A few weeks ago I struggled with what to do with this weekend. The options were:
a) Do just a road race on Saturday then hit some mountains on Sunday.
b) Start my venture back into mountain bike racing on Sunday.
c) Do both races.
I hate Sunday races, as if I want to do well, I generally take it easy the rest of the weekend. This double sucks if it is an off-Friday weekend (my company has every-other Friday off). I love doing epic rides on off-Fridays, and this can leave me cooked the rest of the weekend. I rarely race twice on a weekend. Only time I do this is Mt Equinox hillclimb on a Saturday, then Bow Road Race the next day. Hillclimbs are short. Legs still have twitch the next day. So I picked option a), the Turtle Pond road race on Saturday.
What I haven't commented about on Hill Junkie is that I've been unloading bikes. The Jansen stable has acquired too many bikes. I've been listing them on Craigslist. Earlier this year I sold my wife's road bike, a Trek 2000 WSD. She has some problems with arthritis in her hands, and the road geometry just doesn't work for her anymore. Then a week ago, I sold my Ellsworth Isis dualie. The Titus I recently built up replaces it. I also don't ride my Dean Torreys Ti cross bike much anymore either. So I listed it on Craigslist.
This is related to bike racing, folks, you'll just have to suffer through the details. A week ago, a guy from Brooklyn finds my Dean Torreys on Craigslist and wants it. Now Brooklyn ain't exactly local. I send a zillion hi-rez photos. He still wants it, but Cow Hampshire is a long haul from the big city. He floated the idea that a deal was far more likely if I could meet him part way. I mentioned there was this little MTB race near Hartford I had thought about earlier. That was half way. Before we ended the conversation, he had me signed up for racing on Sunday. Funny how stuff like that happens.
So faithful readers know by now that I won Saturday's race. It was not an easy win. In fact, Saturday night I was thinking I would bring the cross bike, hope the guy likes it and buys it, then just go for a trail ride in the area. Skip the race. I know guys that do two races most weekends. I can't figure out how they do it. Maybe most aren't 46 years old.
So Sunday rolls along. Forecast is for record breaking temps. Argh! Not only were my legs wrecked from Saturday, the heat would surely be final nails in the coffin if I raced. You've probably read here before I do worse than most in heat. In a controlled study at UNH a few years ago, it took only 20 minutes for my core body temp to reach 103.5F. A degree higher than that you can go into a coma and die. This was at 95F, very low 25% humidity, with two industrial fans blowing on me while cranking out about 350W on a trainer. Needless to say, I was not able to complete the study. The researcher made an observation that surprised me. All of the other test subjects began sweating profusely much earlier than I did even though my core body temp rose much more sharply. I have an unsupported theory why I handle heat poorly. Mooky stipulated a while back that I may draw heavily on Type 2a muscle fiber. This is not as efficient as Type 1 muscle fiber. Not as efficient means waste, and in this case, a byproduct can be heat.
I decided to see what I can do in the heat and go for training value. I packed two bikes and headed to Farmington, CT. Selling my cross bike went smoothly. By race start, the temperature was into the upper 80's. At least the humidity wasn't oppressive. I checked the day-of registrants. I saw John Mosher. Hmm, looks like competition to me. Not having off-road raced in several years, I didn't know who any of the other guys were. Getting close to race start, I see a pair of national champion jerseys. Could it be Bold and Hines? Yep. Crap. That's just more riders pushing me closer to the bottom percentage-wise. I think Jonny Bold overall wins a lot of these things.
Our race start was delayed 15 minutes. That's another 15 minutes to roast in the heat. I think I chugged about 2 liters of water in the 90 minutes prior to race start. I did not pre-ride the course. I figured all that would do is raise my body temp, and that would hurt me more than bumbling around on the first lap. I mostly just soft-pedaled around the parking lot. Mosher and Hines lined up next to me. Hines was in my Turtle Pond race, so at least we were on an equal playing field. What I did not know at the time was that Mosher and Bold also did Turtle Pond, the M35+ race in the afternoon. Guess all us old farts were on an equal playing field.
The whistle goes. Pace goes ballistic. That is what I hate most about MTB races. It was all coming back quickly. They get it all wrong. You should ease into it, do equal or even negative spits, you'll get to the finish quicker, dudes! But I guess everybody is petrified of getting caught behind a rider that slows them down in the singletrack. I think I was one of those riders today. I was near DFL heading up the starting slope. I literally ate a lot of dust. A few minutes in, there was this slightly greasy off-chamber bit that nearly sent me sliding. Riding wheel to wheel, I didn't see what was coming up, not having pre-ridden.
I finished the first lap in 22 minutes and change. My five minute "timer" went off. This timer chimes once and notifies me that if I continue at this pace, bodily functions will shortly begin shutting down. It was so friggin hot. Lap two, things start spreading out. I crossed the line 2 minutes slower than my first lap. Not good. Now the thermal alarm is chiming away. I started getting that nauseated, goosebumps feeling that can precede major cramping episodes. My pace continued to erode. I was still passing tons of guys though. This surprised me. I passed most of the guys from my field in the first lap I think, now I was passing younger guys from fields staged minutes ahead of me. Nobody I passed earlier was passing me back, so despite my slowing pace, I was at least hold ground in my field.
My third lap was slower yet again. Having backed down and poured water over myself at the feedzone, I felt a little less heat stressed. I reached an equilibrium. The pace was still hard. There was zero recovery anywhere on the course. A "roadies dream?" Maybe. Watershed Wahoo from years ago was less technical, a lot faster, but not as smooth. The Winding Trails course was 30-50% singletrack (lots more than years past, riders say). It was mostly buff, a few rooty sections, lots of double track, and just throw power down with reckless abandon everywhere. It was indeed my kind of course. Just wish I had fresh legs and 20 degrees off the thermometer. I just might be competitive on something like this. I thrive in 90 minute TT efforts.
On my fourth and final lap, I find I can start ramping the power back up again. I passed Mosher earlier who looked like he was fixing a flat. I wondered if he would come flying by at some point. I'm still passing lots of younger riders. Then I see a stars and stripes ahead. Really? Must have been Hines. My perception was I was doing poorly because I felt so awful. Things were nicely spread out on this lap, and I knew the course now. I was braking much less. I was becoming reacquainted with carrying speed through turns. My final lap turned out to be quite a bit faster than my third lap.
I crossed the line with 1:35:09 for the 20.4 miles I measured. That was about 10 minutes slower than I anticipated, but that was based on last year's finishing times on a course with less tight, twisty singletrack. This netted me 4th place out of 14 finishers for Cat 1 40-49 age group. Bold and Hines took 1st and 2nd. A guy I didn't know finished just seconds ahead of me in third. Had I known he was in my age group, I think I could have done something about that. It took me a long time to get used to not seeing numbers on back of jerseys. You have to pass them and look back to see what age group they are in. It looks like some masters schooled a lot of young guys here today.
I was excited to see how many riders showed up. There definitely seems to be a resurgence in mountain bike racing. Many high caliber riders were there. Thom P and 'mates were there. Also talked with Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) who raced earlier. Think I have to do more of these. Definitely signing up for the VT50 this year. Given conditions, I was quite pleased with how my race went. I didn't even fall off my bike! There certainly were plenty of opportunities to clip trees at 20+ mph. Maybe I'll even do more double race weekends this summer.
No racing next weekend. I will miss Jiminy Peak, which makes me sad. I like that one. But I'll be missing it for the right reasons. Teammate Brett Rutledge and I will be heading down to Asheville, NC for four full days of "spring training." There's lots of peaks down there we haven't bagged yet, such as Mitchell, Clingmans Dome, and Brasstown Bald. Good chance we'll hook up with a local rider I've "met" through my website.
Thanks for reading.