The struggles of the last two races had me rethinking my Nationals aspirations – the airline tickets are refundable as is the equipment transport. After talking it over with the team manager – Carly – I decided I just needed to get my head back in the game and realize my fitness is exactly where it needs to be, my head is the thing that needs work. I’ve been reading articles and doing visualizations that have been helping me out with that, I’m getting that edge back and can’t wait to experiment with my results in practice races in the coming weekends.
December 6th – Sandstone Park – Longmont, CO – The Grass Crit
Last time I lined up at this course it was snowy and muddy but no ice, this time around it was dry with mild temperatures. The first time around I won the Open 3s race without much contest – this time I quit halfway through with bike and motivational issues after moving around the back of the field for the first 30 minutes.
My rear Zipp exploded a bearing with 30 minutes before start time; luckily Jon was on hand with a perfectly good replacement. With a new rear wheel rolling on untested tread and tire pressure I lined up in the 4th row on the outside. Avoided some mix up after the start and pushed into the top 20 on the hill up to the parking lot loops – the lower one proved a bit difficult with incorrect pressure in the rear. I was breaking loose in so many corners with no way of predicting when while being pegged at red line. I pitted after the first lap – oops didn't check that pressure either and was riding on rock hard tires. Switch back after a lap and some much needed air in the rear, but I still was having issues hooking it up correctly. I battled this for another 2 laps and decided to throw in the towel.
I didn't even through in the towel after the great flat debacle of 2014 – the Jefferson County Fairgrounds – where I switched bikes no fewer than 5 times and ended up with 3 flat tires the next day. Quitting races is not something I enjoy doing; I’d rather finish last with good workout for the day. Well that workout wasn't happening either – my head and heart just weren't in it this Saturday.
December 14th – Rhyolite Park – Castle Rock – State Championships
I do well here; rather I used to do well here. I’d raced in Castle Rock 3 previous times, getting 1st twice and a 5th at last year’s state cross in the Open 3s. This is the big boys though and all the big hitters were present at the line – even some I hadn't seen most of the season – with everyone’s fitness probably hanging in the realm of perfect for the close of the 2014 Colorado season. I had yet another 4th row start, opting for the outside spot to use the left lane and power around as much of the group of 24 people in front of me. Think I ended somewhere inside the top 20 after turning off the pavement – perfect.
Doing the course recon at noon was fun – still powdery and gripy, with no ice to speak of; this quickly changed at the start of the Open race at 2:45. On the first downhill, I quickly found out the condition had changed but I was moving through the field one by one and think I made it as high up as 18th with the next several not too far in front. My top 15 hope was within my reach, just needed to ride smart and keep it upright. Running the switchbacks proved to be faster for me – but for some reason I still decided a couple times to attempt to ride them. Just see exhibit A below around 1:20, you get a good view of the underside of my bike (sorry camera guy). I had some issues around corners trying to find traction and issues clipping in with all the mud and snow in the cleats.
I also had not pre-ridden the mud pit but had decided to run it – rim brakes and all considered. The running proved effective on the first lap with traffic, rode it on the second lap just fine, and then second guessed myself on the third go round. As Kirk put it: The scary mud monster jumped up, grabbed me, and through me to the ground. I had to lay there for a bit, get my air back and finally managed a thumbs up. I quickly heard my wife from across the course yell at me to get back up – being a happily married man I quickly obliged. That was the first crash since Nationals in January that kept me on the ground. My spirits and confidence were shaken after this and I struggled for the remaining 3 laps with line choice and keeping my speed up. I finally had some fun on the last lap – knowing that I was completely off my mark of a top 20 let alone a top 15 finish.
What’s to Come – The Rest of 2014
There are a couple hard weeks to come, the search for rabbits to chase around different front-range courses continues, and the formal taper begins with the coming of the New Year. As of this posting I am starting in the third row at Nationals. Not much fitness will be gained in the next 21 days but much can be lost if not properly attended to – my entire focus until January 9th. Well that and hopefully buying a house.