Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skating the Tundra

Two years in a row the stop at the Boulder Reservoir in the CycloX series has been frigid to the point I consider pulling out halfway through with ice blocks for hands and feet.  This year the race wasn’t nearly as bad as last year as the temperature was in double digits (barely) and there was hardly any wind coming across the lake.  Leading up to this race I watched a video from Pete Weber on his day before pre-ride of the course and suggestions.  He was posting 11:30 laps at a tempo pace – ridiculously long – with at least 3 minutes worth of running.  All I could think is I’m actually a decent runner when it comes to cross races so this might be okay.  I know, strange considering my background of non-existent running and physical stature.  Morning Twitter reports alluded to the course being shortened and lap times forecasted to be in the 6 minute area for the Men's Open race.
With temperatures still sitting around 10oF around 10 AM I decided to hop on the trainer for a 20 minute spin of the legs.  Nothing serious just enough zone 2 to wake up the legs and get blood flowing.  I felt amazing and it took some serious self control to hold back on putting out any effort.  Earlier in the week I had logged some seriously low resting heart rates – sub 40 BPM – this was (hopefully) foretelling a great Saturday.
The drive north saw snow and wind, then bluish skies and no snow, and finally arriving to no snow and gray at the Reservoir.  But first, while enroute I was asked to stop at Chipotle by support (read the lovely wife Carly), I willingly obliged, and waited in the truck while she got her sustenance; the truck wouldn't start when trying to depart.  Uh oh, all the foretelling was going to the wayside, and just like that the first person we ask begrudgingly abides a jump; we are off.
Prepped the race bike and covered her up with an extra jacket; off I go for 3 pre-ride laps on the pit bike.  Equipped with semi worn Grifo clinchers at just around 30 PSI I railed snowy corners and skipped over the icy ruts.  Okay, the foretelling mojo was back, today was a good day.  I felt warm and course was actually to my liking, unlike most at this venue.
3:20 PM:  Second row, second spot from the right (outside), and struggling to get off my down coat with less than a minute to the whistle.  With seconds to spare I click in and wedge the right foot into the snow pack for a good kick off.  A decent start considering the amount of rear wheels looking for traction with that much wattage and little to no grip on the packed snow and ice mixture under tire.  Man down in the middle of the road, quick move to avoid him, and noticed the ever-so-faint smell of burning rubber.  I had slotted in the group just outside the top 10 as everyone took the left into the snow covered grass.
Every turn had the good, bad, and ugly lines – the skill was not in knowing which to take in the pack, but how to handle each.  I have had issues with being aggressive in this field and made a mental note to take the line that was mine and fight for each spot.  I forced myself past my comfort zone for the first lap and was rubbing elbows and powering through sections to keep my line.  Then the sand pile happened and somebody went rubber over helmet right in front of me.  Looking something similar to this to the onlooker:
Rez_Sand Hill_SupermanI tried swerving but that is no easy task in deep soft sand where the only real line is occupied by an upside down pile of human and bike.  My front wheel dove in, I walked right over the bike, turned around to grab it, and just ran until I could remount.  The gap was made and I was forced to chase, chase I did, until the finishing straight where I noticed my derailleur went down fine but up was a different story.  Everything appeared intact but the chain wouldn’t shift off the 11 tooth cog – this was going to hurt until I saw that pit again.  Hills that were easily tackled out of the saddle I was forced to run, but this seemed to help on the second lap as there was still quite a bit of congestion which I didn’t need to deal with and just ran past.  Quick switch in the pit, yelling at Kirk “Rear derailleur!” but I’m not quite sure it was completely audible coming from my frozen lips.
I’d like to pause in the recount here to publicly thank Kirk Groves for what he has done for me this year.  I know I say thank you as much as possible at every race and try not to ask too much of him but in my haste to get a cool down in or warm up a frozen body I’m not sure it gets through the way I’d like.  Kirk didn’t race this day but made the drive solely to stand in a snow covered pit area holding a bike for me, giving me feedback, and encouraging me twice a lap.  This isn’t the first race he has done this and I’m sure it isn’t the last.  The other teammate that has taken the same such initiative is Jon Maule – who is out for the rest of the season due to injury but has volunteered his time to me whenever I need it for a race.  I won’t forget the first race of the year that I expected to see Jon heckling me on the run up with beer in hand but instead found him diligently holding my B bike in the pit.  The most important part of this to me is that both of these gentlemanly teammates have done this without being asked and even told “Don’t worry about it, not necessary for this race.” They brush me off and make their way over to the pit to claim their leaning post for the next hour as I circle around them in misery – hopefully not needing them during the race.  Hats off to both of you gentlemen for being great teammates and always ensuring I have a functioning bike with which to punish myself, I truly appreciate the camaraderie and selflessness you have both shown me as a first year FoxTrotter.
That is enough sentiment for one post, back to the race.  After making the switch I started to slowly move through some traffic and get back to where I hoped to finish.  Most of the rest of the race was an exercise in line choice and hanging on to the edge.  The edge being that zone between being in complete control but moving too slow and going fast but being out of control.  As soon as I found that Goldilocks’ like zone I’d push a little too far and lose traction on a course that started as packed yet powdery fun and had turned into more of a rutted out skating rink that happened to be on a beach.
I do remember around lap 4 or 5 taking one of the chicanes a bit too quick and promptly landing on my right side.  I met the frozen ground quick enough I had no time to clip out and think one of those ruts found my ribs – soreness would continue for a day.  A lap after this I was riding up the hill just past the barriers and nearly wanted to quit due to the pain in my side – then the support section (Carly) yelled at me.  Not completely sure what met my ears but hearing that voice was enough to kick me up a gear and get me to start moving through the field again.
At 40 minutes in I remember thinking that I could suddenly feel my hands and most of both feet.  This made things quite a bit easier and I started to move quicker through the field, my confidence was coming back.  Up the stairs on lap 7 and I heard the leader needing through, dang but that’s one less lap in the cold I suppose.  I would end up getting lapped by the first 4 spots in the open field and have a little disagreement about home some of them handled themselves, but that is a topic for a later discussion.  I tried my best to hop on but not cause issue with the front of the race – each time being thwarted.
After that lengthy report you are probably asking yourself, “Okay so how did this race really go for Andy?”  In a nutshell: really well, ending up in 13th; a surprising result considering I was not expecting a top 15.  What went really well is my practice with the kick pushing through corners instead of braking, running in the sand, and being more aggressive in general when passing or keeping from being passed.  What lacked in this race was my power out of corners and after remounts.  I also need to work on my first lap, I believe I can hold within the top 10 but need to get ahead of some traffic in the first lap and latch on to a group to use during the race.
This one was a long one so thanks for reading and be sure to tell all your friends, enemies, and frenemies.

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