No, this is not my favorite beverage. Actually, my palate hasn't sampled an alcoholic beverage in over 22 years. Fat Tire Ale was the color of my pee hours after the Housatonic Hills road race today.
When I left home this morning, the temp was in the 50's and it was drizzling out. I had no idea the temp would rise 20 degrees, taking the dew point up with it. It wasn't that hot out, but just kitting up for the race had sweat pouring out of me. I had to fill empty Gatorade bottles before the race in a desperate attempt to stay hydrated. I mixed up only two bottles with Endurolytes for the race, and I knew trouble was down the road.
Lining up, I noticed many riders had three bottles, and several had four bottles. I lose more electrolytes than most, so I started freaking out before our race got underway. The course was modified from last year, removing the ratty section that took out carbon wheels in each field. This also meant we would not finish up Constitution Hill, but it was still in the race. The neutral start went up Constitution Hill. The second time around was going to be a ball buster.
Early in the first lap, at least 5 or 6 guys got off the front. I was playing this race a little more conservatively than the last couple, so I was buried in the field when this occurred. With prominent teams represented, the blocking was overt. We coasted down every little hill and soft pedaled the climbs. This was nuts. Surely there were other teams or individuals that weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet. I wasn't. Myself and teammate Brian Anderson started taking some good pulls. This motivated others to come around the blockers, especially that persistent Deno's guy. Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports) put in some serious chase effort too. As we got to the steep pitches in climb three, we shut the break down. I think Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic), Tom Luzio (Deno's), maybe Dave Kellogg (Arc en Ciel) and others were in this initial break.
After some serious descending at 50mph, we hit the KOM blip on the way down. This was nasty, as you go from full tuck to all-out grind in seconds. I actually led the field almost all the way up this 200+ft rise. With John Funk (Cycle Fitness) breathing in my right ear, I had no intentions of going for the KOM. I just wanted some margin cresting the top, as I suspected a split could form there. It didn't. I did not feel so good after this climb - a bit nauseated from over heating. I was almost through my water already, and we weren't even half way through the race.
Next up was Constitution Hill. This was the hill I believed before the race would be the main selector. What was left of our field at this point (30 guys?) hit it hard. About a third of the way up, my thermal cork popped. I was getting abdominal cramps from overheating. Past experience tells me that muscular cramping is just around the corner when this happens. I seriously contemplated dropping out at this point before having a complete meltdown. I have never willingly dropped out of a race though, so I became relegated to the fact I was not going to make this selection. I was amazed how nimble Gerry Clapper (Benidorm) and Dzmitry Buben (CCB) came flying past me to join Funk and others as they pulled away. I was in good company though with Todd Buckley (Arc en Ciel), Joe Rano (Bike Alley), Mark Luzio (Cycle Fitness) and others. But the deal was, most of these guys had someone up in the break, so they weren't going to work too hard.
This pretty much shut my race down. With Funk, Buben, Clapper, Eric Pearce (Bethel) and a couple others in the break, they would surely be gone. In my group, the first chase group, guys bridged up to us over the next several miles. Our pace was relaxed. Then we'd hit the next climb and shell a few. After climb three, I think we were down to less than 12 guys. I figured if I can just hold off totally seizing up, I might make top 2o. Then we hit the KOM hill again. I had so many muscles cramping in my legs I thought I was going to fall over like I did at the Everest Challenge race last year. There were several riders from other fields on the side of the road here that were cramped up. Mark Luzio was setting the initial pace up this little prick of a climb. I told myself if I can just make the summit, I should be able to finish the race. I cleared the top without a cataclysmic meltdown with Luzio, Tom Officer (also Cycle Fitness) and one other rider with a small split behind us. The split didn't last long though. I certainly had nothing left to contribute to the effort. I was looking for wheels to sling my bungee cord on to.
When we got to the bottom we have a couple miles of flat to the finish. Buckley launched early here and held a slim gap to the finish. There were a couple other fliers here, but we pretty much came together making the corner into the finishing area. Officer made a nice attempt and gave me a great wheel to be on until about the 200m sign. Then I went. I'm pretty sure I was first from the group to cross the line, a few seconds behind Buckley who launched earlier.
We had conflicting reports of how many were in the lead group. We heard 4, 5, and 7. So I should have made top 10. But when preliminary results went up, I was not in the top 10. I protested, and apparently they missed me. They revised the results showing me as 9th. I'll take it for a race I nearly abandoned.
My legs were so messed up I couldn't even walk right. I drank 4 bottles of water, 1 lemonade, and 1 chocolate milk at the finish area. I drank more when I got down to my car.
I'm enjoying road racing less this year. It is so disruptive to riding. We had beautiful weather Fri/Sat, yet I had to take it easy on those days. I get every other Friday off, and I would loved to have gone up to the Kingdom Trails in northern Vermont for an all day MTB ride. But instead, I worked Friday anyway, I slept poorly the eve of the race, got up at 4-something in the morning, burned $40 gas round trip, payed $30 registration fee, only to cramp up in oppressive humidity.
After the race, I got my dirt fix in at Case Mountain near Hartford. I had never been there, so I had no idea what to expect. I did not know the route I embarked on would take me up a 350ft wall in 0.5mi (you do the math). My legs felt like death starting out, but I knew with hydration and carbs back in the system, they would come around. They did. The conditions were challenging. I would have trouble riding some of the stuff in dry weather. It was so humid that all the rocks were wet with condensation. They might as well have been coated with motor oil. I had one crash, and I wasn't even on my bike. I was standing on some off-camber granite to take a picture when my feet went out from under me. Camera survived. I rode from Exit 4 off 384 to the southern boundary of the reserve on ridgeline singletrack and back on fireroads. Going out took 1:15hrs, coming back took 30 minutes. I finish this long winded post with a few pics from the trail ride.