Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Racing - 2014 Ronde de Bethel

You can read about my trials and tribulations in the post before this but basically I wasn't really keen on actually racing. I mean, okay, I wanted to race, but more as a vehicle to ride away some of the immense stress I've felt rather than race in the sense that I wanted to be competitive.

One thing I didn't mention in the promoting post is that I kept putting off the eating thing. The night prior I didn't eat much, I woke up pretty hungry, and then for one reason or another I kept saying to myself that I'd get food "right after this".

Well, this happened, that happened, and before I knew it the clock said 10:30 AM and I hadn't eaten for something like 13 hours. I went to the bakery (street clothes, no bike) and ordered a couple pizzas, some sweets, and a coffee for myself (and a hot chocolate for Joel's other half). I ate the sweets pretty quickly, a couple pieces of the pizza at about 12:30 (I forgot to get them), and then it was time to race.

I changed quickly, eating two gels and a pack of Bloks, stuff I'd picked up before the club ride. I debated having all the Bloks because they boast electrolytes and if there's one thing that makes me cramp it's consuming electrolyte stuff. Nonetheless I was still shaking with a combination of cold and hunger so I stuffed the remaining 4 or 5 Bloks in my mouth. I managed to get them down without choking, but for a minute or two I just grinned to people, my mouth closed.

I hoped I dressed okay for the temperatures. I had on my heavy tights (windproof front), long sleeve base layer, jacket, gloves, neck thing, head thing, and booties. At first my head was cold - I hadn't taped the vents, which I should - but after about 10 laps I was suffering so much I forgot about my cold head.

Single file, strung out, gaps everywhere.

The race started out with some aggressive riding. I had two teammates in the race, Joel and Esteban. Joel went after the first move, forming a three rider break. Later two more bridged, including a long time Bethel racer Vassos and a NY rider Eli. I mention the latter because if you were in the race you saw the guy in the yellow jersey with pink booties constantly rolling off the front. That's Eli.

During the winter I wondered how I'd go on the hill. In 2010, at under 160 lbs, I actually dragged my brakes on the slower laps because I didn't want people to think I was doping. The lower weight really helped my climbing.

In 2013, starting the Series about 23-24 pounds heavier, I struggled to get up the hill without blowing up.

This year it was somewhere in the middle. I was 15-16 pounds heavier Saturday morning but I think I was weighing myself at the wrong time. I'm guessing that I'm maybe 14-15 pounds heavier than I was in 2010. No flying up the hill but not quite as bad as 2013 when I struggled literally every lap.

Near the front but carefully not at the front.

At some point in the race I headed up toward the front. I'm not normally one to move up that much but I do move around in the last 20 or so riders in a field. With a tiny 40 rider field if I moved up even a little I'd be near the front. I spent a few laps up front.

Bethel Cycle had a guy off so I discretely followed. I knew they were sitting on moves and I didn't want to ride against them. At some point I thought that maybe the guy off the front wasn't one of theirs so I asked.

"You have a guy off the front?"
"Yeah." He looked at me. "Maybe I'm not supposed to tell you that."

We both laughed.

Even with no wind I got pummeled up front so I eased back. The break came back also, a few hard efforts bringing them back.

I started to struggle a bit. I looked at the lap cards, hoping to see 10 laps or less to go, out of 30. Instead it said 18.

We weren't even halfway through.

I dialed back my efforts and tried to save something. I was already digging pretty deep.

Suffering following Esteban.

With just a few laps in the race Esteban rolled to the front. I happened to be there so I followed him, an accidental piece of teamwork. I started to blow up and had to ease off. On review, looking at the helmet cam footage, you can see that I'm in the 500w range, my heart rate in the upper 150s. My heart rate is a bit deceiving because I'd been anaerobic so it lagged behind my effort - I'd see mid 160s before I recovered.

Joel asked me if I was going to contest the field sprint. After a couple laps, when I confirmed that my legs were, in fact, cramping, I told him no. Of course the pace eased significantly right after that and I could rest and recover. I felt like I'd have a 20-80 chance of making the sprint, more than the 5-95 chance. At best I usually think 80-20 so 20-80 wasn't unusual. I've done sprints on worse.

Bell lap.

At the bell I was close to the front, but of course everyone was close to the front. I eased, let myself back a bit, and figured that if I opened the sprint from pretty far back then if I cramped I'd be less of a danger to the others. Everyone obliged, the cross headwind just before the hill slowed things down, and I had a great opportunity to get to the line.

Then, as I set off, I cramped.

I headed left, too far left, to try and clear the road. I knew I'd have to basically slow and if my leg seized I'd have to stop or fall.

When I sat up.

I got to the left curb just as my legs went. Everyone went by me. The guy next to me got 6th in the race, 4th in the sprint, so I was there.

But I wasn't.

Tactically I was fine. I just didn't have the legs to back up my tactics.

The only shot of the trailer, Expedition, registration area.

I clawed my way up to the line, death grip on the tops, trying not to cramp. I managed to roll over to the registration area. I had my head down most of the time so the above shot is the best one I got of the registration trailer.

The SRM told the tale. I'd averaged, for 60 minutes, 202 watts. I normally can't sprint if I average that - the last time I saw that number was in the 2009 Harlem Crit and I blew up exiting the second last turn. I normally see 160-180 watts, and if I see over 180 it's a special race for me.

202 watts is a bit crazy, considering all the stuff I've been doing other than training. So good that I could do it, not good that I had to do it.

Next week, without having to do Sweep, without spending most of a few nights out in the freezing cold making or packing stuff, and remembering to eat before 10:30 AM on race day, I hope to have more reserves, some more legs, and some more speed. I'll see how it goes.

No comments: