Tuesday, May 17, 2005

EFTA #1, Watershed Wahoo

The best word to describe how I feel after this weekend's race is relief. There's been a whole lot of pedaling leading-up to this first race of the season. It's been 25 months since I began mountain bike racing and this is my first season training to compete as an Expert - and with an expectation of being in the hunt in the endurance events. I understand the limits of a 500 hour training regimine and that it will not put me on the top of the podium, but it's all my legs are capable of at this time, and all i'm willing to take-away from my other life, my real life. But, then again, this is as real as it gets.

To prep for the race, Jamie let me borrow his personal wheelset - some crossmax ust's - a big improvement over my ryhno lites (not so lites) and he gave me some rippin' deals on some stiffer cranks (xtr) and a nice lite fork with adjustable lock-out. Nice, nice upgrades on the Litespeed for this season and for few more. Got to get my own hoops, but all in good time. Support your local bike shop (Western Cycle!) - those guys are the ones takin' care of ya'!

Some background on the Wahoo course: It consists of a 0.5mile quick descent from the starting line down to a 6 mile fireroad loop around a scenic resevoir. It involves a couple sweeping turns, one decent climb, some rollers and one hairpin turn - nothing to get all worked-up over - but it can also be a teeth-clenching big ring grinder if you're willing to put the hammer down and hold-on. Upon completion of the 4th lap, riders ascend the 0.5 mile hill back to the start/finish area. All told there is only about 500 feet of climbing per lap with a few hundred feet back up to the finish line. A number of very talented road racers make one of their only mountain bike race appearances of the year at the Wahoo due to the non-technical nature of the course - and this helps change the dynamic of the race.

My goals for the day included beating 1:50 on the clock for the 25mile course and staying with a couple of guys who had beaten that time the year before. I'd ridden a 1:27 last year as a Sport over a shorter 3-lap (19mile) course and figured if i could be a minute faster per lap, plus do the extra lap for being an Expert, my legs were on-track - but i've sure had a lot of time to wonder if they would be.

I lined-up near the back of Senior II as I thought that was appropriate. Within seconds of the start (involves a guy saying "go") I had a ton of dust in my eyes and had completely forgotten Harry's advice to stay to the left. Big mistake. I got dumped into a mud pit which ground me to a near stop and into last place - or close to it. Wow, what a great way to kick-off the season. With some rapid eye blicking to clear the dust from my eyes, i gained speed and made the first turn onto the course. The adrenaline from being so far back pushed me to immediately make passes and improve my position - and in that action i discovered the answer to the question i'd been asking myself since January.

By mile 2 I had moved into 5th place or so and had surprised the crap out of myself - and if it wasn't for my incessant gaps for air, i'd have been smiling! I did, however, sing some Stones later in the race - for some reason, "You can't always get what you want ... repeat ... and if you try sometime, you get what you need" was in my head. You really have to sing that with Mick's inflection for the full effect... now i'm singing it again. I digress. Once the roadies and more experienced guys got organized and into a group, their pace quickened and I found myself spit-out the back-end of their train. Wasn't sure of my placement on the course, but was happy with my legs and felt like it was all working-out like it should. Of course, as I sit here two days later I wonder if i played it wrong, went hard early to catch-up due to being so far back off the start, used too much energy, then missed-out on sharing wheels. I guess I need to race more to find out, but know that no amount of work this year - or any year - will make-up the 9mins Ben Moody put on me. Maybe 4 more mins next year (yeah and like 200 more yearly hours of training to get 'em), but 9 is an eternity. By the way, that's like 50hours of training for 1minute on the Wahoo course for me. Scary analysis.

The rest of the race was pretty typical. Got passed, stayed with that guy, passed him back... got passed by a couple top Veterans as they raced towards the lead group from their time stagger of 1min behind us Senior II's. Felt good, was happy, and worked hard throughout the race. Had medium-level discomfort from stomach cramping starting at mile 2 and lasting for much of the race, but nothing disabilitating - just need to pinpoint the right mix of fuels the morning of an event as this happened a few times last year as well. The good news was that I had plenty of energy and never felt like I was bonking, so i'll take some cramping to have steady energy. The oranges they handed-up at the water area were a nice, refreshing surprise as well... interesting the things that make a race - for me it was the oranges! And meeting my goals, of course!

In the end, rode a 1:48:43 and finished 7th in Senior II, 13th in category. With two seasons of racing under my belt, I found myself much more relaxed while standing at the start and throughout the race. I didn't feel compelled to ride any pace other than what my internal engine told me was correct and my splits were relatively consistent from lap to lap with the exception of the first lap. However, it took more out of my legs than a Sport race would have. Not sure if that's pace, milage or both. In the past, my legs have felt pretty lively hours after a race - with one of my best training days the day after an event. But now, two days after Wahoo, the legs are more weary, but also kinda lively. Got a decent day in yesterday and am resting today. Don't want to interfere with endurance training, so a medium-long day is set for tomorrow with thursday being a medium distance, higher intensity day, then 2 days or tapering into Clough. Then a couple real long rides during the 2 week hiatus before Bradbury...


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