Sunday, July 8, 2007

State Road Race, an Epic day

There is an old saying that says what doesnt kill you just makes you stronger. Although compared to someone lost at sea or climbing mount everest, I suppose my race day doesnt compare, but it was very hard, hot and long day of sport that I will remember as true suffering.

The State course was a very tough 18.7 mile (done 4x for us Cat.3's) rolling course that starts with a gradual climb about a mile from start finish with two signifcant climbs per lap (both under a mile) that climb steadily with steeper pitches at the top. The toughest being at about 14 miles that climbs, pitches up steeply and then levels out and climbs again at a steep pitch. Heres the course profile per Scott Thor: The final 4 miles are the toughest with deep roller after roller all the way to the start finish. But the course never lets up as its always up or down.

Starting my race report on Lap three of four. Dave Steiner my teamate for this race hit it on the head by saying this was a race of attrition. Even though only one attack and breakaway had gone (a solo rider in a green jersey) the course had stripped us of 15 of the 30 starters by L3 even with a relaxed pace. Finally after the climb at about mile 5 a rider showed his card by jumping effortlessly away form us on a climb. He looked like he was just dancing on the pedals. I think he was a Saturn of Dayton rider. An Amcon rider bridged to him and then UPMC (whom I was informed midrace to key off as the strongest rider in the group) jumped and I went across with him.

Finally a group off the front and we started to work together. A Breakaway rider also made the move while I think the Amcon rider mistakenly faded back to the peleton. Now we had a group of four and moving away from the peloton was going to be easy work because the group never worked the first 40 miles. Sadly Dave dropped his chain and never got back on even though he was having a strong race!! I felt great as I prefer a higher sustained pace then the sow/fast/slow. We had a big gap in no time and this remained till we hit the hardest climb at 14 miles. The climber jumped hard and Breakaway went with him. I stayed at my pace even though I wasnt suffering too much and the UPMC rider made a comment he wasnt going to kill himself this early (we still had 22 miles to go). But when we got over the second steep pitch the gap had grown too much to close quickly on the descent and I rolled over the top to wait for the UPMC rider, but damn, I had dropped him and as he came over the top he was slumped over his bars.

SO now theres the solo rider up the road, the two then myself and UPMC spread across the course. I started to chase at Threshold for 5 or 6 miles and got damn close to the two, but never got back on. I was chasing hard too and not letting up hoping for any chance to bridge up. As we crossed start finish and started the gradual climb I could see behind easily a minute and noticed no one was behind me. I had dropped the UPMC rider and consigned myself to finishing 4th and solo. I could still see the two guys up the road, but now just specks.

But then it happened and it happened in a split second. I blew up hard core. The kind of leg sapping, mind weakening blow up. And on this course with no relief I knew it was going to be a long last lap. I didnt think that was going to happen after being just fine chasing and strong all day. Reason? Well one comes to mind which I'll talk about later-dehydration!! So the course went like this, barely turn the pedals over on the hills (I went as slow as 4.5mph on the last lap), just trying to survive. Then over the top, big ring and drop gears down to the 12 many times and just push as hard as I could till the next hill, small rings it at just the right moment to have leg speed to get me as far up the climb.

I had suffered and slowed so much that over the climb at 5 mile mark I saw the UPMC rider coming back at me. He finally passsed me on the descent and I tried to stay on his wheel. That barely lasted a mile and I said goodbye to 4th place. Then later another rider came from nowhere and passed me and he and the UPMC rider looked to hook up-there went 5th place. I was so cooked that even the idea of shelter from two other riders couldnt motivate me to ride harder. Lap 3 had been done at 21.6mph ave speed while my last lap was 17.7 mph and took 9 more minutes to complete the lap!!

I really suffered physically and mentally when we hit 514 the toughest stretch. I thought every single negative thought I could and almost listened to them all. I thought about passing out on the side of the road in a clump, I thought about flagging down a sag vehicle for a ride in and I almost got off my bike to walk up the leg buster at mile 14. But I kept thinking to myself of that brown sign that said 1-mile to go and that kept me motivated even though the rollers were killng me. My back hurt, I had a headache, my right big toe hurt (???), my right knee hurt, my butt hurt and of course my thighs and other muscles were killing me, my triceps were tired from being in the drops trying to stay aero not to mention I was having involuntary muscle twitches here and there.

I forgot to say that I also went flying by the green jersey guy who had been solo for 3 laps and when I went by he turned around and stopped. Amazing so I was now elevated to 5th. Finally the last rider (RGF) passed me coming onto 514. So now I had gone from making the decisive breakaway of 4 to getting dropped by two, passing one and getting passed by three others. IN my head I made myself happy knwoing I was still top 10 in a brutal race, but the math was undeniable. Had I dug deep up the climb and stayed with the two (which I could have, but didnt) I had a bronze in the bag and a shot at the win.

Now its possible to say that I would have blown and I even admit they would have dropped me the last time up the climb on 514, but you never know. My solo chase was all out and without anyone to draft over the rollers, I burned every match!! I rolled into the finish and thankfully Gary Burkholder was standing with a bottle of water. IT was a brutal last hour of racing and possily the worst suffering I had experienced on a bike.

Now not to gross anyone out, but I was a covered in white salt meaning I had stopped sweating. I drank three bottles on the bike, two bottles afterwards, recovery drink, came home downed a beer and another two glasses of water and when i finally went to the bathroom (7 hours after the last ) I barely peed!! Now thats dyhydrated!!

So I rolled in after 22 miles of solo chasing and then unbelievable suffering and beat down every demon thought and thats my victory. And as an added bonus, one rider was from PA so I got 5th place!! SO although I had positioned myself for a shot at the win, I still managed to get 5th while flat out bonked for 14 miles. I have been telling my teammates this last week the harder the race is, the better it suits me, but this was definately stretching it.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Way to hang in there!! I know my hydration / nutrition plan could have been a bit better as well. Oh well, lots of lessons learned...

Nice job!