing or misfiring in my body I was having a blast. I was right were I wanted to be, smack dab in the middle of a serious bike race. At approximately four miles I started trying to set myself up in the break but only managed to get myself in a bad spot. I was planning a move up the inside shoulder on the right but got forced more to the side than I would have liked by the rider in front. A move happened in that instant off the front. I responded however I was riding in sand in the breakdown lane and when I went full gas I totally spun out and nearly hit my nether region on the stem. Panic set in and I threw all of my logs on the fire to counter the move. I clawed to the back of the break of five but just as I started to catch a wheel the sprint for the prime went off the front. At that moment I blew up and lost the the group of five at three hundred meters to the sprint and the start of the climb. I was totally washed out heading into the park as we hit the foot of the climb. There was no denying that I was cooked and pity set in quickly. I'm ashamed of how I rode the climb of this race. I sulked as the second group on the road started to catch and pass me as the grades ramped upward. I couldn't get my heart rate under control and my legs were swimming in lactic acid from covering all of the moves. There isn't a single thing in my athletic career that I hate more than the self-pity game. I wasted ten minutes of the climb being a baby convincing myself that I wasn't a bike racer, that I messed up a great opportunity.

Finally half way up the climb I snapped out of my funk and was able to get back to work. I reestablished a rhythm and quickly started narrowing gaps and taking back time on the riders in front of me on the road. I took back four or five positions and even worked myself back into the top five. Unfortunately my sprint legs weren't there in the final three hundred meters and I was easily dispatched by two riders and limped across the line in seventh place.

Time for takeaways!

1.) A proper warm-up is going to be critical for me as I continue on this new adventure. I'm always going to be searching for a break so my body needs to be ready to cover those big early moves.

2.) I can't try to win using my limiter as my primary weapon! Right now my sprinting is the weak link my cycling progression. Clearly I don't fit the mold however I feel like I can produce big power and I still have great leg speed from being a middle distance runner.

3.) Patience Patience PATIENCE! Had I combined a solid warm-up with my strength on rollers by sitting on the back of the group I would have set myself up to use my strength as a climber. All of the moves were brought back together. Had I been patient and not expended all of that energy chasing I could have been the attacker on the climb. Sure I wouldn't have won the five hundred dollars but I could have walked way with one hundred and fifty for the overall win.

4.) No PITY PARTIES! I have to remember that not every race is going to end with a win. I was an outlier in running and triathlon and my winning percentage in those sports is not normal. I have to accept that sometimes seventh is awesome.

As of now my year has dwindled and I am taking my yearly rest before gearing up 100% for cycling next year. I made one last attempt at running last week and dinged myself up pretty badly. My foot still hurt pretty bad so I overcompensated with my left side. My left piraformis and hamstring have been on fire for a week now! Also,  I have started to lay the groundwork for my training with Tim and Darren for next year. The plan is to take this week off than start building some general fitness before jumping into the plan with both feet.



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