Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Catamount Cyclocross Day 2: 9.28.08

After failing to secure a top 15 place in the first VERGE race of the season, I did what any other dedicated cyclocross racer would do to prepare for another big race the next day: I went straight to the first brewery I could find to sample the local fare.
In spite of the tasty libation on offer, I was able to exercise a substantial amount of self-restraint, and hit the sheets relatively early and after only two beverages. Sleep didn't come to me though, and I was up every few minutes for the entire night. Things were not lining up well for a good result Sunday.
The problem is this... I can't sleep when it is perfectly quiet, and it doesn't get much quieter than upstate VT 3 miles down a dead end dirt road. Compounding this problem is that I can't sleep with someone who is snoring either. So on trips like this, the earplugs are required equipment. They simultaneously block the sound of anyone who may be snoring and also create an artificial noise for me to tune out to.
If you are ever in Richmond VT, be sure to stop in at the Bridge St Cafe for breakfast. We met Colin and Linnea there and dined on some delicious homemade toast, stuffed french toast, and a massive plate of biscuits and gravy. Holy lord they serve huge portions. Amen and pass the syrup.
Back to the venue we arrived in time to survey the parcours. We had driven through several piles of horse cr@p on the road so I was all to willing to break camp and check out the racing. It was drizzling Sunday morning, and the new course configuration was much more difficult than the day before. It started with a steep but short hill, then led to a series of technical turns that drew riders back down along the side of the slope and eventually led to a ridable dirt run up with three log obstacles. From there, the course snaked generally downhill twisting on it self twice before dropping straight down the primary pitch and across a dirt access road. The second half of the course featured the barriers, two corkscrews, and a good deal of open and wet grass paths. There was also a tricky approach to a wooded trail and a power climb shortly there after.

I lined up third row and felt good at the gun and up the hill. I took the far right hand side of the course and heard some one yell "too wide Matt!" Yeah, maybe, but I was a bit further back than I wanted to be with the twisty sections coming up so I used the space out there to move up before the first few twisty sections to avoid the inevitable clog of riders.

Ninety seconds into the race I was approaching one of the down hill right hand turns... setting up for the turn by hugging the left hand side of the course. Just as I'm starting to turn I see this crazy dude on a red Sachs on my right come bombing down the hill trying to cut the inside of the turn and make up a few spots. "Aaaaahhhh sorry Matt!" he says and I realize it is Jerry, the guy who is hosting us for the weekend. He takes me straight into the course tape and manages to do so without disrupting anyone else at all. What luck! I yelled "Jerry" as 4 or 5 guys slide by but he apologized and we untangled quickly and got back into the mix.

Half way through the first lap I felt as though my rear tire was going flat but it was simply too low to begin with and held up just fine for the balance of the race. I love tubular tires. They are going to help my score soo much. No more pinch flats!!

It was clear after one lap that my legs were absolute J - U - N - K --- JUNK. My heart rate was stuck in the low 170s, whereas the day before it was 185 for the entire race: a clear indication that there was idle cardio-vascular capacity that my legs simply could not tap in to. The hills were short but tortuous, and unlike the day before there was no where to get any rest with all of the descents were too short and the flat areas required too much power.

After a lap I was riding off Starrett's wheel in 22nd position. He had beaten me in the sprint for 16th the day before, and I mentioned to him that the 4 riders right in front of us had finished behind us yesterday. Half way through lap 2 Jon Bruno stacked it up right in front of us on a staight section of grassy course. He had caught a wheel while riding the narrow and slippery groove and managed a fairly sincere apology while on the way down.

Apology accepted Jon.

Starrett and I worked well together for a lap and a half and were closing in on Millett and John Mosher when I got caught in the same rut that took Bruno out. My crash was much less spectacular, sliding on my generous backside and popping pretty much right back up, loosing one spot in the process.

But the damage had been done. The adrenelin rush caused by that crash "scared" the race out of me for a lap and my day was basically over.

There are really three things in a cross race that determine how fast you are going to ride. How good your heart and lungs are (fitness), how strong your legs are (power) and how much adrenelin you can meter out over the course of 45 minutes. When I test my power threshold on my road bike, I can barely keep up a heart rate of 170 and average 310 watts of power for 20 minutes. Stick me in a cross race and I'll go 45 minutes at 185 bpm and probably 330-340 watts.

There is only so much adrenelin to go around, and it is like walking on ice or laying on a bed of nails. A steady withdrawl from the adrenelin stores can be sustained, but any sudden spikes in usage... like that which happens when you crash... will end your day.

I rode easy for a lap and watched 24th place gain on me before I finally decided to defend my position with 15 minutes to go. I thought I could catch the rider ahead of me, and at the bell I decided I would ride as close to the edge as possible for 9 more minutes and leave nothing one the course. I came within 30 feet or so in the last few turns, but when he saw me he easily gapped me again.

Considering how bad I felt, the t-bone job on lap one, and the crash, my second day 23rd was probably a better overall result than the 17th from the day before where I felt 100 times better and had no incidents at all.

The weekend ended with a trip to the Ben and Jerry's factory, a second meal at the Cider House in Waterbury, and a long ride back home where I had a great night of sleep in my own bed.


G-ride said...

it was what we "in the biz" call a surgical strike. i'll take that as a compliment.

Sgt. Jerry, USMC Retired

Oh, I found your thingy.

matt said...

great! thanks! I can stop looking for it now... Are you coming down for Gloucester?

Anonymous said...

how's this for iPhone friendly?

mara Lappin said...

great excited ot see you on sunday.

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