Two weekends ago I got back to racing after a month of on and off again training. This last month’s life events took precedence over training. It all began with the cruise, then a long weekend where I did get to train, finally my annual training for the Guard. I brought my bike to the training but knew that it was going to be tough to find time AND energy to complete anything. My goals going into the two weeks were really just to maintain fitness. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
(I know that this is kind of repeating itself from my last post. Bear with me...)
Annual training, the season of military convoys, sleeping in tents in the heat, and an ever accumulating odor. I recently changed units for a “promotion” which brought me back to my roots in an engineering unit. I put “promotion” in quotation marks because the lovely Army decided to require a certain class in order to get the pay and pin that comes with the promotion. The class is difficult to schedule and the Army knows this fact. This is really just a cost savings measure for the Army because now you have a bunch of Sergeants working as Staff Sergeants but don’t get the pay or actual rank. Brilliant! Rant over and back to engineering. The cool thing about engineering units is that they tend to have a little bit more equipment compared to the MPs. Being a mechanic, more equipment means more stuff to work on there for passing the time faster. Usually the things to work on are just services but any opportunity to get the hands dirty is ok by me. The first week of training was out in the field. The unit was practicing “field” operations and running basic military drills. This meant tents and cots for all of us. I didn’t actually mind the setup this time. I was smart and setup my sleep spot in the FRS (Forward Repair System) which meant private sleeping area. This also gave me an area to knock out some bike training. I was able to get in 5 workouts that first week. When I initially scheduled the training for the two weeks I was quite ambitious. I had 90-120 minute workouts scheduled. I ended up only ever doing 60-80 minute workouts. On top of it being hot, I was constantly defending myself from the horseflies. Every night there seemed to be two flies that came right in the middle of a hard interval.
Towards the end of the first week I began to suffer from some sort of GI track infection. My farts were deadly and my poop was liquid. Luckily (for me at least), those were the only symptoms. I didn’t lack energy or lose my appetite. I did however compromise my immune system which led to a miserable second week. The second week of training we moved over to these more established clam shell huts. They were glorified caves with a little bit of air conditioning. After one night in the new hut I began to feel congested. By the second night I was coughing and could barely breath. This meant workouts were even less frequent. I attempted a couple of workouts but with the increased temperature of outside and the sinus/chest cold I had to bail. I only got in one workout that entire second week. My fitness level coming out of annual training was low. I had just over 1 month to prepare for Cascade Classic. Time to get to work…
What is the best way to jump start some fitness? Racing! The first weekend back I packed up my car and headed to Cincy for the Hyde Park Blast and Madeira Criterium. My expectations of winning or even getting on the podium were low. I just wanted to use the weekend to kick my fitness into gear and get some racing back into the legs and mind. Saturday was Hyde Park blast, a shoe shaped course just outside of downtown Cincy. I registered for the 3/4 race and the P123 race, my first twilight and professional level crit. So Hyde Park Blast is part of USA Crits Speedweekend which increases the prestige and worth but being on the same weekend as US Professional Road National Championship in Knoxville and the final weekend of Tour of America’s Dairyland meant that the upper end of the field was going to suffer. This was actually great news for me! My goal was really just to hang in and gain some experience with the upper end of crit racing.
Let’s get back to the Cat 3/4 race. The field was a decent size with about 50-60 riders at the start. They did call-ups in order of registration, which took a while to finish, but put me in the middle of the pack. The whistle blew and I ended up getting clipped in without any difficulty; victory! After that, I just hung out in the middle of the group with the goal of slowly moving towards the front. The finish line was at the end of a long straight road into a headwind. I figured if I was 8-10 spots back I would be in a good position for the sprint. Position going into the sprint was determined on the little climb half way through the circuit. I ended up being a little too far back coming out of the climb. Being too far back in combination with someone coming unclipped meant I was out of contention. I ended up finishing 11th. I had a three hour break between this race and the P123 race. I decided to quickly hop into the local pub to grab an actual dinner. I finished dinner and got everything ready with an hour until race time.
I decided that I needed a little bit longer of a spin to get the legs going again so hopped out on to the course 45 minutes until the start. I rolled around very easy for 35 minutes before heading over to the start area. They also had call-ups for the P123 race but this time I was stuck at the back. Additionally, I struggled to clip in and that sent me all the way to the back. This is where I stayed the entire race. I mean, I was the last guy or in the last 5 places the entire race. I would move around people who were getting popped off the group but never moved up. This was somewhat calculated but mostly due to the lack of sprint power. Every time I came out of corner I would lose the wheel in front of me. I had to chase the wheel down and by the time I got back to the group I was tired and had to begin to prep for the next corner. I hung out at the back until the final 30 minutes. Then stuff began to get interesting. At the one end of the course there was a wide 180° turn that had a couple of small pipe access covers in the middle of the road. These didn’t cause any problem until the pace began to really pick up and people began to take a little more risk. There were two crashes on back to back laps where a rider slid out on one of the covers. I was not involved directly in the crash but was held up by the crash. I was allowed to restart the race with the group on the next lap. This was cool because it gave me two laps worth of recovery time. In the end it didn’t matter. With 5 laps to go a guy a couple spots up let a gap open up going into the headwind straight. By the time I got around him there was no way I could close the gap to get back onto the peloton. Me and another guy rode off the back until 2 laps to go and then got pulled for safety reasons. The lesson I learned is that it is extremely difficult to move up in the pro field. Starting position matters a lot in the P12 field. If you do happen to struggle off the start then you need to start moving up immediately. It take a lot of energy to move up, especially when the field is 80-100 riders and the front of the race is 20-30 seconds up the road. Don’t just move up all willy-nilly though. You need to be smart about when you move up. Lulls in the pace or when a rider in front of you starts to move up. I learned that I needed to be more aggressive on the day. The funny thing is that I am usually too aggressive and kill my legs. This race, and Sunday’s race, I wasn’t aggressive enough and paid for it. I need to work on finding that balance. I also need to work on clipping in at the beginning of crits.