Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Bit of a Special Day

Tunnel Vision:  (noun)
  1. Defective sight in which objects cannot be properly seen if not close to the center of the field of view.
  2. The tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view.
Yeah, that's what people develop on race day.  It's supposed to be that way.

But after I finished my race today, I thought about what else was going on. I realized that it was a very special day.  My wife participated in a charity ride!  After last year's El Tour de Tucson, she talked to me about the emotions and feelings she saw in the faces of the participants.  She wondered what they felt, what they thought, what they had experienced.  It looked powerful to her.  Today, she completed the 27 mile course, her longest ride to date, in 2:12.  She's been having some problems keeping down water due to an ulcer, and hasn't been able to ride at all, save last weekend.

As she crossed the finish line I was there, with my parents, cheering her on.  She said, "I hurt in places I'm not supposed to hurt."

To sweeten the pot, my brother-in-law participated in the big ride today, 73 miles (they called it a metric century).  And, my father ran a 5K this morning with my sister.  My dad PR'd and won 2nd in his age group, my sister won first in hers.  Apparently they executed a reeling-in of a particular runner that my sister wanted to catch.

Last night my youngest daughter ran in a track meet, her final of middle school.  She's a bit saddened by the closing of that chapter in her life, but says she doesn't want to run in high school.  I spoke with her about it, tried to make it clear that I will support her in whatever decision she makes, don't really care if she runs or not, but that she is really loving the sport and should consider for her own reasons.

This is quite a special day (or weekend) because last year at this time I was riding my first "race" (really a charity ride, but hey, it's got a timing chip and you can beat other people.)  Anyhow, at the time, nobody in my family had done anything at all of the sort.  I wanted the challenge and along the way discovered how much fun they (and similar events) are.  It's great to see my family discovering the same things.

Racing is a whole different level of celebration compared to what we used to do!

As for my particular experience ... I wore the coolest socks in the race, hands down.


I got tons of comments from, "I've found Waldo," to "You need red pig tails to match!"

For the race I wanted to finish in 3 hours or less, but figured that with everything that's gone on, I'd be around 3:20.  What I discovered surprised me.

There's a lot more strategy involved with riding fast than running fast.  A lot.  Who you "go" with makes all the difference!  Let me explain.

While I arrived early, it wasn't early enough.  The platinum group (platinum riders have completed authorized rides within certain time limits, meaning, they're fast) lines up at the front.  Those that wish to qualify for platinum show up early, stage immediately behind them.  I was stuck around a bunch of people riding in tennis shoes.

My plan had been to start easy.  Now I'd have to fight through traffic and sprint around people.  To make matters worse there was a significant headwind to start the race.  Nothing crazy, but enough that moving along at 15 mph was work.  And since I wanted to catch people I had to go a lot faster than that. 

At the start I pushed ahead and tried to catch the group out front, but no dice.  The wind was too much.  Soon I found myself in a bad situation...alone.  Nobody around me at all.  That means that I was working way harder than anybody else!  The group I'd left was a long way behind and the one in front...just as far ahead.  Exactly what I didn't want to do.

I knew I'd burn up if I caught my target group (if I could) and get dropped anyway.  However, they weren't widening the gap, so I also knew that if I had started with them, I would've kept up.  Next time!

I slowed, as I learned in the last race, and a large group formed, and stayed together throughout the race, growing to about 50 people or so.  I just stayed in the middle unless the group stretched out too far.  Sometimes a rider that is getting dropped forms another pack, all of whom get dropped.  The problem is, none, save the front guy, know they're being dropped until it's too late!

This happened on hills.  I found that my hill training paid off in spades!  People were standing and pumping, shifting, dying going up the hills ... but I was calmly in the seat and passing people whenever needed.

At the hardest climb I found myself 3rd from the front of the group ... NOT where I wanted to be.  We crested the hill and shot down.  I was fresh and downhills, well, that's why we ride, right?  I soon found myself out in front, again.  DOH!  I had fun for a bit, cranked it out then backed off and got swallowed by the pack again.

I had gotten through the toughest part of the race without too much effort, though I was sweating.  And apparently, I was not drinking enough.

At mile 36 I cramped.  The same exact leg, same exact spot as the previous two rides I've done.  This time I had been taking electrolytes all week.  I brought salt tablets, took 4 over the next half hour or so and drained 2 liters of accelerade.  It kept the cramps from being debilitating, but it often felt like they were right there at the surface.  I punched and massaged the cramping muscle and rested as much as possible.  I also pedaled one-legged for a long time, even unclipping my left foot at a point.

I never felt right again.  I stayed in the last part of the pack, just ahead of those being dropped.  But cramps or not, at that point it wouldn't have mattered.  I had wanted to open up a bit after the climbing was finished, but the group I was in stayed about the same speed.  The other group did what I wanted to do and sped up as the course got easier.  They finished with a solid 10 minute gap before the group I was in...not a soul in between!

At the end of the race the pack filled all lanes of the road.  I wanted to hammer out the last two miles, but couldn't pass due to the congestion.

And they were slowing...25, 22, 20, 18 mph!  WTH!!!!  MOVE PEOPLE!

Finally I had my shot and said, literally, "Cramps be damned," and slammed it.  I went from the back of the pack to the front, slipping around on the far left side of the white stripe on the edge of the road, a strip about 2 inches wide.  Things thinned out with about a quarter mile left.  It was awesome because these two guys sped up as I passed them, that made me push harder still.  I left them behind, too.  That was fun!   I finished behind just a few other people but just a few feet.  I'd have caught them too with just a bit more time.

When I finished I felt great.  I was happy and off the bike had no cramping issues.  I went back to the finish line to cheer people and take some photos.

I think I have the conditioning to qualify as "platinum," which means you're fast.  I just don't have the experience.  I needed to drink more and needed to show up earlier.  I had a lot of juice left at the end of the race, too much gas in the tank really.  And yeah, while I had cramps, ultimately, they made no difference.  I couldn't have caught that front group anyway.

I think the cramps were partly fatigue, partly dehydration.  I drove over 150 miles yesterday, was outside a lot, and finally arrived at my in-laws' house (where we slept) just after 10 pm.  I still had to get everything ready for the morning, which came at 4 am. 

In the end I finished 120 out of 514.  The time was 3:20, making for an average speed of about 22 mph. 

I think I raced smart, didn't compound my mistakes.  I handled the cramping issue as well as I think was possible.  I definitely had a great time, especially at the end.  I had an even better time cheering on my wife and brother-in-law!  And hey, that's what it's about!  Getting outside, enjoying good health and competing a little. 

1 comment:

  1. Neat to hear about cycling race strategy. It sounds like you did the best you could with what you had... and next time you'll be that much wiser (and faster)! Isn't it neat how much more is involved in racing besides just speed?