Eyes on the prize.
My performance at Hodges was atypical, so in the interest of duplicating it I am going to look back and over-analyse everything I did differently. First off, many fans of periodization will assume I was "Peaking" for this race, judging by my performance and the fact that it was the Massachusetts state championships. I was not.
Some day I'm going to write up a series of blog posts detailing everything I disagree with Joe Friel about. The top of the list is "Peaking", or the theory (and practice) of not sucking twice a year. I suppose this approach would work if you are on top of your performance plateau, and have to train just to maintain optimum performance. That doesn't describe me though. I am getting faster month to month and year to year, and I'm content with my gradual, long term improvement. Planning to be really fast in July, and so slow in August and September that it's not even worth showing up at the races, doesn't appeal to me.
I employ more of a Black Swan training principal; I basically show up ready to race my best at every race, and leave the door open in order to invite the unpredictable. No expectations, therefore no disappointment.
As I mentioned in the race report. I showed up nice and early so I could get a look at the course, and see just how bad the flooding was. After registering, I wandered out onto the course amongst the beginners and first timers. Unlike the douchebag Cat2 preriders that did their best to try and derail my race, I did not come with 20 feet of the racers. I would wait for a gap, then ride, with an eye constantly over my shoulder, until I came up behind someone. At that point I would step off the side of the trail and stretch for awhile, waiting for a gap, then repeat.
About halfway through the course, I came up behind a father/daughter tandem team. It was slow going. Real slow going. Slow enough that I got nervous. I asked a hiker/spectator what time it was, and they said they didn't know but asked what time my race started, and I said "11:30." Their response was "whoa, you're probably cutting it close."
I panicked, and dropped an entire bagful of hammers. Luckily when I caught up to the tandem it was on a fireroad where I could easily pass, and there wasn't anyone in front of them for a long ways. I kept on the gas for the entire second half of the course, riding at or above race pace. On the fire road that leads to the start/finish, I saw Nathaniel Williams soft pedaling. This was a good sign, him telling me I had a half hour until the start was a better sigh. Off I went to set up my feed.
Capping your preride with a 20 minute anaerobic effort? Helpful? Discuss.
This one is huge. The day before Mount Snow I switched to my "experimental" short spindle pedals. The experiments were proving to be successful, and I was ready to call them up to the big leagues. You know what they say, a 3mm reduction in your bike's Qfactor is worth three weeks of intervals.
Yes, for the first time in a race, I took a gel. I had been carrying a gel in my jersey pocket for the last few races because I figured it was a good idea. At the end of the race, it always ended up back in my bag, unconsumed. Not at Hodges. On the third lap, I pulled onto the fireroad right after the three short punchy uphills. I was hurting, and the last thing I wanted to do was blowup when I was having such an awesome race. That's when I remembered about my little passenger. I pulled it out and sucked it down. Why not right? Couldn't hurt and I was looking for any help I could get, I was hurting and still had a long way to go.Not sure who at Hammer Nutrition decided that mixing bleach with ball sweat tastes like orange, but they were wrong and should be fired. Ask me for some orange Hammer Gel next time you see me, I've got a bunch that I'm never going to touch.
I am not a climber.
Just about everyone that has ridden on the road with me thinks I am a climber. I may be, I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that I suck on mountain bike race courses that feature a lot of climbing. Pats Peak, Mount Snow, Putney; all have major ascending. Hodges Dam? Not at all. It had maybe four sections that could be considered a climb, and each of these sections can be cleared in 20 seconds or less.
If you look at my results from past years (no link for you!), I have always sucked at the climbing courses. Unfortunately I decided to jump into the Pro/Open races as soon as the schedule got to the climbing courses. I'm guessing (hoping) that Hodges is more of a "typical" race performance for me, and Mt. Snow, Pats Peak and Putney were as bad as my results will get.
Knowing that climbing courses are my weakness, you can understand my frustration concerning the stipulation that only National Calendar events (in New England read: ski area events) counting towards a Pro upgrade.
Not that this (or the next topic) has anything to do with why I may or may not have had a good race, but while I'm emptying my brain, let's shake out the last few items.
It was with the hope of telling British Petroleum to "suck it!" that I compared my time to the Cat1 times. First up the ever-fast 40-49 class. Bold, Rowell, Gunsalus, Rutter? Wow, this marks the first time I have beat any of them. Needless to say, I was very impressed with myself. Wait? What's this? A 30-39 time that is faster than mine? Who the fuc... oooooh. Brian Wilichoski. Just dropping by to let me know that I ain't shit. He must have caught wind of our one sided rivalry (the over all score is something like BW 8, KS 1). I think beating him at Harding Hill was akin to poking the dragon. It took me four years to beat him once, it'll probably take me four years to beat him again.
Oh Joy, I see he's pre-registered for the first weekend of the Verge series. Second place isn't so bad.
Blocking. (Surrender nothing!)
In my time spent mixing it up with the fast dudes towards the front of the Pro race, I picked up a few tricks. First, if you have a mechanical and have to stop and work on your bike, don't do it on the side of the trail, lay your bike perpendicular across the singletrack and make everyone go around you while you sort our your issues.
Also, If you decide to run a difficult section, do it right down the middle of the trail. If you carry your bike, carry it sideways. If you push your bike, push it way out to the side. To object here is to take up as much of the trail as possible. Bonus points for slowing to a pace that forces the rider behind you off their bike, then speeding up once they are off the bike.
Welcome to the Pros junior.