Writing about epic awesome victories is much more fun than terrible death marches that make you question why you compete. Writing a blog about training and racing makes you accountable to readers that deserve to know just as much about the awful days as the awesome days.
Saturday morning I was up without the assistance of the alarm and could tell that I had good legs for the Tour of Hilltowns Road Race presented by the Northampton Cycling Club. After reaching the kitchen I had the unpleasant realization that my coffee grinder had broken. I was a little stressed about his development but a quick trip to Target in Keene quickly made the complication a distant memory. The biggest complication of the morning was the unrelenting diarrhea that accompanies my microscopic colitis that I have been battling the last month. I was diagnosed with this relatively rare autoimmune condition three years ago just after we moved to Marlborough. Unfortunately over the last month my symptoms have flared pretty dramatically and I haven’t been able to get things back under control. Over the last ten days I have been super diligent about addressing my symptoms without any relief. My ability to absorb nutrients or stay properly hydrated has been significantly compromised lately. Being the stubborn idiot that I am I really thought I could continue to train and race through this unsettled period. Saturday those delusions vanished and I accepted that I need to take a step back and address my health before I can be competitive on the bike.
Upon arrival at the race I realized that it was pretty muggy and that hydration would be a major focus of the race. At the packet pick-up the woman that was running the table wasn’t going to give me my number because my racing license didn’t say that I was a cat three racer. Fortunatly pro cyclist and all around nice guy Anthony Clark stepped in told the woman about my racing prowess. She relented and gave me the number thanks to Anthony! I was truly grateful and even happier at my decision to race all of the NCC crits through the month of July.
Back at the car I got kitted up and ready to rock. I wore my traditional Elm City Velo kit and S-Works Evade helmet to cut through the wind. The high temperatures led me to forego a traditional warm up knowing that the early climbs would surely suffice for such a long race. The race was two thirty-one mile laps with six climbs per lap that required respect and attention. At the rollout I was confident and settled in at the front end of the field. On the early steep hills I followed PJ McQuade’s wheels and we succeeded in stringing out the pack. Over the summit Will Crabtree joined me on the front and we crushed the steep scary downhill. Around the dangerous high speed corner in Buckland center, where my parents were standing, I had established a ten second gap. I sat up and waited for Will and we debated making a run for it only ten miles into the race. Once the bunch realized that it was Will and I they quickly got organized reeled us in on the downhill. Up the major twenty minute climb of Clesson Brook Road I felt fantastic. PJ was setting a hard tempo on the front trying to string out the field. My legs felt fantastic and I did my best to maintain position in the first ten riders. My heart rate was hovering in the 168 to 170 range which is completely manageable. Over the top of the climb I took a flyer and established another gap. Scott Yarosh from NCC joined me and immediately went to work crushing the downhills. While I didn’t expect any of these moves to stick I did expect them to tire out the competition and get ride of any passengers or sprinters. Through the end of the first lap I felt great and was actively planning my strategy for a big attack on the second lap. My plan was to try and get separation on the early climbs with the hope that another two or three riders would bridge up to me to create a breakaway that would stay away for the remainder of the day.
On cue right before the climb I attacked off the front again I easily established a gap. This time however something was different. My power was zapped and I could feel the early signs of cramps in my legs. I was worried and sat up and waited for the group. Suddenly as the catch happened I struggled to hold wheels. Everything felt terrible up the climb and I started to suffer. I had to turn myself inside out to get back on to the back of the second group up the second major climb. We chased on the decent and were able to get back on to the back of the group. This came at a huge cost and warning lights were starting to flash all over on the control panel. Onto Clesson Brook I was fighting for survival with every pedal stroke. Despite my best effort at hydrating during the race my skin was already starting to feel dry. The cramps really started to take hold and three quarters of the way up the climb I blew up and got spit out the back.
At the top of Clesson Brook I could have taken a right and coasted downhill all the way to the parking lot and been on the road before the race even finished. I scoffed at the notion of quitting, especially in a race that I cared so much about. Thus started the hour and fifteen minute solo cramp filled death march to the finish line. I tried to rally by drinking and eating everything that I had left but it was too late. I was cooked! I pedaled squares for the last hour and cramped so badly that I’m still sore two days later. The masters race came past me like I was riding a mountain bike. The cat four race came past me on the decent like I was on a single speed. I was so upset that I wanted to cry riding the last ten miles to the finish. Across the line last in my race with the exception of the dropped riders that dropped out rather than shamefully riding across the line fifteen minutes after the winner. I was so embarrassed and upset riding through the finish. I felt shame and disappointment. I really felt like I had let my teammates down that have supported me all season. We were all excited about this race and I laid an egg out on the course instead of delivering.
Looking ahead getting my gastrointestinal issues at bay is the top priority. Yesterday afternoon I researched different treatment options outside of the conservative approach that I have taken the last three years. If I have any hope of riding strong at the Green Mountain Stage Race this needs to be fixed within the next week.
Sorry to disappoint!